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Open Thread 134.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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1,255 Responses to Open Thread 134.5

  1. anonymousskimmer says:

    How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?

    or

    How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

    or any of the other variations of would and could.

  2. doubleunplussed says:

    I am a scientist who mostly writes code. Data analysis, numerical simulations, engineering calculations for designing things, code for programmatically controlling lab equipment, that sort of thing. It often doesn’t feel like work, and I can get into the zone and be pretty productive. When my job consists of these things, I feel that I am good at my job.

    About a year ago, I finished my PhD thesis. It was an absolute slog. I am proud of it, but it took a loong time. I struggled a lot with procrastination and frequently achieved nothing for a whole week at a time, instead browsing reddit or obsessing over organising my finances or some other thing like that. However, I eventually developed good routines and got it done, and by the end of it I thought “Huh, maybe I have conquered my poor writing motivation. Maybe next time will not be so hard”.

    It is now next time: I am trying to write a paper. So far it’s been a week and I have achieved almost nothing, instead spending most of my time on reddit or searching for small programming tasks I could be doing instead. This isn’t what I predicted, and it seems like if I am not writing frequently, the proctrastinatory habits come back. I also thought that the previous procrastination problem might have been due to feelings of shame that I had so much work to do and had been taking so long, and that with the pride that I have now that I have completed it, I would no longer have the underlying anxiety that led to that. I do feel less anxiety now without the thesis hanging over me. I am definitely a happier person – but it now seems like the difficulty writing was not about that.

    I am starting to wonder if I should think of it as a psychological problem to be addressed via drugs instead of lifestyle changes (though I am still open to lifestyle changes). Since writing is a “sometimes” part of my job (though a very important one), perhaps I could try taking modafinil or similar, only when I need to get writing done. Another alternative is to try and make writing a more regular part of my routine so that I maintain good habits. I know all about breaking down the task into smaller chunks, “aversion factoring” and all that kind of stuff, and it helps, but I still feel like I have a problem after these techniques are applied.

    Writing is a super important part of my job, and I do not feel like I will be able to continue as a scientist unless I resolve this problem one way or another. Of course, I don’t *have* to be a scientist, I could be a scientific programmer or something instead where I don’t write any of the papers or grants. But for now I want to see if I can be scientist. This is still my preferred career.

    a) Does my situation sound like the kind of thing that modafinil helps with? I’m probably going to experiment with it and find out.
    b) Where’s a good place to get modafinil (I am in the US)?
    c) Should I talk to a mental health professional? I have always wondered if I would be diagnosed with ADD if I were to do so. But since the coding parts of my job come naturally to me, I often forget for long stretches of time how crippling the procrastination can be when the work that needs to be done doesn’t involve coding.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Maybe there’s nothing wrong with you and you just find writing papers difficult and tedious?

      • J says:

        Yeah, there’s a lot of bullshit and inefficiency in the academic publishing process that gives me nagging feelings of meaninglessness. It’s also a skill unto itself that gets easier with practice, both for reading and writing it.

        OP, consider things that might imbue it with more meaning: regular meetings where you work with another human on it, talking through the content with others, etc.

    • benjdenny says:

      I’m sort of the opposite of you, I guess; I would gladly narrow my work down to the just the parts I enjoy. I can’t give you advice on doing things you hate, but I would definitely think my first step if I were you would be to try and quantify what it is about the thing you hate that holds so much value that you feel like you have to do it. If that value is legitimate and high, I get it, but if not I don’t understand why you’d want to stick to it when other avenues of success are an option.

      • HowardHolmes says:

        +1

        benjenny said this:

        I can’t give you advice on doing things you hate

        To that I’ll add, never do anything you hate.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’d say try to arrange your life not to do stuff you hate. Some stuff you hate may be mandatory–if you need a root canal, the fact that you really hate root canals doesn’t mean you should refuse to have it done. (Though you might seek out a doctor that will knock you out first.)

          • HowardHolmes says:

            If you need a root canal, you will not hate getting a root canal. You will want to get a root canal.

          • Aapje says:

            @HowardHolmes

            That’s not how most people work.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t think it is a terribly outrageous claim, unless you have a high tolerance for what can end up being significant tooth pain while you avoid your root canal.

          • Anthony says:

            Howard – I will hate getting a root canal. But I will hate the alternative *more*.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Anthony

            I will hate getting a root canal. But I will hate the alternative *more*.

            At the moment you have a root canal, it will be the thing you most want to do out of all the options you have. Hating and liking are just words on a scale. If you hate A, but hate B more, it is the same thing as saying you like A and like B less. The relevant point is that at any moment in time you will always be doing what you most want to do, and you will never do anything you do not want to do.

    • metacelsus says:

      Where’s a good place to get modafinil (I am in the US)?

      What kind of scientist are you? If you have decent chemistry skills, it’s quite easy to make (you’ll need benzhydrol, sodium thiosulfate, 2-chloroacetamide, hydrogen peroxide, and formic acid as a solvent)

      But modafinil might just help you be more focused, while still procrastinating. It improves alertness, not willpower. I’d suggest also using some way to block Reddit on your computer (it’s quite an attention trap).

    • b_jonas says:

      I also don’t like writing scientific papers, which is part of why I never finished my PhD. That said, I think I’m happier not doing scientific research for other reasons too.

    • Watchman says:

      If you need help here, I’d suggest therapy rather than drugs might be more useful. If it works you’ll haveva lasting behavioural change, rather than requiring chemical aids to perform tasks.

      But are you sure this is the correct job for you to be doing? Failure to focus can indicate not an issue with you but that you aren’t engaged with your work.

    • Steve? says:

      I’m not sure if I am a good person to get advice from, because while I am a similarly situated scientist (I’m a computational materials scientist and enjoy it, I got my PhD a few years ago, I write papers at the expected intervals), I am reading SSC right now to avoid writing a paper.

      For me, I find the most difficult part to be starting a writing session. Usually, once I’m 15 minutes into a writing session I get sucked in and make good progress. Therefore, for me, the key is to force myself to get started and stick with it for 15 minutes. If I do that, I’ll make progress until I have to stop due to a meeting, hunger, or tiredness.

      If you’re like me in that way, you just need to figure out how to sum up the willpower to get started. Sometimes I disallow myself “random browsing time”, because what starts out as spending 2 minutes reading a blog post becomes a whole morning of browsing. Sometimes I just start with the easiest paper-related task at hand (updating a figure, fixing formatting). It doesn’t have to be the highest priority task, just the “gateway drug” of paper writing.

      I don’t do it anymore, but I used to have a policy of internet free afternoons when I was writing my thesis. In the morning I’d do anything work related that required the internet (looking for references, answering emails, etc). Then in the afternoon I’d unplug my ethernet cable and not use the internet. Especially at the beginning, I can’t tell you how many times I’d open a new Chrome tab for blog/news site/etc by reflex, only to see that the page wouldn’t load.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      Thanks for the comments everyone.

      I do still think this is the right career for me for the moment. I like being in the thick of science and the variety of stuff I get to do. I could be a software developer but I think I would be less engaged with the content of what I was doing if it was not science-related. Also when I go on massive coding binges I sort of become a robot and neglect my mental and physical needs and stop being able to socialise normally. Being able to switch to something else (some electronics, some physical construction of something or other) is great. I am mostly in favour of the ‘don’t do things you don’t want to do’ approach, but I think it’s unreasonable to expect to be able to find a job that is solely things I want to do, particularly one with job security.

      I’ll probably try modafinil (I’m a physicist, not a chemist, so I’m not about to make it myself) anyway, but will also continue trying all the tricks and self-reflection people usually advocate for solving procrastination. There are aggravating factors like having to get up earlier in the morning than usual lately, that could be relevant.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Do you find writing talks easier than writing papers?

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Absolutely, a thousand times. I think it might be something about the lower level of formality and lower expected precision – if you brush over something in a talk that’s OK and expected. Also there are no reviewers deciding whether my talk is accepted or not, and I do not have to anticipate their criticisms.

        Or maybe it’s just that I don’t plan my talks word for word and can talk off the cuff pretty well – if I imagine in my mind that I had to prepare them word-for-word, it seems a lot more intimidating. And putting some pictures and dot points on the slides doesn’t feel like the same kind of painstaking job as choosing how to write something.

        Or maybe it’s something else altogether, but definitely talks are easier than papers.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          So the obvious thing to do is to start with your notes for your talk, then extend it to the text of your talk. (When I’m preparing a talk, I find it difficult to write out all the words. But once I’ve given it, sometimes to an empty room, I’ve chosen the words and it’s easier to write them all out on paper.) Now you have a paper. Maybe not a publishable paper, but probably more useful than the final version will be. Triage the modifications. Make a list of what you think you have to add or change. Show it to your advisor and ask which ones you really have to do. Have people read it: their confusion will be motivation to add relevant material.

          [edit: sorry, maybe much of this was covered in the exchange with AB]

    • AliceToBob says:

      I’ve tried modafinil (prescribed), and it did not noticeably improve my work ethic, or my ability to focus. All it did was give me four nights of unpleasant dreams, which is one of the reasons I stopped. It actually negatively impacted my ability to work.

      You didn’t ask for this, but some comments about writing that might be helpful.

      I find paper writing is easier if you’ve developed ahead of time the basics that you wish to convey. Sitting down and trying to write from a “cold start” is hard for me, so I often spend time daydreaming about the paper before trying to write it.

      For example, often there is something really cool that you want to convey. There must be a reason you worked on this problem, so what is it? Try to impart that motivation to the reader early on in the paper. This can be a good “hook”, and it can jumpstart your writing process.

      Another suggestion is that you shouldn’t feel overly-constrained by the expectations some people have about scientific writing. It’s okay to be interesting at the expense of formalism, if used judiciously. I recently read a paper where the author justified a problem by referring to her doctor’s scheduling algorithm.

      Another enjoyable aspect of writing is to anticipate what a reader might be confused about, and explicitly engage with it. Even phrase it as a question in the text, and then answer it. Be careful not to come up with straw men, but even they can be useful if you label it as such (to let the reader know that a naive approach fails, for example).

      Finally, and this may not be the case for you, but word-smithing/tightening up the language in a paper can be fun. It doesn’t feel all that different from, say, writing “good” code, or a clear, concise proof, or designing a useful plot of data. That is, it doesn’t have to be viewed as a chore. So you can start by writing the broad strokes (which may be total garbage language-wise), and then gradually tighten things.

      Good luck with your paper.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Thanks for the advice and good wishes!

        I totally endorse that people should be freer with their writing, but so far I have had a bad experience where my writing style has been criticised by reviewers as being a bit too free in this way (with the paper in question being rejected), so I am paranoid and a little resentful about feeling coerced into a more rigid style. And since I don’t have many papers to my name yet (and I am not anonymous to the reviewers), I feel like I don’t have the sort of reputational capital to be that free (yet). Perhaps after a few better publication experiences I will build confidence (and reputation) and no longer be as intimidated by this aspect.

        I do think it will be fine in the end, drugs or not. Thanks for sharing your experience with modafinil. It’s what I considered reaching for because it helps others that I know study, and it is low in side effects (though nightmares don’t sound fun). But others’ issues studying aren’t identical to my issues writing, so I could totally see that it might not help me.

        I’ve been doing a lot of this type of daydreaming for this paper, and it obviously contributes to progress, and I should count it as such mentally instead of feeling like I’ve made no progress. The paper will happen :).

  3. Tatterdemalion says:

    Two factoids about American politics that I consider striking, especially together:

    1) Since 1940, the “Date and 8” law has correctly predicted the outcome of 18 of the 19 presidential elections: if the year is 0 or 4 mod 16 the Republicans have won, if it is 8 or 12 the Democrats have. In C code, the formula

    Election_winner == (year & 8) ? Democrats : Republicans;

    has been correct in every year from 1944 onwards, except for 1980 when Reagan beat Carter.

    2) Since Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1892 and lost it in 1896, it has only changed party twice in 4 years once – when Carter won it in 1976 and then lost it again in that 1980 surprise.

    This suggests to me that American politics is really strongly thermostaticat the presidential level – you could practically save yourselves the costs of all that electioneering and just buy a calendar instead.

    Any theories as to why the Senate and Congress don’t show any similar tendencies?

    If I were feeling more energetic, I’d take a fourier transform of this chart to see if it showed something similar, just not centred on 0…

    (Incidentally, this xKCD is probably obligatory here…)

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Didn’t Bush Senior also lost it after one term?

    • eigenmoon says:

      Russian rulers roughly alternate between bald and hairy since Nikolai I (1825). Perhaps Russian politics is strongly thermostatic at the hairiness level.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think this “date plus eight” law is really running on the “the incumbent wins if they’re going for a second term”; since incumbents now can’t run for longer than two terms, and two terms seems to be about as long as the public will tolerate one party in power, then it’s no surprise that “Party A wins the presidency; four years later President A runs again and wins; eight years later it switches to party B”.

      I think that’s also why the Senate and Congress are different; if you like your congresscritter (or they’ve built up a strong local machine) you can keep electing them to office until they’re carried out in a coffin. Retirement tends to be handing over either to a family member or a hand-picked successor, and the seat is unlikely to switch parties unless there’s some huge scandal in Party A at local or national level, or Party B brings in a really hot new candidate who promises the sun, moon and stars. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez overturning Joe Crowley, despite the myth-making peddled in the media, was not some bright-eyed first-timer ‘I was just a bartender’ winning in a grassroots revolution (that would make a fantastic Movie of the Week, though, and I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried putting the ‘scrappy underdog with the help of a rag-tag bunch of ordinary folks beats the big party machine candidate’ story onscreen, at least for TV), it was a very carefully calculated and carried out campaign by big hitters behind the scene, and AOC was one of the few successes*. AOC had a tougher fight against her Democrat colleague for the nomination than in the actual election, since this was Yellow Dog Democrat territory:

      Ocasio-Cortez faced Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the November 6 general election. … According to the New York Post, Pappas did not actively campaign. The Post wrote that “Pappas’ bid was a long shot,” since the 14th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+29, making it the sixth most Democratic district in New York City. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost six to one. The district and its predecessors have been in Democratic hands for all but two years since 1923 and without interruption since 1949.

      *Justice Democrats ran 78 candidates, 31 made it through or won primaries, 7 were elected out of those – including the other members of The Squad, and 6 of those 7 seats were previously held by Democrats, with only 1 of the Justice Democrats alumni taking a seat from a Republican. Hardly the Big New Blue Wave movement it was spun as! And I see Chakrabarti, who seems to have impeccable instincts as to when precisely to jump ship before it sinks beneath him, has resigned as AOC’s chief of staff to concentrate on the boondoggle urgent project to save the American economy and the planet:

      On August 2, 2019, he left Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s office to run “New Consensus”, a group to promote the Green New Deal, a proposed United States economic stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality.

      Looking into my crystal ball, I see taskforces. Lots of taskforces, meetings, conferences, flying here and there to talks and urgent confabulations, and plenty of spending government money on keeping them all in the style to which they are accustomed. Maybe not so many green new jobs to replace traditional industry, but for sure lots of consultants taken on board to draw up plans for any that could happen, you never know, if the technology is invented and all the former automobile assembly line workers and coal miners learn to code…

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        I think this “date plus eight” law is really running on the “the incumbent wins if they’re going for a second term”; since incumbents now can’t run for longer than two terms, and two terms seems to be about as long as the public will tolerate one party in power, then it’s no surprise that “Party A wins the presidency; four years later President A runs again and wins; eight years later it switches to party B”.

        Counterpoint: LBJ, Ford and Bush the Elder all lost while incumbents; the unifying factor is that in each case they had been preceded by a president of the same party.

        “Individual incumbency advantage plus coincidental noise” is not an absurd explanation, but party incumbency advantage withering over time fits the (admittedly far too limited to draw meaningful conclusions from) available data more closely.

    • JPNunez says:

      Election_winner == (year & 8) ? Democrats : Republicans;

      Please fix this code for every presidential election.

  4. phi says:

    John Baez has created a test for identifying physics crackpots: http://www.math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html

    If you haven’t read it before, it makes for amusing reading.

    I suggest adding a 38th item to the list:
    38. 50 points for demonstrating a lack of understanding of the established theory that your revolutionary theory is supposed to replace.

    In other words, if you’re going to claim that quantum mechanics is a sham, you had better know how to diagonalize a Hamiltonian. Crackpots may compare themselves to Galileo, but the relevant difference between the two is that Galileo and Copernicus understood the geocentric model of the universe very well, while crackpots for the most part have an understanding of physics that is derived from popular science books. Those that want to get rid of special relativity, for example, tend not to know what the space-time interval is.

    I’m guessing that this rule applies to fields besides physics as well. In the case of biology, the main group of crackpots seem to be creationists. From what I have observed, most creationists have a very limited understanding of what evolution is and how it actually works.

    In fact, though this test may give many false negatives, I can’t think of a single case where it incorrectly identifies a non-crackpot as a crackpot. Can anyone think of a true scientific revolutionary who didn’t understand the theory they were overthrowing?

    • fion says:

      Kind of related: Sean Carroll giving advice for “crackpots” to be taken seriously. His number 1 piece of advice is to understand the field you’re… ah… contributing to.

    • Watchman says:

      I’d suggest the test works for history as well…

    • MartMart says:

      My simple rule for situations where I find myself saying “The simple solution to a problem that plagues many people is X” is to wonder why no one else has thought of it, and suspect strongly that it’s been tried and there was something wrong with it.

      Which leads me to wonder “how unique is the problem I’m dealing with” and awful lot.

      • CatCube says:

        This drives me slightly bonkers at work when we have comments on some of our projects proposing “easy” fixes to some problem we’re having–fish passage projects at dams attract these types of things.

        We (me and the rest of whole team including fish biologists, engineers of all types, almost all of whom have worked on previous fish passage facilities) have spent about 50% of our working hours on this subject for the past six years. You just found out about how fish passage facilities work 45 minutes ago when you started reading this document. Do you really think you’re going to find something that easily solves the issue with a quick Google search?

        • Anthony says:

          Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ve seen the Fish Tube videos. Someone on Twitter remarked that it was a carpal tunnel.

          Someone elsetwit also noted you have to be careful to put the mouth of the tube where bears can’t get to it, otherwise it becomes a very expensive Pez dispenser. (That’s funnier if you know Spanish.)

          • CatCube says:

            The fish gun is interesting, and may have some limited uses, but I think the Twitter threads I’ve seen are overselling it. Avoiding stress on the fish is really important, especially when you’re near where they spawn. The fish bios talk about how they have to be careful when operating our trap-and-haul facilities, because the females are so ready to lay their eggs that they will disgorge them with anything above minimal handling, and when you’re talking a facility with a return of a few hundred adults, that matters.

            If you’ve got a dam with a forebay that doesn’t vary much it’s hard to see how the maintenance and fish stress downsides overcome the upsides of a conventional volitional passage ladder. If the forebay has very wide swings that mean you’re running a trap-and-haul ladder, this thing will be shooting the fish into the air where they may fall hundreds of feet into the reservoir.

            This system will be most useful in run-of-the-river projects where the forebay doesn’t vary much, it’s not near the spawning grounds so fish stress is less important, and you don’t have room for a volitional passage ladder. Which isn’t nothing, but it’s not a game-changer.

            The other Tweets regarding bears is not as joking as they think. Hunting is very difficult and energy intensive; anywhere that is a guaranteed catch will attract predators, and they’re generally clever.

            The critters we need to worry about where we are are sea lions. The cleverest try to get through the navigation locks and sit at the ladder exit which is, as you note, a Pez dispenser for them. The most common way they try to get through in the lock is to hide under the tows. The next common is to sun themselves on the barge and get off once they’re above the dam. There’s apparently one video kicking around here that I haven’t seen of a sea lion climbing the upstream gate when the lock chamber is full and jumping over into the forebay, though if that’s true it’s certainly not a common way for them to get past the dam.

            Normally, they just sit in the tailrace, where they still have an advantage because the anadromous fish are funneling into the ladder entrances. The fish are oriented on flow, and we design the system to create currents that attract them to the ladders. 90% of the flow used in a fish ladder is passed in at the bottom couple of pools to create this jet. That’s the one thing that hasn’t been apparent to me from the fish tube videos–how are they attracting fish to their entrance pool?

  5. Deiseach says:

    The really important vital issues that AI will work on – deciphering Victorian engineers’ bad handwriting 🙂

    The SS Great Britain Trust has tens of thousands of pages from Brunel’s diaries and letters, but his script is barely legible and reading them is an incredibly laborious process, researchers say.

    The team has now designed a computer programme that scans Brunel’s documents and learns to decipher his handwriting, in the hope they’ll reveal more about the Victorian engineer’s personality.

    The AI software ‘Transkribus’ was developed by the University of Innsbruck in partnership with University College London, and it can now read Brunel’s handwriting with 65% accuracy.

    Once they crack this, they can then move on to doctors!

  6. johan_larson says:

    Any thoughts from the Go crowd on whether correspondence games should or shouldn’t stop the clock on weekends?

    I’m thinking we should not stop the clock on weekends. Go isn’t work. You shouldn’t need a two-day break from it every week.

    • benjdenny says:

      I think the “we need to stop the clock” thing should be more robust, at least – It’s more likely someone couldn’t do it during the week than the weekend.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m talking about a specific setting, and whether we should use it in challenges within the group. Try creating a custom correspondence game, and you’ll see a “Pause on Weekends” checkbox.

  7. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    Does anyone know how expensive matchlock revolvers were in the 15th-17th centuries?

    Matchlock revolvers existed during this time period, and the most common explanation that I’ve seen for why they weren’t common is the expense of buying and maintaining them. This makes a lot of sense, since each one was essentially unique and required a skilled gunsmith given the poor quality tools and materials of the time. But I’d like to know how expensive that was, and the internet is failing me.

    The problem is that too many of them still exist, so whenever I search the results are dominated by auctions talking about how much they’re worth to collectors today.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Edit to add: Here we go: Cromwell at War: The Lord General and his Military Revolution
      Google books page 39:

      carbines as litle as 12s-9d wholesale, and a pair of pistols 18/- (whatever the /- indicates; shillings? Yes, /- indicates shillings).

      search terms: harquebusier pistol cost

      These appear to have been flintlock pistols.
      —–

      This Ebook is freely available from Google Books: “Cromwell’s Army: A History of the English Soldier During the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate”

      page 124 footnote 4 puts a likely high-end cost (as a pistol is likely cheaper than a musket):

      The cost of equipping the dragoons of the New Model is shown by the following extract from the accounts for July, 1645:–
      200 dragoone musquetts with snaphaunce locks at 15s. 6d. a piece
      50 dragoone saddles at 7s. 10d. a piece.
      200 dragoon horses at £4 a piece

      Google search terms: cost to equip musketeers

      Reading the chapter on Cavalry led to searching for “cost to equip harquebusier”, https://howlingpixel.com/i-en/Harquebusier which has some recent footnote referenced books that might list the price of a pistol.

      The book “Ironsides: English Cavalry 1588–1688” might list the price, but Google books limits searching inside the book.

      • Protagoras says:

        The question was specifically about revolvers, which were obviously more complicated and expensive than standard matchlock weapons; the question is how much more expensive? And to my mind there are also questions as to whether expense was the real reason they were uncommon; they would surely be a pain to reload, and if they were sufficiently unreliable the theoretical increase in RoF might not be worth all that much in practice.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Okay, but revolvers of any kind weren’t invented until the 16th century, and Nabil is claiming they existed during the 15th-17th centuries. I assume he meant pistol.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            It seems like I was off on the date, I thought that revolvers were older than that but it seems like the earliest examples were made in the late 16th century.

            But yes, I was interested primarily in revolvers rather than pistols generally. That said I appreciate the info you provided.

    • John Schilling says:

      Beyond the question of cost, is the question of what utility you are buying with that cost. And with a gimmicky matchlock revolver, the answer is “not much”.

      The great advantage of the (expensive) wheellock, and its successors, is that they allowed a firearm to be kept ready for immediate use. A matchlock requires that you have at least a minute or so of advance warning that you are going to be involved in a gunfight. And if you have a minute’s advance warning of a gunfight, the winning strategy is almost certainly to notice that you can run about three times effective musket range in a minute, and decline the invitation to a gunfight. At very least, you should go and get an Army’s worth of friends to make sure the fight goes your way.

      So about the only time you’re ever going to use any sort of matchlock, is when you’ve got an Army’s worth of friends at your back and you’ve decided that yeah, today is when you’re going to settle this, and your damn fool enemy is still standing there thinking he’s the one who is going to win when he should obviously be running away and trying to find more friends.

      In which case the fact that your personal firearm can fire five shots and then take five minutes to reload when everyone else’s fires only one shot and then reloads in one minute, while still of some advantage, is greatly devalued by the fact that everybody has several times five friends watching their back while they reload, and with Army-like discipline can take coordinated shifts shooting at the enemy while their colleagues are reloading and there are always a good fraction of an Army’s worth of firearms ready to deal with contingencies.

      • Aapje says:

        Repeating black powder firearms are actually less useful in formations than for individual use, because having a bunch of people fire at once creates so much smoke that you can’t see the enemy anymore. That’s why they had volley fire under direction of a commander: so the smoke could clear between shots.

        For army use, you also really want rifles, not pistols, as to have range. The issue with black powder revolver-style mechanisms is that they produce sparks. So if you put it into a rifle, the hand forward of the revolver is going to receive nasty hot sparks. And that is actually the best case, since black powder revolvers have a relatively high risk of accidentally firing two chambers at the same time. So having a hand forward of the mechanism is really not what you want.

        Some early revolver-mechanisms didn’t rotate around the axis of the barrel, but horizontally, like the Genhart rifle, but this means that you have chambers (that may accidentally go off) pointing in all directions, including back at the shooter.

        • cassander says:

          pistols were used in military contexts, but by cavalry, not infantry, and with debatable degrees of effectiveness. I could sort of see a use for a matchlock revolver firing a bunch of lot of shots as the cavalry charged, but I strongly suspect that people firing multiple rounds one handed from the back of galloping horse would be so inaccurate as to be basically useless.

          • John Schilling says:

            I believe the norm was to ride up within pistol shot of the enemy, stop the horse, shoot the pistol, and ride back out of range before the enemy could retaliate. Reload and repeat. Reasonably effective against pikemen, or musketeers you can catch with their muskets empty. Not so much against musketeers disciplined enough to keep one rank loaded at all times, or against cavalry closing fast with pointy sticks and no need to stop before they skewer you.

            And if there’s any merit at all to a “matchlock revolver”, that might be the application for it. But it’s fairly narrow.

    • bean says:

      Any revolver seems dubious before the development of caplocks because of priming. Even if you have flintlock/wheellock ignition, you still need to make sure that the priming is in good shape after the gun revolves. I don’t think that’s trivial, particularly if you leave it primed for long periods. Or an auto-priming mechanism, which is worse.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Off topic, but the collection of ancient firearms at the Met in New York is beautiful and well worth visiting if you’ve not seen it (Nabil – you’re in the city right?)

      • Nick says:

        Since we’re off topic now: Didn’t you like pack up and move to the East Coast last year? I take it you’re in the area now? How do you like it? Did the move work out?

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          I did! I like it quite well. I’m posting a lot less because I have way better things to do irl. Today I’m just bored and have nothing else to do while I watch my movers pack up my enormous collection of books and liquor (headed from Brooklyn to my new co-op in lower Manhattan!)

          I would highly recommend my action to anyone who wants to live in a major city and has had trouble with the West Coast.

        • James says:

          Glad you’re happier, Andrew.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Yeah, although on my last trip to the Met I spent most of my time looking at the paintings. I haven’t been to the weapons and armor section since I was a kid. I should probably go back now that I have more ability to appreciate what I’m looking at.

        Plus my girlfriend will be thrilled since we haven’t gone on a museum date in a while now.

        • Weapons and armor and paintings are all very well, but the Met has what I think is one of the two best collections of historical jewelry in the U.S. — the other being the Walters gallery in Baltimore.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I haven’t seen that; I’ll look it up next time I’m there (since it’s PWYW with a New York id, that’s very easy to do…) Is it under some particular label/gallery, or should I just find “Jewelry?”

            My other favorite section is the Asian art, especially the enormous collection of Chinese watercolors. I don’t know if it’s world unique, but I do know I like it. (I also enjoy the musical instrument collection, though it’s a bit small and doesn’t have a ton to say.)

            As a general rule, I’ll prefer to look at any section of a art museum that’s not oil paintings to any section that is (and watercolors are barely an exception.) My favorite stuff is all statues, artful objects (like the guns!), and what I think is called decorative art (the Chicago art institute’s enormous and wonderful collection of furniture and practical pottery comes to mind.)

          • I tend to find museums interesting for what I can learn from them. The Art Institute in Chicago, for instance, has a renaissance painting which includes a fairly simple three legged chair. I’ve made a bunch based on that. Given my medieval interests, I tend to look at paintings to see if they contain relevant information.

            But I also find historical jewelry, especially migration period, aesthetically pleasing. The screen backgrounds of both my desktop and my laptop are (different) pieces from the Sutton Hoo dig.

            I don’t remember how the jewelry is classified, but it should be easy to find.

  8. Kestrellius says:

    “It turns out that enforcing a peace treaty looks an awful lot like war.”

    This is a sentence that occurred to me a few days ago while discussing arms agreements and the Treaty of Versailles with my dad. He responded very positively to it, so I figured I’d bring it to you guys for second opinions and wordsmithing.

    I think the original formulation was “It turns out that enforcing a peace treaty looks a lot like a war”. I also thought of phrasing it as “It turns out that the enforcement of a peace treaty can be easily mistaken for war”, since “easily mistaken” seems a little stronger than “looks like”, but on reflection I think the more casual tone works a lot better — the clipped attitude is kind of incompatible with “it turns out”, anyway.

    So if anyone has ideas on improving the wording, let me know. Discussions of the statement itself, and its truth value or lack thereof, are of course also quite welcome.

    • cassander says:

      sic pacem para bellum

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Well, it can also look like “police action”, or “occupation”, or a lot of other actions short of military action, but fundamentally, yes. Treaties are an aspect of law, and the bedrock foundation of law is the credible threat of force wielded against those who violate it.

      The bit where it gets hazy is that in the real world there are lots of ways to force someone to accede to your will against their own will without using physical violence. Economic leverage (the threat of privation or even starvation), Social leverage (the threat of social isolation/ostracism, or in other words the use of emotional rather than physical pain), etc.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Also note the libertarian comment on how taxes are literal robbery, because if you don’t pay them nice men with guns come and take your house away. It’s similar because it’s both literal truth (that’s what actually happens) and yet not quite so. Partly because in practice it doesn’t get there, and also because taxes do solve a cooperation problem that kinda needs to be solved.

    • Aapje says:

      @Kestrellius

      Only if very many people don’t accept the peace treaty, in which case, it may very well actually be an edict imposed on people who never sat or had (true) representatives sit at the peace table.

      If few people don’t accept it, enforcing it tends to look like policing.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Versailles was a rather specific case in which the losing side:

      1- Didnt think it was losing
      2- Was more than able to resume figthing and actually win if the war resumed one year later and all the American and British went home to mind their business

      Belgium and Northern France were devastated, Germany was almost pristine, and the eastern front was safe. Ruthless occupation and backbreaking sanctions (which, unfortunately, didnt happen) were the only ways to prevent the germans from yet another war of agression.

      The alternative that didnt require so much enforcing, would have been to continue the war and rampage through Germany, pillaging everything to bring them up to the level of devastation their past and future targets suffered. Which would have been pretty damn evil, considering the amount of carnage it would have caused to both side.

      • Matt M says:

        Agreed. Compare this to say, reconstruction in the South, which “looked like war” in the sense that union soldiers were still physically present and bossing everybody around, but did not “look like war” in the sense that men were lining up and being killed by the tens of thousands.

        There is, in fact, a difference between physical presence and implied use of force (if necessary) and, you know, actual war.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Other than the part where Germany was starving and cut off from all critical imports. I don’t know how the situation for industrial inputs looked compared to WW2 (anyone?) but I rather doubt they could have restarted the war easily from status quo. They may have not had battles on their territory but intact forests don’t win wars, logistics, gasoline, ammo, and millions of well fed young men do. They certainly didn’t have the first or the last and I’m doubtful about the middle two–anyone know?

        • John Schilling says:

          I think the point was that, after a year’s interregnum, Germany’s young men would be well-fed again and her strategic reserves could have held a war’s worth of gasoline, rubber, nickel, tin, etc. Germany’s undamaged economic base, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and a year hypothetically free of blockade, embargo, sanctions, or reparations would have made this somewhat plausible, as is the bit where France has a much harder time recovering.

          Brest-Litovsk and Lenin et al also mean Germany wouldn’t have to worry about an Eastern Front in a hypothetical WW1.1, but they also wouldn’t have the Ottoman Empire and probably not an Austro-Hungarian Empire to guard their southern flank.

          If WW1.1 is just Germany v France and Belgium, probably Germany wins and possibly the no-longer-starving German people would have been up for another year of war to accomplish that after a year of R&R. But the bit where MorningGaul proposes that Britain and the United States would sit out WW1.1 seems questionable at best.

          And also moot, since the whole point of Versailles was that the UK and US didn’t want to get dragged into another Continental war and so dismantled the Second Reich and chained down Germany with enough reparations and other sanctions that it would be at least a generation before they got a Third Reich up and running on a war footing.

      • bean says:

        Was more than able to resume figthing and actually win if the war resumed one year later and all the American and British went home to mind their business

        No, on several levels. First, Germany was really tired of the war. Look at the events of late 1918. The navy in open mutiny, the Kaiser abdicating, Germany’s army collapsing. This is not a country that can go back to war. This is a country with war on the streets. Second, Britain and America weren’t just going to go home. Britain still has all of the interests that drew it into the war in the first place. America had convinced itself that its participation was important, and that took a few years to dissipate.

    • Randy M says:

      Enforcing anything on another sovereign nation is going to come down to war.

      A peace treaty is basically spells out a list of actions that the losing side must do or not do to avoid renewal of conflict.

    • MartMart says:

      I’ve had a similar experience when thinking how a company going thru bankruptcy looks a lot like what would happen if it weren’t for bankruptcy laws.
      I think the biggest difference, in both cases, that while the results are similar, at least one side (or both) are following a script. This makes every ones actions predictable, and less likely to result in drastic shocks caused by misunderstandings and over reactions.

  9. SteveReilly says:

    Has anyone ever tried writing a screenplay before? I’m wondering if there’s a cheap, easy way to format one properly. It seems like it should be an easy thing to create, but I couldn’t find a template online that wasn’t expensive.

    • Well... says:

      I’ve written several screenplays, although most of them were written for assignments while I was in film school. There’s a software, Final Draft, that a lot of people in the industry use; it does most of the formatting work for you. But I’m positive there are MS Word templates out there for free somewhere. Or you can look up the format and create your own, which is what I did for my fiction manuscripts.

    • Machine Interface says:

      I have written a screenplay for a short film (didn’t go anywhere, but at least it’s a thing I completed). While Well… above has good advices, screenplay formating is really not that hard and tedious to do by hand, I found.

      • Well... says:

        I agree. Even without using “styles” it’s not all that hard in Word. The part that requires finesse is in knowing what to put and not to put in scene descriptions, how to describe things in enough detail without stepping on the toes of actors/art directors/foley artists etc. When we were in film school we got assigned Syd Field’s “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” and it was actually pretty helpful.

        Edit to add: if you’re writing something you personally are going to produce/shoot/direct/etc., I recommend going with a tabular 2- or 3-column script format instead.

    • benjdenny says:

      Find a copy of the old CeltX desktop edition; they are still floating around somewhere and are free. Alternatively, learn John August’s Fountain markdown language.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I am a development executive. Final Draft is the industry standard, is expensive, and is terrible. There is no earthly reason for you to use it (the script may have to end up there eventually if your film actually makes it into production, but that is very much a bridge to be crossed when you come to it). Fade In is cheaper and better. Writer Duet is free, and I have heard good things, but have no personal experience. I would start by trying Writer Duet.

      • benjdenny says:

        Is your whole life just people pitching you shitty ideas while you are trying to eat lunch?

        • Tarpitz says:

          I’m relatively new to this – I’ve been doing development work freelance for 18 months or so, and don’t officially start my full time job as the one-man English language (I will have a Spanish speaking counterpart at some point) development department for a new indie feature production company till the start of next month (though I’m already doing a lot of work for it).

          To date, the level of “I read this book/heard this story/had this thing happen to me that would make an amazing film” from random acquaintances in social situations has been… non-zero, but tolerable. No doubt as time goes by it will get worse and my tolerance will get lower.

          • johan_larson says:

            Would you be interested in writing an effortpost about what the work of a development executive is actually all about? The profession has been portrayed on screen, but those takes are probably not accurate.

          • Well... says:

            @johan_larson:

            Having also seen some of the fictional depictions of filmmaking and also worked in the industry, I would say most takes are not so much inaccurate as they stress one aspect over others to make an artistic point.

            For example, Jean Luc Godard made a movie about making a movie, and the opening scene was just a POV of a bunch of checks being written and torn off the checkbook one after the next.

          • Tarpitz says:

            @johan_larson

            I could certainly do that at some point, though I’ll probably be too busy with work this week. I think it would be fair to say, though, that my experience working for a very small company based in the UK (there is an LA office, but it’s focused on Spanish language projects; the English language stuff is
            based here, even if it ultimately shoots over there) is in all probability highly atypical. Apart from anything else, I do a lot of things which aren’t technically in my job description and I’m pretty sure would not be part of the work of a typical Hollywood exec. And I have no formal training and literally don’t know a single other person who does my job (the closest would be friends who are dramaturgs in theatre) so I really can only talk about my own experience.

  10. Scott Alexander says:

    Starting yesterday, my ad-blocker began blocking the ads on SSC. I didn’t update it or change anything.

    Did anyone else have the same experience? Does anyone know how to make this not happen?

  11. raj says:

    Are ritalin or adderal worth taking occasionally as a performance enhancer? I’m a programmer and I use modafinil – though I am very averse to being dependent on a drug, so I use it infrequently. But I like having it in my toolkit.

    I find it hard to focus on code for long stretches of time, or to digest whitepapers with dense mathematical notation. And I feel like I need to be a little better here, both for my career and my self-actualization. I don’t think that a doctor or a psychiatrist would give me useful advice, because they approach things from an excessively risk-averse “do no harm” angle – understandable why they do so, but does not produce the best advice.

    (I read scotts’ article on adderall risk but didn’t get a strong sense of yes/no)

    • Björn says:

      The question is, what else can you do to become more productive. Taking stimulants to be productive is dangerous, because they don’t teach you how to be productive without them, and they are addictive. Being able to do much more on them is part of why they are addictive.

      I think the interesting question is, how is your relationship to your job (I assume you work as a programmer, but it still applies if you are a student or whatever)? Programming for long stretches of time is hard, even more so if you have to do the modelling on the fly, there is no modelling, the modelling is bad, etc. That’s why things like partner programming, splitting a program into subtasks etc. exist – it does make your life easier. Also note that even the best productivity techniques do not work in an environment that has no use for your productivity – if the project you are working on is not reasonable enough or too chaotic, you’ll go back to procrastinating in no time.

      Reading mathematical texts you have no familiarity with is the same, it can be normal to only digest one page per day. Take the following advice with a grain of salt: Many computer science papers contain a lot of bullshit math that is not necessary for anything. Sometimes it is better to not ponder over CS math for too long.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “Taking stimulants to be productive is dangerous, because they don’t teach you how to be productive without them, and they are addictive.”

        Would you apply this to caffeine?

        • Lambert says:

          Sure.
          I could take substantial amounts of caffiene regularly to wake me up, but I don’t for the above reasons.

          It’s a sliding scale of risk from caffiene to meth, but you do hear every now and then about teenagers getting hooked on red bull.

    • Incurian says:

      Yes, but you may get addicted. It’s hard to use them only occasionally.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The short answer is that if modafinil works for you, you should stick with it because the big advantages are on its side.

      I’m not sure what your question is.

      Are you looking for a the right tool for the job? There are subtle differences which you can only learn by trying them. But on the whole modafinil is just better. Amphetamine makes you feel productive, so make sure you assess your work when sober. (same with modafinil, but less so)

      Or are you worried about physiological tolerance and you hope to avoid that by alternating different drugs? How often is “occasionally”? If you’re taking modafinil once a week, just stick with modafinil. If you’re taking drugs every day, probably alternating with amphetamine is better than modafinil every day. But maybe alternating with sobriety is even better.

      ———

      Amphetamine is good for executive function. A lot of people with ADHD report that modafinil doesn’t do much for them.

      Another advantage of amphetamine is that it has a short duration and faster ramp up. Most people who use it to work take it multiple times a day. If you have a limited task, you could just take one dose, whereas taking modafinil is committing to being on it all day. Amphetamine interferes with sleep. Most people find that modafinil does not interfere much with sleep, so if you decide to take it late in the day, you can still get a full night’s sleep. But if you find that it does interfere with sleep, that limits your flexibility of using it and may suggest amphetamine.

      The main problems with amphetamine are overconfidence and addiction. The fast ramp up contributes to addition. The subjective feeling of being wired probably contributes to both problems. Whereas modafinil has much less of a subjective effect.

      • Solra Bizna says:

        I am diagnosed with ADHD and have had prescriptions for several forms of amphetamine. Because of unrelated medical issues, it’s extremely difficult to get my dose right. I have found that, in doses not potent enough to make me “high”, both amphetamine and caffeine(!) actually tremendously improve my ability to “sleep at will”, and improve my quality of sleep as long as the dose lasts. In fact, one of the things that has made therapeutic use of amphetamine difficult for me is the fact that the *withdrawal* phase comes with insomnia; I take a dose, and for 3-6 hours I can be “productive OR sleeping”, followed by 9-24 hours of “neither productive NOR sleeping”… (This is a minority outcome, but at least one of my friends had a similar experience.)

        My personal recommendation: if you’re going to take amphetamine, take as little as possible. If you “feel it working”, it’s too much. If you really *need* amphetamine in order to be productive (as I do), it shouldn’t take much at all to get you where you need to be. Also, watch what you eat and drink near your dose; acidic foods reduce its potency, while alkaline foods increase it.

  12. Hoopyfreud says:

    Restating my question to LMC from last thread, which got buried:

    What are the most irritating instances of wokeness in bluckbuster-level media since the Ghostbusters remake? I’m not talking about interviews, or the directors’ Twitter feeds, or the NYT Film Crit coumn; I’m asking, what are the absolute preachiest examples of textual or intertextual (in dialogue with other cinema/games/literature, not with the media complex) progressive didacticism with real money or honors behind them of the past 3 years? A good point of reference here is God’s Not Dead (though obviously it fails the “blockbuster” criterion).

    • tossrock says:

      Men in Black: International, both in general and particularly the little lizard guy asking Tessa Thompson “Are you my queen?” and her responding “Only in the sense that all women are queens ^_^”

    • Matt M says:

      I’m not talking about interviews, or the directors’ Twitter feeds

      But what if this is the actual answer?

      I’m all for suspension of disbelief and immersion and all that, but at some point it becomes really hard for me to enjoy watching Captain America punch dudes when I know, for certain, that the actor playing him hates and despises me.

    • souleater says:

      Does Stargate: SG1 count? probably not, but I want to share anyway

      Capt. Carter: I’m an Air Force officer just like you are, Colonel. And just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside, doesn’t mean I can’t handle whatever you can handle.

      It was really out of left field, nobody made any sexist comments beforehand, and it just seemed cringy and uncalled for. The character got a lot less “I am woman; hear me roar” after the pilot episode. but that writing was just awful

      • Incurian says:

        I thought that was more character development than being preachy. She has a chip on her shoulder about her gender and proving herself. Her dad, also an Air Force officer, wanted a boy, even named her “Sam,” held her to high standards, etc.

      • Deiseach says:

        To be fair, everyone considered that was a terrible episode and terrible writing, I don’t recall anyone going “Yay feminism strong independent woman!” after watching it, the comments I saw were along the lines of “this is over the top and makes Carter sound like a neurotic harpy”.

        That the character got better development and never again did the “I am a Woman!!!!” speechifying was, I think, direct response to this.

      • Lillian says:

        The quote in the the scene in question doesn’t at all look out of left field to me. The men in the room are being dicks to Carter, and O’neill in particular makes it abundantly clear that he holds her in contempt and doesn’t want her on the mission. She assumes it’s because she’s a woman and gives her prepared speech defending her right to be there, which note a couple of the guys roll their eyes at, and O’neill clarifies that he doesn’t give a shit about her being a woman, his problem is that she’s a scientist rather than a soldier. Frankly i thought O’neill got the better of the exchange, so it wasn’t so much “I am a woman; hear me roar” as Carter making an ass of herself because she has a chip on her shoulder.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Disney Star Wars (in particular The Last Jedi), X-men Dark Phoenix, MiB international (I didn’t watch it, but the trailers are woke as f*ck), Captain Marvel (or so I’ve heard, didn’t watch it either).

      Plus various instances of blackwashing and pinkwashing (Ocean’s eight, female Thor, black Ariel, black female James(?) Bond), which may or may not be necessarily woke in their themes but contribute to the overall trend of boo white men.

      • John Schilling says:

        …female Thor, black Ariel, black female James(?) Bond

        None of which have been made yet, so we can’t know what “textual or intertextual progressive didacticism” they may contain and are just going on what the twitterverse et al are saying about them. Fails the OP’s test. But, OK, in a world where marketing drives story rather than the other way around, these may at least be warning signs of progressive didacticism to come.

        And to build on that, the idea of Natalie Portman playing Dr. Jane Foster as the mortal who steps up to wield Mjolnir when the lovable but dimwitted Asgardian beefcake can’t, has the makings of a great story. One that plays off the strong points of the first two movies, and for that matter the original comics. I might go see a movie showing that story, even though I’m officially done with comic-book superheroes.

        But, first, almost nothing that would make that a story worth telling, depends on the new wielder of Mjolnir having ovaries. And second, given that they’ve done away with “Thor” being the superheroic pseudonym of Dr. Donald Blake, no character played by Natalie Portman has any business being called “Thor”, any more than Gwyneth Paltrow’s character was called “Tony Stark” when she armored up. “Thor” is just a proper name in this universe, and it’s the proper name of exactly one person.

        So, every tweet or bit of marketing hype about a “Female Thor” gives this movie two strikes before it is even released.

        • Nick says:

          None of which have been made yet, so we can’t know what “textual or intertextual progressive didacticism” they may contain and are just going on what the twitterverse et al are saying about them. Fails the OP’s test. But, OK, in a world where marketing drives story rather than the other way around, these may at least be warning signs of progressive didacticism to come.

          I think that in fairness to Hoopyfreud, wokeness is a lot less progressed in movies than in other media. I hear it’s gotten pretty obnoxious in the comics, for instance, but that’s secondhand, I don’t read them.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          But, first, almost nothing that would make that a story worth telling, depends on the new wielder of Mjolnir having ovaries.

          I disagree. Thor (both the original Norse god and the superhero) is an archetype of warrior-like masculinity. This is why he’s portrayed by a tall, muscular, full-bearded man. Why didn’t they cast a short, scrawny, neckbeard actor? In terms of internal plot consistency it would have made no difference: Thor’s strength and powers are superhuman, and in no way commensurate to physical size. Yet it wouldn’t have looked right: the archetype of masculinity has to look like a hypermasculine man.

          Enter petite, premenopausal, Natalie Portman as “Thor” (or whatever the title for the Mjolnir wielder is supposed to be). What archetype is she supposed to represent?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Which reminds me– Superman doesn’t need to be muscular. I have a mental image of a small, thin, arthritic old man holding up an aircraft carrier between his thumb and forefinger.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Which reminds me– Superman doesn’t need to be muscular.

            Indeed. If you think about it, in terms of internal consistency, it would even make more sense for Superman to be scrawny. How often does he get to exercise his muscles to their maximum strength?

            Yet, like Thor, Superman is an archetype of masculinity, hence he needs to be represented as a hypermasculine man.

          • John Schilling says:

            Enter petite, premenopausal, Natalie Portman as “Thor” (or whatever the title for the Mjolnir is supposed to be). What archetype is she supposed to be of?

            Scrawny nerdy sidekick. That, not the ovaries, is what makes it interesting. The same story with a muscular, athletic dimwitted female action hero wielding Mjolnir would be decidedly less interesting.

          • Matt M says:

            Thor’s strength and powers are superhuman, and in no way commensurate to physical size.

            In a sense, in terms of realism at least, characters like Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and Thorette, are still plausible in the sense of “super powers are why they can beat up men 5x their strength.”

            If you’re looking for unrealism in superhero films, look at freaking Black Widow. No powers whatsoever. Not even that big or muscular. But can beat the hell out of 20 large dudes at once because she’s… really well trained? (As if the villains are just random dudes off the street or something)

          • acymetric says:

            If you’re looking for unrealism in superhero films, look at freaking Black Widow. No powers whatsoever. Not even that big or muscular. But can beat the hell out of 20 large dudes at once because she’s… really well trained? (As if the villains are just random dudes off the street or something)

            Isn’t that pretty par for the course for any “super-secret-agent-spy” type character in any genre, male or female?

          • Randy M says:

            Agents of Shield had a character, Mockingbird, I think, who was good at clearing a room of bad guys because she brought a pair of batons.
            I mean, that wasn’t quite as silly as the show’s ultimate badass being a slightly Asian woman, but it was kind of funny how a feminine action hero had the weapons of a junior high cheer team.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            @John Schilling

            Scrawny nerdy sidekick.

            Who bashes her foes with a hammer? I dunno, it doesn’t sounds like a very compelling premise.

            @acymetric

            Isn’t that pretty par for the course for any “super-secret-agent-spy” type character in any genre, male or female?

            Yes, and it’s overused to the point that the best modern examples are parodies.

          • John Schilling says:

            Who bashes her foes with a hammer? I dunno, it doesn’t sounds like a very compelling premise.

            A character established in one archetype, being forced or allowed to step into a very different one, generally makes for a better story than just having an archetype be an archetype.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “But can beat the hell out of 20 large dudes at once because she’s… really well trained?”

            How does that compare to the plausibility of Bruce Lee in the movies?

            Also, Modesty Blaise had a little club she concealed in her hair and used it very effectively.

          • baconbits9 says:

            A character established in one archetype, being forced or allowed to step into a very different one, generally makes for a better story than just having an archetype be an archetype.

            It generally makes a worse story because it takes more skill to handle. An archetype can be written decently with less skill so will be on average less terrible than a more complicated plot.

          • John Schilling says:

            How does that compare to the plausibility of Bruce Lee in the movies?

            They’re both ludicrous, and so if I’m going to buy it I’d rather buy it with a side order of Scarlett Johansson in tight black leather. YMMV.

            There is no level of training that will allow any plausibly non-superhuman hero or heroine to defeat more than two(*) generic half-trained mooks in hand-to-hand combat, unless the latter are constrained by geometry or authorial fiat to take turns fighting the hero one-on-one. Almost nobody uses the geometry solution in cinematic combat, so the audience is stuck with extreme suspension of disbelief.

            If the question is reframed as whether a superbly-trained but not superhuman waifgirl (or scrawny guy or whatver) can defeat large muscular males one-on-one, then that’s plausible up to the level where the large muscular male has about the hand-to-hand training/skill average barroom brawler or infantry soldier. If we’re expected to believe that the 200-lb muscular guys are in any way experts but the 100-lb girl is winning because she’s somehow more expert, then no. Bruce Lee’s extra 40 lbs and Y chromosome do give him a real edge there.

            * And two is a stretch, but not completely ridiculous for extreme disparities in skill.

          • Matt M says:

            Also relevant is the fact that in these fights, Black Widow typically appears to be approximately as effective as Captain America, Iron Man, et al.

            So the relevant comparison isn’t Bruce Lee, it’s actual superheroes with actual powers, who she fights alongside without becoming a liability.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also relevant is the fact that in these fights, Black Widow typically appears to be approximately as effective as Captain America, Iron Man, et al.

            I’ll give them credit for usually showing BW as being approximately as effective as Captain America iff you spot her two pistols and the ability to stay out of the fight until she is in a position of tactical advantage.

          • Deiseach says:

            Enter petite, premenopausal, Natalie Portman as “Thor” (or whatever the title for the Mjolnir wielder is supposed to be).

            The female name version of Thor is Thora, which means everytime someone talks of the new female Thor I get the mental image of Thora Hird.

          • baconbits9 says:

            How does that compare to the plausibility of Bruce Lee in the movies?

            Plausibility is typically set up in world for fiction. Old kung fu movies often had an antagonist with a bunch of students who get in conflict with the protagonist. Some movies would be less realistic where the protagonist would just beat up unlimited numbers of the students before earning a showdown with the antagonist, but regularly they would be set up as honorable combat where all fights are one on one between trained fighters, which aids in a lot of the realism while also allowing for better villain development.

            More to your point however is that a lot of the classic stars, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, even Tom Cruise, did a lot or all of their own stunt work (even I think Stallone and Arnold did a ton) which creates a level of grounding given that many of them were actually accomplished martial artists. You can set up establishing shots where Bruce Lee beats up a bad guy, or even 2 or 3 without the need for excessive, reality warping special effects, and then when he goes to fight later you are ready to accept that next level of badassery from him. Female stars can’t generally do this, certainly not as easily or convincingly, which creates a much larger hurdle to overcome for them.

          • J Mann says:

            If you’re looking for unrealism in superhero films, look at freaking Black Widow.

            They’re comic books. Black Widow is in the same space as Batman, Robin, Hawkeye, etc – their trope is that a sufficiently trained martial artist can take out any number of normal gunmen. (There’s a really nice bit in the Watchmen comics where a paunchy Nite Owl and an out of practice Silk Specter get their groove back by beating up dozens of thugs).

            On the unrealism scale, I rate it as somewhat more realistic than allowing Mr. Fantastic to lift things with 30 foot long arms or allowing the Hulk to gain mass when he transforms, so there’s that.

          • John Schilling says:

            An archetype can be written decently with less skill so will be on average less terrible than a more complicated plot.

            If the archetype is “costumed freak who beats up other costumed freaks in the name of Good triumphing over Evil”, then no, not really. That one starts out with “terrible” as the baseline and has to work its way up through e.g. extraordinarily good writing.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If the archetype is “costumed freak who beats up other costumed freaks in the name of Good triumphing over Evil”, then no, not really. That one starts out with “terrible” as the baseline and has to work its way up through e.g. extraordinarily good writing.

            Your suggestion just turns it into ‘weaker costumed freak beats up much stronger costumed freaks’.

        • JPNunez says:

          They already had Fem-Thor in the comics. It’s relatively recent, but it’s not like they are pulling this out of nowhere.

          • EchoChaos says:

            It’s recent enough that she is specifically uber-woke in the comics. She gives feminist speeches. That’s not a fantastic counter to Fem-Thor being woke.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s worse; there’s a villain that surrenders to her out of female solidarity.

            I don’t know enough about this villain to rule out her basing her villainy on radical feminism, but since she attacks her partner in that scene, it seems unlikely, and therefore a pretty egregious out of character author tract.

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            That page is breathtaking, and not in a good way. I particularly love the implication that female superheroes, who have been in comics for eighty years, are only today doing something so brave that even the villains have to bow to them.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t know enough about this villain to rule out her being basing her villainy on radical feminism

            That was a Powerpuff Girls villainess back in 2001 – Femme Fatale.

          • Matt M says:

            Even aside from the ridiculousness of the villain surrendering out of feminist solidarity… how bout Thorette then turning right around and bashing her in the face with her hammer after she has already surrendered.

            “Get your enemy to surrender without a fight, then violently assault them anyway!” seems to match pretty well with my perception of what the SJW movement is all about, but it’s kind of shocking to see them describe themselves that way!

          • Randy M says:

            Also amusing that such a woke page still drawn with a perspective putting the villainess’ butt front and center.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Matt M

            Reading the tracts to encourage the true believers is always enlightening.

      • acymetric says:

        I think if people want to have their complaints of “overly-woke” media taken seriously they need to be careful not to extend it too far. It can’t just be “anything with a strong female lead” or even “gender/race flipped characters”. Those things far predate “wokeness” (and some of the examples of such would seem to be the opposite of woke in their implementation). It seems to me that for it to be a problem it needs to be using that kind of thing as a ham-handed morality lesson for it to be any kind of issue. Otherwise its just a casting/production decision.

        Worth remembering that TV/film has been doing ham-handed morality lessons based on whatever was deemed the appropriate morality at the time for as long as it has been around, and that at different points (and varying depending on who was running/writing things) those lessons have been more friendly to the values held by the people complaining about wokeness now. It is a pendulum.

        Short version: “Too woke” is going the way of “microaggressions”, where the people trumpeting it apply it to everything and normal people start losing interest as a result.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I agree with the sentiment of the first paragraph, but the issues are a bit more complex than this. Part of the backlash* is that there is a trend of ‘lets take this successful franchise and give it a female lead’. The decisions are not particularly woke, they are more or less cash grabs, attempts to squeeze out more money from an existing franchise. However this does imply some level of ‘we can get more with a female lead than from a male lead’ and will also in some situations (like a female Bond) require switching some prior to now essential characteristics of the lead.

          These movies are intentionally walking a fine line, they want to keep the large, existing fan base because its a cash grab, while also trying to draw in a new demographic. It is difficult to both say ‘it doesn’t matter if a Jedi is a man or a woman’ to the original fanbase** and then turn to a different demographic and pitch it as ‘we have a lady with a light-saber isn’t that great?’.

          Further complicating things is that it is primarily protagonists that are going to women, and the selection of previously successful franchises. Antagonists are generally still men which (intentionally or not) sets up a male vs female dynamic in a lot of scenes where the woman is good and the man evil, and the end result (in universe) is woman bests man in a man’s world, making it hard to reconcile a viewpoint of ‘women are just as good as men’ when the implied viewpoint is ‘women are better than men’.

          This combines with the second point of using successful vehicles to launch female leads, as far as I can tell no one is trying to launch a ‘Sharon the Duck’ remake using a female POV to fix the issues that caused Howard to be a flop, or ‘Jane Carter’ and using the prior flop as an opportunity to totally reinvent the world. Making it a successful franchise puts the audience in a familiar setting which makes the shifts in tone/storytelling/approach noticeable which requires more skillful writing and storytelling to get past (instead of the less that is generally applied to sequels).

          None of this is about being woke directly, but the emergence of a new culture gives studios a demographic to target which gives a lot of these movies a feeling of being woke rather than (in many cases) direct wokeness.

          *As it appears to me

          ** There is a lot of generational stuff here as well, Disney (for example) is trying to appease the 45+ year old crowd who grew up on Star Wars, and also bring in a new generation that they can milk for cash for the next 40 years. This actually takes skill to do.

          • Matt M says:

            There is a lot of generational stuff here as well, Disney (for example) is trying to appease the 45+ year old crowd who grew up on Star Wars

            Are they? Or are they simply assuming that this crowd will turn up, so long as the thing is called “Star Wars”, no matter what woke dreck they fill the movie with?

            IMO that’s not even an incorrect assumption. It even applies to me! I’m going to go see 9, no matter what. And I really can’t imagine 9 being bad enough to dissuade me from 10. Maybe if they did several really bad ones in a row I could lose my fandom, but so far even stuff like Phantom Menace and TLJ haven’t risen to that level of awfulness to actually push me away yet…

          • baconbits9 says:

            Are they? Or are they simply assuming that this crowd will turn up, so long as the thing is called “Star Wars”, no matter what woke dreck they fill the movie with?

            They made TFA as a direct mirror in a lot of ways as ANH, they brought back iconic pieces (the falcon), and in general the view is that there was tons of fan service in the movie.

          • Matt M says:

            Is that what old fans actually want?

            I thought the fact that the Millennium Falcon was in the movie was incredibly lame and pathetic, tbqh. Same with “this entire plot is the exact same as ANH.”

            Was that really designed to appease/appeal to me? If so, it missed the mark completely. And I can’t imagine I’m unique/alone in thinking this…

          • Nick says:

            I thought the intent was the opposite, actually—to draw in a new generation of fans by replicating the plot of the first, successful, movie. I was certainly disappointed by the carbon copy plot, and so were all my friends who were Star Wars fans, but my anecdatal impression was that TFA did all right among the younger crowd.

          • baconbits9 says:

            IMO that’s not even an incorrect assumption. It even applies to me! I’m going to go see 9, no matter what. And I really can’t imagine 9 being bad enough to dissuade me from 10. Maybe if they did several really bad ones in a row I could lose my fandom, but so far even stuff like Phantom Menace and TLJ haven’t risen to that level of awfulness to actually push me away yet…

            It appears to be pushing someone away, TLJ made $300 million less in the US and 700 million less world wide than TFA, and Solo made half of Rogue One.

          • Nick says:

            @baconbits9
            Yeah, I for one don’t plan to see Episode 9. If I do, it will be because I’m dragged there unwillingly.

            Though there is one upside to seeing it—trashing the film with y’all when it comes out. 😀

            (ETA: Since I was happy with Rogue One and thought Solo was okay, I am willing to see more of the spinoff films.)

          • Matt M says:

            It appears to be pushing someone away, TLJ made $300 million less in the US and 700 million less world wide than TFA, and Solo made half of Rogue One.

            And how do you know those losses came from hardcore older fans and not newer casuals?

            Everyone in my “nerd friend” group has seen all of them, and has no intention of stopping.

          • baconbits9 says:

            And how do you know those losses came from hardcore older fans and not newer casuals?

            I have no idea, but I disagree with the split of ‘hardcore older fans’ and ‘younger casual fans’. Most of the people who went to see The Phantom Menace were older, casual, fans who remembered Star Wars fondly and liked it but hadn’t made fandom a part of their identity outside of that, because most people aren’t hard core fans of Star Wars (or any X you put in there).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Further complicating things is that it is primarily protagonists that are going to women, and the selection of previously successful franchises. Antagonists are generally still men which (intentionally or not) sets up a male vs female dynamic in a lot of scenes where the woman is good and the man evil, and the end result (in universe) is woman bests man in a man’s world, making it hard to reconcile a viewpoint of ‘women are just as good as men’ when the implied viewpoint is ‘women are better than men’.

            Yeah, this I can agree with; the thing is, that’s not a particularly… anti-woke view.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Yeah, this I can agree with; the thing is, that’s not a particularly… anti-woke view.

            If a male hero beats up a female villain then you’re glorifying violence against women, and this is a sin problematic.

            If a female hero beats up a female villain and the female villain looks attractive, then it’s a catfight, male gaze, sexual objectification, etc., and this is problematic.

            If a female hero beats up a female villain and the female villain is ugly, then you are implying that ugly women (e.g. your average Twitter warrior/Buzzfeed “journalist”) are evil, and of course this is problematic.

            Therefore villains have to be of the disposable gender.

          • Nick says:

            Can we test this theory? Was anyone at the time, or since, criticizing e.g. Maleficent for this?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yeah, this I can agree with; the thing is, that’s not a particularly… anti-woke view.

            My view is not that there needs to be more female villains, its that there is always a tension when trying to appeal to old fans and draw in new fans. You have to keep elements of the old universe which makes it very clear the elements you are bringing in to draw the new fans, which is hard to do well. The piece you linked thinks we need more female villains because (besides the whole ‘I like those characters, give me more characters that I like) of old timey rules that are currently holding back women.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Can we test this theory? Was anyone at the time, or since, criticizing e.g. Maleficent for this?

            I didn’t see it, but the wikipedia write up doesn’t cast Maleficent as evil to be overthrown in the traditional way

            Despite her initial dislike for Aurora, Maleficent begins to care for her when the bumbling and neglectful pixies fail to do so. After a brief meeting with the young Aurora, Maleficent watches over her from afar. When Aurora is 15, she encounters Maleficent. Knowing that she is being watched over, Aurora begins to call Maleficent her “fairy godmother”, an act which cause Maleficent to try and undo the curse, but is unsuccessful, as the curse proves to be unbreakable by any means other than true love’s kiss. In the forest, Aurora meets a young prince named Philip, and the two are attracted to each other.

            On the day before Aurora’s 16th birthday, Aurora tells Maleficent that she would like to live with her in the Moors. When Aurora returns to the cottage, the pixies inadvertently tell Aurora of her past. Having learned of Maleficent’s true identity, Aurora runs to her father’s castle.

            After a brief reunion with his daughter, Stefan locks her away in a room for her own safety while setting up a plan to kill Maleficent. However, the power of the curse draws Aurora to the dungeon, where a spinning wheel magically reassembles itself. Aurora pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep, fulfilling the curse. Maleficent, intent on saving her, abducts Phillip and infiltrates Stefan’s castle, but Phillip’s kiss fails to awaken Aurora. At her bedside, Maleficent apologizes to Aurora and kisses her forehead. Aurora awakens, as Maleficent’s motherly feelings towards her count as true love.

          • Randy M says:

            Can we test this theory? Was anyone at the time, or since, criticizing e.g. Maleficent for this?

