Irony Detector

Aparently living under the Bush administration these past few years has totally broken my irony and sarcasm detectors. It’s as if so many people have seriously advocated the poor should eat their children that I can’t tell if Swift is being serious anymore.

And this is the mind-state I held when I started reading USS Clueless. Unfortunately XHTML has no “intent” tag, so you can’t mark paragraphs as “ironic” and have the word “Ironic” appear as a slightly rotated watermark behind the text (imagine a big rubber stamp which says “Ironic” being used on a piece of paper, then write whatever is ironic over it and you’d have an idea of how such a tag should be rendered in a browser).

So I started writing a big long e-mail explaining exactly what the consequences to protesting really are via examples of illegal arrest, false imprisonment, torture, and unemployment. In case you’re wondering, all those have happened to protesters at protests I’ve attended. We protest—and risk all those things happening to us—because we believe that a better world is possible, desirable, and rapidly becoming absolutely necessary, and that it is up to human beings, not some vague force (God, The Market, whatever :-)) to make it happen. But enough on the protests themselves.

I then decided to sit on the e-mail for a while so I could devise the perfect argument to sway the right-wingers—I’ve been drawn into too many pointless arguments where the facts of the situation and the quality of the logical arguments put forth rapidly come to mean nothing because I’ve been designated as a hippie, liberal, communist, or just plain ‘UnAmerican’ (I am, of course, an American Anarchist [left-wing Libertarian] and thus “none of the above”). I try to figure out the best possible way to approach each political argument I get into.

And then, while taking a piss, it came to me: The author of that blog could not have been serious. There is no way someone could miss the irony of the words they were writing. After all, who seriously wants gamers to have 1000-mile stares and wants protesters to be shot by the police so they’ll realize the government stands for freedom. It’s got to be one of those slicker-than-thou April Fool’s-style pranks, only in late May.

Doesn’t it?

Update (2004-05-26): For those of you reading this from that site, I suggest you try voicing opposition to the most well-armed and well-financed government in the world using non-violence and stop playing armchair general with soldiers’ lives before talking about what’s “brave” and what’s not.

19 thoughts on “Irony Detector

  1. Jonathan Swift was an English minister who wrote a letter to the Queen advocating (in straight-faced irony) that the Irish should eat their children to ameliorate the suffering of the potato famine after the British government decided against aid to the island (which they ruled).

    The parallels to saying that protesters could learn exactly how “anti-tyranny” the actions of the government are if they were shot by police should be self-evident.

  2. We protest—and risk all those things happening to us—because we believe that a better world is possible, desirable, and rapidly becoming absolutely necessary, and that it is up to human beings, not some vague force (God, The Market, whatever ) to make it happen.

    Spoken like a true American Anarchist [left-wing Libertarian]! (????!!!!)

    I try to figure out the best possible way to approach each political argument I get into.

    Yeah, accuse them of joking. You’re a real genius of political debate.

  3. When I use the term ‘anarchist’, I use it as a synonym for ‘libertarian socialist’. There’s tons of details on what ‘anarchism’ is at An Anarchist FAQ. Of particular relevance to your “confused” smiley is Section F.

    Secondly, I never e-mailed the owner of the site in question, and I never claimed to be a genius of political debate. I was pointing out (as basically an in-text footnote to post on personal blog) that I try to avoid debates devolving into pointless name-calling whenever I start them. But hey, you started with an ad hominem, so what are you complaining about?

  4. Yes. I believe you when you say you can’t tell the difference between the real and the ironic.

  5. Ya know, through all this insulting of me and the particular style with which I attacked another random site on the Internet, nobody has addressed the main point of this entry: this particular website is saying protesters should be shot by (or otherwise “face consequences” from) the government so they will understand the government is fighting against tyranny.

    I personally believe the site in question is being serious (and did at the time I wrote this entry), not being ironic, but decided that rather than treat it seriously and turn this post into a 30 page manifesto of exactly how fucked the concept of “rational discourse” has become, I would make jest of how patently illogical what it’s saying actually is.

    I mean really: the U.S. leaves Iraq and somehow a nuclear-armed France is defeated by Osama bin-Laden?

  6. I advise you to read my post again. I did not advocate that the protesters be shot.

    I speculated about how it might change their attitudes if they knew they might be shot. That’s not the same thing.

  7. Your exact words were:

    When I’ve read news reports lately about some kinds of obnoxious protests, I have mused to myself, “Perhaps it’s time to issue shoot-to-kill orders to security guards.” Perhaps if some people who made grandstanding protests ended up dead, it might cause others to start really thinking about the consequences of their behavior.”

