The political opportunism and finger-wagging abound in these days of high immigration to Europe. I see you, on the left, nodding your heads, oh that terror-mongering Ted Cruz, what a fucking asshole, you’re saying to yourself now. You’re say, thank ceiling cat I’m not like him, I’m an upstanding, moral citizen with a heart of gold. I think we should HELP these immigrants. Poor Syrian refugees.

Well, political opportunism comes in all shapes and, more importantly, all sizes. You may not be running for anything but the most puritanical amongst your asshole lecturing hectoring social media pseudo-friends, but that doesn’t make you ANY BETTER than Ted Cruz. In much the same way as bitcoin allows you to be your own banker (and end all wars, ask me how!), facebook lets you handle the PR for the tiny little corporation that is you now (and end all wars, ask me how!). If only everyone would acknowledge how awesome you are, listen to your heart-felt ideological convictions, and, you know, just start being NICE to all those immigrants. (I would like to add an extra special fuck you to anybody out there who is also a big Chomsky fan: France is not an annex to your country, and the whole critique your own first thing goes for us too. No, we do NOT share the same culture, no, we did not participate in your war in Iraq, no, we do not want to hear your opinion.)

I would like to offer you all a piece of advice on social media all my own. Here is a short list of things that Europe does not need from the US in the middle of our refugee crisis. Ready?

A million ideas men.

I have a colleague who is dealing directly with the fallout of this bullshit on a local level. Our collective employers decided that it would make them look super good to offer free university tuition and free French lessons to all refugees. They did not define refugee or anything, they just signed a letter and handed the problem off to an underling, who already has a full-time job, and has no additional resources or training for dealing with refugees, and no way of evaluation their status.

Now their is a line out her door all day every day of people with a xeroxed copy of this letter asking for free French courses, for which no budget or admissions criteria have been established. Some of them are children. We’re a university. We’re not equipped to take or teach children, but no matter, we’re ideologically pure. We don’t know who’s a refugee and who isn’t. We don’t know what country people are coming from, or even if they’re in the country legally. We don’t know if the préfecture is going to yell at us for taking these people on, since nobody checked with them. But again, we’re ideologically pure.

So here’s what you can do, right now, to help out. It’s a list of concrete thing and you can start doing them today.

  1. Admit that you don’t know things that you don’t know. This is a huge problem, involving a lot of countries and cultures, and not a single one of them is your country and your culture. Stop showing off how much you know, and start owning up to what you don’t. Say it publicly.

    I don’t know.

    You’re right. You don’t. Now say it a lot more often. Tell your friends.

  2. Come on over to my colleague’s office and offer her a hand. Come on over to HER colleagues’ offices and start teaching French for free to all comers. Don’t know French? Don’t live here? Can’t possibly spend all day every day being a volunteer when the state can’t or won’t hire people to do the job? Don’t have the skills or training to actually help with anything at all because you’re a useless piece of crap dumb ass who spends all day talking shit on the internet and thinks that that is somehow a contribution? See option three, below.
  3. Make your part of america’s gift to europe on this issue a nice big helping of SHUT THE FUCK UP.



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Fuck your passive resistance peace pizza: you deserve some bile today

So that make two this year, for France. As with the last incident, the violence itself is bad enough, but the discursive aftermath is just intolerable. Today I ended up on the Mother Jones’ website where, I kid you not, the most sensible thing that was said by anyone was said by ANN COULTER. (Is this where you want to be, American Left? Because I think you should be doing better.)
I have a special message for each and every one of you.

Gun nuts: no, fewer restrictions on gun ownership would NOT have prevented this tragedy. And for that subset of you that says stuff about the victims like “when you think about they committed suicide, these people” can fuck the fuck off. Do you even have any human parts?

It’s extra important to keep guns out of the hands of people like you. You are the reason for gun control.

You are the reason for birth control.

Pray for Paris (and also the fucking pope): A person who posts this as a response to religiously motivated violence has not, at some basic level, even understood what has happened. Think it through. This is an offensive thing to say.

