Tag Archives: identity politics

The Law Of Proportional Backlash And The Anti-Harassment Movement


There comes a point in every social movement where the momentum seems unstoppable. Whether it’s same-sex marriage, racial equality, or finally having a female Dr. Who, there’s a sentiment that certain trends are just going to play out and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

That’s a false impression, by the way. Human beings are complex, erratic, and fickle creatures. I’ve touched on this before and will likely bring it up again because human beings are just that interesting. That said, they can also be quite frustrating.

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When it comes to highlighting those qualities in the midst of an ongoing controversy, though, I have to be careful because I don’t want my points to get lost in the anger. I know as well as anyone else with an internet connection that digital outrage has a nasty habit of undermining meaningful dialog. I want to avoid that as much as possible cause this is one point I feel is worth making.

As I write this, the latest major social movement to combat sexism and sexual misconduct is close to that point I mentioned earlier. It’s still a very hot-button issue and I’ve tried to be fair in discussing it on this blog. However, the current momentum of this movement, which has the wholly noble goal of preventing harassment, is coming up against a force that reflects the eccentricities of human nature.

That force doesn’t have an official or scientific name, but it has many familiar components. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll label it as follows:

The Law Of Proportional Backlash

I’m not claiming this law is definitive or on the same level as the laws of relativity. To make sense of what’s going on, and what often happens with these social movements, it’s just helpful to have a unifying idea to tie it all together.

The essence of this law that I just randomly coined is pretty simple. It’s the human equivalent of Newton’s Third Law, which says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When it comes to social movements, though, the reaction is more than that. It’s can also be an outright backlash.

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To illustrate, you need only look at the frequency with which political parties gain and lose power. Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, as society has become more connected, open, and diverse, these tendencies have played out with stunning regularity. It often plays out like this:

“Hey! The current social order isn’t the perfect, utopian society I want. Let’s kick the people in power out of office and put in these people making impossible promises to achieve impossible things.”

A few years later.

“Hey! These people we put in power haven’t created the perfect, utopian society I waned either. Let’s kick them out and put in other people in power who are also making impossible promises to achieve impossible things. Moreover, let’s hate, shame, and spit on the other side for failing to do all those impossible things!”

I fully concede that’s a very basic illustration of how political power fluctuates in the modern world. I also concede there are many variations, but in terms of the big picture, this is how the Law of Proportional Backlash works.

A movement begins, be it political or social. It gains momentum. Usually, there’s some sort of event that acts as a catalyst. With racial segregation, events like the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education helped get things going. With same-sex marriage, Massachusetts being the first state to legalize it did the same.

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For the current movement against sexism and sexual misconduct, I think most would point to either the 2016 presidential election or the Harvey Weinstein scandal as the catalyst. I would argue it’s a combination of both, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the movement gained a lot of momentum. If it could take down someone as powerful as Harvey Weinstein, then it’s safe to say that movement is pretty strong.

As often happens, though, the momentum provokes backlash. That happens whenever a movement fails to achieve every goal and, spoiler alert, no movement ever achieves every goal. The world is too complex and impossible problems tend to frustrate human limitations. As a result, a movement has to overreach and that will spurn a backlash.

With the movement against sexual misconduct, there are plenty of signs of overreach. There are people scorning others for making reasonable arguments about there being a spectrum of harassment. Careers are being ruined on the basis of anonymous accusations and mixed messages that are impossible to discern.

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There was even a distressing article on BigThink that argued that crimes involving sexual violence should not be subject to the traditional standards of proof. The underlying reason for that is too many guilty people get away with their crimes so it’s worth the risk of punishing the innocent to remedy that issue.

It’s that kind of sentiment, one in which the proportion becomes increasingly extreme, that tends to hasten the backlash. Whenever a movement gets to a point it’s deemed appropriate to sacrifice innocent people for the sake of a cause, then that’s usually a sign that it’s reaching beyond its ideals and emboldening opponents.

There are already major news outlets reporting on that phenomenon. Publications like the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and even the liberal Huffington Post have discussed it in various forms. The reactions to those speaking out against sexual misconduct is no longer one of unity and support. Now, there’s criticism and animosity, the first signs of a real backlash.

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Those behind the movement need only look at the LGBT movement to see what that backlash can entail. Even though same-sex marriage is legal, the resulting backlash triggered a surge in “religious freedom” bills that promoted a new kind of discrimination. That backlash is still ongoing. The one surrounding sexual misconduct may just be getting started.

I still don’t doubt the sincerity and ideals behind the movement against sexual misconduct. People want justice for those who have been victimized. Justice is an inherent aspect of the human condition. We’re literally wired to seek it when we feel there’s an injustice in the world.

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of that justice, anger and resentment end up clouding those ideals. We’ve seen that anger directed towards the political process that played out in 2016. We’ve seen it used to demonize and denigrate entire groups of people, including an entire gender in some cases.

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When people are attacked, their first instinct isn’t to admit defeat. It’s to fight back. That’s just basic survival instinct and there’s no way any movement, be it political or social, can circumvent that. By fighting back, the backlash itself gains momentum. Sometimes that backlash gains enough momentum to become a movement in it’s own right. Then, it too may be subject to a backlash.

It seems like an never-ending cycle, one in which little is gained in the long run. While I don’t deny it can be disheartening, I believe there are gains that make many movements worthwhile in the long run. Just ask any same-sex couple who can get married now if they’re willing to risk such a backlash. They would probably do so in a heartbeat.

I don’t know how the movement against sexual misconduct is going to play out, even if the backlash it inspires ends up being minor. I hope, in the long run, it has a net-positive effect on society. It still won’t be a perfect society, but whether it’s from the movement or the backlash, even a little gain in justice and human progress can still mean a lot in the long run.


Filed under Current Events, gender issues, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

Being Right Vs. Winning An Argument Vs. Ben Shapiro

There’s an old saying that I just made up a few seconds ago, old being a relative term.

“You can either win the argument by merit or be right in principle, but only one matters in the long run.”

It sounds cynical, but it’s something I think most people realize at some point in our lives. The truth is a harsh mistress and it’s rarely the sexy kind. Truth is the kind of mistress that has no safe word, never offers any lube, and rarely gives overt warnings. When she wants to whip us in our most sensitive areas, she’ll do so without asking for permission or a second thought.

I’ll ease up on the BDSM terminology because I’m trying to make a serious point, one that’s a lot more relative in the era of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” More and more, we’re learning the hard way that our caveman brains aren’t equipped to seek truth. Survival and reproduction are our primary imperatives. Truth is optional, at best, and an afterthought at worst.

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It’s for that very reason that public debates or major speaking present a false sense of perspective that exploits our caveman brains. It gives the impression that the truth can be presented in a slick, concise, and easy-to-digest message that helps us make sense of the world. That kind of certainty in an world of cheap knock-offs and practical jokes is more valuable to our psyche than gold, diamonds, and good Wi-Fi.

I say that as someone who finds a lot of entertainment value in debates. For a time, one of my favorite things to do was to look up debates between scientists and creationists, which always seems to bring out the best and worst of our caveman brains. They nicely highlight how real, functioning human beings can hold such radically different viewpoints, as well as the excuses they’ll make to cling to those viewpoints.

