Quote of the Day: On Ad Hominems

During online arguments, you often see people shout out “Ad Hominem” when you’re pointing out their problematic background. They assume this is a good comeback as they want you to evaluate their words in isolation. It’s difficult to understand why this is not an appropriate use of this logical fallacy, but redditor bardfinn states it very succintly:

Ad hominem is only a fallacy when someone is using it to construct an argument for the audience to dismiss what the subject is arguing, and when the personal qualities imported into the ad hominem aren’t relevant to what’s being presented. The ethos of someone presenting a subjective opinion is important to assessing how much credence to lend it, and whether they’re presenting their subjective experience in good faith

This is not a case of trying to persuade the audience that 2 + 2 = 5;

This is a case of “Yes, really, all of these parties in this discussion have ulterior motives for playing their parts in this little stage drama, and none of them are grounded in a realistic assessment of how the world actually works”.

Slowly, but surely, we’re becoming cyberpunk.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s and saw cyberpunk stuff first at middle/end of the nineties. A lot of the cyberpunk imagery back then was taking current technologies and attempting to extrapolate them. The Internet was still new back then, so a lot of people thought it would evolve into some sort of virtual reality interface or use some direct feed into the brain, possibly something involving a large spike and wires, ala The Matrix. A lot of the other trappings,  as envisioned by books like Neuromancer or RPGs like cyberpunk 2020, tended to involve bulky machinery, like a cyberdeck, or cassettes and whatnot, as those worlds were imagined in the 80s where computing was a much “bigger” affair.

Cyberpunk, for those who don’t know, is a science fiction setting, which typically merges near-future high-tech, along with dystopian societal themes. As such, what feels “cyberpunk” tends to change as time goes on, as our current technology catches up to the imaginations of the authors. Some  trappings that looked possible 30 years ago such flying cars and monofibers, stubbornly fails to materialize, while others take their place which the authors didn’t imagine, such as widespread smartphones, instead of decks.

And it sometimes, you get some tech that actually matches cyberpunk imagination. For example the recent breakthrough in cyber/implant technology is still mind-blowing to me. We’re now at a level where we have people using mechanical extremities where scientists are effectively actually making neural connections between machinery and brain. We have the internet combined with mobiles phone in the form of affordable smartphone and tablets, widely reshaping how society behaves and organizes, much more than what we would expect even just twenty years ago.

As someone who’s seen many of my early cyberpunk imaginations come to life, I still couldn’t declare now is cyberpunk, because there is an important piece missing.

You see, cyberpunk is not just near-future tech + dystopia. Otherwise every generation would merely be the previous generation’s “cyberpunk”. Rather cyberpunk is how high-tech (and more specifically transhumanist tech) is implemented in a world to enhance its existing dystopian themes.

We have literal themes out of Black Mirror playing out in places like China, with their Orwellian surveillance and mandatory social credit system. We have actual crimes and even genocides (!!) being commited due to false news being spread via unchecked social media. However the thing that made me say “hold up now” and write this post, was reading this article about one of the most notorious “IRL streamers”: Ice Poseidon. This is like a caricature out of goddamn Transmetropolitan!

From my perspective, the tech that we have now, fits absolutely into my idea of what tech would look in the near-future of my childhood, and not only that, but this tech is widely being used to make the world a darker place. All the pieces fit!

Tell me which other examples of technology used in the service of dystopianism have you noticed yourselves.

 

The many questions on the death of Zak

Recently there was a horrific incident of public lynching in broad daylight in the middle of Athens. Part of the event was captured on video but there was a lot of details missing, like, how did he end up inside the shop, why did the police did an atrocious job collecting evidence (not closing the scene, moving things around etc).

Media nevertheless immediately jumped to label the victim as a junkie thief who got caught breaking in1. As we only saw the part of him being already in the shop to begin with, it was difficult to oppose, but still, much of this narrative doesn’t make sense. Zak was obviously very addled and barely able to move, nevermind break in alone and leave quickly.

Quickly the medical judge announced that he didn’t die from the beatdown, but that the cause is “unknown”. Media further promotes this. Popular greek forums quickly promote all narratives painting Zak as a thieving junkie.

As days go on however, more and more details don’t add up about this story. Zak was apparently being involved in some altercation before entering this shop. The Shop itself looks like it was broken by the owner. The other assaulter was a rabid-homophobe who went home after the lynching and started posting anti-gay and victim-blaming texts on twitter.

And today another bombshell breaks. The police is caught on camera continuing the assault on an unconscious and bleeding Zak. The visibly seem to be carrying knife in their bare hands, disrupting any chance of investigating it and opening fears that they planted it themselves. They are visibly doing very dangerous assaults on the body, like stepping on its neck and violently jerking a bleeding person around, while the EMTs around are not being used. Simply barbaric stuff.

And the medical judge tells us the beat-down had nothing to do with his death? Right.

The media and right-wing social media onslaught is reaching peak levels as we speak. I posted the video of the police assault on reddit and it was burried with extreme prejudice. The reddit comments are swarming with right-wingers blaming the victim and praising the police for their actions, which shows the is an active campaign of disinformation here. I suspect because of fears of another “Grigoropoulos incident” are very real.

Given the amount of disinformation, evidence and witness testimonies that keep cropping up, and the character of Zak,  my suspicion is that this is a case of some sort of very obvious hate crime against LGBT, which was further exacerbated by brutality of the police who simply believed the perpetrators. So now we’re seeing a desperate and collaborative effort by the state and the right-wing to cover it up, and character-assassinate Zak, to avoid riots in the streets and justice for the victim.

This is a very raw story and I suggest you start paying a lot of attention and don’t let the right-wing command the narrative. There is a lot going on behind this event that is attempted to be covered up.

  1. same way they tried to label the death of anarchist P. Fyssas as a football-related fight? []

Can Overwatch one-trick drama be a good simulation of microaggressions for privileged people?

Yet another Overwatch flamewar is ongoing about the classic question of whether someone “one tricking” a hero1 in competitive should be a bannable offense or not. As always the “ban them” camp has the loudest or more numerous voices, even though the Overwatch design team has publicly stated that they disagree with this approach. This latest drama round was only started because an ex-Blizzard/Overwatch employee has publicly stated the opposite. Check the thread sorted by “controversial comments” to witness some nerdrage if that’s your thing today.

However as someone who habitually plays primarily “off-meta” characters2 who’s spent significant time improving my skills with them, I’ve been often lumped into the “one-trick” corner by raging team-mates. In fact, playing off-meta characters is a more likely indicator that your team-mates will turn against you, rather than one-tricking as a practice, since if you’re tricking an in-meta characters, nobody bats an eyelid; but I digress.

What I want to suggest is that the experience of someone who plays off-meta/one-tricks in OW is going to be like a very very mild experience of microaggressions that marginalized people experience regularly. What tends to happen to people who make such choices in competitive play, is that there is a constant level of hostility and bothering that other players just don’t experience. From the mild, such as someone asking you very politely to switch your choice at the start of the game, to the overly hostile, such as someone flaming at you, or deliberately throwing the game to spite you.

On their own, each of these might not be an issue at all, or just a hilarious occurrence, respectively. Howevever where these situations start to approach the microaggression territory is when one experiences some form of them in almost every game they try to play. If in almost every game you play someone politely or aggressively tries to make you switch characters at some point in the match, then at some point even the most polite phrasing is not going to help the effect they have on your psychology.

While there are other games with hero choices, Overwatch is uniquely positioned to act as a “microaggression simulator” due to its mechanics which support a constant change of each team’s roster. Other games might have “off-meta” characters, but often due to the locked-in nature of each once the game starts, people tend to not rage on this issue that much. However in OW, people will keep annoying the off-meta choices for this exact purpose, with the comments often escalating in vitriol when the game is going bad and the off-meta player refuses to switch.

Now, reminder that I don’t think they are anywhere on the level of microaggressions a marginalized person receives, but they are a really good way for someone who otherwise would have too much privilege to even understand what a microaggression even is, to get a mild sampling themselves. Perhaps is might be something on which an understanding and respect for actual microaggressions might be built?

  1. This is the practice of only choosing that hero, regardless of map or opposing heroes []
  2. This means characters which the “competitive scene” is not using, and as a result the  majority of OW players take to mean they are weak choices []

Meh

So…yeah

The janky mods of the Anarcho-Communism group in Facebook decided to ban me because I vented against U.S. Imperialism in a thread venting against cis people, in the same style the OP did. They piled-on me trying to prove that privilege-don’t-real if you’re poor, and deflected criticism by pointing out they’re not U.S. citizens themselves. Eventually I pissed one of them enough by applying the same logic to my arguments, that they muted me and asked one of their buddies to ban me.

Unfortunately this is par for the course for anarchist organizing on shit platforms like Facebook and that group had just devolved into the anarchist version of purge-bait. Here, I’ll give you a sample of the daily quality of posts:

“All people not in my oppressed class are crap!”

You now have seen 90% of the “content” posted in this group.

Unfortunately in too many public anarchist spaces, this kind of venting (that should normally be reserved for your affinity group) is par for the course, and then mods fall on top of each other trying to prove who is the best ally by banning whoever tries to use this as a springboard for discussion.

It’s all just immature fucking posturing by immature people who just discovered anarchism. Followed then by more posturing by the resident in-group who has 5% more power than the rest and wants a reason to exercise it. This shit is what passes for activism for many, and the reason why I have lost a lot of interest in trying to contribute as much as I used to in /r/anarchism.

The funny thing is how the people who are ban-happy when they think they’re on the right, cry foul when they end up on the opposite side, like a mod in reddit who whined about me oppressing them for reverting their deletion of a post1.

Now to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with banning or venting online, and neither of these acts, nor being a ban-happy fuckhead is isolated to anarchists, in fact right-wingers seems to be naturally more complacent and glad to fall in-step to a leader-figure. However there is something wrong when most online discourse on this subject is dominated by immature anarchists trying to prove how radical they are. Even more frustrating when they are stumped that they go digging into your profile and attempt to start an oppression olympics with you as a silencing tactic.

It had gotten so ridiculous at times that I managed to avoid getting banned for the longest time because I am Greek (and therefore “non-white” somehow? Dunno how that works, but whatevs) and could speak with some experience about U.S. imperialism. But someone from mainland U.S.A. making the same arguments would be banned without a second thought if they didn’t “win” at the oppression olympics at some other area. I.e. it stops being about what you say, and rather about who you are.

So, meh. Probably for the best as the group had just devolved into people daily calling each other “trash” and high-fiving each other about it in a group-masturbatory celebration of how progressive they are.

  1. It was nothing reactionary but rather a silly anarchism-related game they didn’t personally like []