Tag Archives: social justice

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

How To Resist A Fascist Government (And Survive)

There’s been a lot of talk about fascism lately and I don’t deny that I’ve contributed to it. I tried to make that contribution meaningful and even sexy, but I know I’m facing some pretty strong headwinds that have managed to undermine far more relevant voices, like CNN.

Even if it is an uphill, fruitless discussion to have in the long run, it’s still worth having, if only to understand the forces behind it. It’s only when we understand something so daunting and dire that we can better deal with it. Like divorce, a death in the family, or a slow internet connection, it helps to maintain some sense of perspective.

With that in mind, I want to shift the discussion somewhat to something more practical. No, that doesn’t mean I’m about to trivialize the horrors of fascist regimes or make light of their victims. I like to inject sex appeal into everything I talk about, including fascism, but even I can’t make those topics sexy.

To that end, I’d like to focus on what people can do to actually resist a fascist regime. The topic of “resistance” has been a major issue lately, especially after what happened in the 2016 Presidential Election. There have been major protests, some of which I’ve discussed and some of which have become talking points for major media figures.

There’s plenty of angry rhetoric. There’s plenty more whining, yelling, and personal insults. I’m pretty sure that everyone’s mother has been called a whore at least once since January. None of it is very productive, though. Most of it is just fodder for cable news and cheap laughs for those in power.

The truth of the matter is that there’s a right way to do a resistance movement, even against a fascist regime. Even the most authoritarian governments in history are vulnerable to collapse. It’s worth pointing out that nearly every major empire in history has collapsed, including the repressive ones. It may seem like a fascist regime can never fall. History, to date, says otherwise.

So with that in mind, I’d like to make another contribution to the discussion about fascism and the best ways to resist it. Moreover, I want to list the ways people can resist and have a good chance of surviving.

History shows that the kind of violent uprisings glorified in movies like “Red Dawn” may get people excited, and even horny in some cases, but it also shows that such violence tends to breed more violence. You need only look at the French Revolution or the Tiananmen Square protests for proof of that.

To bring down a fascist regime requires patience, foresight, and perseverance. Most importantly, the resistance needs to have easy tactics that everyone can do. That’s why I’ve compiled a quick list of easy tips on how to resist a fascist regime the smart way. It’s easy to do. It requires no violence. It just requires patience, perseverance, and a little luck. If done right, you’re much more likely to survive.

Please keep in mind, though, these tips only apply to fascist regimes that are run by humans, administered by humans, and populated by humans. That means subjects of advanced alien overlords like the Borg or superhuman despots like Dr. Doom need not apply.


Tip #1: Leave If You Can, But Survive If You Can’t

This is the simplest, most obvious tip to anyone unlucky enough to be living under a fascist government. I understand it isn’t always possible. I also understand that dealing with refugees are a complex hot-button issue. However, when it comes to bringing down a repressive government, it can’t be avoided.

One of the ways a fascist regime is inherently unstable is how it deals with it’s smart, highly skilled population. Fascist leaders tend to not like anyone smarter than them. That usually means brilliant, highly skilled people end up leaving the country, taking their knowledge and expertise with them. Nazi Germany found that out the hard way.

Countries like Iran are finding out too. When your country is a repressive, uptight society that won’t let well-paid, well-educated people have a beer or go to a strip club in peace, they tend to take their talents elsewhere. Without that professional class of people, a fascist regime can’t really accomplish much. It’s hard to make weapons of doom when you scare all the mad scientists away.

For those who aren’t highly skilled individuals and are unable to leave, the best thing you can do is survive. I know that’s much easier said than done, especially in the inherent poverty of fascist countries. However, being alive is important because it means the state still needs you. Without you, who’s going to provide the slave labor and constant adulation that a fascist leader demands?

Brutal or not, a fascist regime still has to care for its citizens to some extent. It needs to spend time, money, and resources ensuring that its people are actually capable of providing the labor and human resources to make the system work.

They may not provide much, especially if you end up in prison or a work camp, but the mere act of being alive still undermines the regime. So long as your existence forces the regime to spend time and money making you a productive member of their agenda, you’ve got the edge to some extent. Letting yourself die would only do them a favor. So in a sense, the best resistance anyone can do in such a horrible situation is just survive.


Tip #2: Tell Rulers Exactly What They Want To Hear (But Don’t Mean It)

This is another one of those inescapable pitfalls of living in a fascist regime. On paper, it may sound like you’re just emboldening the regime. That’s true, if you’re only looking at it in the short-term. If you’re willing to play a little three-dimensional chess, though, you can turn the tables.

