Repent, Torturer, said the Ticktockbomb… on Torture, Anarchist Justice, and Responsibility

A recent discussion brought up the morality of torture, with its familiar explanation — the ticking time bomb.

While I think this document more than adequately lays out the arguments against the usefulness of the ticking time bomb (TTB), it did open up one question for me that ties in to some of my concerns about anarchist justice*.

As pointed out by John Conroy in his book Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People:

“It takes no genius to see a pattern here, and that pattern is repeated throughout the world: torturers are rarely punished, and when they are, the punishment rarely corresponds to the severity of the crime.”

Conroy was talking about extra-legal torture; but it applies even more so to state-supported torture.  Typically, the state provides some level of indemnification for people required to use force in its name — not absolute, as the existence of police brutality charges demonstrates, though many people consider them vastly underutilized.

So: Now we head into thought-experiment/SF speculation territory.

What if the state authorized torture — but under certain very narrow conditions. First and foremost of which was that failure, on the part of the torturer, would have very severe consequences for the torturer, not “for the people they couldn’t save”, not for the torture victim, etc.

For example: A person dies as a result of your torture? You are executed, without appeal. If you claim the privilege of torturing someone and it is discovered you have tortured the wrong person? You are sentenced to prison, just as severely as if you had tortured an innocent — because that is what you did.  No “I didn’t know” defense, no blaming the people who brought the subject there — you tortured the wrong person, you go to prison, period, end of discussion. Claim the privilege of torture and fail to acquire the requisite information? You are now culpable for the act you failed to prevent, because your torture got in the way of other people (perhaps) doing their work; you are financially/legally/morally liable for that failure.

(Please note: I am removing the trial phase from this, because recent events in the United States have shown that, given a chance, the judicial system will go to extreme lengths to protect cases of police brutality — I have no doubt that, given a chance, district attorneys would do a fine job of failing to indict torturers.  I am also aware that states could, for example, found “torturer’s prisons” that were luxurious — but that’s heading into SFnal world building, not thought experiment.**)

I wonder how many people would volunteer under those circumstances to be torturers — and of those who did volunteer, how many would be considered sane enough to be allowed access to the skills/tools/etc., and of that (I suspect) much smaller number, how many would survive their first session with their lives, fortunes, or freedoms intact.

This goes doubly for people who would torture “because their loved ones were in danger” or some such — while it might lower their psychological limits, it would also (likely) drastically reduce both their restraint and their ability to pick up on the sorts of things interrogators need to be able to do.

The thing about the TTB scenario, and all the “we can save X through torture!” scenarios is that they distribute the bulk of the costs and the risks among the tortured, and the society who is supposed to stand behind the torturer.   The torturer themselves, if they can live with what they’ve done in their conscience? Scot free.

I think this is not a bug, but a feature, for those who propose it.  And I do not think it compatible with any reasonable construction of “freedom” in a democratic society, because ‘freedom from consequence’ is not one of those freedoms we guarantee — indeed, it is not possible.

(I want to be clear: I, personally, do not believe this “torture privilege” is a good thing; I am against it. I want the people who are willing to entertain the TTB to have to face the implications and consequences, which they often do not.)

So, to anyone who proposes the TTB scenario, I ask them: Are you prepared, if you torture someone and they die, to be shot for it? Are you prepared, if you torture someone who, it turns out, isn’t the right person, to spend years in prison for it? Are you prepared, if you torture someone and fail, and the bomb goes off, to be culpable for it, to see your assets stripped away in restitution, and (if you are lucky) receiving a prison sentence for negligible homicide?

If not, then perhaps you don’t hear the ticking as loudly as you thought you did.

*I intend to write more about this later, but the subject hit home first here.

** I may have to remember that one, for a short story some time.

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On Chip Delany and Exploration

During the recent Puppy Wars, I have found it useful, more than once, to cite Chip Delany, who I believe to be one of the great critics and thinkers to come out of the field of SF — whether that was “5,750 Words”, Nova as space opera, the famous NYRSF article about his predicted backlash against PoC SF writers as they became a larger percentage of the field, etc., etc., and so forth.

