Tag Archives: ABC-tv

How can you not like what I like?

At an intellectual level I’ve always known that being an individual entails being different to others, at least in some respects. And yet…despite age, and enough life experience to sink a ship, I keep expecting others to like what I like. In other words, I keep expecting them to be like me.

Every time I write about a book I’ve loved, or a glorious vista, or a piece of music that moved my soul, I expect that you will feel the same way. And I’m rarely wrong. The individuals who gravitate to this blog and become friends are, by and large, like me. Thanks to the power of social media, you are my kindred spirits. 🙂

By definition, a kindred spirit is someone like oneself, and on social media it happens when people are drawn to each other via shared interests. Think iron filings to a magnet. The degree to which we ‘stick’ depends upon the number of interests we share.

This filtering process happens in the real world too, but at a much slower rate because we can only physically interact with a small number of people at a time – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues at work etc. Plus there is no guarantee that the people we do meet will be sympatico.

And right there is one of the most wonderful and dangerous aspects of social media – the ability to consistently give us what we want.

Why? Because most of us want to belong. We want to be with people who make us feel warm and fuzzy and good about ourselves.

This is how social media bubbles form. But feeling good about ourselves involves a value judgement about what ‘good’ actually means. Even if you never consciously question your own likes and dislikes, you recognize them in others and automatically judge them to be ‘good’.

And I’m no different. I believe I’m a good person, so I can’t help believing that people who share my values are good people too.

But if we are the good people, what of the others? What of those who don’t share our values? Are they the bad people?

My head says “Of course not!” My heart says “Maybe”.

Every time I log in to Twitter and read a comment distorting some fact or praising something I consider to be ‘evil’, the anger says “Bad person, bad, bad!”

And then the shame sets in because I know that person isn’t bad. I know that if I got to know them through some other area of life, I’d probably think they were okay.

How do I know that? Because I’ve lived it. Many years ago when I lived in a shared student house, there was a girl there with a very abrasive personality. I didn’t like her one little bit. Then one day, to my shame, I discovered that the abrasiveness was just a facade to protect the sad person underneath.

More recently, I’ve discovered that many of the right wing panelists on The Drum [see footnote 1 at the end of this article] aren’t right wing about all topics. In fact, I’ve often caught myself marvelling that someone with those political affiliations could be so open to, for example, action on climate change, or same sex marriage or some other supposedly left wing issue.

I’m a left wing progressive, but I don’t intend to turn this post into some kind of pseudo political rant. Instead, I want to hammer home the fact that expectations based on social media bubbles are dangerous.

We humans are hardwired to generalise. It’s a powerful mental shortcut that allows us to make snap decisions based on just a few facts. This ability would have been a real survival mechanism back in the days of the woolly mammoth. These days? Not so much because thinking in generalities often substitutes for thinking, period.

Sadly, social media bubbles reinforce those generalities just when we should be questioning everything, starting with our own assumptions. We need facts, and we need to call out untruths, but we need to do so with courtesy because that ‘other’ person is more like us than not.

In years to come, people will look back on this era of social media and shake their heads at how bad the ‘wild wild west’ really was before it was tamed. In that yet-to-be-realised future, individual privacy will be protected by law, anonymity will not be allowed, and social media companies will face the full force of the law if they’re found to have manipulated their users.

But we’re not there yet.

cheers

Meeks

Footnote 1 : The Drum is a current affairs show on Australian TV. It’s part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC] and funded by taxpayers. As such, its charter requires that it be unbiased. That’s why the panelists on The Drum are chosen to be inclusive, and represent as many interest groups as possible, including people of both the left and right political persuasion.


Katy Faust in Australia, 2015

Firstly a very quick bio:

Katy Faust is the daughter of a lesbian couple and the owner of a website called ‘askthebigot.com’. When asked, she says she is against gay marriage because of the effect it would have on the children of such marriages. She is currently in Australia thanks to the ABC.

If you saw the Tony Jones’ interview with Katy Faust recently, you might remember the bit where he asks her why she ‘came out’ [originally, ‘askthebigot.com’ was anonymous]. Apparently the reason was because a gay blogger had discovered her identity and ‘outed’ her.

I have reblogged the post from that gay blogger in its entirety:

My Sincere Apologies to the People of Australia for Inflicting Katy Faust Upon You

 

tellthem

It’s not every day that one gets blamed on national television for subjecting an entire country to veiled bigotry. Apparently the reason Mrs. Faust got on an aeroplane and flew to the other end of the world to continue promoting bigotry was that I outed her identity (not that she makes money off of it.) Otherwise, of course, she’d only be promoting bigotry from the privacy of her Seattle home, her husband’s church or the nearest Starbucks.

There are a few things the people of Australia should be asking themselves about her, the first of which is who paid her airfare? Despite Katy’s softly-softly approach where she pretends to be a sweet and slightly naive housewife, her business project has always been to use homophobia for profit. You have to keep in mind that people don’t buy a domain name called Askthebigot.com, engage an editor and write clickbait articles because they’ve got a bit of free time between dropping the children off at school and marinating chicken for lunch.

Faust is actually an astute businesswoman. According to the bio she gave epicquestmedia she studied Asian Studies and Political Science at St. Olaf College and received a Fulbright to study in Taiwan. That belies the notion that she would be capable of making such simplistic and illogical statements unless there’s something more to the story.

The fraud Mrs. Faust is promoting in Australia today is one where she conflates the issues of gay marriage and gay parenting in a rather absurd manner. Mrs. Faust herself was born to a lesbian mother long before the lgbt community considered marriage would ever become a legal possibility.

The vast majority of gay parents are in fact unmarried lesbians with children from previous heterosexual relationships, children just like Katy Faust herself . The link is to a Spanish study, but the figures seem to reflect those in other countries as well. Same-sex marriage legislation has been approved in various countries including Spain, Holland and Belgium, and there has been no significant rise in the number of lgbt families with children.

That means the existence of these families is entirely independent to their legal status as families. So Faust’s argument is dead in the water.

Where gay marriage is relevant to the children of members of the LGBT community is simply that they would afford those pre-existing families a number of rights and protections, including financial/legal protections in the case of separation and divorce. Access to the children, visitation, child-support and so forth.

hatepieSo if her propositions don’t actually protect children, the inexistence of gay marriage certainly didn’t affect her own childhood story– then we’re back to the money angle. Homophobia is big business in America.  In 2010 NOM raised US$9,197,742. In the first year of its creation NOM paid its leaders, Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher, 14% of its budget. Now NOM pays Brown a salary of over $150,000 per year, and all he has to do is hate gay people and promote anti-gay propaganda. Fabulous job! Faust and her cohorts, Rivka Edelman, Robert Oscar Lopez, Janna Anderson and others want a piece of that ugly-hate-pie.

Little by little they’ve been raising their public profiles. Faust with her website, Lopez with amateur videos, Darnelle-Anderson with articles– and all of them together with a number of amicus briefs. They’ve realized filing briefs with various courts creates the false impression of legitimacy and seriousness. In fact the ink was still wet on Mrs. Faust’s brief and her pastor husband was already calling her an expert on the issue:

“My wife is an expert on this. I know what the Bible says, but from a logic / experience standpoint she is the expert. She has written an “amicus brief” for the upcoming Supreme Court Case on gay marriage next week.”

Let me just clarify that “An amicus curiae (literally, friend of the court; plural, amici curiae) is someone who is not a party to a case and offers information that bears on the case, but who has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court.”

If you dislike the colour purple you can submit an amicus brief in any case where the colour purple is the subject of the suit. Maybe purple stole your candy, maybe purple dumped you. You could even be colour-blind, it doesn’t matter. Your argument doesn’t have to have any merit whatsoever, you just need to have an opinion/experience related to the suit. If Faust is an expert on something, it’s in promoting and endorsing vile stereotypes that have long been dismissed by mainstream science and civilized society at large.

Hopefully Australia and its people will see through the scam. Hopefully you will join Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay in saying no to bigotry and saying no to Faust and the anti-gay-for-pay crowd.

And just in case it was not blindingly obvious, I agree with every word. I can only hope that the ABC embraced Ms Faust in the hope of stirring up a nice little controversy, not in ignorance.

cheers

Meeks


Catalyst: Avatars – ABC TV Science

Don’t be put off by the title! This is something all science fiction fans will love because this is about science fiction becoming science reality.

I’ve mentioned the books of Otherland [by Tad Williams] a number of times now so many of you will know that the basic premise of these books is that in the near future we will be able to engage with the virtual world as if we were really there. James Cameron’s blockbuster movie ‘Avatar’ is based on the same premise, as is my much less famous short story, 2080. Last night however, I discovered that this particular bit of science fiction is now a fact. It is still in its infancy, but avatars are coming!

And now for a bit of tech! This first video shows the hardware and software behind the capture of facial expressions.

This next video shows a split screen with the avatar on the left and the human model on the right. The face of the human model is covered with a 3D mesh which tracks basic facial expressions and movements.

In looking for videos to show you, I discovered that this technology is already being used in various applications but the cheapest, and most accessible seems to be the Microsoft Kinect system. I’m not a big fan of Microsoft but their Kinect system looks set to revolutionize how we all interact online. It will also revolutionize the way we play games and use social media.

Quite simply, avatars [and all the tech behind them] will be the next major leap forwards.

Whether this new technology ends up being a good thing or a mixed bag containing some scary possibilities, only time will tell. The link below takes you to a video clip put together by the Australian ABC tv show Catalyst. It looks at the technology and asks some very interesting questions about how this emerging technology will change not only our virtual worlds, but also how we behave in the real world.

As a science fiction writer I’m excited by the possibilities but I can already imagine some of the dangers. Please watch this last video clip and tell me what you think.

Catalyst: Avatars – ABC TV Science.

cheers

Meeks


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