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I won’t get into all the absurdities behind creationist debates. That’s not what prompted this post. The primary inspiration for this topic came from the recent news surrounding Ben Shapiro’s recent speaking gig at UC Berkeley. By every measure, this incident highlights all the problems with such debates better than any creationist ever could.

For those of you who don’t know who Ben Shapiro is, it’s not too hard to know what he’s about. He’s a fast-talking, quick-witted talking head in a media landscape that’s full of them. He specializes in espousing staunch conservative principles and you could make the case he does it better than almost any other conservative, at this point.

Personally, I like Mr. Shaprio’s style and I agree with some of the points he makes and not just because he makes them well. Many of them are points I’ve come to embrace on my own accord in trying to make sense of this crazy world. However, as much as I respect the man and his principles, he does embody a dangerous phenomenon that is becoming more prevalent in the digital age.

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It’s one born from that not-so-old saying I mentioned earlier about being right versus winning an argument. They are not the same thing, but they’re easy to confuse, thanks largely to our caveman brains.

Think back to the Simpson Filter in appealing to large swaths of people. For the Homer and Marge Simpsons of the world, winning the argument is enough to win them over. They leave the truth for the sad, lonely, and miserable Lisa Simpsons of the world that nobody listens to.

Ben Shaprio, and others like him, are highly skilled at using the Simpson Filter to get their message across. They’re slick, compelling, and charismatic in the sense that they check all the boxes that appeal to our tribal instincts, which I’ve noted before are a major source of conflict.

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By appealing to these instincts, they don’t have to be completely right. They don’t even have to be half-right. They just have to get people thinking and feeling that it’s right, so much so that they won’t bother checking the facts, doing some research of their own, or even giving it a second thought. Why would they? Ben Shaprio comes off as so smart and so knowledgable that he’s done the thinking for us.

Therein lies the biggest problem, though. By focusing on the argument and not the truth, it’s easy to conflate the two. Ben Shapiro is not a scientist, an economist, a politician, a philosopher, or even a used car salesman. He’s just a commentator, who happens to be exceptionally well at commentating in an articulate manner. That’s a valuable skill, but it’s not the same as being correct.

This actually played out in another event that occurred earlier this year at Politicon 2017. At that event, Ben Shapiro debated Cenk Uygur, another professional commentator who is at the opposite end of the political spectrum. Like Shapiro, I respect Mr. Uygur and agree with some of his positions. However, he is not as skilled a debater as Mr. Shapiro.

If you watch the debate, listen to the crowd, and note the speaking styles of both men, it’s not hard to see who has more skill and experience in that field. If you read the comments and look at the reactions, most agree that Mr. Shapiro won that debate. I’m sure it’s not the first debate he’s won, nor will it be the last.

That’s just it, though. Mr. Shapiro could win a billion more debates against a billion other people much smarter than Mr. Uygur. He could go down in history as the most skilled debater in the history of the human race. It still wouldn’t change one inescapable fact.

The real world, as in the world that operates outside our caveman brains, doesn’t give two whiffs of dried wolf shit about who wins a debate or by how much. Reality still operates under the same facts, rules, and principles. People still operate in ways that are at the mercy of their caveman brains and their collective circumstances.

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Ben Shapiro could convince every person on this planet that Ronald Reagan was right about everything, that the Jewish religion that he practices is the only correct one, and that everyone whoever worked for Hillary Clinton was an alien spy. That still doesn’t change reality. At the end of the day, the truth is still that same harsh mistress that will whip all our asses without warning.

That’s why, in the long run, it doesn’t matter how many debates Ben Shapiro or others like him win. It doesn’t matter how well they craft their message. In the long run, if their ideas don’t line up with reality, then reality will eventually win out. It always does. People die, take their ideas with them, and leave reality to sort out the rest.

Now, I don’t doubt for a second that Mr. Shapiro is sincere in his beliefs. I also don’t doubt that his opponents, like Cenk Uygur are just as sincere. That’s why I wouldn’t classify them as professional trolls, such as the Ann Coulters and Lena Dunhams of the world.

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They don’t say what they say, just to provoke our caveman brains and draw attention to themselves. They aren’t outright con-artists either, like certain televangelists. They’re just good at conveying their ideas and making them feel legitimate. Unfortunately, that’s as far as they can take it.

Ben Shapiro, Cenk Uygur, and everyone like them may think they have the answers. They may even believe that their way will make the world a better place, as a whole. They’re not entirely malicious in attempting to convey their points, but they are misguided.

There’s also a danger to their approach, conflating debates with truth. They present the false impression that an issue like politics, evolution, and economics can be resolved through simple debate through a series of talking points. As anyone who has worked with a tax attorney knows, that’s just not how the real world operates.

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The world is complicated, complex, and chaotic. No human brain, or collection of human brains, is equipped to make sense of it. Some of these issues aren’t just complex, either. They’re impossible to resolve because there just aren’t enough resources for everyone.

A skilled debater, like Ben Shapiro, is good at convincing people there are quick fixes. The world can be improved simply by adopting the policies of his favorite ideology. He may convince you, me, and everyone around you that he’s right.

The truth, however, can never be swayed by fast talking, fancy rhetoric, or skilled arguments. At the end of the day, it will stay on the side of the harsh mistress that is reality. In the short term, the Ben Shapiro’s of the world will be able to bask in many victorious debates. In the long term, however, the truth knows whose asses will be stinging in the end.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights

The (Dark) Secrets Of The Millennial Mind

In recent years, it’s become a popular past-time to hate millennials and anything associated with them. Browse any non-pornographic part of the web for more than five minutes and you’re bound to find some angry anti-millennial rant about how their hashtags, safe spaces, and compulsive need to take selfies is ruining the planet.

I tend to roll my eyes at those articles, just as I tend to roll my eyes at any rant that bashes a particular generation. I’ve read enough random crap and talked to enough bitter old people to know that every generation bashes the other to some extent.

The World War II generation whined about all the hippie types in the Baby Boomer generation. Those same Baby Boomers whined about the brooding, selfish, cynical, I-don’t-care-and-I-don’t-need-anybody attitudes of Generation X. In many respects, the millennials are just next in line. It was bound to happen because it’ll always happen, for as long as old people complain about young people.

Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most education generation of all time. Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most diverse generation of all time and are coming into a world with the lowest crime rates in modern history. Let’s also not forget that, unlike any other generation before it, millennials are the first generation to have unlimited, near-universal access to information.

No matter what type of world the millennials inherit, or what sort of advantages they have, older generations will find a reason to complain about them. It’s not so much that young people actively rebel against old people, as we see in one too many teen movies. It’s more the fact that they’re young and old people are older. I know that sounds inane, but that’s usually the heart of the issue.

Young people don’t have the same life experiences as old people. They can’t understand their perspectives because they haven’t lived them. Their world, and how they see it, is just so different and that frustrates older people because they can’t relate to it. Some will try, but successes will be limited, at best. As such, every generation is going to seem strange, deviant, and/or frustrating to one another.

I’ve certainly experienced this myself, at times. I think everyone has to some degree. They’re young, they talk to an older person, and that older person tells them all about how much better their generation was. They overcame so much more and did it without the aid of smartphones. Somehow, that makes them inherently better and then they wonder why young people tune them out.

In general, I try not to have those kinds of arguments because they’re pointless. As someone who falls in age range of a millennial, I know there’s nothing I can say or do to convince an older person that my generation is as good or better than theirs. That’s not not an argument anyone can win. It’s also pointless, in the grand scheme of things.

However, I do feel as though the millennial-bashing has gotten out of hand in recent years. It’s not so much that older people are complaining about millennials constantly texting on their phones. It’s more a matter of them conducting themselves in such a strange, erratic way that neither Baby Boomers or Generation X can make sense of.

Anyone who has worked with millennials knows this first-hand. This new crop of young adults are incessantly needy, easily offended, and overly emotional about trivial issues. They are the kinds of people that John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Madonna would’ve made fun of at every turn.

Now, I’m not going to try and dispel every myth and stereotype of the millennial crowd. Again, that’s not an argument anyone can win. Since I am a millennial, though, and I’ve worked with many my age, I feel like I can offer some context to the general weirdness of my kind.

I have to warn you, though, that context has some dark undertones. Even other millennials don’t always understand it. In a sense, there are some distressingly subversive forces that inspired many of those annoying stereotypes that other generations despise. Some of them have a basis in events that took place long before their time. Some have a basis in simple human nature.

Whatever the case, the mind of a millennial isn’t all hash-tags and cat videos. It’s actually governed by some pretty dark forces that older generations don’t even try to understand. While I doubt this will earn millennials sympathy from Baby Boomers or the Generation X crowd, I hope it provides some critical insight.

With all that said, here are five dark secrets of the millennial generation. These aren’t necessarily guarded secrets, but they are very much a factor in how they see the world. If you know or work with millennials, I sincerely hope this fosters a greater understanding.

Secret #1: We Are Paralyzed With Uncertainty

This is the first and most critical secret that every generation, including millennials themselves, need to acknowledge. It will help make sense of so many of the weird, annoying things they do, albeit for less-than-flattering reasons.

If you’re wondering why uncertainty is such a big deal to us, then stop for a moment and think about how much or how little you knew about the world in your youth. Before the age of computers and smart phones, your world was small. Everything you knew and needed to know could fit in your street, your city block, or your farm. The only uncertainty you dealt with was what you would have for dinner.

For millennials, the world is much bigger and much more accessible. They are connected, plugged in, and in tuned with mind-bogglingly huge amounts of information, from news to personal insights. On top of that, and this is worth repeating, they are the most educated generation of all time.

While that’s great for trivia games, it does have a major side-effect. As a result of so much education, millennials are basically walking examples of a Socratic Paradox. The more they know, the more they realize they don’t know. It’s a byproduct of learning more than what your limited brain can handle.

I’ve felt this first-hand. Just getting into something like superhero comics is daunting when you start to learn how vast and convoluted their history is. That’s just comics, though. Apply this to the world, as a whole, and millennials are utterly paralyzed by knowing so much and realizing how much more they need to know.

That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear millennials constantly asking for clarification, certainty, or reassurance. They think they know, but they don’t know for sure. With so much information, as well as growing trends in “alternative facts,” it’s almost impossible to be totally certain of all the information at a millennial’s disposal.

Keep that in mind next time a young person is constantly checking their phone. It’s not that they’re detached or inconsiderate. They’re just plagued by uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on, what’s happening with their friends, and how everyone is reacting to them. All that uncertainty kind of requires them to be plugged in all the time and it can be exceedingly stressful, among other things.

Secret #2: We Have (Extreme) Trust Issues

This feeds directly off the crippling uncertainty that millennials deal with. It’s not just a by-product. It’s an inescapable obstacle that comes with being educated, informed, and connected.

Millennials have serious trust issues. I’m not talking about the kind of paranoid, conspiracy theory, the-CIA-put-a-chip-in-my-brain type trust issues either. The extreme trust issues that millennials have is more subtle and, in many ways, a side-effect of trends that began in previous generations.

It was the Baby Boomers and Generation X that began rebelling against authority. They were the ones that started youth protests, giving the finger to authority, and brooding with unending cynicism. They helped exposed leaders and icons as hypocrites, crooks, and frauds.

They exposed multiple presidents as liars. They exposed celebrities as monsters. They exposed the corruption of once-cherished institutions. While all that might have been important with respect to pursuing justice, it also created a world where millennials cannot or are very reluctant to trust anyone.

Thanks to all the information at a millennial’s disposal, they can find out that great figures of history were also racist slave-owners. They can find out that beloved scientists and inventors were bullies. They can find out that the celebrities they love are real assholes. In essence, they can’t trust anyone to be true or genuine.

You want to know why superhero movies have become so huge with millennials? Well, that’s because they have no real-life heroes anymore. They’ve all been destroyed or discredited. They’re basically stuck with fictional heroes. That’s all they have left.

Beyond a lack of heroes and leaders who aren’t total frauds, millennials are so flooded with information that they have a hard time trusting the source. Everything seems biased. Everyone has an agenda. There’s fake news everywhere and nobody seems to know what the hell is going on, which I’ve noted out before.

So when you’re dealing with a millennial and they seem detached, that’s part of the reason. It’s also why they seem misinformed and misguided. They don’t know what or who to trust because every generation before them has given them way too many reasons not to. Add unlimited access to abundant information, fake and real, and how can anyone expect them to trust anything?

Secret #3: We Are Drowning In Debt (That We Can’t Escape)

This is one of those quirky issues that does get reported fairly regularly, but not everyone truly grasps the implications. It’s an undeniable fact that millennials are the most indebted generation of all time. A lot of that has to do with the growth of student loan debt, which recently surpassed credit card debt. There are all sorts of factors that led to this growth, but I want to focus on the effects for this.

Now I’ve seen some Baby Boomers and Generation X people roll their eyes at this issue, claiming that young people are stupid for taking out so much debt, just to get a useless college degree in underwater basket weaving. When most millennials hear that, though, assume they’re gritting their teeth to hold back their blinding rage.

That’s because a huge consortium of parents, guidance counselors, and raunchy movies have glorified college as this important next step that ever young person needs to take after high school. If you don’t take it, then something must be wrong with you. You must be stupid, lazy, or unambitious.

Since so many young people now feel inclined to go to college, that drives up demand. When anything is in that much demand, it gets more expensive. That’s just basic economics.

As a result, millennials have no choice but to take out student loans to go to college, just like the older people said they should. Then, those same people give them crap for taking out so many loans in the first place.

Beyond the frustration, those debt loads can be downright debilitating. When I was in college, I had a friend who had around $120,000 in student loan debt. In years past, that wasn’t a student loan. That was a goddamn mortgage. That means there are entire generations of people coming out of college who basically have to pay the price of a house without being able to live in it.

On top of that, millennials still get crap for having to live with their parents. They are in multiple no-win situations, both in terms of stigma and their overall futures. Unlike most other forms of debt, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. A millennial is stuck with it, no matter what they do.

If that weren’t enough, and it’s already too much, the job prospects for anyone without a college degree are abysmal. If you don’t have a college degree, then your ability to get a job that keeps you out of poverty is very low. Sure, you can point out that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t go to college all you want, but they never had to pay off a goddamn mortgage before they were 25.

Secret #4: We Have No Margin For Error (Or Offense)

A lot has been made about how easily offended millennials are. That’s how the term, snowflake, actually became an insult. Now, I don’t deny that young people take political correctness way too far. I’ve even talked about it a few times on my blog. However, like most things, there is a context and it’s kind of dark.

A big part of the millennial desire to not offend anybody comes from the self-esteem movement that began before they left the womb. An entire generation has been conditioned to have a bloated sense of confidence in a world where they can’t trust anyone, are constantly uncertain about everything, and have huge debts to pay. Naturally, that’s going to cause some inner conflict.

It’s not just that millennials hate bullies, racists, sexists, and bigots. For one, millennials are a far more diverse cohort than their predecessors, thanks largely to the efforts of previous generations. They have to be a bit more sensitive and understanding to others who are different because there are so many different perspectives to consider now. Millennials have to temper their sensibilities in order to get along.

Beyond that, and this is where it gets dark, the consequences of screwing up are enormous. Entire lives have been ruined by one off-hand tweet. A single off-hand comment has ruined reputations. In a generation that’s plugged in and connected all the time, nothing you say or do goes without scrutiny. You can’t have any private sentiments. If you do and they’re somewhat problematic, then you’re in trouble.

It’s another reason why millennials are so obsessed with their online life and how people perceive them. They live in a world where one text, one tweet, or one offensive image that they shared on social media can destroy their reputation, their friends, and their livelihood.

People get fired for offending others. Peoples’ lives are ruined, both financially and socially. When you’re young and you have a massive amount of student debt to pay off, you have to walk on egg-shells every day because if you mess up, there’s little recourse. Once something happens and it’s documented on the internet, it’s there forever.

Millennials didn’t create the world that made such hypersensitivity necessary. They also didn’t create the technology that they obsess over either. They were just born into a perfect storm, of sorts. If they dare rock the boat in any direction, then they’re tossed overboard without a life preserver.

Remember this next time a millennial obsesses over offending or not offending someone. It’s not just out of hypersensitivity. It’s basic survival. Older generations who have already carved a place for themselves can afford to be offended, literally in some cases. Millennials don’t have that luxury.

Secret #5: We (Have To) Rely On Our Passion

With every new generation comes new circumstances and with those circumstances comes a need to adapt. The Baby Boomers had to adapt to the generation that won Wolrd War II. Generation X had to adapt to the generation that protested Vietnam. The way they adapted shaped a great deal of their culture and identity. With millennials, it’s no different.

With the other secrets, I’ve described a pretty rough set of circumstances for millennials to adapt to. They’re uncertain, can’t trust anyone, drowning in debt, and living in constant terror of offending someone in a way that will ruin their lives. How can anyone adapt to that?

Well, human beings are nothing if not adaptable. It’s one of our most defining traits. With millennials, the options are limited, but they’ve made the most of them by becoming a very impassioned, very vocal generation. Whereas the Baby Boomers had their rebellious streak and Generation X had their cynicism, millennials have their passions to guide them.

By that, I mean the millennial crowd will put a lot of passion into whatever they do, be it protesting pronouns or posting videos of their cat. Due to debt, uncertainty, and trust issues, there are a lot of boxes they need to check before they commit to something. That’s part of why millennials aren’t getting married and why they’re having less sex. They can’t afford to be too casual, literally in some cases. There needs to be passion.

That’s why millennials will make a big deal about making whatever job or hobby they enjoy having some sort of passionate undertone. It’s how they can fill the many gaps left by so much uncertainty and such limited trust. It’s also how they can justify working a job that they know probably won’t help them pay off that massive debt they have. Without that passion, why would they bother?

The most tragic part of that element is that having such passion is really the only option millennials have in some cases. It’s a big part of why they’ll make such a big deal about certain issues that seem trivial to older generations. The older crowd has options. Millennials don’t.

Having passion, and a lot of it, is a big part of how they drive themselves. Sure, they can get annoying about it. I’ve lost track of how many overly passionate arguments about Wonder Woman’s costume I’ve heard on comic book message boards. When that’s all you really have, though, then that’s what’ll drive you.

While I doubt this will make millennials seem less annoying to older generations, I hope it provides some insight into what makes this generation tick. I don’t claim for a second that these insights are definitive. Millennials, like every generation that came before it, are a diverse group of people full of many variations, some more annoying than others.

However, this is their situation. This is how the world is shaping them. It’s a never-ending struggle, one that’s sure to plague the next generation just as much. I’m sure millennials will find an entirely different set of excuses to whine about that generation. I don’t doubt those excuses will be every bit as petty. I just hope I can sell enough of my novels by then to not care.


Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights

Comics, Milkshakes, And (Failing To Fight) Internet Trolls

Before I say anything, I need to make one thing clear. I am extremely reluctant to talk about an issue that’s still fresh, so to speak. In general, I prefer to wait until he uproar has died down and/or the angry masses of the internet have tired themselves out over an issue. I usually find it easier to sift through the rubble after the storm has passed.

This may very well be the most hesitant I’ve ever been to talk about a particular issue. Think about that for a moment. I’m someone who has talked about sex robots, awkward boners, and his own circumcision. If I’m reluctant to talk about a topic, then it must be pretty nasty.

Well, don’t adjust your gag reflex just yet because it’s not that kind of topic. This isn’t something that just sparks revulsion or passionate disagreement. This is the kind of stuff that just brings out the worst in everybody. It’s like licking the shit stains on a toilet before they’ve dried. It just makes a bad topic that much worse.

However, I’m willing to suck in my gut, brace myself, and ignore my reluctance because I feel like this is something that needs to be said while certain people are still listening. Plus, it involves comics and the comic book industry. Other than the erotica/romance industry, few are quite so near and dear to me.

Even those who don’t follow the industry probably noticed an unusual hashtag trending in the news recently. It involved an incident with some of Marvel’s editorial staff. When I first saw it, I had no idea it was a controversy. I thought it was some new promotional effort. Marvel, and most comic companies, do that all the time.

For once, I’m sad to say that this had nothing to do with an ad gimmick. The hashtag in question was #MakeMineMilkshake and it was inspired by this innocent-looking tweet from Heather Antos, who happens to be an editor at Marvel.

I actually saw this on my Twitter feed. I thought it was a nice moment. It put a smile on my face. It involved milkshakes, comics, and cute girls in the comic book industry. I honestly can’t think of something more appealing to me without adding pizza, the beach, or free tickets to a football game.

Then, some asshole internet trolls, of which there are many, had to look at this happy little moment and mess it up for everyone. They did this by replying to the Tweet with a bunch of crude, vulgar comments. I won’t get into the substance of those comments because they’re not worth spreading. I won’t even make an assessment over how bad they were. I’ve been to the many toilets of the internet. I know how bad it can get.

However bad it was, it created a hashtag that has spread like a wildfire and burned away any faith you might have had in humanity, comics, or peoples’ ability to discuss an issue rationally. Like other hashtags before it, #MakeMineMarvel has become a catalyst for two sides of a pointless debate to whine and moan endlessly about how right they are. It’s a debate that nobody can ever win.

The hashtag, which I doubt Ms. Antos intended to start, has created this rage-filled rant on toxic sub-cultures like comics. On one side, you have those claiming that it’s full of angry young men who don’t want to see women screwing up their favorite toys. On the other, you have those who feel like they’re being demonized for comments that just a few idiot trolls made. Again, nobody wins that debate.

It was frustrating to me because, being a man, it made me feel like I’m being lumped in with the same group of assholes and I want no part of that. I didn’t respond to Ms. Antos’ tweet. I didn’t respond to anyone who asked me to respond. This was just a hornet’s nest that I didn’t want to poke.

An abandoned hornet's nest my dad found in his shed that he hadn't been in for a couple years. The head is apart of a wooden statue it fused with.

Then, the hashtag kept trending and people at Marvel and DC, two rival companies mind you, began responding to it. They even made milkshakes into counter-protest, of sorts, using it to fight against internet trolls and toxic subcultures. Considering some of the other protests we’ve seen this past year, I think that’s a fairly innocuous method.

However, the mere fact that this is even a thing speaks to a much larger issue. It’s one of those things where neither side, be it Ms. Antos or those who now despise her, can see the forest from the trees. After it started trending, Ms. Antos posted this tweet and understandably so. There are just certain parts of the internet and certain people who use it that completely warrant that sentiment.

Now, here’s where I start saying things that I know will rub certain people the wrong way. I’m going to try and be very careful with my words here.

I don’t want to start a new hashtag or anything. I also don’t want to get blocked because I follow people like Heather Antos on social media. I’ve said enough dumb things in the past and I’m trying to limit that, especially in these sensitive times we live in. I’ll do my best to be polite about it, but I’m not going to shy away from the truth. I’m just going to add what I hope is meaningful context.

With that in mind, I’d like to send Ms. Antos an important message that I doubt she’ll never read. That same message should apply to others who supported her since #MakeMineMilkshake started trending. Here it is and excuse me while I brace myself with an adamantium shield.

“The trolls have already won. You’re letting them win with every word you say about this issue. PLEASE change the way you fight them.”

I’m going to keep that adamantium shield up just in case, but I know this will probably take some uncomfortable explanations. I’ve talked about dealing with internet trolls before. I’ve also talked about professional trolls who go out of their way to start digital shit storms like this for their own benefit. What I’ve seen with #MakeMineMilkshake is basically a case-study in how not to respond to trolls.

Now, that’s not to say that Ms. Antos’ intentions are misguided. I don’t doubt for a second that she responded to the comments she got in the best way she thought possible. Maybe she didn’t intend for it to start trending. Nobody can really know whether or not something will become a thing, especially if it doesn’t involve cute animals.

Even if #MakeMineMilkshake didn’t start trending, though, Ms. Antos’ response would’ve already ceded some form of victory to the trolls. Like punting on third down in a football game, she didn’t adapt her game plan. Given how quickly this unfolded, I doubt she thought she even needed one.

The problem with turning her response into a hashtag, albeit indirectly, is that doing so gave the trolls exactly what they wanted. With every retweet, response, and cute quip, they get even more. That’s because trolls don’t deal in the traditional currencies of shame, sorrow, and basic human decency. They only understand one form of coin and that’s attention.

It may very well be the most important currency of the digital age. It may even be more than just a currency. It could very well be the life force with which trolls need to sustain themselves. Like Galactus, devourer of worlds, the hunger is never sated. Lacking heralds or The Power Cosmic, these trolls must resort to the lowest lows of the internet to feed their hunger.

With #MakeMineMilkshake, they basically got a free buffet and a complementary desert. I guarantee that once this hashtag started trending, they didn’t cower with fear, dread, or remorse. They’re probably still grinning and twirling their fake mustache. If they could make a collective statement towards Ms. Antos and everyone who came to her defense, this is what they would probably say.

“Ha! I did it! I got under her skin. I made this person who is more successful than I’ll ever be cry out for help, play the victim, and seek validation. They can call me a racist, bigoted, sexist pig all they want. It doesn’t matter. They just proved they’re a bunch of thin-skinned, hyper-sensitive snowflakes. Now, thanks to the hashtag, the world knows it! They know it and it’s all because of me! Mwhahahahahahaha!”

I concede that the evil laughter might be an exaggeration, but since this involves comics, I think it’s appropriate. Internet trolls are the closest thing most of us have to villains. Other than former child stars and the IRS, it’s hard to think of anyone more devious.

It pains me to say it, but the trolls won this round. Ms. Antos, whatever her intentions might have been, gave them what they wanted. She gave them attention and they’re using it. They’re already turning this misguided hashtag into Round 1,283,285,206,809 of the angry alt-right versus the bossy progressive left. It’s a fight that never has any winners.

Again, I know Ms. Antos is never going to read this post. I’m not successful enough or smart enough to have that kind of audience just yet. I’m working on it, but Ms. Antos is so far ahead of me that I can totally understand her not responding to every aspiring writer who tries to add his thoughts to an overly-complex issue. She’s an editor at Marvel. She has far more awesome things to do with her time.

If I could send her a message, though, I would offer her a simple bit of advice. When dealing with trolls, you have countless ways to lose and only a few with which to win. Anything that gives them the slightest bit of attention, no matter how negative, counts as a victory for them and a defeat for you.

To defeat the trolls, the best thing you can do is ignore them. Don’t just instinctively block them, though. Let them whine, yell, and complain with the worst digital drivel they can come up with. Either they’ll get bored or they’ll make an ass of themselves. In either case, you’ll save yourself the frustration and not embolden those who would frustrate you.

If ignoring them isn’t possible, then the second best thing you can do is fight them with kindness. I know that sounds cheesy. I know that sounds like something Superman, Captain America, or Spider-Man would say in an after school special. It still has merit, though. Your capacity for kindness, even to those who insult you, shines a brighter light on the kind of person you are while also exposing the kind of person the troll is.

The worst thing you could do is take what these trolls say and turn them into a rallying cry, of sorts. That doesn’t just give the trolls even more attention. It gives them a larger target to hit. It’s the digital equivalent of Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. With respect to trolls, poking them just makes them poke back harder.

If Ms. Antos is still with me at this point, I thank her. I know there are some who have already decided to block me at this point. I’m hoping I can still reach those willing to listen so here’s my final thought.

Trolls, in whatever form they take, should never be used as a basis to judge larger swaths of a population. Using these trolls to condemn all men, comic book fans, and Twitter users is a huge mistake. It’s basically a bonus to the trolls on top of the attention because it means more will identify with the trolls than their victims. That’s the last thing you want and the last thing the internet needs.

I don’t doubt for a second that there will be other misguided hashtags like #MakeMineMilkshake. I suspect there will be far worse trolling down the line. That’s because people are always going to say stupid shit, both online and in real life. It’s just part of the package that is the human condition. It’s how you react to it that determines whether you’ve saved the day or aided a Skrull agent.

Update: Well, I wrote this post under the assumption that Ms. Antos, or anyone else who is many times more successful than me, would ever read it. I was wrong and I’m more than relieved to say that. Ms. Antos did actually read this post. As a result, there’s something I need to clear up. Several hours after I posted this, Ms. Antos issued the following tweet.

I sincerely thank her for her response and I apologize for the impression that my post had given. In reading it over again, I realize I had implied that she was the one who started the #MakeMineMilkshake hashtag. She did not. I never thought she did, but I implied otherwise. For that, I sincerely apologize. Apparently, I was not careful enough with my words. I’ll try to be mindful of that in the future.


Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Politics, Safety, And The Impossible Paradox


As I’ve said before, I really don’t like talking about politics. I’ve learned over the course of my life, often the hard way, that nothing makes people less comfortable, less horny, and more insufferable than politics. It couldn’t have less sex appeal without involving a clogged toilet, a dead rabbit, and Sean Hannity.

For the most part, I try not to get too political on this blog. I’d much rather be talking about comic books, sex robots, and Leslie Knope. However, there are times when I feel compelled to say something about a particular issue. I often do that with gender issues like feminism because that indirectly ties to the sexier topics I talk about. I try not to take too strong a position. More than anything else, I try to give perspective.

That’s what I did with my post about the health care debate. I tried to be fair to both sides. I tried to frame the issue in a way that both Michael Moore and Ted Nugent could appreciate. I didn’t offer any easy fixes. I didn’t try to denigrate one political ideology over the other. I just tried to point out the inherent flaws in the issue itself.

In the course of writing about that particular debate, I wanted to apply it to a few other issues. However, I quickly realized that there was no way I could do so in a single article and remain concise. When I write on this blog, I tend to assume that part of the audience is drunk, horny, or some combination of the two. That means I can’t drone on for too long, even though I have a habit of doing that when it comes to comics.

Health care is just one issue. Granted, it’s an exceedingly complex issue, but it’s still one issue. The underlying argument I made was that, beyond the complexity, both sides of the political spectrum have the same goal. The problem is that what they want isn’t just logistically difficult. It’s physically impossible.

It’s another hard truth, one that I’d argue is even harder than the truth surrounding O.J. Simpson. Sometimes, even when the politics involved have a noble goal, the particulars of an issue are just beyond our capabilities as humans to produce. We humans can do all sorts of amazing things, from the Great Pyramids to solar-powered vibrators. However, we are a species of many limits, many of which we often fail to acknowledge.

This leads directly to an even bigger picture, of sorts. It also involves something that’s currently impossible in a world without superheros, super-powers, or computers that can’t be hacked for hilariously stupid reasons. Until we start enhancing ourselves, it’ll remain impossible for the foreseeable future.

I call it the impossibility paradox because most people, regardless of their political persuasion, act as though the impossible aspects aren’t there. They’re often smart, driven people who are every bit as driven as their ideological opponents. They work so hard to accomplish something that’s physically impossible. Then, they’re surprised when they come up short.

On top of that, the people they claim to represent or help get upset with them because they didn’t accomplish what they promised. Never mind that what they promised was never possible to begin with. Human beings just aren’t that reasonable, even if they like to pretend that they are. Everybody is still subject to the constraints of reality and, like a moody dominatrix, it doesn’t mind telling us who’s dominant.

Now, apply that dynamic to what might be an even bigger issue than health care for some people. Whether you’re gun-toting conservative or a pot-smoking liberal, most agree that a central function of any government entity is to keep citizens safe.

No state, kingdom, or Dungeons and Dragons guild can survive without providing some level of safety. People, society, and the economy can’t function unless there’s some level of safety. Nobody wants to make iPhones and exchange brownie recipes if there are barbarian hordes just a few miles away, ready to raze your home to the ground.

Since the dawn of civilization, every functioning society has had to provide some measure of safety and protection to its citizens. In exchange, citizens pay taxes to the state so that it can have the resources to perform these duties. Ideally, they’ll use those taxes carefully in accomplishing this goal. In the real world, however, nobody will ever say with a straight face that all taxpayer money is spent wisely.

However, this is where even the anti-government, Ron Swansons of the world have to face another cold, hard fact of reality. It’s every bit as inescapable as the health care debate. Even if, however unlikely, a government spent every penny of taxpayer money wisely and dedicated every resource into ensuring safety and security, it still wouldn’t be enough. That’s because of one simple truth.

“Nobody knows ALL the facts and nobody CAN know all the facts.”

If that sounds a bit too similar to the advice I recently gave on making sense of the world, then bear with me. There’s a reason for that. It’s similar, but not the same because the scope of the issue is different. Every issue takes on twisted, often frustrating new dimensions when politics enter the picture. Just ask Major League Baseball.

When it comes to safety, though, there’s an inescapable complication that has plagued every government entity that ever existed and will continue to plague governments until our robot overlords take over. To provide safety, you need to know everything about a situation and have the resources to deal with it. Unfortunately, or fortunately for privacy-minded folks, nobody can know everything about a given situation.

Nobody can know for sure when and where a terrorist attack will occur.

Nobody can know for sure whether or not a rival nation is plotting against them.

Nobody can know for sure whether a handful of countries are colluding to undermine them.

Nobody can know for sure whether that weird-looking guy walking down the street is about to go on a shooting spree or just skipped laundry day.

There are just so many unknowns in the world of geopolitics. There are a lot of unknowns for individuals as well. Hell, we still can’t figure out just how useful or useless pubic hair is. How are we supposed to know everything about the threats to our safety and sovereignty as people?

That’s just it, though. We can’t know. It’s physically impossible for any one human or group of humans to know everything about a certain situation, individual, or threat. Sure, the CIA could bug your phone and hack your browser history. That may even give them plenty of reason to believe that you’re conspiring with a hidden network of BDSM enthusiasts to take over the entire state of Montana.

At the end of the day, though, even the CIA can’t know for sure and that has proven costly throughout history. No agency, no matter what they call themselves or what sort of fancy acronyms they use, can know everything about a situation. I’m sure they’d like to know. If you’re of the mind of Alex Jones, you might even believe they’re working with aliens to remedy that.

Even if they did have some way to read all our thoughts, there’s still the matter of sifting through random daydreams and outright plots. Honestly, who hasn’t contemplated whipping out a can of lighter fluid and setting a coffee shop on fire because they got your order wrong? The difference between those thoughts and real action, though, is huge.

I’m not saying that governments and police forces should give up trying to keep people safe. We still need some measure of safety in order to function as a society. The problem is that because of this safety paradox, we end up in these brutal cycles that only make us more fearful. It goes like this.

  • Some strange, complex, dire threat is out there and the media blows it up to scare people

  • The people demand action from their politicians and authority figures

  • Those politicians and authority figures try to respond, if only to maintain their hold on power

  • Those politicians and authority figures fail to provide perfect safety because doing so is impossible

  • The public gets upset with the existing people in power and looks for alternatives

  • Some new power-seeking people enter the picture, making impossible promises to fix impossible situations’

  • The citizens, desperate to fix the impossible problem, put these people into power because anything seems like an improvement over the status quo

  • The people who made the impossible promises, predictably, fail to deliver and generate another round of disillusion

  • The cycle starts all over again

This is part of why congress’ approval rating is so low. It’s also why western countries keep cycling through political parties, constantly voting new people into office in hopes that they’ll find a way to solve impossible problems. In every case, they are unable to deliver. Most people don’t see the impossible logistics, though, so they just look to the next power-broker who can deliver.

For now, we’re very much at the mercy of impossible situations and the people who claim they can solve them. Some of these situations will become less impossible as we develop better tools. Until then, though, let’s be mindful of the impossible demands we make on those we entrust with our safety. It’s often when we have impossible standards that we doom ourselves to unlimited disappointment.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Health Care, Politics, And The Impossible Paradox

As a general rule, it’s my policy to ignore major political issues until after the protests have died down and people have stopped trying to strangle each other through computer screens. Politics is rarely sexy, unless it involves Monica Lewinsky and whoever John F. Kennedy was screwing. In my experience, nothing kills the mood faster than a heated political debate.

I know I’ve spoken on certain hot-button issues before. I did a quick response to the Women’s March earlier this year and the March for Life that quickly followed it. Those weren’t debates, though. Those were protests with simple, clear messages that were easy to break down. Debates aren’t just a little trickier. They’re downright infuriating.

There was a time when I used to enjoy engaging in such debates. I would even go out of my way to find people who disagreed with me, try to understand their position, and then try to argue my own. It was a good mental exercise, but that’s all it ever was.

At no point did I ever change anyone’s mind about anything. At no point did anyone change my mind either. Like debating creationists, they might as well have just been glorified shouting matches. They weren’t meant to actually persuade the other person. The debate was just a spectacle and nothing more.

The fact remains that people don’t like to change their minds about anything. I’ve mentioned time and again how rigid and stubborn the human brain is. Changing an opinion about something is a last resort. Before that happens, people will do the kinds of mental gymnastics that would make a Russian gymnast cringe to justify their opinion.

That brings me to the ongoing health care debate in the United States. I know everybody has an opinion on it and they want to shout that opinion from the highest hill over a bullhorn while Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty give them a back massage. It’s one of those issues that a lot of people are sick of, which is kind of ironic when you think about it.

It’s a frustrating debate to have in the first place because most other industrialized countries have resolved it. The United States of America, despite all the flexing it does of its patriotic nuts, is one of the only industrialized countries that doesn’t have universal health care.

It’s been argued over endlessly by politicians and presidential candidates. Every now and then, one will even build a platform around it. There have been any number of initiatives and policies, some of which do result in meaningful legislation. However, the debate still continues and so does the whining.

Now, I’m not going to take a position in that debate. That’s not the purpose of this post. I’m writing this because someone needs to point something out in this debate that nobody seems to recognize. It’s something that both sides of the debate need to understand, if only to maintain a sense of perspective.

It’s not a thought experiment. It’s not an opinion. It’s not even an argument or a policy idea. It’s a cold, unambiguous fact that is at the heart of the health care debate and others like it. This is a hard truth so whether you’re a card-carrying liberal or a die-hard conservative, you might want to brace yourself.

What we’re trying to accomplish with our health care system is physically IMPOSSIBLE.

Let that sink in for a moment. I don’t usually write in all caps, but this is something that’s worth shouting. If you’re reading this out loud, please read it over again and shout it as loud as you want because it needs to be belabored.

Health care, be it universal or reserved for rich people with decent insurance, is an impossible endeavor that tries to account for infinite possibilities with finite resources. There are over seven billion people on this planet. There are hundreds upon hundreds of diseases that afflict the human body. Treating every person to the utmost just requires too many resources with too few people qualified to administer them.

That’s why the answer to the health care debate isn’t as simple as adopting the same universal health care policies as Europe. Contrary to what Bernie Sanders fans might believe, health care in Europe faces some pretty huge challenges for the exact same reasons. There are too many people who need health care, but there just aren’t enough resources to go around.

Go to any country with any type of health care system you can think of. Don’t be like Michael Moore and focus narrowly on one particular part of a system. No matter where you go and no matter what system you encounter, be it universal or administered by wizards, you’ll always find cases of people not getting the care they need.

Within those cases, you’ll find plenty of unusual cases, such as people who resort to do-it-yourself dental care. You’ll also find plenty of tragedy about people suffering horribly due to their inability to get the care they need. So long as demand outstrips supply, they’ll always happen. That’s just basic economics and dispassionate logic.

In the end, whatever health care policy or reforms get enacted, it won’t be enough. There will still be people who suffer because of it. There will also be people who end up paying more for both their care and that of others. There’s just no way around it. Health care requires resources and people. When there aren’t enough of both, you’re going to get people who get screwed over.

It doesn’t help that many countries, including the United States, face a shortage of qualified doctors. Despite the generous salaries and sexy nurse fantasies, the actual process of becoming a doctor is extremely costly and very difficult. No matter how sexy Hugh Laurie makes it look, becoming a doctor is hard and laborious.

It also doesn’t help that pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are for-profit companies whose incentives aren’t always in line with providing the best of care. There are people in this world who will risk doing real harm to sick people in order to turn a profit. These people aren’t super-villains or sociopaths, for the most part. They’re just working within a system with flawed parts.

This is not to say that the health care debate is hopeless. For the moment, the situation is impossible. There really isn’t a way to provide adequate care to everybody. However, there are some rays of hope that should keep everyone’s panties from getting too dry.

To combat the doctor shortage, companies like IBM are using Watson, their Jeopardy champion, to help diagnose disease and research treatments. Major biotech companies are using tools like CRISPR, which I’ve talked about before, to alleviate diseases that were once fatal and expensive.

Further into the future, advances in technology like smart blood or brain implants will improve overall efficiency in determining appropriate care. However, there will still be a cost. There will still be a bureaucracy, which both sides of the political spectrum find inherently unsexy. So long as that process is determined by humans and for humans, there will be flaws.

Remember this the next time someone debates health care. No matter what side they’re on, the issues they’re highlighting are literally impossible. It’s still a debate worth having. We should still strive to give the most amount of quality care to the most amount of people. That’s good for society, the economy, and even politicians.

Let’s just remember that there’s a difference between a solvable problem and an impossible situation. Health care, at the moment, is an impossible situation. We shouldn’t lose sight of that, no matter how the debate unfolds moving forward.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

How To Break A Taboo (Or Stop It From Becoming One)

It’s not easy talking about taboos, sexual or otherwise. It’s kind of in the definition. Taboos, by default, are hard to talk about and hard to make sense of. Some don’t even make sense indirectly. If you’ve seen more than two seasons of “South Park,” you understand that.

In talking about weird taboos and the quasi-logic behind them, I try my best to make sense of them. We all have to do that to some extent over the course of our lives. I just try to do it in a way that’s sexy and could potentially lead to sexy stories that I can turn into novels.

While every taboo is unique in the sense that it’s uniquely weird, they are prone to fads, trends, and people just getting bored of them. As I’ve pointed out before, there are certain innocuous behaviors that we do every day that most used to be on par with public masturbation.

A lot of taboos fade over time, often as new generations enter the picture and form taboos of their own. Some linger and refuse to die gracefully. That’s why we still have blurred female nipples on cable TV and not a hint of BDSM in the “Wonder Woman” movie. I refuse to believe that there’s any justification for blurring nipples on network TV in the area of ubiquitous internet porn.

There’s no doubt that we’ll be dealing with taboos for as long as we’re a bunch of cavemen running around with smartphones and nuclear weapons. That may change when we get around to upgrading our brains, but even that may inspire a whole host of taboos that we can’t begin to imagine, although I did try.

For now, there aren’t many ways to break a taboo or stop something from becoming taboo. In some cases, it’s downright impossible. No matter what you do, people are going to get weird around certain proclivities, some of which involve some pretty kinky fetishes. Look up something called “cake farts” and try to find a way to not make that weird.

While there may not be a way to completely eliminate some taboos from our society, there are some ways to confront them. It is possible to break certain taboos and/or avoid them from becoming one altogether. Now, that’s not to say it can be done overnight or with a few strategic tweets. People are really stubborn when it comes to taboos, but they will come around if the conditions are right.

With that in mind, here are some of my tips on breaking and/or circumventing taboos. A lot of these tactics can apply to the sexy kind of taboos, but they also apply to others, many of which involve poor people and minorities. Again, don’t take this as a magic pill or something. Breaking taboos is hard and for good reason. We’re a petty species, but we can be reasonable if the conditions are right. That’s a big if though.

Tip #1: Make Taboos Profitable And Lucrative For Business Interests

This probably won’t surprise anyone who tips generously and has never found used bubblegum wrappers on their pizza. Money talks. It talks a lot. It also influences, more so than we’re comfortable admitting. It can, and often is, a source of corruption. In some parts of the world, that corruption is a big part of the economy. When there’s money to be made by politicians and business people, it can get messy.

That said, it’s a two-way street. Money and business interests can be corrupt, but that same corruptive force can be channeled. We’re seeing that with the growth of the marijuana industry. We saw it with the rise of the porn industry. These industries generate billions of dollars. That’s a lot of money by any measure.

No matter how regressive or uptight people may be, when there’s money to be made, people generally follow the money. A taboo that makes nobody any money is easy to clamp down on. A taboo that generates billions of dollars and significant tax revenue is a lot harder to fight.

While I don’t agree with Gordon Gekko’s famous quote about greed, it can sometimes work to others’ advantage. When it comes to legitimizing a taboo, being profitable and taxable on some level really goes a long way. At some point, the money just overpowers the weirdness.

Tip #2: Make Taboos Expensive To Preserve

This is more a preventative than confrontational measure. After a taboo becomes entrenched, it can usually find ways to endure any number of expensive lawsuits and litigation. Just look at the Church of Scientology. Truly robust taboos will find ways of exploiting the legal system to their advantage.

If you have a chance to be proactive, though, the legal system can work for you. It’s not too hard to sue for discrimination or harassment, these days. If you’re a minority, it’s even easier and you may end up on the news with Bernie Sanders. They key here is to focus more on the bigger picture, though. One lawsuit alone isn’t going to break a taboo. Many lawsuits, however, will make it impossible to maintain.

This is how a lot of our modern anti-discrimination laws emerged, using a series of successive lawsuits that made preserving old taboos too damn expensive. People may be stubborn, but when it comes to getting their lawyer’s bill, they will eventually grit their teeth and change their perspective. Even if they have the money to pay the lawyers, you can’t always put a price on frustration.

Tip #3: Make Sure Taboos Scare And/Or Inconvenience Rich People

This is one of those uncomfortable, if not infuriating, aspects of taboos and social norms. There are usually a disproportionate number of them that are directly effected, or in some cases imposed, by the rich and powerful. Taboos can be a form of excuse banking, helping rich people justify their treatment of the poor and minorities.

That’s how many people justified segregation, slavery, and feudalism. The system was such that any changes would’ve grossly inconvenienced the rich and powerful. In some cases, it might have completely ruined them.

Say what you will about rich people. They can afford to accept such criticism. They, like any other rational human being, seek to preserve their resources and their power. That’s the entire theme of the “Star Wars” movies. If giving minorities equal rights or allowing women to show their tits in public somehow undermines profits or power, then you can bet they’ll fight it with every ounce of their considerable resources.

Conversely, the act of frustrating the rich can help break taboos and even end them. Rich people want more money. Powerful people want more power. One of the major problems with segregation, among many, is that it effectively cut off an entire customer base. Once minorities could work and earn money, they wanted to do what everyone else does and spend it. The desire to spend money knows no race or gender.

Eventually, rich companies will want that money. At the same time, powerful people will want those votes and support. At that point, a taboo’s days are numbered. Being a racist asshole may be fun for some people, but it gets old fast once it starts costing money.

Tip #4: Make A Taboo Boring Or Bland

I’ve spoken before about the power of boredom. It can create super-villains and drive teenagers to cold-blooded murder. It is a powerful force, one that’s plenty powerful to break a taboo.

It’s not easy, though. In fact, I would argue that this is probably the hardest tactic to use if you’re trying to combat a taboo. Taboos usually emerge because something gets a rise out of people, often revulsion or outrage. It’s hard to temper that sort of thing. However, it can be done.

It’s happening right now with taboos surrounding marijuana. When I was growing up, the mere mention of marijuana conjured fear and horror. These days, it mostly conjures scenes from Seth Rogen movies. You could make the argument that public attitudes changed because of growing awareness of the effects of marijuana compared to alcohol. I would argue that the debate just got too boring.

Now that marijuana is becoming a full-fledged industry, there’s a financial incentive to break the taboo. However, it’s the lack of horror and outrage that comes with smoking a joint these days that really undermines the taboo. Say what you will about Seth Rogen. The man isn’t exactly scary. Without that fear, boredom usually follows.

Tip #5: Give A Taboo Political Connections

This is another aspect of making a taboo too expensive to preserve. Sometimes, it’s just not enough that taboos cost businesses money, as racial segregation often does. Even when the economics are on your side, you still need powerful allies when combatting or preventing a taboo.

This is where it pays to have powerful friends who owe you money and/or favors. You don’t always need compromising pictures of them either, but that can help. This is a big part of how the gay rights movement got off the ground. They had the support of billionaires and well-connected individuals who could influence people in power. Money talks, but sometimes political connections shout.

Again, it can cut both ways. There are billion-dollar organizations that fight to preserve taboos, but at least it’s a level playing field. Unlike the working poor, some taboos have billionaires who spend time, money, and favors to fight them. That’s a big part of how same-sex marriage became legal.

So as a rule-of-thumb, it helps to have both rich people and powerful connections in fighting a taboo. Granted, those same taboos could use similar tactics, but they’re at the mercy of the same limits. That means that if, despite the battles between billionaires and power brokers, a taboo simply doesn’t jive with our caveman brains, then it’s going to fail in the long run.

Tip #6: When In Doubt, Turn A Taboo Into A Party

This tactic is probably the most enjoyable, as well as the most satisfying. We humans love to party. We’ll look for any excuse to throw a party, have some fun, and take our clothes off without public shame. Taboos can be serious, scary, and depressing. Parties are the exact opposite of that.

Fighting a taboo with a party is like fighting fire with a waterfall. It’s using a diametrically opposing force to combat something. Mix in music, dancing, alcohol, festivities, exposed body parts, and an excuse to leave work early and you have the perfect antidote to a taboo.

This is what Mardi Gras does once a year. This is what Brazil does with Carnival. Taboos, reservations, anxieties, and fears all melt away in the spirit of having fun and enjoying yourself. This is especially potent for sexual taboos. These taboos, and the social norms built around them, tend to be frustrating and difficult for those who preserve them. A party is like a release, one that’s easy and enjoyable for all those involved.

So if you want to start the ball rolling on breaking a taboo, don’t hire a lawyer or make friends with a billionaire. Start by throwing a party. Make it fun, festive, and happy for all those involve. No taboo will stand a chance.

There are probably more tips and tricks for beating taboos that I didn’t list. There are likely a lot more that I didn’t even think of. Again, I’m not an expert. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer who tends to overthink certain subjects more than most, be they comic books or sleeping naked.

While I don’t expect these methods to spare us from a future of censor bars and blurred tits, I hope it makes people aware of the mechanisms behind taboos. They’re rarely logical and they tend to reflect certain proclivities in our society that we’d rather ignore. If we’re to make progress as a species, though, we should confront them and, if necessary, kick them in the ass.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights