Why we can’t say “pipeline” any longer

July 9, 2023 • 1:15 pm

Here’s a short piece from the Journal of the American Medical Association Open that explains why we can no longer use the word “pipeline” when referring to the progress of human beings from birth until adulthood. The word is often used when discussing ethnic diversity, referring to a pipeline from birth to adulthood and its concomitants: college, jobs, and so on. If the pipeline is meant to include college and one’s achievements there, as well as jobs based on those achievements, the people who leave that career path are said to instantiate a “leaky pipeline.”

Now we are told that we can no longer use the “pipeline” simile, because it’s not inclusive. But on the other hand “American Indian” is a term that’s okay again!

Click to read:

I’m just going to quote from the short piece and make one or two brief remarks.

For many years, the term pipeline has been used metaphorically by researchers and policy makers to refer to the progression of students advancing toward a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree or a career in medicine. Past criticisms of the term pipeline highlight how students, especially those from historically excluded backgrounds, such as American Indian, Black, and Latino/a individuals, “leak” out of the “pipeline” for a variety of personal, social, financial (economic), or cultural reasons. For American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, the term pipeline is especially offensive. More specifically, this term is pejorative for communities where pipeline projects in the US threaten sacred homelands and water supplies. Many people will recall the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, a new pipeline project impacting racially marginalized residents, including Black and low-income residents, living in the Southwest Crossings neighborhood of Houston, Texas, highlighted the continuing practice of divestment and displacement faced by these communities.

. . . .In place of pipeline, the term pathways has come into favor by many, including the AMA and the Association of American Medical Colleges. Pipeline implies that there is only 1 entry point and 1 exit, and frames career development as a passive process in which individuals are commodified as a resource to be delivered as a final result. Pipeline leaves out the contexts, complexities, and variations of the myriad pathways students may take in education from elementary and secondary school, through higher education, and on to a STEM or health professions field. Pipeline connotes extraction, transport, and removal from community, rather than investment in and nurturing of people and resources in place. Since many historically marginalized or minoritized racial and ethnic groups of students may take nontraditional or divergent career pathways, it remains critically important to use the more inclusive, accurate term of pathways. Use of pathways for this purpose communicates respect for students’ choices, agency, and career exploration.

Note first that the term “American Indian” is used. More on that in a second. What I am wondering here are two things. First, has anybody besides these three privileged authors ever objected to the use of the term “pipeline”—which is reserved for intellectual discussion of academic and social achievement—as insulting to their community? If so—and I do follow these things—I’ve never heard it.  Second, do the authors seriously believe that replacing “pipeline” with “pathway” is going to improve society? How, exactly, will that happen?  Are some “American Indian” and “Alaska Native” individuals who previously refused to discuss career achievement because the discussion involved the p-word, now going to participate eagerly with the new, improved word “pathway.”

I don’t believe it. what we have here is exactly what the authors decry in the next paragraph: “performative allyship”!

Equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts have been challenged by performative allyship and the persistent lack of commitment to equitable access from institutional leadership. Proclaiming representative diversity as the end goal establishes dominant cultural norms of tokenism, deficit framing, and devaluation of historically excluded students and their communities. The messaging must evolve to value diversity as a shared value that benefits individuals, communities, institutions, and ultimately, patients. Using pathways terminology can help move beyond representation to inclusive excellence. Medicine as a profession must decommodify the language around workforce development challenges and focus on the power of diversity and inclusion to enhance and improve medicine, primary health care and health equity.

But the authors’ entire article is an example of useless language policing—”performative allyship” from three privileged academics and physicians.  As for the rest of the paragraph above, it is so badly written that I am not sure what they are trying to say except that they are in favor of more diversity and less oppression.  Oh, and that medicine will improve when we substitute “pathways” for “pipeline”.  If you believe that, well, all I can say is, “Show me the data.”

One more point. For years now, the term “Indian” or “American Indian” has been considered pejorative itself, like saying “Negro” instead of “African American” or “black”.  Now it’s apparently back again:

Allies who do not identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, including influential medical educators, researchers, clinicians, authors, and journal editors in the US, should update their language with preference for the terms American Indian or Alaska Native.

The updating by the Language Police happens so fast that I can’t keep up with it.

Everything must now produce social progress: Jennifer Lopez demonized by strippers for her Superbowl halftime poledance

February 6, 2020 • 11:00 am

I haven’t seen the new movie Hustler, but have read that it’s about a group of strippers who get empowered and bilk rich guys; and it’s supposed to be pretty good. Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez have been singled out for their performances, and Lopez reprised her Hustler performance in the Superbowl halftime show, in which she did a bit of pole dancing. I’ve put it below. I think it’s pretty good, and the contentious pole dance, see below, begins at 8:25.


JLo isn’t the only star who’s done pole-dancing in movies. I found a list of actresses who played strippers here; they include Marisa Tomei, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Natalie Portman, Demi Moore, Mena Suvari, and Constance Wu. Sandra Oh also played one, and did pole-dancing, along with about half of the stars I’ve just listed.

I have no issue with strippers, pole dancers, or prostitutes, though I don’t patronize them or their clubs; and I do think that sex work should be legalized for the safety of everyone. Nor do I recall anybody—save, perhaps, right wingers—raising the alarum when these well-known actors played strippers or did salacious dances in movies.

No, the objections now come from the Offense Brigade, in this case, from strippers themselves, who object to the “vocational appropriation” of people like Lopez and Wu portraying them in movies and the Superbowl performance—and without helping strippers! The temerity of it!

