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Censorship Editorial Your Rights Online

What You Can't Say 1999

Posted by michael
from the mental-gymnastics dept.
dtolton writes "Paul Graham has an excellent article posted on the subject of things you can't say. His article explores what ideas are generally considered heresy, and whether or not those ideas might be true nonetheless. He also presents advice for handling heretical ideas. Considering that many of the ideas in technology in general and Open Source specifically are near heresy, it's well worth a read."
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What You Can't Say

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  • Things like... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by myowntrueself (607117) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:40PM (#7875231)
    Mr Hitler was a fantastic orator? (who would doubtless have made a great comedian).

    While I'm on the topic, its interesting that an entire moustache can be effectively banned around the world due to the actions of one man.

    Unless you happen to be Robert Mugabe (anyone notice his chosen moustache style?).
    • Re:Things like... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by culain (733686) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:05PM (#7875413)
      It certainly is frowned apon to say anything positive at all about Hitler, even though he obviously did some amazing things (some horrific too of course). And yes, i find it amazing that the demonization of one man has such a large effect on fashial hair fashions. Did this kind of thing happen during other large conflicts? Were there any historical figures who were demonized as much as Hitler? I suspect a similar situation developed with Napoleon.
      • by culain (733686) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:08PM (#7875433)
        "fashial"? It's going to be one of those days, i can tell.
      • by mcpkaaos (449561) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:16PM (#7875490)
        Did this kind of thing happen during other large conflicts?

        Yeah. Thanks to Napoleon, every time I wear my favorite hat [www.dhm.de] people point at me and laugh. ;\
      • Re:Things like... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by budgenator (254554) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:36PM (#7875665) Journal
        try dracula, not the story-book vampire, but the real person; quitre possibly he was personaly invovled with the execution of more human beings than any other person. He did this in a relatively short period, in defense of the catholic church from the ottoman threat and is probably resonsable more than anyone else for europeans being christian rather than islamic.
      • by Paleomacus (666999) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:57PM (#7875816)
        I avoid short people because of Napoleon!
      • Re:Things like... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Christian Engstrom (633834) <[es.teitraptarip ... tsgne.naitsirhc]> on Sunday January 04, 2004 @07:11PM (#7875925) Homepage
        [...] the demonization of one man has such a large effect on fashial hair fashions. Did this kind of thing happen during other large conflicts?
        The moustache was in fact intended as a deliberate political statement: by cutting of the long, vaxed ends of the moustache that had been the hallmark of the previous generation of German leaders associated with the Kaiser, they were signalling rejection of the leadership that they blamed for Germany loosing The Great War on such humiliating terms.

        So the facial fashion game was already on in that arena at the time. Weird times, to say the least.

    • Re:Things like... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MobyTurbo (537363) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:51PM (#7875772) Homepage
      an entire moustache can be effectively banned around the world due to the actions of one man.
      Actually there is a theory that the reason why Hitler adopted a Charlie-Chaplain type mustasche is that it would make him look less serious and more harmless, so that people would underestimate his threat.
    • Re:Things like... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iabervon (1971) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @07:53PM (#7876314) Homepage Journal
      It's particularly strange to think that people think being a good orator is a positive characteristic which it is shocking to attribute to anyone who commits atrocities. In fact, it takes a whole lot of skill at something to commit any atrocities, and oratory is about the most common thing, because it can get you a mob, which is just the thing for committing atrocities.

      Being a good orator (or being convincing in some medium) is necessary for doing anything on a large scale. Of course Hitler was a fantastic orator. If he weren't, he couldn't have caused much trouble.
  • by s20451 (410424) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:43PM (#7875247) Journal
    For all the Canucks in the house, here's something that's true but you can't say:

    Two-tier, user-fee health care is the way of the future.

    There, I said it.
  • by aynrandfan (687181) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:43PM (#7875248)
    Ya know, I think SCO might have a point there . . .
  • by kfg (145172) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:45PM (#7875256)
    . . . that you don't agree with whatever zealotry is current in your time.

    XML and OOP suck big, fat, hairy monkey balls.

    There, how'd I do?

    KFG
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:33PM (#7875634)
      Everybody gets a good laugh out "big fat hairy monkey balls", but I hope you guys are aware that this is a serious problem for monkeys in many parts of the world.

      Hypertrophic Testicular Disorder (HTD) [monkeyballs.org] is a condition affecting 14% of male monkey populations worldwide. The condition results in large, painfully swollen testicles, which onlookers often call "big fat hairy monkey balls". This condition impacts the monkey's ability to mate, or even to sleep and sit. Laughing at them doesn't help.