Over and over again, I get responses along the lines of “You’re citing a pedophile, you have no credibility” or “I don’t care about anything he says, he’s a pedophile supporter.”

Chip doesn’t need my defending; he’s quite capable of “defending” himself if he needed to. Nonetheless, I am going to, especially because I think the very attacks on him are attacks, in an odd way, upon what makes SF/F a great field.

Much of the complaint has come from a published conversation Chip Delany had with Will Shetterly, which can be found here.  In it, among many other topics, Delany talks about how he felt no bad effects from having sexual experiences with an adult when he was 6, NAMBLA as a voice of dissent and exploration in the gay movement, etc.

He also says: “One size fits all is never the way to handle any situation with a human dimension.” — A statement which, taken in isolation, almost anyone would find largely unobjectionable.  He just said it about something that people do find objectionable.

(I am not even sure I agree with it, except that when I try to provide counterexamples — using, say, rape — I find myself having to use far more words than I would like to explain my terms*, which I find proving Chip’s point.)

These remarks have gotten him labeled a pedophile, despite statements like: “Adults hurting children is my notion of a bad thing, whether it is through corporal punishment or in any other way.”

The crux of the matter comes in this statement from the interview: I am perfectly ready to start by saying that consent between a child an adult cant mean the same thing as two adults consenting. But to say that any such consent is without meaning, especially legal, is to outline a situation where children will be regularly abused by the courts and by adults who believe thator who feel justified in acting as though childrens words and feelings and ideas are without meaning.”

If you are looking for pedophiles, you can find that in the quotation. What I see is a concern for children, and for their rights. That is, to Chip’s lights, what’s under discussion — and it’s a discussion that is almost impossible to have without touching on these subjects.

And if we can’t talk about them, we can’t go anywhere that they are.

To Chip, who grew up pre-Stonewall, this is a familiar place; when the only discussions you can have about some aspect of people’s lives starts from the presumption that someone is a criminal, is disordered.

Chip is raising questions, and presenting challenges. To quote from his exchange:

In Through the Valley, I give what I think is a very strong argument against having sex with children, although the main character who comes to this conclusion lives with and knows people who disagree with him. What interests me is the number of readers who get to that point and tell me, I realized that’s what you were going be writing about, so I just closed the book and stopped reading. I didn’t want to read about it at that point.” Thats a good ten or twelve readers whom Ive talked to personally. Even the reviewers who like the book dont want to talk about that part of it, because they are afraid (at least I think so) of having to discuss it, even though it comes out on the side of the angels,” though it puts the onus on society rather than on the individuals involved. “

Chip is taking us to an uncomfortable place — which is what, I think, we want him to do, especially if he can do it in a fashion that does not come across as pitching one side or another** as “correct”.

That, to my lights, is what SF/F is in large part all about — asking questions, especially difficult ones, in a semi-controlled, contained framework.

With that in mind, let’s look at a particular case of this anti-Delany vitriol, used as cover for other rhetoric: Vox Mustela*** (a.k.a. Vox Day, a.k.a. Ted Beale.)

He begins by saying the following about one of the quotes above:

“That last quote is particularly problematic, as contra his self-appointed public defenders’ claims, Delany is clearly referring to physical pain, not sexual contact, when he says “hurting children” is his “notion of a bad thing”. Most people assume that sexual contact is intrinsically harmful to children. Delany actively denies this.”

Apparently Mr. Beale either cannot read “or in any other way”, or doesn’t think the word “any” means what he thinks it does.

Delany denies that it is intrinsically harmful; this is an arguable question, especially given the number of people who have said it was not harmful to them. Blanket denial of people’s experiences is a dangerous road to go down.

“Intrinsically harmful” and “harmful” are not, however, the same thing at all. Delany is clearly referring to any kind of pain.  Yet, again, for raising the issue and citing his own lived experience, he is treated as if his motives could only be the worst.

And yet this is only the beginning from Mr. Beale:

“If one can reasonably declare John W. Campbell a racist on the basis of his essays and reported words, then one can absolutely, and with utter certainty, declare Samuel R. Delany to be a child-raping pedophile on the basis of his own stated beliefs and published fantasies. “

Do note: Campbell wrote things that are undeniably racist. The action of writing is unquestionable.  And yet, here, Mr. Beale effectively accuses Chip Delany of a felony on the basis of what he’s written. By that standard, Tom Kratman is guilty of mass murder and genocide, John C. Wright is a theocratic Inquisitor, and Vox Day is a censor, and a burner of books.

Indeed, even relative moderates have been arguing that SFWA was wrong for making Chip Delany a Grand Master, on the grounds of his “pedophilia”.

For asking questions, and writing stories.  For stating unpopular opinions which do not address his own personal desires and behaviors.

And yet they accuse others of being “thought police”? I believe this is the pot calling, at best, the zebra black.

Chip is raising issues,  asking questions, and providing perspective — and that’s what Chip does, and has done for many years, in the field of SF and the larger fields of politics and literary criticism writ large.

He’s the man who pointed out in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue that the adult movie theaters in Times Square provided one of the most diverse environments in all of New York City — because, while everyone there was male, they were of every color, every class — even every orientation.  He’s the man who challenged Ursula K. LeGuin by analyzing one of her books not against an abstract notion of what books should be — but rather against what he thought (and hoped she’d agree) was its own ideal form.  He’s the man who taught me that what we think of as “how theatre works and is placed in culture” was a creation of less than 150 years ago, and existed in that form for at most 60 years — and we’re living in the aftermath.  He’s the man who first informed me  of the research that states that most people see a picture with 30% women as evenly split.

Everything I have looked at through Chip’s writing, I have seen differently than when I went in, and I can think of no greater gift an author can give me.

Presenting challenges to how things are, how we want to see them, how we see them without knowing what filters we have — that’s what Chip Delany has done for many years, and, I submit, what speculative fiction, at its best and brightest, has done for even longer.

To turn away from Chip here, because we don’t like where he’s going now, is to turn away from the SFnal project because we don’t like where it’s led us. And that is not something I am prepared to do, nor do I think anyone who loves the field — even if they do not want to read at the fringes — should want or ask of it.

Chip is raising issues, and because many of the people accusing him and hounding him are nowhere near as smart or insightful as he is, they’re missing what those issues are, such as “What does it mean to say a percentage of the population has no ability to make any meaningful consent” and “What do legal bright lines do to people, and can we adjust for the problems” in addition to “What do my own sexual experiences, and those of people like me, teach us?”

All they see is “kids” and “sex” in the same paragraph, or scare-words like “NAMBLA”, and they deprive themselves, and attempt to deprive the rest of us, of conversations very much worth having — conversations that are, in many ways, at the core of SF/F that engages with us beyond the level of “cool physics problem” or “wow, big magic sword****”.

And I am not prepared to let go of those conversations, that SF/F, or Chip Delany.

* For example, I do honestly believe that while rape is universally a bad thing, I cannot subscribe to a statement like “All rapists should be (x)” — because, for example, there are human beings who can commit rape who are not, by the standards I used, capable of discerning right from wrong — whether due to mental illness, incapacity, etc. And there we go — one size no longer fits all.

** Because it’s not “one side or the other” so, so much of the time — indeed, so much of what I think is currently wrong (as I touched on very lightly in the Culture War post) comes from that bitter, but accurate, joke: “Binary Thinking: Threat or Menace”.

*** Mustela, as far as I have been able to determine, is the appropriate way to say “Weasel”, as Mr. Beale is an expert at using what most people would consider weasel words and constructions. If someone can give me more appropriate construction, I’d appreciate it.

**** And if you think that Elric was just about the cool big sword, I suggest you go and reread it.

It is Memorial Day, but…

I am reaching my limits with the military-worship in this culture.

There are people I would thank for their service; there are also people I would not, because I don’t think their “service” was motivated by a patriotism I can respect, or any notion of service.

When I am confronted with people who were in the military, who take the position that their service entitles them to question other’s patriotism — I do not respect their service.

When I am confronted with people who were in the military, who take the position that no one outside the military can understand/explain/say anything useful about the military — I do not respect their service.

When I am confronted with people who were in the military, who take positions directly opposite the Constitution they swore to uphold — I do not respect their service.

Mostly, I don’t respect it because I don’t believe it was “service”. I think it came from other motives, and some of those are motives I might respect — but many are not. And even if it began as “service”, it has clearly turned into something else; the sort of thing that people fear when it comes to standing armies, and military takeovers — military exceptionalism.

And if you wave your military service around as a way to say “I’m better than you are”, then you can take your “service” and stuff it — because you have clearly not understood how democracy and a volunteer army are supposed to work.  If you are a soldier more than you are a citizen, and feel that being a soldier is more important than being a citizen, you have failed at being a citizen.

A second part of this is that we, as a society, are doing a terrible job of taking care of our actual veterans, as opposed to the ones in TV ads.  If we are going to set up shrines, let us set them up where they can do good — where there are homeless veterans, where there are vets with PTSD, vets who can’t get health care.

I wonder how many lunches for homeless vets could have been bought by the ads I saw watching tonight’s basketball game.

I will never forget the lesson my grandfather taught me; he’s the relative I have and knew best who served in a war. (He was a medical officer during WWII.)

He had me name each and every one of my toy soldiers, so if any of them died in a battle, it wasn’t just “the guy with the Bren gun”, but “Finch”.

He also made me do it for the Germans, so it wasn’t just “The guy with the MG42”, it was “Aschler” — my German names weren’t as clear back then.

I learned a lot from him, and thank him for what he did. But I also know that he was special in what he did, and that a blanket thanks is not useful, nor helpful, nor, really, fair.

Thank the veterans who deserve it. Many, indeed perhaps most, do; but the bad apples in their midst?

No, thank you.

On Culture War

“War is merely the continuation of policy by other means” — von Clausewitz

The term “Culture War”, as far as I can tell, has its roots about 45 years after von Clausewitz was writing; the Kulturkampf between the Prussian government (specifically, Otto von Bismarck) and the Catholic Church.

But as something in American culture, it’s dating back to 1991.  And, like so many Wars on /against Abstract Nouns, calling it a war is both a) incorrect and b) unhelpful.

(I know that in part I should shut up here, since the Culture War is mostly being fought by people who are attacking me, and I should let them keep wasting their energy; but the culture war has caused more than its fair share of collateral damage, and I would really prefer that to stop.)

“Men are always more inclined to pitch their estimate of the enemy’s strength too high than too low, such is human nature.” — von Clausewitz

I’m going to take, for this discussion, one particular example: The various Puppy factions in SFdom, specifically around the Hugos of this year. (For a good roundup, I suggest starting here: http://fanlore.org/wiki/Puppygate. File770.com has an ongoing set of threads for those who prefer primary sources, but as with most such, it requires some digging to get at what’s really going on.)

Leader of the Rabid Puppy slate Vox Day (a.k.a. Ted Beale) has explicitly called this a culture war against “SJWs” in SF/F, starting with the Hugo Awards.  Tom Kratman has expressed his desire to see the awards burn to the ground.  John C. Wright (the most-nominated of the Rabid Puppies) repeatedly refers to his ideological enemies as Morlocks, and describes them in vile and unforgiving terms.

These people want to fight a culture war in SF, and make no bones about it.  One of the reasons they wish to do so is that they see a Social Justice Warrior conspiracy against them, and feel that they are fighting for survival — as if SF is a giant Thunderdome, and only one strain will survive.

Now, look at the above quote; I believe we can safely score one for Clausewitz there.

It is surprising, and more than a tad saddening, that SF/F writers seem to have completely lost a sense of scale.  Samuel R. Delany made it clear to anyone who read just how big a world is, in Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand, and if you read the afterward to Consider Phlebas, by Iain M. Banks, you’ll get another hint of the kind of scale SF works at.

Why do I bring this up? Because the Rabids (as I shall now refer to Beale, Wright, and Kratman, as the primary voices) as well as the Sad Puppies (a more “moderate” group spearheaded by Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson) seem to believe that SF, on this planet, on this time, isn’t big enough for diverse works. That Kratman’s MilSF can’t co-exist with Tiptree winners, that Wright’s religiously-drenched screeds can’t co-exist with, say, Charlie Stross’ Laundry novels.

Ask them this directly, and most of them (Beale excepted, because he’s a whole different level of wrong) would deny that’s what they want. But it’s what they’ve set themselves up for by defining this as a war; “To introduce into the philosophy of War itself a principle of moderation would be an absurdity” — our good friend Clausewitz, again.

And so we have a war — vs. “SJWs”. Who have, though no one has been able to present significant evidence in favor, supposedly Taken Over The Hugos and plan to Destroy All Badthink SF. (We will merely note as a sidebar here that Puppies frequently argue that the sales figures for Baen Books, who publish many puppies, are very strong, therefore they deserve more Hugos. How the SJWs who are supposedly destroying SF are powerful enough to do so, while Baen still outsells them (allegedly), is one of those contradictions one is, I suppose, not supposed to point out — though it is one of the key contradictions of the notion of Culture War, which we will get to later.)

Be that as it may; we have the brave Puppies and their ilk preparing to fight a culture war against the SJWs, just as some portions of the amorphous bunch known as #gamergate are claiming they will do.  It’s war, folks, so grab your bayonets and charge!

“Blind aggressiveness would destroy the attack itself, not the defense.” – von Clausewitz

But does it have to be viewed that way? Of course not. To pick an example totally at non-random, when Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy felt that SFnal awards were not representing the kind of fiction they wanted, and they wanted to help it — they founded the Tiptree award, and funded it with bake sales.

That’s not war; that’s finding a niche and filling it. Call it evolution, or call it the market in action. 🙂

But what the Puppies have done is declared unilateral war on a target they can’t define (beyond, perhaps, the “I know it when I see it” definition akin to Potter Stewart’s of obscenity) — which seems to me to put them at great length of charging, bayonets out, into uncharted territory, with the usual disastrous effect.

Because what it does, since they can’t define their enemy to anyone who doesn’t already agree with them, is make them look foolish to people outside their pre-existing network of allies & friends.  Which is not the way to win a culture war (but more on this later.)

“If defense is the stronger form of war, yet has a negative object, it follows that it should be used only so long as weakness compels, and be abandoned as soon as we are strong enough to pursue a positive object.” – von Clausewitz

This, I suspect, is the dictum that the Puppies (the rabid in particular) are attempting to follow — that now that they are not weak, they must attack. (Clausewitz discusses at great length the moral and morale aspects of war, and it is clear that events like #gamergate and the previous battles in atheist circles have provided a level of momentum to wannabe culture warriors on the right, far right, and looney right.)

The Puppies have long felt that they were under attack — and, by some definitions, they were. But the attacks they were suffering from were those that many people would not object to — the loss of unearned privilege, the driving back from pre-existing overwhelming borders.

Part of this can be seen in the culturewarrior’s own reactions to a single essay: John Scalzi writing on “Straight White Male is the Easiest Difficulty Level.”  Every time I have so much as breathed a hint of that essay, and its theme (trying to explain privilege to gamers in terms of difficulty levels — all the while acknowledging that there is difference in the skills of players, differences in the places one can start, doing everything reasonable to assuage the “But, but, but I am not privileged!” crowd) — it’s been like throwing a nice big brick of sodium into the pond. Heads spin, fire is breathed out upon the page, shells are retracted into and I am marked with a giant red S (for Scalzi-sympathizer, I suppose.)

And if that is a huge attack, given all of its carefully-stated limitations, exceptions, etc., just walking through the modern-day world must, indeed, feel like an attack to many of the culture warriors.

Now, however, they feel (it seems) like they’ve found a target they can attack — the Hugos. (And also some outposts of game design, etc., but I am trying to stay focused.)  And so they do switch from defense to attack — and fail to realize that their attack isn’t getting them where they want to go.

“Obstinacy is a fault of temperament. Stubbornness and intolerance of contradiction result from a special kind of egotism, which elevates above everything else the pleasure of its autonomous intellect, to which others must bow.” — von Clausewitz

Of the Rabids, Mr. Beale, as the official “leader” — as in he posted the slate, and said (paraphrased) “If you respect my opinion on SF/F, you will vote this slate exactly” — is the most exemplary.  John C. Wright has his own private obsessions, and displays the kind of overwhelming binary thinking one would expect of a culture warrior, but he is more figurehead (as probably the best writer among the Rabids) than a useful leader. Tom Kratman appears to exist in a world where poking him elicits the outpouring of spines and virtual ink, like some kind of hilarious cross between a sea urchin and a cuttlefish — hilarious, that is, until he starts tossing around vile insults and thinly-veiled threats.

But let us consider Mr. Beale, the one who’s explicitly said “This is a war”, the one who’s advocated burning the Hugos down if his side doesn’t “win” — and then proclaiming that burning them down is also a win.

Then consider the quote above.

Beale has often presented as one of his qualifications for leading this particular fight that he’s a wargamer, and therefore knows how to think ahead, how to plan, how to strategize. I’ve also been a warmer since I was 7, which is quite a few years ago, and I can look at this war, and tell him flat out, “Ted, that experience is useless.”

Because in a culture war, you can’t win by breaking the enemy’s (presuming there is a singular enemy) capability to wage future war. You can’t break all the SJW pens, and especially now in light of self-publishing and the Internet, you can’t even shut down their means of communication.

Break the Hugos? Guess what — people will raise up other awards and honor them, and look to them for what to read, and what to dream about. I know quite a few authors who’d rather win a Tiptree than a Hugo, because of what it says about their writing.

It’s not coincidental that Beale also cited as part of his call to arms that (again, close paraphrase) “We are the sons of the Crusades, and daughters of the Inquisition” — two other failed attempts at warfare, one traditional, one cultural.  Leaving aside the sheer folly of identifying one’s self with the losing side, let’s look at what the two have in close common: An autocratic central leader, who even so demonstrated the limitations of his power in defeat: the men occupying the office of Pope.

Did they take and hold the Holy Land? Only in a very narrow viewpoint. Did they stomp out heresy? Only in a few places, and only at the cost of establishing a reputation as intolerant torturers that haunts them centuries later.

These are defeats — even the “victories” (like the Albigensian Crusade) were Pyrrhic in the long run.

Because you can’t fight a culture war the same way you fight a conventional war. You don’t even fight it the way you fight a 4th-generation war, that Mr. Kratman is fond of referring to.

The places in the U.S. where the most porn per capita are consumed, IIRC, are the most conservative states. The efforts to ban liquor failed, the efforts to ban marijuana are failing. Obscenity bans fell in the 20th century like corn before the scythe.

In order to win a “culture war”, you can’t defeat your opponent by eliminating them; it’s been tried, again and again and again, and it’s failed, again and again and again. If Mr. Beale and Mr. Wright and Mr. Kratman want to fight that kind of war, all they will reap is defeat, and all they will cause is unnecessary pain.

To “win” a culture war for your values, Mr. Wright, you will need to persuade us through your writing and your example that they are better.  Mr. Beale, trashing an award with bad behavior is only going to make your cause look worse, and ensure that more people will write against you, and write the sort of thing you don’t want to see.  Mr. Kratman, even if you did descend to violence, history shows you’d still lose — and, unless you hold overwhelming power, you’d suffer the same fate as the Iranian cleric who pronounced a fatwah against Salman Rushdie — watching much of the rest of the world align behind him, no matter what his particular merits or individual problems.

The only way to win a culture war is not to wage one; to abandon the metaphor and attempt to win hearts and minds in the marketplace, in the library, in the coffeeshop, by setting a better example and seeing that people will follow you.

I suspect, from everything I’ve read on various Puppy blogs, that this call will fall on deaf ears; the same ears that hear “Hey, you had a leg up — not a sin, but please recognize it?” as “You’re a terrible person and should feel guilty for everything a minority ever suffered” are not likely to take what I have to say to heart. Perhaps it will be read as weakness; perhaps it will be read as an attempt to divert them because they’re winning.

I’ll leave you with this, from SF, and then from history: SF fandom has a lot in common with Iain Banks’ Culture — loosely bound, with not too many rules, willing to take a lot before getting hostile.  But it is also filled with people who work long hard hours writing books, running conventions, writing zines and blogs and the like, who are quite capable of going from “Hey, who should we invite as Guest of Honor to our con” to “OK — what did that disgusting cretin say, and how can we deal with him” when pressed.  Don’t fuck with the Culture.

(I will note that the Culture has also shown similar reactions to people who went, in its view, too far in other directions — Requires Hate being one example, but the kerfuffles and reactions about various harassment issues, etc. are not to be forgotten.)

And then we get to classical China. The narrative (only somewhat supported by history, but worth noting regardless) is that barbarians would invade China, take control — and then be absorbed and co-opted. Again, and again, and again.  SF/F is a very large culture, and anyone trying to capture it from “without” (a position that I submit anyone who goes ‘I don’t care about the Hugos’ and ‘conventions are filled with the most disgusting people you will meet outside a refugee camp’ – a.k.a. Mr. Beale) will have at most the same effect; their names will be known for a little while, before they sink beneath its surface, leaving no ripples.

No ripples, and oblivion — culture warriors, that is the best you can hope for. Now, is it really worth all the stress and effort on your part, and the pain you will cause other people, for that?

And if it is worth it, just to cause the pain to other people — look in the mirror and ask what that makes you.

(A hint: people consider Marat a monster, because he advocated cutting off heads to save millions more.  He was not the kind to advocate cruelty and pain for its own sake.  That is what you would be doing. Do you wish to position yourself further out the scale?)

On the fascination of Jean-Paul Marat, and my goals for this place…

Jean-Paul Marat is a fascinating figure to me, and has been so ever since, in short order, I read GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel, which portrayed him as a disease-ridden&maddened monster, whose thirst for blood was only the most pernicious part of his madness — and then read Marat/Sade* — which portrays him as a disease-wracked champion of the people, albeit a people gone more than a tad mad themselves.

Rarely have I seen someone so vilified and so praised with so little in between.

“I believe in the cutting off of heads.” — Jean-Paul Marat

And while some aspects of him do horrify me, others I feel great sympathy with. I can be full of righteousness, full of wrath, full of the desire to see those I think dreadful people be struck down, whether mildly by, say, ceasing to be published, or simply eradicated from the earth like a bug smashed upon a windshield.

I want to be better than the latter — and since many of those I oppose are, one way or another, eliminationists, I want to be better than they are.  But they do make it hard, from time to time.

“Five or six hundred [aristocratic] heads lopped off would have assured you repose and happiness; a false humanity has restrained your arm and suspended your blows; it will cost the lives of millions of your brothers.” — Jean-Paul Marat

And that is part of why; because the seductive temptation of removing a few heads, and hoping that the serpent’s nest they rise from will go away.

It won’t, and I know that — strike down a Fred Phelps and another one will rise, remove a Ted Cruz or a Dick Cheney and someone else will take his place.  Which is why I disapprove of removing those heads.

That doesn’t mean they cannot be written against, and mocked, and argued with with every drop of pixel I can produce.

This is the place where I will, from time to time, write things longer than a Facebook post, on subjects that deserve that bit of Marat-esque vitriol. Here I will let out that inner Marat, in the hopes that letting him speak in ink will help quell the desire to see things written in blood.

* Or, to give it its full, and marvelous title: “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade