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 []

The day I believed in Karmic Justice

Have I ever written the story of how a high-school “friend” of mine performed the most absurdly underhanded act I’ve seen? No? Story time!

When I moved to a new area in Athens in 1992, I started in a new Gymnasium (what would be called “Middle-school” I think for U.S. Americans.), and I had to make all new friends from scratch. As I was a very awkward kid (shy and geeky but feisty as well) I started getting into a lot of fights and became a bit of a pariah to my classmates.

I did make some friends, but I also made a lot of enemies. A lot of those enemies were content to simply torment me daily with new nicknames, spitballs in my hair during class, attempts at bullying etc, while others were very happy to simply goad the rest into keeping this up, or attempting to keep me as a social outcast. One of the latter was a kid we’ll call “Dewie” for this story.

So this kid was very very slimy. Always trying to get people to start shit with me, telling people lies or secrets about me etc. To my face though, he tried to be friendly and even to befriend me. To an extent, it worked, since I didn’t have a lot of people to hang out with; but since I also wasn’t completely oblivious, this relationship became a friend/nemesis situation. I.e. some weeks we’d be on just speaking terms, some others we’d be friends (e.g. I’d invite him home to play video games etc), some others we’d be bitter enemies, fist-fighting in the yard, or randomly on the street etc. It was a weird situation caused in part by my own character type. I’m very difficult to anger and very easy to forgive and trust people.

What didn’t help matters is that I had found some other people who I was friends with, and he managed to insert himself into that group as well. At that point this pissed me off because they knew we did not get along at the time and they nevertheless allowed him in. This further complicated things but this situation kept going on for 3 years.

Some of the things I remember Dewie did:

  • We got into a fight. I wrestled him to the floor and he conceded. I got up to leave and he sucker-punched me in the face with all his strength.
  • I borrowed him a PC game I loved which came on 3 CD and I had bought original with all my savings. After he returned it I tried to play it, but for some reason I couldn’t load the 3rd stage (2nd CD). When I asked him about it, he said it was working fine for him. A common friend later told me he laughed to him about destroying the back of the CD with a screwdriver so that I wouldn’t be able to play anymore.
  • I got into a verbal fight on the street with a Roma boy (I can’t remember why). Without me knowing, he gathered his friends and went looking to beat me up. They couldn’t find me as I had already gone home but somehow Dewie got involved. He then not only led them to my apartment, but he rang my doorbell, and told me he had a surprise for me (At that point we were on speaking terms again). I lived on the 8th floor, so imagine my surprise when I open the door and see 3 Roma boys come out of the elevator and jump me! Dewie was sitting next to the elevator laughing his ass off. Fortunately another friend of mine was at my place at the time for video games so I screamed for support and with his and (iirc) my sister’s help we managed to drive them back (the kids were I think 1-3 years younger than us). Dewie escaped and somehow thought this was something to brag about.

Even though all of that, my common group of friends would just no drop him from the circle, to the point that I would have to avoid hanging out with them when he was around, eventually causing me to be almost completely alone except 2 very closer friends. And even them I almost lost during this time.

But there was one thing that not just Broke the Camel’s back, but pile-dived into a pyramid of Camels. The act so low and stupid that it still stupefies me.

When I was 15, my mother died. At that point I was almost completely alone, friend-wise. Silver lining to that event was that people started talking to me again, even some people who had been my mortal enemies during all my high-school year. There was an outpouring of compassion during those first few weeks/months and the classes at my age-group decided to make a fund-drive to get me some economic support (I was completely orphaned at that point). Dewie, at the time happened to be the class accountant, so naturally he gathered the money for everyone to transfer to my family bank account. It was not a lot, but it was a symbolic amount (I think it would have been something like 100-200 Eur now).

Next day, Dewie is missing from school. Apparently he had to go urgently to the hospital. We were all wondering what happens, and then a common friend, Alex, drops this bombshell:

On the previous day, he run into Dewie on the street. Dewie was on the other side a small avenue, and as soon as he notices Alex, he raises a couple of Heavy Metal CDs and shouts to him something like “look what I got!”, and runs over to show him. At that point a motorcycle run blazing past and smacks straight onto Dewie who is dragged on the group with his face for a couple of meters.

In case you didn’t get it, Dewie has used the money my class-mates had gathered out of support for my dead mother to buy himself music CDs…

And Karmic Justice struck him down like a clay pigeon!

I don’t remember how Alex knew this. I think Dewie might have bragged about it already (he was notoriously stupid at times). Whatever the reason, news quickly spread out in school about this dastardly deed, and for half a year or so, the world turned a bit on its head and I was the liked-kid, while Dewie was the social pariah.

Unfortunately, due to my inherent awkwardness and Dewies inherent slimyness, this didn’t last. Within a year, things were back how they were, with Dewie still involved my group of friends and me being the outcast.

But at least that act was so heinous that I could never forgive him for it, and would avoid him like the plague from then on.

You might be a Torbjörn main if…

Inspired by this reddit post, I decided to compile my own list 🙂

  • You know that in a pinch, an ult without a turret can help you level it out faster.
  • You know that when doing the above, you stand in front of the turret.
  • You know that the turret needs to be as far away from combat as possible. It has long range and never misses.
  • You know all the good spots on maps for a turret to shoot far without allowing enemy snipers to hit it.
  • You always save 50 scrap for yourself, to help for a getaway from a flanker.
  • You know that against pharahs, using the shotgun at long range is more useful when you have the turret helping.
  • You find it cute when D.Vas or Winstons think they can just jump in and destroy your turret just like that.
  • You know to pull our yer hammer when an enemy Reinhart hides behind his shield during an ult.
  • You know that actually attack on payload maps is really good for Torbjorn. Especially if you’re facing a defensive Lucio.
  • You hate attacking on 2 CP or hybrid maps.
  • You’re ALWAYS the scapegoat.
  • You always get a card. You never get a vote.
  • Gold in Hero Damage. Gold in Objective Kills. Gold in Eliminations. Asked to switch first.
  • You’ve had people apologise to you multiple times.
  • You love pairing with Symmetra on CP defence.
  • You know that heroes with shield get the armor pack first.
  • You cry a little inside when your tanks pick up the armor before your supports.
  • You’ve found yourself shouting at the mic “Pick up the damn armour!”
  • You hate attacking bastions on payload maps.
  • You use baby turrets as extra 150 HP per 6 seconds when necessary.
  • You regularly ask people not to babysit your turret.
  • You know you’re doing a good job when the enemy team switches to full anti-torb heroes.
  • You know that turret placement when you have ult and when you don’t have ult, is different.
  • You always keep riveting a corner a DPS or support fled into, for about 3 seconds.
  • You know you need to reposition your turret after every 2nd push. Even if it wasn’t destroyed. Especially when facing D.Va.
  • You never try to level up a turret during a team fight.
  • You got a golden weapon and you know which is the the only victory pose which displays it.

And here’s some that I liked but didn’t write since they were already posted in the above thread 🙂

  • You know the exact number of swings it takes to setup a level 2 turret.
  • You wonder why you aren’t classified as a sniper.
  • You wonder why you aren’t classified as a healer.
  • You know that “Defense Character” is more of guideline than a rule.
  • You can hit a friendly Genji with an armor pack from 40 meters off.
  • Leveling off your sights means a 45 degree angle, not because your shots fall, but because that’s where the heads are.
  • The enemy team is reduced to ulting your turret because they cant get in otherwise.
  • You get accused of being AFK after out-sniping the enemy widow 3 times.
  • You can make a chicken out of a feather.
  • You have to leave voice chat in competitive because your team mates are screaming at you.
  • Your ping is over 300ms (And you still team kill)1
  1. Speaking from recent experience. This is too true []

Why ‘noob’ is my favourite insult

‘Noob’ has its origins in the word ‘newbie’ which in turn simply means someone who is new to (usually) an online game and therefore has a fairly low skill at its gameplay. ‘Noob’ or ‘n00b’ in turn is  a slang term/insult to signify someone who is both a newbie at something, but at the same time has a very inflated sense of their prowess and capabilities at that task. Often that would be coupled with a bad-attitude as such people seem to be prime victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The reason why I like to use it as an insult in most appropriate situations is that it connotes a lack of experience with an implied false sense of superiority/knowledge in one 4-letter word. It big advantage is that it’s not relying of ableism, whereas the insult is effectively comparing the accused to people with lower mental capacity or non-neurotypicality, which is something I’ve been trying to actively avoid doing.

Rather, being a noob is something entirely within one’s control; one merely has to recognize their lack of experience/ability and act accordingly. Therefore being compared to a noob is merely a one-two hit to one’s sense of skill and their attitude, which for many immature man-babies online, can sting even further.

To make matters even better, noob is the kind of word that can easily be used both playfully towards a friend, as well a more seriously towards someone who’s feelings you might want to hurt. Of course, it’s not appropriate in all contexts, but you’d be surprised in how many it can fit.

 

Trump Metaphors

I quite liked how this person put it after Trump instantly flip-flopped on NAFTA:

[Trump] walked into the control room, thinking he’s gonna change everything and it’ll be great. But the walls are plastered in tiny buttons and switches and dials and he realises he doesn’t know what 90% of them do.

There was a big new switch on the wall labelled “TPP” that was in the ‘off’ position. He said he wouldn’t turn it on, and he successfully doesn’t turn it on. That was easy. How hard could this be?

He pulls the lever marked “BORDERS” down, towards the ‘off’ position. Mission accomplished. But after a moment it springs right back up on its own. He pulls it down again, and it springs back up again. Embarrassed, he quickly moves to another part of the room.

He goes over to the dial marked “NORTH KOREA” and starts twisting it in a clockwise direction, upon which an alarm on the ceiling starts ringing and flashing red. Everyone’s watching him and he wants to look like he knows what he’s doing, so he decides to leave it in its new position and see what happens.

Then he wondered over to the big switch labelled “NAFTA”, but the crowd behind him made a huge commotion, and his assistants caught his eye and shook their heads, so he’s backing away.

Meanwhile there are a bunch of pressure gauges creeping into the red, but he hasn’t actually noticed them yet.