            Maybe that movie changed the character that appeared in Cinderella, but Maleficent has the advantage of being both beautiful as a faerie queen and ugly as the dragon she is slain as.

          • Nick says:

            @baconbits9
            Heh, I didn’t see it either, so I didn’t realize it might be a poor example. If someone has a better one, do share.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @viVI_IViv

            I dunno man. It seems like every time we’ve had a female villain that’s not horrifyingly shallow recently, the woke contingent has gone gaga over her.

          • John Schilling says:

            Have seen it, decent but not great flick, and can confirm that the eponymous Maleficent was not the villain of her own film. Even at her antiheroic “worst” she was always clearly contrasted with the true villain of the tale, and she went full-on Romantic Hero by the end.

            Yes, the straight-up villain was a white male, who had no problem doing violence to the white female (anti)hero. But that’s probably not so much an example of woke political storytelling, as of being faithful to the central premise of “What if there were another side to the Sleeping Beauty story?” The original has a white female absolute villain and not much room for any other active character who isn’t a white male, so any “other side” that keeps the original cast has to have a white female not-absolute-villain and will almost certainly shift a bunch of thematically-necessary villainy to a white guy.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I dunno man.

            First link:

            “She is, unfortunately, overly sexy, which is a typical play for female villains. ”

            Second one is Cersei, who is killed by falling rocks, which are caused by the female hero becoming a villain, who is in turn killed by the male hero in one of the most disappointing season finales ever.

            And even before that finale the character was controversial, GoT managed to get away with it because it was the largest show ever, but nobody today, with all the “sensitivity reading” committes, would write a villain like Cersei, or a story like ASoIaF.

            Third article is responding to some controversy about the female villain.

            Anyway, even if a few exceptions exist, writing a female villain is walking on a minefield.

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t yet seen convincing evidence that “sensitivity reading” has gained much ground outside the YA literary scene and a few small corners of fandom. YA fiction is apparently a hellhole, I’ll grant, but it’s a fairly small one, and one with some unusual incentives to grapple with.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @viVI_IViv

            You somehow moved the goalposts in reverse order, so, from back to front:

            It doesn’t count if there’s controversy.

            It doesn’t count if there’s a minor controversy and it’s popular and based on something previously written.

            It doesn’t count if the author thinks ANYTHING AT ALL COULD BE BETTER ABOUT IT.

            Are you literally only going to admit feminists aren’t opposed to villains who are women if nobody ever says even the slightest bit negative about one?

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I haven’t yet seen convincing evidence that “sensitivity reading” has gained much ground outside the YA literary scene and a few small corners of fandom.

            I’m under the impression that most fantasy, speculative fiction and a good chunk of science fiction published in the last 5 or so years is now considered YA.

            Can you point to a recent Western fantasy with rape, incest, prostitution, people mocked for their disabilities, racial animus against human ethnic minorities, etc.?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not sure if there’s mocking for disabilities, but all the rest appears in Tom Kratman’s Carrera series and John Ringo’s Posleen series.

          • AG says:

            @viVI_IViv
            You realize that for the first season of Supergirl, the most popular femslash ship was between her and her sister? That the Frozen incest ship Elsanna is popular? Or the notorious Wincest ship of Supernatural? Or the way people supported the portrayal of sex work in Killjoys? The popularity of the Hulu show Harlots? Or the continued veneration of the Kushiel series? Or how a whole lot of recent fantasy YA is precisely about dealing with racial animus against human ethnic minorities (Court of Fives and Baru Cormorant for good examples, and so many more Sturgeon’s Law ham-handed bad examples)?

            And for female villains, the celebration of the Liv version of Doc Ock in Into the Spider-verse, the praise for the Wonder Woman film going with a lady villain, the Snow White and the Huntsman films, the excitement over casting for Ursula in the Little Mermaid remake, Michelle Yeoh’s evil Georgiou in Star Trek being popular enough to get her own spinoff, the list goes on and on.

            Seriously, sometimes it’s embarrassing to see the perceptions of the entertainment industry here. 90% blindspot.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m under the impression that most fantasy, speculative fiction and a good chunk of science fiction published in the last 5 or so years is now considered YA.

            No. For example, I don’t think any of the entries in Nancy Lebovitz’s recent summaries of the 2019 Hugo nominees were considered YA.

            It may be true that YA is now mostly science fiction and fantasy; judging by shelf space at my local Barnes & Noble that is probably the case. But not the reverse, and in any event “YA” is a distinct publishing and marketing category that has little overlap with traditional written or media SFF. If YA has ‘sensitivity readings’ as a matter of course, so be it, but that’s not going to affect “Star Wars”. Well, not yet.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The Hugos have added a YA category, but the Hugo panelists weren’t required to read it.

            I think I was the only one who read any of the YA nominees (a year or so ago)– it was Children of Blood and Bone, and I was asked to say a little about it. I liked it fairly well.

        • Would we see Modesty Blaise and Willy Garvin as an example of woke fiction if they were being written now instead of when they were? Modesty is the hyper-competent leader, Willy the hyper-competent follower emotionally dependent on her. But it’s being done that way not to make a political point but because it works as a story.

          My first novel features a female military order, the one part of its society that wasn’t modeled on real history. The first encounter between my male protagonist and one of the leading female characters consists of her saving his life.

          I didn’t do it that way to make a political point–on the contrary, my reason depended on a traditional view of male/female roles. That view sees women as vulnerable people to be protected, which increases the emotional effect of situations where women are at risk. Having women as warriors provides lots of opportunities for such situations.

          • Deiseach says:

            Would we see Modesty Blaise and Willy Garvin as an example of woke fiction if they were being written now instead of when they were?

            I don’t think so, but it’s a good question to ask. Modesty’s backstory explains why she’s hypercompetent (it was be that from a young age or die) and Willie’s relationship to her is chivalrous – it’s the Queen and her Champion knight, where in this instance the queen is as battle-capable as a king. Both of them have been marked by their lives to date, which is why they’re adrenaline junkies who can’t settle down to live quietly on the profits of crime, but they’re aware of this and try to use that for good ends. There is definitely suspension of disbelief required for each novel where Modesty and Willie just happen to turn out to be excellent in a particular martial art/have taken up a hobby which is vital to the success of the plot, but the newspaper cartoon strip origins make that suspension easier to achieve – you know what you’re reading and where it came from and make allowances for that, and beside Modesty and Willie are engaging and charming (and not always right, they make some bad mistakes at times).

            The stories are certainly not woke as regards Willie’s womanising and the general 70s attitude to sex and women and race, but that’s all part of the historical value 🙂

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Willie’s relationship to Modesty doesn’t strike me as chivalrous in the usual sense. He needs her to keep from falling into utter depression.

            The one thing she’s got that he doesn’t is the reliable ability to keep going.

            The notable unwoke thing about the series is occasional nastiness about black people. Sorry, details not memorized.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          It can’t just be “anything with a strong female lead”

          Which is why I didn’t mention Wonder Woman or Ghost in the Shell. And of all Disney’s Star Wars, I think that Rouge One is the best one and the least woke.

          “gender/race flipped characters”

          If it occurred occasionally and in any direction, I wouldn’t mind. But this is not the case.

          As I said, it doesn’t necessarily make a movie “woke” per se, but it’s red flag for the movie being an attempt to a quick cash grab based on woke marketing, which usually correlates with poor quality: it’s Ghostbusters, but female! Girl Power! It’s Ocean’s eleven, but feminist! When the best you can say about your movie is that it has women/minorities, then probably not much creative thought went into its production.

      • gbdub says:

        MiB International was not preachy at all. If anything it just carries on the recent trope of “buddy cop” movies where the Murtaugh is replaced by a brainy chick (see also Castle). I’d say it’s less subversive of gender stereotypes that Thompson’s other role with Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok.

        Captain Marvel’s preachiness was mostly in the way Brie Larson marketed the movie rather than the movie itself, which had a few “girl power” tropes but other than a couple of on the nose soundtrack choices was never particularly annoying about it. The bigger problem with Captain Marvel is how overpowered she is by the end.

        Given that the OP’s question was explicitly about the movies and not their marketing, the fact that you’ve not seen half the examples you give suggest you’re answering a different question.

      • Deiseach says:

        black female James(?) Bond)

        Is that really going to happen, though? There’s always speculation on who is going to be the next Bond, I really think this is just mischief-making (the only attribution I’m seeing is to “an anonymous movie insider”, which is the equivalent of “friends close to the star” or “sources close to the prime minister” used in stories which are floating wild speculation). I’m confident the next Bond will be a white male and probably an American actor, though as usual there are all kinds of wishful thinking.

        • Matt M says:

          IIRC, they’ve announced that the next “Agent 007” will be a black woman… which I think is an incredibly cynical attempt to have their cake and eat it too, in the sense that they’ll get their adulation and headlines and free publicity from the Woke Media, while simultaneously being able to say “Now now, calm down you white supremacists, we didn’t change James Bond at all! This is a different person entirely and it makes perfect sense that they would represent the diversity of modern England, etc.”

        • Anthony says:

          There are black male actors who could play James Bond quite effectively, though if they play up Bond’s womanizing, there will be complaints it’s a blaxploitation movie.

          • Nornagest says:

            There was some buzz about Idris Elba as a possible Bond a while back. I think he’d do a good job; if he’s playing as typecast he’d be more Craig-style than Brosnan-style, but IMO that works better anyway. (I realize others feel differently.)

            I can’t see a female 007 of any ethnicity working, though. You can do a good spy movie starring a woman, but the Bond formula requires a leading man.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Bond is a male wish fulfillment character. Idris Elba would work if the market is color-blind enough for the actor’s race to not become a wedge issue (Street Fighter fans never make hay out of Dudley, a black boxer who chooses to live as a Victorian gentleman stereotype – contrast woke people fretting over whether white kids should be able to get away with dressing up as the Science King of an imaginary African country invented by two Jewish New Yorkers). A British East Asian James Bond might work better, for mercenary reasons.
            Female British super-spy is inherently a different character. Just like no sane person would do Tarzan AKA Joan, Lady Greystoke. There are Jungle Queen characters instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d say Bond’s a couple steps down from Dudley in terms of ethnic marking. Dudley gets away with his schtick partly because his whole franchise is incredibly silly and partly because he’s not a legacy character, but Bond doesn’t need to be a gentleman in the first place, not in the sense of belonging to the gentry. He needs to be an old-fashioned kind of dude, and he needs to be at least a bit of a womanizer — I would have said more than a bit, but Craig downplayed that substantially and got away with it. He needs to be calm and polite, yet clearly capable of extreme violence when called for — a soccer hooligan Bond wouldn’t work. And he needs to be very British in his speech and mannerisms. Within those bounds, though, there’s a whole lot of latitude: compare Craig’s nearly sociopathic Bond with Brosnan’s playboy schtick with Connery’s “just a job, ma’am” attitude.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Street Fighter fans never make hay out of Dudley, a black boxer who chooses to live as a Victorian gentleman stereotype

            I’m betting they don’t make hay out of Dudley because Dudley is an original character. James Bond is not.

            As someone who has liked Elba in everything I’ve seen, including Heimdall, I think he’s not quite right for Bond. Not because he’s black, but because he’s too built. He looks like he could take Dave Bautista in a straight-up fight, rather than barely getting by until he gets resourceful with an environmental hazard.

            That, and I have a hard time visualizing Bond with a beard.

            Now, if Broccoli & Co. wanted to create a spin-off featuring Elba as an OC, that could be good – it could very easily be even better than yet another Bond.

          • dick says:

            …and Batman wasn’t dark, until he was. I think Casino Royale revitalized the franchise by reinventing the character and not slavishly adhering to the canonical conventions, and I don’t see why that shouldn’t continue.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick: Batman was really dark for about a year at the beginning of his existence, which is how post-1985 dark takes justify themselves.
            I have a couple of trade paperbacks with Golden Age reprints, and the change is pretty stark. I think it was Batman #1 (1940) that had both him machine gunning mentally zombified (i.e. NOT dead) men to death from the Batplane and, in a different story, cracking Adam Westian jokes when he beat up the Joker (who himself was a dark murderous figure until a bit after WW2 ended).

          • dick says:

            Batman wasn’t dark, until he was.

            Ackchyually…

            A few weeks ago, I was keeping my five-year-old company while she took a shit (as one does) and noticed that she was playing with her hair. “Sweetie”, I said, “you get germs on your hands when you go potty, and when you touch other things the germs can get on them too. So please don’t touch anything until you finish and wash your hands.” She paused for a moment, searching her little developing brain for some way, any way, to argue with that. What she decided to go with was, “What about the air? I HAVE to touch the AIR!!!!”

            Sometimes I feel like she’d fit right in here.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Sneering is not a substitute for argument.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Admiral Holdo being revealed to be “right” in Star Wars Episode 8 wins it for me.

      I don’t hate the movie anywhere near as much as others here, because while the plot and pacing were awful they weren’t noticably worse than Episode 7 and if anything were an improvement on the prequel trilogy. So I was willing to suspend my disbelief for most of the stupidity, like the Canto Bight shaggy dog story or the hyperspace ramming. It’s just dumb fun, so while I’d prefer it if the film made any sense I still felt like I got my money’s worth.

      The thing that completely pulled me out of the movie was Holdo. We’re supposed to accept that a high-ranking officer in the Resistance we’ve never heard of before and looks like she should be reblogging articles on why Slave Leia is problematic on Tumblr, who spends her entire time onscreen berating and mocking the male leads while refusing to explain her very simple plan, is actually in the right and should never have been questioned? No.

      She had hours, possibly days depending on how far away Canto Bight is, to pull an Adama and say “we’re going to a new secret base but I can’t tell you any details yet.” But no, it’s more important for Rian Johnson to show us that men need to shut up and listen than to actually have a pivotal character earn any audience sympathy or for the Resistance to show any military aptitude whatsoever.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Yes, of all the things wrong with TLJ, that stands out to me as the most infuriating. There’s just no reason for her not to tell everyone the plan to begin with, since she has to tell them all eventually anyways when they abandon the ship. The plan also fails horribly, and is revealed to have been rather stupid to begin with (a decloaking scan? That’s it?). Then the narrative wants us to see her go out with a heroic sacrifice by hyperspacing through the Supremacy. (From a narrative standpoint, this is a tragic sacrifice–the inevitable deserts of her own failure.)

        It’s a truly baffling narrative decision for several reasons. For one, the obvious lesson is to not listen to women. Holdo’s plan is terrible and gets nearly everyone killed. Even if you argue it would have worked if not for the botched hyperspace tracker plan, that was Rose’s idea. Further, the narrative works perfectly fine if it succeeds. Make it so Holdo’s plan all along was to send people out on cloaked escape pods then hyperspace through the Supremacy to cover their escape deal a heavy blow to the First Order fleet. (The “I’m going to kill myself so you can escape” part is a much more reasonable thing to keep secret if we need Po to learn to listen to women.) The Resistance regrouping at the base, down but not out and inspired by her heroic sacrifice is a more effective ending than “we have 12 people and the Millennium Falcon, which is apparently everything we need”.

        If I felt like defending TLJ, most of the criticisms I could come up with rationalizations for. But not this. There’s no level on which it works.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m definitely convinced this was terrible writing. I’m not totally convinced it was motivated by wokeness.

          Thought exercise: reverse the genders of Holdo and Poe. I expect the anti-woke crowd would then be complaining about how woke it was to portray the male leader as so incredibly inept (as well as too arrogant to listen to anyone around him or even explain what his plan was).

          Truly awful writing, but not a symptom of “wokeness” as I see it. Just a symptom of Rian Johnson making a pretty bad movie.

          • Nick says:

            I (partly) disagree. As Holdo defenders will point out, the most direct reason Holdo’s plan failed is that Poe et al. went off half-cocked. This is a bad argument, of course, because it’s Holdo’s fault they did, but it’s also of a piece with a certain kind of “strong woman leader” writing which I think they were going for here.

            There’s something else going on, too, which is that Poe and Finn are supposed to learn that reckless plans and sacrificing yourself are bad unless you’re Luke or Holdo. This is also bad writing because it’s incoherent, but I grant you it’s not a woke thing.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            The wokeness part comes in where the narrative seems to treat her as unquestionably right. Leia explains to Po how Holdo had a plan all along, and Po keeps acting like he learned a lesson from this. At no point does anyone even suggest that Holdo should have done something different. While I realize that this can still be explained without wokeness, the ham-handedness of the rest of the movie’s feminism (e.g. the ridiculous scene where Finn keeps getting in front of Rose) makes it hard to believe this had nothing to do with it.

            Reverse the genders and I would expect all the bad writing complaints to remain, but with few complaints from the anti-woke crowd about that particular plot point and probably some complaints from the woke crowd about the problematic mansplaining of male Holdo.

          • Nick says:

            Male Holdo obviously should have been Admiral Ackbar.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            The wokeness part comes in where the narrative seems to treat her as unquestionably right. Leia explains to Po how Holdo had a plan all along, and Po keeps acting like he learned a lesson from this.

            Not just Holdo doesn’t tell Poe her plan, which was unwise but arguably justifiable in a paramilitary organization, but she insults him from their very first interaction: she rubs in his face his demotion and tells him that “his type” is the least that they need in that situation. This was unprofessional and denoted poor leadership skills.

            She comes across as the stereotypical bossy middle-manager lady drunk with power who stirs up drama for the sake of drama, which would make her an interesting character if the point of the story was to illustrate the perils of dysfunctional leadership, instead they make her right all along and have Poe learn the important lesson of blindly following orders and never distrust authority, which was totally what Star Wars has always been about. /s

          • Jiro says:

            I expect the anti-woke crowd would then be complaining about how woke it was to portray the male leader as so incredibly inept

            I disagree. There’s a difference between having a character who is considered inept in-story, and having a character who does things that are obviously inept to the audience but is treated by the story as competent.

          • Clutzy says:

            I disagree. There’s a difference between having a character who is considered inept in-story, and having a character who does things that are obviously inept to the audience but is treated by the story as competent.

            This. The wokeness comes from them insisting this obviously incompetent person is, indeed, hypercompetent. If everyone mocked her at the end, then there is no wokeness.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Problem is, I don’t watch a lot of new Hollywood movies. I stopped paying to watch Star Wars after Rogue One (I eventually saw TLJ for free). Like everyone else, I didn’t see Ghostbusters 2016, so I can’t tell you if there was any wokeness outside the “Buy a ticket or you’re a misogynist!” marketing campaign.

      The most irritating level of on-screen wokeness from my small sample size is Disney’s Star Wars. It starts as early as Ep7: Rey gains all the Jedi powers before she even meets a Jedi, because she’s a girl (since we can infer for Dolyist reasons that this universe probably supports transgenderism, one wonders why Anakin didn’t start identifying as the woman Annie Skywalker to become more powerful). Any coherent world-building about how supernatural powers work in this universe (intense training from an early age and some pseudo-Buddhist stuff) is all straw.
      Rogue One is an interesting case, because the female protagonist is good: Gin Bear shows how a woman can be strong without effortlessly defeating everyone. But the galaxy has gone strangely woke around her: the Good Rebellion needs help from the desert planet of Jeddah where all women have to wear headscarves or veils to succeed in its plots against the all-white Evil Empire, so Our Hero puts on a headscarf and goes there, recruiting a very spiritual Asian man and other random POCs along the way. This United Colors of Bremerton business is quite bizarre when you’re used to George Lucas’s style of filling in supporting roles and backgrounds with aliens.
      Ep.8 takes the cake though, with more Rey, Admiral Gender Studies being above questioning, the director making Rose Tico’s actress look like a fat Japanese boy, and the Canto Blight subplot where we’re told that the only way to become the richest people in the galaxy is selling weapons to the Space Neonazis and they free animals while ignoring the human slaves.

      Other: blackwashing has reached the point where I find it inherently offensive. I supported colorblind casting back when Michael Clarke Duncan was the best physical match with acting talent for Marvel’s Kingpin, but we’ve accumulated a large enough sample size from Hollywood and the BBC (their Iliad series was a particular offender) to see that it’s actually just white characters going to utterly average black actors for wokeness points.

      • acymetric says:

        But the galaxy has gone strangely woke around her: the Good Rebellion needs help from the desert planet of Jeddah where all women have to wear headscarves or veils to succeed in its plots against the all-white Evil Empire, so Our Hero puts on a headscarf and goes there, recruiting a very spiritual Asian man and other random POCs along the way. This United Colors of Bremerton business is quite bizarre when you’re used to George Lucas’s style of filling in supporting roles and backgrounds with aliens.

        You are trying way to hard on this one. It is almost hard for me to believe you’re serious.

        Were you also annoyed that Lando wasn’t filled in by an alien instead? The “main crew” has always been almost exclusively human, the only exception being Chewie. I suppose Yoda in the prequels was prominent enough that he would qualify, maybe. The fact that a couple of them were Asian in this movie doesn’t seem unreasonable at all. Regardless, there were definitely aliens prominently involved in the skirmishing on Scarif.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          No, of course Lando is fine. C’mon. You can have any racial mix you want for the major humans so long as the universe around them still feels like George Lucas’s. The wokeness problem is that the Rebel forces in Rogue One consist of Gin, the spiritual Asian man, the forgettable POC pilot, one droid, Forrest Whittaker coded as a Muslim terrorist and the whole desert planet of veiled women. I honestly don’t remember aliens on Scarif fighting for the Rebellion.
          The OT always had Chewbacca as a main character. Ep.1 had, um, Jar-Jar, and as you say that trilogy gave an increasingly central role to Yoda.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Wasn’t the male lead a white guy? While I do roll my eyes a bit at a “let’s check all the race boxes” cast, by itself it’s fairly unoffensive as far as wokeness goes.

          • acymetric says:

            There were at least three aliens featured at least as prominently in Rogue One as any of the Rebel Aliens were in the OT. This includes what I believe might have been the first alien Rebel pilot depicted on screen (in fighters, we did see the Mon Calamari piloting command ships) other than that guy flying in the Falcon with Lando in RotJ (although he wasn’t piloting). Aliens have never been a part of the main protagonist crew except for Chewie.

            Pao (U-Wing pilot)
            Bistan (gunner for Pao’s U-Wing)
            Admiral Raddus

            I would need to go back and watch, I feel like I’m missing a couple (I’m pretty sure there were some aliens among the round reinforcements as well).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          What do you think of Into the Spiderwerse so far as wokeness is concerned?

          • acymetric says:

            I haven’t seen it so hard for me to really comment on it.

            Gut feeling with limited knowledge: different universes/continuities where the characters within each universe may be very similar or wildly different from each other is a comic book plot from before I was born, so it is hard to attribute it to modern day wokeness.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The threading UI leaves me unsure if you’re addressing me, but I found the diversity there completely convincing. Miles Morales isn’t a blackwashed Peter Parker, he’s a Latino with African ancestry whose dad is named Jefferson Davis (!) and he becomes Spider-Man II. Spider-Gwen is a cool “What If?” that fits the multiverse premise.

        • JPNunez says:

          I suspect that if you think too hard about Star Wars inevitably you get to the conclusion there’s some human supremacy thing going on in that galaxy; obviously, the Emperor is a human supremacist and builds his army out of humans, and there’s coincidently a bunch of humans on the resistance (probably a splinter off the human supremacist society), although they have a bunch of aliens here and there. On top of that there may or may not be racism among the humans.

          My favorite fan theory was that Star Wars originally is a story about mainly alien social insects, and that we cast the insects as humans, and that’s why the empire stealing the rebel princess, and Jabba showing off Leia chained is such a big deal. Of course the new movies do away with this possible interpretation.

      • John Schilling says:

        selling weapons to the Space Neonazis

        Long time ago, galaxy far far away.

        Space Paleonazis.

    • The new Star Trek is particularly bad, trying to hammer home the message that straight white men are evil and shouldn’t be trusted. The only good straight white men so far are the characters that show up from the original series. Of course you can’t make Spock or Captain Pike evil, but you can do it for every other white man that shows up.

    • AG says:

      As much as I think other commenter’s frustration with woke media is way overblown, I don’t think that Hoopyfreud’s challenge here is quite it, either. Divorcing stories from their broader context is a double edged sword that can strongly affect how a story is interpreted. For example, anime has swaths of shows that, in isolation, seems like a feminist representation paradise. So many female protagonists! Homosexual subtext! Non-white cultures! Celebration of femininity over masculinity! But in context, that same anime is actually pandering to middle aged guys who are happily objectifying the girls in the story.

      I actually experienced this rather directly, with the show “Sora no Woto/Sound of the Sky.” It’s a post-apocalyptic world, following an all-women military squad at the edge of civilization. There are themes of PTSD, war-mongering, learning to not just survive but thrive, the melancholy over lost arts and sciences. But also, lol cute girls doing cute things in the military just cuz the prospective Bluray customers don’t want to see any dick on their screens.
      The first time I watched the show, that broader cultural context loomed large, influencing the Doylist view on all of the storytelling decisions. I rated it 5/10.
      Years later, I rewatched it without that broader context shadow, as anime had moved away from some of those trends. Same show, I now rate it 7/10.
      ______

      For a few years I thought Moloch was SSC’s most important post. These past few years, I think that “All Debates are Bravery Debates” is SSC’s most important takeaway. Even the most cringe-inducing pandering story has someone out there passionately recounting how it saved their life, and I can’t really begrudge them that. I see stories decried as too woke in places, and on other sites, people are talking about how they cried in the theater for the feelings the film invoked in them, seeing very personal events on the screen that they related hard to. I’ve strongly felt those things myself.

      This whole community arose because they thought that some fiction could be drastically improved if the protagonists thought more like themselves, starting with Harry Potter. This whole community exists because of the desire for preachy representation. So yeah, I can’t muster much sympathy for these “oh no look at all of these baileys in Hollywood” threads. SSC commentariat’s track record on talking about storytelling is almost always like a standard deviation below the level of discussion not just on other topics, but on other sites that do have more of a focus on media.

      • Nornagest says:

        This whole community arose because they thought that some fiction could be drastically improved if the protagonists thought more like themselves, starting with Harry Potter.

        [ten minutes of screaming]

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        This whole community arose because they thought that some fiction could be drastically improved if the protagonists thought more like themselves, starting with Harry Potter. This whole community exists because of the desire for preachy representation.

        I think that you have your history backwards.

        The capital-R Rationalist community predates Yudkowsky’s stupid Harry Potter fanfic by several years, starting on the Overcoming Bias blog, and while Scott’s blog here began as a LessWrong colony it very quickly attracted a larger userbase very few of whom identify as Rationalists.

        I don’t think we’ve ever had a poll on HP:MoR but I’m willing to bet that only a minority of posters have read even one chapter of it and of those only a minority enjoyed it.

        • AG says:

          I’d stand by my statement in a causal manner. Maybe HPMOR wasn’t the first root, but much of what came after wouldn’t exist if HPMOR hadn’t made LW so much more known, including the creation of SSC separate from LW.

          As for liking HPMOR or not, again, it’s about what its existence enabled. Who is here because of Unsong, or Northern Caves, or Luminosity? The representation point (people here want more fiction where the protagonists think as they do) also still stands, given the continued admiration of Worm.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I dunno, this seems like you’re retreating to motte to me.

            This whole community arose because they thought that some fiction could be drastically improved if the protagonists thought more like themselves, starting with Harry Potter. This whole community exists because of the desire for preachy representation. So yeah, I can’t muster much sympathy for these “oh no look at all of these baileys in Hollywood” threads.

            As for liking HPMOR or not, again, it’s about what its existence enabled.

            “Oh, no, I didn’t mean people like preachy representation, just that they wouldn’t be here unless a Yudderfly flapped its wings in the right way. Ergo they deserve scorn for hypocritically disliking preachy representation”

          • AG says:

            HPMOR is not the end-all be-all of ratfic. But a whole lot of ratfic wouldn’t have been written if HPMOR hadn’t shown them it could be done. A lot of ratfic may indeed be written in reaction to HPMOR’s faults.

            Just because a lot of people like The Good Place now and dislike Seinfeld doesn’t erase Seinfeld’s importance in sitcom history.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Ok but how does that support “SSCers need to STFU about Hollywood”?

          • AG says:

            The gnashing and wailing of teeth about forced diversity in Hollywood sneers at the concept of “representation matters.” Oh, no, how DARE people tell stories where the characters think more like how they themselves think! But also, storytelling would be so much better and avoid certain common writing pitfalls if characters frequently thought more like how I think!

            Let people like things. Threads here about how great the latest trad military ratfic scifi are welcome. I highly enjoyed Worm and parts of HPMOR, and do wish there was more competence porn TV and film out there. I also had a great time watching Crazy Rich Asians this past weekend, and am so glad that the director didn’t let the leading lady get whitewashed, as that would drastically impact the themes of its story.

            SJ has overstepped its bounds in certain areas, doing real harm. But these threads about the supposed missteps of Woke Hollywood are just…horseshoe theory in action. And this community should be better than that.

            Admit that it’s just a good old fashioned low stakes fanwank, instead of some Important Crusade.

          • Matt M says:

            The gnashing and wailing of teeth about forced diversity in Hollywood sneers at the concept of “representation matters.” Oh, no, how DARE people tell stories where the characters think more like how they themselves think!

            Uh, if you’re a black woman and you want to write a character that thinks like a black woman thinks, that seems entirely reasonable. It also seems like it’s reasonable to suggest that the best way to do this is not to declare that a character previously defined as a Male Norwegian God is now a black woman, but rather, to write a new character that actually is a black woman.

          • lvlln says:

            The gnashing and wailing of teeth about forced diversity in Hollywood sneers at the concept of “representation matters.” Oh, no, how DARE people tell stories where the characters think more like how they themselves think! But also, storytelling would be so much better and avoid certain common writing pitfalls if characters frequently thought more like how I think!

            (Bolding mine)

            I’ve never actually seen this criticism, though. The criticism that I’ve always seen is more along the lines of “characters that look like how they themselves look like.” Conflating “looks a certain way” and “thinks a certain way” in an explicitly racial/sexual manner is also something that’s often criticized.

            Generally, if there’s criticism directed at how fictional characters think (or behave, as caused by their thoughts), it’s generally orthogonal to whatever culture war issues or pointing out actual real problems in the character development which has nothing to do with whether or not the character is thinking like some type of person IRL.

          • AG says:

            @Matt M:
            I’m in the “more speech good, defining a canon is for suckers” camp for that. The current perceived issue with demographics-bending existing characters is this sense that there can only be one true interpretation, but that’s a function of IP law and owners keeping a tight lid on the number of portrayals.
            King Arthur portrayals have run the gambit on demographics bending, from black Guinevere to lady Arturia to roman Arthur to black Lancelot to high school AUs and whatever pleases you, because it’s just the latest adaptation that will come and go.

            Sometimes you fall in love with a particular character, and imagining them with a demographics-bending tweak is more compelling than making an expy. For example, consider an Asian American Bruce Wayne wherein the Wayne family is tech startup new money rich. There are so many new stories that can be told, seeing how this ripples out to other parts of Batman lore.
            This doesn’t mean that Bruce Wayne should always be Asian. More stories, not less.

            The other reason that people advocate for demographics-tweaking existing characters is that this IP law culture has entrenched certain characters into the public consciousness permanently, and new characters just can’t compete. If someone comes up with a black woman billionaire vigilante, she will never exceed the decades of legacy that drive Batman’s popularity, because that history doesn’t disappear. Mulan or Tiana or Moana will never dethrone earlier Disney princesses as the go-to image for what Disney Princess means.
            But you can make Starbuck a woman for a whole generation. You can have Joan Watson and Jamie Moriarty. You can have Samuel L. Jackson be Nick Fury and Eartha Kitt be Catwoman.

            @lvlln

            Conflating “looks a certain way” and “thinks a certain way” in an explicitly racial/sexual manner is also something that’s often criticized.

            Yes, and the criticism from the pro-representation side for this is “this character that looks like me doesn’t think like me, because the character is thinking per a stereotype, and I am not a stereotype.” A female character who doesn’t act all that different from the male version their character used to be is novel in Hollywood storytelling, when the legacy is The Token Smurfette.
            For anti-representation people to ignore that the drive for representation is rooted in seeing perspectives that aren’t commonly on screen is ironic, if those people also keep pushing for fiction the characters act smarter than the stereotypical character intelligence.

            And there are certainly lots of criticisms based around writers writing what they don’t know, resulting in cringe-inducing portrayals of people unlike themselves. For example, “wow, the portrayal of nerds in The Big Bang is really horrible, and could have been avoided if they had real nerds on the writing team pointing out when what they’re writing is a caricature.”
            Hence the push for “own voices,” which I have mixed feelings about, but the concept certainly has a motte.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            this IP law culture has entrenched certain characters into the public consciousness permanently, and new characters just can’t compete.