      I hope everybody on slashdot thinks twice before using this "funny" phrase, and please consider making a donation [monkeyballs.org] if you can. Your money will go toward analgesics to reduce swelling and paying the often-expensive fees of "monkey shavers".
  • Warning: (Score:5, Funny)

    by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:46PM (#7875263) Homepage
    Warning:

    This article has nothing to do with current technology sans a single 1 sentence reference to the DMCA.
    • Why a warning ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Space cowboy (13680) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:59PM (#7875357) Journal
      [I realise your post was intended as humour, but it sparked the flame :-]

      This is after-all a site for "stuff that matters". What the author is trying to express is that blind obedience to society norms is a bad thing. Effectively, he's saying "distrust Authority", an old maxim, but one that needs reiteration from time to time.

      I have to say that I identify closely with a lot of his ideas, nothing depresses me more than the continued conversion of people into "consumers" told what to "consume", when to do it, how much to do it, and presumably when to stop.

      The only way out of the cycle is education - but not facts and figures, instead the freedom to think and postulate, debate and conclude. The sort of education that we (at least in the UK) tend to reserve for the 18+ year-olds who go to college.

      We live in an ever-more complex society, with ever-more subtle distinction between right and wrong, between do and do-not. It is a crying shame that most are incapable of distinguishing those distinctions. The "system" has failed these people.

      I wonder if we are indeed moving into the "Corporate state" governmental model (anyone who played 'elite' will know that these are the most stable of governments), which simply exist to exist. Life should be more :-(

      Simon.
  • by Selecter (677480) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:49PM (#7875290)
    I think he overgeneralizes the articles points. A really useful article would have used some harder examples of politically and socially correctness. He steps around modern day issues....well, like he cant say anything about them.

    My favorite example is why some African-Americans can & do use the term "nigger" to describe themselves without inpunity or shame, but if a white person does so, they can/will be fired and their lives ruined. Why is it a double standard, and it's a negative hateful word. Why do blacks in certain circles constantly use it?

    (and there's no need to mod me down for *actually* saying things you cant say - if thats the case then /. is worthless.)

    • by Dalroth (85450) * on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:57PM (#7875346) Homepage Journal
      It's a double standard and it's called reverse discrimination. It's idiotic, and the black people who continue to behave like this are only hurting their cause. If you don't practice what you preach, how can we take you seriously?

      * I refuse to put a disclaimer on this message. I feel that the continued use of that word by black culture is absolutely sickening. I am white.
      • by superflippy (442879) on Monday January 05, 2004 @11:11AM (#7880935) Homepage Journal
        it's called reverse discrimination

        As long as we have a topic dedicated to ranting, I'd like to say that if I could remove one phrase from the English language, it would be "reverse discrimination." Descrimination is discrimination. If you are a Japanese store owner who charges me more because I'm Korean, that's discrimination. If I am an African-American employer who won't hire you because you are white, that's discrimination.

        "Reverse" discrimination would be not discriminating against someone.
    • by catbutt (469582) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:00PM (#7875372)
      Why is it a double standard, and it's a negative hateful word.

      Same reason your wife can say "I am so fat", but you get in trouble if you say "honey, you are fat". I don't see why that is so hard to understand why the difference.
  • A quick list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by johnbr (559529) <johnbr@gmail.com> on Sunday January 04, 2004 @05:56PM (#7875339) Homepage
    The point of the article was to come up with lists and discuss. So here's mine: Sexual:
    • Masturbatory habits ("Hey Chuck, what'd you do last night?" "Oh, I stayed home and surfed for porn - had two great orgasms!")
    • Fetishes ("So Julie, what did you get for Christmas?" "Oh! A batman cape? I can't reach orgasm unless my lover is wearing one!")
    • Adultery (although this might be legitimate)
    Violence:
    • "Sure I hit my wife - when she deserves it!" (this is probably less of a taboo than it should be)
    Religion:
    • In most of middle america, announcing that you're an atheist is pretty eyebrow-raising.
    Language:
    • You can't say 'nigger', unless you're black.
    • You can't usually use a racial slur at all unless you're either kidding or in a particular bigoted crowd.
    You know, most taboos are only taboo in a particular circle you're in. For example, announcing that the War on Drugs is destroying this country would be applauded in one circle I travel in, and ignored or shrugged off in several others.
    • Re:A quick list (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RickHunter (103108) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @07:03PM (#7875864)

      Not just the atheist. Announcing that you actually believe in a religion, whatever it may be as long as its not currently fashionable, can lead to a lot of eyebrow-raising too. The only "acceptable" choice right now seems to be to be an agnostic...

  • by target (97212) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:03PM (#7875384) Homepage
    Calling something x-ist, as the author suggests, is often used to suppress ideas, even true ideas. But that doesn't mean that the concept of racism or sexism is just a form of censorship, as this article seems to imply. In fact, such labels are very useful for discussing implications as well as the truth value of a sentence.

    That's pretty vague, so how about an example. If someone says, "Girls are bad at math", it can mean a lot of different things. One of the meanings might be, "Girls tend to do worse on math tests than boys of the same age," which if the age in question is high school, as opposed to elementary school or junior high, would be true. And yet, I can hear the cries, even though it's true, it gets labeled as sexist!

    Well, there's a good reason for that. If what our hypothetical speaker really meant to say was, "Girls in high school perform worse on math tests that boys in high school," then why didn't he say that? The main difference in the two sentences, or in the general approach behind the sentences, is twofold: the implications of the sentence; and the assumptions behind it.

    Those things need to be addressed, and it's not enough to say, "That's not true!" as the author of this article would have it. Because the sentence *is* true, but at least one implication -- that girls are naturally worse at math than boys, and there's nothing to be done about that -- is *exactly* the kind of idea that the author wants to avoid! It's pervasive, it's hard to get rid of, in most places in this country, people believe it implicitly. But it's also hard to talk about the general phenomenon without bringing up the concept of sexism.

    So be careful of just rejecting x-ism and y-ic. They exist because they can be useful tools for uncovering the exact "fashions" which the author claims they hide.
    • by MisanthropicProggram (597526) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:30PM (#7875613)
      I find that most of the time when people use -ist and -ic are trying to suppress another point of view; regardless of the merits or the arguments.

      Criticize Isreal - anti-semtic

      Criticize Blacks - racist

      Criticize Women - misogynist

      US - Un-American

      I'm sure you know others.
      Even when a person belongs to one of these groups, folks who do not agree with his/her/its opinion will get labeled as such.

  • by Brian_Ellenberger (308720) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:05PM (#7875405)
    Sadly, universities are becoming the places where free speech is the *least* tolerated. Orwellian indoctrination classes and speech codes are the norm. Punishment for controversial speech is becoming more severe. College newspapers exposing "dangerous" thoughts are being stolen or banned. Anyone who speaks up is labeled a "racist conservative Nazi facist".

    If you want detailed specifics check out the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [thefire.org].

    Brian Ellenberger
  • by highwaytohell (621667) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:07PM (#7875430)
    If everyone wasn't so politically correct there wouldnt be a need for an article like this. It appears that everyone has become so sensitive to anything that comes out of peoples mouths, that we all have to watch what we say otherwise the PC demons will come and take our souls back to buzzword land. A joke is taken out of context and suddenly you find yourself in court for slander. What's the point in speaking when you have to watch what you say all the time. What's the point in activism when people get offended so easily.
  • I wish... (Score:5, Funny)

    by sootman (158191) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:07PM (#7875432) Homepage Journal
    Paul
    would
    let me
    decide
    how wide
    the page
    should be.
    I hate
    skinny
    columns.
  • by EmCeeHawking (720424) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:08PM (#7875438)
    ...who published the book "Ten Things you Can't Say In America".

    To summarize his points:

    * Blacks are More Racist than Whites
    * White Condescension is as Real as Black Racism
    * The Media Bias: It's Real, It's Widespread, It's Destructive
    * The Glass Ceiling: Full of Holes
    * America's Greatest Problem: Illegitimacy
    * The Big Lie: Our Health Care Crisis
    * The Welfare State: Helping Us to Death
    * Republican v. Democrat: Maybe a Dime's worth of Difference, One's for Big Government, One's for Bigger
    * Vietnam II: The War on Drugs, and We're Losing that One Too
    * Gun Control Advocates: Good Guys with Blood on Their Hands
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscowar ... 14159om minus pi> on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:08PM (#7875439) Journal
    How about this one:

    We exist purely as vehicles for our genes; our consciousness, our imaginations, our creations: all these are simply manifestations of our genetically-implanted instincts for survival. We believe we exist because it makes us better replicators. There is no other reason for existence, no god, no destiny, no karma. Our lives are neither random nor controlled: choice is an illusion, but so is fate. We simply operate, like the very intelligent automatons we are. Our minds are exquisitely adapted to solving large and complex problems, the bulk of which come from our intraspecies competition with each other. Our societies are hives, built through the collaboration of thousands and millions of minds. As a species we are genetically so similar, due to near-extinction around 50,000 years ago, that we are practically clones. All our notions of "ethnicity" and "color" are as meaningful as separating people by hair patterns or toe size. Our species is incredibly successful mainly because we have managed to turn our technological prowess onto ourselves, creating a feedback loop that has not stopped since we invented fire and freed our jaws to shrink and make space for a larger brain. Finally, although we all feel unique, we are in fact designed as team players, male and female, young and old adopting clear and comfortable roles that are so inate they are universal in all human cultures. Men solve technical problems, women organize social networks. Young men learn and work, young women dance and like to look pretty. Old women gossip and old men accumulate power."

    These truths, though self0evident, are heresy because they seem to imply (wrongly) that life has no meaning and personal endeavour has no value. Au contraire, life is filled with meaning, and personal endeavour all that makes it possible.

    Just because you understand fluid mechanics does not mean you cannot enjoy surfing a great wave.

    OK, flame me now...
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:09PM (#7875445) Journal
    I have never understood why society, experts or the media seem to believe that nudity harms children. Children see themselves naked everyday, why should it harm them to see someone else naked? It is absolute heresy in this age to claim otherwise.

    What is worse than holding unpopular opinions is the reaction many people have to them. We jump all over those that hold opinions in the margins of society, however right or wrong they might be, and never seek to learn the reasons they hold such opinions or if there is any truth in them.

    Humanity has come a long way, but as a society we seem as unreceptive to new ideas as ever.
    • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:22PM (#7875542)
      Correlary to this, that children are automatically harmed by sexual activity. That is to say, molesting children is a crime because it harms children, yet children have to be actively taught that "certain" forms of pleasure are bad before they are harmed.

      IE, if children touch their privates and experience pleasure, that is legal, natural and acceptable, but if another person touches their privates and evokes the same pleasure, that is illegal, perverse and bad. It is interesting to note that a large portion of the population would even consider the first statement about children touching themselves to be "evil".

      I think this topic qualifies as the best example of modern heresy.

    • by Qrlx (258924) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:29PM (#7875600) Homepage Journal
      seem to believe that nudity harms children.

      No no no. Nudity does not harm children. No credible psychologist or behavioral expert or what have you believes this. Babies suck on titties for christ's sake, and it's completely natural. To a certain extent, though, wearing clothes is pretty much required to fit in with society, kinda like potty training.

      The reason that nudity is kept off of TV is because in our culture, we use sex to sell. If nudity were less taboo, and the things that naked people did became less taboo, these ads would lose their punch.

      The other thing that sells is fear; fear actually creates consumer want -- as in, we're all going to die so I'll go ahead and get into unsurmountable debt if it means I get to enjoy life while I can.

      Breast cancer is the wet dream of Madison Avenue; it's got both sex and fear all rolled up into one (well, two) little packages. Look how many breast cancer specials there are during sweeps (when the networks compete for highest viewer count.)

      Seriously, watch the news. The stories are there to make you afraid or to tittilate (sp?). The prodcuts advertised during the news provide the means for security and companionship. It's basic psychology, discovered around a hundred years ago and perfected during/after WWII, when all those propaganda big brains went to work for advertising agencies.

      Shaving and deodorant ads are my personal favorite. I'm a big fan on crotch shots too; they turn up in the strangest places, like that one super bowl ad from 2000 that had a 14-year old girl walking over the camera wearing khaki shorts. The ad was for a financial services company.

    • by mccalli (323026) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:34PM (#7875642) Homepage
      I have never understood why society, experts or the media seem to believe that nudity harms children.

      Not nudity - sexuality. And the reasons are part moral choice but mostly practical. Children are inquisitive and will copy much of what they see. However, they are children, not miniature adults. Morally, they do not yet possess emotional complexity of the kind required to handle sex. Practically, they are unable to handle the consequences of being pregnant by twelve.

      I have kids, and it's an amazing learning experience. Forget programming, debugging humans is where it's at. From your post I am guessing that you aren't yet in this situation - please correct me if I'm wrong. However, I humbly suggest to you that the kind of lessons you learn after having kids are only available through experience. The me of three years ago knew far less about reasoning such as the kind you're describing than the me of today does.

      Cheers,
      Ian

      • by damiam (409504) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @08:00PM (#7876399)
        Morally, they do not yet possess emotional complexity of the kind required to handle sex. Practically, they are unable to handle the consequences of being pregnant by twelve.

        While you're right that pregnant 12-year-olds are bad, the sight of nudity (or even sexual behavior) doesn't seem to result in more underage pregnancies. Look at the pregnancy numbers for Europe vs. the (much more prudish) USA. The societies that expose their kids to more information about sex appear to have lower teen pregnancies rates.

      • by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @09:32PM (#7877178)
        "Not nudity - sexuality. And the reasons are part moral choice but mostly practical. Children are inquisitive and will copy much of what they see. However, they are children, not miniature adults. Morally, they do not yet possess emotional complexity of the kind required to handle sex."

        If sexuality in front of children (as opposed to "with" or "to" children) were as harmful as you suggest, none of us would be here today to debate it. Humans were having sex millenia before it was considered unacceptable to do it in front of children, much like other mammals.

        Besides, there are other, potentially more deadly things that we do in front of children that we don't want them to imitate too closely, like cooking. We survive as a species not by making sure there are no children around to see us cooking, but by making sure that the children learn things like "don't touch a hot stove."

        "Practically, they are unable to handle the consequences of being pregnant by twelve."

        Only after the Industrial Revolution. Or we would be the only species emotionally incapable of handling parenthood despite being capable biologically. Most psychologists seem to believe that the current gap we see between biological and emotional maturity is because survival now requires at least a high school education in order to hold down a job and such.

        Besides, this is the Twenty-First Century; you can have sex without getting pregnant and vice versa (unless you pay too much attention to John Paul II). If three-year-olds are capable of understanding "don't touch a hot stove," a child old enough to have reached sexual maturity should be capable of understanding "use a condom."

        In my personal (anecdotal) experience, it seems that the children from whom sexuality is hidden from the longest are the ones most likely to be a parent at an early age. I'm sure everybody here has heard stories of children growing up in strictly asexual households only to get (somebody) pregnant in their freshman year at an out-of-state college.

        Is it harmful to children, or is it simply embarassing to the adults?
  • by Brown (36659) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:11PM (#7875458) Homepage
    What is, of course, also true, is that there are many things that could be said - both which are considered acceptable or indeed 'gospel', and which are not - which are blatantly wrong.

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", as Voltaire may have said - and equally, just because it has been said, doesn't mean anyone has to listen. That includes listening to the conspiracy-theorists who will no doubt be having a field-day here all evening...

    -Chris

  • by musingmelpomene (703985) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:16PM (#7875491) Homepage
    HIV does not cause AIDS illnesses.

    AIDS is currently defined as presence of HIV antibodies (not live virus necessarily) plus any ONE of about 30 other illnesses, from low t-cell counts to pneumonia to kaposi's sarcoma. So through a miracle of circular reasoning, yes, HIV causes AIDS - but only because that's the definition.

    Scientists who dispute that HIV causes all AIDS illnesses (pointing out that HIV, if responsible, acts differently than any other virus known to man in about a dozen ways) and postulate other hypotheses - for instance, that drug usage, including the chemotherapy drugs like AZT used for AIDS treatment, causes the immunodeficiencies, are barred from conferences and their papers are blacklisted.
  • by mccalli (323026) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:26PM (#7875575) Homepage
    From the article: "A lot of my friends are starting to have children now..."

    Implication: he doesn't yet have kids.

    "...and they're all trying not to use words like "fuck" and "shit" within baby's hearing, lest baby start using these words too. But these words are part of the language, and adults use them all the time. So parents are giving their kids an inaccurate idea of the language by not using them. Why do they do this? Because they don't think it's fitting that kids should use the whole language. We like children to seem innocent. [7]"

    Nonsense. There's a saying I know from a film, don't know if it has any other derivation, "rules are for the obeyance of fools and the guidance of the wise". In this context, the children are (figuratively) the 'fools' - they haven't yet gained enough wisdom to know the implications of what they're saying. If they have, well then they're old enough to use the words. If they haven't...they're still the children being referred to.

    I have two children, one just months but the other coming up to her second birthday and with her use of language exploding all over the place. She doesn't yet know enough to check herself, has little conception of context - if she starting using swear words now honestly, would I have done that kid a favour? At some point in her life she's going to start swearing, but at two? No. She'll do so when she learns about them, at first way too much and then later with a bit more understanding of context. And that's why the parents are self-censoring themselves - to help their children, not to molly-coddle them from reality.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • Alcohol (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:34PM (#7875644) Homepage
    The one that I've noticed is attitudes towards children and alcohol.

    My family is from Wisconsin. If we had wine with a meal, I would be given a glass. I can remember attending many picnics with family and relatives in local parks. There was always a keg or two of beer, along with the sausages, hamburgers and other food. Many of the kids would drink a half-cup or cup of beer, although most preferred soda.

    What would happen if I tried that today, in another part of the United States? Let's see.

    • Alcohol in a public park.
    • Drinking in public.
    • Giving alcohol to minors.
    I'd probably end up in jail and see the kids put in foster care. I've also noticed the large number of "public service" ads on television that portray alcohol consumption, especially by children, as stupid and evil.
    • Re:Alcohol (Score:5, Insightful)

      by de Selby (167520) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @08:34PM (#7876714)
      I have to agree.

      A little drink for a young teen at a family meal == teaching good drinking habits.

      Keeping all alchahol away until 21 == making it more desireable than it should be, with habits formed at underage unsupervised parties.

      No matter how obvious this is, it still gets people upset.
  • by waimate (147056) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:35PM (#7875654) Homepage
    Here's a couple:
    • You have to pretend that men and women are equal, even when it's obvious there are some pretty fundamental differences between the genders. Those differences may or may not be pertinent in any given situation, but you're not allowed to talk about them.
    • You have to avoid commenting on any difference between the races, even though it's obvious that some races tend to be better at some things than others (maybe it's ok to say that), and ergo unavoidably some races are worse at some things than others (and it's not okay to say that).
    • In general, you have to avoid any use of generalities, even though generalities are often useful ways to express means and modes.

    For example, "black people are better dancers than white people". Yes, there will always be some pedant showing an example of a given white person who is a better dancer than a given white person, but that does not affect the usefulness of the generalisation.

    Another example: next major internation sporting event, compare the relative representation of the various races in the finals of the 100m sprint. Now do it again in the swimming.

    So here's a question you can't ask: why is it valid to segregate the 100m sprint into "male" and "female", but not into "african" and "chinese"? In one scenario, we are acknowleding that men tend to be physically stronger than women (even though you can find counterexamples), and in the other we are not.

    People are different. Genders are different. Races are different. Short people can't reach the top shelf. Fat people can't fit in airline seats. Some genders can't reverse park. Generalities sometimes have a degree of truth. Let's get over it.

    • by e4liberty (537089) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @07:15PM (#7875961)

      it's obvious there are some pretty fundamental differences between the genders

      This highlights one of my pet peeves: use of the word "gender" when "sex" is clearly called for. "Gender" refers to roles; "sex" refers to biology. It appears that it's taboo to use the word "sex" even when that's exactly what you mean to say!

    • by tomboy17 (696672) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @09:15PM (#7877058)

      You have to pretend that men and women are equal...

      Patently untrue. People love talking about the differences between genders. The best selling Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series of books, published at the height of so-called political correctness (1993 [amazon.com], 1996 [amazon.com], 1997 [amazon.com] & 1999 [amazon.com]) are just one example. For more examples, visit cocktail parties, dinner tables, and talkshows around the nation: sexual difference is one of our culture's favorite topics for discussion. There is also a whole branch of feminism called "Difference feminism" precisely because it focuses on how men and women are different.

      Perhaps a better question would be why attacks on sexism are so often labelled "feminist" or "political" (both modern synonyms for "heretical", in my book) or misrepresented as outrageous claims of absolute "equality" (which only serves to cloud the real issue of equal rights).

      You have to avoid commenting on any difference between the races, even though it's obvious that some races tend to be better at some things than others (maybe it's ok to say that), and ergo unavoidably some races are worse at some things than others (and it's not okay to say that).

      The 1992 flick titled White Men Can't Jump [amazon.com] would suggest racial difference isn't as off-limits as you suggest.

      However, I would agree that talking about race is something of a tabboo, but only among white people. This tabboo, however, is clearly not because people of color somehow police white people (the white people I know, myself included, police themselves when in all-white company). More likely, it has to do with the discomfort many whites feel mentioning race at all. Perhaps this is because for centuries whites talked openly from a standpoint of racial supremacy, and now that we've (hopefully) realized that this history is shameful, we're uncomfortable bringing up race at all.

    • by smallpaul (65919) <paul&prescod,net> on Sunday January 04, 2004 @09:26PM (#7877133)

      So here's a question you can't ask: why is it valid to segregate the 100m sprint into "male" and "female", but not into "african" and "chinese"?

      You're mixing up four different things. First you talk about "races". But "black" isn't a race. Black is a skin colour. If you look at black people they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I'm not just talking about individual differences. I'm talking about genetic group differences that differentiate pygmies from bushmen of the kalahari. Africans are people who come from the continent of African (including white ones). Chinese people come from the country of China (including the 55 "minority ethnic people" like the Mongols and Tibetans).

      • skin colour
      • race
      • People from the same continent
      • People from the same nation

      Four different things.

      Saying that "black people" dance well would indicate some correspondance between melanin and rhythm. That doesn't make much sense. It seems more likely that the black people you know of come from a small set of cultures where they are trained to dance well. I wonder if blacks living in strict Muslim cultures are similarly skilled.

      Talking about race is okay but first you have to define it. The problem is that people tend to use definitions that have no basis in science or history, only in their anecdotal experience.

  • by TheMidget (512188) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:44PM (#7875720)
    Just watching the moderators from a distance...
  • Fact vs. Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MythoBeast (54294) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @06:55PM (#7875801) Homepage Journal
    One of the things that causes this phenomenon is that most people can't tell the difference between truth and fact. Facts are information that is independently provable, whereas Truths are just what we accept as reality. Most people are absolutely insistent that their Truths are really Facts, and get really upset when you disagree with them.

    Oddly enough, the less realistic a truth is, the more likely a person is to get upset at someone who is contradicting it. Look at anybody in history who has been burned, fired, hanged, or crucified for stating a truth, and you'll see what I mean.

    While you're at it, you might notice that attempting to repeal laws which support certain popular truths is tantamount to breaking those laws in most people's eyes. Gives you something to chew on, eh?
  • by Mike Hawk (687615) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @07:19PM (#7876001) Journal
    Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.

    Well, I guess this is my last slashdot post.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @07:25PM (#7876048)
    Someone said this. Almost everyone appeared outraged. Anyone who wasn't outraged kept their mouths shut.

    Ditto for anyone who suggests that a woman wearing a outfit and walks alone at night is asking for trouble.

    There's a difference between 'had it coming', 'asking for trouble' and actually 'deserving it'. But any time someone suggests the former two, everyone seems to think the latter is implied.

    Even if you try and explain the difference between 'asking for trouble' and 'deserving it', the person will most likely put their hands over their ears and chant "it's a womans right to go anywhere she pleases at any time of the day wearing whatever she wants without fear of attack" over and over again, without listening.

    For some people, it's almost like anything coming even close to threatening someone's idea of a taboo causes a brick wall to close over their mind, and out comes the pre-programmed response.
  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel.bcgreen@com> on Sunday January 04, 2004 @08:40PM (#7876768) Homepage Journal
    If you take the Landmark Forum [landmarkeducation.com] and then take their follow up course -- the ubiquitously named "Advanced Course", they have a section when they talk about types of reality. One is "reality by agreement". It reminded me about one rather extreme case of reality by agreement. (which links solidly into this whole heresy thing).

    Back in the '80s, there was a company known as "Sir Unicorn Enterprises". They created a game called "Dreamquest" (which later morphed into the LRPS [incentre.net] Live Role-Playing System). It was based on a D&D type scenario, where you had different character classes with different abilities etc. However it was done live-action and on a commercial scale... For my first game there were about 75 'players' (paying customers) and a dozen, or two, actors (game creatures).

    One of the base rules of the game was "If you're out of your tent, you're in character".

    Other than the limitations and powers of your character class, there was very little limitation to your character. You got to make up their personality, their costume, their history -- Even the history of how they got to Samiltan (the country in which the game was played). As an extreme, there was one guy on my first quest who was dressed in a (civilian) paratrooper's outfit. His story was that he was on a jump, went through this weird glowing portal thing, and next thing he knew he was fighting dragons.... Character class: Fighter (of course -- completely non-magical).

    The venue of my first quest was a country club.. We had one small section of the country club building (basically a large room) and the edges of the property leading down into the river valley. On the Friday night, we were given very explicit instructions to not go beyond the end of the one room, because there was a wedding going on, and we were NOT to go beyond there. Disturbing the 'mundanes' (non-players) could get us booted out.
    In game parlance, The world ends there.

    Of course the country club didn't warn the wedding party about our presence (why should they? They knew that we wouldn't go past the "end of the world").

    And of course, a couple of wedding party members wandered into the game space.

    I'm thinking that the first thing that they learned was not to go past "the end of the world".

    But they wanted to go home, so they started talking to people, and hearing stories -- stories from past dreamquests and the present one... stories of magic, demons dragons and an impending doom if "the unnamed one" could not be stopped.

    At first, they were highly skeptical (of course), but they didn't really care, they just wanted to get home -- unfortunately, nobody could tell them about how to get home -- of course, nobody could, since it made sense that anybody who got home probably {w,c}ouldn't come (willingly) back from a mundane (non-magical) world. Nonetheless, it was possible (but not guaranteed) that a powerful enough wizard might be able to get them home. One thing that they had going for them, though, was that recent events in this corner of Samiltan had resulted in the gathering of some of the most powerful wizards known (and probably the cause of their own troubles). Thus, if anyplace had hope of getting them home, it was likely to be here. About the only thing that they learned for sure, however, was that they should not go past the end of the world... People were adamant about that -- beyond there lay death.

    From what I can tell, they were in the game area for at least an hour... maybe two. Word was going around the players that a couple of characters (possibly actors) were playing guests from the wedding, and trying to get people to break character.
    but we knew better, right?

    Nobody would break character for them. The guy in the parachute outfit probably clinched it for them... If they could expect a straight answer out of anybody, it would be h

  • My peers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @09:20PM (#7877088) Homepage Journal
    Let's start with a test. Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

    Hell yes!

    I moved to the San Fransisco bay area slightly over five years ago. To this day I am extremely cautious about expressing most of my political and religious opinions. I learned that the hard way the first week I was here. It's not that this area is liberal or anything like that, it's because most people here are so damned intolerant of anything that even remotely associated with conservatives, Republicans (even liberal Republicans) or Christians (even liberal Democrat Christians).

    I had a friend who no longer talks with me because she found out I'm a libertarian. In my forty years of life, this was a first to me, that someone would base their friendships on political affiliations. It boggles my mind.

    I go to parties and someone says "we should round up everyone who voted for Bush and have them all shot." Several others nod their heads in agreement. Others may disagree with the penalty, but agree with the general sentiment. No one disagrees with the underlying premise that voting for Bush was akin to committing a crime. At a group of friends, two got into a spat over something as inconsequential as what temperature to set the thermostat. One left in a huff, and the other said "What a control freak! I bet she's a Republican!"

    Do I dare let on that I'm not a member of the Democrat or Green parties? Will I be consigned to social ostracism if people find out I don't consider Bush to be Evil Incarnate?

    A friend came over and expressed surprise at seeing my Bible out on the table. Why should he be surprised? It's the best selling book in all of history. It sold more copies last year than did The Lord of the Rings. Why should it be surprising that I own a Bible?

    Yesterday while sitting around with some friends and drinking coffee, one of them sees a newspaper article about Mel Gibson and his new movie about Christ. "Oooh, I hate him," a friend said. "He's so... so... so damned conservative!" That was the worst epithet he could think of. "Conservative." Then he launched into a tirade about how Christians are homophobes.

    Do I dare let on that I'm a Christian? If I were a poor hispanic who couldn't speak English, I could get away with being a Catholic. But I'm a middle class caucasian. Will people automatically assume all sorts of wrong things about me if they know I'm part of that 80% of people in the US who believe in God?

    When you see a machine of wildly spinning metal gears, you know better than to stick your hand in. You know you'll like a finger or two. Likewise, when one sees a major metropolitan region where people go about spouting hatred for anyone of differing beliefs, you know better than to offer your opinion. It's just not safe.
  • by Dag Maggot (139855) on Sunday January 04, 2004 @10:53PM (#7877722) Homepage
    Windows XP is a well built OS. It almost never crashes, it's very compatible with a wide range of hardware, and setup/configuration is a breeze.

    Bill Gates is not a bad person. He is down to earth, a geek at heart- a humanitarian and philanthipist who believes that the money he earns should be used in service to humanity.

    The MPAA is just trying to protect the copyrighted works of the companies it represents.

    Maybe there really is some of proprietary Sco code in Linux. And you know, revealing it before Sco has its date in court would not be fair to the litigants.

    no... wait that last one just went too far... I recant.

Brain fried -- Core dumped

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