There’s no doubt that living in a fascist regime will require you to glorify some despotic leader. You may hate their guts. You may pleasure yourself to the idea of them dying a violent death. That’s fine. Keep that hatred and kink strong within you, but keep it within you. If ever you have to put on a fake smile and tell the ruler how big their dick is, just grit your teeth and do it.

You’ll hate it in the short-term, but you’ll see the benefits in the long run. It’s one of those few times when the harshness of reality is on your side. If people only ever tell a dictator what they want to hear, they’ll avoid telling them about serious issues that need to be addressed. They won’t give the full story. They’ll avoid the hard facts, but those facts won’t avoid them.

As a result, fascist rulers will have a poor understanding of a situation or crisis. They’ll be incapable of making the kinds of decisions that strengthen their hold on power. Eventually, those decisions will erode the regime’s ability to function. They’ll leave their society in such a poor state that no amount of adulation will change it. At that point, the regime is as good as gone.


Tip #3: Conform In Public, Defy In Private

This ties directly into the previous tip. If you’re going to survive a fascist regime, you’re going to have to put on a public face you hate and do everything the regime demands that you to do in order to be a good citizen. You’ll hate it inside, but you’ll still do it because that’ll help you survive.

In private, however, you can afford to let yourself go. In fact, doing so will help inoculate you from the propaganda that all fascist regimes depend on to keep their population in line. Even repressive places like Iran are finding out the hard way that while some people show the necessary piety in public, they tend to get really freaky in private.

Now, I understand this would be even harder in a regime like the one described by George Orwell in “1984.” However, keep in mind that the kind of surveillance described in that book is pretty much impossible in the real world. Even North Korea has a hard time preventing smuggling.

If anything, more intensive surveillance means that your actually winning. All that surveillance, costing the regime time and money that it would rather spend strengthening its power. Having to micromanage its citizens is a huge drain on any regime, fascist or otherwise.

Welcome that kind of micromanaging whenever you can. In the long run, the regime will run out of money before you run out of things for them to manage. That way, when the regime starts to collapse, it’ll be easier for you and others dissatisfied with the regime to help it collapse. All you had to do was be deviant in private. Most people do that anyway so it’s something everybody can do.


Tip #4: Create Impossible Issues For Rulers To Deal With

This is a bit harder, but still fairly critical. By creating impossible issues, I don’t mean protest and complain to the fascist government. That’s usually a quick way to end up dead, in prison, or in a forced labor camp. You can still frustrate the regime, but you can do it indirectly.

The easiest way to do this is to just not do your job very well. Channel your inner Wally from “Dilbert” and do just enough to avoid getting into trouble, but nothing more than that. Don’t do your best. Don’t go the extra mile. That forces the regime to commit more resources to doing something that shouldn’t take so many to begin with.

Beyond just being a marginal worker, go out of your way to make day-to-day issues complex and tedious for the authorities. Think of it as a form of trolling, minus the insults to other peoples’ mothers. The key is to get the government to deal with multiple issues on multiple fronts. They don’t need to be big issues. In fact, the smaller the issue, the better.

Small issues frustrate governments far more than larger issues. Government, and its assorted bureaucracy, is a blunt instrument by nature. It can’t deal with smaller issues for the same reason a doctor can’t perform brain surgery with a baseball bat. It just doesn’t have the tools. That won’t stop it from trying. It’ll just made a mess of things and that works to your advantage.


Tip #5: Weaponize The Power of Apathy, Boredom, And Dispassion

This goes along with the previous tip in that it takes being lousy at your job a step further. One of the most important tools that fascist rulers use is their ability to rally up the passions of the public. They use their gift for rhetoric and giving fancy speeches to work people into a frenzy so that they’ll ditch all forms of critical thinking and follow them into battle.

While it helps fascist governments come to power, it’s not very useful when it comes to maintaining power. Sure, fascist governments will hold military parades and create these big, gaudy monuments to their glory. However, it amounts to an oversized toilet for pigeons if it can’t generate the same solidary.

That solidarity is the glue that holds a fascist society together. Apathy, Boredom, and utter dispassion is the solvent that breaks up that glue. If a government spends all that time and money blaring their glorious message to the populous, only to have them look back with blank and tired stares, they’re screwed.

If the people aren’t united and in an orgasmic frenzy of support, they’re less likely to sacrifice or aid the regime. Sure, they’ll follow the rules. They’ll march in the parades. They’ll even put on happy faces. They just won’t put much energy or effort into helping the regime stay together. That’s why the greatest tool any citizen in the resistance can have is their apathy. Without that, a fascist society just falls apart.


Tip #6: Let The Rulers Frustrate Themselves (And Stay Out Of Their Way)

This is probably the most enjoyable tip on this list and not just because it doesn’t require much effort. Technically, you really don’t have to do anything to make this happen, so long as you follow the other tips I’ve listed.

That’s because government and bureaucracy, at least those run by humans, are inherently flawed. That’s because people are inherently flawed. No matter how dedicated or passionate they may be, they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to fall flat on their faces. All you have to do is let them.

This is especially true of dictators, who everybody is afraid to restrain. Eventually, they’ll get back up, blame everyone but themselves, and try to correct it. Chances are, they’ll fall flat on their face again. They’ll get even angrier. That kick-starts a brutal cycle that the dictator can’t escape. Eventually, they’ll frustrate themselves to the point of utter failure. Once they fail, the regime fails.

When this happens, the best thing anyone can do is stay out of its way. Every fascist regime has inherent flaws. You just have to be patient enough and tough enough to let them happen. It can be grueling and downright dangerous. In the long run, though, human nature and inept dictators will be on your side.

That, in essence, is the greatest and most fitting irony of fascism.

2 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Why Fascists Want To (And Need To) Control Your Sex Life

Whenever I bring up a topic on this blog, be it advances in biotechnology or news on the “Wonder Woman” movie, it’s only a matter of time before I explore the sexy side of that topic. Sometimes that also involves the kinky side, but sometimes sexy and kinky aren’t mutually exclusive issues in certain topics.

Now, when it comes to issues of fascism and totalitarian governments, it’s hard to make that too sexy. However, it’s hard to discuss these issues without also discussing the implications on our sex lives. Even the most repressive governments still need people having sex o they can make babies that will eventually become works, soldiers, etc.

Throughout history, the government has always had some interest or policy in our sex lives. From state-sanctioned fertility festivals in Ancient Rome to rigid traditions in Ancient China, there’s always been some amount of government between the sheets. So those yelling for government to get out of their bedrooms probably don’t realize just how long it has been there.

For the most part, a government’s only real interest in your sex life extended to whether or not you were producing children that would become soldiers, workers, and tax payers. Beyond that, it could care less what you do with your genitals and how you do it. Those governments usually lacked the power, resources, and will to micromanage.

There were some exceptions, primarily with the sex lives of rulers and aristocrats. Since preserving the royal lineage was of the most vital importance, often leading to massive upheaval in a kingdom, they had to micromanage to some extent. If they weren’t producing heirs to the throne or to inherit the family land, then that was a problem. The entire premise of “Game of Thrones” is proof of that.

However, the world has changed a great deal since the days of kings, feudalism, and fertility rituals. Industrialization, modernization, and a better understanding of how our sexy anatomy works has changed how the people and the government approaches matters of sexuality. Sure, some people in government still have a poor understanding of certain lady parts, but our knowledge is more comprehensive for the most part.

It’s because of that knowledge, though, that a fascist or overly authoritarian regime has an even greater interest in controlling your sex life. At least the kings and emperors of the ancient world lost interest at the part where your sex life made the babies that would become soldiers and workers. Modern rulers with a keen interest in controlling a population know to go much further than that.

The best example of this is how Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy approached its citizens’ sex lives. For these governments, it wasn’t enough for people to make babies that would become soldiers and workers. They had to make perfect, super-babies and a lot of them. That whole “master race” ideology wasn’t just about subverting minorities. At some point, they need to have the race they prefer to propagate.

Sometimes, they did this through incentives. Giving birth to a healthy, racially pure baby in Nazi Germany came with all sorts of benefits. However, those benefits sometimes hid the heavy hand of the state. Women in this society were not expected to work. Their sole focus was supposed to be on producing more racially pure babies.

It wasn’t much different or better for women in Fascist Italy. While it didn’t rely heavily on concepts of genetic purity or racial supremacy, there was this ideal espoused by the state. The perfect woman, in their eyes, was supposed to be poor, subservient, and doing everything she could to give birth to as many babies as possible.

Beyond simply controlling the population, these fascist states also sought to control the nuts and bolts of family life. There was only one ideal family structure and one form of acceptable sexual activity. Any citizen that deviated from it in any way, be it homosexuality or watching certain types of porn, was prohibited.

Again, it goes several steps further than the prudish policies we sometimes get in non-fascist states. In America, we had policies like the Comstock Laws that effectively made talking about sexual issues a crime. Even today, issues surrounding sex education, which are prescribed by the government, are subject to plenty of controversy.

However, it’s that very presence of a controversy that highlights just how different a fascist state approaches sexuality compared to a non-fascist one. Say what you will about America and western governments. At least it’s possible to have a debate about sexual issues. It’s not always productive, but having that debate won’t get you killed.

The same can’t be said in a fascist state because controlling sexuality isn’t just necessary for population control. It’s a primary component of maintaining its overall power. A fascist state, by definition, needs to exercise a lot of control over its people. In general, people don’t like to be controlled. History shows it’s hard to control people. Even organized religion is finding this out.

For any fascist state to maintain control, it needs to be able to control the two most important drives in human beings, namely survival and reproduction. It needs to make sure that the citizens are completely dependent on the state to fulfill those drives.

It’s somewhat easier to confiscate food and use hunger to keep people in line. If someone is hungry, they’ll say or do anything to get a good meal, especially if a government dangles it in front of them as incentive.

The same applies to sex. Through policy, policing, and public shaming, it can dissuade people from exercising their sexuality in ways that the fascist state does not sanction. Like hunger, those who are horny will do anything they can to fulfill that basic drive. Some religions have already weaponized this drive. A fascist state would make it part of a larger system.

It’s because of that systemic approach to sexuality that it’s hard to claim that modern conservatives or liberals are seeking to control sexuality on the same levels as a fascist state. I know I make a lot of jokes about Rick Santorum’s views on sexuality, but he’s never favored creating an entire bureau of government to ensure that people have only the kind of sex that he approves of.

I also make a lot of jokes about how sex-negative radical feminism is making us more sexually uptight. While those on the more extreme liberal side of the spectrum may protest and shame those who dare exercise a form of sex they don’t like, they don’t actively ask the government the manage the sex lives of others.

That’s not to say both sides don’t have ridiculous, harmful, and often detrimental views of sexuality. They’re just not even in the same hemisphere as a fascist state, which would use human sexuality as a method of controlling its population.

It’s not just that a fascist state tends to be inherently prudish and tradition. It has to control things like sexuality because it has to control the people to achieve its goals, be it stability or some sort of racial agenda. So if and when the day comes when you need government approval to have an orgasm, you’ll know you’re living in a fascist state.

1 Comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

George Orwell, 1984, And The Perfect Totalitarian State

There were a lot of reasons I hated high school. I’ve listed more than a few of them on this blog. Somewhere on that list, but nowhere near the top, involved the books I had to read. To say they weren’t very sexy would be like saying a baseball bat to the head isn’t a very good massage.

However, every now and then, my English and social studies teachers managed to assign a book that didn’t make me want to make me stick my head in a deep fryer. One of my favorite non-sexy books of all time, which also happened to be a homework assignment, is George Orwell’s “1984.” It’s a book that always seems relevant and insightful, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

When I read Orwell’s depiction of the ultimate dystopian future, I see it as the ultimate thought experiment, of sorts. Orwell wrote this book in the 1940s, a time when there were actual, dystopian totalitarian regimes operating in the world. Sadly, one of them was a chief ally during World War II.

He had a lot to reference in his time, much more so than we have today. Other than North Korea, most people today aren’t as familiar with rigid, totalitarian governments. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there’s an entire generation of people whose idea of a totalitarian regime is relegated to detention at a high school. They can’t even begin to fathom the kind of world that “1984” described.

That’s a good thing in some respects. In a sense, those governments are almost impossible these days. The rise of the internet, modern technology, and complex geopolitics makes it next to impossible for a regime to be as totalitarian as “1984.” North Korea comes close, but even that regime is wholly inept compared to Big Brother.

However, I believe there’s a unique value, of sorts, when it comes to understanding what makes a totalitarian regime work. I also think there’s value in knowing the tenets behind it, the ways in which it operates, and why it takes hold in the first place. Even in an age of people protesting the removal of the McRib from McDonald’s menu, we’re not immune from the threat of a totalitarian regime.

With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into Orwell’s extreme thought experiment that played out in “1984.” If you haven’t read the book or had even worse English teachers than I did, you might not be familiar with Big Brother, how it operates, what what it represents. You might have heard the term, but you might not be familiar with what it is.

For the sake of providing context, here’s a quick video from the Alternate History Hub channel on YouTube. It’s a channel that focuses primarily on alternate history scenarios, which I’ve touched on before, but it also provides remarkable insight onto other subjects. Given how many totalitarian regimes are involved in alternate history, it makes sense to explore the ultimate extreme, as it played out in “1984.”

It’s hard for most people in the industrialized world to imagine a system like this. The idea that facts, history, and the very thoughts we think are all controlled by this all-encompassing, all-powerful government seems insane. It’s hard to imagine living in a world like that. It almost seems impossible. In a sense, it is.

No government in history has ever come close to wielding the kind of power that Big Brother does in “1984.” Some have tried. There’s the first emperor of China, the sun king in France, and our old frenemy, Joseph Stalin. They only ever succeeded in part and often failed in the long run.

That’s because, as we’re seeing with the ongoing health care debate in America, human beings are impossibly chaotic creatures. We all have so many different needs and wants. We’re all petty about different things and apathetic towards others. No two people are completely wired the same. We all think different thoughts for different reasons, sometimes with downright kinky undertones.