            I still don’t now how true this is. Continuous reinvention of existing IP is, I’m fairly sure, something that turns people off of comics more than it turns them on. Nothing matters because nothing lasts, and even the response to Miles Morales is muted because we all know, deep down, that Peter Parker will be back one day, and he doesn’t get the girl forever, because no real change is allowed.

          • Matt M says:

            AG,

            All that is fine as your own personal opinion. It’s a perfectly valid opinion that you have every right to hold.

            Of course, the opposite opinion is also valid, and you should appreciate that when someone chooses to expropriate an existing character rather than create an original one from scratch, they are going to face pushback from fans of the existing character.

            But I think “representation” falls flat as a justification for character expropriation for this very reason. You can increase representation without expropriation. Lady Brienne can become the role model for young girls who want to look up to strong warrior types without anyone having to re-cast a female Lancelot or whatever. Yes, new/original works have a tough road ahead to dethrone established franchises, but its not impossible.

          • Randy M says:

            Peter Parker doesn’t get the girl forever

            I’m not remotely a Spiderman fan, and that storyline pisses me off.

          • lvlln says:

            For anti-representation people to ignore that the drive for representation is rooted in seeing perspectives that aren’t commonly on screen is ironic, if those people also keep pushing for fiction the characters act smarter than the stereotypical character intelligence.

            Well sure, that would be ironic if that were the case, but much like your theoretical criticism about “characters think more like how they themselves think,” I’ve seen no indication that such people – or anyone, really – push for fictional characters to act smarter than the stereotypical character intelligence. First of all, I think such pushes come from across the spectrum in a way that is orthogonal to the whole “representation” issue, but second of all, all the pushes I see are for fictional characters to act about as smart as the stereotypical character intelligence.

            Obviously there’s some autocorrelation there with how fiction itself shapes how much intelligence a “stereotypical character” has, but there’s also input from reality which helps to anchor that somewhat, and all the pushes I’ve seen are situations where the fictional characters’ behaviors differ wildly from that predicted by the stereotypical character intelligence.

            There’s also the issue that whatever the drive for representation is rooted in, the fruit of that tree is so far removed from the root that it’s largely indistinguishable from a fruit that’s growing from a wholly different tree of a different species. From my observations of the words and behavior of people who are against forced diversity/representation, it’s not at all ignoring the root, but rather it’s noticing the disconnect between the fruit and the root. It’s generally the people who are trying to sell the fruit who either ignore or are (charitably) just apparently oblivious to or (uncharitably) denying this disconnect.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M:

            I’m not remotely a Spiderman fan, and that storyline pisses me off.

            You just sold your marriage to the devil? How does that even work, ontologically? He gets your marriage license and you and your wife lose all memory of ever being married? Does the devil also buy mismatched socks if he gets to wipe your memory of ever having owned those socks?

          • AG says:

            @Matt M
            I’m not opposed to backlash against expropriating existing characters. For example, I’m sympathetic to people who disliked Arrow because it was actually a Batman show, and their Oliver Queen wasn’t like the comics at all. I hope they eventually get another adaptation with a proper swashbuckling Oliver someday. (And in the mean time, they can keep enjoying the DC animated renditions, which are pretty good.)

            But raging about The SJ Menace ain’t it. You can complain about how Heimdall didn’t really have anything to do in the Thor films, but his race really genuinely had no impact on the character or the world-building. Similarly, the Wheel of Time adaptation could become incoherent because of their casting. Or they might change the world-building to account for that. We won’t know if the casting move will result in bad writing or not until the show comes out, so we can see the execution.

            I’d prefer that people acknowledge these concerns are just about at the same level as concerns over brunette Frodo and blonde James Bond.

            @lvlln
            The whole existence of ratfic is about writing smarter characters. The codification of the Idiot Ball trope. The very prevalent sub-genres of “Naruto/Shinji/Harry grow a spine and curb-stomp everyone,” often literally tagged with things like “features smart!Naruto,” and the Harry Potter variants having accidentally reinvented The Count of Monte Cristo while they were at it. Aforementioned loathing of Big Bang Theory. The CinemaSins/How It Should Have Ended/X Things Wrong With Y ecosystem of media criticism revolving about “why didn’t character do this smarter thing instead? it is a plot hole.”

            Hoopyfreud created this thread to challenge representation naysayers to provide examples of woke blockbuster baileys. They haven’t provided nearly enough examples to show that it’s outweighing the mottes. For every film listed in this thread, I can list so many more that I feel improved from taking an overt approach to diversity. I’m very much enjoying the fruits right now, and I don’t think that the cases where it’s gone too far (mainly YA publishing) are in danger of moving the Sturgeon’s Law dial in mainstream media.

            @Hoopyfreud
            There’s a balance, sure. But the results speak for themselves, with which characters getting adapted first for solo films?

          • Matt M says:

            You can complain about how Heimdall didn’t really have anything to do in the Thor films, but his race really genuinely had no impact on the character or the world-building.

            AG,

            But this is where I see it as something of a double-edged sword.

            Yes, Heimdall being black had very little impact on the character, the world, or anything else. So why should the anti-SJ crowd rage against it?

            On the other hand, Heimdall being black had very little impact on the character, the world, or anything else, so why did they even bother going out of their way to make him black in the first place?

            Like, if the supposed benefit of diverse casting is that it exposes you to different worldviews, thought processes, etc. (as you earlier claimed), then this only works if it actually does impact the story in a meaningful way.

            And I think even the anti-SJ crowd realizes this and is sensitive to it. There’s one argument going on that is “Don’t change the story,” but also a completely separate one which is “What exactly is your motivation for replacing whites with blacks in a way that doesn’t even change the story, if not SJ politics?”

            Now don’t get me wrong, the most likely answer is probably something like “Idris Elba was available and is really popular and we wanted to put him in the movie.” I do consider it quite unlikely that his casting was a key step in some secret Antifa plot to overthrow fascism in the USA. But you can see how, if that sort of thing keeps happening, it might start to raise eyebrows…

          • lvlln says:

            The whole existence of ratfic is about writing smarter characters. The codification of the Idiot Ball trope. The very prevalent sub-genres of “Naruto/Shinji/Harry grow a spine and curb-stomp everyone,” often literally tagged with things like “features smart!Naruto,” and the Harry Potter variants having accidentally reinvented The Count of Monte Cristo while they were at it. Aforementioned loathing of Big Bang Theory. The CinemaSins/How It Should Have Ended/X Things Wrong With Y ecosystem of media criticism revolving about “why didn’t character do this smarter thing instead? it is a plot hole.”

            Yes, I’m not familiar with ratfic, but I’m somewhat familiar with stuff like CinemaSins, HISHE, the “Idiot Ball” trope. In all but a few rare exceptions of those, I notice that they call out fiction for having characters who are not as smart as the stereotypical character intelligence (or inexplicably not as smart as they’ve been firmly established to be previously). They’re not calling them out for not having characters who are as smart as them or who aren’t smarter than the stereotypical character intelligence. It’s not about wanting characters who think more like oneself, it’s about not wanting characters who belong in Idiocracy to act as major plot points in non-Idiocracy works of fiction.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Divorcing stories from their broader context is a double edged sword that can strongly affect how a story is interpreted.

        Yes, I agree. I think that the lack of female villains in cinema, for example, is a bad trend. I think that there are common narratives in media that are bad. I think that “cute girls doing cute things in [a band/a rural village/a hamster suit]” is like 50% of why Miyazaki was right all along. But at the same time, I’m not going to blame (((the studios))) for the state of anime in 2019. It’s the stereotypical NEETs’ fault (with apologies to non-stereotypical NEETs).

        There’s nothing wrong with K-On existing. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) make me mad. The demand for it makes me mad. It’s gutless, insipid schlock with nothing much to say, but that doesn’t make it an attack on my person or identity. Now, you take a story like Re:Zero, and there’s a whole bunch I can say about why it’s bad in the sense that its portrayal of women is straight-up degrading (if you want to interpret it as anything but escapist emotion porn for lonely men). But the same just… really isn’t true of mainstream entertainment. Or where it is (and it is sometimes; there are movies out there that actually go out of their way to make fun of men), it’s not central to Media Culture.

        My point is that people who complain about Hollywood being “too woke” are, as far as I can tell, complaining about the existence of stories that don’t cater to them specifically, singling out 20 (generously, as far as I can tell from this thread) productions from the last decade and holding them up as emblematic of an industry that produces a few hundred a year, reading too much Twitter, or using movies that are actually bad as a way to bash their outgroup.

        SSC commentariat’s track record on talking about storytelling is almost always like a standard deviation below the level of discussion not just on other topics, but on other sites that do have more of a focus on media.

        And this just seems straight-up correct to me.

        • AG says:

          Yeah, I pretty much agree that the complaints about woke Hollywood are basically Chinese Robber Fallacy.

          But my point with the anime is that one’s actual evaluation of the story is influenced the marketing. For example, the whole thing about Rey as a Mary Sue is predicated on interpreting Star Wars through the heroic adventure lens. But Star Wars could easily be interpreted through other lenses (an action shounen structure, a sports film structure, a heist/caper structure, a band film structure), in which Rey being a prodigy has no bearing on her quality as a character, because her character archetype changes based on the story framework you choose to view it through. “This is a story about cute girls doing cute things” vs. “This is a story about soldiers dealing with heavy themes, who happen to be all girls.” aren’t mutually exclusive.

          Just look at how there is every possible reaction to Evangelion. Some find it an insightful look at a group of broken people, a sharp portrayal of depression and prickly relationships. Some people are repulsed by the actions of these broken people. And some just decide to fap to the girls the creator designed as a rebuke to their fapping to cartoon girls. “The actual text of NGE is anti-sexualization” isn’t mutually exclusive from “NGE didn’t do any favors for the industry’s sexualization problem.”

          How are we to evaluate Fight Club?

          • baconbits9 says:

            For example, the whole thing about Rey as a Mary Sue is predicated on interpreting Star Wars through the heroic adventure lens. But Star Wars could easily be interpreted through other lenses (an action shounen structure, a sports film structure, a heist/caper structure, a band film structure), in which Rey being a prodigy has no bearing on her quality as a character, because her character archetype changes based on the story framework you choose to view it through

            This falls into the old ‘every interpretation is valid’ nonsense. Rey was introduced into the 7th movie of a franchise that was aggressively branded and marketed as THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE, so the interpretation of how she acts and how she is written is more valid within the context of what we expect from a SW movie than it is from some other genre. You can argue against Rey being a Sue, but you can’t argue against Rey being a Sue by invoking the fact that genres outside of SW exist.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            “The actual text of NGE is anti-sexualization” isn’t mutually exclusive from “NGE didn’t do any favors for the industry’s sexualization problem.”

            But the text of NGE isn’t a shitty harem comedy. “Not fixing the problem” isn’t the same as “contributing to it.” And viewing stories (especially stories like Fight Club) through the lens of the best-fitting archetype seems like a good way to reliably miss the point (TM). I’m not saying that reading the film in a particular way is bad, but that you always have to ground your reading in terms of what actually happens. You have to make statements about what a work means, not just point to a genre and say, “it’s an example of that.”

            Yes, the marketing shapes it. The framing shapes it. But ultimately it’s what’s on the screen that matters, and someone who gets perception-shifted into thinking that Captain Marvel is basically the SCUM manifesto (or that NGE is an example of waifu culture) has only their own uncritical consumption to blame. With apologies to LMC for the callout, how the fuck can you come away from Star Wars thinking that

            Rey gains all the Jedi powers before she even meets a Jedi, because she’s a girl (since we can infer for Dolyist reasons that this universe probably supports transgenderism, one wonders why Anakin didn’t start identifying as the woman Annie Skywalker to become more powerful). Any coherent world-building about how supernatural powers work in this universe (intense training from an early age and some pseudo-Buddhist stuff) is all straw.

            The text doesn’t support the reading. There’s no contextualization that supports it. Conversely, there’s no contextualization, even among the genres you listed, where Rey actually has a full character arc’s worth of development. But “girl MC has character development only slightly more convincing than Android 16” doesn’t justify the rest by half. Every interpretation is valid, sure, but it has to be an interpretation.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            But Star Wars could easily be interpreted through other lenses (an action shounen structure, a sports film structure, a heist/caper structure, a band film structure),

            Quite a motte you’ve erected here. I propose a law: any defense of wokeness will eventually devolve into nilhistic postmodernism.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @viVI_IViv

            Speaking of, “it has to actually be an interpretation,” less of this, please. Substantively engage with what other people are saying or go away, but don’t make vague sneering noises. The only word you said that follows from what you quoted is “postmodern.”

          • AG says:

            @baconbits9
            This is exactly my point to Hoopyfreud, that the marketing and branding matters to people’s reception of a text.

            (That said, I think that the Star Wars films have always been hamstrung by sticking to a mythological branding, when its stories were already branching out into other genres in the EU and the prequels. TLJ, Rogue One, and Solo were all clearly going for other things. Even if TFA appeared to be returning to the Hero’s Journey well, it was also way more of an ensemble sports-like film than A New Hope. TFA was more like Pacific Rim than A New Hope, and Pacific Rim was explicitly working off of the sports film template.)

            @Hoopyfreud
            Yes, things still have to be rooted in the text. It’s not really an interpretation of the text if the thing wasn’t actually in the text. I’ll concede that the NGE example is off track.
            Still, Death of the Author isn’t a required thing. Someone’s experience with/interpretation of The Matrix can change because of how both of its creators have come out as trans.

          • Clutzy says:

            Defending Rey’s skill curve as “Rey could be a prodigy” is something you could do if you are a writer. But the Star Wars writers did not do that. If you have a prodigy, you have to give them context. You can have Sasuke, but he needs Naruto, the effort guy. You can have L but there are adults all around to contextualize how much of a genius detective he is.

            So I’ll return to what I think is the actual problem and how it addresses your complaints about anti-SJ complaints. The complaint, in its average (not a strawman or a steelman) form is that SJ writing in Hollywood is, on the average, lower quality because they sacrifice the parts of storytelling and substitute social justice. Then if you call it bad you get called a bigot.

            So yes there is a good Star Wars 7 where Rey is Goku, but then we probably want a Krillen and Master Roshi. Yes there is a Star Wars 8 that is a play on a sports film (although I will say I don’t really see this), but then it needs a training montage and a pump up speech that turns the tide.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Clutzy:

            The complaint, in its average (not a strawman or a steelman) form is that SJ writing in Hollywood is, on the average, lower quality because they sacrifice the parts of storytelling and substitute social justice. Then if you call it bad you get called a bigot.

            Agreed. When bad storytelling pattern-matches to IdPol dogma, the cable suspending my disbelief may snap and instead of evaluating the imaginary setting, I’ll start thinking about how this is a corporate product made by rich people who hate me.

          • AG says:

            Yeah, my problem with these threads is, like Hoopyfreud, it’s all Chinese Robber Fallacy’d to hell. LMC outright admitted that their sample size for woke blockbusters is near zero.

            Besides which, the counterfactual for non-woke films isn’t “miraculously good pulp fiction,” it’s the Bayformer films. It’s “Dwayne Johnson does yet another meaningless piece of action fluff.” It’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. SJ writing isn’t uniquely worse than regular bad writing. It’s just one particular expression of it. SJ writing isn’t moving the dial on the Sturgeon’s Law percentage.

            Complain about bad writing. There’s no need to pretend like it’s a special Crisis In Hollywood.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Complain about bad writing. There’s no need to pretend like it’s a special Crisis In Hollywood.

            People do! Bayformers et al get raked over the coals all the time for being dumb pulp. But when you complain about dumb SJ pulp then it’s a scandal (see: TLJ, Ghostbusters)

          • AG says:

            I don’t care if SSC rakes TLJ or Ghostbusters over the coals for bad writing.

            I do care if they try to make a SJ Boogeyman Grand Narrative about it based on false perceptions of the industry.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @AG:

            I do care if they try to make a SJ Boogeyman Grand Narrative about it based on false perceptions of the industry.

            But I think it would be deceptive to deny that TLJ does fit into a Grand Narrative about the sort of people who populate Hollywood.
            The whole Rian Johnson “subverted!” thing isn’t an apolitical writing style having nothing to do with Rey’s omnipotence, Admiral Gender Studies, et al. One of the things Jonathan Haidt talks about is how progressive and conservative brains have different reactions to hearing that word while hooked up to scanning devices, with progressive brains having one of their most positive reactions to “subversive.”

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t care if SSC rakes TLJ or Ghostbusters over the coals for bad writing.

            I do care if they try to make a SJ Boogeyman Grand Narrative about it based on false perceptions of the industry.

            Then your problem isn’t with SSC or really any of the critics of TLJ/Ghostbusters, your problem is with defenders of those films. Plenty of people have been fine critiquing bad movies for years. Red Letter Media’s whole thing was mocking Star Wars Prequels for not understanding story structure. But then, suddenly the same critiques become sexist when its a female protagonist. Thus people naturally re-categorize. That is SJ writing is a subset of bad writing, one that SJWs try to pretend is good writing.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Then your problem isn’t with SSC or really any of the critics of TLJ/Ghostbusters, your problem is with defenders of those films.

            My problem is with defenders of those films, but there aren’t any here. My problem is also with people claiming that “SJ writing is a subset of bad writing,” especially when they claim that it’s a strict subset, and also that the concept of “subversion” makes something SJ writing. Ideology is a bad defence of poor criticism no matter whose it is.

          • Clutzy says:

            My problem is with defenders of those films, but there aren’t any here. My problem is also with people claiming that “SJ writing is a subset of bad writing,” especially when they claim that it’s a strict subset, and also that the concept of “subversion” makes something SJ writing. Ideology is a bad defence of poor criticism no matter whose it is.

            Its like that saying about families. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

            Also I don’t really understand the rest. Most critiques of SJ things begin with, “this is bad” or “this is overrated” and evolve towards critiques of the SJ elements because when you did into them it appears to be the most likely reason for various bad choices made in the film.

            An example of what you would be talking about is the movie Coco. It was a fine kids movie, like a 6-7/10, it was 30 minutes too long, the child narrator portions were horrible, and the soundtrack was nothing special. I wouldn’t call it SJ writing, just a person telling a kids story they wanted to tell, but the media coverage around it was heavy SJ oriented. With people pretending it was some sort of masterpiece.

            I don’t watch nearly enough film to know if its a major trend in Hollywood overall, it does seem to be a significant trend among major studio productions, particularly long running IP.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I mean, fair enough, but the entire premise of this thread is comments like LMC’s about the unbearable wokeness of Hollywood. I agree that they’re (thankfully) a minority, but I’m still talking about them.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally the issue is less with the SJ films themselves so much as the way the broader media treats them. Bad writing + notSJ gets the panning it deserves. Bad writing + SJ gets trumpeted to the heavens (so brave!) and critics are are all just a bunch of dogwhistling [misogynists|racists|*phobes].

            Good writing + SJ does exist and that’s fine. I like apolitical good writing better, personally, but I don’t begrudge it’s existence. What I hate is the media jamming anything SJ – good or bad – down my throat and excoriating anyone who doesn’t like it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Also, good/decent quality + anti-SJ gets panned, if not ignored altogether.

    • blipnickels says:

      Probably the “all female action pose” in the big final fight of Avengers:Endgame.

      It’s not deeply offensive or troubling, it just kind of sucks. I can’t imagine anybody was excited or thrilled by it and it killed the pacing/tension of the big final battle of the culmination film of the MCU. That’s how a lot of wokeness feels in movies, at least for me, just visual/story choices that detract from the movie.

      I can’t say I’ve seen anything terribly offensive but it’s not hard to identify and avoid them. Just searching for 2019 Oscar winners, the big winners look like:
      “Green Book”, racism in the American South
      “Blackkklansman” Spike Lee comedy? on the KK,
      “Roma”, drama about a minority housekeeper in Mexico?
      “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Freddy Mercury!
      All interesting subjects for movies but I’ve seen enough “woke” cinema to know how they will be shot and framed. Heck, I’m pretty sure I know all the major plot moments for each just based on the trailer. Why would I view these?

      Take “Green Book” for example. Could be good, could not, but without seeing it I know who the bad guys are, who the good guys are, and what Viggo Mortensen’s character arc is, because there’s not that much allowable variation in any of the above. I can’t honestly say it’s more irritating or preachy than “God’s Not Dead” but without a substantial social/cash incentive, I can’t imagine watching either.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        ” I can’t imagine anybody was excited or thrilled by it”– this is probably more about the limits of your imagination than whether other people might be enthusiastic about something.

      • Nick says:

        Roma is not a woke film. Why don’t you try actually watching it?

        • blipnickels says:

          Time & probability, mostly.

          I’m totally willing to accept that “Roma” is good, “the Favorite” is also good and that got an award, but I have no trustworthy way to distinguish “Roma” and “the Favorite” from “Green Book”/”generic woke movie”. If 75%+ of movies are, not bad but just limited/boring, and it’s hard to distinguish the good from the dull before watching, you just kind of stop watching movies unless people make strong recommendations.

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with this as well.

            If your film looks woke and sounds woke and is loved by the woke, you can’t really blame the anti-woke for not watching it…

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            I have literally no idea what made you or blipnickels think that Roma is “woke” other than the fact that it’s about Mexico and has Mexicans in it. I’m not saying that AcKSHully it’s about race for you, but what you do have is an incredibly lazy discriminator that replicates that prejudice.

            It’s not that Cuarón deserves your eyeballs on his work, it’s just that you should understand that you’ve basically declared that you’ll play as defect bot against him unless he makes movies totally disconnected from his personal history. If you’re going to culture war that hard, you should at least take responsibility for it.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think defining “not seeing this guy’s movie because it looks like something I wouldn’t enjoy because it’s probably woke” as “culture war that hard” is as silly as arguing that remaking live action Aladdin with an Arabic-looking cast was woke (which we had last thread). Just in reverse.

            False positives happen, but movies are not important. Personally, I’d miss at least 4 good movies on release to avoid sitting through a bad one on release. Although very few movies appeal to me anyways.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I have literally no idea what made you or blipnickels think that Roma is “woke” other than the fact that it’s about Mexico and has Mexicans in it. I’m not saying that AcKSHully it’s about race for you, but what you do have is an incredibly lazy discriminator that replicates that prejudice.

            For me, a first approximation is “if it won a major film festival award – especially Cannes – it’s not going to be the sort of movie I’ll enjoy.” There are exceptions so recommendations can overrule this, but as a general rule, film festival films (not “movies”, those are for proles) are Oscar bait dialed to 11 in terms of pretentiousness, preachiness, and lack of a coherent story in favor of mumble mumble exploring a medium mumble handwave emotions mumble mumble. Doesn’t quite match “woke” but it’s in the same ballpark

            (Not to dig at people who enjoy film festivals, I just don’t find it worth my time. To the point where when a trailer cuts to those iconic gold leaves I start backing away slowly)

          • Matt M says:

            I have literally no idea what made you or blipnickels think that Roma is “woke” other than the fact that it’s about Mexico and has Mexicans in it.

            It’s less this, and more guilt by association in the sense that it was nominated for an Oscar and was generally praised by the class of people who love things I hate and hate things I love. (the fact that the professional critic class loves it might very well be related to the fact that it has Mexicans in it, but it’s hard to be certain)

            Is that fair? No, not really. But I have plenty of other things to watch that aren’t nearly as guilty by association.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            If it is, fair enough, but that’s not what the comment you agreed with indicated. Either way, it’s entirely reasonable to “blame you” for it. Your heuristic is literally “avoid things other people like and complain about them being too woke because other people like them.”

          • blipnickels says:

            @ Hoopyfreud

            I have literally no idea what made you or blipnickels think that Roma is “woke” other than the fact that it’s about Mexico and has Mexicans in it.

            Besides what I expect of any movie focused on race/class that wins an Oscar?

            Let’s say I want an awesome Indian movie.

            If I look to the Oscars or anything that got a US release, I get something like Water. My eyes glance over the plot and go “imperialism, widow, feminism, ‘…contrasting the widows’ oppressive existence as outcasts. The film seethes with anger over their plight…'” I mean, maybe that’s not 100% uncut woke but it’s sure woke-ish.

            If I go to top grossing Indian films I get Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. My eyes glance over the plot and go “Murder, king, lust, revenge, ‘…plays like a shotgun wedding between Ben Hur and Kung Fu Hustle.'”. Dude, I’m sold.

            I may not perfectly understand why one got a theatrical release and an Oscar in the US and I’ve never heard of the other but I’ve seen this happen often enough for it to have predictive validity. I know movies like “Water” are chosen and “Baahubali 2: The Explosioning” are excluded. And culturally speaking, I’d bet significant sums of money that “Water” is more woke and acceptable to Western audiences and “Baahubali 2: Super Phallic Poster” is problematic and I’ve yet to see a problematic foreign film get a US distribution no matter how many awards it wins.

            Or if you want a more artistic example, look at Red Cliff. It might not be true !art! but it’d compare well to anything Hollywood put out in the past couple years. I’m not sure why it never got a push in the West but it’s portrayal of women is…it starts at complicated and kinda degenerates from there, especially Cao Cao.

            I could speculate on why this is but I really don’t know. All I see is that the only foreign films that get shown in the US are, by accident or design, woke-ish, and those that aren’t woke-ish have difficulty. Without having done any research, I’d predict that the winners of the Hong Kong Film Awards or any other foreign film awards are dramatically less woke than winners of the Oscar’s Foreign Film award.

            Again, I’m not entirely sure on the causality here, but as factual matter the foreign films shown in the US aren’t representative of foreign media, they’re a curated sliver deemed appropriate/profitable/woke for US audiences.
            Foreign Film != woke
            Foreign Film in US theatre = woke

            So “Roma”, not as a foreign film, but as a foreign film in the US, even without the Oscar, would get predicted as woke. Add in the Oscar and subject matter…

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @blipnickels

            I’m honestly not sure what you’re talking about. Leaving aside the fact that Water didn’t win an Oscar, here are the Best Foreign Language nominees from last year besides Roma:

            Capernaum, in which a slum kid tries and fails to forge documents to allow him to migrate to Sweden, and which has a pretty negative take on Lebanon in general.

            Cold War, a black and white Polish film about artists under the whip of the Soviets.

            Never Look Away, a German film about a man’s (unknowing) relationship with the Nazi doctor who ordered the execution of his aunt.

            Shoplifters, a Japanese film about a poor family of literal shoplifters whose family disintegrates over the course of the movie.

            Without having done any research, I’d predict that the winners of the Hong Kong Film Awards or any other foreign film awards are dramatically less woke than winners of the Oscar’s Foreign Film award.

            Shoplifters won the Asian Film Awards, Asia Pacific Film Awards, the Japan Academy Prize, and the Mainichi Film Awards

            Never Look Away didn’t win anything; reception was mixed, with some being “meh” and some being enthusiastic.

            Cold War swept the European Film Awards and took a few other European film awards home.

            Capernaum won a lot of European awards, and as far as I’m aware Arabic-language or Middle Eastern awards don’t really exist.

          • dick says:

            I feel like “woke” is turning in to a euphemism for “left of center” around here. I mean, the Oscars foreign picture category snubbing Bollywood blockbusters is not recent.

            Not for the first time, I wonder how much the discourse would be lifted by just taboo-ing all vague ideological category terms entirely and forcing people to explicitly type out whatever it is they mean in a particular instance – e.g. “the sort of people who like high-brow cinema” or “the sort of people who vote Democrat” or “the sort of people who apply critical theory in their daily lives” or whatever.

          • blipnickels says:

            @dick

            Not for the first time, I wonder how much the discourse would be lifted by just taboo-ing all vague ideological category terms entirely and forcing people to explicitly type out whatever it is they mean in a particular instance – e.g. “the sort of people who like high-brow cinema” or “the sort of people who vote Democrat” or “the sort of people who apply critical theory in their daily lives” or whatever.

            That seems sensible, let’s give it a try.

            Woke is super-blue. I doubt I could give a specific definition but blue things are Sweden>USA, wine>beer, coastal residence, the New York Times, California Pizza Kitchen, watched GOT instead of Big Bang Theory, post-graduate education, slavery is the original sin, etc. These are cliches but they’re also predictably valid.

            I left out the other Oscar nominees because I thought they’d be a little too strawman-y. Capernaum is the story of an impoverished Lebanese boy trying to escape to Sweden for a better life played by a literal Syrian refugee. Cold War and Never Look Away are about artistic struggles under totalitarian regimes, one involving literal nazis. Shoplifters I’m honestly unsure about, no idea how woke it is, I’m probably 50%-50% on it and Roma now.

            I expect these to hit the woke/art house/super-blue movie tropes I’ve seen 100 times before. I expect the lead to be sensitive and destined for great things but oppressed by an immoral government as they struggle to find their true selves, probably helped by a quirky friend and/or lover. All endings will be bittersweet, all villains will be the local authority, and all heroes will be oppressed.

            This is bad and boring and greatly limiting to the kind of stories that can be told and are told, foreign or domestic. I’d rather watch things that aren’t trapped in these formulas.

            There are woker things out there, I hate-watched Dietland on a recent flight, but it’s obviously not for me and why should I butt in on someone else’s fun? I knew it wasn’t for me from the promotional material alone. If something gets an Oscar win, it’s probably trapped in woke/super-blue themes, I’m probably going to be bored, and so I don’t watch. I take the same general attitude towards tumblr.

            Maybe woke means something different, if there’s something genuinely worse than Girls, I’ll gladly tag out and be left to my ignorance.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @blipnickels,

            Or if you want a more artistic example, look at Red Cliff. It might not be true !art! but it’d compare well to anything Hollywood put out in the past couple years. I’m not sure why it never got a push in the West but it’s portrayal of women is…it starts at complicated and kinda degenerates from there, especially Cao Cao.

            Red Cliff is a really good movie, although I wouldn’t call it artistic exactly. It’s certainly incredibly well-made but at its heart it’s a blockbuster and not an art film. It’s the sort of film that ought to win awards but not the kind which actually wins awards.

            Compared to Hollywood movies the film wasn’t particularly feminist, but it was hardly reactionary either. For example, Lady Sun is ahistorically turned into a master ninja who can knock out horses with pressure point attacks and fights alongside the men in battle. It’s reminiscent of Arwen in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: John Woo made her as “badass” (cartoonishly masculine) as he could get away with without completely mutilating the story.

          • AG says:

            Roma didn’t get screened in the US because it was woke. It got screened in the US because its director has Hollywood connections. Alfonso Cuaron directed Harry Potter 3, Children of Men, and Gravity.

            Foreign films have a hard time getting screened in the US period because of the lack of connections to market the films and get enough revenue to cover costs. As such, anime is one of the few places increasing in screenings, because they’ve been building in-roads to make screenings worth it financially.

          • dick says:

            Woke is super-blue.

            No it isn’t.

            I doubt I could give a specific definition but blue things are Sweden>USA, wine>beer, coastal residence, the New York Times, California Pizza Kitchen, watched GOT instead of Big Bang Theory, post-graduate education, slavery is the original sin, etc. These are cliches but they’re also predictably valid.

            Treating your outgroup as a pastiche of cliches is fine, if you’re making fun of them to your ingroup, but not when you’re talking to them.

      • Matt M says:

        Green Book is an interesting example in that it seems to attract derision from both extremes, but acceptance by the non-radical moderate class.

        The far right sees it uber-woke, in line with your description. The far left sees it as “whitewashing history” and covering up the true horrors and extent of racism. Moderates see it as a heartwarming story of racial togetherness or whatever.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        It’s not deeply offensive or troubling, it just kind of sucks. I can’t imagine anybody was excited or thrilled by it and it killed the pacing/tension of the big final battle of the culmination film of the MCU.

        I agree it was distracting. Nevertheless, it was one of the few moments that got applause in the theater when I saw it. (Another was Stan Lee’s scene.)

        • CatCube says:

          Really? I mean, that scene was the dumbest thing in the movie. It had the same problem as Jorah Mormont saving Daenarys in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones: Why on earth are these specific characters in this specific place at this specific time, given the geography of the battleground and the deployment of forces? Why is Okoye there instead of leading her troops from Wakanda or managing logistics for them like she’s supposed to be? This is girl incompetence, not girl power.

          Both of these scenes were so bad they jerked me right out of suspension of disbelief. The GoT one was really frustrating because the whole Winterfell battle was so poorly edited that I had zero spatial awareness of the characters during the battle, and Jorah’s magic teleportation through enemy lines was the crowning moment of that problem.

          It’s not impossible to make those scenes hang together, but the writers and editors didn’t even put a minute of thought into the locations of the characters and the events occurring around them, and therefore didn’t put in the necessary work to set it up.

