"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jul 25, 2010

Where rights disappear, and we look into the void where they used to hold our fancy...

This discussion (here) got me thinking. I don't usually find any cause to agree with the bulk of what Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon) writes. My hedonist-agonist brand of anarchism doesn't really mesh with project liberalism*, and like most liberals, the Pandagon folks seem to believe in the project of progress.

I don't. I don't conceptualize time as a teleology, as a purpose driven unfolding of revealed events. As Utah Phillips once mused (and in an odd syzygy, the often contemptible Robert Kaplan once summarized), "the past doesn't go any where." Time doesn't improve on prior events. It doesn't erase them. We just remember and forget according to a host of contingencies, competing perspectives, needs, desires, weaknesses, frailties, strengths and whatever else mucks with the human view of the things. Memories might allow us to construct the fiction of a forward moving progress, but time itself (if it even has a demonstrable reality) lays out events according to a quantum indeterminacy and a Newtonian super-determinism.

Shit happens, no meaning. Get over it.

All the same, the original article and the subsequent comment chain did provide some measure of inspiration, especially here:

"...Look, I will defend to my death the right of Buttman to say whatever horrible things he wants to about women and black men in his movies.  Freedom of speech is meaningless if it’s not extended even to the ugliest elements in our society.  But I would have a lot more respect for Lee if she was honest about what’s going on and said something like, “Look, we make movies for the same dudes that you probably encounter most as ‘anonymous internet commenters’. We feed them a steady stream of hateful bile, sure, but if we didn’t do it, someone else would be doing it and making the money.  I’m just getting paid.  It’s not like those clothes you’re wearing weren’t made in a sweat shop.” I’d have a ton more respect for her if she said something like that, due to it being the god’s honest truth.  

Let me reiterate this one more time, because there are always, always, always people who will swear up and down that any feminist is demanding censorship if she suggest that some porn somewhere might be anything less than gracious towards all members of humanity, including those that aren’t straight white dudes.  I don’t think the government should censor Buttman’s movies.  In fact, I think they’re an argument for the value of free speech.  They can, in the right light, play a valuable role.  For instance, they make an excellent red flag for single straight women on the dating market---if the guy you’re seeing is into them, it’s almost surely time to move on.  They also play a clarifying role in our society.  If you see some dude spewing sexist bile in a comment thread, remind yourself that he probably beats off to “Milk Nymphos”, and you will suddenly feel less inclined to give a shit what he thinks.  

I just wish people could stick to defending the right of this stuff to exist instead of feeling like they have to justify it as something it’s not..."

Apparently, this Buttman feller produces milk enema porn that incorporates some racist bullshit and the usual stock in trade degradation of women.

I don't really care for porn. I don't have a prurience-prudery hang up, so I don't need to seek out allegedly transgressive sexual acts performed by bored assclowns who won the genetic shlong lottery, in various artificial poses which make a mockery of actual sexual congress, with the girl parts played by cut and paste kewpie dolls who do a good job of looking coerced, debased, flopped out on GHB, bewildered, ashamed and otherwise put upon all at the same time.

Porn makes sex look stupid, dull, banal and worst of all, coercively contrived. It makes sex look like drudgery, as in taylorized factory or office work, because the people doing it in porn do it as a job. Fuck that. 

So, when I happened across the quoted passage above, I found myself nodding my head in agreement. While I don't really care for free speech ideology, I think I get what most people mean when they bandy about the term. I don't believe anyone has a legal right to speech. I don't believe anyone, anywhere possesses inherent or natural rights. Which probably explains why I couldn't keep up the conservative thing past my discovery that Ayn Rand sucks both as a writer and a thinker, that the Bible encodes a set of prescriptions for human sacrifice and self-destruction, and that the state neither gives or takes away rights.

And it definitely explains why I never really made for a decent liberal. I don't believe in rights, at all.

We don't possess these imaginary qualities, called rights. We don't walk around with a list of these virtues tacked to our unseen souls, which someone else might abridge or protect. Or which we can sell or take, as we please.

But, I think, what most people mean by the term "rights"  boils down to this: "No, motherfucker, you cannot tell me to do/not do this, this, that and this." It also includes a list of behaviors you'd give up, in order to preserve the ones you want to retain. As in, you keep your "protected free speech" and you give up your ability to solve your disputes without the cops, the judges, the jails and constant threat of punishment. Or, elsewhere, the nasty brute with the acid or the machete, armed with divine writ and a will to fuck you up over it.

The problem, as I see it, lies with the oft unspoken counterpart to the concept, rights. Namely, enforcement. In order to have or possess rights, even as a shared fiction, you have to have an apparatus for defining them, have to pay people to enforce the definition, and then spend a whole lot of time, treasure and energy competing with others who don't agree with your definitions, or at the minimum, your interpretation of them.

 In other words, a right has a whole lot less to do with a quality you possess (as in, nothing), and a whole hell of a lot more (as in, everything) to do with how much power you have and hold, how many people you can force or persuade to agree with you, and how much loot you can pool in order to defend the list of things you want to do, as well as stave off the efforts of those who want to stop you. If you face off against poor incompetents, your list of "rights" will probably stay fairly long. If you find yourself up against well financed tactical and strategic geniuses, especially those who need you and yours to do some obedience, your list of "rights" will probably approach zero, or a manageable minimum.

Suffice it say, I'll take Amanda Marcotte's argument over that of the Grundy, the do-gooder, the various types and ilks of salvationist and the purity obsessed fascist.

Up to a point, but more on that later...

* - perhaps more on this concept later, but for the short of it, call it improvement oriented historicity:

"...Liberals generally fix a period of time, somewhere in the recorded past, as a frame of reference by which they might judge progress made since that range in time. Liberals seek to improve reality by judging the present according to the errors of the past. The apparent distance between present conditions and past conditions provides liberals with the means to evaluate their progress away from the negative reference, in the past. Since the arc of time seems always to recede, backward, the further from the fixed frame of reference, the better - for liberals. The more comprehensive the list of so-called improvements, the more likely the liberal will remain in adherence to the program of whatever party or faction best represents this interest...."


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Marcotte's entry and many of the comments that I read thereafter are judging the **types** of porn and the people who use/watch such porn, as if there are good ones and bad ones. It's an irony of prurience.

Jack Crow said...

No doubt, Charles. I found the whole side discussion on consent, regulation and speech equally entertaining.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

whats so wrong with porn all of a sudden?

Jack Crow said...

Anon @ 2:23 AM,


Anon @ 2:24 AM,

I'm not sure right or wrong have anything to do with it.

Andromeda said...

Hmm, very interesting post.

I suppose I never thought of "rights" as coming at the cost of "enforcement"---but when you put it that way it makes me realize that, personally, the cost of "rights" is just too high.

Although I acknowledge the need for some type of enforcement in order to protect the public from, say, violent and dangerous criminals, I'm not a big fan of any other type of enforcement (you can smoke this, but can't smoke that, you can drink this, but can't drink that, and so on).

That type of enforcement seems to inevitably attract the corrupt who wish nothing more than to be "on top" of the system so they can abuse the ones below them.

Jenny said...

". As in, you keep your "protected free speech" and you give up your ability to solve your disputes without the cops, the judges, the jails and constant threat of punishment. Or, elsewhere, the nasty brute with the acid or the machete, armed with divine writ and a will to fuck you up over it."

The people you named here need the other to keep society in line: traditionally(nowadays, it's definitely fucked up), cops are supposed to protect the brutes who have acid or machetes. I'd like to hear what your form of criminal defense would be without any law enforcement.

Jack Crow said...

Your logic eludes me, Jenny.

You suggest that in our society the cops spend their time making sure guys who want to enforce religious writ with acid and machetes get to do so?

Anonymous said...
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Joe said...

"No, motherfucker, you cannot tell me to do/not do this, this, that and this."

This pretty much sums up what I think about when I think about "rights." What passes for enforcement, more often than not, is just rights violations hiding behind some bogus rationale about how it's for the public good, or whatever. The only rights you have are the ones you're willing to take and able to defend. Leaving it up to some outside entity like a government to enforce your rights is essentially the same thing as giving them away.

Jack Crow said...

No argument here, Joe.

DPirate said...

I do not see in the pandagon article where anyone was making the porn out to be something it is not. The woman quoted first admitted that "nigger" is offensive to her, and then said she realizes that some people find this and other degrading insults to be erotic. That is all. How the writer twists that into some porn enshrining justification, I cannot see.

Police are not there to protect your human rights; courts are there to protect your human rights.

I am curious what Jack Crow does believe in. Is it Might makes Right? Is it something like Reality, Period? I am not sure I understand the discussion.

Yes, those with power have, if not more, then more well-protected, rights. But this is a flaw in the system, not an inherent effect of simply being alive and human. Nor are rights, of course, though we do say they are. Rights, too, are an aspect of the system (whatever societal system you happen to participate in). We determine what we desire our rights to be, and we build the structures that at least purport to ensure them for us. Yes, it costs, but I find it hard to believe that anyone will seriously believe it simply isn't worthwhile. Just close your eyes and imagine yourself picking cotton until you keel over of heatstroke and die at 40 from overwork.

Jack Crow said...


I don't have what it takes to solve the problems and disputes of every single person on the planet.

Typing only for myself - I'll handle or address my own as they arise.

I don't need jackboots to do that for me.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

the funny thing about all this is, if there was anything that was ever impossible to suppress historically, it's pornography

in my view, a more useful perspective in addressing pornography, as opposed to attempting to distinguish between the criminal and non-criminal kinds, can be found in Nina Power's One Dimensional Woman, wherein Power examines it from the standpoint of how it has evolved from being an playful expression of transgressive sexuality at the turn of the century to something that commodifies sexuality for the benefit of capital and even pioneers new exploitative relations between people and capital