You can read this Pecksniffery in (of course) HuffPo, in an article written by a stripper, sex worker, and pornographic actress (click on the screenshot)

Here’s a scene from Hustlers in which Lopez shows the neophyte Constance Wu how to use the pole:

Stanger and some of her fellow strippers, who apparently didn’t object to the movie “Hustlers”, did object to Lopez’s performance in the video I linked to above. Why? Because they expropriated pole-dancing for their own selfish purposes, without ever thinking about the pole-dancers who labor in clubs. (Yes, these women often have a hard life, as the environment is seedy and can be dangerous.) Here’s Elle Stanger’s beef:

The halftime pole performance referenced the 2019 movie ”Hustlers,” in which Lopez played a fictionalized character loosely based on a former stripper. JLo’s brief pole performance came just days after Dua Lipa was criticized as “exploitative” and “unfeminist” for tipping real working strippers at a Grammys afterparty, although I’ll argue that tipping a highly stigmatized working woman is the most feminist thing you can do.

But folks rarely inquire how actual strippers feel.

When I saw JLo slowly climb a stripper pole, I felt annoyed, frustrated and angry. Here we go again, I thought, another celebrity using the “shock value” of sex work to boost her career and the media once again using stripper imagery for ad revenue. I got texts from a few stripper friends who felt similarly.

. . .It is not progress to see a celebrity briefly doing a pole dance on television when real middle-aged strippers struggling to make ends meet in the post-FOSTA-SESTA era is a much more common reality. (Yes, there are women hustling at that age, and some with better pole work.)

“She took stripper culture for her personal gain, to look cool by doing one pole trick, and she has not contributed to strippers in any way,” said stripper and social media creator @womenswhork on Instagram.

. . . I appreciate what being a stripping has done for me and I believe in the value of safer adult entertainment and consensual contact work. With education and destigmatization, I believe we will someday value our sacred whore entertainers. In the meantime, I disagree that a celebrity actor using a pole as a prop is paving the way for any of us.

First, remember that neither Shakira nor Lopez were paid above union scale for their performances, as Superbowl halftime acts are always paid virtually nothing (except for expenses). (The performances do, of course, boost their careers.)

But . . the movie “Hustlers” (which of course was supposed to enhance every participating actors’ career), is said to have been empowering, as a bunch of savvy strippers take control of their lives and use their positions to bilk a bunch of gullible men. Lopez’s performance at the Superbowl was simply meant to refer back to that movie. Why on earth should she be remiss in not asking how “actual strippers feel”, or feel obligated to to “contribute to strippers”? There are any number of comparable beefs that could be made; readers can think of many. The idea is that if you play a character in a movie it then becomes your obligation of the actor to help some of the real-life people you’re portraying. But that’s ridiculous. You can help if you wish, of course, and that would be a nice gesture, but you’re under no obligation, nor should you be called out if you just move on. But it’s still unclear to me what Jennifer Lopez is not supposed to do for strippers.

But Lopez was not exploiting strippers, nor was she really engaged in “occupational appropriation,” for her movie actions hurt nobody. In fact, if they did anything, they helped strippers. Elle Stanger is just using the Superbowl performance to get her membership card in the Outrage Brigade. For the life of me, I can’t see any merit in her complaint.

But it gets worse, and I’ll let you read the article below for yourself, which actually comes from NBC News (click on screenshot). Constance Wu, bless her, is now doubly damned: she was not only appropriating stripper culture, but is acting out a “model minority” (Asian) redemption narrative. That is, all ends well for Constance Wu’s character. And that’s “problematic.” If you want to read how the Woke can torture a movie into submission because it doesn’t conform perfectly to their ideology, this is the article for you:

Evergreen State flaunts its virtue once again by policing language

December 7, 2018 • 9:15 am

UPDATE: According to reader Benjamin (see comments below), the motion didn’t come up for a vote, contrary to what some websites say. This may have been due to public pressure/embarrassment.


This time it’s the word “covenant”, which apparently conjures up—for some of the Outrage Brigade—images of “cultural genocide”, the European-settler elimination, oppression, and ill treatment of Native Americans, a wrong that’s not in question. The connection is a bit oblique: settlers made “covenants” with Native Americans; I can’t speak about the history of that of what it led to, nor did the College in its resolution below. But you can’t rewrite any wrongs of this sort by redacting a single word,  especially a word that almost never has anything to do with Native Americans. One university, however, disagrees.

Two days ago, the The faculty of The Evergreen State College (TESC, also known as the University of Antifa) voted on a motion to replace the word “covenant” in all College documents. Apparently, as some websites suggest, the motion passed, and so “covenant” is gone, expired, singing with the choir invisible. Here’s the motion and a snarky response:

The word “covenant” was used in the faculty handbook in numerous senses, most of them agreeing with the first definition given in the Oxford English Dictionary (below)—simply a solemn agreement:

This is a new level of language policing, as the “covenant” that’s the subject of the resolution is only one of many uses—and not the most frequent use—of the word. But TESC says it has has a “nation-to-nation agreement” with the Tribes of Washington, and perhaps someone on one end got offended.

But if you try to find that agreement, you won’t (or at least I couldn’t). What you’ll find is a list of TESC covenants (click on screenshot) that have nothing to do with “cultural genocide”:

What’s next: should they ban the word “solution” because it was used by the Nazis as the “Final Solution”, a reference to the extermination of European Jews?

I can’t add much to the video on the kerfuffle made by TESC graduate Benjamin Boyce. Be sure to watch till the end, because there’s something awesome at 7:36.

TESC is slowly circling the drain, and will go down even faster if nonsense like this gets publicized. Yet they don’t even try to remedy the kind of oppressive and authoritarian ideology that is responsible for the College’s declining enrollment.

