Sex, nerds, entitlement, rape and getting better

I thought about writing an “open letter” to mass shooter Elliot Rodger in response to his manifesto of suffering women’s rejection. Perhaps even borrowing the “It gets better” line that we saw in a gay advocacy series of videos, telling Rodger (far too late) and others who have felt his pain that better times often lie ahead.

But it’s difficult to write, to put it mildly. It deals with thorny issues of sexuality, and I’m not sure people close to me would want me to delve backwards into my years of feeling sorry for myself over unrequited crushes, multiple years between relationships, and bad decisions I made because I feared being lonely forever. Nor could I make the claim that “it gets better” for everyone just because it did for me.

Then I stumbled into a brilliant, provocative piece by Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu: Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds – The Daily Beast.

Chu takes down some sacred cows, particularly if you’re a fan of Ayn Rand or 80s movies. You may never look at Revenge of the Nerds the same way. If you don’t already look at Rand’s works as toilet paper, you may be convinced. I’ve never liked The Big Bang Theory, so I feel vindicated on that front.

And he gets into this:

How much longer are we going to be in denial that there’s a thing called “rape culture” and we ought to do something about it?

No, not the straw man that all men are constantly plotting rape, but that we live in an entitlement culture where guys think they need to be having sex with girls in order to be happy and fulfilled. That in a culture that constantly celebrates the narrative of guys trying hard, overcoming challenges, concocting clever ruses and automatically getting a woman thrown at them as a prize as a result, there will always be some guy who crosses the line into committing a violent crime to get what he “deserves,” or get vengeance for being denied it.

Some things about sexuality are just unfair. I remember sitting at lunch tables at Duke, listening to guys talk about their latest conquests and what a pain in the ass it was to get them out of bed in the morning. I never understood why women — smart women — would go to keg parties, drink and hook up, knowing all the while they were going to regret it.

And that hookup culture runs the risk of nasty rape arguments such as the one Duke is having now. (The lacrosse scandal, the PowerPoint rating athletes’ sexual prowess, the porn star freshman, and now this — what IS it about my alma mater? Why doesn’t this stuff happen at Ohio State?) The rules of drunk hookups made no sense to me at the time and still don’t, even as Duke and others attempt to define “drunk” as “unable to consent.”

But I’ve learned what Chu says here. Men, even and perhaps especially nerdy men, have to grow up. The world doesn’t owe you a girlfriend just because you think you’re a nice, smart guy. I may still question why my female friends were willing participants in a game that was rigged against them, but I can’t complain that they’ve opted for that instead of a relationship with the 20-year-old me. Hey, I had issues.

It got better for me. It might have gotten better for Elliot Rodger had he waited around long enough to take the chip off his shoulder.

And yet nothing’s guaranteed. Gay or straight, nerd or jock, you may have a long wait. All you can do is fill your life with anything else, especially kindness. And TV shows that aren’t The Big Bang Theory.

And as a society, we all need to stop thinking we’re owed something.

comedy, creativity

SNL and future success: Hope for John Milhiser

Stardom on Saturday Night Live doesn’t necessarily equal stardom after leaving 30 Rock. Dana Carvey and Darrell Hammond were made for SNL but aren’t likely to be in Hollywood blockbusters. (Except Wayne’s World, of course.) It’s easy to forget that Joe Piscopo was once huge.

A lot of players who are busy on SNL carve out nice niches for themselves. Or end up in the Senate.

What about those who go from SNL obscurity to success elsewhere? Splitsider, which covers and analyzes SNL in vivid detail (but is too harsh about last season), came up with a fun list: Eight ‘SNL’ Cast Members Who Went from Sidelined to Success.

You could nit-pick a little with Chris Elliott — like Janeane Garofalo and Michael McKean, he was already established but was shoved into a cast in which the long-serving Chris Farley, Adam Sandler and David Spade were simply ruling the roost and doing their worst work on the show.

I might add Jay Mohr, Gilbert Gottfried, Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans.

creativity, music

Vulfpeck 1, Spotify 0

I love Spotify as a consumer. But frankly, I’d be willing to chip in a few more bucks.

Given the current system, I have to admire the creativity here:

A Scrappy Young Band Just Outsmarted Spotify for $20,000 to Give Their Fans Free Concerts – PolicyMic.

They uploaded several tracks of silence and urged fans to listen on repeat while they slept.

Seems to me the simplest solution would be to start charging listeners the 10th time they play a particular song. That gives you all the serendipity and browsing you want, but it makes you pay to make a song a permanent part of your “record” collection. Still much cheaper than CDs.

journalism, politics

I’ve looked at D.C. from both sides now … um …

Following up on John Oliver’s brilliant “proportional” climate change debate, here’s Obama on “false equivalence”:

You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible.  And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses.  But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific.  We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

via Morning Plum: Obama slams ‘false equivalence’ media.

It’s always a mistake to cover the “left” and “right” the same way, even if they’re all acting honestly. A traditional “liberal” sees problems and posits solutions, usually via the government. A traditional “conservative” acts as a brake on reckless spending and often posits alternative solutions.

That puts “conservatives” in a public relations bind. Their role is to be the spoilsport. Many traditional “conservative” arguments in a First World country may come across as self-serving — they usually benefit the speaker, and it’s difficult to point out that they also see the problem. And if they come off as patronizing while doing so, then the message falls flat.

Since Gingrich, the GOP has adopted more of a flame-throwing approach. Instead of carefully explaining the nuances of why a “liberal” proposal is flawed or counterproductive, that proposal must be evil. And so are the people who proposed it. And they’ve been so successful with that message that they can deny scientific reality and not be laughed off the stage.


Muse is cheaper than Stone Temple Pilots

So says this list of prices to play on college campuses. You can get Muse for $150K, but Stone Temple Pilots will cost you $250-$400K.

Dave Matthews Band? One million dollars.

The original post at Priceonomics raises a few red flags about the list and points out a few bargains. For $100K, I could put together a festival with Los Lobos, Guster, Flogging Molly, and Better Than Ezra.

 Update: The Celebrity Talent site is probably a bit more reliable and fun to search.

cynicism, philosophy

Why we believe utter crap

Are we doomed to believe things that are demonstrably false?

Brendan Nyhan (Dukie!) has devoted much of his career to fighting falsehoods, and he is depressed by a three-year study he conducted to try change beliefs on vaccination:

The first leaflet—focussed on a lack of evidence connecting vaccines and autism—seemed to reduce misperceptions about the link, but it did nothing to affect intentions to vaccinate. It even decreased intent among parents who held the most negative attitudes toward vaccines, a phenomenon known as the backfire effect.

Oh dear. That’s not good.

The theory is that one’s sense of self is threatened if you’re confronted with the idea that you’re wrong. So here’s the clever but difficult solution: Make people believe they’ve arrived at the correct answer on their own.

Here, Nyhan decided to apply it in an unrelated context: Could recalling a time when you felt good about yourself make you more broad-minded about highly politicized issues, like the Iraq surge or global warming? As it turns out, it would. On all issues, attitudes became more accurate with self-affirmation, and remained just as inaccurate without.

So yelling at people that “the grownups are talking” might not work.

At least, not immediately. But I’m a little more optimistic than that. From my own experience, I can think of things I used to argue that I now know to be false — creationism, the infinite superiority of prog rock to pop music, etc. — and I can see how my beliefs changed not in one argument but over a period of time.

And experience forces us to change as well. I recently chatted with a high school friend who worries that I’ve been corrupted by being around all these media and government types. Not so, I said. I’m the same person I was in high school. But my experiences have changed me.

It’s simple common sense. If you’ve never met any Muslims or gay people, you’re more likely to harbor prejudice than you are after you meet them. If you’ve never seen any hard-working poor people, it’s easier to scapegoat them as lazy leeches. If you’ve never met any charitable Christians, it’s easy to stereotype them based on the snake-oil salesmen who dominate the airwaves.

But are some people hard-wired to resist such change? That’s what this piece on right-wing thought and “psychological origins of political ideology argues.

Again and again, when they take the widely accepted Big Five personality traits test, liberals tend to score higher on one of the five major dimensions—openness: the desire to explore, to try new things, to meet new people—and conservatives score higher on conscientiousness: the desire for order, structure, and stability.

I’m still skeptical. I know too many “liberals” who like “order, structure and stability” — that’s what Europe’s socialized programs offer, after all.

But I do firmly believe people are ingrained with certain fears. And today’s propagandists are all too good at exploiting them. That’s why people believe their freedoms are being taken away by the slightest measure of gun control. Or that Putin is going to go marching through Europe after he gobbles up Ukraine. Or that “genetic modification” is going to turn their produce into radioactive carcinogens.

So I think the next level of research is this: How do you counter propaganda? Censoring Fox News and Jenny McCarthy won’t do it. It has to be something that works to assuage those fears.

Update: I checked out Brendan Nyhan’s Twitter feed and found something I had to add:

But the evidence suggests the Tea Party, like my ninth-grade belief in creationism, is burning itself out.