          • lvlln says:

            Really? I mean, that scene was the dumbest thing in the movie. It had the same problem as Jorah Mormont saving Daenarys in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones: Why on earth are these specific characters in this specific place at this specific time, given the geography of the battleground and the deployment of forces? Why is Okoye there instead of leading her troops from Wakanda or managing logistics for them like she’s supposed to be? This is girl incompetence, not girl power.

            That was actually the 4th-to-last – is that anteantepenultimate? – episode of the series. I think it’d be easy to confuse that episode and the penultimate episode, because they were both episodes centered around large battle sequences featuring leaders organizing their armies in ways that were optimized alright for looking flashy on screen but poorly for defeating the opposing army.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Why on earth are these specific characters in this specific place at this specific time, given the geography of the battleground and the deployment of forces? Why is Okoye there instead of leading her troops from Wakanda or managing logistics for them like she’s supposed to be? This is girl incompetence, not girl power.

            Hahaha, exactly.
            I could justify maybe 4 heroines there without men: Captain Marvel, the Scarlet Witch (her brother and robot date are dead and she hasn’t established a position with the sorcerers), the younger Wasp (Scott was elsewhere on the battlefield using different powers, and as I recall, her dad wasn’t in the battle… due to Michael Douglas’s age?), and Rescue (Tony was off doing the most important job and she doesn’t have any other super-friends). Having every hero who happens to be female drop what they’re supposed to be doing in an army of diverse contingents to pose with Girl Power Face behind CM? That’s just incompetent narcissism.

          • CatCube says:

            @lvlln

            You’re right, I did make the exact mistake you surmise. I knew I should have checked.

          • dick says:

            Really? I mean, that scene was the dumbest thing in the movie.

            Holy shit no it wasn’t. It wasn’t even the dumbest thing in that fight scene. Having all of the female heroes in the same time and place for like 3 seconds was unrealistic, but only in the “Batman’s cape gets longer or shorter as required to frame the panel” unrealistic. I mean, yeah, they didn’t put any effort in to explaining why all the women were in the same place, but that’s the same amount of effort they put in to the swaparoo at the end that actually won the fight.

            For my money, the dumbest thing in that scene was Thanos doing a judo throw on Captain Marvel. And the dumbest thing in the movie would be the part where half the population disappearing and then unexpectedly returning five years later doesn’t lead to riots and starvation on a global scale.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And the dumbest thing in the movie would be the part where half the population disappearing and then unexpectedly returning five years later doesn’t lead to riots and starvation on a global scale.

            I mean, yeah, this is what ruined Endgame for me: not anything woke.
            I haven’t seen Spider-Man: Far From Home because they decided the world-building of this setting – the main selling point as early as 2010! – has the value of garbage.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t see what’s so dumb about Thanos’s judo throw, though. He’s a Titan, and so should be able to throw the mass of a human woman a significant number of miles. She can fly, but that takes reaction time, and a successful martial arts move takes you by surprise almost by definition.

          • dick says:

            I don’t see what’s so dumb about Thanos’s judo throw, though.

            She’s the most stupendously powerful being in existence. She can fly faster than light. Thanos had (I assume) the biggest, baddest warship in the galaxy, and she defeated it without apparent effort in literally one second. By all rights she should’ve just picked him up and flown him in to the middle of the Sun.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick:

            She can fly faster than light.

            Ah, I see your point. She’s a space character who can fly under her own power at the speed the plot, which is FTL. Taken logically, this makes her stupidly stupendously powerful and Thanos shouldn’t have been able to land a hit.

            Thanos had (I assume) the biggest, baddest warship in the galaxy, and she defeated it without apparent effort in literally one second.

            Yeah, I agree with that assumption. This is problematic for all future appearances she makes, as any starship she chooses to fight should last literally one second.
            Good for me, I guess. that the idiocy of the “half the universe’s population disappears for 5 years, then reappears” event means I’ve checked out of future Marvel movies.

          • CatCube says:

            @dick

            Ehhhh, I still think the power pose was worse. I wasn’t being hyperbolic in the slightest about “jerk[ing] me right out of suspension of disbelief.” I literally jerked up in my seat at that scene, and only barely kept myself from screaming “What the fuck?!” at the screen*. I mean, it was just so gratuitous.

            The judo throw didn’t affect me because I hadn’t seen Captain Marvel, and considering only what was within the four corners of Avengers: Endgame for her character it wasn’t wildly out of line. I mean, if she was that OP compared to everybody else, why didn’t she just blow through his lines, skip all of the hand-to-hand with his minions and just twist off Thanos’ head and play hacky-sack with it in front of all his troops?

            I agree with the unreality of the consequences of bringing everybody back–and commented on it while leaving the theater!–but for me I had seen that coming before even walking in to the movie so it was baked in already. I mean, most of the writing on these things doesn’t think through the implications of the world that well, so it was something that was easier for me to suspend disbelief. It wasn’t much different to me than how, say, Tony Stark doesn’t get turned into jelly by any impacts while in the Iron Man suit, despite the fact that it doesn’t make the stops any more sudden and won’t decrease the G-forces on his body.

            * Because I was at home for the GoT scene, I really did yell that. Though it didn’t quite have the jerking up in my seat effect, because I had already spent that bullet on some of the characters watching their obstacles get breached and just staring at it with a gormless look on their face, even though they had some things–that I can’t recall now–they could have done about it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @CatCube:

            The judo throw didn’t affect me because I hadn’t seen Captain Marvel, and considering only what was within the four corners of Avengers: Endgame for her character it wasn’t wildly out of line. I mean, if she was that OP compared to everybody else, why didn’t she just blow through his lines, skip all of the hand-to-hand with his minions and just twist off Thanos’ head and play hacky-sack with it in front of all his troops?

            Because, according to an old argument, it’s literally impossible to write a coherent story about a character that powerful. She can’t do that even though the established rules say she could, because then there wouldn’t be a conflict. This is why Superman has Kryptonite and why it’s a common thing for a new writer handed the character to establish how de-powered he’ll be.
            (The best take on this was the DC Animated Universe, where they showed him needing a spacesuit to survive in space and, as his ability to maneuver in space was very limited, Professor Hamilton modifying the baby rocket’s interior to fit an adult. They still had him no-selling the god of tyranny’s ability to erase you by looking at you, though.)

          • lvlln says:

            Holy shit no it wasn’t. It wasn’t even the dumbest thing in that fight scene. Having all of the female heroes in the same time and place for like 3 seconds was unrealistic, but only in the “Batman’s cape gets longer or shorter as required to frame the panel” unrealistic. I mean, yeah, they didn’t put any effort in to explaining why all the women were in the same place, but that’s the same amount of effort they put in to the swaparoo at the end that actually won the fight.

            Wait, what do you mean they didn’t put any effort into explaining the final swaparoo? I thought that was telegraphed really well beforehand and the shot was framed and choreographed in a clear way to show what Iron Man was going for. Establishing in Infinity War that Iron Man’s suit was nanomachines (and therefore basically magic) and in Endgame that the new glove was basically just a modified piece of Iron Man armor set it up so that if Iron Man ever touched the glove with his suit on, then manipulating it to move the stones around as he wished was basically trivial. And given the context of that scene, the moment Iron Man’s armored hand touched Thanos’s gloved one, it seemed pretty obvious what was going on.

            Now, the fact that Tony Stark let Thanos pose for a second and say “I am inevitable!” before putting all the stones in place and snapping his own finger was unexplained, but of course that kind of thing was a major problem throughout that entire fight.

          • Witness says:

            I used to be bothered by this kind of thing. Now I don’t think it matters much.

            A couple years back, I watched the The Aztecs (old Dr Who). I was fascinated by some fundamentally different aspects of storytelling from that time, most of which I assume were inherited from theater performance and not (yet) shed by television.

            For example:
            – the villain literally monologues his plan to the camera, for the benefit of the audience
            – characters of all stripes have “asides” where they discuss their plan loudly enough for the audience to hear, but in “hushed” tones so that we know the other characters aren’t supposed to.

            Sometimes, the storyteller’s job is to convey information to the audience, and we should in general be ready to roll with that. Sometimes, their job is to put something cool on the screen, and we should roll with that, even if it’s someone else’s “cool thing” or fanservice and not our own.

          • dick says:

            I mean, if she was that OP compared to everybody else, why didn’t she…

            If Hawkman was so keen to sacrifice himself on the death planet, why didn’t he just put on the glove and undo the snap as soon as he had it? If the infinity stones are so powerful, why didn’t the Avengers use some of them to get the others? If the power glove Tony made has nanites that can move the stones around, why couldn’t it just fly wherever he told it to go? I could, to quote the most annoying character in the franchise, do this all day.

          • dick says:

            Wait, what do you mean they didn’t put any effort into explaining the final swaparoo? I thought that was telegraphed really well beforehand…

            They did establish that his suit is a deus ex machina that can plausibly do anything at any time, but that’s not an explanation, that’s just cheating. Telegraphing it would’ve been, like, a scene before the battle where Tony is working on the glove, and he swaps some practice rocks from one hand to the other, and someone walking by says, “neat trick”.

          • lvlln says:

            They did establish that his suit is a deus ex machina that can plausibly do anything at any time, but that’s not an explanation, that’s just cheating. Telegraphing it would’ve been, like, a scene before the battle where Tony is working on the glove, and he swaps some practice rocks from one hand to the other, and someone walking by says, “neat trick”.

            See, I thought when they showed the glove transform – requiring shifting the stones around – to fit Hulk’s hand, that along with showing Iron Man’s suit constantly readjust and transform during his fight against Thanos in Infinity War was all the telegraphing needed. It wasn’t quite as obvious as, say, if the Infinity Stones were actually data and Tony plugged a USB stick into Thanos’s hand to CTRL-X/CTRL-V it out, but I thought it was almost that obvious, given the setup of what the technology of the Iron Man suit and the man-made Infinity Gauntlet were made up of.

            I feel like if they showed Tony actually swapping a practice rock beforehand, that would be way too overt and obvious; you might as well have a freeze frame, Robert Downey Jr. turn to the camera and say, “Hm, I wonder if this ability might come in useful at some future climactic moment?” and wink, for how much it would take me out of the movie.

      • JonathanD says:

        Probably the “all female action pose” in the big final fight of Avengers:Endgame.

        It’s not deeply offensive or troubling, it just kind of sucks. I can’t imagine anybody was excited or thrilled by it and it killed the pacing/tension of the big final battle of the culmination film of the MCU. That’s how a lot of wokeness feels in movies, at least for me, just visual/story choices that detract from the movie.

        As with Paul Brinkley, that moment drew applause in my theatre. It also led the lady next to me to exclaim, “Oh hell yeah! She got a bad ass bitch squad.”

        A lot of that movie was straight up fan service. That one didn’t land for me either, but it wasn’t *my* fan service. I did squeal like a little girl when Steve Rodgers picked up Mjolnir and beat the hell out of Thanos.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Batwoman comes to television this October. It features an out lesbian, played by someone deemed not gay enough by the Twitterati, who is then cited as saying some pretty cheesy woke lines in the trailer IIRC. It makes me glad I don’t follow either Twitter or TV very closely.

      My bird’s eye view says we have yet to reach peak irritation, though.

  13. I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

    What to do if you don’t like coffee?

    Going out for a coffee is seen as a default choice for people who want to get acquainted or spend some time talking. Hopefully, if someone suggested going for coffee, I would be able to resist the literal-minded instinct to say that I don’t like coffee (unless I actually don’t like the person). So what should I do instead? If I accepted, went to a coffee shop, and ordered nothing or only drank water, how many weirdness points would that expend weird would that be seen as? Or were I to suggest a social outing myself, what’s an equivalent alternative?

    “Luckily” I am unsociable enough to have never encountered this problem that I recall, but it’s good to be prepared I guess?

    • ana53294 says:

      I usually order tea. Never seen a coffee shop that doesn’t have tea. Or do you hate tea also?

      • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

        I’m not into tea, but I also haven’t tried it recently. Unlike coffee, which I am confident in my dislike of, I don’t have that much evidence about tea. So maybe I can try to cultivate a taste for it.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Also, there’s a big range for tea– not just a variety of teas made from tea leaves, but also fruit/herbal teas.

          • Watchman says:

            Aapje,

            That joked probably a bit unnecessary. Anyway, the drinks aren’t made of tea, but they’re brewed as tea is, so I think the label is fine.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, sorry. In hindsight, it was in poor taste.

            I reported my comment, feel free to do the same.

        • EchoChaos says:

          As Nancy Lebovitz said, there are plenty of them, and cultivating a refined tea palate will allow you to enjoy a coffee shop at the same time as enjoying something you like.

    • DarkTigger says:

      Ask for tea? Or drink literally anything else?
      You will be “that person that drinks tea/cola/cacao when everyone is drinking coffee” instead of “that persons who doesn’t want to hang out”.

    • fion says:

      I have this problem. I don’t drink tea, coffee or alcohol. (I’m aware the last is hardly a replacement for the first two, but “do you want to go for a drink” is as common where I’m from as “do you want to go for coffee” so the same problem applies.) But I agree with those above; you’ve just got to order something else, as un-weird as possible. When we’re “going for coffee” I have hot chocolate. When we’re “having a cup of tea” I have fruit tea. When we’re “at the pub for a few” I order the cheapest soft drink and make it last the whole evening.

      Dates are the most awkward part, because it’s kind of not a great vibe if the other person is drinking alcohol and you’re staying sober, but I realise I’ve strayed quite far from the initial question now so let’s not get into it.

      • Robin says:

        Spending the whole evening on one cheap soft drink might come across as cheapskate? Would you counter that impression by tipping generously?

        More to the point, I like alcohol-free beer. Often the only non-alcoholic, non-sweet drink beside water.

        • fion says:

          Spending the whole evening on one cheap soft drink might come across as cheapskate? Would you counter that impression by tipping generously?

          Ah, true enough. I guess in my circles (non-US, mostly student friends), coming across as a cheapskate isn’t that bad. I’d certainly do worse if I was trying to socialise with American middle-class professionals.

          More to the point, I like alcohol-free beer. Often the only non-alcoholic, non-sweet drink beside water.

          I’ve not tried alcohol-free beer, but if it tastes anything like beer I wouldn’t like it. I wonder if another solution would be to buy mineral water. Avoids alcohol and sugar, and is probably sufficiently over-priced to signal affluence.

          • Aapje says:

            They’ve got alcohol-free Radler* now. It’s 50/50 beer and lemonade**.

            If that’s too close to pilsner/lager, there is also Radler with wheat beer (weizenbier/hefenweizen). Wheat beer is way different in taste to other beers anyway and may even suit you on its own. It’s available in a alcohol-free version.

            Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego fion?

            * Lemon shandy

            ** So you can even make it yourself, for extra hipster cred. The bartender may also be willing to mix it for you. Giving directions to the bartender on how to make a drink can come across to a date as having leadership and competence.

        • brad says:

          A soda (i.e. sparkling water) with a lime garnish is the classic non-alcoholic drink at a bar. Looks like a G&T. Bartenders all know the deal. Tip as if you were buying regular drinks.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Trying to eat healthy, and with a slow caffeine metabolism that makes it not a good idea to drink coffee after noon, so I have the same problem. I basically ignore it and just grab whatever I feel like. I probably get more eyebrows raised when I order decaf then when I just get water. But the point is, the understanding is that you go to the coffee shop for the conversation, not for the coffee, so it’s not really an issue.

      But if it makes you feel more relaxed, next time you’re in a coffee shop just browse the selection for a few minutes. There are plenty of things you can try – tea, bottled tea, fresh juice, milkshakes, coffee/decaf with enough extras to basically be a milkshake, frappe… and god knows what else they have these days.

      Also, for the record, I absolutely love going to the coffee shops alone to work or read.

    • bzik says:

      Depends on what you actually dislike about coffee.

      Personally, I find the taste rather bitter and rough, even for higher quality stuff, although I like the aroma. However, ordering something like latte or cappuccino seems to fix the issue for me. It wouldn’t necessarily be first choice for a drink, but I do actually enjoy one once in a while.

      I strongly suspect this is just an acquired taste, like alcohol, bitter chocolate or spicy food

    • Watchman says:

      I rarely drink caffeine so tend to go for hot chocolate or one of the cold fruit drinks all coffee shops seem to do. No one seems to think this is odd.

      Mostly staff at coffee shops are helpful, so you could always ask them what non-coffee drink they recommend. If you’re worried about impressions, this looks like you’re engaging with the culture of the coffee shop, same as if you’d done the same in a bar with unfamiliar beers (also, if you’re worrying about impressions, stop it: the worry creates a worse impression than your actions….).

      • 2irons says:

        Do you ever worry people judge you for getting a hot chocolate?

        It’s my default choice if I’m happy I’m on the higher status end of the meeting – like an unimportant salesperson is taking me out. But if the situation is closer to equal I wonder if I come across like a little boy (I’m not even youthful). I wonder if I’d worry about being seen as a little girl if I was a woman or if I’m just calling hot chocolate non-manly. Hopefully this is purely my hang-up.

        • Aqua says:

          Not worried

          I could be wrong, but I’d bet people don’t care one bit what you drink

          I think you’re overthinking things. Also the stuff you say about status comes across really weird and unhealthy to me.

          But yeah just drink whatever dude, no one cares

    • Well... says:

      Back before I drank coffee I would order hot cocoa. Most coffee shops make it, and they usually make it in a way fancier way than I would at home, with whipped cream and chocolate shavings and so forth, so it was worth the $3 or whatever.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s an acquired taste. So start acquiring it. Being 100% serious here, I used to have this problem. Start out using a ton of cream and sugar and it won’t even taste like coffee. Cut back from there until you’re used to it. Problem solved.

    • souleater says:

      I used to not like coffee, tea or alcohol. but I was concerned I would end up in a social situation where it was socially expected and I would look weird.

      Instead of trying to find alternatives, go out once a week and get a small coffee with extra cream. I hate Starbucks, but I find Dunkin Doughnuts to not be too bitter. The extra cream should make it bearable while you develop a taste for it.

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      I think your impressions of the weirdness of not drinking coffee are off. If someone offers coffee. Just say, “I don’t drink coffee.” It’s not uncommon for people to not drink coffee. If they read anything into this then they are being the odd ones.

      I think I’d suggest actually saying “I don’t drink coffee,” rather than “I don’t like coffee,” though.

    • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

      I neglected to mention that I also don’t drink sugary things. So hot chocolate, coffee with sugar added, and fruit things are all out. There’s still diet cola, but I usually avoid drinking it from fountains as I figure there’s like a 1 in 5 chance that they accidentally put in the regular version instead (anyone got a study on this? 🙂 ) I suppose I could risk it once in a while though…

      • EchoChaos says:

        That makes tea an even stronger option, then.

        Not sweet tea, though.

      • Cliff says:

        Diet soda is even worse than regular soda, so don’t drink it. Go with soda water or something.

        • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

          Diet soda is even worse than regular soda.

          Why do you say that? It’s absurd.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The conclusion I’ve heard a lot is that with diet sodas you drink more of it because the artificial sweeteners lack whatever it is about sugar that makes you feel full

          • acymetric says:

            I’ve also seen (although I can’t say for sure this is true) that some of the artificial sweeteners can still cause diabetes related problems due to their similarity to sugar structurally, and also that some artificial sweeteners just aren’t terribly good for you.

            “Diet soda is worse than regular soda” may or may not be true, but it isn’t exactly an uncommonly held fringe position.

          • John Schilling says:

            The conclusion I’ve heard a lot is that with diet sodas you drink more of it…

            Plausible, but so what? Diet soda hydrates and, to many people at least, tastes good. Those are absolute virtues that are hard to saturate. It’s about as cheap as any beverage gets, for people trained to think that even plain water has to come in disposable brand-named plastic bottles. What’s the fundamental badness that is being magnified by “you drink more of it”?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            What’s the fundamental badness that is being magnified by “you drink more of it”?

            As I’ve seen it, the assertion boils down to:
            * Diet < Regular for calories per unit volume
            * Diet > Regular for calories per unit satiety

            So if you’re trying to lose weight, switching to diet can be worse

            Even if you aren’t, diet is also more expensive since the above implies
            * Diet > Regular for $ per unit satiety

            There’s also tangential arguments that can be made like certain artificial sweeteners being not good for you, more carbonation being bad for your teeth, producing more waste, etc etc

            Plausible, but so what? Diet soda hydrates and, to many people at least, tastes good. Those are absolute virtues that are hard to saturate. It’s about as cheap as any beverage gets, for people trained to think that even plain water has to come in disposable brand-named plastic bottles.

            It’s no better than regular soda on any of those criteria though, which is the point of comparison under discussion

          • The Nybbler says:

            Diet soda has typicaly less than 1/2 calorie per 12 oz. This page claims it’s actually 0.028 calories for Diet Coke. It doesn’t matter how much it sates or doesn’t sate you, you’re not going to drink enough additional Diet Coke to make up for the 139+ calories difference (per 12oz) between it a real Coke.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, Diet Soda is clearly better if you are focused on calorie intake. If you are looking at the other negatives of drinking soda, diet is at least as bad or possibly worse. How much worse, weighed against the benefit of fewer calories (and I guess the increased amount consumed if that part is true) gets you some kind of answer as to which is “worse”.

  14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    The Hugo Awards. None of my favorites won, but neither did any of the things I really hated.

    Stats and such

    There were only 3,097 ballots cast. There were 1800 nominating ballots.

    The works which didn’t get quite enough nominations to be on the ballot are listed at the end.

    • JPNunez says:

      Bah, missed my chance of winning a Hugo! I knew I should have written some fanfic for AO3 beforehand.

    • Deiseach says:

      What’s interesting to me in that list is how far away from SF fandom I’ve fallen; out of all those names, the only ones I recognise are Mary Robinette Kowal, Gardner Dozois and Ursula LeGuin, and I’ve never read any of Kowal’s work. Save for AO3, where I occasionally fossick for some fanfic fixes, but I find the tags nearly impossible to navigate and can never get the filters to work correctly, so I’m constantly frustrated by “Agh, no, I don’t want a six-universe crossover romance coffeeshop AU, whatever happened to good old wholesome murder and mayhem fic?”

      Sic transit gloria mundi!

      EDIT: Whoa, from that stats link, this is some intriguing thumb on the scale work:

      Best Related Work: the Administrators determined that Archive of Our Own is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text that it hosts, and therefore qualifies for the 2019 Hugos.

      Whit the what the who now? What are these “aspects other than the fictional text” that are primarily noteworthy? It would be nice if you told us what the criteria for you deciding to add them in for an award were! Haven’t the Sad and Rabid Puppies matters taught them by now that this kind of “we’re deciding who we’re nominating and awarding prizes to on our own criteria not in the rules” jugglery is a bad idea? I don’t object to AO3 being nominated or even winning, but if everyone thinks it won for being a fanfic site, then be upfront that yeah, this is why or no, these are the other reasons. Don’t cloak it in this kind of “it sorta looks like you guys are bending the rules to get your pet causes aboard” explanation that doesn’t explain anything.

      • AG says:

        I’d assume they mean the technical aspects, the code, the UI, the management/moderation structures, etc. AO3 isn’t winning for the actual content on it, it’s winning for all of the things that make hosting that content happen.

        They might also be referring to other things that the Organization of Transformative Works (OTW) does, including hosting journal articles on fandom and their legal work to protect fanfiction from IP action.

        btw you can now exclude crossovers in a fairly easy way. Excluding coffee shop AUs is still harder. And AO3’s culture (founder effects) is such that most of the fics there are relationship-centered by design. Building up an original character antagonist that would be a guest star in canon is too much work. Even the canon continuation epics are more interpolative than extrapolative, taking the existing ingredients and filling in every bit of the gaps, whereas canon (especially for TV) will be constantly adding new ingredients instead.
        The SpaceBattles ecosystem is where fic tends to be more plot-centered (and so actually include canon-typical murder and mayhem).

  15. EchoChaos says:

    Last thread we had a brief segue on feeling pride for one’s ancestry, triggered by BBA. I appreciate it.

    I can completely understand the “radical individualist” position that you are neither proud of or ashamed of your ancestors. It’s not mine, but it at least holds together and makes sense to me.

    What I can’t understand is a feeling of net shame from your ancestors. Literally nobody is descended from only people who have been evil/bad for the human race. The Germans have had a rough century, but even then they held the wall for the free world against communism, showed how a society can deal well with tragic mistakes and built the strongest economy in Europe. Not to mention once you go back before then they have the society that brought us Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Leibnitz, etc. Even with the last century, the Germans have been a net positive to the world.

    This holds true for EVERY people out there. Africans, Asians, Jews, Southerners, Yankees, Irishmen, etc.

    If you think that you are the one descendent of a people who is a net negative to humanity, I will suggest to you that perhaps you have a psychologically unhealthy view and need to seek help. And that help should not be someone who is going to enhance a negative view of yourself over your heritage.

    If, like me, you can’t choose radical individualism, look to the good things your people do and be proud of them.

    • Well... says:

      I thought Mozart was Austrian.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Original sin? It’s been on the individual to turn away from the disobedience they inherited and towards the light for generations. And you don’t get any sign you’ve done it until Judgement day. It doesn’t seem like that new of a concept. Frankly “net positive” to humanity only makes sense now that we no longer live in a “world grown old.”

      • EchoChaos says:

        Christians believe that humanity is placed here to do good and clearly has.

        John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

        Doing greater works than Christ is clearly a net good.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          But the goodness of your fore-bearers doesn’t change that you start with a negative balance in Heaven’s ledger (except for Mary, for Catholics). That it’s up to you within your life to choose redemption. The state is the same whether the world is net good or net bad, your inheritance is the same.

          Christianity certainly offers a solution – God put his finger on the scale when he died on the cross – Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy as defined by Christ/Godhead is the solution. I suspect the modern solution offered is the same with different terms.

          You said what you “can’t understand is a feeling of net shame” and all I can say is coming from a Christian background is I really, really can. Massa damnata.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think that’s a different topic, though. EchoChaos wasn’t talking about Original Sin, but about whether or not the world would be better-off if a specific race or ethnicity had never existed. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” is different to “All the problems in the world today are caused by white people screwing everybody else over”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, original sin doesn’t depend on recent ancestors, just Adam and Eve.

      • Viliam says:

        At least the original sin is supposed to apply to all humans equally (minus an exception or two). This is simply the Noble Savage myth.

    • Chalid says:

      Not going to name any names, but some people’s ancestors had to be worse than other people’s ancestors. And, obviously, people are going to have ancestors that were much worse than average. And if you’re going to tie your self-worth to your ancestors’ behavior, that’s something you could feel shame about.

      • EchoChaos says:

        And if you’re going to tie your self-worth to your ancestors’ behavior, that’s something you could feel shame about.

        I suppose. In the same way one could feel shame about not being the richest man in the world, but “below average” is very far from “net negative”.

        • Chalid says:

          More like how someone could feel poor if they’re earning $25k/year and the median income of their social group is $50k.

          • Randy M says:

            This is where niches come in handy. In the same way very very few can be high status if we measure on one metric, if we subdivide into multiple groups based on various criteria, we can have many more people feel high status. Ie, Scott is the based at whale-puns among bloggers. Heck, probably among on-line content creators generally. Etc.

            You don’t have to look at the net contribution of all your ancestors compared to all others. You’ve got some gem in there somewhere. A good portion of nuts too, of course.

      • Machine Interface says:

        If you go back far enough everyone is related to everyone, so everyone is equally descended from thieves, murderers, fraudsters and rapists. If all ancestry is shameful, none is.

        • Tenacious D says:

          This reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote (from Prince Caspian):

          “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan.
          “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
          Caspian bowed.

      • Aapje says:

        @Chalid

        but some people’s ancestors had to be worse than other people’s ancestors.

        Sure, but is it knowable which ones? Some cultures have way better record-keeping than others. Just because we know more crimes that were committed by some groups doesn’t mean that they committed more crimes. They (or their enemies) might just have recorded their crimes better.

        Is it knowable who were my ancestors? Genealogy only goes so far, especially for most of us who aren’t of blue blood. Is it knowable which modern ethnic group is (partially) the same as some group of perpetrators or victims?

        How do you account for power differences in society? When lords commit crimes, are only their ancestors related to these crimes by blood, or also the ancestors of serfs?

        What about the impact of technology? Is the Holocaust worse than other genocides because it killed so many, or were perpetrators of lesser genocides who were held back by poor technology and organisation just as bad, for having a similar intent, even if they lacked the means to make it a reality?

        It seems to me that most people’s assessment of how bad certain ethnic groups are is primarily a matter of very shitty history, if not outright propaganda.

        And if you’re going to tie your self-worth to your ancestors’ behavior, that’s something you could feel shame about.

        You can also tie your self-worth to the things that you preserve and celebrate today. The act of arguing that your group has an obligation to live up to an ideal set by your ancestors is arguably itself a moral (or immoral) act of today, not of the past.

        • Chalid says:

          These are all equally reasons not to feel pride in ancestry, either.

          (To be clear, I do take the individualist position – it doesn’t make sense to feel pride or shame in your ancestors. But I find feeling proud to be about as reasonable as feeling shame – people choose to feel proud because it makes them feel good about themselves, and perhaps because we can tell adaptive lives that promote group cohesion, and not because of some sort of objective assessment of the history.

    • One possible basis for pride in or shame for your ancestors might be the belief that you have much in common with them. If your ancestors fought heroically, you can see that as a reason to believe that, given similar circumstances, you would. You, after all, have inherited their genes and may well have been reared in their culture. Similarly for other features of their history, positive or negative.

    • Eponymous says:

      This wouldn’t be a good moment to air my views of the Serbs, would it?

    • Matt M says:

      I think “pride” is really the wrong way of looking at this issue. I am not “proud” of my ancestry. Why should I be? I did not contribute to it. It is a fluke of my birth. Entirely coincidental. Similarly, I am not “proud” of the achievements of my ancestors. Again, why should I be? Their achievements are their own – I did not contribute to them in any way.

      That said, I do have a lot of gratitude for my ancestors. Their hard work, sacrifice, and achievements allow me to live a life of unbelievably luxury compared to what most of them could ever imagine. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the things they have created (including myself) and the example they have set. I celebrate their achievements, but they remain their achievements. Now, I must create my own achievements. I must leave the world a better place so that my decedents can one day feel grateful to me.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Is “Pride” not a reasonable thing to call all those feelings?

        I am fairly sure that those marching in the San Francisco Pride parade that Scott highlighted aren’t claiming that they were responsible for it, but rather celebrating their achievements and exhorting their colleagues to do more of the same.

        • Viliam says:

          I am pretty sure that gratitude and pride are two different things. Gratitude is about what others did, and pride is about what you are.

          Even if you are a robot, so that “what your makers did” and “what you are” are kinda the same thing, still the gratitude is focused on their effort and sacrifice, while pride is focused on the outcome. For example, learning that your makers actually worked in much worse conditions than you originally thought, should increase your gratitude, but not your pride, because the result remains the same. On the other hand, learning that by sheer luck they have accidentally chosen the best of the few possible technical architectures, should increase your pride, but not your gratitude.

          • Aapje says:

            What you are is a descendant of your ancestors and a member of a culture steeped in history.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            and a member of a culture steeped in history

            Maybe on your side of the pond, I dunno about Americans… 😉

    • FLWAB says:

      Its a funny thing. Though I’m only 1/8th Norwegian (though 1/4 Scandinavian) Norway is the country I most “identify” with on an ancestral level. Growing up we’d make lefse, and the Norwegian ancestors where the only ones I’ve been able to track back to the point of immigration to the US. And I guess you could say I’m proud of being “Norwegian.” When I read about WWII and how Norway fought the Nazi’s against unbeatable odds, while Denmark rolled over, I take pride in that (even though neither I or my ancestors had anything to do with it). And yet when I read about Viking raids I don’t feel any shame that my ancestors were murderous, pillaging, raping, slavers. If I feel anything it’s pride that Vikings were so good at seamanship and such tough warriors!

      I don’t know why. Its the same feeling a get from team sports: I take pride in the Seahawks when they win, even though I have nothing to do with it and the only reason I root for them is where I grew up. It’s fun.

    • eric23 says:

      Should I be proud of my nation/people? I think that’s like asking, should I be proud of my family?

      If we are measuring families by their moral or creative accomplishments, mine is nothing special. I mean, perhaps it’s better than the average family, but there are surely millions of other families out there better than it. If you can even measure such things.

      But what I think “being proud of” my family really means is *wishing to associate* with my family. And I do wish to associate with my family, and they wish to associate with me. Having a close loving family is a good thing; it makes all of us happier and more secure and stronger.