Annual Christmas Grinch-ery: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” once again gets the thumbs down from the Outrage Brigade

December 3, 2018 • 10:30 am

Yes, it’s that time of year: holly, mistletoe, fruitcakes, eggnog, premature Christmas music—and the carping of Authoritarian Leftists who want to ban the song “Baby it’s cold outside” for its supposed lack of affirmative sexual consent.

Here are two older articles from the Washington Post and Vox explaining why the outrage brigade demonizes the song. In short, “Baby it’s cold outside” is rape-y and sexually malevolent, and even implies that a woman’s drink was spiked (it wasn’t). Click on the screenshot to read more—if you don’t already know the story.

From that Post report:

The piano notes, the crooning voice — it’s unmistakably “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” And how does that make you feel?

Icky, we’re guessing. The Christmas song that has been a romantic classic for decades is becoming notorious for being creepy at best, encouraging of date rape at worst. The lyrics haven’t changed; the female role in the duet has always been singing “the answer is no” as the man pressures her to stay. But society’s evolving views on the prevalence of rape, especially between non-strangers, has pushed criticism of a Christmas classic into the mainstream.

Vox, surprisingly, gives a more balanced take, giving the pro and con arguments for considering the song misogynistic and even dangerous:

But this controversy continues yearly, for social-justice outrage is ever busy and needs feeding, and won’t rest until everything considered ideologically impure is banned.

Below is a piece from Entertainment Weekly reporting that station WDOK in Cleveland, Ohio just banned the song from its week-long 24-7 Christmas rotation (who can stand incessant Christmas music?) because, as radio host Desiray emphasized, “People might say, ‘oh, enough with that #MeToo,’ but if you really put that aside and listen to the lyrics, it’s not something I would want my daughter to be in that kind of a situation. The tune might be catchy, but let’s maybe not promote that sort of an idea.” (Another announcer echoes those sentiments in the station’s blog post.)

Eleven months ago, I examined the controversy brewing at that time, and posted the entire song. You should listen to the whole thing (the roles get reversed) and read the Persephone Magazine piece below before you pass judgment. As I said before posting the original movie version and the new sanitized version:

Here’s the original version of the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. The first half shows Betty Grable and Ricardo “Corinthian Leather” Montalban; the second Red Skelton and Red Skelton and Betty Garrett. The song was written by Frank Loesser in 1944, was sung by him and his wife at parties, and first appeared in this movie: “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949):

As you probably know, this song has been strongly criticized for showing sexual malfeasance, though people apparently haven’t seen the role reversal that starts at 2:27. Well, women can be domineering too, but I can see why this song would raise a lot of hackles were it recorded today. (Lady Gaga is apparently complicit.) Given the symmetry of roles, and the fact that it’s older than I am, I can’t get very worked up about it, though.

Why doesn’t the second part, showing sexual symmetry, ever get mentioned in the ubiquitous calls for banning? I don’t think it’s because women are seen as rape-y. But read on about the mores of the time.

The humorless earnestness and heavy-handedness of the Control-Left is absolutely evident from the revised and bowdlerized version published by The Current. As I wrote:

The consent-friendly version below, however, is the response of 2018. Rather than just pointing out the difficulty of negotiating an acceptable sexual relationship in these fraught times, people go back and rewrite the past.  This rewrite makes me absolutely cringe, not because of the need for “affirmative consent”, with which I agree, but because it’s so heavy-handed with the virtue—and not humorous to boot. Yes, we get it! We don’t need to be beat over the head with a ball peen Virtue Hammer. (Note: the site says a portion of the proceeds will be donated to good causes; I think they should donate all the proceeds.)

“How about The Cheesecake Factory?” Really?

But if you want the definitive refutation of this song as rape-y, read the piece below, written by Slay Belle (click on screenshot) and published at Persephone Magazine.  Read it for yourself; it’s summarized below in a series of tweets by comedian and writer Jen Kirkman. 

A short excerpt:

If we look at the text of the song, the woman gives plenty of indication that she wants to stay the night. At the time period the song was written (1936), “good girls,” especially young, unmarried girls, did not spend the night at a man’s house unsupervised. The tension in the song comes from her own desire to stay and society’s expectations that she’ll go. We see this in the organization of the song — from stopping by for a visit, to deciding to push the line by staying longer, to wanting to spend the entire night, which is really pushing the bounds of acceptability.   Her beau in his repeated refrain “Baby, it’s cold outside” is offering her the excuses she needs to stay without guilt.

Let’s look at the lines. As she’s talking about leaving, she never says she doesn’t want to stay. Her words are all based around other people’s expectations of her — her mother will worry, her father will be pacing the floor, the neighbors will talk, her sister will be suspicious of her excuses and her brother will be furious, and my favorite line that I think is incredibly revealing, — “My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious.” Vicious about what? Sex. Unmarried, non-good girl having, sex.

Later in the song, she asks him for a comb (to fix her hair) and mentions that there’s going to be talk tomorrow – this is a song about sex, wanting it, having it, maybe having a long night of it by the fire, but it’s not a song about rape. It’s a song about the desires even good girls have.

. . . The song, which is a back and forth, closes with the two voices in harmony. This is important — they’ve come together. They’re happy. They’re in agreement. The music has a wonderfully dramatic upswell and ends on a high note both literally and figuratively. The song ends with the woman doing what she wants to do, not what she’s expected to do, and there’s something very encouraging about that message.

A precis in tweets:



Pecksniffery #2: “Long time no see” considered by Colorado university as racist toward Asians

November 14, 2018 • 1:45 pm

From Melissa Chen, who wrote about this issue on her Facebook page, we learn that Colorado State University has put the familiar phrase “Long time, no see” (meaning, “I haven’t seen you for a while”) onto a list of offensive “non inclusive” phrases (click on screenshot to go to the article). But below that you can read the original piece, by CSU student Katrina Leibee, who writes at the CSU student newspaper The Rocky Mountain Collegian (the piece has a disclaimer by the paper that it doesn’t represent the stand of the editorial board).

The original report:

Leibee reports that words like “freshman” is sexist and should be replaced by “first-years”. I have no problem with that, because I can see how women would take offense at the repeated use of “man” to imply “people,” as with “mankind.” Likewise, the phrase “you guys” seems a bit sexist; would anybody not see this if it were replaced with the phrase, “you girls” directed at everyone?

I try not to use such phrases myself.  But Leibee also reports more innocuous phrases that have been swept up in the Pecksniff Net:

After getting involved in residential leadership, I was told not to use the word “dorms,” and replace it with “residence halls.” Apparently, dorm refers to only a place where one sleeps, and residence hall refers to a place where we sleep, eat, study and participate in social activities.

A countless amount of words and phrases have been marked with a big, red X and defined as non-inclusive. It has gotten to the point where students should carry around a dictionary of words they cannot say.

In a meeting with Zahra Al-Saloom, the director of Diversity and Inclusion at Associated Students of Colorado State University, she showed me an entire packet of words and phrases that were deemed non-inclusive. One of these phrases was “long time, no see,” which is viewed as derogatory towards those of Asian descent.

Al-Saloom believes inclusive language is important at CSU.

Melissa, a Singaporean who speaks Mandarin, informed her Facebook friends that the “long time no see” phrase is not (as Wikipedia implies) derived from mocking Chinese or Pidgin speakers using broken English. The phrase is a literal translation of the Mandarin. It’s not like the phrase often used to mock the Chinese who ran laundries in America, “No tickee, no washee.”

As Melissa pointed out:

There must be a great deal of projection going on if you find “long time no see” racist to Asians.

It’s literally a direct translation of Mandarin syntax (好久不见) and has become a common turn of phrase.

Two other Mandarin speakers piped in:

“好 can also translate as ‘very’ so it would be ‘very long time, no see’ as well.”


“It’s more like “Good (好) Long-Time (久) No (不) See (见) , but that’s a negligible difference.”

It’s curious that that phrase, whose origins really are unknown, doesn’t seem to be objectionable to any Chinese people, just as Kimono Day at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts wasn’t objectionable to many Japanese, some of whom demonstrated in its favor. And I doubt that more than 0.01% of people who use the “long time no see” phrase even know that its origins may be a direct translation from the Chinese.

All too often it’s those who aren’t ethnically “qualified” to judge the degree of offense produced by a phrase—like Zahra Al-Saloom—who make these lists. But just to be sure that Ms. Al-Saloom isn’t Chinese and has a Middle Eastern name, here’s her photo from her Linked In profile, which has mysteriously disappeared:


More misguided accusations of cultural appropriation

October 24, 2018 • 9:15 am

For some reason this mini-kerfuffle has gotten me quite depressed, for much of the world seems to be deliberately seeking to be offended, even when there’s nothing to be offended about. This case involves Kendall Jenner, a member of a family for whom I have no love, but who’s entitled to her vocation as a model. Unfortunately for her and the magazine, Vogue published two photos of her with highly teased hair, to wit (Instagram posts):

. . . and another

Well, look at the photos and then guess what happened next. I bet you can, and it’s summed up by the Independent article below (click on screenshot to read it):

Yes, you guessed it. The hairstyle, which is simply big teased hair, was taken by the Pecksniffs to be an Afro. And that hairstyle is worn by blacks and white models simply aren’t allowed to adopt it. The thing is, that is not an Afro! It’s most likely a wig, and if it were an Afro wig it would look like this style, as worn by the famous Angela Davis:


Nope, that’s simply big teased hair, and reminds me of the hairstyle you sometimes see on Helena Bonham Carter:

In fact, Vogue had no intention of making this an Afro hairstyle. As the Independent reports:

The magazine posted the images of the model on Instagram, where they sparked a wave of negative comments from people who found Jenner’s afro-like hairstyle “offensive”.

In a statement, the Condé Nast publication explained how the photos, which had been taken to promote the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund, were meant to evoke a nostalgic aesthetic reminiscent of the early 20th century.

“The image is meant to be an update of the romantic Edwardian/Gibson Girl hair which suits the period feel of the Brock Collection, and also the big hair of the ’60s and the early ’70s, that puffed-out, teased-out look of those eras,” the magazine told E! News on Tuesday.

“We apologise if it came across differently than intended, and we certainly did not mean to offend anyone by it.”

There is nothing to apologize for. If some Pecksniff is offended and thinks this is an Afro, well, too damn bad for them. And even if it were an Afro (which it is not), do only blacks get to wear their hair that way? What about Steve Pinker? And the “Jewfros” worn by Jewish guys who have naturally curly hair (see photos here)? It’s not an Afro, but if it were it wouldn’t be intended to mock black people but to adopt aspects of their culture that people like. But it’s not an Afro. Nope, not one.

It didn’t matter. The Pecksniffs emerged in force, saying that if Vogue wanted to display an Afro, they’d damn well better have a black woman underneath it. You can see some outraged people at the #kendalljenner site and in the Instagram comments , and it will depress me to show even two of them, but I’ll persist:

But Jenner has her defenders, too, and there’s some funny comments. I’ll show one.

In truth, there’s a real discussion to be had about whether black women are unjustly denigrated or subject to bigotry for wearing their hair in styles like cornrows or dreadlocks—styles that originated in the black community to take advantage of naturally curly hair. But that is not this discussion.

In the end, I want to know what the outrage accomplishes here. Does it increase racial justice or the awareness of racist bigotry? I doubt it; it just divides people, and angers those who think that this kind of manufactured outrage is either misdirected (BECAUSE THIS IS NOT AN AFRO), or those like me who think that the principle that one culture cannot admiringly borrow aspects of another is just dumb. It also serves to call attention to those who are outraged, and I’ve long thought that, for many, this is a primary motivation for cries of “cultural appropriation.” It’s a way of making yourself feel special, or calling attention to yourself.

If you want to make those cries, though, be sure that a). it is cultural appropriation, which it is not in this case (that is not an Afro), and b). it’s cultural appropriation of the disrespectful or bigoted sort, a form that’s exceedingly rare. As Davy Crockett said in real life:

I leave this rule for others when I’m dead
Be always sure you’re right — THEN GO AHEAD!

Enough, for I’ve learned from a CNN bulletin that “suspicious packages” have been sent to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (in addition to the bomb sent to George Soros), and so now we have the problem of right-wing American terrorism to deal with, too. It’s not going to be a good day.

Disney’s Snow White story criticized for showing lack of affirmative consent

October 23, 2018 • 8:30 am

Kristen Bell is a well known American actress, and has two daughters. When she reads stories to them, she uses them to impart lessons. One of the stories is “Snow White” (it’s not an original Disney story, of course, but is derived from the Brothers Grimm collection of 1812. Parents magazine describes the lesson (click on screenshot):

The excerpt:

Kristen Bell reads every night to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3. “It’s truly my favorite part of the day,” Bell says. “I glance away from the book and see their brains working while we’re all cuddled up like meerkats.”

But the ladies don’t just read, they discuss—especially classic Disney storylines.

“Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?’ I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right.'”

The apple question is not the only one that Bell—a Disney Princess herself as the voice of Anna in Frozen—has after reading the tale. “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission?” Bell says she has asked her daughters. “Because you can not kiss someone if they’re sleeping!”

Well, there may be a point about taking food from strangers, but may I point out that Halloween is coming, and taking and eating food from strangers is one of its major features?

As for “kissing Snow White without her permission”, well, that’s bogus. Of course you shouldn’t have sex with someone without asking, or while they’re drunk or asleep, but this isn’t quite the same thing. In fact, in the Brothers Grimm version, there isn’t a kiss; the movement of her glass coffin dislodges the poison apple bite from her throat and she revives. In the Disney movie version, however, there is a kiss, to wit (my emphasis):

Snow White takes the apple and, before taking a bite, wishes for the Prince to carry her away to his castle, where they will live happily ever after. The Queen then persuades her to take a bite before the wish grows cold. Snow White does so and soon falls to the floor after feeling the poison’s effects, which causes her to fall into a Sleeping Death. As the Queen is leaving, she is seen by the dwarfs, who chase her to a cliff, where she falls to her death to be eaten by vultures. The dwarfs find Snow White and they grieve her “death” as they return home. In mourning, they hold a funeral for her at their cottage. Finding her so beautiful, even in death, they cannot find it in their hearts to bury her and instead place her in a handmade coffin carved of glass and gold.

As the time goes by, the Prince hears of this and rides to the clearing where her coffin has been placed. The dwarfs make way for the Prince to approach Snow White. He then gives the princess a kiss, a “Love’s First Kiss”, which breaks the curse, reviving Snow White. She wakes up and, upon seeing the Prince, extends her arms out to him as he scoops her up in her arms. The dwarfs rejoice, as the Prince carries Snow White to his horse. She kisses each dwarf goodbye before leaving with the Prince for his castle (the outline of which is shown in the clouds above), where they live happily ever after.

The kiss was in fact the only way in this story to wake up Snow White. I suppose that they could have done it the Brothers Grimm way, but sue me if I feel this way is more romantic. And who among us hasn’t kissed a lover while he or she was sleeping?

I feel sorry for Kristen Bell’s daughters, who are poised to grow up as scolding Pecksniffs like their mom.

And yes, I know this isn’t as important as nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, and Trump. But it’s a sign of the times.

Remember this? Well, remember it well, because it may not be around much longer:

Two more authors banned from Brisbane Writers Festival

July 31, 2018 • 9:15 am

Two years ago there was a big kerfuffle at the Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) when writer Lionel Shriver gave a talk asserting the right of all authors to write about “marginalized”—or any—groups, which is a violation of many who cry “cultural appropriation” at that stuff. As I wrote at the time,

Not long ago Yasmin Abdel-Magied, a Sudanese/Australian/Muslim writer, described in the Guardian how offended she became when author Lionel Shriver, speaking at the Brisbane Writers Festival, defended the right of authors to write fiction about “marginalized” characters (i.e., people of color and others seen as oppressed). Abdel-Magied, who came off as someone unable to tolerate even the mildest contradictions of her views, stalked out of Shriver’s talk in tears, virtually accusing the speaker of perpetuating racism by appropriating other cultures in her writing.

Not long after, Shriver published her full talk online, also in the Guardian,  and it turned out to be passionate, eloquent, and thoughtful, but not at all offensive—except to the overly tender ears of someone like Abdel-Magied. Read it for yourself. But I had no idea that, as Shriver describes in a new New York Times piece, “Will the Left survive the Millennials?“, that the ostracism of Shriver extended farther than the kvetching of Abdel-Magied. It did.

The Festival authorities publicly disavowed Shriver’s speech and quickly organized a counter-conference to rebut Shriver’s assertions. That of course is fine, but was done only for Shriver’s talk, and was done post facto, as a sort of official announcement of Shriver’s demonization.  It shows that the BWF is simply caving in to those who claim that writers must not culturally appropriate.

Since then Shriver has been further demonized, and has asserted even more strongly her and others’ right to write about what they want. But now, in a further effort to censor authors, the BWF has disinvited two more writers: Germaine Greer and Bob Carr, the former premier of New South Wales.  As the Guardian reported on July 25, the issues were Carr’s views on immigration and other political issues, which apparently did not align with the BWF’s control-Leftism, and, presumably, Greer’s views on transexual women, whom she doesn’t accept as fully “woman-ish” as she does biological women. For that Greer has repeatedly been called a transphobe, and has been deplatformed several times.

Carr told Guardian Australia he was “surprised” by the festival’s response to his new political memoir, Run for Your Life.

“I thought writers’ festivals embraced controversy,” [Carr] said, adding he understood his book didn’t “accord with [the festival’s] values” particularly because it argued for lower immigration, discussed the recent “China panic” in the Australian media and “my encounters with the pro-Israel lobby”.

The festival issued a statement on Wednesday, saying: “Brisbane writers’ festival does not shy away from controversy or challenging ideas, but as all festival organisers know, it’s invariably difficult to choose between the many authors currently promoting books and the need to provide engaging choices for our audience along a curatorial theme. In trying to achieve that balance, we decided in early June not to proceed with including Bob Carr on this year’s program and MUP were advised at that time.”

Those are just disingenuous weasel words, and, in fact, lies. The Guardian‘s report continues:

The Brisbane writers’ festival acting chief executive, Ann McLean, told the Australian there were concerns Carr would not keep discussion to the topic he had been programmed to discuss.

Referring to Greer, the festival’s statement said: “Germaine had not been invited to take part in this year’s program – we’d been asked by a local bookstore to assist with the marketing of an event planned by them for within the dates of the festival. However, when the bookstore decided not to proceed we decided not to host the event alone as it was being held offsite away from the festival hub and (more importantly) it did not fit within the rest of the program.”

Referring to Greer, the festival’s statement said: “Germaine had not been invited to take part in this year’s program – we’d been asked by a local bookstore to assist with the marketing of an event planned by them for within the dates of the festival. However, when the bookstore decided not to proceed we decided not to host the event alone as it was being held offsite away from the festival hub and (more importantly) it did not fit within the rest of the program.”

Greer, who is lauded for her early feminist writing but has fallen out of favour with the left in recent years, in part for her inflammatory comments about trans women and her recent comments on rape, told the Australian: “The Brisbane writers’ festival is very hard work. So, to be uninvited to what is possibly the dreariest literary festival in the world, with zero hospitality and no fun at all, is a great relief.”

The Guardian then published a critique of the BWF’s actions written by Australian novelist Richard Flanagan, a Booker Prize winner. Click on the screenshot to read his essay:

First, Flanagan discusses the withdrawal of novelist Junot Diaz from the Sydney Writers’ festival after social media allegations that he forcibly kissed a woman “some years before” as well as that he bullied and displayed demeaning behavior towards other women. Because of these accusations on social media, MIT, where Diaz works, investigated his behavior and found no grounds to punish him. The same held true for The Boston Review, who also refrained from punishment. But the social media demonization was so loud that Diaz withdrew from both Sydney and an Australian tour. You may differ on the rightness of that, but if two investigations found him in the clear, at least the Sydney Writers’ Festival shouldn’t have issued a mealymouthed statement criticized by Flanagan:

None of this proves Diaz is a good person. But nor does it prove he is a bad one. There were allegations, and there remain allegations. Diaz may be a monster, or he may not. But the allegations remain, and they remain allegations.

So on what grounds was the Sydney Writers’ festival justified in passing judgment on a writer about things the truth of which was not established?

The festival, in its statement announcing his departure, referred to Diaz’s essay The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma published a few months earlier in which Diaz revealed that he had been raped as a child.

“In his recent New Yorker essay, Mr Diaz wrote, ‘Eventually the past finds you’. As for so many in positions of power, the moment to reckon with the consequences of past behaviour has arrived.

“Sydney Writers’ festival is a platform for the sharing of powerful stories: urgent, necessary and sometimes difficult. Such conversations have never been more timely.

“We remain committed to ensuring they occur in a supportive and safe environment for our authors and audiences alike.”

We may ask what on earth was supportive and safe for Diaz in those words? Who had the power at that moment – the writer, who had publicly confessed to being raped as a child only a few months before, or the festival?

The Wheeler Centre, meanwhile, emailed ticket holders to announce that Diaz had also cancelled a scheduled appearance in Melbourne with similarly self-serving cant:

“We always take seriously our responsibility to ensure that our platform and our spaces are safe for our guests and audiences alike,” its statement said. “The Wheeler Centre is inspired by the bravery of those sharing their stories and is committed to an accountable and responsive literary community for everyone.”

None of this is to argue for or against Junot Diaz. But is it to be the case that Australian writers’ festivals will abandon any writer once social media turns against them? And what if the mob have it wrong?

The judgments against Greer and Carr are more clearly misguided, and completely inimical to the freedom of discussion that should attend a literary festival. Flanagan is particularly acerbic in his criticism of the BWF’s disinvitation of these two. I’ll give some quotes, which I agree with completely. Note first, though, that Flanagan himself says that he “[doesn’t] overly care for the recent thoughts of either, and I am confident they would feel the same about me.” I am with Flanagan on this, too. But he adds, “And surely that is the point—that other people’s thoughts are worth listening to.”


If the BWF is a writers’ festival concerned not to get publicity they are unique on this earth. And perhaps they are, because McLean, in a moment of clarifying folly, says that Bob Carr’s invitation was being withdrawn in consideration for the brand alignment of several sponsors we are securing for the festival”.

Does this mean money chooses which writers you hear – and don’t hear – at the BWF? Exactly when did the Brisbane Writers festival become the Brisbane Corporate festival? And since when did writing in Australia answer to corporate dictate?

There are questions that should be answered by the BWF. Why were Carr and Greer blackballed? And by whom? When did the BWF stop seeing its role as supporting writers ahead of corporations? Is Greer being dropped because her views on rape are not those of the prevailing orthodoxy? Is Carr being dropped because of his views on Israel or population?

This is not an article I wanted to write. But as forums for public debate and discussion vanish throughout the country, in a week when Nine has announced the takeover of Fairfax, the importance of community events like writers’ festivals only grows in importance. They should not answer either to the mob or to corporations. They should be there for writers and writing, and all that these represent: tolerance, debate, difference.

Ponder all that we now know about how social media is manipulated by power, both national and corporate. Why, with that knowledge, would a writers’ festival ban writers because of fear of a social media backlash?

Beneath their determined, if dreary, attempts at funkiness and fashion, beyond the latest New Yorker sensation imported for our provincial enlightenment, past the wearying social media feeds with their ersatz excitement, writers’ festivals now run the risk of running with dogma, with orthodoxy, with the mob – with fear, in other words – and with money. It’s the new Victorian age wearing a hipster beard.

Indeed: I see this in my local bookstore: 57th Street Books, once a great bookstore but now largely dedicated, at least in the books they push, to Control-Leftist dogma. I of course agree largely with their position on the political spectrum, but why do they refuse to call attention to other points of view? I’ve never seen a book by a conservative advertised in their window; everything is devoted to literature by purportedly oppressed minorities. The Kingdom of Words is rapidly being balkanized. And the balkanization is largely due to social media, which functions at once to create tribalism and to demonize those whose points of view differ from yours.

I see no point in rewriting Flanagan’s eloquent words in my own style, so I’ll finish with a few other bits from his essay:

Of course, not all writers’ festivals are like this. But the large ones are increasingly becoming that way. If they were to rename themselves “Festival of Safe Ideas”, or “Celebration of Conventional Thinking”, or “Festival Approved by Twitter Bots” I wouldn’t mind. But having dropped two writers because, it would seem, of what they have written, for Brisbane to call itself a writers’ festival smacks of false advertising.

The individual examples of Shriver, Diaz, Carr and Greer, all point to a larger, more disturbing trend. Writers’ festivals, like other aspects of the literary establishment such as prizes, have in recent years become less and less about books and more and more about using their considerable institutional power to enforce the new orthodoxies, to prosecute social and political agendas through reward and punishment.

. . .McLean is quoted in the Australian as saying the BWF was “fully prepared to embrace controversy”.

What nonsense. The BWF embraces conformity, and two who threaten that conformity it punishes by banning. In doing so, it’s an enforcer, not an enabler; a punisher, and not a promoter.

. . . now, more than ever, we need places and forums where we can listen, reflect and discuss different perspectives and ideas that are not our own. This is not to suggest promoting propagandists and provocateurs to an equal footing with serious writers – but it is to argue that writing worthy of the name is not always comforting or reassuring, but that it does matter. The alternative is a Trumpian world of mindless Milo Yiannopoulos provocations on one side, and conformist clap trap on the other, both serving only to deliver power to those who would destroy us.

As this kind of banning and deplatforming spreads, nearly always promulgated by the Left, I find myself no longer surprised at the kind of censorhip and demonization practiced against those whose ideas are deemed ideologically impure. This is what religions like Islam and Catholicism do; it should not be the practice of writers and literary festivals.

Manchester University students deface mural containing Kipling poem on grounds that he was a colonialist and racist

July 21, 2018 • 10:45 am

According to several sources, including the BBC, the Manchester Evening News and The National, students at Manchester University, which is where Matthew Cobb teaches (he IS NOT TO BLAME) decided to paint over a mural that displayed a poem by Rudyard Kipling, replacing it with a poem by Maya Angelou.

The defacing was done by leaders of the student union, who apparently didn’t consult either the University or their own constituents. The BBC reports:

The protest was an attempt to reclaim history by those who have been “oppressed by the likes of Kipling for so many centuries, and continue to be to this day,” according to Sara Khan, the liberation and access officer at the student union.

In a Facebook post, the student official said Kipling’s works “sought to legitimate the British Empire’s presence in India and dehumanise people of colour”.

And here’s a statement by one of the miscreants, (a “liberation and access officer” of the student union!), explaining why they had to exercise this censorship:

Sara Khan, a liberation and access officer at the union, said students defaced Kipling’s poem as he ‘stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment and human rights’.

“A failure to consult students during the process of adding art to the newly renovated SU building resulted in Rudyard Kipling’s work being painted on the first floor last week,” she said in a post on her Facebook profile.

“We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for.

“Well-known as author of the racist poem “The White Man’s Burden”, and a plethora of other work that sought to legitimate the British Empire’s presence in India and de-humanise people of colour, it is deeply inappropriate to promote the work of Kipling in our SU, which is named after prominent South African anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko.

“As a statement on the reclamation of history by those who have been oppressed by the likes of Kipling for so many centuries, and continue to be to this day, we replaced his words with those of the legendary Maya Angelou, a black female poet and civil rights activist.”

A proud student showing the poster before (right) and after (left). Note the cat-ate-the-canary expression on the her face. To me it says, “Look how virtuous I am!”

