Monday, July 20, 2015

Narratives are hard

   In these times of an ever-shifting cultural landscape and breathtaking hypocrisy at both ends of the socio-political spectrum (but let's be honest - mostly on the left), narratives are hard.
   As a criminally-privileged cisgender white middle aged male, I'm completely flummoxed over whether I'm supposed feign outrage that GQ is objectifying Amy Schumer in a sexually-themed Star Wars cover/photo spread, or shower her with insincere and self-serving plaudits for sticking it to the Hollywood patriarchy. 
   Similarly, I find myself at a moral impasse over the confrontation between transgender reporter Zoey Tur and right wing commentator Ben Shapiro, whom Tur threatened to send home in an ambulance after Shapiro referred to Tur as "sir" during a debate moderated by Dr. Drew Pinsky.  Is it enough to smugly conclude that Shapiro invited the threat of violence by disrepecting Tur, or should I further rationalize that Shapiro's refusal to embrace transgender culture is itself a form of hostility?
   Truth be told, I really don't care either way on either issue, but woe betide the social media enthusiast who ventures an "incorrect" opinion. Been there, done that, had the t-shirt applied as a gag.  From now on, I want to get it right - convictions, logic and common sense be damned.
   Help me, social justice warriors.  You're my only hope.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Haters gonna hate, beheaders gonna behead

   There wasn't much to choose from between the two sides in the motley assembly of demonstrators and counter-protestors who faced off outside a mosque in Phoenix Friday.  Mom, apple pie and semi-automatic stopping power were represented by bikers and other self-styled patriots who wanted to serve notice that ain't no A-rab or nobody else gonna tell Jethro what cartoons he can or can't draw in 'Murca.  On the other side of the police line were the usual suspects who never met a social justice cause they wouldn't hashtag to check their white privilege.   Happily, the prophet's avengers apparently got stuck in traffic en route, so the only shots fired were verbal. 
   Arguing over whether drawing pictures of Muhammad is a legitimate exercise in free speech or a calculated attempt to provoke a violent Muslim backlash misses the point.  Muhammad cartoon contests are themselves a backlash to violence already being perpetrated ad nauseam in the name of Islam.  Showing up with a variety of (legal) firearms was definitely white trash overkill on the part of the bikers and their allies, but I'll say this for that side of the debate: they're clear about where they stand. They believe in the liberal values that underpin western democracy and won't abide any attempt to undermine those values, especially from an ideology with a bloody track record of violently rejecting freedom and equality.
   The pro-Islam crowd, meanwhile, are hopelessly mired in their own contradictions.  The fundamental failing of white liberal apologists who like to play the "Islamophobe" card is that they're the same crowd who yammer endlessly about misogyny and homophobia, knowing full well that both are well-entrenched in the Islamic faith.  I have yet to hear anyone adequately reconcile Islamist apologia with the institutionalized subjugation of women or routine summary executions of homosexuals.  In fact, I haven't even heard them try - either because they know it would be a futile exercise, or they're too busy haranguing a Christian baker for balking at making a cake for a same sex wedding while gay Muslims are being thrown off rooftops or hanged from construction cranes. 
   It's fine - admirable, even - to promote racial and religious harmony and trumpet equal rights for all, but if you're not consistent in your convictions, you'll lose the credibility battle every time - even to gun-toting rednecks. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Free speech - like it AND lump it