    Obviously I don’t think this should really happen. But it does seem to me that a lot of protesters are willing to do the things they do, and say the things they say, and advocate the things they advocate, because they suffer no consequences for it.

    So, you follow up an entire paragraph discussing how you sometimes wish that security forces would kill protesters with “I don’t mean that, but they need consequences”, and then later talk about how the government that those security forces work for stands for freedom. What am I missing here?

    Well, I hate to break it to you, but we’re already being shot by so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons (which are only billed by the companies which are paid by the government to research, develop, and make them as “less than lethal” when used properly under ideal situations). We have also been killed:

  8. What am I missing here?

    I suspect den Beste isn’t so much asking for consequences to be attached to protesters, but rather to advocates.

    It would represent a change to the notion of freedom of speech, where although one can still advocate any government policy one likes, if that policy was accepted, but later turned bad, there would be specific consequences for the advocates.

  9. He said “dead protester” not “dead advocate”, and as a protester is an advocate, it’s a stylistic choice rather than a substantive difference — Laid-off vs. Fired-For-Profit’s-Sake, you’re just as unemployed. There are other ways of clammoring for “personal responsibility” besides “I sometimes wish protesters would be murdered.”

    I don’t believe that’s what he meant, but even if it were, does this mean we get to try supporters of the invasion of Iraq for crimes against humanity because of the torture, use of cluster bombs, violation of the U.N. charter, and circumvention of the U.S. constitution? More deeply: Who decides when a policy has “gone bad”, and based on what criteria? Republicans blame the problems of urban life on black people (sorry, “free-money welfare programs”). Democrats blame the problems on poverty. Radicals blame the problems on poverty, and blame the poverty on the mass redistribution of weath to a small, already wealthy, predominately white segment of the population through the organizational system called capitalism.

    Pop quiz hotshot: The Vietnam Disaster was the result of:

    (_) S. Vietnamese treachery.
    (_) U.S. politicicans' treachery.
    (_) Traitorous college students.
    (_) The U.S. not nuking N. Vietnam.
    (_) The U.S. failure to persuade the N. Vietnamese they were the good guys.
    (_) The U.S. failure to persuade the S. Vietnamese they were the good guys.
    (_) The U.S. invading a country in the middle of a civil war.
    (_) The fundamental inconsistencies in waging an imperialist war for freedom.
    (_) Other (be sure to include information still classified): ______________

    Which interpretation is correct? Who decides? I think it’s a safe bet that whoever holds the reigns of power is going to be asking all the questions and making all the decisions, and they aren’t going to be blaming themselves. Look at the 9-11 Commission. I don’t see the Green Party represented, or the National Socia Reform Party, and I doubt their report is going to say “Western dependence on oil, and it’s support of anti-democratic and fascist regimes and groups throughout the Middle East are the two major root-causes of 9-11.” (After all, if the U.S. hadn’t trained and funded bin-Laden to the tune of $1,000,000,000 and didn’t give a combined billions of dollars a year worth of weapons to Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, nobody over there would give a shit about us — hell, they may even believe all the USIA propaganda about the “land of the free”.) They certainly aren’t going to say “Multinational (in this case, oil) corporations exert too much influence on U.S. policy; we should tell them to fuck off and fully fund research into independent renewable resources,” even though that would mean the U.S. could leave the Middle East to handle it’s own problems, and everyone could return to their homes after a day’s work without having contributed to a massive orange smudge in the sky and without having literally burned $10 worth of dead dinosaurs. That totals up at around $2,600 (assuming 52 work-weeks and no driving on weekends) per-person, per-year going to Exxon, BP, Shell, or Texaco that could just as easily be spent on better food, medicine, housing, or toys.

    No, they are going to call the whole thing some “historical tragedy” and recommend more “inter-agency cooperation” and more subsidies to huge corporations by way of “new technologies to prevent terrorism”. Like government-owned cameras everywhere, Federal IDs, the MATRIX program (TIA proved uncomfortable to far to many people so they decided to go state-to-state where the national media doesn’t pay attention), and even less accountable and even more militarized local police departments (which is used mainly for narcotics prosecution and general stickler-ism harrassment as the police know they have to justify their newly expanded budgets with more arrests and more convictions — which in turn means more money to the newly-privatized prisons to house those convicted, and more cheap prison labor available to… you guessed it… multinational corporations).

  10. Should protesters be shot? I doubt they warrent it. Most of the moronic, infantile grandstanding our juvenile Left indulges in assists the Right anyhow. Reasonable people may be inclined to listen to your message (assuming you can figure out what it is this week), then, on TV, they see an idiot in clown make-up brandishing a placard and screaming himself hoarse at a line of bored riot cops. Somehow this gives them the impression you’re a bunch of idiots. Go figure.

    Then we get to tune into lefty webpages like this one where we’re smugly lectured on how pointless it is to argue with stupid Righties using mere ‘facts’ and ‘logic’ since we’re too dumb to understand them. If this in itself wasn’t ironic enough, THEN we get a lecture on irony.

    What fucking idiots you are. Good luck in November, comrade, you’re going to need it.

  11. Sigh. I suppose the concept of reading posts in their entirety is alien to you, otherwise you would’ve noticed that I’ve now said twice that I’m an anarchist. I’m not a communist, not a liberal, not a democrat, not a republican, not a fascist, not a monarchist. I would just as soon all hierarchical organizations —the governments, the corporations, the parties, the NGOs, the international regimes, the churches—disabanded as I would breathe.

    And, since you’re apparently unable to read the comments I posted either, you’d see the links to stories on 4 separate protesters who were killed by police, and one on a protester who was badly injured. That was just what stood out in 2 pages worth of a relatively poorly-worded google search on “protester shot”. Maybe you’d like to see a 50-year old man be beaten to a pulp by the police 6 feet away from where you stand for having a walkie-talkie at a protest? I have. Maybe you’d like to see 649 people get surrounded, arrested, and taken away by the police for the high crime of being around hippies in a public park—ironically named ‘Freedom Plaza’? I have. Those are facts I saw with my own two eyes. Smack dab in the middle of the Land of the Free.

    Though you apparently prefer the type of “facts” that say Osama Bin Laden would take over the world if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq — even though CIA estimates placed the number of al-Qaeda members around 700 before the invasion, and around 18,000 now.

    Perhaps you prefer the type of weekly-changing “beliefs” responsible for illegally invading another country and killing 12,000 civilians. WMDs! (None there.) No, wait, Nukes! (Knew it wasn’t true when they said it.) No, wait, Freedom! (Except the U.S. is now running the torture chambers.) No, wait, uhhh… Saddam Hussein was a meany. (Except the U.S. knew that when it put him in power and gave him the weapons, training, and diplomatic cover he needed in order to get away with creating all those mass graves—Maybe Rumsfeld should’ve talked about that rather than oil-pipeline deals when he visted Iraq in 1983 and 1987 if he was really that concerned.)

    Perhaps you prefer the “logic” that says gay people are sub-human because two verses in 1500 pages worth of ancient biblical text (filtered through 1600 years of a politically active church) disagree.

    Perhaps you prefer the “logic” that says that Europeans and their descendents are the most moral (and therefore the best fit to run the world) because they are the most powerful and currently run the world—and all those who can’t see that past their dead relatives are just biased.

    Perhaps you prefer the “logic” that says that because for-profit mass-media shows you anti-capitalist protesters as morons it must be true (because for-profit businesses have no reason to lie about those who want to end the profit system).

    Perhaps you prefer the “logic” of “American Exceptionalism” (even though you posted your message from Australia), which says that America is the bright and shining light of freedom and truth to the world, and all others are just wrong—and if the facts contradict that, the person telling them must be a lunatic.

    But I don’t know you, so I can’t say what you prefer.

    And in case you’re wondering, I may believe strongly in more than one thing at the same time. I believe in peace, equality, freedom, human rights, and human abilities. That’s 5 separate (but related) things. I also believe that capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and state violence are in opposition to what I believe, so I do what I can to stop them.

    Deal with those facts.

  12. Oh, and just for the record, I wasn’t saying that it’s pointless to argue with “righties” using facts are logic. I certainly didn’t say all “righties” were too dumb to understand what I was saying. I was saying that I’ve been in a lot of discussions where the facts I present and logic I use were totally ignored because I was a “leftie”. I do consider those discussions totally pointless; not because the “rightie” I was debating was an idiot, but because they were unwilling to examine or respond to the arguments I was making.

  13. Yes, folks, Jimbob apparently really believes that being arrested for smashing windows at your local capitalist-owned Starbucks during one of your “we need to feel good about ourselves” protests is just as much an infraction upon your human rights as having your children rounded up, raped, and shot just because your local secret police representative needs to look like he’s doing something.

    I may not know much about bravery, but I know what it isn’t. And it sure as hell ain’t on display among protesters who will only speak out when the biggest consequence they’ll ever suffer is a stain on their permanent record and spending 3 hours in a dirty cell.

  14. Ok, this is getting rediculous. The 50-year old man I described was smashing up a Starbucks? The only damage done that entire protest was a peace sign and “No War” spray-painted on two windows, and that was done by 2 people about 3 blocks away from the old guy. As a former painter, I know that’ll come off with some solvent or a razor blade. The police arrested him because he was obviously a protest organizer, and beat him so he’d “learn his lesson”.

    All 649 people who were arrested were smashing up a bunch of Starbucks too, huh? At that protest the only damage done was a single cracked Citibank window—which was cracked when the police threw a woman against it. She was then beaten and arrested with everyone she was with, of course. Or do you think the words “due process”, “fair hearing”, and “evidence” simply don’t apply when you decide to protest?

    And I don’t know where you got the idea that I believe that illegal arrests “are just as much an infraction upon your human rights as having your children rounded up, raped, and shot”. I didn’t say that anywhere, and certainly I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they are in the same league, either. But they are definately the same fucking sport. What’s more, you seem to be ignoring all the tear gas, rubber bullets, tazers, and batons that fly around at your typical anti-globalization protest. Yes, being a left-winger in the U.S. today is easier than being a left-winger in El Salvador in 1985 (or being a left-winger in the U.S. in 1919). So what? At protests in the U.S., people “only” face tear gas and beatings instead of bullets so protesters must just be some grandstanding kids?

    Support for human rights is not a blame contest. Yeah, the Columbian government has much less respect for human rights than the U.S. government. So what? Morality is not graded on a curve.

    But lets just be honest here. You disagree with my beliefs and politics (though I’d wager you’d be hard-pressed to describe them accurately), and are willing to support a measure of tyranny above and beyond what already happens to protesters because of it. I can accept that a person could feel that way, but don’t tell me you stand for freedom and a policeman beating my ass at the same time.

  15. You disagree with my beliefs and politics (though I’d wager you’d be hard-pressed to describe them accurately)

    Let’s see… You are an anarchist that believes in peace, equality, freedom, human rights, and human abilities.

    You are an anarchist that likes to gather together with other anarchists in a public park built with taxpayer money.

    willing to support a measure of tyranny above and beyond what already happens to protesters because of it.

    Well, let’s set aside the fact that he, nor SDB, ever really advocated that protestors be shot, and that you are beating a strawman to try to portray what a victim of society you are. Let’s look at Freedom Plaza. At Freedom Plaza, that protest did not have the required permits, IIRC. I guess anarchists don’t require permits to gather in taxpayer built parks. They are anarchists, after all.

    How can you be an anarchist that supports peace, equality, freedom, human rights, when none of these happen in the absence of civil, and quite often, martial law?

    And then you lecture us about irony and logic!

    I can accept that a person could feel that way, but don’t tell me you stand for freedom and a policeman beating my ass at the same time.

    Well, the police have the right to use force if someone does not agree to be arrested peacefully. If you resist arrest, you will be arrested by force.

    Or do you think the words “due process”, “fair hearing”, and “evidence” simply don’t apply when you decide to protest?

    You see… this is what I mean. How can we take an anarchist seriously when they sit around complaining about due process?

    If you were a true anarchist, you would have no need for due process.

    I know you are an anarchist, so you may need a clue, police officers are the very beginning of due process. If they find that you are breaking the law, their job is to bring you to a judge, by force, if necessary. If a police officer decides that you need some “due process” in front of a judge, don’t resist if you don’t like pain.

    Stop blaming everyone for not understanding your beliefs when you claim to be an anarchist that believes in equality and due process.

    Support for human rights is not a blame contest.

    Since human rights may be inherent, but never present in the absence of civil or martial law, an anarchist shouldn’t be complaining about it.

    Yeah, the Columbian government has much less respect for human rights than the U.S. government. So what?

    Look, when you get done with your navel gazing one day, I suggest you take a trip around the world. One of those links you gave was about protesters shot in Indonesia… This is just a single example of what it would be like to be an “anarchist” in a foreign country.

    It is only too ironic that the laws in this country give you the freedom to be an anarchist that complains about due process not being given to you by police officers, whose job it is to bring you to a judge for due process, for gathering nearly 700 people in a public protest without a permit.

    And you lecture us on irony and logic afterwards.

    Morality is not graded on a curve.

    You have about as much understanding of morality as you do of anarchy.

    Police are given weapons to deal with those that do not agree to be arrested after they have decided to arrest them. It is not a moral question whether they arrest someone, but a legal question. If you feel you were arrested illegaly, you have a recourse in the civil court. But, that might be too much due process for an anarchist to take.

    By the way, those protestors in Indonesia that were shot were shot because they refused to disperse. But, we can’t interupt your naval gazing to compare our country to others. We don’t grade morality on a curve (according to you).

    Maybe you should try protesting in Indonesia. Maybe you might stop your navel gazing long enough to understand that the system you protest is the most enlightened in the world.

  16. Before I say anything else, I’m going to appologize to SDB. I was angry that someone would suggest adding more suffering to this world, particularly when directed at those who’s primary goal in life is to alleviate the suffering that exists today (a group which I consider myself a member), but that doesn’t excuse my dumping on him.

    I think the root of this disagreement is differences in our core beliefs:

    I believe the life, health, will, and happiness of all human beings is central to any society. I believe that those values must superceede all else, including rights to own property one will never personally use. Further, I believe that rational people will, if given a real choice, choose peaceful cooperation over destructive competition (by destructive competition, I mean the “win at all costs”/”destroy the opponent” style of competition, not the “see who’s better at task X” style) 6 days a week and twice on Sunday. I believe that if people truly are inherently selfish and evil, then giving anyone a gun and a badge is a really bad idea (and giving someone control of thousands of people with guns is a mind-bogglingly bad idea :-)).

    I also believe that protesters in the United States do suffer consequences for their actions and beliefs. And I believe that those who have never protested (or even observed a protest) are not in a position to determine whether those consequences are fair or not (I doubt that many protesters are either, but the “man-on-the-street” opinion given to me of police actions is either some random person coming up to me and saying “that’s bullshit”, or someone screaming “Go home, commie!” from 50 yards away). I agree that the injustices faced by protesters in the U.S. are slight compared to those under other regimes, but I do not think that makes them non-existant, and it certainly does not make them just. I also believe that any call for change must be judged on it’s desired outcomes, not whether or not it is currently within the scope of the law, particularly since the law has nearly always been written by powerful people and well-financed organizations. I also believe that hierarchical organizations have a near-inherent tendency to twist those desired outcomes into a mere changing of the guard. I believe that legality and morality must be one in the same, and if they are not then the legal side must change. I also believe that every human being has a duty to disobey unjust and immoral laws, and no one (including the police) has a right to use force to defend those same laws. Finally, I believe the State is supposed to work for the people, and should be grateful that the people haven’t had a revolution in spite of everything the State has done to them.

    The other commenters and yourself appear (to me) to think that I should be grateful for the little freedom that I am granted by the State. You appear to think that protesting the actions of the government gives its agents license to violate a protester’s rights. You appear to think that people who protest face no injustice or consequences at all. You also appear to think that if the threat of death or dismemberment were on the table, many protesters would quit. Finally you appear to believe that may actually be a good thing (at least in principle), as it may force myself and other protesters to become grateful for the few freedoms that are granted us by the State.

    For the statement on who will quit, I agree. I think many people who protest would think twice about protesting if the threat of physical injury or death were greater than it is now. I also think that many people who protest would become more appreciative of the few freedoms we have been allowed if the State began “cracking down”.

    I also think that is the textbook definition of tyranny. It may be a less-than-lethal tyranny, but it is tyranny nonetheless.

    Finally, I’d like to end this. People can still comment or e-mail me, but i’m not going to spend any more of my time arguing this.

  17. I believe that rational people will, if given a real choice, choose peaceful cooperation over destructive competition

    Well, then you would probably qualify as a socialist, at least, and a communist, more like. The idea that benevolencey exists in the hearts of people when it comes to governance, and that power does not corrupt.

    Congress, and the President have their feet held to the fire by voters periodically. Police departments are subject to Internal Affairs Departments, and anyone will freely admit that it is necessary to ensure their honesty.

    The idea that government is not necessary, or even worse, that a benevolent few can manage it to our benefit, has been disproven again and again.

    You appear to think that protesting the actions of the government gives its agents license to violate a protester’s rights.

    I have never advocated this. Get a permit to protest, and the police can not arrest you for assembling 700 people in a public plaza.

    Tyranny is absolute power. You have the power to protest and make yourself heard. The government has the power to require a permit.

    The people, unchecked by government, are capable of tyranny, as anti-WTO/IMF protesters have proven again and again. The requirement for a permit, and that protests be peacful is meant to protect the rest of the citizenry from the tyranny of out of control protesters.

    Nice tactical retreat. Have a nice life.

  18. Dear Jimbob,

    I would take the time to describe to you what the boat looks like, but I’m afraid you would miss that, too.

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