Now everything is wrong about this: the tactics, the motivation, and the poem they chose to censor. Tactically, they needed permission from both the University and the Student Union members to do this. They didn’t get either, but acted on their own. The motivation is that a bunch of spoiled and entitled brats decided that any work by a long-dead person who was in favor of colonialism, and saw whites as superior (I don’t know how much of the latter is true of Kipling), deserved to have every one of his works despoiled and effaced. 

Now one would be hard pressed to find a nineteenth-century Brit who didn’t harbor some strains of colonialism and/or racism. The moral improvement of society that attenuated these beliefs started later. The same oppressive attitudes were by men towards women, and by nearly everyone toward gays. To find an author of that period who can be seen as morally pure by the lights of the Regressive Left would be nearly impossible.

Further, there was simply no debate whether artists holding views considered inappropriate today deserved to have all of their work censored and painted over. After all, the poem was not a racist one (I put it below): it’s clear it was simply posted as a kind of inspiration for students. There might have been more justification for painting over Kipling’s 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden“—a call for the U.S. to dominate the Philippines—but few people in their right minds would post that poem today as any form of public approbation. (It could justifiably be taught as a historical relic.)

At any rate, the poem the students painted over was “If”, and it might be familiar:

“If” by Rudyard Kipling (1895)

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

We should call out these students, and this behavior, for what they are: the actions of benighted social justice warriors who think that they have not only the key to the truth, but the absolute right to rewrite history. Shades of Soviet Russia! And what should be censored next: the “Just So Stories” of Kipling, the Declaration of Independence (drafted by a slaveholder), and all the speeches of Winston Churchill (a colonialist)? The view that we should write out of history anyone in the past who expressed views that we find repugnant today is one of the most odious and censorious strains of Control Leftism.

But there are those who agree with the censors; here’s one of them, Titania McGrath, who identifies herself as “Activist. Healer. Radical intersectionist poet.” (It has not escaped my notice that she might be a troll. But satire and social-justice warriorism are hard to tell apart.)

Gal Gadot demonized for her memoriam for Stephen Hawking

March 20, 2018 • 10:30 am

The outrage mob, always sniffing for ideological impurities, has struck again. When Stephen Hawking died on March 14, actor Gal Gadot—you know, the Wonder Woman phenom who is also an Israeli—issued this tweet:

Now most of you are on the Left, but look at that tweet and see what you could find objectionable if you’re a Pecksniff. You’ll spot it instantly, I bet. Yep, it was the idea that after death Hawking will be “free of any physical constraints.” Now I don’t know if that means he’ll have an afterlife where he’s not in a wheelchair (implying Gadot is religious, though most liberal Jews don’t believe in an afterlife), or that he’s simply gone and therefore not thereby constrained.

But if you’re a Pecksniff, you can also be huffy and say, “Well, this is ableism, pure and simple. It implies that Hawking was ‘constrained’ mentally as well as physically, and that he could have accomplished more had he not been afflicted with ALS (or polio).” That is arguable, because perhaps being confined to his chair enabled his mind to roam more freely. But that’s not what Gadot meant, I bet, for she pays tribute to his “brilliance and wisdom”. She was, I suspect, just paying tribute to him, and saying that he’s free from “constraints”—exactly as many people say, when someone dies, that they’re finally “at peace”, or “beyond suffering”. And that tweet, of course, got 53,469 likes when I put it up.

Yet the termites are ever dining, and so there’s a piece on Mashable called “People aren’t thrilled with Gal Gadot’s tribute to Stephen Hawking“, which presents exactly seven tweets accusing Gadot of ableism, and one supporting her. Apparently seven people is some kind of consensus.

Here are some Pecksniffs:

Yes, the last tweet is accurate: people should chill out about this, and there’s no doubt that, these days, many people are simply “looking to be offended.” I suppose there are psychological reasons for that, but this is above my pay grade.

But what was Hawking’s view? Would he have preferred to have had his ALS (with its putative benefits for his science), or to have never gotten it?

This video, which I found on YouTube, supports the latter, for it shows Hawking supporting the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge“, in which someone challenges another to dump a bucket of ice water on their head. If they don’t do it within a stipulated amount of time, the one who forfeits donates to The ALS Association or other groups fighting motor neuron disease.  It’s estimated that the challenge not only brought awareness of this dreaded ailment, but raised over $100 million dollars for research and treatment.

And here’s Stephen Hawking participating in that challenge, urging his kids to drench themselves. They do. And Hawking adds, with his computer voice, “I urge everyone to donate to the MNDA to eliminate this terrible disease.” Yes, it’s terrible, and one has to conclude that Hawking would prefer not to have been afflicted.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that one should treat the disabled as lesser humans, or make fun of them (as Trump did during his campaign); it just means that we should keep working, raising money, and using the best science we can to get rid of those ailments that people don’t want. I suspect that most people with disabilities would just as soon not have them, though some deaf people say they wouldn’t want to hear even if that were possible.

And people should lay off Gal Gadot.

By the way, yesterday I mentioned a piece in the Torygraph intimating that Hawking’s final science paper might have shown a way for us to test the idea of the multiverse, heretofore seen as hard or impossible to test. A new article in Gizmodo by George Dvorsky, however, says that the Torygraph’s interpretation is overblown, and urges considerable caution:

The scientists say it may eventually be possible to see signs of the multiverse in the background radiation of the universe, but that has yet to be proven. If someone down the line can expand on this work, and show us what we should be looking for, then it can be said that Hawking and Loeb were truly onto something. But for now, that’s a big if.

. . . Frank Wilczek, a theoretical physicist at MIT and Nobel laureate, was less charitable about the new work.

“It’s heavy on speculative assumptions, and I don’t see any concrete predictions,” Wilczek told Gizmodo. “Very hard to understand, though, at least for me, and I may be missing something.”