Chapel Hill Shooting: Atheists / Anti-theists Are Responsible?

Craig Hicks, charged with shooting death of 3 Muslims in N.C.

Some less than spectacular people out there on the Inter-webs are calling for vocal atheists and anti-theists to own up to the Chapel Hill Shooting being our version of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. No, we won’t be doing that. At least not at this time. Should the available facts on record change, such as a confirmed manifesto being released, any reasonable person would adjust their views to include this. But what we have here is a horrible tragedy with no clear motives, nothing more. Charlie Hebdo was killing in the name of religion being held higher in importance than freedom of speech and human life; no comparison.

Standards of acceptance of evidence is probably the core difference between atheists and theists. For instance: I don’t see any evidence that is at all compelling for a historical Jesus of Nazareth nor for a God of Abraham. The commonly used “personal experience” routine is crap on multiple levels but mainly because people lie to further their own goals all the time and religious labels don’t instantly cure a person of unethical behaviors.

I’ve studied the Bible at length, researched non-canonical texts, applied the standards of historical veracity to both the Old and New Testaments and none of it amounts to the claims of “divinity” and “divine truth” made by Bible-believers. At the most, and this is being very generous, there was a Jewish rebel priest put to death by the Romans that had a chain of hearsay turn him into a demigod in the eyes of certain men who were all born around a hundred years after his execution.

Islam and the Quran are different in the sense that the central figure is much, much more so a verified historical figure but shares in the same issues of the Torah and the Bible where none of the claims to divinity and ultimate truth are any more compelling than when the Greeks, Egyptians or the Pagans wrote of their mastery of the ethos of life and contemplation. The endless contradictions anyone can find with enough time spent with almost any “holy book” placed to the side, the issue with any form of religious extremism boils down to dehumanizing those who will not conform to the point where an act of torture or murder upon them is not only acceptable but mandated from on high.

Thing to remember here is some people believe in UFOs and anal probes but it’s rare to the point of being unheard of that one of them would go shoot up a skeptic conference in the name of being unhindered to spread the message of the coming alien overlords to the masses. But both radicalized Christians as well as Muslims, and even the heavily pacifist Buddhists, have done exactly these kinds of actions in both isolated and organized acts of violence. All this in recent decades and not even bothering to dredge out old history books citing violence over the centuries committed in the name of religious “purity.”

No respected atheist anywhere is advocating you solve your disputes with acts of murder or that the best way to silence an ideological opponent is to kill them in their home or place of business. But I could troll the right-wing radio Christian waves for awhile and bring back some moron who is doing exactly that and same with the nationalistic Islamic newsgroups and forums. This would not in turn implicate all Christians and all Muslims in those statements but only those who identify with the speaker’s views which is not an easy thing to assess unless someone declares it to be so.

Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

 

As always when I cover tragic stories my deepest condolences go out to the family members and friends of the victims of this horrible event.  I do not speak merely for myself when I say that this man should face the full force of the legal justice system and hopefully this will bring you some measure of peace.

Anita Sarkeesian: Entrepreneur, Activist or Phony?

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For those not keeping up with the pulse of YouTube: a channel by the name of Feminist Frequency run by Anita Sarkeesian has recently gathered $160,000 via Kickstarter to produce what is currently a three part video series focused on sexism in videogames entitled “Damsel in Distress.” Originally she asked for $6,000 for this project and spoke of academic value as well as intense research involved in the final product.  But the videos about videogames are only the catalyst in a tale of Internet Infamy that begins with feminism and ends with pseudo-science.

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The dubiously high amount of money involved raised many eyebrows due to the fact that YouTube videos of this exact nature are produced on shoe string budgets every day. She refuses to allow comments or ratings which is a tactic looked down on by most Internet users for obvious reasons. Compounding this is some evidence to show she likely screen captured the videos of other YouTube users rather than recording original video from the games she supposedly bought for the research stage of the project. But I’ll return to that topic later. Whatever else may be true of Sarkeesian there’s no arguing that she has become extremely successful directly as a result of this Kickstarter project and is rumored to have entered the professional gaming industry as a consultant to EA Games on the title Mirror’s Edge 2.

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Which brings me to the first quandary: Is she a capitalist genius or just a case of luck combining with opportunity? I don’t think it’s as easy as some of her detractors would like to discount her as simply a “troll” (meaning intentional instigator) taking it to the next level. That’s one possibility but considering the nature of human greed I find it also likely she uses pop culture as a crutch to avoid the more scientific elements of social commentary all while appealing to her base, in this case hard-line feminists, to keep the donations coming with lots of red meat. All the benefits but none of the heavy lifting. As an example of this she doesn’t present any information to the viewer about learned and demonstrated behavior in the field of Child Development Psychology which would be the cornerstone of a hypothesis involved in linking external input like the themes and plot devices in videogames with outward attitudes toward the opposite gender.  Fancy way of saying she is obviously not doing an academic piece.

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One thing that occurred to me when I saw her first video was most of her arguments could be transplanted to rail against rap and hip hop music, or against the fringes of the artist community, or pretty much any extreme form of expression. But somehow I don’t imagine a young woman who wants to decry the evil rap music industry right next to figures like Bill O’Reilly and Pat Robertson would catch much traction on YouTube. Sarkeesian’s main point in summation, while it takes a different route to get there, is no different from the position of the religious right-wing: society is harmed by things I find offensive being popular.

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That brings me to my second quandary: Is she an earnest activist that is merely making amateur mistakes or is there intentional deception by stating her opinions as facts numerous times? Again I’m not entirely convinced the worst to be true. It’s not all that impossible most of what she has presented that has ruffled feathers is just us witnessing a slow learning curve on her part to avoid logical fallacy. I read some old political posts of mine and felt deep shame … because I wrote them prior to taking a college course on critical thinking and proper argumentation. So hey, total benefit of doubt thing going on here. But to ever buy this one in full I need to see her start basing factual statements in facts and come to see that if you decry a social injustice you perceive but provide no positive solutions then others who feel as you do are left feeling disempowered (common theme in her videos) instead of united in this common worldview.

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My final quandary: Are we being lead around by the nose here or not? The strongest point that leads me to think this a con artist at work is not so much the large pile of cash she got but rather what other users pointed out: she is almost certainly using footage of Let’s Play videos (someone voices what is essentially a podcast alongside a game they’re playing) to pad out her game footage shots and blatantly ignores or misrepresents the context within a story line she critiques. As a quick example of misleading viewers about the contextual story line within these games she references Fable 2 as a title that represented the “male revenge fantasy” overlooking the fact you can select to be female without affecting any element of the story and after the death of your sister you are mentored by a powerfully authoritative female character. As to the other point I’ve heard some users say she “stole” these clips of game footage but (1) not giving attribution is bad Web-etiquette but not stealing per se and (2) with the exception of the audio these Let’s Play videos are likely the sole property of the game makers or YouTube not the person who used a computer to mesh together game play and commentary. Find a copyright lawyer to really nail that down but in the case of potential plagiarism I’m near positive that unless they have a partnership with a gaming company thus a legal department behind them they can forget about this sort of thing being declared anything other than Free Use by YouTube. That said, it’s beyond suspicious to me that such a highly funded project would borrow footage in this way at all.

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The sad part is no matter what Sarkeesian holds as her true intentions the focus on tired clichés being overused in gaming and how these plot devices, or tropes, are used to enforce unfair gender stereotypes is an opinionated stand to take but it’s just a simple fact that the professional gaming industry is predominately male and could greatly benefit from say a youthful female voice on YouTube encouraging women to strike out toward careers in gaming design and development. I have no doubt the gaming industry as a whole would welcome a more gender balanced input when it comes to design and development. The number of female gamers in the market keeps rising and they often bring different tastes and expectations to a videogame than male gamers do.

But instead of that sort of encouragement, so far anyway, we have three videos that contain contradictions and have yet to succeed in proving or even attempting to prove the central premise that fictional fantasies lead to negative attitudes and beliefs about others. We already beat that horse to death with the whole violence in the media causes violence in real life bullshit that was debunked over and over again.

Correlation is not causation, Anita.

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More Video Links:

More than a Damsel in a Dress: A Response” by KiteTales

Three Simple Questions for Anita Sarkeesian” by IWALVG

Female Game Developer’s response to Tropes vs Women” by dolldivine

Damsel Trek…” by Triox45

GAME OVER: Anita Sarkeesian has won” by MundaneMatt

Kira’s Kingdom

We’d be better off if the rotten people died.” – Kira

For those not on board the anime train Death Note is a supernatural suspense thriller in which the main character seeks to create a better world, by killing people. He uses a notebook from a ‘Shinigami’ (“death god”) to write the names of criminals who then die after having their names transcribed in this ‘Death Note.’

Generally speaking I am against capital punishment and using fear to install world peace. However, on any bad day (which today rates rather high on the list) I operate on a very different plane of thought.

Who decides what is justice? Who determines what is moral? You? Some old book that most people never read cover to back?

I have said many times in regards to politics that I don’t care at all the vehicle for positive social change. The Democratic Party, The Republican Party, The Green Party … I really couldn’t care less about the branding. All I care about is results. Any political party or movement that can show me they will affect positive change to serious societal issues has my support.

This same pragmatic approach is exactly why in my dark moments I find myself speaking as if I were Kira. I’ve even been known to throw down some fire & brimstone at the same people who throw it on me. I don’t believe in a Hell outside of this living world, but enough readings of the Bible would make anyone start wanting to shove some sulfur and endless torment on the bullies, stalkers, racists, bigots, homophobes and zealots who make it their business to inform us of their vile nature.

It’s a false paradise bathed in blood. Beyond that once the new world was founded, Kira must then die. He could never live as the ‘god’ of his kingdom for he would be a collection of more mass genocide on his hands than could ever be tolerated in the this new utopia.

But my mind wanders on these topics at times, even without the aid of gothic anime shows.

Would this world founded on fear and death be so vastly different from our world of today?

People decide every day that life in this world is not worth living.

Would Kira’s Kingdom truly be so awful to live in that people would continue to see existence as vile and loathsome?

There is no question in my mind that true peace is not founded on a pile of corpses.

But how long must the world sit bleeding and dying in wait for true peace?

In my experience reality is not a decision between ideology versus ideology, but rather between a destructive status-quo versus a catastrophic realism.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” But this supposes there is anything but “wrong” in the world in the first place. If everything in the world is nothing but “wrong” to begin with then “two wrongs” is just nothing more than the world in motion, and the question becomes only what world will we be left with after the actors have played their parts and exited the stage.

Translation of lyrics from Death Note’s closing video:

This single page,

Forever depressing,

A fleeting tactic in the eyes,

Without petition,

Evil against the law,

Chain it in a prison,

Poison in the notebook,

Fear the lust,

Delusion of being deceived,

Perpetually drooling,

Judgment is “crime control” they driveled,

Who has the Rx for that?

A decriminalized world,

A sanctioned world,

Taking heat just like “Pirates of Death,”

Atone with the game of laws,

Billy in despair,

Now it’s time for ethics,

Now the unstoppable Eraser Rain,

Billy in despair,

Now it’s time for ethics,

Now the unstoppable Eraser Rain,

The unstoppable Eraser Rain.

Tea Party Death Threats & Vandalism

The fractious ultra-conservative Tea Party Movement has finally morphed from bazaar partisan rancor into death threats and vandalism against the Democratic health care reform agenda. The racist language directed at John Lewis, the homophobic slurs directed at Barney Frank, the coffin placed in Russ Carnahan’s lawn; the list of examples continues on.

Bigoted anti-Semitism has erupted in talk radio and Internet circles as the threats with possibly bullets behind them find their way to Eric Cantor’s office.

The Tea Party tactics that we see coming to fruition in all this recent hostility toward Democrats, and any progressive or liberal who does anything but stand mute, are designed to sour and squelch all civil debate over health care reform.

This is not and never was about taxes.

The Republican Party and the biased Fox News media have done nothing but prop up these radicals who exhibit these untruthful and violent features. Now these same hypocrites attempt to lay the blame for this vandalism at the feet of Democrats and those who support the health care reform agenda.

The far right has revealed itself as an anti-life and anti-freedom movement in this reform backlash, while the mainstream right reveals itself to be completely accepting of this domestic terrorism.

I want to see these Tea Party bloggers posting an address that is attacked with vandalism to be arrested on charges of willfully contributing to wanton destruction of private property.

Two conservative Tea Party activists posted the address of the home on the Internet on Monday, mistakenly believing it was the home of the congressman. One of the activists urged others to “drop by” and “express their thanks” for Perriello’s vote in favor of health care reform.

Tuesday evening, Perriello’s brother’s family smelled gas and discovered the propane line of a gas-powered grill on their screened-in porch had been slashed.

The Fearmonger-in-Chief is Glenn Beck of Fox News


The Anti-Defamation League has joined with me in trying to raise awareness over a violent propagandist spreading anti-Americanism on a low credibility network.

Here is an excerpt from the ADL report:

Glenn Beck’s linkage of Hitler’s plan to round up and exterminate Jews with Al Gore’s efforts to raise awareness of global warming is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive. Unfortunately, his remarks are just the latest example of a troubling epidemic on the airwaves, where comparisons to Hitler and the Holocaust are becoming all-too facile.

It has become almost commonplace for talk-show pundits to use comparisons to the Holocaust and Nazi imagery to attack people whose views they disagree with, whether the issue is global warming or immigration, as we witnessed when CNN’s Lou Dobbs recently suggested on his program that immigrant rights groups use tactics similar to those of Nazi propagandists.

The six million Jewish victims and millions of other victims of Hitler deserve a measure of respect. Their deaths should not be used for political points or sloganeering. Every time a radio or television personality takes that unique event in history and twists it for their own political agenda, it cheapens the public debate and distorts and trivializes the Holocaust.

It is more important than ever before to speak openly about the culture of dishonesty, fear and violence promoted by the likes of Glenn Beck and held in place by the likes of Fox Broadcasting Company.

The element to understand here is that there will always be some wild shock-jock to spread falsehoods, incite fear and violence, scare the public with fabricated theories, and just plain be an unpatriotic American.

The problem lies with making the radicalism and fervor of the fringe of any movement the mainstream of the same movement. Glenn Beck accomplishes this everyday with the help of the pseudo-credibility of Fox News (television) and Fox News Talk (radio.)

R.I.P. Tyler Tenorio

The Santa Cruz Community has suffered a great loss. A young man taken from us in his prime.

Whatever the circumstances, this horrible violence has touched me and I don’t feel I conveyed the depth of my thoughts on the matter when I spoke of it previously.

When I was sixteen, I was really stupid. I didn’t know Tyler, and I have recently discovered some of my friends in fact did know Tyler or his family. I am making an assumption that perhaps teenagerist stupidity was at play in this stabbing based on myself, not Tyler.

I feel what must be said is that I believe in my heart of hearts that Tyler Tenorio rests in peace with God.

This young soul taken from us before his time.

My heart is with all those who have lost loved ones.

I apologize if any person took offense from my previous post in regards to Tyler. I was awarded an “Editor’s Pick” on Open Salon for my efforts, but in retrospect I should have expressed my emotions on the matter rather than pure dispassionate conjecture.

Gangland Stabbing in My Town

A young man was stabbed to death in front of a 7-11 parking lot in Santa Cruz, California. Tyler Tenorio was sixteen at the time of his death on October 16th around 10 p.m.

20091024__CSS53015~5_GALLERYFriends of Tyler Tenorio (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)


20091024__CSS53015~4_GALLERYMore than 300 people gather on Laurel Street Friday evening to voice their opposition to gang violence and to remember Tyler Tenorio. (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)


The Santa Cruz Sentinel

What was conjecture of the locals the day prior has become an issue of major concern for the District Attorney and the police department.

Was Tyler representing gang membership or making a claim to belong to a gang surrounding the time of his death?

Those like myself who read the original article published in The Sentinel on this tragedy saw this element of the story coming ahead of time.

I don’t wish to cause anyone to be troubled but in my estimation Tyler, and likely his friends as well, were representing themselves as being in a gang called “Westside” that associates with the color red and is local to this side of Santa Cruz.

The history of “Westside” is not my focus here, but it is a gang that is mainly people claiming to belong to it and has very few (if any) actual members beyond teenagers wearing colors.

It is my contention that Tyler Tenorio was wearing red clothing, and having his shirts pressed by his mom, because he wished to be associated with a local gang that would never seek recrimination upon those who falsely claim to belong to it.

This is a very common occurrence in Santa Cruz youth, to claim to be part of “Westside”.

This case underlines the need to be aware of what our children and our friends are doing around us.

There is another element I feel I should touch upon as well.

There is a possibly that this tragedy was not as strongly related to gang affiliation of any sort, but rather was a case of prideful arrogance boiling into sheer violence on behalf of both parties.

The entire scene of violence could have been avoided if only Tyler had chosen to keep driving and avoid the confrontation itself.

It is within reason to assume that this young man is dead because of man-pride and the need to prove yourself right at the end of a fist.

After the shouting, the driver pulled the car onto Myrtle Street, parked and Tenorio and his friends got out. One friend told police he was angry and got out to fight, according to the court document.

I was not present for this event. I can only read news reports and hear what people have to say around town about it. But based on what I know it is a possibility that this senseless death was fueled by the arrogance of the young men in both parties, or it also possible that this was a gangland stabbing that involved a false gang member being stabbed by a real gang member who assumed that other was affiliated.