   If there's one thing activists on both ends of the political spectrum can agree on, it's free speech - more specifically, the primacy of free speech when it serves their agenda.
   Celebrity Montreal chef David MacMillan, better known by his public persona "Joe Beef", sparked an online firestorm last week when he tweeted an open invitation to convicted war criminal Omar Khadr and called Prime Minister Stephen Harper a "dumbass".  MacMillan subsequently deleted the tweet and apologized, but not before the hashtag #boycottJoeBeef was trending across Canada.
   Interestingly, MacMillan's apology generated at least as much response as his original tweet - mostly from supporters who said he had nothing to apologize for and should have stuck to his guns rather than acquiesce to an online lunch mob.  As someone who's had social media bullies gun for my livelihood on the basis of my opinion, I can sympathize with Joe Beef.  Of course, free speech is a two way street, so MacMillan's critics are as free to encourage a boycott as he is to offer Omar Khadr lunch on the house.
   The Muhammad cartoon contest that resulted in a failed terrorist attack and two dead jihadis in Garland, Texas, was less about opinion than it was about free speech versus hate speech.  The event's organizer, Pamela Geller, is an outspoken anti-Islamist who's widely regarded as a hate monger by hopelessly naive leftists who buy into the "religion of peace" narrative despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  That was the whole point of Geller's event - to illustrate the lunacy of the premise that someone deserves to die for drawing a picture. The two would-be "martyrs" who showed up with assault rifles proved her point by their choice, at the cost of their lives.  Her detractors' claims that Geller provoked the attack and is responsible for the violence is beyond flimsy.  She didn't stage the event in Mecca.  She held it deep in the heart of Texas, which is deep in the heart of America, which is as home turf as it gets for free speech advocates. 
   That's the deal with free speech: Joe Beef has as much right to invite an admitted murderer to his restaurant as Pamela Geller has to mock Muhammad, and you have the right to support one and criticize the other.  It's a bit - or even a lot - like a dog chasing its own tail, but for anyone who values independent thought and expression over regulated groupthink and censorship,  it's the best system we've got. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why comedy clubs are the modern day Alamo

   I repeatedly made fun of Chinese drivers this weekend in a public setting and everyone laughed.  The Oriental people in the room might have laughed the loudest.  I know that sounds crazy in these "enlightened" times, but I was operating in the relative safety of the last bastion of political incorrectness: the comedy club. 
   Comedy clubs are the 21st century speakeasies of free speech.  What goes on there hasn't been formally prohibited, but a lot of what's said would never fly in any other public forum.  The comedy club is a refreshing oasis of edgy wit in a barren intellectual wasteland where honesty, truth and individual thought and expression are actively suppressed.  Off stage, especially in social media arenas like Twitter, the high priests of progressive groupthink hold comedians to the same standards of intolerance that they try to impose on everyone else. (See Noah, Trevor and Gottfried, Gilbert.)
   The comedy club setting alone doesn't make it open season for ethnic slurs, misogyny, homophobia or any other form of hate speech.  However, the best comedians will embrace the most socially and culturally sensitive topics and transform them into well-crafted routines that allow us to come together and laugh at things that otherwise divide us.  Audience members who don't like or don't get a joke are free to boo or leave, although the worst punishment for a comedian is stone-faced silence.  Booing or walking out at least gives them something else to work with.  Either way, at the end of the night, the audience only remembers the jokes that made them laugh, because no one - or at least no one in their right mind - comes to a comedy club looking for a reason to be offended.  Not yet, anyway.  The day they do will be the last stand for relevant social satire on race relations, gay weddings and making deals on nuclear technology with people who wipe their ass with their bare hand.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Twitter and the evolution of social media outrage

