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The imagination gap, part 3

Mon 17 Dec 2018 by mskala Tags used: , , ,

This is the final part of a three-part series on the cognitive deficit in hypothetical thinking: some people seem unable to handle thinking about a difference between what is real and what is imagined.

Start reading with part 1 here.

Won't somebody please think of the hypothetical children?

If someone asked me ten years ago which political side, left or right, had a cognitive problem with the difference between fiction and reality, I'd have said it was the right. No question about that; and I'd have said it largely because of the Conservative Party of Canada and its misguided crusade to "protect" non-existent imaginary children from fictional "child pornography" at the cost of fundamental democratic values, while ignoring the needs of real children in real life.

The legal and political situation of child pornography in Canada has been shaped by the case R. v. Sharpe around the turn of the century. Sharpe had been charged with possession of child pornography including fictional stories, drawings from imagination, and photos of real children. The question of whether it was constitutional to prohibit mere possession of works of the imagination made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that in order to save the law it was necessary to "read in" a couple of extremely narrow exceptions for works of imagination that someone might create just for themselves and never show to anybody else. Sharpe was eventually convicted on the photographs but acquitted on the stories, using the defence (already in the statute and not created by the Supreme Court) that his writings had "artistic merit."

That drove the Conservatives into a state of irrational rage which lasted at least several years. At the time, the right wing of Canadian Federal politics consisted of the Canadian Alliance Party representing the more extreme right, and the Progressive Conservative Party, nearer the centre. These have subsequently merged to form the present-day Conservative Party. Both Conservative parties of the early 2000s heavily pushed the view that the post-Sharpe law had "loopholes" in it because it allowed defences at all. The following is just one example of the typical rhetoric at the time. Note that the Member takes for granted the legitimacy of ever banning a "written article" at all; his point is about eliminating exceptions and defences, to extend such bans to as many written articles as possible.

Mr. Norman Doyle, Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for St. John's East, speaking in the House of Commons, April 23, 2002: In its guidelines, the supreme court stated that if allegedly pornographic materials have even minimal artistic merit, then the owner of the material must be found not guilty. The onus would be on the crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the materials have no artistic merit, which is very difficult to do. In other words, if a written article is 90% pornographic and 10% art, the writer must be found not guilty of possession of child pornography by virtue of the material's artistic merit however limited the artistic merit might be.

What kind of a law is that? We have to ask who would draft the laws and legislation that would leave a loophole big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through, where a written article can be 90% pornographic and 10% art and the writer will be found not guilty because the 10% has artistic merit.


When will parliament start thinking more about the protection of our children and less about the civil libertarians out there who are preaching artistic merit and how important that is? The importance of our children should be the focus of our attention continually here in the House, not how important artistic merit is. We all realize that artistic merit is important but the protection of our children must come first in our society. When it comes to artistic merit, the law must be change [sic]. [source]

The most interesting part is at the end of my quote, where Doyle frames his proposed restrictions on thought and expression as necessary to "protection of our children." That was the usual pattern: the call for a ban on works of the imagination in which hypothetical children were described as being abused, was justified as necessary to protect real children in real life.

I'm aware of a claim sometimes made, and it was alluded to in some of the paragraphs I elided from Doyle's speech, that fictional child pornography is dangerous because it is used by pedophiles to "groom" real children, or incites pedophiles to commit abuse. However, those kinds of claims A. were and are contrary to scientific evidence (both in the early 2000s and today), and B. were more often omitted. Most of the Conservatives would just slide from talking about fictional characters into talking about real children without pausing for breath or justifying the connection. Just as if they saw no difference between the two.

Throughout the 2000s I thought that this apparent confusion on the part of Conservative politicians was simple bad faith. They didn't really care about protecting the non-existent children in fictional "child pornography" at all; what they really wanted to do was put a chill on legal adult pornography, sex education, and so on, which the constitution and courts would never allow them to ban directly. Claiming to be against "child pornography" (something all good people would obviously oppose), but expanding the definition of that term far into the realm of make-believe, was a sneaky way to exert control over wide swathes of constitutionally-protected free expression. Any cautious person would be forced to avoid not only what was actually banned by the law, but also anything that could possibly be mistaken for, or that could be considered uncomfortably close to, banned expression. But now I'm less sure. I wonder whether my claim at the time that Conservatives couldn't tell the difference between reality and imagination might have been literally true: a description of a cognitive deficit.

The same question of whether works of imagination could or should be treated as "child pornography" came up on Livejournal in 2007, and I wrote a widely-cited, but also widely-attacked, article about it. There had developed on Livejournal in that time a large "fandom" community, in large part centred on the Harry Potter books. Fans of the books, mostly women, were writing and illustrating, and publicly distributing, their own stories about the Harry Potter characters. Some of these stories were sexually explicit. The characters were underage. Some of the creators of such material, and many of their readers and viewers, were themselves underage. Especially in Canada, but also anywhere else with "child pornography" laws applicable to fictional material, this was a powderkeg.

And so there came a group calling itself "Warriors For Innocence" that started reporting sexually-explicit fictional material about underage characters as child pornography to the Livejournal management, forcing Livejournal to take notice of it where formerly such material had been quietly ignored. Livejournal started kicking people off the site for posting sexually-explicit writings and drawings from imagination that featured underage characters, and there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Warriors For Innocence represented itself as a Christian fundamentalist organization. I have strong reason to believe the group actually contained few to no Christian fundamentalists, and it was really a front of a non-religious troll/griefer banner like the contemporary Gay Niggers Association of America or the present-day #THOTaudit. Christian or not, Warriors For Innocence would certainly be considered right-wing by the peculiar definition of that term we use on the Net in 2018. Similarly, the fandom side of the ensuing conflict would be considered left-wing by 2018 standards.

Commentators on the fandom side leaned heavily on the idea that fictional material, created with no harm to any real children, was not the same thing as child pornography and shouldn't be punished as such. Many such arguments were made in the comment section to my article. In addition to the confusion by the trolls between hypothetical and real things in the definition of "child pornography," I think it's interesting the frequent confusion in that discussion between what the law should say and what the law does say. The right-wing side was saying reality and fiction should be treated as just the same. The left-wing side saw a difference between reality and fiction in the case of "child pornography"; but they still couldn't distinguish the factual matter of what was written in the law books from their hypothetical construction of the law that would ban only real child pornography and would allow them to continue their creative activities unimpeded.

Ten years later, the same issue was relevant to Japanese adoption of Mastodon, as I discussed in my Mastodon WTF timeline. Japanese culture draws a hard line between child pornography created by abusing real children, and works of imagination depicting underage sex; and those two things have night-and-day different moral charge from a Japanese point of view. When Twitter got serious about enforcing North American values against fictional images, so many Japanese were driven to the federated network that for a while (I'm not sure this is still the case) they were the majority of Mastodon users, and the overwhelming majority of Mastodon's growth.

There were personal attacks, some of them quite vicious, against me on several third-party Web sites for saying in the "WTF timeline" article that Japanese culture recognizes a difference between reality and imagination. I was claimed to be "obviously" a pedophile for "defending" "child pornography." Those attacks all came from the political side now called left-wing. I don't know if maybe it's because English-speaking anime fandom has recently become coded as right-wing, that coding extends to all of Japanese culture, and so those who want to be left-wing feel the need to oppose the Japanese mainstream position. But whatever the cause, which side of North American politics sees a difference between reality and fiction and which side doesn't have been flipped around in just a few years.

In the 2000s it seemed to me that right-wingers were unable to distinguish fiction from real life in the matter of "child pornography," and were consistently trying to make policy based on the assumption that there was no difference. Now in the 2010s, there are more examples on the left. Maybe neither tribe can distinguish imagination from reality? Maybe tribalism itself interferes with the ability to distinguish imagination from reality, and taking a side at all correlates with a cognitive deficit.

Actors, characters, and appropriation

Galaxy Quest is a movie about space aliens who have no understanding of the concept of fiction. They watch years of something like Star Trek intercepted from Earth, think it's all literally true, and try to do everything they saw on the show. Then they come here, meet the actor who plays the equivalent of Captain Kirk, and have serious trouble dealing with the fact that he is not really a starship captain.

[The Major, from the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell movie]

It's not only space aliens who have trouble separating actors from characters. Consider the outrage when Scarlett Johansson was cast as the Major, Motoko Kusanagi, in the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. For her to play a character claimed to be "Japanese" while not being Japanese or at least East Asian herself, was claimed to be some kind of theft. The role should belong to an Asian actress as a matter of birthright.

Steve Rose, in The Guardian: But east Asians have particular reason to feel aggrieved, having seen their culture regularly plundered, appropriated, stereotyped and ethnically cleansed. Ghost in the Shell comes in the wake of Emma Stone playing Chinese-Hawaiian "Allison Ng" in Cameron Crowe's Aloha, Matt Damon at the heart of Chinese epic The Great Wall, and white-dominated Hollywood versions of Asian stories such as The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Evolution. [source]

Variety: "Apparently, in Hollywood, Japanese people can't play Japanese people anymore," MANAA President Robert Chan said. "There's no reason why either Motoku [sic] or Hideo could not have been portrayed by Japanese or Asian actors instead of Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt. We don't even get to see what they looked like in their original human identities - a further white-wash." [source]

I am quoting media sources and organized groups because they're easy to link to, and the whole thing did have a whiff of Astroturf to it, but it wasn't only organized pressure groups raising the complaint. I heard a similar view that it was somehow inappropriate for a white woman to play the Major, expressed by many individuals on the Net at the time this was happening. But not by fans of the original properties even in the English-speaking world, and my Japanese-language contacts seemed completely baffled by the matter.

If you are at all familiar with the 1995 Ghost in the Shell animated film directed by Mamoru Oshii, let alone reading the manga, watching the TV shows, and so on, you'll know that the most important defining characteristic of the character called the Major is that she is a "cyborg." Her whole body, except for her brain (and in the original movie she expresses some doubts about that too), has been replaced by interchangeable prosthetics. She spends a lot of time in the 1995 movie asking "Am I really human?".

The Japanese-language Ghost in the Shell franchise (movies, TV shows, comic books, video games) portrays a fairly consistent world across the different works, and in that world - which is a bit different from the world of the Hollywood live-action movie - the Major is just one of many cyborgs. She is one of the most senior (in terms of time since losing her human body) and highly skilled of them all, but lives among others like herself, as well as human beings with fewer or no prosthetic parts. The question "Am I really Japanese?" is not a question such characters would ever ask. It would not make sense to them. Racial characteristics of a person's body are configuration options for cyborgs.

And the Major's body as seen in the comic books and animated properties is only vaguely Japanese-looking anyway; if we want to say that she "is" Japanese, whatever that means, we have to base it on the secondary facts that she has a Japanese pseudonym, speaks the Japanese language, and the action in most branches of the franchise is set in Japan. (The 1995 movie was actually set in Hong Kong, but let's pretend we don't know that, because the "fans" saying the cast all ought to be Japanese certainly don't.)

Even gender is quite fluid for many cyborgs in the Ghost in the Shell world. In the TV shows attention is drawn to the fact that the Major only ever wears female bodies, even in circumstances where doing so is impractical, and her friends consider this to be a personality quirk. It's not the usual custom in the circles where she moves. Other cyborgs are depicted changing gender for reasons that include "I got this body too drunk, so I'll swap brains with that geisha and continue drinking" and "My boyfriend dumped me, so I will put my brain into a body exactly like his, kill him, and live in his place."

[The Major's prosthetic body is ripped apart, in the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell movie]

So the idea that "race" is something important in defining who people are, and you're born with one race that is yours until you die and it affects what you should be allowed to do, should that ever make sense, it makes very little sense with reference to the Ghost in the Shell franchise and its protagonist. If we're going to complain that Scarlett Johansson doesn't have the right physical qualifications to play the Major, we'd do better to say it's because she is not a multiple amputee. Such a position would be silly, but at least it comes closer to the actually relevant physical attributes of the character. And I'm not the only one to think so.

Mamoru Oshii, quoted in IGN: The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name 'Motoko Kusanagi' and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. [...] I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics. [source]

The petitions weren't successful in getting Johansson pulled from the project to be replaced by a "racially correct" actress, and they made their movie, and the movie was pretty bad. But not because of the casting. They removed the original's dreamy pacing and philosophical tone, and made drastic changes to the Major's origin story, in favour of making a Hollywood action movie. Enough of the fictional world was changed that the live-action version can't really be regarded as part of the same continuity as other things named Ghost in the Shell. It was visually beautiful, at least; between clever cinematography and computer animation, they did a good job of making it all look like Ghost in the Shell in live action ought to look, and a number of iconic visual images from the original made it into the remake. I also thought that Pilou Asbæk as Batou - a Danish actor playing a character who's at least as "Japanese" as the Major - gave a notably good performance. But overall, not really a good movie.

Scarlett Johansson just can't win, because she promptly got into another "You must be X to play an X character" outrage storm over the movie Rub & Tug, in which she'd been cast as the real-life transgender man Dante "Tex" Gill. Again, the claim was that this role was somehow owned by an identity group, and an actress not part of that identity group was committing some kind of theft by playing the role. Injustices against the trans identity in real life, as well as outright special pleading, were put forward as justification for staking a claim on imagination.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, in The New York Times: The trans actress and activist Jen Richards tweeted, "Until the world stops erasing/oppressing/murdering us, trans women play trans women, trans men play trans men, nonbinary people play NB people. If your project needs a 'star' for financing, then it's simply not good enough."

People who are not transgender have been quick to shout things like, "This is why it's called 'acting!'" and to wonder what the fuss is all about. Cisgender folks who've never walked in our shoes can't believe the hubris of trans people insisting that we play ourselves in film and television roles, rather than having other people imitate us.

In the case of Rub & Tug, the pressure was successful and Johansson left the project.

It's not even necessary that the reality be really real, for there to be a demand of parity between reality and fiction in movie parts. Peter Dinklage, a white man, became the target of a similar mob accusing him of "yellowface" when he was cast as the late Hervé Villechaize - who was also a white man. Apparently, enough people on the Internet thought Villechaize looked Asian that it got into Wikipedia, and that made it inappropriate for a white actor to take the role that could have gone to an Asian actor. This misperception may have been aided by the fact that some of Villechaize's own best-known roles were as Southeast Asian characters, a fact that had not been viewed as excessively "problematic" at the time.

Daniel Fienberg, in the Hollywood Reporter, italics mine: HBO's Casey Bloys [...] was less well-prepared for a question about My Dinner With Hervé, the upcoming telefilm in which Peter Dinklage plays Herve [sic] Villechaize, specifically the whitewashing of a man who has been generally described as half-Filipino. Bloys' first approach was to say that Villechaize's family isn't sure that they're Filipino. To the contention that Villechaize definitely came from some ethnic background that Dinklage does not, Bloys responded, "I would say it is a valid question. But to me, the benefit of really humanizing someone who has gone through this experience of acting in Hollywood, it does take a toll on someone. And I think it was very important for Peter to dramatize that and show it." I remain skeptical. [source]

Note the interesting suggestion that the Villechaize family don't know their own ethnicity so well as Wikipedia and an Internet outrage mob do.

Peter Dinklage, in Entertainment Weekly: These people think they're doing the right thing politically and morally and it's actually getting flipped because what they're doing is judging and assuming what [Villechaize] is ethnically based on his looks alone. He has a very unique face and people have to be very careful about this stuff. [source]

Confusion between characters and the people playing them, and the idea that one must be part of an identity group in real life in order to be allowed to play a character of that identity group, is not limited to celebrities and movies. Consider the war on Halloween. Just in the last five years or so, the idea that it's morally wrong to dress "as" someone of another ethnicity or other identity group, no matter how respectfully, has gone from unheard-of to mainstream. It's easy to dismiss such positions as cynical tactics in the ongoing culture war, but what if they reflect an underlying neuropsychological reality: that some people really don't see a difference between the costume and the person who wears it? For someone with such an impediment, dressing "as" someone from an identity group would be exactly the same as claiming to be part of the identity in real life; and "cultural appropriation" would be a genuine crime.

Imagine no difference between fiction and lies.

Jason Nesmith: Mathesar, there's no such person as Captain Taggart. My name is Jason Nesmith. I'm an actor. We're all actors.

Sarris: He doesn't understand. Explain as you would a child.

Jason Nesmith: We, uh, we pretended.


Jason Nesmith: We lied.

[Galaxy Quest; source]

Six fries, no straw

Two quick examples on the subject of fast food.

Eric Rimm, of Harvard, as quoted in the New York Times: There aren't a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries. I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.

National Post headline: How many fries are in a serving? According to a Harvard professor, six [source]

The hypothetical qualified by "I think it would be nice if" was represented in the newspaper headline as a prescriptive declaration of what the real-life serving size actually is. Is that just a simple lie to garner more clicks and sell more subscriptions, or is it a cognitive deficit on the part of someone who really couldn't comprehend that "I think it would be nice if X" means the speaker is saying X is not currently true?

There are a lot of questions to ask about attempts to ban plastic straws: whether straws are really a serious environmental problem; whether proposed replacements are actually better; whether the widely-used statistics which originate in a nine-year-old's school project are accurate and a good basis for policy; whether the effort going into banning plastic straws might benefit the environment more if exerted in some other direction; the motives of those who push for such bans; and so on. But I'd like to present the following screenshot with minimal comment.

[Screenshot from Twitter of a drawing of a velociraptor holding a tub
of movie-theatre popcorn and a drink in a cup with a straw.  Twelve replies,
197 retweets, 666 likes.  Someone has replied saying "Dump the plastic
straw.  Save real animals, please."]

[image source]

As I described in Part 2, if you're going to signal that you're law-abiding, you do it by condemning jaywalking, not murder. If you're going to signal that you hate Donald Trump, you do it by objecting to something he did not really say. Here in Part 3, those who really want to prove they're into protecting children are compelled to make a great show of protecting imaginary children from fictional abuse - not just real ones whom everybody wants to protect. So maybe if you're going to demonstrate your deep refusal of plastic straws, you have to speak out against an extinct dinosaur being depicted as using a straw in a drawing from imagination. But maybe too, there are people who really don't know the difference.

A personal perspective

The question of what is really real is an important one for me and I've written about it many times. It featured prominently in my story Race back in 2004, the Parable of the Tricycle in 2008, and more recently in Aardvark and Bandicoot. Cognitive deficits, or even just cognitive differences among people, also seem really important. Some of my non-fiction writings on those topics include the widely-cited What Colour are your bits, more recently Ad stramineum hominem, and the Garden of cosmic horror and delight.

In conclusion, I don't know how the cognitive deficit in hypothetical thought became so widespread in present-day society and I know even less what can be done about it. But I think it's worth continued examination, because it seems like an elegant way to explain a number of worrying trends I've noticed, and have highlighted in this series.

If you like this article, I hope you will share it on your social media.


This post could have been great if you hadn't gone off the rails with your rant about cross-gender and cross-race casting. The problem is and has always been that actors of marginalized groups have a harder time finding work, being limited to minor roles and roles where their marginalized status is the only characteristic the character has. Why weren't Asian-American actresses considered for the role of the Major? So many people scoffed and said "It's an American movie, they had to cast an American," implying that American means white.

Why was a cis woman cast as a trans man, when casting a cis woman as a *cis* man would be nearly unthinkable? Why weren't trans male actors considered for the role? Trans men don't get to play cis men, and apparently they don't even get to okay trans men either.
Ana - 2018-12-17 09:34
That's a lot of sound and fury without addressing the real point: there is no reason for ANY identity group to own any fictional role.
Matt - 2018-12-17 10:51
I commented hoping you were just misunderstanding the issue, but it seems you're *determined* to misunderstand. It's not about "owning" anything, it's about denying work to minorities, and it's also about how people see those minorities. For example, how people believe that American means white (as stated above). And how people think it's only natural for a woman to play a trans man, but would think it was weird for a woman to play a cis man.

I don't care about ownership at all and I didn't claim to.
Ana - 2018-12-17 21:53
The misconceptions that everything must be turned to promote a political agenda - and that if something isn't, it's implicitly on the wrong side - are interesting ones; but not the main topic here.
Matt - 2018-12-18 10:18
Ana, I have to disagree with you. There are two aspects and they are being conflated. (A)Minorities are not getting enough movie roles. (B)Therefore roles that match their identity should be given to such people.

The problem is that B does not follow from A in a logical philosophy kind of way. It has the same logical flaw as (1)A table has 4 legs. (2)A dog has 4 legs. (3)Therefore a dog is a table.

The point that Matt is making is that (A) can be true, without (B) following from it. And that to not understand this is a flaw in thinking.

I see what Matt is saying. Matt provided examples where people have argued for a specific ethnicity to go to a role when the role was a robot. And therefore had no ethnicity. (Yes, she is called a cyborg except she has no "meat" even in her brain so...) That example along with others demonstrate that it is an agenda. Not a logic argument. That does not include a value judgement on that agenda. Just that it is not a logic argument.

In fact the manner in which you disagreed supports his premise on cognitive deficit in hypothetical thought.
Steve - 2018-12-21 07:17
The legal powers and laws that the Conservatives attempted to enact 10-20yrs ago failed to become a reality back then. (Not the big stuff they were aiming for.) At least not in the name of child pornography. However all of those questionable legal powers made a comeback. They were passed in the name of terrorism. Specifically after 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, it all came back with a new wrapper on the same old agenda that could be politically accepted.

It is another case of people wanting what they want, then working backwards to get it. The agenda supports the logic when the logic cannot support the agenda.

Fun fact: The child pornography stuff became politically toxic when Vic Toews became politically toxic. He was Justice Minister and champion of those "protect the children" reforms. He was having an affair with his underage babysitter and had a child with her. At the time that made him guilty of child molestation under the laws he was attempting to change. (Pretty sure he would have still been guilty if his changed went through.) Additional fun fact-- this information has disappeared from his Wikipedia article, and google results are spotty. Currently the fact is know at all is being attributed to Anonymous and Wikileaks. Which isn't true either. These facts became public during Vic Toews' divorce proceedings. Of course he was never even charged because... reasons.

I still remember this years later because it made me quite angry. Still does. I'd be happy if he had 1)been charged =OR= 2)The law was changed. Either of those would have been appropriate responses. Logically speaking he did something wrong, =OR= the law was wrong. However the world doesn't work like that.
Steve - 2018-12-21 07:58
Here's a youtube link about what Japanese think of Scarlett Johansson:
Steve - 2018-12-21 08:00
I like the formulation "1. Something must be done. 2. This is something. 3. Therefore, this must be done." There's a lot of that going around. Just because it would be *possible* to co-opt movie casting into a platform for promoting social justice for identity groups, doesn't mean that doing so is a moral obligation. Framing it as "denying" a part to an identity group member does logically entail asserting that the the identity group has a claim of ownership on that part. They're not being "denied" a part if they had no reason to expect it in the first place; and there is, as I said, nothing except special pleading based on unrelated injustices elsewhere to support such a claim of ownership.

It is worth knowing that although uncommon in movies as such, theatrical roles do often go to persons of the "wrong" gender and in some genres that's even expected. Mary Martin as Peter Pan (stage role made into a 1960 movie) is just one example that comes to mind; and a whole lot of Japanese anime and western animation voice acting. On the Japanese stage, consider kabuki and Zuka.

On the status of the Major's brain - that may be something that differs between different branches of the GitS franchise. I think in at least one or two it is spelled out that she has, or is told that she has even if she sometimes doubts it, a human "meat" brain in her head. It may be that in other branches her original human brain has been "downloaded" onto some kind of computer hardware - and then of course everything becomes fuzzy after the events of the first movie depending on how much we believe about the mystical "becoming a creature of the Net" thing. Continuity between the different branches doesn't seem to be absolute.

I wasn't following the development of Canadian child pornography law early in this decade as closely as I was last decade but I remember some of the stuff you mention about Vic Toews. I had the impression that he was pushing for laws that would be *tougher* on things he himself had done, possibly in some kind of twisted remorse - more on the issue of raising the age of consent than on child pornography. For the record my own objection to cheating on one's wife with a consenting teenager would be about the cheating, not about the exact age of the consenting teenager. But as you know I generally reject making debates of issues be personal about the people involved, and that's one reason I'm loath to even directly reply to comments here that start off trying to talk about me instead of talking about what I said. I've already deleted several personally-focused comments from this sequence of articles.
Matt - 2018-12-21 09:26
I also like the formulation "1. Something must be done. 2. This is something. 3. Therefore, this must be done." That is straight up better than my example.

In regards to Vic Toews, I also don't care about what he did with consenting individuals. What I care about is the larger societal issue. Either what he did was illegal and wrong, and therefore he should be punished accordingly. Or it wasn't illegal and *nobody* in that situation should be punished. I don't care that it was about sex, nor do I care which laws were broken. I object to the special application of the law that gives the Minister of Justice (of all people!) a free pass on any serious law. I can accept the law is flawed and needed to be changed for justice to be served. (Which I believe is the situation here.) He was in the exact circumstance to evaluate the law on a practical level and the exact job and means to change it to make it fair for all. The result was so egregious that it honestly changed my perception of the world. I used to believe that the law was in pursuit of justice. I no longer think that. It is less to do with Vic Toews than how the system responded to him as the figurehead of that system. As a result I now cynically believe the law exists for the pursuit of power.

I disagree that it was some kind of expression of twisted remorse. It could have been, I simply don't think so. I believe Toews was forcing an agenda by wrapping it in a way that could be swallowed. The reason is that the government powers that were wrapped up in the "protect the children" of yesteryear were not passed. However they were passed in the name of terrorism years after he left. It is example of an agenda divorced from the logic that is supposed to be underpinning it.
Steve - 2018-12-21 20:28
Saw this recent video and thought of this post. The fight of society against the history of ideas explains some of this too.
Steve - 2018-12-28 22:42
About a woman playing a trans man. In my circles, the biggest concern was exactly that it means turning it into political agenda.

If you've met trans men in real life, you'd probably notice they're some of most masculine men out there. If a film depicts a trans man as feminine (which with that actress it would do), it's simply wrong. And I think it's obvious why would someone want to do this, there's a lot in right-wing agenda about sex being the same as gender. And about trans people being of sex they're assigned at birth. As well as them being plainly monsters, which would be reasoning to not protect their human rights, but that's another topic which I'm not sure is worth discussing.
A. - 2019-01-26 07:30
"Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things." - Nanny Ogg, written by Terry Pratchett

There's something to be said for actors and actresses who are not too close to being the characters they play.
Matt - 2019-01-26 07:44
I disagree. There also is something about showing things like they are, not like the public or certain people want to see them.
A. - 2019-01-26 10:46
This series made me think of two other instances where people seem to argue that killing (or knowingly letting die) a number of real people is justified by the saving of an allegedly larger number of imaginary people: Coventry and Hiroshima/Nagasaki.
Marcel - 2020-02-28 10:45
Then we're right into trolley problem territory: are the people about to be run over "hypothetical" because we don't know for certain which of them will die? Yes, sort of. But does that mean we can ignore their deaths? Any analysis that insists on hard classification into only two categories is going to end up coming to a terribly wrong conclusion.
Matt - 2020-02-29 08:29

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