Je suis Charlie

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Je suis Charlie

Postby Bill Glasheen » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:00 pm

For almost two decades I have quietly bristled over the sensitivity training movement.

I get it. People have been complete assses, and made life difficult for others to do their jobs at work. Sexual harassment became sport amongst insecure men. When I was young, "rednecks" where I did my summer job threatened to dump contact cement on my long hair. (It's one of the events which inspired me to pursue martial arts all the more aggressively.) In my dad's generation, he saw signs which stated "Irish need not apply." The same goes for other ethnic groups.

However...

Victim status itself has become sport, and myriad groups have gone on the offense. At first I thought it was just my imagination. Every year I am required at my jobs in various companies to engage in "ethics and compliance training." At first... this training contained statements like "If you offend someone, you many be disciplined up to and including termination of your employment." Oh my... No provisions for due process? Is our First Amendment still in play?

Probably the peak of the First Amendment infringements happened a few decades ago. I call it The Seinfeld Incident. If you want a skinny on the show, here it is. Classic Seinfeld.

..... Seinfeld Clip - Female Anatomy Name

People were discussing the show "at the water cooler" the next day. One man's secretary didn't get it. Everyone looked at each other. Finally, the boss got a dictionary, opened it to the page which contained the Female Anatomy Name, and circled the word. He put the dictionary on her desk, and walked away. Woman got offended. She went to Human Resources. HR fired him that day.

The man sued for his job, his back pay, and damages. As part of the defense, his lawyer showed the entire Seinfeld show to the jury. It worked. He was awarded most of what he asked for. The push-back wins.

I had a similar silly incident happen to me at work. We had a Harvard economist (David Laibson) flown in for an all-day session on behavioral economics. The subject is very important. It explains why rational people make irrational decisions, how advertisers exploit this, and how those with peoples' best interest in mind can overcome these Homer Simpson tendencies. We got to talking about advertising, and how pictures work in advertising. I pointed out the use of the genders and people of different ethnicities in advertising. So far so good. Then I mentioned how people of different ethnicities behaved differently in our health care messaging campaigns. You'd have thought I just said something bad about the guy's mother. "Oh... we don't bring race into any of these discussions." Really??? Hispanics in our group ignore our messages to get vaccinated, and we're supposed to ignore that? Let them Do the Wrong Thing? Not I. I pushed a bit. A week later, I hear I had an anonymous complaint from someone who attended the seminar. It seems I was ... insensitive. My penance was... to engage in a day of online Emotional Intelligence training.

My boss and I are good. He knows I'm a scientist, and he knows I believe that data trump beliefs. He knows my heart is always in the right place - even if I trample on some feelings to champion what is right. So we had an intelligent discussion about it. I told him I'd already read Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, and I would very much enjoy the training. I also told him that I understood where David Laibson was coming from. Back in the day, people used to discriminate in giving out loans via a practice called redlining. They would refuse to give out loans to entire regions based on zip code, because the data showed that people in certain zip codes were more likely to default on loans. Problem is... that was highly correlated with race, and could be perceived as discriminatory. So zip codes now are legally not allowed as input to predictive models for loan application rating.

But...

African Americans are more likely to have sickle cell anemia. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to get Type II diabetes - because of Nature, Nurture, or a combination of the two. Jews are more likely to have a host of unusual illnesses (see Medical genetics of Jews). CMS gave our company race data, and we were expected to use it - to remove barriers to good health. But no good deed goes unpunished.

The latest and most severe example of victimhood gone wild is the offense that many Muslims take to things said about Allah, Muhammed, or their religion in general. The most famous case is the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa (death sentence declaration) against Salman Rushdie over his book The Satanic Verses.

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Since then we've had Danish cartoonist Jyllands-Posten forced into hiding over some cartoons ...

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... Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam murdered for making a film (Submission, 2004) ...

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... and more recently a pair of gunmen (sociopathic terrorists) murder workers at the office of Charlie Hebdo over their irreverent, anti-religion literature.

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..... (LOOSE TRANSLATION - "100 lashes if you do not die laughing")

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What I found interesting this week was George Stephanopoulos on ABC This Week talking about the need for "Insensitivity Training." Did my ears perk up or what? It's *exactly* the metaphor I was thinking of myself - one that comes straight from our art.

..... uechiryu karate

Being the scientist and defender of our First Amendment, I can't sign off from this post without a few expressions of my thoughts towards the murderers of Charlie Hebdo.

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- Guillaume le Irrévérencieux
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Re: Je suis Charlie

Postby Bill Glasheen » Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:04 pm

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

- Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Author of The Friends of Voltaire

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Re: Je suis Charlie

Postby Bill Glasheen » Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:03 pm

Congratulations to Charlie Hebdo for surviving and in fact thriving. The new edition is expected to run at about 5 million copies, and will now have worldwide reach. Talk about unintended consequences... 8)

More importantly... they doubled down on their irreverence. Je approuve!

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The cover shows the revered prophet Mohammed (a blasphemous act) with a tear and holding a sign in solidarity with the cause. Je suis Charlie = I am Charlie (Hebdo) = Ich bin ein Berliner = I am a Berliner. One can argue whether the character is a representation of Mohammed or a representation of the cartoon character, but those semantics are part of the visual pun.

Above Mohammed is the line Tout est pardonné which magnanimously announces "All is forgiven." I guess the only question is... who is forgiving whom? :wink: It's worth mentioning that a magazine which is an equal opportunity offender of the world's great religious institutions is engaging in a very Christian act of forgiveness. Sincere? Irreverent? It's all wonderful in my book.

- Bill
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