      I think the same is true of “being proud of” my nation. It means wanting to take part in and contribute to the mutual solidarity of the nation. It does not imply a judgment of the nation’s accomplishments.

    • Protagoras says:

      I’ve got a book with my family’s genealogy from 1637 (when the first of us arrived in the new world) to the end of the 19th century. Lots of the short bios read like they’re trying very hard to make a fairly ordinary person sound impressive. But near the end, it talks about what some of them were doing in the 1860s, and I noticed that several wore blue, and not a single one wore gray. Probably mostly indicative of the fact that they were a bunch of Yankees, and many hadn’t moved out of New England, but still, I felt good about that.

  16. 2irons says:

    Does anyone have tips for how to best use time in meetings when you don’t care about listening to the content?

    I struggle to take information audibly so even if its a topic I’m interested in, if its not a conversation, I know I’m just going to go away and read about it – listening is just an energy sap. But I also find it fairly hard to completely block out what is being said – its a distraction to normal thinking. Can I do better than spasmodic day dreaming when my employment forces me into these situations?

    I have lots of tactics when I’m able to sit with a pen and paper – writing notes and writing for other projects is often hard to distinguish. But any tips for when that isn’t possible – standing room only meetings for instance – where I need to keep my eyes open and can’t look at a phone.

    1) Are there any forms of meditation a person can undertake with their eyes open, in a noisy setting?
    2) Perhaps with prior preparation – any productive uses of the time? Whether its building some mental agility or something with a practical benefit today (composing an email/thinking through a plan)
    3) Games – currently I’ll do some 3 digit multiplication or try and list animal/countries… – anyone have something different they do?

    • souleater says:

      I like to list all the prime numbers starting from 1
      I am learning Chinese, so I’ll try listening to the conversation and do translation, or think about how I could respond to the comment using chinese.

    • b_jonas says:

      If you are often required to attend such meetings, then you could consider to switch jobs.

      • 2irons says:

        No job is perfect in all areas. I’m not going to boast about mine but there are compensations to the fact I find it pragmatic to attend some pointless meetings. If I have given the impression it is particularly lacking in freedom, this is in error.

    • Garrett says:

      I play video games on my phone. I feel no need to keep up with the pretense that there is a large value in such wastes of time.

    • proyas says:

      During meetings where my attention and participation is unneeded, I usually do two things:
      1) Let my imagination run wild. Ponder whatever comes to mind and jot down notes about things to research once I get back to my desk and have computer access. (A few weeks ago, I went down the mental rabbit hole during a boring meeting and became intrigued with understanding how far down I’d have to dig beneath my house until temperatures reached 100 C, and it was uninhabitable for anything but extremophile bacteria.) Understandably, accessing your imagination can be hard in a distracting and boring environment like a meeting room, but try.
      2) Think about your to-do list of personal tasks and chores. Get them organized, think about supporting and ancillary tasks you need to do, and write it down (I keep a running to-do list in a Gmail draft). At least something productive will get done.

    • JRM says:

      I look at the clock and factor the number into primes. 2:30:27 is 23,027, and away. I picked that number semi-randomly and that would take a little bit (it might be prime.)

    • Randy M says:

      When I was an intern and in large group meetings, I would imagine who would win if the meeting devolved into an all out brawl.
      There’s so many additional constraints you could introduce (teams, weapons, surprise attacks) that the scenario can keep you mentally debating all meeting.

      That’s decidedly not better than spasmodic day dreaming, though, so no, no suggestions. Just hope is isn’t after lunch, in a warm, enclosed room, with the lights off for powerpoint. In that case I suggest bringing a pen to stab yourself awake periodically.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Bring a legal pad and a pencil or, if electronics are allowed, keep a notepad document open.

      Most meetings, even the dullest, have one or two important bits of information that you should jot down so that you don’t forget them later. So you will have some actual notes from the meeting if anyone asks, and you can come up with questions to show that you were paying attention.

      But the real value is that you can scribble or type away at whatever else you’re working on. I’ve planned experiments and D&D sessions during boring lab meetings and seminar talks before but to anyone looking it seems like I’m 100% engaged and taking careful notes. You can complete the illusion by asking one or two questions from the useful notes you jotted down.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Publish and Perish, a humorous horror novel, has a scene of mayhem at a meeting that I suspect was at least initially developed at a dull meeting.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      Try not showing up and seeing if anyone cares. If you’re called on it, say you were deep into work and lost track of time. YMMV, but there were two monthly meetings in a previous job that I went to twice, decided they weren’t useful, and never went to again. I never got in trouble.

  17. Watchman says:

    If there is a culture war going on, why do I not feel engaged? I’m hardly averse to argument. Often I have to remind myself others have valid viewpoints as well. I see certain viewpoints as, if not evil, then severely misguided. Yet I see the culture war and rarely see common sense. I certainly don’t see the need to take up arms.

    One side seems to want a strong collectivist state to promote their individual freedo; as long as that freedom complies with groupthink. The other side claims to want a weak state to guarantee that everyone has the opportunity to live life in an approved manner; they then try and claim the mantra of freedom.

    I read comments on abortion by libertarians that somehow ignore the fact that they are advocating restricting the freedom of another human over their own body, and the only justification for this seems to be a moralistic consequences of their own action thing: would a libertarian also say we should not offer help to someone who has injured themselves in a hunting accident? Libertarians claim do no harm as a motto then advocate for gun ownership.

    Turning my gaze to the other side, I despair of LBGTQ(+) activists advocating a form of government, socialism, which has historically persecuted homosexuality and promoted the ideal family. Race activists seem to be calling for government to define and protect identities, an act for which I can’t find a positive historical example that hasn’t led to persecution and injustice.

    I can sit here and snipe at both sides, from the deep foliage of believing in freedom and that government is the enemy (sometimes necessary) of freedom. I can launch attacks from the moral heights of believing it is for everyone to define and change their identity as they wish. But why should i? Is the culture war even relevant to those of us who aren’t ‘conservatives’ or ‘liberals’? Why do most of us put up with people fighting from illogical and partial positions and trying to define our lives?

    Maybe I’ve missed my calling. Maybe I should have become a mercenary in the culture wars, a natural liberal leading conservatives; a non-radical paying lip service to the Twitter mob’s cause de jour. For, looking down on this war, it appears the mercenaries not the combatants are the winners. The war eats it’s own commanders and destroys it’s own heroes. And until the watching hoards say enough, the culture war serves only the opportunist.

    • Matt M says:

      Is the culture war even relevant to those of us who aren’t ‘conservatives’ or ‘liberals’?

      If one side ever actually “wins”, they won’t tolerate neutrals for long. You’ll be forced to bend the knee to one corrupt ruler or another.

      So from the perspective of a neutral, the continued existence of the CW is a net benefit. Team red is the only thing stopping team blue from stomping team grey out of existence, and vice versa. So long as they are fighting each other, they aren’t fighting you.

    • MorningGaul says:

      I read comments on abortion by libertarians that somehow ignore the fact that they are advocating restricting the freedom of another human over their own body, and the only justification for this seems to be a moralistic consequences of their own action thing: would a libertarian also say we should not offer help to someone who has injured themselves in a hunting accident? Libertarians claim do no harm as a motto then advocate for gun ownership.

      I dont remember a libertarian willing to restrict the right to get an abortion. What I did see, is libertarians refusing to collectivise the cost of abortions, or obligating doctors to perform acts they disagree with.

      The same way, someone injuring himself during his hobby is his problem. I see no issue with giving him assistance, but the cost of healing him is his, and should not be payed by a single-payer insurance, lest subsidising risk-taking or self destructing madmen and taxing careful and boring working men.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        My understanding is that while the US Libertarian party has a set stance on abortion, actual libertarians in the US are divided on the issue. This makes sense to me–what stance a principled libertarian takes on abortion should depend on the ontology of fetuses (potentially varying based on their stage of development). The harm principle and the natural law would preclude abortion if a fetus is a person deserving of the same natural rights as an American citizen, (or full person, or whatever), but they would preclude interference in someone’s right to have an abortion if the fetus (sufficiently) lacks those rights. Since the question “To what degree are fetuses persons?” is roughly orthogonal to “To what degree is libertarianism the best principle by which to organize society?”, knowing that a person is libertarian shouldn’t tell you very much about their opinions on abortion, and vice versa.

      • souleater says:

        I’m a libertarian willing to restrict the right to get an abortion!

        I recognize that the woman is having her freedoms restricted, and I don’t feel good about that. But when a woman is “8.5 months pregnant though means other than rape or incest”* and wants to abort, either her right to bodily autonomy will be violated, or the baby’s right to life will be violated.
        On balance,
        I consider the bodily autonomy violation to be temporary, and the right to life violation to be permanent.
        I think the woman made choices to create this situation, while the baby didn’t choose to be conceived, so I think allowing the mothers autonomy to be violated is the lesser of two evils.
        I don’t feel great about it, but with current levels of technology, there are no easy answers.

        *The strongest possible version of my argument

        • Watchman says:

          I would support the right of a woman to terminate whenever. If doctors judge the foetus to be viable this could be a caesarean rather than an actual abortion, but the right not to carry another person should be absolute not conditional.

          It’s this kind of moral ambiguity that gets me. If you believe the woman has rights then these trump the right of the state to dictate to her what she can do. If you believe the foetus has more rights than the host, then can you also argue that the state shouldn’t give special privileges to other groups who it claims can’t look after themselves at the expense of someone else. The attempt to balance incompatible viewpoints is just incomprehensible. Abortion is fine, whenever (subject to my proviso above), or it is not. And if it is not you’re taking a collectivist position that the body of a woman belongs to society not herself…

          • Nick says:

            The right to not be murdered is a “special privilege” being given to a “group” and not individuals, whom the state “claims” can’t look after themselves? Are you hearing yourself?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Do you think that there is a right for parents to leave their children without food and clothes by the side of the street?

            If there isn’t (and I don’t think there is), why would it be any more allowable to kill a child with even less recourse to other charity?

          • baconbits9 says:

            but the right not to carry another person should be absolute not conditional.

            This is difficult to put into practice or to draw from first principles outside of stating that a women ought to be able to choose if she gets pregnant or not. There is a large difference between having a right not to carry another person and having a right not to have to continue carrying another person. The state ought not to mandate that I go to the park and offer piggy back rides to any kid who wants it, but if I go and offer one of my own volition my right to no longer carry the child is tempered by the necessity that I find a safe way to put it down first.

            This is a standard situation in most moral codes, you have the right not to work for someone, but that doesn’t mean you have to right to break a contract with someone after agreeing to work for them. To continue to is different than to begin with.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            If you believe the foetus has more rights than the host

            Pro-life contends that the fetus and the mother have the same rights, but that the right of the fetus being violated by an abortion (life) is more important than the right of the woman being violated by restricting abortion (liberty). Pro-choice generally does not dispute that life is more important than liberty, but usually contends that the fetus either does not have rights, or that its claim to rights is subordinate to the mother’s. No side claims that the fetus somehow has more rights than the mother.

            Remember, pro-life sees the fetus to be a fully-fledged person. If you would like to understand their position better, take any argument in favor of abortion and use it to argue for infanticide. If the result seems wrong, you now understand why people oppose abortion.

            (If you are in favor of infanticide, then fair enough, but recognize that your opinion is a tiny minority. In this case, claiming you don’t understand why people would feel otherwise mostly just shows a massive failure on your part to correctly model the world, rather than any deficiency in others.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As I understand it, a lot of late term abortions are matters of medical necessity– the life and health of the woman are at stake.

            I haven’t seen arguments for and against late-term caesareans for viable fetuses, but that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

          • Randy M says:

            If doctors judge the foetus to be viable this could be a caesarean rather than an actual abortion

            Do you mean you would require the woman at 36 weeks pregnant to carry to term or have a C-Section? Because if so, that’s more pro-life than the current rules, more in line with some European countries aiui.

            The state ought not to mandate that I go to the park and offer piggy back rides to any kid who wants it, but if I go and offer one of my own volition my right to no longer carry the child is tempered by the necessity that I find a safe way to put it down first.

            Hopefully Uber is also bound by similar provisions!

            I haven’t seen arguments for and against late-term caesareans for viable fetuses, but that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

            People who argue on the basis of bodily autonomy aren’t going to agree to the imposition of C-Section anymore than the imposition of C-Section or vaginal birth.

          • Watchman says:

            Nick: Murder presupposes that a foetus has the rights of a living person. As they’re not a living person it might not surprise you to find out I don’t think this position is valid (it’s also over emotive, never a sensible idea).

            Echo Chaos. If you choose to have the child it’s your responsibility yes. But we’re discussing foetuses here not children, and choosing not to have the child. Also I do favour adoption of unwanted viable foetuses you’ll note.

            Baconbits9: if you’re going to invoke contract here, who is the contract with? The foetus has no standing not being a legal person. Also, I can choose to put the child in the park down whenever and have no obligation if I do keep carrying them to do so for another eighteen years. And I can break a contract of employment you know: indenture is not allowed any more.

            All three of you have made recourse to arguments whereby a foetus is accorded rights and actions only available to a living human. You’ve basically made a huge assumption there, without justifying it: I counter that a foetus is not a living human but only potentially might be, and that to do harm to a living person to the benefit of a potential person is clearly wrong. To allow the state to do this seems insane.

          • John Schilling says:

            Murder presupposes that a foetus has the rights of a living person. As they’re not a living person it might not surprise you to find out I don’t think this position is valid (it’s also over emotive, never a sensible idea).

            S/foetus/n-word, and you’ve got a defense of lynching that is just as valid as your defense of elective abortion. Which is to say, dependent on a claim which is not universally accepted as fact, and so asserting it as an unsupported fact persuades no one and enlightens no one. So what’s the point?

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Watchman

            You are swapping your arguments, your responses here are about the current legal climate, not a justification for that climate which is what your previous response was.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Watchman

            Correct, I am making that assumption. Which is the exact point that souleater is making.

            If the fetus isn’t a human child, then abortion is a libertarian position. If it is, then banning abortion is a libertarian position.

            There isn’t any moral ambiguity in what he is saying.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Broke: “if we illegalize late-term abortions, they won’t happen.”

            Woke: “if we make people bear the costs of their late-term abortions, they won’t happen.”

            Bespoke: “if we would just allow children to be bought and sold on an open market, people’s rational economic self-interest would mean abortions wouldn’t happen.

            Alternatively:

            Broke: late-term abortions are OK because not allowing them infringes on women’s rights.

            Woke: late-term abortions are OK because I don’t trust the state to regulate them effectively.

            Bespoke: late-term abortions are OK because fetuses are willing to pay less to live then pregnant women are willing to pay to abort.

          • Deiseach says:

            You say you don’t particularly feel the need to wage the culture war and that you find much to criticise on both sides, but you seem to have some strong opinions of your own and so far you seem happy enough to fight about abortion.

            If you really don’t feel constrained to be a soldier in the battle, why bring that topic up? Why tell us your opinion about it? Don’t fight the wars on here, please!

          • Witness says:

            the right not to carry another person should be absolute not conditional.

            In general, no more than one right can be absolute. It seems odd that anybody would pick this to be the one.

          • DinoNerd says:

            S/foetus/n-word, and you’ve got a defense of lynching that is just as valid as your defense of elective abortion.

            OK, at this point I just have to say it.

            I’m suprised that someone hasn’t come out with a right-to-life argument that explicitly values males more than females. Perhaps to the tune of a (white) woman being 3/5 of a (white male) person.

            I’m old enough that in my political experience, most right-to-life folks also opposed:
            – contraception
            – accurate sex education
            – welfare, particularly for unwed mothers

            Those positions are *still* all associated with the same US political party/”tribe”.

            I’ve known a few respectable right-to-lifers, but most acted as if they wanted to punish sexually active girls and women, and any stick would do to beat them with.

            So to right-to-lifers in general – I’ll believe you actually care about the fetus, when I see you providing prenatal care etc. I’ll believe you care about the (potential) mother when I see you providing contraceptives, sex education etc.

            If you meerely do nothing to oppose those things, I’ll decide I don’t know your real motives – regardless of what you may claim.

            And if you take all the above positions, I’m going to conclude you care nothing for the baby.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DinoNerd

            Christian charities already spend enormous amounts on adoption support.

            Christians adopt so many babies that there are effectively no available healthy newborns for adoption in the entire United States and prospective adoptive parents must adopt either older children or go international.

            Christian charities provide free pre-natal care in basically any city in America.

            As for sex-ed and contraception, those are generally doctrinally disallowed or disfavored.

            So unless your criteria is that they must support government intervention, Christians are already doing exactly what you are requesting.

            And of course, just because I don’t take on the responsibility of feeding any specific child in the world doesn’t mean I think it should be legal to murder him/her.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m suprised that someone hasn’t come out with a right-to-life argument that explicitly values males more than females. Perhaps to the tune of a (white) woman being 3/5 of a (white male) person.

            And yet they haven’t, not even the ones who make foot-in-mouth gaffes and blurt out uncensored opinions in other contexts.

            Which makes your post read as basically: “I am surprised at how poorly my mental model of right-to-life Red Tribe people predicted their actual behavior. Now let me explain to you my mental model of right-to-life Red Tribe…”

            A: No, not interested, and

            B: Maybe they don’t actually value males more than females.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m old enough that in my political experience, most right-to-life folks also opposed:
            – contraception

            Those positions are *still* all associated with the same US political party/”tribe”.

            I call BS. This is certainly not the position of the current Republican Party, and I would like to see some sourcing that it was the dominant position of that tribe in your lifetime. Yes, the Pope opposes contraception, but that doesn’t make it the position of 80% of red tribe.

            I bet when we dig down it’s going to be something along the lines of “they don’t want to force nuns to buy birth control.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            I don’t know DinoNerd’s age, but I doubt he was around for the 1873 Comstock Act.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Jaskologist

            The state of Massachusetts tried to enforce a ban on contraception in the 70s. IIRC DinoNerd is an older poster, but he can speak for himself. My point is that acceptance of “universal access to contraceptives” is a fairly recent development.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ DinoNerd:

            If so-called “pro-choice” people are really pro-choice, why is the political tribe which supports abortion also the one that tends to oppose my choice whether or not to own a gun, or bake a gay wedding cake, or pay for my employees’ contraception? Looks like they’re not really pro-choice, just pro-killing, and any stick will do to beat the innocent with.

            ^ See, I can come up with ridiculous straw-man arguments too! Now what?

          • Cliff says:

            Up until very recently, both Dems and Reps were split almost 50/50 (I think less than 60/40) on abortion. So it’s nonsensical to say that pro-life is Republican ideology and always has been. Only very recently has the pro-life movement been substantially more Rep than Dem. By the way, libertarians are about 80% pro-choice.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @everyone – yeah, the comparison with arguments in support of lynching rather caused me to lose my temper.

            However, right-to-life people cannot take credit for everything done by Christians.

            And requiring that things be done by charities – not government – or not done at all – is no more helpful than the reverse.

            Christian charities provide free pre-natal care in basically any city in America.

            There’s also a question of the adequacy of level of support, when combined with preventing alternate ways of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy – or for that matter with one where you’d want to keep the child, if only you could afford to.

            I get the decided impression that one of the many reasons the US has a shamefully high rate of maternal and newborn death (presumably even when the child is wanted) is because there isn’t enough prenatal care available over all. And I’d be utterly unsurprised to find it concentrated in place that are difficult for some people to reach, etc..

            @EchoChaos

            Christians adopt so many babies that there are effectively no available healthy newborns for adoption in the entire United States and prospective adoptive parents must adopt either older children or go international.

            Is the above true, or would you need to insert the word “white” to make it true? (That’s a question, not a snark; google didn’t seem able to find an answer to it.)

            @everyone again

            In the news today, we have a woman who served time in prison for experiencing a miscarriage. (Charged reduced from “inducing an abortion” to “aggravated murder”.) This wasn’t in the US – it was in El salvador, a country with extremely strong anti-abortion laws. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49406029

            We also have a recent case in Alabama, where a woman was charged with manslaughter for starting an argument that resulted in her being shot in the stomach, killing her unborn baby. https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/27/us/alabama-pregnant-woman-shot-in-stomach-manslaughter-indictment-trnd/index.html

            To me, these are both right-to-fetal-life in action. And then we also have American lawmaker(s?), who believe that pregnancy cannot possibly result from rape. I.e. if you wind up pregnant, then it wasn’t really rape.

            Admittedly, these are not the only – or even the most common – examples of anti-abortion beliefs and behaviour. But they remain relevant.

          • Randy M says:

            Is the above true, or would you need to insert the word “white” to make it true? (That’s a question, not a snark; google didn’t seem able to find an answer to it.)

            New pastor at my church has two non-white adopted children. It’s possible you can find minority children for adoption but given that people go to China or Africa for babies, I wouldn’t assume minority children in America are being aborted due to lack of adoption opportunities, despite the higher rates in those demographics.

          • ana53294 says:

            @DinoNerd

            No “white” requirement, but there is a “healthy”* requirement, for a relatively low value of “healthy”.

            Walking, talking, being able to become an independent adult, is not required for adoption. Since AIDS became manageable, it doesn’t scare that many people; neither do things like Down syndrome or other survivable diseases/conditions.

            Even babies that do not fulfill this really low bar for healthy get adopted.

            And if the US ever experiences an absence of US citizens willing to adopt US black babies, there are always Dutch** or other European families willing to adopt a black baby within a clear legal system.

            From what I’ve heard, one of the difficulties of placing black babies is the racial preferences of social workers, who find it suspicious and don’t like white kids adopting minority kids (white saviour complex and stuff).

            Although I haven’t been able to find clear statistics on how many babies there are, that are actually available for adoption, and their health status, you can look at the babies that are actually available for adoption; if you put <3 y.o. and no health issues as a condition, most agencies won't have available kids for adoption.

            The issue that frequently muddles a lot of statistics I have seen, with scary titles such as "hundreds of thousands of kids remain in foster system until adulthood", is that journalists muddle the issue. A kid being in the foster system does not mean the kid is adoptable; most frequently, for younger kids, they aren't, that's why nobody adopted them. And for various reasons, even the most open-hearted Christian family could be more wary to foster a kid than to adopt a kid, unless they intend to make fostering their way of life. By which I don't mean to necessarily make a living out of it; just dedicate a significant part of their family's resources to fostering kids, who come and go.

            *Is able to breathe and eat on their own; is likely to survive until adulthood; is not prone to agressive self harm or harming others; can communicate, express love.

            **For some reason, I found much more articles about Dutch than other European nations; I guess, like in other such cases, somebody tried it, they saw how much easier it was, passed it through the grapevine, and now quite a few Dutch families have adopted African-American babies.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DinoNerd

            You do not need to insert white. Essentially all healthy babies put up for adoption in the United States are adopted. We have demand that far outstrips the supply. The unadopted pool of children are either older or have some health problem.

            As for the rest, you are essentially arguing that you need to be in favor of government intervention in order to be against killing babies. That is not a position I find particularly compelling. That I don’t think I should be required to pay for someone doesn’t mean you’re allowed to kill that person.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Megan McArdle dove into the numbers on this a while back:

            There are, to a first approximation, zero healthy adoptable babies in the US foster care system. Of the 400,000 kids in the system, as Ezra points out, 300,000 can’t be adopted because there’s a relative still in the picture who hopes to get that kid back. Of the 100,000 who can be adopted, very few of them fit the criteria that most couples (including gay ones) have for adoption:

            1) They are young enough that they

            a) will almost certainly bond with you as a parent

            b) have not developed some severe behavioral problems as a result of their chaotic home environment

            c) will not be stricken with such grief over the loss of their parent that they actively reject you in order to maintain their bond with their lost parent

            2) They do not have a severe developmental disability

            3) They do not come with several other siblings who have to be adopted out with them (or even worse, aren’t yet available to be adopted out)

          • John Schilling says:

            The state of Massachusetts tried to enforce a ban on contraception in the 70s.

            That’s not entirely clear; Baird looks to have been a cherrypicked test case and it’s possible “the state of Massachusetts” was just trying to get a clear precedent that they didn’t have to enforce contraception bans any more. But OK, maybe Eisenstadt really meant it.

            There’s still a huge leap between “I can find a record of someone on the other tribe(*) trying to do this in 1972” and “In my experience (mostly 1973-2019) most other-tribe people wanted this, and it is *still* associated with the other tribe”.

            Jaskologist is right, this is not the position of the current Republican Party and/or “red tribe” generally, and it has not been for several decades at least. To claim otherwise is an indefensible error of fact.

            * Except for the slight detail that Eisenstadt self-identified as a progressive Democrat and campaigned for e.g. school desegregation.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            @DinoNerd

            I would prefer less of this

            I’m suprised that someone hasn’t come out with a right-to-life argument that explicitly values males more than females. Perhaps to the tune of a (white) woman being 3/5 of a (white male) person.

            Is the above true, or would you need to insert the word “white” to make it true? (That’s a question, not a snark; google didn’t seem able to find an answer to it.)

            where you baselessly impugn the people you’re arguing against as only caring about white people. It can only add heat and not light to the discussion, and comes off as quite hostile.

          • Garrett says:

            > I get the decided impression that one of the many reasons the US has a shamefully high rate of maternal and newborn death (presumably even when the child is wanted) is because there isn’t enough prenatal care available over all.

            Have you done any research in this area. From my limited experience in EMS and clinical rotations, the biggest impacts seem to be:
            * People too dumb to know how babby is made. Even those who’ve already been pregnant and given birth several times as adults (seen it).
            * People too fat to know that they have a baby inside of them.
            * People who like heroin/meth more than they do the health of their child.

            Now that I think of it, this past weekend was the first time I’d encountered a woman in this context who was pregnant, knew she was pregnant, and had bothered to seek out pre-natal care.

            A quick search shows that you can get a year’s worth of prenatal vitamins for about $15.

            Childbirth complications are frequently due to maternal hypertension (frequently caused by being overweight) and maternal diabetes (frequently caused by the same things as being overweight). Also, not being aware of being pregnant so as to know due date and have delivery plans.

            There are also differences in how “births” and thus “deaths” are calculated. The US law roughly considers a life to begin at the moment the fetus is expelled from the mother and takes a breath, even if that pregnancy is non-viable. So a miscarriage at 21 weeks with a neonate who struggles to breathe for 30 minutes counts as having both been born and died, even if there was no possibility for survival, given current medical science. In other countries, this would have been recorded as a miscarriage rather than neonatal mortality. Cuba apparently solves its problem by effectively mandating the abortion of all risky pregnancies.

        • DarkTigger says:

          @The original Mr. X
          Because the choice we are talking about, is only the choice about having an abortion, since the term is a direct answer to “pro-life”.

      • bullseye says:

        Ron Paul is very willing to restrict the right to get an abortion.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      For the most part, the kind of culture war skirmishes that end up in the news won’t directly impact your life. Twitter is only relevant if you or someone you know is on blast, which is relatively unlikely, and most newsworthy bits of activism are happening in ways or in places where it is very unlikely to effect you.

      The things that you need to be aware of are the shifts in laws, regulations, or institutional norms which these people are pushing. So, for example, #metoo probably didn’t target you or anyone you knew personally but the change in the climate around sexual harassment accusations means that you’d be wise to adopt the Graham Rule. Similarly, the push for affirmative consent standards was a big deal for college students ten years ago but with recent rumblings from the ALA it could be a matter of just a few years before states begin to outlaw sex between neurotypical people.

      That’s why these things matter. It’s fine to laugh at activists, but it’s important to remember that the demands of activists frequently end up translating into policy that you have to live under.

      • Aapje says:

        What did the American Library Association do?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I messed up the acronym, that should be the ABA or American Bar Association.

          • DarkTigger says:

            And what are they doing now?

          • Randy M says:

            I believe that they almost passed a resolution supporting affirmative consent being made (or being interpreted as?) the law for legal cases of rape.

            I think it was on the motte reddit that there was some discussion whether or not that changes presumption of innocence or not.

      • Watchman says:

        I suppose one of the thoughts that underlie whatever my above post actually was (I just read some bits as poetry which concerned me…) is more a question of why those of us not fighting slow thus though. Why is the ALA (I’m even less sure who they are than Aapje) able to suggest limits on sexual activity without being roundly abused? Why are the moral majority (seemingly misnamed) able to impose their religious understanding of right and wrong on entire populations?

        Maybe the question is where is the movement or the institution that tells the extremists to go away and leave the adults alone?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I mutilated the acronym, that should be the ABA or American Bar Association not the ALA which as far as I know has no stance on Affirmative Consent.

          Maybe the question is where is the movement or the institution that tells the extremists to go away and leave the adults alone?

          These days, those people are known as “conservatives.” Back in the Bush administration you could be a libertarian and not conservative, but they’ve long since been thrown into the pit with the rest of us.

          Nassim Taleb coined a term for an old idea, what he calls the “dictatorship of the small minority.” Roughly 8% of the country’s population can be classified as progressive activists, the people who actually care about this stuff. The problem is, they really really care about it while most of the rest of the country is indifferent. Public choice theory tells us that a small group gaining a concentrated benefit can often defeat a much larger group suffering a diffuse harm. So it’s not a surprise that they’re able to push through all kinds of insanity that the general public disagrees with.

          • Watchman says:

            Nabil,

            From where I sit conservatives, with their lip service towards freedom and refusal to allow basically sensible ideas implementing freedom such as gay marriage are no more a sensible option than liberals. I’m certainly not prepared to hang around in a pit with them, as they are fighting this silly war.

            If you’re saying that the culture war has forced every organisation other than perhaps the ALA to take sides, then my question is why? What allows this polarisation when most people are basically not committed to the fight? And how do we use the ALA’s possible neutrality to push back at this polarisation?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m certainly not prepared to hang around in a pit with them

            I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you aren’t the one who decides whether you get thrown into the pit. The people who decide whether you’re a conservative or not aren’t very interested in your self-identification.

            If you’re saying that the culture war has forced every organisation other than perhaps the ALA to take sides, then my question is why? What allows this polarisation when most people are basically not committed to the fight?

            See my second paragraph above.

            If most people aren’t committed to the fight, but a minority are highly committed, that minority is going to win pretty much by default. That’s how politics works, whether you’re talking about electoral corporate or academic politics.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The ALA has taken sides; like most formerly liberal organizations, they’ve gone woke.

            There really are no neutrals. There’s only those who are not (yet) involved.

          • Nick says:

            @The Nybbler
            Heh, yeah, I was wondering when someone was going to point this out. Dreher’s mentioned the American Library Association a number of times on his blog.

    • Urstoff says:

      Seems like a good thing. The culture war has an outsized mindshare on Twitter (as well as with many commenters here). Stay off Twitter, enjoy your life, and you will probably never encounter a culture war artifact in actual life.

      • DarkTigger says:

        That would be a lot easier if not something like 60% of all journalists were on twitter (oposed to <10% of general society) and they claim it is incredibly important to them to a) be on Twitter b) tell us what happens there.

        • Randy M says:

          Ergo, what they think of as important news is often not, so you can safely avoid newspapers and news broadcasts.

          • Matt M says:

            Structuring your life in such a way as to avoid all content produced by professional journalists working for large corporations strikes me as something that would probably increase one’s net knowledge – if only by failing to take in false information.

          • Randy M says:

            I wouldn’t say I structure my life that way, but I don’t have broadcast television nor a pet, so I don’t see much of either.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: I try to do that. I haven’t had TV service for most of my adult life, and I don’t have professional journalism businesses in my feed. I will confess to sometimes Googling MSM stories and sharing links here!

      • Watchman says:

        I work in a university. A UK one, so not so bad as some, but still a university…

        • Urstoff says:

          Ha, I was going to caveat my post with “unless you work at a university”, although some are definitely worse than others. I work at a mid-level state university, and there’s not much woke conflict here; I imagine it would be much worse at a liberal arts college.

      • I saw a post on twitter saying this mindset is like a monk in the early 16th century telling other people that pamphlets aren’t real life. What happens on social media is a precursor to “real life”, not it’s own separate thing.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Monk sees pamphlet nailed to Wittenberg church door
          “Oh bother.”

        • Urstoff says:

          An analogy that uses events we understand with historical hindsight to make future predictions doesn’t seem on very stable ground to me.

          • Of course, it doesn’t prove anything but it’s a look from the outside view. When Martin Luther wrote the 95 theses, it might have looked like an intellectual and esoteric argument that meant nothing to the average man. But thanks to the printing press, his influence spread wide and the whole Reformation and all its consequences were heavily aided by the invention.

