Guns and The X-Men: A Rebuttal

Guns and The X-Men: A Rebuttal

Pop Culture Uncovered

An article recently compared the concepts and issues underlying the X-Men to the gun debate. The argument was that how the public reacts to gun control (and gun owners) is similar to how the fictional Marvel world responds to mutants with dangerous powers.

I thought the point about how we dismiss or attack others because of the actions of a few evil people was important. Unfortunately, that point was lost when a comparison between gun owners and the marginalized was made.

Thus, I’d like to discuss how gun owners and the gun debate are actually nothing like the problems and message in X-Men comics.

MessageofXmen1) The Message of the X-Men

The X-Men comics are not about misjudging a group or people because a few of them are evil. Instead, the core message is that you shouldn’t judge groups or people because they are different.

The fact that some mutants…

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Theaters Won’t Listen – Deaf Community and Movie Accessibility

Theaters Won’t Listen – Deaf Community and Movie Accessibility

Pop Culture Uncovered

Black Panther is shattering records and has become one of the most talked about movies in cinema history. From its box office receipts to its role in representation and breaking stereotypes, the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has audiences and critics cheering.

Sadly, that’s not true for everyone, as some people have had poor experiences in their attempts to see the movie. No, I’m not talking about racists and white supremacists, but those barred from enjoying this film: the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.

Recently, Deaf celebrity and activist, Nyle DiMarco, posted a tweet about a poor experience he had when he tried to see Black Panther.

Understandably, Mr. DiMarco was upset that he was forced to use a device that blocks the screen and doesn’t even provide accurate or consistent captioning…

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Religion in Television – From Love to Hate

Religion in Television – From Love to Hate

Pop Culture Uncovered

With the end of another great season of Preacher and the protest of said series by fundamentalist Christian organizations, we’re left to ponder the way television has treated religion. As society has changed, so has its reflection in pop culture, and there seems to be a trend.

Although modern audiences seem to be secular or anti-religion in their harsh critique (and mockery) of modern faiths, this wasn’t always the norm. In the past, some shows were quite supportive of particular spiritual ideals and ideologies.

As we await the next in AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis’ masterpiece series, let’s remind us how TV (and ourselves) have treated various dogma and mythos.

HighwaytoHeaven

In the 1980’s, most shows kept things low-key – if the supernatural was shown, it was often positive. Highway to Heaven is the most well-known series, about an angel sent to Earth and required to help people.

Then again, this…

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Exposure and Geekdom – Fighting Bigotry through Tabletop Games

Exposure and Geekdom – Fighting Bigotry through Tabletop Games

Pop Culture Uncovered

Most of us have heard the concept that “exposure reduces bigotry”; by learning about or interacting with other races, cultures, religions, etc. we can reduce our implicit bias. In fact, studies show that people become less racist simply by living in diverse areas.

This idea is why accurate representation in media is important. Negative stereotypes create rifts while positive presentations can reduce the divide.

While everyone is focused on the effects of movies and television, there are more “geeky” areas of pop culture. Indeed, comic books and video games are both in the spotlight regarding representation, but what about other hobbies?

ComicDiversity There’s more to diversity in geekdom than this… although, this is pretty cool!

For one, tabletop roleplaying games have begun to tackle the issue of accurate representation and exposure.

Dungeon & Dragon’s 5th edition was lauded for its inclusion of PoC and women in its…

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Star Wars Fans – Romanticizing the Original Trilogy

Star Wars Fans – Romanticizing the Original Trilogy

Pop Culture Uncovered

Star Wars, the ultimate fandom. Sure, the Trekkies and Whovians have been around longer, and the Potterheads have risen in the ranks.

Lucas’ (now Disney’s) monster, however, is probably quoted by your average person more than any of those. Star Wars has become an intricate part of everyday society, to the point it’s a badge of uniqueness if you haven’t seen any of the movies.

Now that the 8th chapter of the epic (and the 9th film overall) has been released, we’re seeing how the rabid Star Wars geeks are reacting. As expected, despite positive reviews overall, there’s a vocal minority waving their plastic lightsabers like British Parliament “harrumphing” away.

Some are complaining the film has strayed too far from the classic formula. Others state the opposite that it’s too much of a callback to the originals. People debate whether there were too many plots, whether…

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When Conventions Choose Business Over Ethics

When Conventions Choose Business Over Ethics

Pop Culture Uncovered

By now, most people are aware of the backlash in Hollywood over decades of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Social media is littered with #MeToo, bringing new awareness to a campaign started a decade prior by Tarana Burke for women of color.

As we’ve made clear before, you cannot separate geekdom from the real world, so it shouldn’t be shocking that similar allegations exist in our world of fantasy and escape. From RPG designers and CEOs to comic editors and writers, there are geek “celebrities” now facing repercussions for their behavior.

Unlike Hollywood, however, fandom itself doesn’t seem to be getting the hint about what’s happening. While the industries are divorcing themselves from the individuals, conventions have been wary to cut off guests that might bring them business.

When North Texas RPG Con was repeatedly e-mailed about their choice to host Frank Mentzer and Bill Webb, despite…

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Politics and Geekdom – Fantasy is NOT an “Oasis” from Reality

Politics and Geekdom – Fantasy is NOT an “Oasis” from Reality

Pop Culture Uncovered

We see this situation all too often: Someone brings up something social or political in a geek forum, only to have someone criticize them. “This is a place to escape the real world,” they say, “and you’re ruining it by bringing that stuff up.”

Apparently, geekdom is supposed to be a sanctuary from politics, world events, and social issues. Some people believe that to bring up any of those topics is to ruin the utopia they’re hiding in.

Guess what? Those people are wrong.

Politics and social issues have always been a part of science-fiction and fantasy.

  • In 1818, a mad scientist encountered themes of social justice and the cruelty of modern society.
  • In 1870, the captain of a submarine sailed through topics like libertarianism and the militarization of the world.
  • In 1949, a dystopian future presented themes of authoritarian regimes and historical revisionism that echo today.
  • In 1966,

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Ellicott City and Flooding

Ellicott City and Flooding

I’m sick of having to post the same responses to people, so I’m going to compile a little FAQ. This blog will hopefully answer many questions, misconceptions, and straight up errors regarding Ellicott City and it’s two “Millenia Floods” within two years.

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Ellicott City has Always Flooded – They Should Just Stop Building There

It’s true that Ellicott City, like many places along rivers, has always suffered from floods. With the Patapsco River at the base, and the Tiber River running through town (and under buildings), the city has experienced before.

Among the significant floods, there were three in the 19th century, ten in the 20th century, and now three in the past seven years. No less than seven floods since 1923 have risen 8-feet above street level, destroying structures.

The difference is the source: historically, Ellicott City flooded along the Patapsco River, not the Tiber.

Most of these are “overbank” flooding, meaning they rise from the lowest point of the ground, leaving the higher buildings and streets untouched. Even when there were strong winds from Hurricanes or Tropical Storms, the damage from water was usually reserved to basements or bottom locations; once it receded, rebuilding was more straightforward.

The 2016 and 2018 floods were flash floods pouring down the Tiber from above the town. Vast amounts of water flowed down through the entire city, tearing up buildings and infrastructure and sending heavy debris floating (and flying).

Think of the difference between your basement overflowing and flooding, with the water rising… versus a wave crashing into your houses front doors and windows, bearing cars and streetlights with it.

BS-Flash-Flood-Did-This-1952-760x488.jpg

There Was No Way to Prevent This Flood – It’s a Natural Part of the Area

As pointed out, these recent floods aren’t like the many that happened throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Those were caused by a granite valley where two rivers (and tributaries) all converge.

The last two floods were not merely because of geology, hydrology, etc.; instead, there’s a human-made explanation.

Howard County, like most of the DC-Baltimore corridor, has been rife with overdevelopment. However, the past couple of decades have seen numerous points uphill from Main Street filled with buildings, possibly more than usual.