   I am forever befuddled and bemused by the unique phenomenon of social media outrage - both in its selectivity and the rapidly-evolving cycle of backlash.
   Let's start with the backlash.  During its relatively brief life span, Twitter has become a convenient platform for righteous mob indignation.  Anyone who tweets anything perceived as being outside the socially-acceptable norm is set upon by an army of social justice warriors and hashtag activists whose fundamentalist fervor smacks of the same intolerance they claim to abhor.  It wasn't long before the self-appointed Twitter thought police became a parody of themselves, and disproportionate social media outrage became a running gag among the majority of people who don't devote their time to looking for reasons to be offended.  Of late, I've noticed SJWs trying to swing the pendulum back the other way by arguing that superfluous outrage doesn't preclude the right to be offended.  They're not wrong, although as usual, they overstate their case.
   The most fascinating aspect of social media outrage, however, is how it's targeted.  In the past two weeks, professional hockey players Morgan Rielly and Dustin Penner were pilloried online - Rielly for saying in a media interview that his teammates "shouldn't be girls" and Penner for cracking wise on Twitter about whether he required sexual consent from his girlfriend.  Rielly made a poor choice of words in describing the frustration of losing, while Penner - who's well known as a Twitter jokester - hit the "send" button when he clearly should have opted for "cancel".  Both subsequently apologized, but not before being subjected to the full wrath of the pitchfork-wielding, torch-bearing progressive Twitter hordes.
   Meanwhile, two far more consequential Twitter incidents involving current or retired professional athletes were met with relative silence.  A tweet erroneously posted on TSN alleging adultery between Toronto Maple Leaf Joffrey Lupul and teammate Dion Phaneuf's wife, Elisha Cuthbert, and a series of tweets promoting the violent rape of former major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling's daughter were both widely reported in the media, but neither incident got much traction with the SJW crowd.  The difference?  Rielly and Penner were high-profile perpetrators, while the celebrities in the latter two incidents were the victims.  Aside from Schilling himself and a law firm representing Lupul, Phanuef and Cuthbert, forming a posse to go after the relative nobodies who were behind the tweets in those cases didn't seem to be high on anyone's priority list, even though the content of the tweets were far more offensive and potentially damaging than anything Rielly or Penner said. 
   I don't doubt the altruism of do-gooders who want a warm and fuzzy world where we all sing Kumbaya around the campfire, but whether they recognize it or care to admit it, the righteous Twitter mob are the online version of a big game safari.  They're only interested in taking someone down if the trophy is going to look good mounted on their wall.  
   They would do well to be more consistent in practicing their principles.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Maybe he meant Oakland Seals

   Get your affairs in order.  The end of the world is nigh.
   Don Cherry was assailed on social media this past weekend for bashing the seal hunt - not for defending the seal hunt, but for callings its practitioners and supporters "savages" and "barbarians".
   Apparently, I'm the only person on either side of the tree line who assumed Cherry was being sarcastic when he chided Hockey Night in Canada colleague Ron MacLean for ordering a seal burger while MacLean was on assignment for Rogers Hometown Hockey in St. John's, Newfoundland.  After all, the Coach's Corner star is the very antithesis of the traditional kale-eating, hemp-wearing, moss-burning seal hunt protestor, whose ideological standards fall neatly in line with Cherry's longstanding "left wing commie pinko" bogeyman. Seal hunters, on the other hand, are Cherry's kind of people - honest, hard-working Canadians trying to make a living off the land and through the natural food chain.  So when he went after MacLean, I thought it was obvious that he was feigning disgust and taking a subtle shot at opponents of the seal hunt.  
   Sadly for Cherry, there's no room for nuance in today's hair trigger society. Within minutes, he was trending on Twitter as public enemy number one for the seal hunt industry, which itself has historically been targeted for outrage and condemnation.  Cherry's half-baked Twitter apology only served to muddle his position, and leave a bemused nation wondering whether its most famous blowhard has lost his edge.  
   The only logical explanation I can think of is that Cherry thought MacLean had resorted to cannibalism and was eating former members of the defunct Oakland Seals. 
   Mmm...Ted Hampson.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Last stand at the KIC Country corral

   Friday was my last shift on 89.9 KIC Country.  It's been a year and a month of the most eye-opening experience in a radio career that's spanned five decades.  
   When I say "You like country music - you just don't know it yet", it's not just a promotional platitude.  I was vaguely familiar with old school country when I started at KIC, but I had no idea of the hip, accessible nature of modern country music.  Artists like Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown, Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland and the Band Perry have brought country music out of the sticks and into the broader cultural mainstream.  Self-appointed purists and other critics might say the genre has sold out, but on the road to success, mass appeal leaves "cool" in the dust every time.  
   It's also been invigorating to discover so many new artists after playing and listening to the same classic rock records for most of the last 40 years.  Not to denigrate classic rock - it's one of music's most enduring genres, and has enormous influence and respect among modern country artists.  The Doobie Brothers and Motley Crue country collaboration albums and Gretchen Wilson's ongoing love affair with classic rock are proof enough of that.
   KIC Country exposed me to a brand of music and a lifestyle that otherwise would have passed me by, and for that I'm forever grateful.  Thanks for listening, and keep on supporting KIC Country, because they deserve it.