            The internet is still fairly new and immature, which is why you might think its not “real”. But its influence is growing rapidly and the things that happen there are starting to affect the world outside of it. It’s often joked that Trump got “memed” in to the presidency and there is certainly some truth there. The internet and its culture is becoming ubiquitous and as time goes on, the idea that the internet isn’t a reflection of reality is harder to maintain.

          • Urstoff says:

            I’m not sure what “reflection of reality” means. Woke Twitter is not representative of most places or most people you meet (unless you work at Oberlin). Might the world become more like woke twitter? Perhaps, perhaps not. Neither of which seems a reason to waste time thinking about culture war nonsense if you’d rather not.

          • Woke twitter is normality in universities(students as well as faculty), the media and Hollywood. It seeps more in to our lives through movies/tv shows, HR departments and Antifa protests. When a MAGA-hat customer is kicked out of a business, that’s woke twitter manifested. You can choose to ignore what happens on the internet, but when some new development happens out here, that’s where it comes from.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Woke twitter is normality in universities(students as well as faculty), the media and Hollywood. It seeps more in to our lives through movies/tv shows, HR departments and Antifa protests. When a MAGA-hat customer is kicked out of a business, that’s woke twitter manifested. You can choose to ignore what happens on the internet, but when some new development happens out here, that’s where it comes from.

            +1
            I’m making plans to move out of Portland because it’s too similar to Woke Twitter. The City Council cares more about their pronouns than law enforcement in neighborhoods poorer than the ones the five of them live in.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From Ada Palmer, who says that information revolutions give a new advantage to fringe positions.

            ************************

            Censorship & Information Control In Information Revolutions

            2002 Penguin commemorative edition of 1984 with the title and Orwell’s name blacked out as if censored, a tribute to the book’s unique contributions to discourse about censorship.
            An exhibition and video series at The University of Chicago

            Why do people censor? For ambition? Religion? Profit? Power? Fear? This global history of attempts to control or silence information, from antiquity’s earliest written records to our new digital world, examines how censorship has worked, thrived, or failed in different times and places, and shows how real censorship movements tend to be very different from the centralized, methodical, top-down censorship depicted in Orwell’s 1984, which so dominates how we imagine censorship today. From indexes of forbidden books, to manuscripts with passages inked out by Church Inquisitors, to comics and pornography, to self-censorship and the subtle censorship of manipulating translations or teaching biased histories, the banned and challenged materials in this exhibit will challenge you to answer: how do you define what is and isn’t censorship?

          • Matt M says:

            You guys are arguing as if it’s a binary, but I’d suggest that both of the following statements can easily be true:

            1. Current Twitter discourse is not at all representative of popular opinion in general.

            2. Current Twitter discourse is not completely and entirely irrelevant, because although the people on Twitter are a minority, they are a highly powerful and influential minority whose opinions are likely the vanguard of what is to come.

            In other words, it’s dumb to say “Trump can’t win re-election, because everyone on Twitter hates him.” But it’s far less dumb to say “10 years from now, we will likely have hate speech laws in the US, because everyone on Twitter wants them.”

            Similarly, the timeline from “Luther nails the 95 theses to the door” and “Average peasant has their life directly affected by these sorts of things” was probably years/decades (depending on where the peasant lived)

          • Urstoff says:

            When a MAGA-hat customer is kicked out of a business, that’s woke twitter manifested. You can choose to ignore what happens on the internet, but when some new development happens out here, that’s where it comes from.

            This again is asserting more than you can prove. That woke twitter agrees with something doesn’t mean that woke twitter is the cause. I can envision many reasons why a business might want to kick out someone for wearing a MAGA hat, and those reasons are traced to association with Trump rather than woke twitter. It doesn’t take being a member of woke twitter to have an extreme distaste for Trump and those who publicly and loudly endorse him.

            It’s also a matter of counting the hits and ignoring the misses. A million trends rise and die on the internet and have no impact on the greater culture. Likewise, woke twitter has a million pet causes and internecine feuds that will never find their way into the larger culture. That at some point one does happen to gain traction is not proof of the internet’s (and woke twitter’s in particular) cultural domination.

          • Randy M says:

            I can envision many reasons why a business might want to kick out someone for wearing a MAGA hat, and those reasons are traced to association with Trump rather than woke twitter.

            I don’t think it is wanting to exclude the political opponent from daily life that is new or twitter facilitated, but feeling as if you are doing something positive for doing so.

            If you can turn to social media to get get praise for this action, or have seen such before, then you are more likely to act on that whim.

            Another way social media might be encouraging this trend is by training people to block, rather than tolerate, speech that they personally find offensive.

            But then, maybe we only think this is a trend because of social media reporting on such stories? It could be there were a lot of Clinton or Bush supporters shunned, but no one to announce this individual action to the world.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I suspect that twitter is acting as a social catalyst. It’s facilitating and exacerbating intellectual trends that began before social media was a thing.

            It’s definitely making everyone more fanatical, which may in turn accelerate the pace at which real life is affected.

            But at a bare minimum it’s a window into what future main stream culture/entertainment as well as education/legislation will look like. Since, as others have stated, the dedicated minority wins out over the indifferent majority.

          • lvlln says:

            When a MAGA-hat customer is kicked out of a business, that’s woke twitter manifested. You can choose to ignore what happens on the internet, but when some new development happens out here, that’s where it comes from.

            This again is asserting more than you can prove. That woke twitter agrees with something doesn’t mean that woke twitter is the cause. I can envision many reasons why a business might want to kick out someone for wearing a MAGA hat, and those reasons are traced to association with Trump rather than woke twitter. It doesn’t take being a member of woke twitter to have an extreme distaste for Trump and those who publicly and loudly endorse him.

            I don’t think the point is that the business owner is a member of woke Twitter. Indeed, she might not even know what Twitter is or what “woke” refers to in this context. The point is that the behavior of a business owner kicking out someone for wearing a MAGA hat comes from the same cluster of beliefs and ideology from which “woke Twitter” comes. There’s a universe of difference between having extreme distaste for someone on the basis of their overt political beliefs and having the belief that it’s righteous and good to break standards of common decency and civility in order to deny such a person your commercial services. That latter belief is obviously something that has existed as long as politics has existed (which is as long as beliefs have existed), but in recent history, that belief had been effectively suppressed, and it’s only in really recent history that the suppression has been explicitly fought back against, by that ideology cluster behind woke Twitter. It’s not that woke Twitter is literally from where such behavior comes, it’s that woke Twitter offers a window into the ideology from where such behavior comes.

          • Urstoff says:

            The point is that the behavior of a business owner kicking out someone for wearing a MAGA hat comes from the same cluster of beliefs and ideology from which “woke Twitter” comes.

            That, of course, depends on the particulars of the situation; you can assert it to be so in this hypothetical, but there are lots of other hypotheticals where a person gets mad and kicks out the MAGA hat while maybe only sharing 1% of the beliefs of Woke twitter.

            ..it’s only in really recent history that the suppression has been explicitly fought back against, by that ideology cluster behind woke Twitter. It’s not that woke Twitter is literally from where such behavior comes, it’s that woke Twitter offers a window into the ideology from where such behavior comes.

            This sounds like revisionist history, but let’s assume that you are correct that there was a 50 year interregnum between the segregation of the 50’s and today’s (far less widespread) rejection of norms of commercial behavior (although it seems that conservatives support the right to behave such, if not the reasoning behind specific instances). I still don’t see the justification for the “window into thinking” or “reflection of reality” line of thinking. The most straightforward thing to do would be to ask the person in question their reasoning and beliefs. If there are some similarities between the answers and woke twitter, how does that entail that it is a “window into the ideology” rather than the much simpler case that you will find similarities of beliefs across the vast spectrum of individuals and ideologies.

            [Also, that something has happened once or twice doesn’t make it a cultural trend. A MAGA hat being kicked out of a store makes the news because it is the exception.]

            Ultimately, I see a lot of metaphors being used, but very few concrete statements. Does woke twitter have an influence on the wider culture? You can get evidence for that: surveys, interviews, etc. If not, does woke twitter signal things to come? There needs to be evidence for that too, if the assertion is being made. Are the similarities between some widespread beliefs and common beliefs on woke twitter coincidental, come from the same root cause, one caused by the other, etc. All of these questions require evidence which I’m not seeing be provided.

          • lvlln says:

            I still don’t see the justification for the “window into thinking” or “reflection of reality” line of thinking. The most straightforward thing to do would be to ask the person in question their reasoning and beliefs. If there are some similarities between the answers and woke twitter, how does that entail that it is a “window into the ideology” rather than the much simpler case that you will find similarities of beliefs across the vast spectrum of individuals and ideologies.

            I mean, you could make an equally true argument that if some white person attacks immigrants and Jews while spouting off about how she needs to secure the future of her race that rather than believing that it comes from a white supremacist ideology cluster, the much simpler case is that you’ll find similarities of beliefs across a vast spectrum of individuals and ideologies.

            And it might even be true! This specific white person might have come up with her beliefs wholly independently of any other ideology. But broadly speaking, when we see people taking on such strong indicators of ideology like talking about “securing the future of our race” or denying someone your commercial services because they overtly hold political beliefs you disagree with, it’s reasonable to conclude that the person is instantiating the ideology. Sometimes people pronounce the first syllable of “shibboleth” like “si” entirely by coincidence, but that’s generally not the best bet.

          • Urstoff says:

            Clearly it all depends on the details of the case; an 8chan user with a manifesto has clearer ideological ties than, say, a local barista without a twitter account. Which is part of my point: details are evidence, and to support these claims, you need evidence, not just pointing to generic instances or hypotheticals that seem plausible.

          • lvlln says:

            Clearly it all depends on the details of the case; an 8chan user with a manifesto has clearer ideological ties than, say, a local barista without a twitter account. Which is part of my point: details are evidence, and to support these claims, you need evidence, not just pointing to generic instances or hypotheticals that seem plausible.

            Agreed, it all depends on the details of the case, and details are evidence. And when discussing specific incidents, we do discuss details which do amount to evidence. But this conversation isn’t about specific incidents, it’s about the general trend of these types of incidents. The argument isn’t that literally every piece of dumb pattern matching we do is indicative of a real causal link. It’s that we’re noticing lots of incidents where if we drill down to the specific details we see clear evidence of causal links, and that we can predict more causally linked incidents in the future.

    • An Fírinne says:

      >I despair of LBGTQ(+) activists advocating a form of government, socialism, which has historically persecuted homosexuality and promoted the ideal family

      You don’t think capitalist governments have done the same?

      • FLWAB says:

        You have to remember that most governments throughout history have persecuted homosexuality. With this in mind, the question you have to ask isn’t “Do capitalist governments persecute homosexuals?” but rather “What governments don’t? The only governments on Earth that have given homosexuals explicit rights and outlawed state persecution of homosexuals have been countries with free market economies. So it seems the burden of proof would be on those seeking to show that capitalist governments are as hostile to homosexuals as socialist governments.

    • Clutzy says:

      I read comments on abortion by libertarians that somehow ignore the fact that they are advocating restricting the freedom of another human over their own body, and the only justification for this seems to be a moralistic consequences of their own action thing: would a libertarian also say we should not offer help to someone who has injured themselves in a hunting accident? Libertarians claim do no harm as a motto then advocate for gun ownership.

      I think you are confusing libertarianism with being libertine. Social and moral consequences for an individual’s actions are the only way a small or absent state can exist. A place without morality will necessarily become a police state, because otherwise people will just steal all the time because the state is the only entity imposing repercussions.

  18. Eponymous says:

    Question about military history and technology:

    When did European countries achieve effective military superiority over other civilizations? And what specific things drove this advantage?

    • cassander says:

      this is a hugely contentious issue that is subject to wide ranging debate. The standard theory is probably the military revolution hypothesis, which argues that in the 1500s, there was a military revolution around infantry combat, cannons, and fortresses. It argues that cannons got good enough in the late 1400s to knock down castle walls, and that this had a number of important effects. First, one had to build forts that were capable of resisting cannon, These were were large and required lots of cannon of their own. Attacking and manning those forts led to the need for larger armies and more infantry, which combined with the proliferation of firearms, kicked off a revolution in the training of infantry. And both of these trends were hugely expensive, which led kingdoms to reorganize themselves internally and transform themselves into proper states to extract more cash and make better use of it.

      This thesis is, of course, hotly contested. In some versions the revolution takes place over as much as 200 years, which makes it hard to call it a revolution. There are also claims that it reflects the european experience too heavily and ignores the rest of the world, which aren’t exactly wrong. But while not the consensus, it’s probably the scholarly baseline.

      • DarkTigger says:

        But why did the Europeans develop those better canons, and not let’s say anyone who had them before them, which includes almost every sedetary civilisation between the Yellow River and the Nile Delta?

        • MartMart says:

          Just a guess, but I suspect better metallurgy.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Which AFAIK is usually attributed to the importance of bell-ringing in medieval Europe. Turns out the skills needed to make a bell that doesn’t break under the strain of being whacked repeatedly are a lot like those needed to make a cannon that doesn’t break under the strain of being fired.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          They did. The Ottomans, Mughals, Safavid, and Qing all used cannon. The Qing specifically imported cannon from the West to help them establish the territorial boundaries of modern China, to counter the imported cannon of other Chinese. The Chinese have been using gunpowder extensively since the Song fought the Mongols.

          The Chinese defeated both the Russians and the Dutch in the 1600s. Trade had been around for centuries, before the Jurchens even began their conquest. Imagining an immediate attack from Europe might be like imagining the US about to be conquered by Barbary Pirates, or Mexico.

          It’s not just the cannon. The Europeans have also gone through an industrial revolution and have a major technological edge over the Chinese, and have spent basically the entire period from the Italian Wars in 1494 to Waterloo in 1815 designing better ways to kill each other. Plus experience in other locations. Plus the Brits are a maritime power, whereas the Chinese fleet was not designed to fight ships of the line. Plus the Chinese never really get the chance to take a breather due to civil unrest through the entire 19th century, so they never get the chance to really dig themselves out of a hole (unlike, say, Japan).

          • DarkTigger says:

            No, I know that all the other people had cannons, and it would be a joke if the Dutch would have been able to beat the Chinese in there own backyard (you are talking about Taiwan right?) But cassender wrote, that the developments in cannons IN europe lead to a different way of warfare. And I asked why that development happned in Europe and not every where else.

            I mean during the Opium Wars, the Europeans caputred old Spanish gun’s in Chinese forts, that where casted and sold in the 17th century. So it stand’s to reason that the Europeans were better at making guns since at least than. So why? What lead to a place where the country that inveted both the blast furnace and black powder had to buy outdated guns from some babarians half the world away?

          • Deiseach says:

            The Europeans have also gone through an industrial revolution and have a major technological edge over the Chinese, and have spent basically the entire period from the Italian Wars in 1494 to Waterloo in 1815 designing better ways to kill each other.

            Yes, but the Chinese also spent a lot of time on “new and interesting ways to bloodily unite states that don’t want to be united into one, then burn it all down again and start over”. So it does look like leaning more on the “better technology” end, which just brings us back to the question: the Chinese are smart, they have resources (unlike, say, Japan and its terrible quality iron), why didn’t they zoom ahead on tech? I’ve seen that explained as “fossilised tradition of exams to find the officers to govern the state, and for promotions within that system, meant that original thinking was heavily discouraged, too much emphasis on the arts rather than the sciences, hence only sporadic and individual inventors and scientists popping up and being isolated”, but then that kicks it out to “okay, so why was European society more open to invention and innovation?”

          • For what it’s worth, Parkinson argues somewhere that the superiority of the Europeans—I believe he is thinking specifically of the English vs the Malays—was the social technology, not the physical technology. The Malays, before firing a cannon, said a prayer that it not explode. The English had non-coms who made sure the cannon were cleaned.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Pretty much what US military instructors tell us about Arab and Persian militaries today.
            But I’m pretty sure that difference wasn’t the case in the 16th century, just look at all the magic shit the Landsknechts did during te 30 Years War.
            I mean I’m sure there is something right in that theory, so when, why, and how did the split happen. Was it all humanism? I mean, you of all people should know that those weren’t ex novo ideas in Europe so why would it?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t see why it’s a joke that the Dutch would be able to beat the Chinese in their own backyard when Britain went right on to do that a century and a half later. It definitely would have seemed like a joke to an 18th century Chinese leader, though. It would be like claiming the Barbary Pirates or Mexico is about to defeat the US in Norfolk.

            However, that can easily happen when you ignore a century of military and economic developments. The equivalent might be if the US won WWII, sat on its laurels, and then gasped in shock when a Chinese supercarrier pops up and starts launching SAMs that utterly blow our P-51s out of the sky. Especially if the US had made a decision to specifically re-engineer the entire fleet for fighting pirates, and we basically are using the Coast Guard to fight a blue water fleet.

            There’s nothing written in stone about WHY non-Western nations HAD to be inferior, see Japan. Europe built its Empires by beating the crap out of African polities that had basically no states. It certainly did thrash China for a good century, but a century of military weakness and acceding to some demands is not at all abnormal in history.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @David Friedman wrote:

            The Malays, before firing a cannon, said a prayer that it not explode. The English had non-coms who made sure the cannon were cleaned.

            Someone-or-other once wrote:

            The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone —
            ‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own.
            The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness must end where ‘e began
            But the backbone of the Army is the Non-commissioned Man!

        • cassander says:

          On my phone, but The traditional answer to that question has been that the many warring states in Europe created a Darwinian environment that spurred innovation.

          This assertion has been challenged by China specialists. They’ve argued that China has plenty of war, but it was war against steppe nomads which drove different kinds of development. They also point out that traditional Chinese wall building methods look a lot like the lower thicker walls used by post gunpowder revolution Europeans, so the advantage to cannon was less.

          • Randy M says:

            On my phone, but The traditional answer to that question has been that the many warring states in Europe created a Darwinian environment that spurred innovation.

            In the last thread, we talked about what factors made American exceptional, and I think a lot of us felt that having vast open land was an advantage. But that’s really the opposite of the European situation (as least since Rome). Is there a synthesis between the two theories?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, the synthesis is that American culture is a successful growth from a Darwinian process that received a favorable environment in which to grow. Throwing a bunch of people on a continent by themselves gives you, at best, the aboriginals in Australia, and, at worst, Lord of the Flies.

          • Randy M says:

            Wait, so is “American culture” in this sense is an inadvertent reference to bacterial culture transplanted to a new petri dish?
            To paraphrase Foghorn Leghorn, “Assay, assay, I’ve never looked at it that way before”.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yes, essentially. America didn’t grow in a vacuum. It is specifically an English settled society, and specifically modern Englishmen. That society grew out of a very special relationship with Europe, since it was centered on the North Sea but not vulnerable to land attack. So it could benefit from European advances, and was well situated to take part in the commercial revolution, but didn’t need huge standing armies like other states.

          • cassander says:

            In the last thread, we talked about what factors made American exceptional, and I think a lot of us felt that having vast open land was an advantage. But that’s really the opposite of the European situation (as least since Rome). Is there a synthesis between the two theories?

            If you have capitalism you’ll get better technology without war. Of course, as A definite beta guy points out, you can’t throw just anyone on an empty continent and expect that capitalism will spring up.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @RandyM

            The US’s exceptional nature was related to its economics, not its army or navy.

            Western Europe’s exceptional in its military/naval prowess which was superior to the US for most of its history (often by design)

            I think warfare transitioned from being an organizational affair to a more industrial/resource intensive one. (not that organization was unimportant), and once the US decided to enter the world-stage and take becoming an imperial power seriously their army/navy began to rival the others.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s hard to disentangle, though. Exceptional military after the invention of gunpowder (or probably earlier) had a lot to do with industry and research as well, at least if you are comparing them to parts of the world without mass produced firearms.
            Which in turn, like economics, has to do with culture.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Well the central and western european states had economies sufficient to manufacture the weapons/gunpowder/ships to have powerful militaries.

            North Americans had economies which gave their farmers and laborers unusually high standards of living whilst having little in the way of a standing army for much of its history.

      • Eponymous says:

        Thanks. Has there been any work taking a strictly empirical approach to this? Basically cataloguing military encounters between western and non-western (but relatively advanced) states and seeing when European militaries started winning most of the time?

        • Watchman says:

          Who are these advanced cultures? The middle east (Ottoman Empire) was not militarily great, but held it’s own even in the earliest-twentieth century. China was never militarily defeated at all, and neither was Japan.

          India was brought into the British Empire, but this wasn’t a military conquest so much as a political one of a disintegrating Empire (where the British regularly lost battles). And the American civilisations were militarily outmatched (consistent use of iron weapons would have been a good start) and here to the Spanish exploited political divisions.

          In general the western powers defeated small states or low-technology military foes. They might never have had a military advantage until the post-colonial period (as Japan in the first half of the twentieth century shows).

          • Eponymous says:

            Napoleon rolling over Egypt (~1800) and the first opium war (1840) are generally regarded as representing European military superiority over old world civs. I agree the Ottomans were a tough nut, though “holding their own” seems a bit strong to me. As to the rest — I guess I’ll accept “never” as a defensible if unusual position. Though this raises the question of how the Europeans managed to dominate the world in the modern period.

            I guess one could argue that the true European advantage lay in naval power, which allowed them to dominate trade routes and hold lucrative colonies.

          • DarkTigger says:

            China was never militarily defeated at all, and neither was Japan.

            Two Opium Wars, the Sino-French-War, the Boxer Rebellion, and to the extant that Japan was westernized the Sino-Japanese-War might disagree with that claim.

            India was brought into the British Empire, but this wasn’t a military conquest so much as a political one of a disintegrating Empire (where the British regularly lost battles).

            More than they won? If so why would anyone listen to their political claims?

          • Matt M says:

            I agree the Ottomans were a tough nut, though “holding their own” seems a bit strong to me

            The Ottomans took Constantinople and nearly took Vienna. That counts as a little more than “holding their own” to me…

          • Eponymous says:

            @ Matt M

            I’m thinking of the 18th and 19th centuries. I agree the Ottomans weren’t militarily behind Europeans in the 15th century.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Matt M
            The Ottomans were also beaten by Great Britian in 1917/18, while GB literally struggled to keep the Germans out of France long enough for USAmerican reinforcements to make a difference.
            And the Ottomans had massive German support at the time.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m thinking of the 18th and 19th centuries. I agree the Ottomans weren’t militarily behind Europeans in the 15th century.

            Fair enough. But part of that strikes me as bias in terms of the timeframe you’re looking at. It’s like looking at the graphs of terrorism in the west that start on September 12, 2001.

            Yeah, if we ignore the time when they were badass, they look pretty weak. What of it?

          • bean says:

            I guess one could argue that the true European advantage lay in naval power, which allowed them to dominate trade routes and hold lucrative colonies.

            This, but even more than this. Seapower is really, really potent, and the European victories in a lot of these wars rest heavily on naval firepower. The First Opium War was won by cutting the Grand Canal, an act dependent on the fire support of the fleet. The same is true in Africa to a surprising degree, too. Probably elsewhere, but I just haven’t gotten around to investigating it yet.

          • bean says:

            The middle east (Ottoman Empire) was not militarily great, but held it’s own even in the earliest-twentieth century. China was never militarily defeated at all, and neither was Japan.

            China was absolutely militarily defeated during both Opium Wars. The first saw the foundation of the entire tax system strangled by the British, while the second had an entire European army camped outside Peking. Japan wasn’t because they decided to modernize instead of fighting.

            India is complicated, but there were full-scale wars like the ones with the Sikhs. (Although in that case, they didn’t have a big technological edge because the Sikhs were heavily modernized. I’m still not sure how they won.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Wasn’t a lot of British power over Africans acquired by the Royal Navy roving around when Britain wasn’t at war on a mandate to stop the slave trade? “Hey, you Arabs/locals, surrender your slaves or we’ll conquer this port to force you!”
            This doesn’t make it into the official narrative of colonialism, for obvious reasons.

          • Yeah, if we ignore the time when they were badass, they look pretty weak. What of it?

            He’s trying to figure out when Europeans became dominant. “The Ottomans were strong in the 15th century but not in the 20th century” is a legitimate point.

          • Eponymous says:

            @bean

            Interesting. Are you aware of historians who have developed this thesis (i.e. sea power as key to rise of the West)? It strikes me as quite reasonable.

            Obviously I know about Mahan’s book (I have it, actually! Though haven’t read it.)

            To make an analogy — one can consider the historical dominance of two types of civilizations: empires straddling critical trade routes, and highly mobile raiders operating on the fringes of settled areas (Arabs in the desert, various steppe peoples). I’ve heard the vikings thrown into the latter category.

            Dominance of the sea in the age of discovery and thereafter would seem to give europeans both advantages. Plus access to abundant land in the Americas. Seems a reasonable theory to me.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “The Ottomans were strong in the 15th century but not in the 20th century” is a legitimate point.

            That still seems unhelpfully broad. Were the Ottomans strong in 1683? The phrase “sick man of Europe” dates to the mid-19th century (the Ottomans failed to industrialize – and in the years before WWI they were building railroads and a modern navy with German and British help, respectively), so we may be able to fix the time/cause as the Industrial Revolution.

          • @Le Maistre Chat

            I agree. I was just arguing against Matt’s point.

            19th century Ottoman seems pretty weak and at the time of Suleiman’s death in the mid 16th century was still strong, so you can narrow it further to that timeframe. The problem is differentiating Ottoman weakness because of Europe’s strength vs their own internal problems.

          • Nornagest says:

            India is complicated, but there were full-scale wars like the ones with the Sikhs. (Although in that case, they didn’t have a big technological edge because the Sikhs were heavily modernized. I’m still not sure how they won.)

            AIUI, India can be summed up as leveraging an early technological and logistical advantage into a position of hegemony, then using divide-and-conquer tactics to leverage that into actual dominance. Since both period sources and modern ones want to emphasize the ethnic British role (the former from a positive angle, the latter from a negative one), it’s easy to miss from a modern perspective, but almost all the major actions in India during the 1800s were fought mainly by local troops on both sides — the order of battle for the Battle of Chillianwala is representative.

          • bean says:

            Interesting. Are you aware of historians who have developed this thesis (i.e. sea power as key to rise of the West)? It strikes me as quite reasonable.

            Not as such, no. Maritime history and world history are often curiously divided. Mahan wasn’t looking at that, nor were most of his successors.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Eponymous
            I don’t know any sources, but he is not the first one I heard making that claim.
            And it makes senses doesn’t it?
            The Europeans might not have ruled the seas in the 16th century. But they sure were basically everywhere already. And beeing everywhere is realy helpful. It’s helps you learn all the best ideas from everywhere, helps you import the best products (columbian exchange and coffein containing drinks I’m looking at you) and let’s you pounce at every one who is weak at the moment.
            And if everyone else does not has your naval reach. Well what can they do when you are f**king around in some of their provinces. They can’t reach you, can they?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            AIUI, India can be summed up as leveraging an early technological and logistical advantage into a position of hegemony, then using divide-and-conquer tactics to leverage that into actual dominance. Since both period sources and modern ones want to emphasize the ethnic British role (the former from a positive angle, the latter from a negative one), it’s easy to miss from a modern perspective, but almost all the major actions in India during the 1800s were fought mainly by local troops on both sides

            A lot of conservative thought in the Republic of India goes into British divide-and-conquer tactics and their legacy. Lord Macaulay in particular is treated as a villain whose policy of “I feel… that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, – a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” is responsible for India’s Marxist elite and all the harm resulting.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The Europeans might not have ruled the seas in the 16th century. But they sure were basically everywhere already. And beeing everywhere is realy helpful. It’s helps you learn all the best ideas from everywhere, helps you import the best products (columbian exchange and coffein containing drinks I’m looking at you) and let’s you pounce at every one who is weak at the moment.

            It helps, but it’s not enough. Venice, Portugal, the Netherlands, all maritime powers that couldn’t pass muster. Meanwhile the Austrians remained relevant for quite some time and the Germans were fearsome monsters once they unified.

          • Nornagest says:

            While Venice was a maritime power, it wasn’t the right kind of maritime power — its power in the late Renaissance was built on its galley fleet, which was fearsome in the Mediterranean in its time but incapable of effectively projecting power outside of it, and vulnerable even within it once naval gunnery become more effective.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            While Venice was a maritime power, it wasn’t the right kind of maritime power — its power in the late Renaissance was built on its galley fleet, which was fearsome in the Mediterranean in its time but incapable of effectively projecting power outside of it, and vulnerable even within it once naval gunnery become more effective.

            Suddenly I kinda wish I knew more about ships after the Hellenistic Era and before ships of the line/”rows of of muzzle-loading cannon on the broad sides, oars obsolete.”

          • Nornagest says:

            The development of naval warfare between the Viking Era and the Age of Exploration doesn’t get much press, but there was a lot going on. Galleys had serious trouble in the Atlantic as early as the Late Middle Ages, thanks to their inherently low freeboard, but they were the main warships in the Mediterranean and to a lesser extent the Baltic even a couple hundred years after cannon became common — partly because they were working with existing doctrine and partly because cannon were so expensive that it didn’t make tactical sense to concentrate many of them on a single ship. This really only started to change after cast iron started driving the costs down. Still, galleys remained in secondary roles, in calm waters and for coast defense, until the late 1700s, and there were also various attempts at making galley-ship hybrids like the xebec.

          • cassander says:

            @Le Maistre Chat says:

            Suddenly I kinda wish I knew more about ships after the Hellenistic Era and before ships of the line/”rows of of muzzle-loading cannon on the broad sides, oars obsolete.”

            The books you want are ‘Gunpowder & Galleys” and “Galleons & Galleys” by John Francis Guilmartin. Truly fantastic works of military history that cover much of that history.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            The development of naval warfare between the Viking Era and the Age of Exploration doesn’t get much press, but there was a lot going on.

            “Between”, he says. I’m not even clear on what made Viking longships different from penteconters. 🙂

            Galleys had serious trouble in the Atlantic as early as the Late Middle Ages, thanks to their inherently low freeboard,

            Why “as early as the Late Middle Ages” and not before, in Viking and Roman times?

            but they were the main warships in the Mediterranean and to a lesser extent the Baltic even a couple hundred years after cannon became common — partly because they were working with existing doctrine and partly because cannon were so expensive that it didn’t make tactical sense to concentrate many of them on a single ship.

            Yeah, this I knew. Galleys were not obsolete for Mediterranean use, were armed with cannon (how many I’m not clear on). They worked just fine at Lepanto and beyond. Cervantes mentions criminals being chained up to serve sentence as rowers, and this is the era the galley slave stereotype comes from.

            This really only started to change after cast iron started driving the costs down. Still, galleys remained in secondary roles, in calm waters and for coast defense, until the late 1700s, and there were also various attempts at making galley-ship hybrids like the xebec.

            Cool, I wasn’t familiar with the xebec.

            @cassander: Oh, thank you!

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not even clear on what made Viking longships different from penteconters.

            They’re both light, versatile warships crewed by about fifty men and with provisions for both oar and sail power. But longships lacked the ram, had less elaborate superstructure, and were clinker-built, making them lighter and more flexible and hence better able to dissipate the energy of heavy seas. But also less scalable to larger sizes — the largest Viking warships were crewed by only about 100 men, a number routinely exceeded by Mediterranean ships as early as the Greco-Persian Wars.

            Why “as early as the Late Middle Ages” and not before, in Viking and Roman times?

            Getting a little outside my wheelhouse here, but I’d speculate that navigational technique made most of the difference. Ships of any type stayed close to land before the Late Middle Ages, which would have minimized the galley’s limitations in range and seaworthiness and also minimized sailing ships’ advantages over them.

            Galleys were not obsolete for Mediterranean use, were armed with cannon (how many I’m not clear on).

            Usually three to five heavy cannon, forward-facing in the bow; typically there’d be one very heavy gun in the center flanked by smaller but still cannon-sized pieces. (The galeass, a hybrid development closer to the galley than the xebec, added broadside-mounted cannon aft and sometimes forward of the rowers.) These were sometimes augmented by lighter swivel guns with various placements.

          • Cliff says:

            There were political divisions in the Americas, but if you have read at all about the Inca conquest, you know that truly absurd victories were common-place, for example 30 men triumphing over 100,000 without losing anyone. To the point where it’s hard for me to even understand it.

            The 100,000 could have just kept sending people in waves day and night until the 30 got tired and died, but this never happened. I think maybe it had something do with the fact that they worshiped a sun god and so didn’t want to fight at night, but still… Even if the 100,000 were completely naked and unarmed (which they weren’t) there has to be a way to use such an overwhelming numerical advantage.

            In fact the only Inca victories were when they managed to ambush traveling armies in the mountain passes and crush them with tons of boulders. That happened twice.

          • cassander says:

            Yeah, this I knew. Galleys were not obsolete for Mediterranean use, were armed with cannon (how many I’m not clear on).

            They’d have generally one large gun and two or four smaller ones in the bow. The big guns could destroy ships but the primary use was anti-personnel. The number of guns was tiny compared to ships of the line. I seem to recall Guilmartin saying that a couple first rates at Trafalger had a greater weight of shot than either fleet at lepanto.

          • bean says:

            Unfortunately, I don’t have much to add to the stuff on early naval development. My serious interest starts around 1750. If anyone who does know this stuff wants to write about it, I’d be interested in putting it up.

            @Cliff

            I see two possibilities. First, that the way the Inca “fought” was very ritualistic and completely unsuited to effectiveness against people trained to actually kill. (A lot of traditional warfare is this way.) Second, that the numbers on their side are grossly inflated. Particularly with the Inca’s lack of a writing system, you’re likely to see excessive numbers thrown about.

          • Cliff says:

            Well anyway, my point is that the Spanish were far, far more advanced in warfare than the Incas

    • John Schilling says:

      When did European countries achieve effective military superiority over other civilizations?

      That depends on which other civilizations.

      By ~350 BC, the Macedonian combination of heavy infantry drilled to fight in close order plus shock cavalry capable of riding home a charge, gave one European country superiority over every other civilization within conquering distance, hence Alexander. And other European countries were pretty good at copying this with local variations, hence e.g. Rome. And from that point forward, Europe pretty consistently had military superiority over neighboring civilizations.

      But, post-Roman Europe mostly lost the logistical technology that allowed them to turn that advantage into conquests beyond Europe, or sometimes even defend its frontiers, and didn’t get it back until roughly the sixteenth century.

      Also, for most of this period, China had a fairly well-developed military and logistical technology that may have equaled or exceeded Europe’s, but the two were sufficiently distant that this was never put to the test. Well, probably never. By the time European logistics and shipbuilding had reached the point of supporting direct conflict with China, Europe had trumped China’s much-vaunted “gunpowder weapons” by removing the four extraneous syllables and optimizing what was left.

    • DragonMilk says:

      You should play some EU4 to find out

      Approximately 1700 according to the game! Ottomans better until then

    • Deiseach says:

      And what specific things drove this advantage?

      My cynical side, having been exposed to one too many woke postings, says it’s because White People are cruel and vicious and evil and every other culture was just too nice and civilised to stoop to the depths of horribleness necessary to conquer the world *sarcasm off*.

      There’s also the slightly too enthusiastic apologetics side that says it’s because Western Europe was Christian. I do think that had something to do with it, but it’s probably a whole lot of big elements that happened at just the right time in just the right place, with a sprinkling of luck thrown in on top.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I read an interesting claim back in college (maybe it was in a Kagan book? Not sure) that the carrack, made sturdy to survive the waters of the North Sea, ended up being able to carry more and heavier cannon than other contemporary vessels because those less-durable vessels could not handle the recoils of such cannon.

      If this is true, it would speak to Europe’s ability to project force starting from the 14th century.

    • Lambert says:

      Depends which other civilisations you’re talking about.

      The New World had essentially no metalworking or intensive agriculture.
      This gave Europe a big advantage in terms of being able to outproduce, outspecialise and generally economies-of-scale much of the world into submission.

      I suspect that if the Indian Subcontinent or East Asia happened to develop and exploit intercontinental seafaring before Europe, they’d have conquered the Americas and Oceania just fine.

      It took a lot longer for Europe to colonise any more than the costal fringes of the Old World.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ll suggest 1645.

      The critical thing that makes modern armies is command and control structures, and supply structures–everyone in the country X army is fighting under a standardized command structure with standard, GI arms and equipment. The New Model Army is a modern army; I believe it was the first.

    • MorningGaul says:

      The problem is, which Europeans, which other civilization, and which technology?

      Dominance over native American was pretty much achieved the moment europeans had ships to get there, while China was only forced to accept Europeans demands in the late first half of the 1800’s.

  19. Watchman says:

    Brilliant example of journalists being incompetent in the Guardian .

    Not only are they doing their standard where Trump leads I follow stuff on the buying Greenland story. They also include this gem of a quote: “a land mass twice the size of the US” to describe Greenland. That’s (according to Google) 2.166 million square km Greenland is twice the size of 9.834 million square km USA.

    Now if you look at the glove on your desk (as educated folk of culture we all have one right?), clearly Greenland is not that big. So Phillip Inman, who nicely put his name to this piece, must have got this figure from looking at a map. Which means that we have a journalist opining on world affairs who really thinks the Mercator projection (or something similar) reflects reality, and that Greenland really is half of the North American continent.

    Now to be fair, I had the same basic map and misapprehension when I was young. But I had teachers who taught me that you shouldn’t make broad statements on the basis of a picture on the wall alone. Either Mr Inman had less diligent teachers or the Guardian has no time for fact checking. Either way the future of press looks rather bleak…

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Now if you look at the glove on your desk (as educated folk of culture we all have one right?)

      Only in the winter. Weather’s still rather warm, thank you for asking.

      ETA:
      In the version I’m reading, it’s:

      a land mass a quarter the size of the US

      so presumably it’s been corrected.

    • Elephant says:

      FYI: it currently (and correctly) says, “a land mass a quarter the size of the US,” so this error was pretty quickly caught.

    • Nick says:

      This is what I see when I click through to the article:

      For the president, it is the real estate deal of a lifetime, one that would secure a land mass a quarter the size of the US and cement his place in US history alongside President Andrew Johnson, who bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, and Thomas Jefferson, who secured Louisiana from the French in 1803.

      Did it change in the time it took you to write the post? No correction listed at the bottom of the page, either, alas.

    • Watchman says:

      Edited at least. Would be nice if the Guardian would acknowledge factual errors being updated though.

    • Deiseach says:

      Well, it is the dear old Grauniad 🙂

      Somebody must have got on to them about the mistake since the piece up now reads (bolding mine):

      For the president, it is the real estate deal of a lifetime, one that would secure a land mass a quarter the size of the US and cement his place in US history alongside President Andrew Johnson, who bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, and Thomas Jefferson, who secured Louisiana from the French in 1803.

      More seriously, does anyone think that, given the stated concerns about China and rare earth elements, that if this were floated by anyone other than Trump it might be taken seriously? Is it a good idea (if you’re worried about China hoovering up the elements needed for advanced tech and falling behind in innovation if your country can’t get access to them)?

      • Nick says:

        Wait a second, the article is actually about the rare earth metals? I was joking when I brought it up the other day!

        • Deiseach says:

          I was joking when I brought it up the other day!

          Should know better than to joke in this timeline, Nick; now you should be worrying that what you said about the Elder Things might be true – or maybe it’s not the Elder Things Trump is trying to keep under wraps, it’s The Thing 🙂

          On a tangent, there have been three versions of the story? I knew about the 1951 original and the 1982 remake (re-imagining might be a better term) but I hadn’t heard of the 2011 ‘prequel’ to the 1982 version, which seems to have sunk without a trace. Keep watching the skies!

    • Douglas Knight says:

      He did look at his globe.

    • pelagius says:

      In thinking about buying Greenland, I feel sure that Trump has asked his advisors how we would get rid of all that ice.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Either Mr Inman had less diligent teachers or the Guardian has no time for fact checking.

      Either? The story getting published would seem to necessitate both. The first is required to generate the error, and the second is required for it to reach us.

  20. proyas says:

    It’s said that the biggest obstacle to banning assault weapons is the difficulty of defining in words what an “assault weapon” is. However, I think I might have solved it.

    “An ‘assault weapon’ is any firearm with the following characteristics:

    1) Is semi-automatic [meaning each pull of the trigger fires one round, and the user doesn’t have to perform any mechanical operation after shooting one round to enable the second round to be fired], and;

    2) Accepts a detachable magazine, OR has a fixed or internal magazine that can hold more than eight rounds, OR has a belt-feed system, and;

    3) Is meant to be fired with the operator’s hands touching two different points on the weapon.”

    Criterion #3 distinguishes “assault weapons” from “handguns,” which are meant to be fired with one hand clasped over the other around the weapon’s grip, and which can also be effectively fired one-handed.

    Noted that I haven’t listed any cosmetic features included in many assault weapon laws, like bayonet lugs and folding buttstocks.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      There’s a bigger problem with your definition, which is why any of those features are meaningful.

      Typically, it’s understood that if you’re drawing a category boundary between things that there’s some significance to that boundary. If I have a semiautomatic rifle with a seven round magazine, how is that different in any meaningful way from an “assault weapon” under your definition? It seems no less arbitrary than looking at bayonet lugs.

      Why is the category of firearms that you’re actually trying to single out different from any other category of firearms such that they should be regulated differently?

      • eric23 says:

        You have to draw the line somewhere. 8 vs 7 rounds is a reasonable boundary, just like 18 vs 17 is a reasonable voting age.

        The relevance of semi-automatic operation should be obvious.

        Not being a gun expert I’m not sure exactly why two-hand operation matters, but I would guess it allows one to effectively aim at a target more quickly, which is relevant if one wants to quickly shoot many unarmed targets in a public area.

        In short I think this definition seems to make a lot of sense.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The relevance of semi-automatic operation should be obvious.

          And what relevance is that and why is it better than lever action or revolver?

        • Aapje says:

          The third-most lethal mass shooting in the US was with hand guns.

          The shooter swapped magazines 17 times, without anyone stopping him during those reloads.

          • JPNunez says:

            I think some of those cases will stop as people become more used to mass shootings and react faster. There was a shooter a month (?) ago that was stopped in like a minute.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          You have to draw the line somewhere.

          Why do you have to “draw [a] line” on magazine size? Why not just let people decide for themselves how large of a magazine they want to buy?

          The relevance of semi-automatic operation should be obvious.

          It isn’t to me. Can you explain?

          Not being a gun expert I’m not sure exactly why two-hand operation matters, but I would guess it allows one to effectively aim at a target more quickly, which is relevant if one wants to quickly shoot many unarmed targets in a public area.

          As a fellow non-expert, this really doesn’t fill me with confidence that you’re describing a meaningful category of firearms as opposed to just scary-looking guns.

          • CatCube says:

            When we come to these kinds of debates, I like to quote Popehat, because I really can’t put it better myself:

            It’s hard to grasp the reaction of someone who understands gun terminology to someone who doesn’t. So imagine we’re going through one of our periodic moral panics over dogs and I’m trying to persuade you that there should be restrictions on, say, Rottweilers.

            Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.
            You: So what do you propose?
            Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.
            You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog?”
            Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.
            You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?
            Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.
            You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.
            Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.
            You: What the fuck.
            Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.
            You: Can we?

            Because I’m just talking out of my ass, the impression I convey is that I want to ban some arbitrary, uninformed category of dogs that I can’t articulate. Are you comfortable that my rule is going to be drawn in a principled, informed, narrow way?

          • Matt M says:

            Because I’m just talking out of my ass, the impression I convey is that I want to ban some arbitrary, uninformed category of dogs that I can’t articulate. Are you comfortable that my rule is going to be drawn in a principled, informed, narrow way?

            It’s actually even worse than this, because in the places where “assault weapon bans” have actually happened, they almost always are written entirely around cosmetic features that fail to make meaningful differences in the operation of the actual weapons.

            So we aren’t just speculating that such bans might be implemented stupidly, we are pointing to history that they already have been.

          • eric23 says:

            I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking cosmetic features into account. Mass shootings seem to often come from incel-types who are insecure about their value and masculinity, and if making “scary-looking” guns unavailable might decrease the feeling of satisfaction and power they get from shooting, and thus deter a few shootings, so much the better. Honestly I would support a ban on all guns that are not colored bright pink.

          • Aapje says:

            @eric23

            Your assessment seems entirely based on a stereotype, which seems invented by the media. I’m not aware of any study that found that incel-types are extremely prone to mass shootings.

            Most mass shootings are gang-related anyway. Gang members tend to be very masculine. Do you think that they would stop carrying guns if you made them pink?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m surprised “incel” hasn’t been added to the autofilter

          • Matt M says:

            If you passed a law that all guns had to be pink, it would do very little to discourage gun ownership, but may do a lot to change people’s perception about the color pink.

            There’s basically nothing you can do to make guns seem uncool to a huge fraction of young men. Whatever you associate with guns will see its coolness rise due to the association.

    • Aftagley says:

      Your definition would include the Remington 870 DM and any of the other box magazine shotguns. I’m not sure how terribly widespread these are yet, but they’re definitely out there and growing in popularity.

      I can see the argument for regulating high-capacity shotguns, but saying they’re the same as an AR-15 is questionable.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s said that the biggest obstacle to banning assault weapons is the difficulty of defining in words what an “assault weapon” is.

      That’s not in fact the biggest obstacle to banning “assault weapons”. The biggest obstacle to banning assault weapons is that a whole lot of Americans really, really don’t want you to do that and will devote great political effort to make you fail at doing that and care about basically nothing else while that issue is on the table. On the other hand, you might be able to apply the word “majority” to people who want to ban “assault weapons”, it’s the sort of majority that disappears as soon as Donald Trump tweets about something else or the news shows a picture of a telegenic orphan in a cage or whatever.

      You might as well say that the biggest problem with paying reparations to African-Americans (or for that matter re-enslaving them) is the difficulty in defining “African-American” in a polyracial world whose birth records aren’t reliable that far back, and go off on a tangent involving genetic testing to determine who is or is not properly “African”. And no matter how effective you are at developing a test for reliably distinguishing 50+% antebellum African origin or whatever, you’ll change the political debate not one whit.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You’ve just renamed “semi-automatic rifle”, minus a few exceptions like the M1 Garand, and modulo all the tricks people would pull to get around it (e.g. a rifle intended to be fired one-handed. Extra grip sold separately). The problem isn’t that the category of “assault weapon” is hard to define; the problem is it isn’t really useful except in divide-and-conquer gun ban tactics.

      • eric23 says:

        In that case, perhaps all semi-automatic rifles should be banned? Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose, or can pistols and non-automatic rifles satisfy those needs?

        • EchoChaos says:

          In that case, perhaps all semi-automatic rifles should be banned?

          No.

          Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose, or can pistols and non-automatic rifles satisfy those needs?

          Semi-automatic and automatic are very different.

        • Matt M says:

          Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose

          Defending one’s self and one’s family against government tyranny is considered a socially acceptable purpose by ~50% of the US population.

          • johan_larson says:

            Defending one’s self and one’s family against government tyranny is considered a socially acceptable purpose by ~50% of the US population.

            I would be interested to know what sort of scenario you have in mind here. Are you and your rifle, or even your entire armed family planning on fighting off a police raid? That sounds hard, unless you are living in a fortified building. And even if you managed to win an initial encounter, the government can double down and keep doubling down a lot longer and harder than you can.

            Don’t get me wrong, I can think of scenarios where credible armament can make the difference in dealing with small-time criminals or hooligans. But against the government? For an individual or a small group? That sounds like a taller order.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @johan_larson

            The reason that the recent Bundy standoff went so relatively well is that well-armed groups in compounds like the Branch Davidians successfully did damage to the government in direct conflict, which means that the government has modified its method to not directly confront anymore.

            Note that winning was not necessary for this to occur. The Davidians lost rather horribly, but it meant that future groups able to credibly put small arms fire against the government aren’t attacked anymore.

          • Randy M says:

            The reason that the recent Bundy standoff went so relatively well is that well-armed groups in compounds like the Branch Davidians successfully did damage to the government in direct conflict

            Wasn’t the damage mostly PR damage by forcing the government to escalate to deadly force which some observers later felt was unjustified? The deaths of a few agents seems relatively inconsequential in and of itself, though that would change if this became a regular occurrence. But consider also the militarization of police due in part to them fearing for their lives from armed populace.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            PR damage is damage.

            Militarization is more due to the drug war. It occurred far too late to blame on how heavily armed Americans are.

          • Randy M says:

            PR damage is damage.

            Provided the victim is sufficiently sympathetic to the public.

            Militarization is more due to the drug war. It occurred far too late to blame on how heavily armed Americans are.

            Okay, but the point was, there are other ways for the government to adapt to armed resistance than increased deference. And the kind of armed resistance necessary to turn back tyranny will get that escalated response.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            Provided the victim is sufficiently sympathetic to the public.

            That’s what Reno thought. Koresh was a cult leader who was probably sexually abusing young girls. He is just about the least sympathetic possible person possible and yet the government got a PR loss.

            If you take a PR loss to “cultist pedophile”, you don’t use that tactic again ever.

          • Machine Interface says:

            It’s a very special worldview where “forcing the government to change its tactics to more effectively deal with radical antisocial groups” counts as victory, let alone a victory for the proponents of gun rights.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Machine Interface

            I am sympathetic to neither Koresh nor the Bundys.

            However, government declaring those opposed to them as “radical antisocial groups” and eradicating them is a time-honored method of tyranny. If Americans being armed prevents that even for those we all agree are awful, that is a major win for us.

          • Matt M says:

            Are you and your rifle, or even your entire armed family planning on fighting off a police raid?

            Did any individual infantryman storming Normandy expect to defeat the entire German army?

            No. They expected to make an individual contribution that would assist in the overall effort, quite probably at the cost of their own life.

            That’s how resisting a tyrannical government works. Whether it’s a foreign one or your own doesn’t really change the math all that much.

          • Matt M says:

            I am sympathetic to neither Koresh nor the Bundys.

            Koresh is the definitive example of why some people do, in fact, need stockpiles of military grade weapons.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            johan_larson-

            I would be interested to know what sort of scenario you have in mind here.

            Speaking only for myself, who supports the second amendment but does not own a gun, I don’t think most people seriously imagine that an individual is going to hold off government tyranny single-handedly, at least not for very long. But if, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for the populace to rise up against government tyranny, it will be really helpful if the populace has weapons and knows how to use them. Moreover, that danger to potential tyrants might well make it unnecessary ever to do so.

            With regard to tyranny, owning a gun is like voting. It works (only) if enough people do it, and take it seriously.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Speaking only for myself, who supports the second amendment but does not own a gun, I don’t think most people seriously imagine that an individual is going to hold off government tyranny single-handedly, at least not for very long. But if, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for the populace to rise up against government tyranny, it will be really helpful if the populace has weapons and knows how to use them. Moreover, that danger to potential tyrants might well make it unnecessary ever to do so.

            With regard to tyranny, owning a gun is like voting. It works (only) if enough people do it, and take it seriously.

            All of this PLUS the fact that ceding the right to the government to categorically ban something creates the framework that expedites the rise of authoritarianism.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s a very special worldview where “forcing the government to change its tactics to more effectively deal with radical antisocial groups” counts as victory…

            If “radical antisocial groups” means people who want to go off into the middle of nowhere and mind their own business(*), and the government’s previous tactics were “Respect Mah Authoritah or DIE!”, then yes, forcing the government to change its tactics is a win for anyone who values anything resembling liberty.

            let alone a victory for the proponents of gun rights.

            Forcing the government to reconsider its position of killing those insufficiently respectful of its authority, would seem to be a central example of the kind of victory gun-rights proponents have been seeking since 1775.

            * In the case of Koresh et al, there’s at least a semi-plausible case that Koresh had gone off into the wilderness to mind the intimate business of unwilling children, but the Texas authorities specifically charged with that had investigated the issue and concluded it was unfounded, ditto the one about Koresh killing rival cult leaders. They used the radical law enforcement technique of knocking on the front door and saying “we really need to talk about this”, with good results. The Federal authorities who kicked down the door and threw in grenades only retroactively invoked allegations of child abuse as an excuse for their actions.

          • Matt M says:

            All of this PLUS the fact that ceding the right to the government to categorically ban something creates the framework that expedites the rise of authoritarianism.

            This. I worry a lot about the implications of the second amendment being abridged/ignored, just as legal precedent. Even putting aside all of the “the second amendment is what guarantees our freedoms in the sense that so long as we’re armed, the government will be afraid of us and won’t abridge the other ones” talk… the second amendment is about as explicitly defined of a protection as exists. It’s right there in the bill of rights. SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

            Any legal ruling that allows something like “except if we really think not infringing it would be scary” that can be applied to the second amendment can just as easily be applied to any other amendment or right you think you have.

            If they can take away that one, they can take away all the other ones too. If you think the bill of rights deserves to be taken seriously, this is a big deal. If you think it’s just a polite suggestion that we can easily ignore so long as the President assures us that it’s really important we ignore it, then fine…

          • Aftagley says:

            I mean, if we’re quoting the bill of rights, I’d like to highlight the WELL REGULATED part.

            On it’s face the 2nd amendment is ambiguous and your chosen interpretation of it has only been case law for around a decade.

          • Matt M says:

            Well regulated is not describing the right to arms, but rather the militia, which is composed of all able bodied adult males. The militia is only mentioned as a background justifying why the right to bear arms is mentioned.

            Also “regulated” does not necessarily mean “restricted by the government.”

            MY interpretation of the second amendment is that each and every gun law is an unconstitutional infringement. All of them. That was, in fact, the favored interpretation, up until the southern states decided that they needed to somehow restrict blacks from being able to defend themselves with weapons, and gun control in the US was born.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aftagley: it’s hard for the populace to form a militia, well-regulated or otherwise, if you ban guns appropriate for soldiers.

            @Matt M:

            That was, in fact, the favored interpretation, up until the southern states decided that they needed to somehow restrict blacks from being able to defend themselves with weapons, and gun control in the US was born.

            Cite? By how long does this predate the “make it illegal to own a machine gun without a license, then refuse to print license stickers” law?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            The militia is well regulated. The right to bear arms is not.

            Edit: Ninja-ed a lot.

          • Aftagley says:

            Sure, maybe now those two clauses are treated as unrelated to each other, but I disagree with that interpretation. Furthermore, if you look at US V. Miller it’s clear that at some point the dominant thought was that the second amendment gave citizens the right to bear arms only in the context of their ability to participate in such a militia. Quote from the opinion of the supreme court:

            In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a “shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length” at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.

            It’s clear that for a long time the consensus was that owning guns that did not make sense in the context of having a regular militia was not allowed. Thus, implicitly, at some point the federal government believed it had the capacity to regulate what guns could be sold.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            I sincerely doubt that is the way that the left wants to go in that interpretation as the current infantry light weapon is the M-4, which is a select fire short barreled rifle.

            Given that, it would be illegal to ban the ownership of such items. This is SUBSTANTIALLY less regulation than we have now.

          • Matt M says:

            Look, none of this is the point.

            The point is that if they can come up with bizarre semantics games to ignore the bill of rights on the 2nd amendment, they could just as easily do so with the 1st amendment. And they could even more easily do it with implied rights (such as the right to privacy, which is the justification for protecting abortion).

            That is a valid reason to care about protecting the 2nd amendment, even if you don’t give a single crap about guns yourself, and even if you think the private ownership of guns is actively bad/harmful.

          • Aftagley says:

            Only if your framework is “the militia has to have access to the same exact weapons as the regular army.” I’d argue that since the drafters of the constitution were vehemently opposed to the idea of a standing army, it’s not useful to speculate how they’d want their militia’s armed in relation to anything else. The ability to well regulate our militia gives the people’s representatives in government the explicit authority to regulate.

            I don’t see why it would be too far out of line for the federal government to pass a list of weapons that are allowable for the militia and restrict the sale of weapons that aren’t on that list.

            Hell, while we’re at it, we could chose to exercise are power to regulate the militia in terms of assessing potential applicants’ (read, prospective gun owners’) mental stability, criminal history, etc.

            edit: @MattM
            That’s only the case if I agree with your interpretation of the 2nd amendment. If I don’t, then the slippery slope doesn’t exist.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s only the case if I agree with your interpretation of the 2nd amendment. If I don’t, then the slippery slope doesn’t exist.

            No, this is still the wrong way of looking at it.

            Your logic is only correct if you believe the second amendment is completely unique among all other amendments/rights in being overly vague and not explicitly protected. You have to believe that it is the only amendment where clever judges have enough wiggle room to “interpret” it in a wide variety of ever-changing ways.

            And I’d suggest to you that we already have ample evidence to disprove this. See also: We can regulate speech if it’s “fire in a crowded theater” (but actually it’s literature speaking out against the military draft). It’s worth opposing that sort of abridgement of the first amendment even if you are totally in favor of the draft!

          • Nornagest says:

            That was, in fact, the favored interpretation, up until the southern states decided that they needed to somehow restrict blacks from being able to defend themselves with weapons, and gun control in the US was born.

            I’m more on the pro-2A side here, but this isn’t a good history of the amendment. Federal firearms laws date to the mid-1800s — when there was an attempt to ban repeating handguns cheaper than the powerful and costly Army and Navy revolvers — and local regulation was common quite early. The NFA was passed in the early 20th century, and IIRC was billed as disarming Al Capone types. Laws targeting Bowie and other fighting knives, too, were very common in the first half of the country’s existence. Firearms laws post-1960 do have a lot to do with race relations, but that’s only part of the story.

            Amusingly, though, those early laws generally sought to pass 2A scrutiny by banning weapons that weren’t thought to have military uses.

          • CatCube says:

            The point is that if they can come up with bizarre semantics games to ignore the bill of rights on the 2nd amendment, they could just as easily do so with the 1st amendment. And they could even more easily do it with implied rights (such as the right to privacy, which is the justification for protecting abortion).

            They, of course, did at one point decide that they could abridge the 1st Amendment using this exact logic–anti-war leafleting was equivalent to “shouting fire in a crowded theater” and could be banned on those grounds, text of the amendment be damned.

          • Aftagley says:

            Your logic is only correct if you believe the second amendment is completely unique among all other amendments/rights in being overly vague and not explicitly protected

            Right, because the rest of the Bill of Rights is completely clear and unambiguous. That’s why they explicitly defined what counted as excessive bail in the 8th Amendment and set out explicit timelines for prosecution in the 6th.

          • John Schilling says:

            Federal firearms laws date to the mid-1800s — when there was an attempt to ban repeating handguns cheaper than the powerful and costly Army and Navy revolvers

            Do you have a cite for that as a Federal law, or serious proposal? There were definitely State laws to that effect – in the reconstruction-era South, when the previously nigh-universal sentiment that every free man had the right to be armed and that this right was indeed protected by the 2nd Amendment suddenly sprouted an “…except for the darkies, nobody ever meant for them to be armed, and if we can’t enslave them we’d better make sure they don’t have guns” clause.

            Well, in some parts at least. And maybe some Southern senator tried to introduce that bill at the Federal level so that Yankee factory owners couldn’t sell handguns that colored folk could afford, but if that’s all you’ve got, then I am unimpressed by your precedent.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Contra the stereotype Hollywood created when it was rather more Red tribe, local gun laws could be strict in the post-Civil War American West. (Which is rather less relevant than the South for the racial motivation being proposed.) Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the legal theory behind this: the 2nd and 14th Amendments existed but we’re talking about local laws in a time when some of these places were in states and some in territories.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            And I’d suggest to you that we already have ample evidence to disprove this. See also: We can regulate speech if it’s “fire in a crowded theater” (but actually it’s literature speaking out against the military draft). It’s worth opposing that sort of abridgement of the first amendment even if you are totally in favor of the draft!

            There is literally an entire group of people that think free speech has been “weaponized.” I really don’t understand how people cannot connect the dots that many of the same people that want to ban “assault weapons” also want to ban “Assault speech.”

            And that since “Assault Weapons” has expanded to include ALL SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES in some nations ALREADY, that “Assault Speech” is going to expand in the same way.

          • John Schilling says:

            Furthermore, if you look at US V. Miller it’s clear that at some point the dominant thought was that the second amendment gave citizens the right to bear arms only in the context of their ability to participate in such a militia.

            What do you mean by “such a militia”?

            Because if you’re thinking “National Guard”, that’s not it. The
            militia is, by current statute(*) and common law, basically the entire collective body of the population capable of bearing arms in the national defense – including defense against local tyranny. The Federal Government can regulate this body collectively, it can prescribe training standards, it can call some or all of its members to arms in time of war, and some of this is discussed elsewhere in the Constitution.

            But it by definition cannot dissolve the militia (short of genocide), and by law it cannot disarm it. If the government chooses to call up or allow only a fraction of the body of the population capable of bearing arms for service in the National Guard, then the whole body nonetheless remains the Militia. And their right to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, period. That’s the law. Arguing “We are only prohibited from banning weapons if the subject of the ban is part of the Militia, and since we have banned them from having arms they cannot bear arms in defense of the nation and so they are not part of the Militia and it is thus OK for us to ban them from having arms”, gets you nowhere.

            Per Miller, you can ban or restrict people from owning arms that are not at all suitable for the collective defense of the nation. Per Heller, individual self-defense gets added to that list. So if your reason for banning a gun is that e.g. mass harvesting of waterfowl is ecologically unsustainable and therefore we can’t have punt guns outside of licensed collections, OK, fine. But if your reason for banning a gun is that it is a Deadly Weapon of Battle and War, then you’re squarely in Miller/Heller protected territory, even if the person who insists they have a right to own it isn’t wearing a uniform.

            * The present statute excludes women, unless they have enlisted in the National Guard, so I suppose you might be able to sneak in an “assault weapon” ban narrowly applied to female civilians. I double-dog dare you to try it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But it by definition cannot dissolve the militia (short of genocide),

            Well, um, that’d certainly be one way for the government to elect a new people.

          • Machine Interface says:

            My point was that cults with guns have had the effect of already priming the US government to find better methods to deal with groups they want to neutralize. In effect, what I am saying, if ever there is an armed insurrection, the insurrectionists have already lost the element of surprise because the government has already developped tactics to deal with insurrectionists.

            Basically armed radicals have made all future armed resistance less effective by vaccinating federal forces.

          • John Schilling says:

            Basically armed radicals have made all future armed resistance less effective by vaccinating federal forces.

            QED, people should never resist tyranny or oppression by any means, because doing so would teach tyrants to counter the means of resistance.

            Or is the plan that all outgroups should refrain from resisting oppression, so that the first time your ingroup feels oppressed you can resist with the full element of surprise. In which case, oh hell no we’re not doing that.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Where does this “should” come from? I believe I make no secret of my deep moral anti-realism. Yet so often I see people deriving “should” statements from my observations. This is weird.

            As for the point at hand, I simply observe that no other government on Earth is better prepared to quash rebellion than the US one — armed cults of lunatics have trained it so. This is not an argument for giving out your guns. This is just pointing out that “I need my guns to resist” is nonsensical, because come a revolution, the government already knows how to deal with armed, uncooperative groups — and that’s of course ignoring that come a revolution against a tyranical government, a lot of these armed groups will be recruited to fight for the tyranical government. The US hasn’t made itself safe against Bolsheviks, it has homebrewed them and armed them.

          • John Schilling says:

            Where does this “should” come from? I believe I make no secret of my deep moral anti-realism. Yet so often I see people deriving “should” statements from my observations. This is weird.

            This is putting you solidly in You sound like an Evil Robot territory, though given the user name that may be deliberate. And I don’t feel like explaining why, but do understand that your phrasing most consistent with non-robot humans making normative “should” statements, and if that’s no your intent you should maybe phrase things differently in the future.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I mean, that’s fair? I have much lower empathy than average, I don’t believe in free will and have a total lack of terminal values or prescriptive views. I know “you sound like an evil robot” is the normal, default emotional reaction when talking to me about anything politics or philosophy-adjacent.

            I just assumed regular contributors here were already familiar with those quirks of mine.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Need” isn’t an appropriate criterion.

        • John Schilling says:

          Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose

          As Nybbler says, “need” has got nothing to do with it.

          To amplify: We’re having a parallel discussion on the ethics of abortion, a practice which may or may not result in the deliberate murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent children every year, and our best bioethicists can’t come to even an order-of-magnitude estimate of the true death toll. Maybe it’s zero. We’d better hope zero.

          But the entire issue, and consequent risk, can be completely eliminated if women stop having PiV except when they are ready to have babies.

          So, does anyone actually need recreational sex, for any “socially accepted purpose”? Need it badly enough to risk maybe killing innocent babies over it? And what if red-tribe and blue-tribe societies disagree with which purposes are considered “acceptable”?

          Or maybe you’d free society in which people can do the things they want to do, without having to prove that they need to do them.

        • Garrett says:

          > Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose

          Does anyone actually need a Koran for any socially accepted purpose?
          Does anyone actually need a pet lizard for any socially accepted purpose?
          Does anyone actually need a car with more than 80 HP for any socially accepted purpose?
          Does anyone actually need liquor for any socially accepted purpose?

          Is there any other aspect of life you would be willing to subject to the whims of “need” and “socially accepted purpose”? I claim that one of the key elements of a liberal society is to tolerate other people doing and having things they don’t need and which aren’t socially accepted.