And how is it supposed to work, anyway? Is your imaginary friend going to beat up their imaginary friend? Because if so, he might have chosen to do that, oh, say, YESTERDAY.1 Or are you choosing this moment to make an implicit claim that your imaginary friend is so much better than their imaginary friend? Because dude, SO NOT THE MOMENT.2

Also, as usual, this is a campaign and a hash tag in English. God3 forbid that you LISTEN to the French about who they are and how they feel and what they want and what they need in this moment and then, like, provide that. You know, the way support works. No, no, it’s more important that you establish yourself as a caring person in front of all your social media pseudo-friends. If people had done this kind of cultural imperialism to, say, Syria, we would all be hearing about racism and american exceptionalism and noam fucking chomsky. But it’s fine to do it to the French. They may be different from americans, but any differences are, rest assured, actually just deficiencies.

We’re a secular state, and we want to stay that way. We’re willing to stick up for it even in the face of maniacs with machine guns. Please take your bullshit prayers somewhere else.

And a special note for the pope: you are part of the problem. A BIG part. Don’t EVEN think you can ride this one. Who the fuck do you even think you are?

Racist FN nutjobs: Ugh.

Where to even start with this? I guess, hi, you know those people fleeing their countries on cardboard rafts for Europe? THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE RUNNING AWAY FROM. The people committing these acts? As far as we know, they’re FRENCH. You know, like you are.

Actually, you guys have a lot in common. You should hang out.

The american “left”: you piss me off the most. You say, this has nothing to do with religion, and I say, have you been dropped on your head? I say, this is why no one takes you seriously. I say, if you abandon the sensible discourse about what to do to the racist FN nutjobs (see above), then they will decide what to do, and this, for a change, will actually be ALL YOUR FAULT.

The people who did this are muslims. Read their statement. They have imams, they have a caliph, they cite the koran. They SAY they are muslims. You cannot, in the face of this, be like, oh, but they’re not REAL muslims, partly because it simply defies logic and common sense but also partly because of three other reasons that I do not think you are really thinking through, because thinking is apparently no longer a part of what we do on the american left.

Reason the first: who decides who’s a real muslim, having his faith “stolen” from him, and who is a fake muslim, not doing it right? You? Are you seriously going to sort muslims now into real and not-real, even though you yourself have NO TIES TO ISLAM? Now who’s a big cultural imperialist? It’s just their culture, but I decide who gets a culture and who doesn’t? You are absolutely full of shit on this, and you are not on the right side of racism with it, either, despite what you say.

You are saying, when you engage in this bullshit, that white, middle-class, american university professors are allowed to enjoy the privilege of knowing their own minds and being taken at their word, while third world muslim “children” are undertheorized and too stupid to know what they are doing or why they are doing it. You are saying that they cannot be trusted, even about their own mistakes. You are saying that, like children or the profoundly retarded or the mentally ill, these people are not responsible for their own actions. This is not the case, and what’s more it’s gone so far around the politically correct bend that it’s back 180 degrees at racist. You don’t get to tell people whom you have never met and know nothing about, in the absence of any and all evidence, indeed, in the presence of powerful and convincing counter-evidence, that they do not mean what they say, think what they think, or believe what they believe because of their religious or ethnic identity.

Why not? BECAUSE IT’S RACIST. Hi. This is me, calling you out. How do you like me now, you motherfucking hypocrite?

Reason the second: not everything is about you, america. I know that you THINK you believe this, but you don’t.4 ISIS is not a CIA funded organization. The assassinations in Paris two days ago are not a psyops operation to impose the power of a dictatorial state with security theater. The passport was not planted. Or, your softer version which says, because we’ve systematically fucked up in the middle east, everything must be all out fault. Hey, everything is probably actually deserved. We EARNED this shit. Here’s news: you may be the world’s worst citizen, but that doesn’t mean that your overinflated claims of self-importance and world domination are actually true to the letter, and that no one else has any agency at all. Things are complicated, if nothing else.

And as for those of you who think this is deserved, that the victims ASKED FOR IT, that they HAD IT COMING, I invite you to take a gander up at the tail end of the message for the gun nut people.5

Reason the third: once you say that there is a real way to be a religion and a not-real way, instead of accepting that a religion is the sum of its existence and actions in the world, you have ceded the war. You have now conceded that there is a magic book, that it tells people how to live, that this is an okay state of affairs, and that tribal in-fighting that sorts people into proper muslims and not proper muslims6 is not only perfectly okay, it’s actually a desirable state of affairs. You are pretending that a mass delusion that lives inside people’s heads is a verifiable fact about the external world that can be evaluated using evidence. Even atheists do this, and it boggles my mind. Islam is a religion of whatever its members do and believe. Period. If some of them blow people up, and others get on with their lives, then it’s a religion both of blowing people up and of living peacefully with one’s neighbors, because any other yardstick is either racist or relies on access to someone’s imaginary friend. Progressive people shouldn’t be doing either of these things.

The american “left” again: Let’s also discuss the whole — you should feel terrible about being upset about Paris when people are dying in Keyna and you didn’t care, now did you, you racist scumsucker — reaction. I’ll for the moment assume that this is a legitimate question and not yet another way to suggest that dead people in France count for shit. Why do we care more about Paris than Kenya?

Well, for me, personally, two reasons. First, because the country I lived in was attacked, and strange as it may seem, that does make a difference. Are you seriously going to get on my dick about that? SERIOUSLY? Especially since I never see a peep out of you about Kenya. If this were this person’s genuine passion, okay. But it’s not; it’s another reason why everything you do is wrong, and why you shouldn’t feel bad about France, because France had it coming.

But secondly, because online finger-wagging scolds like these people are the same ones who tell me when I post links to incidents like this one that I am being racist and islamophobic. Remember the stories about Boko Haram? Remembe bring back our girls? Because I do, and it went like this:  where are the positive stories about Africa, about the Middle East, about Islam? Why must I cherry pick the bad things? Not all muslims and don’t I know that Islam is a religion of peace and that everyone in it, including the imams who oppress and torture people, including millions of other muslims, is completely powerless (the power to behead and imprison being, apparently, fake)? There were also those posts about a guy in saudi arabia who got a thousand lashes for writing a blog which suggested that the clergy were wrong about astrophysics, which were met with the chirping of a thousand virtual crickets.

So which is it, shame guy?

It’s like the new puritanism. You’re a bad person, you’ll never be not racist enough, you’ll always fail to be good, and you should feel horrible. If you need a quick refresher in how far the racism ruler extends, take a look at some of the scarier subreddits and then get back to me about scolding people for feeling horrible about a mass murder. It’s one thing to stand up to racism. It’s another to systematically shame people who mean no harm, who have questions, or who are trying their best to be good and polite and respectful and make what you deem an error of etiquette, even though last week it was the recommended strategy. It’s exhausting keeping up with the new PC, and it really shouldn’t be, because people on the whole (muslim and otherwise) are simply NOT THAT BAD. Telling them that there is no difference between lynching someone and using the wrong pronoun is not only unhelpful, it’s also straight up mean. And often, it’s also an illegitimate exercise of power. This is not how you win hearts and minds.

If you care about Kenya, then care about Kenya. But don’t use their pain to make yourself look good on facebook. Because fuck you.

Now go forth, the lot of you, and STOP PISSING ME OFF.7

1Or, you know, like 2000 years ago.

2Actually, it’s never the moment for this, but especially not now. Gross. Do you really think your weird ass belief without evidence trumps actual dead people? SERIOUSLY?

3Or ceiling cat forbid. It’s hard wired into our damned language.

4Oh hey, see what I did there? Yeah. Except that unlike you, I have evidence, in the form of your actions. Cf. Aristotle on the difference between what people say and what they actually do. I know, so very passé, so very dead white male. Look it up anyway, it’s relevant.

5Also, what the fuck is it with you people and France? Suddenly we’re responsible for your foreign wars of aggression? We have it coming because you invaded Iraq? Does not a one of you remember freedom fries? If you think this is deserved, go shoot your own citizens. We’re not your scapegoat, and we’re not your bitch.

6Just start calling them apostates, and you can join ISIS.

7Not only do we not want your prayers, we also don’t want your fucking buttcoin. Why do americans always think the answer to everything is more money? If you lost a loved one to a terrorist shooting, would a 30 cent changetip seriously make you feel better? Bite me, loser.

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So, lately, there has been a story in the news about measles and vaccinations. And those “responsible” for the outbreak (it’s in scare quotes, because we are going to come to the question of responsibility in a moment) have been thoroughly mocked. I have done approximately 62 percent of that mocking myself. How, how can these people simply DENY all of the scientific evidence and persist in a belief for which there is no support? How can they care about no one but themselves? How, in short, can they be not only so selfish, but also so stupid? Because, the underpinnings of this attitude go, the science on this is clear. Any person with an ounce of sense can get to the evidence, and understand the science and know that there is consensus. (1)

In the meanwhile, there have been some background rumblings about GMOs. The set-up is the same: crazy people, often new-agey or weird religious, express their belief that GMOs cause cancer or something in a video that makes them look crazy, and then the scientists come in, and they show that GMOs ARE in fact safe to eat, and the other people are denialists, and we should mock them as we enjoy a bowl of industrially produced cornflakes with roundup ready corn and pus-filled milk. (2)

So for me, the question of whether or not GMOs are safe to eat is a little bit like the question of whether or not SUVs are safe to drive: i.e. not the point, and kind of simple-minded as a question, given the issues at stake. But that’s a rant for another day. The point is, it got me thinking about two things: scientific consensus, and how such consensus (or lack thereof) might be available to the layperson with an internet connection.

The people who deny the specific claim about GMO safety say the same thing: the testing was done by the same corporations that want to sell them, so how can the science be trusted? Anti-vaxxers, you will note, imply something similar when they talk about big pharma. Now I know, or at least I think I know, that vaccine safety is tested independently, and I also know that evidence-based disciplines outside the bench sciences, like history, bear out the claims about vaccines and make anti-vaxxers look like somebody who saw Goody Proctor with the devil. About GMOs, I realize that I don’t know.

So I made a list of claims. Each of these claims is a claim about science proving something.

    Claims in category 1:

This product, which is unregulated by the FDA or any other agency, when applied to your skin, will prevent and erase wrinkles. It’s scientifically proven.

This product, which is unregulated by the FDA or any other agency, when taken internally, will make you lose weight without diet or exercise. It’s scientifically proven.

    Claims in category 2:

While some, perhaps even most scientists, agree that climate change is real, is the result of human actions, and is a serious problem we should be worried about right now, scientists at the Heritage Foundation, which has a vested interest in arguing what they argue, says these claims are exaggerated and that regulations proposed to address them are bad.

Some studies of show a link between sugar and diabetes. Other studies show no link between sugar and diabetes.

As it turns out, all of the latter are funded by the food and beverage industry, and all of the former are described as being “independent”, whatever that means, since they almost certainly had funding. (3)

Studies funded by the tobacco industry show no link between smoking and cancer.

The NRA has successfully lobbied to have all federal funding for research on gun violence pulled. It is effectively illegal to use public money to study gun violence.

With the rise of native advertising, and the decline of journalism in general, average consumers often have no way of distinguishing between an advertisement and a news story, even if news stories were still actually worth watching.

    and then there is category 3:

Studies which show a link or correlation are likely to get published. Studies showing no link or correlation are almost never published. There is a large-scale bias toward publishing studies that claim something over studies that claim a lack of something.

Federal grant money is a huge, huge source of income for both individual researchers and universities and research institutions. It is unclear if agencies like the NIH will continue to fund research projects which do not show expected results, or which show no results.

The only other source of funding for such large-scale studies is inside the R and D departments of large corporations.

Regulatory bodies let the companies developing products do their own testing. There are no barriers preventing people from moving to and from jobs in regulation and jobs in the industries regulated. Such moves are common.

    end of list of problematic claims

So here’s my problem.

I think that I do a good job of navigating all of this. But I am also fairly sure that my confidence in this area comes at least partly from large-scale agreement with other people in my socio-economic group, from my peers’ approval. (Note how the anti-vaxxers are localized in specific communities, whose members support and reinforce each other’s behavior and conclusions.) The fact is, I have no more and no better information about science than anybody else, and in other situations I am the first one in line to doubt the claims of industry about its products. The pharmaceutical industry is, in fact, not trustworthy or ethical, and is prone to do all kinds of immoral and unethical things to make a buck. This industry does not, in fact, have your interests at heart, and it is, in fact, wildly under-regulated. Should I say that it is not in order to answer claims about vaccines? Because that’s not accurate.

I fervently believe that we should all, individually and collectively, be making decisions based on evidence and setting aside any belief for which there is not good evidence. I think that the future of civilization quite literally depends on our collective ability to do this. But that’s the easy part, frankly. Where are we supposed to be getting this evidence, and how are we meant to evaluate claims about it? That’s the rub. Because anti-vaxxers think they have evidence. They think they have a lot of evidence, and they think it’s good evidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I think doctors that promulgate this bullshit should lose their licenses and face sanctions. I think that parents who don’t vaccinate should, at a MINIMUM, lose the right to put their kids in public school, and possibly we should look at them losing custody of their kids. It’s just that my own confidence in my simple belief in science as a method for understanding and approaching the world is somewhat eroded lately, and I think solutions to this problem go far beyond sanctions and public schools.

Because until the measles happened, no one even considered yanking these doctors’ licenses. Are they not also responsible for the outbreak?

What about a press that couldn’t find its ass with both hands and a mirror when it comes to reporting on science? Are they not also responsible for the outbreak?

What about public people who lack scientific training and yet “advocate” for political goals in which they fervently believe? (It’s my deeply held belief, man, you can’t question it!) Are they not also responsible for the outbreak?

The FDA? The lack of regulation more generally? The complete ineffectiveness of labeling and consumer protections? The idiocy of consumers who ask for fewer regulations? Big pharma for being such whores in general that they can’t be trusted now on this either?

And ask yourself this: do I actually, in point of fact, have good evidence that I have checked myself for all of my beliefs about the world, including the scientific ones that I hold up as so dear? Because you don’t. You couldn’t. No one is genuinely equipped to check that stuff, and we all go with consensus because you have to. And our consensus, currently, is corrupted and polluted by the desire to make money. So then follow up with this: is there something I currently believe that could one day blow up in my face as the next measles outbreak? And if it does, am I sure that I won’t react with flat out denial?

Because I’m not sure. I would like to be, I feel deeply unsafe, and I hope that this feeling will pass, but I’m right this instant not at all sure.

Finally, let me just say this. When people talk about the arrogance of scientists and professors, I have long been inclined to dismiss it. However, I am coming off a long period of american university professors telling me, effectively, to sit down and shut up, that they know better, including about things in which the professor is not an expert. Including issues were, in fact, I am better equipped to know than the professor in question. And I have a PhD. If I feel this way — like a small child told to go and sit in the corner for daring to ask a question of the teacher — I cannot image how people with less formal education must feel. So I guess a special fuck you to go out to everybody from the UofC right now, because you guys are just the worst. Yes. Fuck you. (4)

I hope to be back on my game in the next couple days. I don’t want common ground with anti-vaxxers, and I’m a lot happier making fun than I am feeling empathy.

UPDATE: My excellent husband has, using nothing but reason and logic, talked me down from this precipice. It’s all the stuff you already know: when you actually need to make decisions, you have or you get the information, a bigger claim (conspiracy) can’t be used to back up a smaller one, despite its problems, the scientific method is still the best we’ve got, and lots of scientists are independent, and you can often trace the money when they’re not. Things are not so bad. At least, not outside the humanities.

And the biggest one of all: when confronted with counter-evidence, I’m willing to change my position. As long as I have that, I might as well be a separate species from the antivaxxers. Join us.

1. There has also been no little joy on my part that I live in a country that doesn’t allow people to decide not to follow its laws based on a “personal belief exemption” which basically states that anyone can do anything they want so long as they claim to believe it, and the less evidence there is for their belief, the stronger their claim. For me, this story exists on a continuum with other american myths about freedom, the pilgrims and their religion, the founding fathers and their religion, and america as the land where people are free to worship as they choose, as if this could actually be the highest good for any thinking, progressive person. I don’t think I’m wrong about this overlayer of smugness, though I am perhaps wrong to smug about it instead of something more properly humble like grateful or concerned.

2. I cannot vouch for the quality of the claims about pus in milk. Google it and you’ll see why. You should actually google this, because this is, in fact, my whole point.

3. I only know this because of yet ANOTHER study, which established the correlation between funding and results. No word on where its money came from. Also, I saw this third and final study cited on a comedy and satire show which does a better job of in-depth investigative reporting than most shows that call themselves news. Despite all of this, I believe the study, and I believe the not-news source from which it came. I have not verified any of these claims about sugar, beverages, diabetes and the science of them in any way shape or form.

4. I just unfriended another one yesterday. The thought that unfriending someone is pretty much the only weapon in my arsenal makes me feel so depressed that I see no point in ever getting out the bed again, except that maybe I might need to pee. Go post that on your own wall, Nicole, she said. I’m trying to make a different point here, she said. My role, apparently, is to like and admire, not to discuss or pose questions. Soon, I will have no friends left, and I will be super brave about posting what I think to an audience of zero. If a person stands in a deserted street screaming that we should be reasonable and compassionate in our dealings with one another, using evidence as our benchmark, is that person still crazy? Is she more or less crazy than a person who tells a street full of people that he is actually Napoleon? How about that lady in the store who tells you to have a blessed day?

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I have ended up with a large number of “friends” who treat me as though I were a small child and they my classroom teacher. I do not know how this has happened to me. And now that I do not like it, now that I do not accept it, what am I to do?

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americans explain things to me

An american university professor posts a comment suggesting that France is a really misogynist country. She has recently spent two weeks visiting Paris, where she has met an actual French woman who tells her that she has experienced sexism at work. She offers this woman as proof of France’s extensive misogyny problem. She posts a link to a blog where French women vent about sexism in the workplace as further evidence that France is way way worse than the US. I consider posting a link to “Fat, Ugly or Slutty,” but I refrain in order to keep the peace.

As part of a discussion about health insurance and partner coverage, I post a comment expressing my opinion that health care should not be tied either to employment or to marital/partner status (an opinion that I held well before moving to France). I do not use the words “France” or “Europe.” I do not mention single payer healthcare or the sécuité sociale anywhere in my post. An american university professor, whom I have never met, a friend of a friend who seems to be under the impression that I am one of her undergraduates submitting a piece of work for comment and critique, informs me that France is not perfect, that GPA (surrogacy) is illegal in my country, and that François Hollande has betrayed gay people everywhere and is horribly homophobic, as is all of France. I respond that the French view GPA as part of the larger question of selling and renting body parts, and have outlawed it because of the significant risk of exploitation and abuse. I explain that they connect it with issues like organ donation rather than with gay civil rights specifically. I post a moving video of Christiane Taubira speaking passionately on behalf of the mariage pour tous in the hémicycle, ripping her UMP opponents a new one in beautiful French. No one watches it, though professor chick goes on to explain that her current book project proves that France is baby-obsessed (she uses the phrase “crazy natalist state” several times, as does my “friend”) and that she has documentation from the post-war period’s French law code that proves it. She acknowledges that France was, during the post-war period, trying to repopulate a country largely depleted of citizens by large-scale slaughter, flight, and the occupation of their territory by nazis, but dismisses this as a clever ruse, hiding the real agenda, which is secretly to forward a project of homophobic state-building. I could myself lucky not to be told I am undertheorized. She offers to send me some “materials” that I can read to educate myself about the country where I have chosen to make my home. I lose it and tell her to fuck off, throwing an online temper tantrum in front of all the other fancy university professors, receiving an “F” for my work, and feeling the kind of deep humiliation that usually only comes from crying at a junior high school slumber party. Despite this, I refrain from mentioning the fact that in my country you can still get an abortion or birth control, and questioning who is really the crazy natalist state. I do not point out that complaining in the same breath about France supporting the having of children and also not enabling them to do it is somewhat muddled. I do not ask all an sundry which it is: do you fucking want to have children or don’t you? I do not know, because she has not chosen to share it with me, that my “friend” is currently pregnant. I forever alienate myself from her and her partner. I feel ashamed and outraged at the same time.

The same american university professor who has visited Paris one time posts an image of a French florist on valentine’s day. They have a marquee suggesting that their patrons buy two bouquets rather than one, “n’oubliez pas votre maîtresse!” She says, ironically, of the sign “sans blague.” I laugh hard at the marquee. I refrain from telling her that it is, in fact, a blague, and that she has misinterpreted it in order to keep the peace.

An american lawyer explains to me that France’s position on free speech has more limits than the US’s. She claims that prohibiting the denial of the holocaust is a slippery slope, and will certainly lead to fascism. She explains that the american system of allowing neo-nazis to march in the streets is the only possible construction of freedom. I suggest that possibility of limits to free speech which stop short of totalitarian suppression of all ideas. I state that most western democracies currently exist in this middle ground, and have done so without significant incident for years. She responds that she’d rather live in the US than in Stalinist Russia. I say that this rhetoric is unhelpful and inaccurate, as we have more choices than these two. I say that americans often do this: default to their way or the gulag. She says, who does that? I don’t do that! Do you think I do that? I lie to keep the peace. This same american lawyer, a few months later, without so much as batting an eye, posts a comment stating that anyone who criticizes islam is a bigot, and that we should all refrain from saying or thinking things that criticize islam. I respond that there is a difference between respecting people’s rights and respecting their beliefs, and that, additionally, there is a difference between criticizing a set of ideas and dismissing a group of people. She calls me a bigot. I unfriend her.

Another american university professor sends me a link to coverage of the manif pour tous. She seems concerned that I may have missed it, despite my attendance at a demonstration against it and in favor of the mariage pour tous law. She asks me, “are you sure it’s better there?”

A group of americans, including yet more university professors, get together to explain to me that the magazine Charlie Hebdo is racist. One posts a link to an article about how the staff had it coming, and several friends suggest that they deserved to die because if you sow hatred, you will reap hatred. I burst into tears upon seeing it. I realize that my so-called friends and I are a gaping chasm apart. I realize that they are with the masked men toting AK47s, and they do not see what is wrong with that. I object. A man I have never met explains the content of the article to me: it’s just saying that our responses should go deeper than “je suis charlie”, and that we should turn to intellectuals for this deeper analysis. I post a detailed response to the article, its content, and its arguments. He responds with a single line saying I have failed to make the case that just saying “je suis charlie” is enough. Several people like his comment. No one responds to the content of my post. Once again I receive an “F”.

All of this happened within 24 hours of the attacks. Any French person who was stricken, shocked, upset, or in mourning was labeled a racist and an idiot. Americans establish their public stance as intellectuals who go beyond the surface of problem. None speak French. All speak with the voice of authority.

Little by little a sort of consensus emerges among some americans that charlie hebdo might not be racist after all, and that missing all of the context and language skills necessary to decode the image might actually be a significant impediment to understanding some of the images published therein. A well-meaning but extremely confused blog post explaining some of the context begins to circulate among my friends. The author does not appear to know what a quenelle is, an thinks that Diendonné is being sodomized by a banana. She appears unfamiliar with the extent of the quenelling fad when the piece was published; she spends a good deal of time running down possible alternative explanations that make no sense. The post becomes the go-to source among my small community. No one asks me for help decoding the images. No one asks me what I know about Charlie. No one asks me what I think. No one asks me how I feel. No one asks me if I am upset. No one asks me if I am okay. No one expresses sympathy that my country has suffered a brutal terrorist attack. No one who previously lectured me about charlie’s “racism” apologizes or retracts (to me or to anyone else). I post a link to a long piece that I wrote several years ago about charlie hebdo and terrorism. Two people read it. None of them are the intellectuals who think we should go deeper into the issues. I feel lonely.

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I just hate you. Seriously.

I just had a look at the Charlie covers circulating around American news media as “evidence” of the magazine’s racism. I, honestly I didn’t think I could be more upset and surprised and horrified, but I literally cannot believe that people think THESE PARTICULAR covers are evidence of racism. These particular covers are, all of them, explicitly and obviously criticisms of racism, and anyone with half a clue would know that. I can only see the continued circulation of them as yet more evidence that Americans just think they know everything.

For the record, the Christiane Taubira one: references an incident where a Front National officer posted a picture of the garde des sceaux and compared her to a monkey, and this in a larger context where Mme Taubira was taking pretty much daily shit for her stance in favor of gay marriage and her sponsorship of the mariage pour tous law. The Front National says, oh no, that’s not us, we’re not RACISTS, she did that on her own. Charlie says…..bullshit. Charlie says, hey, FN, you’re a bunch of racists, fuck off.

As for the one with Dieudonné? Fucking look him up. Holocaust approving, hate-mongering, tax-evading, anti-semite, lazy, naricissitic shithead that he is, he deserves a good lampooning, and then he deserves another one. The thing up his butt is a quenelle, which, in addition to being something to eat, is also a neo-nazi racist salute that he invented and which was briefly in vogue among the nation’s disaffected youth and the poseurs who wish they were the nation’s disaffected youth. He is not a good guy, you are not on the right side of racism if you are defending him, and that thing in his ass is not a banana, or a pineapple, or anything else that you’re wildly speculating about. It’s a quenelle, it’s clearly a quenelle, there’s never been the possibility of it being anything else, and no one even marginally familiar with the context could possibly arrive at any other conclusion.

I know that condemning racism makes everybody feel all special and politically engaged without having to actually DO anything. I know that in particular, people who work as university professors can easily develop a sense that because they are so heavily theorized, that they are always right, that they know better. I know too that american political discourse is rapidly become hyper-sanitized and carefully corporate, that there is a tendency to go looking for racism whereever you can find it, and to explain that 1. you need to be really careful and 2. you probably need to look to an expert. But that doesn’t make you right. That doesn’t make the discourse a good one. And it doesn’t mean that you know jack shit about anybody else.

I am particularly tired of being told that the charlie hebdo situation is super complicated and requires the expert treatment of intellectuals to be deciphered (and in these moments I am always and already not an intellectual, so for that a special fuck you), while those same people are like, I won’t even get into the issue of racism, charlie is obviously racist and there’s nothing more to say. You guys don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. You may think you’re intellectuals and scholars, but with the cartoons you’re holding up, you haven’t even gotten as far in your interpretation of them as some kid who dropped out of high school and can barely read.

Shut up.

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A tip

For the record, the correct etiquette in a situation where you know someone who lives in a country that has recently undergone a terrorist assault on its basic values, especially if it has not yet even been 24 hours since that horrible incident, is to say, hey, I’m so sorry. I hope you’re doing ok.

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