Developers have pushed houses, townhomes, apartments, etc. into the higher ground along the Tiber, between Ellicott Mills Road and Route 40. All this pavement and deforestation removes vital permeable ground for water run-off.

So, when a significant storm dumps a half-foot or more of rain within hours (or minutes), where does it run? It can’t flow into the soil, granite, foliage, etc. of the natural landscape, but instead pours down into the Tiber… a Tiber already filling with natural run-off.

This situation creates a compounding flow of water that builds and builds, as gravity takes it downward. Thus, you end up with a different sort of flood, a rampaging torrent through the whole town instead of a simple overflow along the banks.

All because previous county leadership (stretching back years or decades) prized developer money over ecological consequences.

ph-ho-cf-watershed-masterplan-0608-20170601.jpg

They Promised to Fix this in 2016 – Their Work Didn’t Do Anything!

It’s true, County leadership promised that Ellicott City would rebuild, and they’d do everything in their power to prevent his from happening again. Committees were created, hearings were held, plans presented, and some construction occurred or was in the works.

The problem is that most of the critical fixes, that changed how the town was (rather than just shore up the same old structure)? The funds had only arrived earlier this year, and the plans were still in process.

In other words, the County was doing something, but they took too long. And the people of Main Street paid the price for their delays.

So, it’s difficult to say whether the changes would have worked. Maybe they would have, perhaps they wouldn’t.

But the bureaucracy took way too long even to implement anything.

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<<INSERT HATE POLITICIAN HERE>> is Responsible – Vote Against Them!

As usual, we always like to blame whoever we’re already biased against.

If you’re a Democrat, you blame the Republican. If you’re a Republican, you blame the Democrat. If you’re neither, you blame both.

The truth is, they’re all likely to be at fault… and also equally as likely to have been able to do nothing.

You could blame Allan Kittleman, given this happened under his watch. He’s only been in office for four years, however, and the overdevelopment has been going on longer than that.

He can’t just go back and fix the damage that’s been done, nor can he cancel development that has already been approved by the County.

You could blame the County Council Members, many of them have been in charge for over a decade. Yet, they’re not the only ones involved in the process, and the people keep re-electing them.

To be honest, I’m not sure which politicians to blame. Until someone shows the flow of money from the developers into their coffers, they’re all likely to blame… and so are we.

Do your research, see who’s the most in the pocket of corporations or approved the most development, and vote accordingly.

But don’t assume “THOSE people” are at fault, because you might want to check your own side’s files.

Either way, educate yourself before you decide to spout off on something above. Learn about the history, geography, geology, hydrology, politics, etc. of Ellicott City.

You do no one any good shouting out the same misinformed nonsense and personal bias every time a disaster like this happens.

Firearms 103 – Guns are Tools for Killing

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the terminology and why people choose to own guns, let’s talk about all the bad arguments out there.

People on both sides of the debate throw a lot of claims, and often they’re bullshit. False equivalences, causal fallacies, false dichotomies, etc. are just a few of the fallacies you’ll encounter (or maybe even use). These weak arguments do no one any good. They make your point look invalid or unsound, and they make the other side more sure they are correct (even when they’re not).

The first of these is around the concepts that “guns are tools” and “guns don’t kill, people do.”

Guns are tools, yes. A tool has a purpose, though, and for firearms that purpose is to kill.
These are weapons, in a long progression of technology intended to harm others.

Whether that harm is justified or not, or what living creature it’s directed against, is irrelevant. The purpose of a firearm is to kill animals (including people) from a range outside of hand-to-hand combat.

Sports shooters and trick shooters may have found unique ways to use these tools, but that doesn’t dismiss the original design and intent of the items. Not to mention, the “sport” of these non-lethal demonstrations is still centered on becoming a better shot… i.e., better at killing.

This is why it’s fallacious to say “guns are just a tool” – most other tools weren’t designed to kill.

I say “most” because I know someone is going to bring up knives, axes, and similar items inevitably. Yes, those originally were created as both weapons and tools, but they’ve had centuries to evolve. Not to mention, you’ll find many regulations on carrying these items and what types you can have on your person.

Cars, hand tools, power tools, cooking items, etc. are different from firearms (or swords, grenades, etc.). Those other items may be dangerous, but their primary design and purpose is not to kill.

Reasonable firearm owners understand this, and that’s why we have gun safety classes. The four primary rules are centered around the responsibility of having a tool whose design is to kill:

• Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
• Never point the firearm at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
• Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on your target.
• Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

These are not the rules of safety for a screwdriver, blender, bicycle, etc. Yes, each of those has their own standards, but they are not as ingrained in every single class and discussion as the rules above. Gun owners know what the purpose of their firearm is, and therefore treat the tool with the respect and safety required.

As for the “guns don’t kill people” argument, we’ve already noted that guns are indeed tools, inanimate objects that people use. The difference is, this tool is designed for the purpose of allowing people to kill easily. A person can undoubtedly harm others with a screwdriver or knife, but those tools are not necessarily intended for that (in the case of the screwdriver) or to do so as efficiently (in the case of the knife).

So, the next time you feel like saying a “gun is a tool” and “guns don’t kill people,” do us a favor and don’t. That doesn’t help your argument and just makes anything you say look moronic.

Guns are tools. They’re tools designed to kill. They give people the opportunity to kill efficiently and quickly.

Accept it.

The Fallacy of the “Left vs. Right” Illusion

The Fallacy of the “Left vs. Right” Illusion

I’m going to take a break in my discussions on firearms to discuss something that affects most arguments and debates: ignorant social and political labels.

How many times have you heard someone start off a post or response with words like “liberal,” “socialist,” “Democrat,” etc.? Often this is accompanied by some denigrating generalization about the group in question, such as “just like a liberal, always <insert-random-negative-behavior>.” Maybe they even go further, using words like “libtards” and “Dumbocraps,” as they enter the realm of schoolyard name-calling.

(Yes, I know it can happen the other way with “conservitards,” “Repugs,” etc… but, as studies have shown, the behavior tends to be more prevalent among certain populations.)

I’m not sure which is worse: the fact that people label others without any knowledge of who they are… or that people use these words without a clue about what they mean. This is the worst of fallacious and ignorant thinking – using generalizations to create a fictional “us vs. them” and then throwing that onto anyone who doesn’t agree to just dismiss them.

People who do this are idiots. Here’s why…

False Dichotomies, Bulverism, and Ad Hominems

That’s a lot of fancy words, but they boil down to one thing: you’re making a logical fallacy when you label someone to dismiss them. When you make a logical fallacy, people often reject you because your argument is bullshit. It’s even worse when you make three different fallacies in one behavior.

  • The world isn’t black-and-white, and neither are the people in it. Neither people nor issues fall neatly into “Left or Right.”
  • You can’t assume someone’s argument is wrong just because you believe their (supposed) profession, party, or philosophy is wrong.
  • You can’t dismiss someone’s argument by attacking them – you must prove their reasoning is faulty, regardless of their (supposed) personal traits or affiliation.

You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

If you’re going to use words, make sure you know what you’re saying. “Liberal versus Conservative” is bad enough (I’ll discuss the one-axis political spectrum in a moment), but often those using these words are ignorant of their definition.

Liberalism shouldn’t be a dirty word, although it’s not without fault. The philosophy has multiple meanings, including personal autonomy, intellectual and civil liberty, spiritual and moral freedom, and a self-regulating free market. The word has been co-opted and applied to numerous movements over the years (some accurately, some not so much) and refers to a variety of philosophies.

Now, you might say, “Well, modern American liberals are all…,” and yet you’d still be wrong. Why? As I mentioned, it has multiple meanings, and people are rarely all one thing. Someone might believe in personal autonomy but believe the free market should be partially regulated. Or maybe they believe in civil liberties, but that religious belief can only go so far. Not to mention, there’s the presumption that someone standing for something is automatically a “liberal” when they might merely share some of the same ideals.

“Well, what about generalizing conservatives?” You know what, you have a point. You shouldn’t peg people as one thing, especially given the variety of political and philosophical movements. Not all conservatives are the same, especially since many people who think they’re conservative aren’t

I will point out, however, that conservatism has a less broad definition: a philosophy of keeping things “the way they were.” The opposite of conservatism isn’t liberalism, it’s progressivism. While “progress for the sake of progress” is often a pitfall, so is maintaining the status quo just because “that’s how it’s always been.

A Huge Diversity of Political and Philosophical Beliefs

Of course, this brings up an important distinction: the political spectrum isn’t a single axis from Left to Right. You don’t find all Liberals, Socialists, Progressives on one side and all the Conservatives, Capitalists, and Traditionalists on the other. In fact, none of those groups are the same thing and the spectrum of runs not on one axis (Left-to-Right) but two or three.

Political_chart.svg.png

For example, per Pace News Unlimited famous Political Compass, people often fall anywhere from Economic Left (Socialism) to Right (Capitalism) as well as Social Bottom (Libertarian) to Top (Authoritarian). Going even further, you’ll find that the ideologies often used as labels? Don’t even fall where you think they do.

political-compass-zones

Look at what lies dead-center, between the extremes of both axes: Liberalism. In fact, Progressives fall slightly more right on the Economic spectrum, alongside Conservatives and Libertarians Also noteworthy, that Conservatives stand for bigger government (despite what their constituents think) and Libertarians are the ones who want smaller government.

All those “Leftists” that are so often grouped together, labeled, and dismissed? They constitute over 75% of the spectrum, from Centrists to Socialists, Communists to Anarchists. Yet, people still want to generalize all those different people as “them”? They really believe in a simple world where everyone is “Left” or “Right”?

Even more amusing is where the politicians fall on this whole spectrum.

PoliticalPeople

So many people talk about “Left versus Right,” “Liberal versus Conservative,” and the people they support? They fall far out of their own ideologies.

Hillary? She’s an Economic “right winger,” even more-so than actual conservatives. Clinton falls somewhere on the edge of ultra-capitalism and traditionalism. Yet, somehow “right wing” voters were convinced she’d take down the economy with her “liberal” ideals.

All of the GOP candidates? They’re even more authoritarian than their own base, with Trump and Jeb Bush outright fascists while Cruz and Rubio are skirting into fundamentalism. Yet, their constituents truly believed they’d bring about an end to big government and “drain the swamp.”

The only candidates standing close to what they claim? The independents and third-party. Sanders sits on the line of Social Democratism and Liberalism, a true Economic “Leftist” but moderate on government. Jill Stein is slightly more Libertarian and Socialist than he is, sitting in what’s known as “Left-Libertarianism.” Gary Johnson is what’s known as a “Libertarian Capitalist,” supporting an absolute free market even more extreme than your average Libertarian or Conservative.

The irony of this is, most of the people supporting these candidates, particularly the two major parties? Don’t even know what the Hell they’re supporting. They believe whatever the candidate, or their party, says, but their voting record is usually far from the mark. Then they apply that misinformation to anyone they meet, denigrating them for an illusion that they themselves fell for.

Even More Complex than Most Think

All of the above assumes that these political, philosophical, and social movements only fall on two axes. In reality, there are now theories about three (or even more) axes. The point is – nothing is as simple as you believe, and the second you start throwing around labels? The only “simple” thing is you.

So, the next time you see someone responding with “liberal,” “conservative,” “left,” “right,” etc. as an attack? Share this article. Maybe they won’t read it (which is often the mentality of those who sling these labels around). Hopefully, some do, though, and spreads the word.

Then we can get out of this “us versus them” mindset that is the real divisive behavior.

If you want to see where you fall on the political spectrum, try the two-axis Political Compass or the three-axis Vosem Chart. You might be surprised where you place or how you compare to those you’ve voted for in the past.