It’s because of all that chaos/diversity within the human condition that no government can hope to achieve what Big Brother achieved in “1984.” It would require so much power, so much micromanaging, and so much information that it just wouldn’t be practical for any one human or party of humans.

Again, that won’t stop some from trying and that’s where Orwell’s thought experiment becomes relevant. In looking at the structure of Big Brother, we can observe the nuts and bolts of the perfect totalitarian regime. We can see what the ultimate fascist is seeking when they want to create an all-power, completely centralized government.

Impossible or not, the features of this government reveal some common themes that have a basis in the real world. Those are themes worth understanding because they help us know when someone is trying too hard to emulate Big Brother. Without getting too deep into the book, here are the key features of a perfect totalitarian regime.

  • There’s a single, unambiguous ruling party and no opposition of any kind

  • The ruling party makes up a small percentage of the population, never more than one or two percent

  • The members of the ruling party rarely, if ever, interact with the public directly

  • The public consists of two classes, a professional middle class that never makes up more than a quarter of the population and a working lower class that usually makes up over two-thirds of the population

  • The middle class is educated to some degree, but wholly controlled by the ruling party and is completely dependent on them for their livelihood

  • The lower class is uneducated, under-informed, and easily manipulated

  • All economic activity is controlled or guided by the party, ensuring the middle class has just enough to do their job and the lower class has just enough to propagate

  • The ideals for family structure and social structure are imposed by the party with any variations being deemed deviant

  • The lower classes are allowed to be more deviant and decadent in order to keep them content with their state

  • The middle class is held to a higher standard of conduct to ensure their loyalty and submission to the party

  • The flow of information, the accepted knowledge of the world, and the entire history of the state is dictated by the party and accepted by the masses

There are probably more features I could list, but these are the core elements of Big Brother and the society we see in “1984.” Now, some people will attempt to apply these features to whatever state, country, or office environment they’re in at the moment. Some might actually apply, but never to the same degree as Orwell depicted.

The biggest takeaway from these traits, as well as the themes in “1984,” is how a society structures itself in the face of such overwhelming control. At the top, there’s always a ruling class. That class has only one primary purpose, which is to preserve its power. From the Galactic Empire in “Star Wars” to the battle for the iron throne in “Game of Thrones,” preservation is always the top concern of a totalitarian regime.

Part of preserving that power means relying on a professional middle class, of sorts, to deal with the bureaucracy and administration of the state. It’s in this area where totalitarian regimes tend to be most vulnerable. History has shown that authoritarian states like Nazi Germany were anything but efficient, which in turn undermined the ruling party’s primary goal.

It seems like a paradox, but it’s more a matter of pragmatism. A state needs people to run these massive, complex machinations to maintain so much control. To not impose such control would mean granting people freedom and that’s dangerous to any ruling party that wants to preserve control.

This is why those in these middle class professions are subject to such greater scrutiny. A poor, unemployed man taking a piss on a street corner creates no controversy. However, if a highly educated professional did that, it would be a major scandal. We often see this in how major corporate scandals play out.

In a sense, the lower classes have more freedom in this system than the professional middle class. That’s because the ruling party doesn’t really care about them. They don’t have to because they’re not a threat.

Uneducated, lower class people are too stupid and gullible to really pose a threat. So long as they work and breed, the ruling party has no reason to micromanage them. They don’t care if they have orgies in the streets, drink paint thinner for breakfast, or wear horse masks to work. Their only purpose is to work and breed. If they do that, then the ruling party couldn’t care less.

In a sense, the ruling party will always be at odds with a certain segment of the population. In order to exercise control in an authoritarian regime, there needs to be a sizable number of loyal, competent underlings to carry out the functions of the state. Finding people who can act as such underlings with perfect loyalty is difficult, if not impossible.

It’s hard to say whether Orwell knew this on some level. Keep in mind, he was heavily influenced by what he saw around him, a massive world war and the rise of communist states. Perhaps he had studied how powerful, repressive governments had operated in the ancient past and saw parallels in the present. Perhaps he saw that as an inevitable recourse for humanity.

I choose to have a more optimistic, albeit cynical view of human affairs. I don’t believe a system like Big Brother could ever take hold in a world where people can’t even agree on pizza toppings, let alone a singular vision for human civilization. I also don’t believe any government is equipped to exercise the kind of control that Big Brother did in “1984.”

However, that still won’t stop some from trying and the very process of trying can be very dangerous. Seeking order within the chaos is a very human trait, but one that can easily get derailed by pettiness and corruption. That’s why Orwell’s lessons in “1984” are more relevant than ever and may always be relevant to some extent.

3 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

On Fascism (And Why It Fails)

Brace yourself and temper your outrage because I’m about to talk about fascism. No, I’m not talking about the kind of fascism that teenagers whine about whenever they have a strict teacher in high school. I’m not even talking about the kind of fascism that that certain people attribute to college professors, LGBT rights, Hollywood, the NRA, the Catholic Church, and Negan from “The Walking Dead.”

Today, I’m going to talk about actual, real-world fascism and how it functions. I’m also going to talk about why it tends to fail in the long run and why it’s become such an empty term. Now, I know that means putting a big target on my ass and daring the more vocal parts of the internet to take a shot. I like think my ass is harder and more durable than most so I’m prepared to take that chance.

I was going to talk about this a bit sooner, but with the 4th of July holiday and all the freedom-loving festivities that come with it, that just felt out of place. I think that since we’re done celebrating freedom, it’s worth taking a moment to examine the opposite end of the spectrum.

I know people like to throw the word fascism around like middle fingers in mid-day traffic, but it does have a definition. That definition has been twisted and amended many times over the past half-century, so much so that the word evokes so many different connotations.

For the sake of this post, I’ll be using the definition from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. It offers a fairly concise assessment of what it entails.

A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Under this definition, America and most developed countries are not fascist. No matter what some kale-eating hippie or Jerry Falwell wannabe theocrat may claim, the systems and laws in place are antithetical to fascism.

Western countries have codified laws and traditions that value individual rights, protect minorities, and restrain central government power. Now, that’s not to say it’s perfect in practice. There are plenty of examples, historical and contemporary, that of inequality and oppression by the government.

However, those examples are more a product of misguided groups of people and inherent systemic corruption. To call an entire system fascist because of those instances would be like calling an entire swimming pool dirty because a few people spit in it. With fascism, the entire pool is spit so there’s no need for cherry picking.

Thanks to the cruel mistress that is history, we have a few well-known examples of true fascism that even vegan hippies can agree on. By most objective measures, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany are the alpha and omega of all things fascist. If fascism were music, these two would be Elvis and the Beatles.

These governments were repressive, authoritarian, corrupt, and powerful. They could do whatever it wanted to its citizens and act however it wanted on a national stage, not giving a damn about public support of any kind. There was no hesitation to lie, cheat, and mislead the people. In these governments, people are either pawns or cogs in a machine. The very notion of freedom might as well be as fanciful as a unicorn fart.

There’s no question that these fascist governments did a lot of damage and caused a lot of suffering. There’s also no question that their actions scared and traumatized an entire world. They revealed to a modern world that wars between despots and industrial powers was truly horrific. Most human beings tend to avoid such horrors. A massive world war was enough to make everyone hyper-vigilant of all things fascist.

It’s in this heightened mentality where I think it’s worth having some perspective about fascism. We hear pundits, politicians, and protesters throw that word around, as though it’s the rhetorical equivalent of an “avoid critical thinking” card. It’s an easy label to throw around, but it rarely sticks because actual fascism is actually pretty frail.

In a modern context, fascism is different from the kings and despots of the ancient world. In those times, corrupt and blood-thirsty kings could only get away with so much. A kingdom and a nation state, complete with modern infrastructure, are two very different things.

A king needs to only hold a kingdom together and fight off the occasional invader. A nation state has to deal with bureaucracy, social welfare, and legal issues. No matter how big a king’s castle is, there’s just no way to manage all that in a modern context. There needs to be some sort of system in place.

A fascist government tries to centralize that system and organize it in a simple, stable way that definitively benefits certain persons or groups. Nazis sought to benefit a favored race. Italian Fascist sought to benefit a favored class. The argument could be made that Stalinist Russia and the current regime in North Korea are fascist in nature. I would tend to agree with those claims.

The goal is almost always the same. A fascist government directly and overtly attempts to control and centralize power for a select group of elites. It’s for this very reason that fascism tends to fail in the long run or never succeed in the first place.

Now, don’t go cheering and waving American flags just yet. That’s not to say that fascism inevitably falls under the glowing light of freedom, democracy, and bald eagles. That’s a romantic idea that makes for great war movies and comic book characters. It’s not necessarily reflective of real-world machinations.

The biggest flaw in fascism is its attempt to control and manage an entire state. That’s not just difficult. It’s impossible for any ordinary human or groups of humans. Our caveman brains can barely control when we get horny. How can we expect to control an entire government, let alone one meant to benefit a specific group of people?

The short answer is we can’t. The long answer is that such centralization and power requires a lot of bullying, corruption, subversion, and back-stabbing. That’s why you have Nazi Storm Troopers and Stalinist purges. It isn’t just because powerful people get a thrill out of ordering rampant death. They need to scare, bully, and intimidate everybody into going along with their agenda and being completely loyal.

That’s a huge problem though because, as I’ve pointed out before, it’s impossible to know how truthful someone is. You can never know who is truly loyal and who is plotting against you. That’s why men like Joseph Stalin were obscenely paranoid, which guaranteed that allies and enemies alike would die by his hand. Without those allies, any system is inherently weaker.

On top of that problem, there’s also the issue of the terrified masses who live under a fascist thumb. Say what you will about whiny protesters complaining about weed, but at least they’re willing to tell the government what they don’t want to hear. In a fascist system, the impoverished masses will likely keep their mouth shut and only tell the government what it wants to hear.

That may help a paranoid fascist get through the day, but it limits their ability to make it through the year. That’s because in a complex world, having incomplete facts tends to be a huge detriment. If nobody is willing to tell a fascist ruler that their rusty old trucks with canons are no match for drone strikes, then that’s going to be a problem.

That’s why, contrary to what the History Channel and video games may claim, fascist regimes like Nazi Germany were never close to winning the war. Between major blunders and micromanaging, there was never a scenario that didn’t involve time travel or aliens that would’ve allowed them to win.

That’s because a fascist regime can’t trust anyone, be it military generals or the public. At some point, the ties break down and the system just can’t handle it. They can delay the collapse, but they usually can’t stop it. It’s remarkable that Nazi Germany lasted as long as it did, given all the assassination attempts.

It’s the dirty, but unavoidable secret of almost every fascist governments. They function only to live another day, rather than build a future. Some are better at it than others. Castro’s Cuba has managed to survive for over a half-century, albeit with significant support from other neighboring countries.

The same goes for North Korea. The only reason that country still exists is because China doesn’t want a failed state on its border. At this point, North Korea can only endure, but not build. As the old dynastic cycle in China often proved, a system concerned only with survival tends to collapse in the long run.

I say this not as a way to undermine the horrors that fascism has and could potentially unleash on this world. It is a real danger in a world that’s full of crazy dictators and obscene corruption. However, it’s a danger with an inherent weakness and an expiration date. It’s one instance where you can depend on caveman logic to win out in the end.

It may not inspire the kind of ravenous patriotism that Americans tend to enjoy. However, it does show that, despite protests the contrary, there’s a lot to appreciate about our current system. It’s not perfect, but it’s building towards a better, sexier future more so than any fascist government ever will.

2 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Why You Should NOT Take Documentaries Too Seriously

Throughout my life, I’ve gone through various phases where I become immersed in certain genres of movies. For a time, I was really into slasher movies. Then, I picked up on the distinct sex-negative themes of those movies and lost interest.

At another time, I became immersed in documentaries. Not surprisingly, that interest also coincided with me getting a subscription for Netflix, a service that puts you in immediate contact with documentaries of all kinds. From government conspiracies involving aliens to stories about porn stars after their career in porn ends. There’s something for everyone is what I’m saying.

On top of that, I also went through a phase where I was pretty big into government conspiracies. It wasn’t just that I believed them to some extent. It was the story around them that fascinated me. Given my love of telling stories, which has since manifested in some sexy novels, it checked all the right boxes for me.

It’s true. There was a time when I actually believed that the government was covering up evidence of an alien presence on this planet. There was also a time when I genuinely believed that the government colluded to manufacture wars from Vietnam to Iraq. I actually believed the government, and people in general, were capable of such confidence. I’ve since learned to temper my expectations.

While I’m no longer a fan of documentaries, I do watch them from time to time. However, I watch them with an overly critical eye. With every documentary I see, even if it has a message I agree with, I still assume that it only offers a tiny part of the story. Chances are a good chunk of this message is a result of cherry picking, clever cinematic, and outright lies.

Now, that’s not to say that the people making these documentaries are total frauds. I don’t doubt for a second that Michael Moore and Morgan Sporlock genuinely believe in the work they’re doing. They wouldn’t sink so much time and money into it if they didn’t. However, these men have agendas. That’s the flaw in every documentary.

This leads me to what specifically inspired this post. Last week, I couldn’t sleep so I decided to fire up Netflix and find some random show. Usually, certain documentaries help make me sleepy, usually the ones that narrated by soft British voices from the BBC. For some reason, I ended up watching a new documentary that came recommended on my list. It was called “What The Health.”

The premise of the documentary was simple. Pretty much all the food you enjoy eating, from fast food to candy to beef jerky to fried eggs, is terrible for you. It’s not just bad for you health-wise. It will give you cancer. I swear on Pamela Anderson’s tits that’s the actual message.

Kip Andersen, the director of this documentary, has a simple message. If your food has any animal products, then you might as well be sprinkling plutonium on your food. It’s also worth mentioning that Kip Andersen is an ardent vegan with a very pro-vegan agenda. He is to health conspiracy theories what Alex Jones is to government conspiracy theories.

That’s not to say that “What The Health” is completely devoid of facts, but it is very much an extended slate of pro-vegan, anti-meat, anti-corporate, pro-hippie propaganda. Even by liberal standards, this documentary is pretty slanted. It would be like a anti-gun control documentary that claims not having a gun makes your penis small, your tits shrink, and your asshole itch. It’s that bias.

Again, I don’t doubt for a second that Kip Andersen believes in what he’s saying. He comes off as the kind of guy who just obsesses so much over his health. That’s what gets him up in the morning. That’s what makes his dick hard at night. What sexy novels are to me, health is to Kip Andersen.

The problem with that, which also happens to be the problem with every documentary, is that it’s produced with an agenda in mind. The size and scope of that agenda varies. There are some documentaries that try to be objective. Most of those produced by PBS tend to be fairly balanced, but even they can fall into the same Alex Jones trap every now and then.

What bothers me about documentaries like “What The Health” is that it’s produced in a way that really preys on our caveman brain’s biggest flaws. There’s just no way to shrug off something like cancer. Pretty much everyone, myself included, knows someone who has suffered from cancer. According to the CDC, cancer killed nearly 600,000 people in 2014 alone. The suffering these people endured cannot be understated.

The problem is that cancer is such a complex disease. There are all sorts of genetic, environmental, lifestyle, disease, and chemical factors that go into it. There’s no one single virus, one single gene, or one single food group that causes it. The human body is too complex, as anyone who has ever studied the female orgasm can attest.

The message “What The Health” sends is not only horribly skewed to the hippie end of the political spectrum, but it’s downright misleading. It gives the impression that cancer and disease have a singular cause. All anyone needs to do to avoid is to just shun animal products, become a vegan, and eat cardboard for the rest of their lives. The fact that this is the same lifestyle as the director is just a hell of a coincidence.

I won’t deny it. “What The Health” does a damn good job of painting itself as credible. However, every documentary does that to some extent. They parade out all these doctors and experts in the field, making bold claims that they can legitimize with their PhDs and titles. However, it’s worth remembering that, as smart as these people are, they’re still human.

It’s also worth remembering that doctors do get things wrong more than we care to admit. There’s also a distressingly large amount of medical research that turns out to be wrong. Like I said, the human body is extremely complex and our caveman brains aren’t wired for that kind of complexity.

On some levels, Kip Andersen and Michael Moore exploit those flaws in our brains. They know how to craft a message that seems credible. They craft a slick, polished narrative that appeals to certain fears and misgivings that everybody has to some degree. They create a false or half-true narrative that preys on our desire to understand the world.

What often happens is that they’re very selective about the information they present. In a sense, they’re taking advantage of the same paradox I pointed out with health care. It’s not just very difficult to offer all the facts in a simple, two-hour documentary. It’s physically impossible. There isn’t enough film on a reel or enough seconds in two hours to convey all that information.

As a result, the message in every documentary is incomplete. In some cases, they’re so incomplete that someone else will try to verify those messages, only to find out how wrong they were.

This actually happened with Morgan Sporlock after his hit film, “Super Size Me.” That movie, much like Kip Andersen, had a very clear agenda. It was anti-corporate, anti-fast food, pro-nutrition. Sporlock even put himself in the line of fire, eating nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days. The proof seemed so clear and apparent.

Then, another documentary called “Fat Head” by Tom Naughton tried to replicate Sporlock’s experiment. There was just one glaring problem, though. The math didn’t add up. He literally could not eat as many calories as Sporlock claimed in “Super Size Me.” You can push an agenda all you want, but if the math doesn’t add up, you’ve got a problem.

On top of that, other people have done similar experiments and come up with different results. A science teacher armed with none of Sporlock’s movie-making resources was able to eat nothing but McDonald’s and actually lost weight. When there’s this kind of inconsistency on all sides, chances are there’s something missing from the story.

Again, I don’t believe that these people do what they do entirely out of malice and greed. Some might, but I choose to have a higher opinion of people in that respect. I think Andersen and Moore sincerely believe the messages in their documentaries, just as creationists ardently believe in their message, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Now, you can choose to side with men like Moore, Sporlock, and Andersen on various issues. That doesn’t make you a bad or foolish person. However, it’s important to understand that documentaries are not the same as verified, scientific research. They are movies, made for the purpose of telling a story and gaining an audience. They may contain some elements of truth, but they will never tell the whole story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Politics, Safety, And The Impossible Paradox

political_debates_in_the_usa_by_brokenteapot

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights