Stupidity Gone Viral

Charlie Sheen Mosquito

If this is your reaction to seeing a mosquito at Charlie Sheen’s house, then you are unforgivably stupid.

For anybody who hasn’t heard, Charlie Sheen, the former star of Two and a Half Men who made “Winning” 2011’s most annoying catchphrase, recently announced that he is HIV-positive.  HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and despite denialist claims to the contrary, it is the virus that eventually causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).  A person with AIDS has a severely depressed immune system.  As a result, he or she might succumb to diseases that healthy people don’t normally contract, or which they are able to fight off if they do.

In the early 1980s, when HIV was first discovered in the United States, a newly-infected person might have a decade left if he was lucky.  Now, HIV isn’t necessarily the death sentence that it once was.  With treatment to suppress the growth of the virus and to quell opportunistic infections, a person infected with HIV today might reasonably expect to live long enough to die of other, non-HIV-related causes.

Still, HIV is a life-changing – if not life-ending – diagnosis, so it might be helpful to learn how HIV is transmitted, and to decide whether we really need to bathe in Off! mosquito repellent before visiting the Sheen residence.  Have a seat, kids: it’s time for the After-School HIV Special.

Generally, HIV is transmitted in bodily fluids, so the quickest way to become HIV-positive is to swap liquids with somebody else who is HIV-positive.  The most common routes of HIV transmission are through sexual contact and the sharing of injection drug paraphernalia.  An HIV-positive mother-to-be can also pass the virus to the developing fetus in her womb, or she can transmit the virus via breastfeeding.

Health care workers also assume a small risk of HIV infection due to the danger of being accidentally stuck with needles used on HIV-positive patients.  There is an even smaller risk to blood and organ transplant recipients, but advanced screening techniques have done much to minimize this threat.

And what about mosquitoes?  Surely those damned winged bloodsuckers up the HIV risk factor by a thousand, what with their indiscriminately poking their probosces into one unwitting donor after another, right?

Well, no.  Not that a mosquito particularly cares about spreading disease, but she is prevented from spreading HIV by several factors.  First, the construction of a mosquito’s blood-straw does not allow previously-sucked blood to flow downward into her most recent host.  A mosquito’s mouth parts have two tubes: one carries saliva downward and the other draws blood upward.  The saliva contains chemicals that prevent your blood from clotting, but it does not contain HIV from previously bitten humans.  And why not?

Because HIV is digested in the mosquito’s gut.  In a human host, HIV binds to T cells and begins replicating, but mosquitoes don’t have T cells.  The virus has nothing to attach to in the mosquito’s gut, so it simply gets broken down by the insect’s vile brew of digestive enzymes.  HIV never migrates from the mosquito’s belly to its salivary glands.

So, the virus cannot follow the gut-to-salivary-gland route that some other pathogens – notably malaria – follow.  But what about a more direct route of infection?  Mosquitoes are sloppy eaters, and they rarely use napkins.  When a mosquito leaves her host, she’s likely to have a bit of blood clinging to the end of her schnoz, and if that blood were HIV-positive, couldn’t she inject it into her next host, especially if she decided to feed again within a very short period of time?

Sure, that’s possible…in the same way that it’s possible to win the lottery twice and be struck by lightning five times within the same ten-minute period, and to reach the hospital just in time to see your wife giving birth to octuplets, just before she announces that she’s leaving you for Charlie Sheen.  Which is to say, it isn’t very possible at all.

Surprisingly, the virus count in an HIV-positive person’s blood is pretty low.  It’s highly unlikely that the blood stuck on the end of a messy mosquito’s maw contains even a single virus, let alone a large enough virus load to start a new infection in the mosquito’s next host.  Natalie Peretsman, writing for, reckons that if a mosquito were to drink from an HIV-positive person whose blood virus level was 1000 per milliliter, and if that mosquito were to immediately feast on a nearby healthy person, there’s still only a 1 in 10 million chance that the mosquito would transmit even a single virus to the healthy person’s blood.

So what have we learned?  Mosquitoes transmit many dangerous diseases, but HIV thankfully isn’t one of them.  You needn’t fear a mosquito at Charlie Sheen’s house, unless it turns out that Charlie Sheen has also contracted malaria, dengue fever, or chikungunya.

On a personal note, the vectors of HIV have been known for decades, and it’s well established that mosquitoes are not among them.  To make a joke like this either (A) portrays devastating ignorance of (and indifference towards) a very real public health issue, or (B) says that you’re the kind of person who thinks it’s hilarious to paint yourself and your supporters as blithering idiots.  In either case, shame on the person who made this macro, and shame on anybody who shares it.  Abysmal ignorance isn’t funny.  Stop glorifying it.


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I would like to thank Twitter user @IbrahimKaher for suggesting this vomitous meme, and the website from which it came.  I would also like to apologize for taking so long to cover it.  Unfortunately, professional concerns have kept me from updating my blog as frequently as I would like to.  But enough excuses…on we go!

Let’s talk about The Illuminati.  I used to think that the Illuminati were sort of a joke, the go-to reference for people who wanted to goof about vague, shadowy conspiracy organizations.  To blame the Illuminati for anything is sort of like claiming that Earth is flat, or that the Moon landings were faked.  The rest of us look at you and laugh, because we know you can’t really be serious, right?  Nobody actually believes in the Illuminati, do they?


Apparently some people do believe, and they believe hard.  (And some people believe – or claim to believe – that Earth is flat, and that the Moon landings were faked…but those are memes for another day.)  So before we address the Ebola nonsense, it behooves us to take a close look at the Illuminati.  If this blog disappears forever shortly after this is posted, you’ll know it’s because they got me!

The original Illuminati were a secret fraternity founded in Bavaria in 1776…and shut down by the authorities nine years later.  During their brief run, they were populated by the intellectual elite of Bavarian society: doctors, lawyers, judges, and politicians.  Despite their limited membership (at the height of their power, the Illuminati claimed between 650 and 2,500 members, depending on how you count them), the Illuminati had their fingers in many aspects of upper society.  Ironically, it was their pervasive presence in politics that would lead to their ruination.  As their numbers swelled, loose talk among their ranks precipitated an unintended transition in their status as a “secret” society.  The existence of the group, and its perceived influence in the court and in the political arena, became common knowledge.  This sparked considerable unrest among the uninitiated.  In 1785, Charles Theodore, duke of Bavaria, issued an edict banning all secret societies, including the Illuminati.  Officials raided the homes of known Illuminati members and published their secret documents.  With their cover blown and their influence dissolved, the original Illuminati effectively ceased to exist.

Some modern fraternal organizations have assumed the name Illuminati; some of them even claim dubious links to the original Bavarian Illuminati.  There is no evidence that any modern Illuminati organizations enjoy the same power and influence allegedly wielded by their namesake, nor that the original Illuminati persist.

But what does evidence matter to a conspiracy theorist?

Ask a true believer, and you’ll learn that the Illuminati are still alive and well; that they are more pervasive and influential than ever before.  To a conspiracy theorist, the Illuminati are a worldwide group of politicians, bankers, celebrities, and other high-profile, high-power individuals who serve as society’s puppet masters.  (Check out this delightful Gawker article for a partial list of the more visible Illuminati members.)  Apparently, the Illuminati start and stop wars, manipulate currency, and rig elections.  Their ultimate goal: nothing less than the establishment of a New World Order, a worldwide authoritarian government.

Of course, the Illuminati know that a one-world government will never succeed without the complicity of the governed.  And what better way to generate compliance than through fear…particularly fear of a deadly virus?  Yes, that’s right, folks: Ebola is an Illuminati tactic to disrupt the natural flow of business and politics.  Presumably the world’s most elite movers and shakers will swoop in and assert their authority over the crumbled remains of society, and we’ll all be glad for them to do so.

Before we proceed, I would like to point out an interesting bit of irony: the meme’s author suggests that the Illuminati seek to instill fear and panic via their controlled release of Ebola, but what does this meme spread if not fear?  I mean, look at it!  Creepy faces, skinless humans, spatters of blood everywhere?  I know: this meme is the work of the Illuminati!  Those crafty bastards!

Moving along:  the major problem with this meme (other than the questionable design choices) is that Ebola was eventually brought under control.  Despite its frightening spread, including into the United States, it did not result in a worldwide closure of borders.  Governments did not collapse; on the contrary, they did what they could to ensure the health and safety of their people.  And they were eventually successful; in the past day, Sierra Leone has been officially declared Ebola-free, according to BBC News.  Only a handful of Ebola cases persist in neighboring Guinea; even so, the border between Sierra Leone and Guinea remains open, albeit with heightened health screening in place.

Ebola had an enormous impact on the lives and cultures of the people in the hardest-hit nations; that much is certain.  Yet despite the devastation wreaked by the virus, life marches on.  Governments, whatever their shortcomings, remain intact; there is no evidence that any shadowy organizations have seized control.  No evidence, the conspiracy theorist would argue, is exactly how the Illuminati want it.  But that’s the problem with arguing for the continued existence of the Illuminati as a worldwide governing body: you can’t use zero evidence…as evidence.

Simply Stupid


Once again the fertile soil of the gun control debate has yielded a meme of absolute asininity.  My favorite part of this meme is at the end, when the author brazenly asserts that if you don’t understand (and presumably agree with) his point, as expressed in this half-assed meme, then you are an intellectual lightweight.  Well, anonymous author, I beg to disagree.  The gun control debate is not so simple, and anybody who thinks it can be expressed in such simple terms does not really understand it himself.  Of course, I have a sneaking suspicion that many pro-gunners don’t want to understand the intricacies and implications of gun control.  They have a single-minded dedication to a goal (unfettered access to unnecessary firearms) and anything that demonstrates the idiocy of that goal is anathema.

As I’ve said before, I’m not necessarily in favor of banning all guns, but they should be heavily regulated.  Obtaining a firearm ought to be a real chore, similar to getting your driver’s license.  You ought to have to check in regularly to make sure you haven’t lost any of the completely necessary weapons you own.  Even then, I won’t be convinced that putting more guns into the hands of untrained citizens makes for a safer society.  If you want to convince me of that, you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot better than this meme.  Gun advocates, you do yourselves no favors by creating and sharing memes like this one.

Let’s start at the top, shall we?  The bad guys look absolutely ticked that the good guys have guns, which I find comically ludicrous.  Any bad guy who despairs that his life of crime will be derailed by the presence of good guys with guns has only to examine the data.  How many mass shootings – indeed, how many shootings of any kind – have been stopped by an armed citizen?  Spoiler alert: it’s not that many.

The fact is that good guys with guns very rarely stop bad guys with guns.  In fact, according to FBI data, for every “justifiable homicide” (which could arguably be called a good-guys-with-guns scenario) in 2012, there were thirty-four criminal gun homicides, seventy-eight gun suicides, and two accidental gun deaths.  Let me restate that, folks, so the message is not lost: statistically, you are twice as likely to accidentally shoot yourself to death as you are to use your gun to kill a criminal.  Less than one percent of gun-related deaths are caused by a good guy with a gun stopping the commission of a crime.  Sorry, gun advocates, but that argument simply doesn’t hit its target.

Furthermore, if good guys with guns deterred bad guys with guns, then certainly the amount of gun violence would have risen in recent years.  After all, the General Social Survey report entitled Trends in Gun Ownership in the United States, 1972-2014 (PDF) shows that the number of Americans who own guns, or who live in a household with somebody who owns guns, has declined over the past 25 years.  Fewer gun owners = more crime, right?  Well, no.  Gun homicide rates have actually decreased by 49 percent since a peak in 1993, according to the Pew Research Center.

Let’s pull this all together.  The number of people who own guns has been decreasing over the last few decades, as has the rate of gun violence.  I’m not trying to say that A causes B; after all, I understand that correlation is not the same as causation.  But…and this is important, so pay attention, gun advocates…these data do not show that gun violence decreases when there are more gun owners, nor that it increases when there are fewer.  The implication made by the top part of this meme simply is not true.  No matter how often gun advocates parrot the words of Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, there is no evidence to suggest that good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns.

If you’re a gun advocate and you’re not already frothing mad at me, frantically scrolling down to find the Comment link, perhaps I can push you over the edge with my dissection of the second part of this meme.

If good guys don’t have guns (or if they have to work harder to get them, and are held accountable for what happens to them) then bad guys will have fewer guns.  Allow me to explain how.

A study (PDF) published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, in 2001, interviewed criminals who were serving time for gun-related crimes.  When asked where they obtained the firearm they carried while committing the crime that landed them in prison, about 40% divulged that they obtained their guns from their social network; i.e. from friends and family.  Another 40% claimed to have obtained a weapon from street or illegal sources.  The “illegal sources” category was not further subdivided, but one presumes that this percentage includes stolen guns.  Not surprisingly, very few criminals obtained their guns through usual legal channels: retail stores, pawn shops, etc.

Aha, the gun advocate might now be saying, that proves that criminals don’t get their guns from legal sources!  Harsh restrictions on law-abiding citizens will do nothing to stop criminals from obtaining weapons.  Well, not so fast.  ATF agent Jay Wachtel, speaking to PBS Frontline, says that stolen guns account for only 10 to 15% of the guns used in crimes.  In other words, 85 to 90% of the guns used in crimes were given to the criminal willingly, often by people who had acquired the guns through legal means.  In some cases a person agrees to purchase a gun for another person who would otherwise be unable to buy one.  In other cases a corrupt gun dealer makes an under-the-table sale to a buyer who wishes to remain anonymous.  In all of those cases, tougher restrictions on the legal sale and trading of guns – and harsher punishments for people who break the rules – would reduce the number of guns that eventually find their way into the hands of criminals.

So, there isn’t any conceivable way in which this meme is correct.  There’s no good evidence to suggest that a more heavily-armed American public will deter gun crime, nor can it be argued that disarming honest people will result in more criminals committing crimes with guns.  And for heaven’s sake, you’re not stupid if you disagree with the point this meme is trying to make.

Quick Memes, Part 3

It’s time to take a look at a few memes that are Stupid and Bad, but which don’t warrant an entire post.  Enjoy! (Here are parts 1 and 2, if you missed them.)

is it legal

The mind of a smart man asks “Is it legal and right, and if it’s not legal, does the rightness of it outweigh the possible legal ramifications?  Is right for me the same as right for everybody else?  Is my right more important than other folks’ right?  If I think that something illegal is nevertheless right, should I try to reform the laws concerning that thing, or should I just do as I wish and damn the consequences?”  And then the smart man starts to realize that ethical decisions are far more complicated than the simple dichotomy suggested by this meme.

Be aware: if anybody has ever called you a slave because you concerned yourself with questions of legality, that person is a fool, and he’s no friend to you.  A real friend would not offer a false dilemma like this one in order to goad you into making potentially life-altering decisions.  A friend would encourage you to consider all aspects of an ethical decision – legality, fairness, long-term consequences, and so on – before making an informed decision.  And if, in the end, you decide that the rightness of an act is more important than its legality (or lack thereof), then so be it.  But at least you’ll have considered all the relevant details and will have made your decision accordingly, and you’ll know that you’ve made your decision not just as a free person, but as a wise person.


Several things wrong here:

  • Just because some “rednecks” enjoy watching NASCAR doesn’t mean that rednecks contracted, designed, or built the fences the surround NASCAR tracks.
  • Even if they did, there’s a huge difference between building a fence that will stop a 190-mile-per-hour stock car (and the flying debris inevitably associated with it) and building a fence that will stop a nimble person determined to get past it.  People trying to cross the United States-Mexico border – let’s be honest…when you said illegal aliens, you weren’t talking about Canadians, were you? – are seldom (probably never) driving 190-mile-per-hour stock cars.
  • There is currently a “wall” along the United States’ southern border, but it’s an incomplete hodgepodge of various fence types.  There have been political pushes to complete it – especially during election years – but the price tag for this project is uncertain and unpredictable.

So, yeah.  Building a 2000-mile-long fence across various types of terrain is altogether a different task than building a 2-mile-long fence around a NASCAR track.  This meme’s author is trying to compare apples to oranges, and probably feels terribly clever for doing so.  To the author:  Stop it.  You’re not clever.

Also, stop calling them illegal aliens, you racist prick.


This is a personal quibble and I understand if you disagree, but I hate these little “math” puzzles posing as intelligence tests.  It’s not that I don’t get it.  I get it.  I see the pattern, and given any pair of numbers, I could generate the expected “solution”.  For example:

55,500,000 + 55,611,111 = 111,111,111,111,111


228,333 + 228,456 = 123,456,789

Now that’s clever.  But I digress.  The problem with these “math” puzzles, besides the fact that they use non-standard definitions for the plus and equal signs, is that they aren’t intelligence tests at all.  They’re nothing but sharebait.  The “puzzles” presented in these memes are generally trivial in order to maximize the number of people who solve them and pass them along.  Why?  Because a challenging puzzle – a puzzle that really makes you work for that shot of self-satisfaction when you solve it – would hardly get any exposure at all.  These stupid math puzzles give you the impression that you’ve done something smart, when all you’ve done is cleared the minimum hurdle necessary to share somebody else’s meme.

Gays and Guns

Capital idea!   Our approach to gun ownership should exactly mirror our approach to marriage: it’s only legal with the state’s consent and it must be thoroughly documented!

Or would you rather just acknowledge that marriage rights and gun rights are separate issues, and that supporting one doesn’t obligate you to support the other?

Your call.

Privileged Earned

I’d say you’re wrong, Morpheus.  You might be successful because of your education and hard work, but you’re privileged because of the station into which you were born, and because of society’s reaction to that station.  Ignoring privilege doesn’t make it go away.

Facebook Feeds The Hungry

No it doesn’t.  Facebook’s charitable donations are not affected by the number of people that share a meme.  Just like the math puzzle above, this is sharebait.  Its only purpose is to reward you with a false sense of self-satisfaction in exchange for a minimum amount of effort.

If you want to make a real difference, donate real money to real organizations that are working to alleviate hunger and sickness in developing nations.  If you’re a genuine activist, leave the comfort of your home and nation to volunteer in the regions struck by famine, war, and poverty.  Real change takes real effort; clicking “Share” on Facebook isn’t going to do it.

Stand Up and Be Men

Did you ever read something so blatantly sexist that you have to read it twice because you’re certain you misread it the first time?  For me, that’s this meme.  Yowza, what a load of sexist bullshit!  I didn’t even realize they had memes back in the 1950s!

Pennies from Heaven

“When an angel misses you”?  Are you operating under the misconception that angels are the departed souls of our loved ones?  Because if you are, I have to tell you: that flies contrary to your own religious dogma.  I researched the topic briefly, and here’s the theological consensus, as best as I can tell: angels are not humans, nor have they ever been.  According to most religious scholars, angels were created by God specifically to be his right hand not-men; humans, on the other hand, are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  Death is not some kind of graduation from human to angel; it’s merely a passage from physical human to non-physical human.  Or so the Scripture goes.

I’m not trying to tell you what to believe, but those who are telling you what to believe say that people don’t become angels when they die.

If we take this meme at face value, it raises all sorts of interesting questions:

  • Do angels materialize pennies themselves, or do they take already-minted pennies from somewhere else?
  • If they create coins ex nihilo, could they destabilize the economy by injecting enough money into the system?  Do angels have to be careful about that, keeping close tabs on how much money they’ve given away?
  • If angels get their coins from somewhere else on Earth, where?  A fountain, perhaps?  Do angels routinely search between peoples’ couch cushions for loose change, which they redistribute to people who are feeling glum?
  • If angels are the messengers of God, does God direct them to drop pennies?  How do they decide who gets a penny and who doesn’t?
  • Is there a way for people who are really upset to get larger values of money – say, quarters?
  • Do angels deliver pennies only to Christians, or can people of other faiths – and atheists – benefit as well?
  • Do people living in other countries also get US pennies, or do they get coins from their own currency?  Given the abysmal buying power of a single penny, it wouldn’t seem to matter much.  But still, if I lived in Uruguay, being given a useless US penny by an angel would almost seem like an insult.

I eagerly await the advisement of learned theologians on these queries.

White Knight Crusade


I’m not going to say that the creator of this meme is a misogynist, but he sure is disdainful of men who support women’s issues.  Make of that what you will.

The phrase white knight has several meanings; in this case it applies to a man who takes up the feminist cause.  The term is a pejorative; it implies that any man who espouses feminist ideals must be seeking a romantic reward.  This is insulting both to women and to men.  It’s insulting to women because it implies that their cause is not worth fighting for unless there is an eventual physical reward, and it’s insulting to men because it implies that all men are the same kind of selfish oafs as the maker of this meme.

The rest of this meme is a mess.  It includes liberal and feminist lingo that is either used incorrectly, or out of context.  Here’s the problem with memes like this one: if you’re a man and you even attempt to point out the glaring errors contained in this meme, the meme’s supporters will label you as exactly the kind of person this meme is talking about: i.e. a white knight with ulterior motives.  In other words, there’s no honest way to win.

Not that I’ve ever been deterred by impossible odds.  Let’s strip this white knight of his armor, and in doing so, expose the ignorance of the meme’s creator.

  • Friendzone Shoulder Padding

Despite the insistence of forlorn would-be lovers, there is no such thing as a friend zone.  That phrase was invented by people who view women as sex vending machines, primed to dispense the goods in exchange for the currency of chivalry, attentiveness, and emotional support.  When a man finds himself in the so-called friend zone, that is, that dreaded territory wherein a woman refuses to have sex with him, he tosses out the phrase almost as an insult, like the woman is defective for failing to honor her end of some unspoken contract.

Those of us who know better, know that women are thinking human beings (Imagine that!) with the autonomy to choose when and with whom they do the nasty, regardless of whether that person has been an emotional rock for the woman during her times of stress.  No one would suggest that a man is friend zoning his female friends if he does not repay their kindness with sexual favors (in fact, many of his friends are probably grateful that he does not offer to do so).  So why is it that women are somehow expected to repay kindness and decency with sex, then scoffed at if they do not?  Could it be because some people still view women as objects that exist for the satisfaction of men, and believe that they are broken if they refuse to act as such?  I think yes.

Anyway, if you insist that a woman has put you in the friend zone, you’re wrong.  You’re no friend to her if you think that she owes you for your friendship.

Ironically, the meme comes close to being correct in this instance; it clearly implies that women are not obligated to sleep with whatever gentle soul comes calling.  I would give the meme credit for recognizing the autonomy of women, especially when selecting sexual partners…but the rest of the meme utterly negates any good done here.  Let’s move on.

  • SJW Sword

There are few phrases that confuse me more than SJW, or social justice warrior.  Taken at face value, it seems like a noble goal; who wouldn’t want to be hailed for his tireless struggle for social justice?  Who wouldn’t want to be known as a champion – nay, a warrior – for those whom society has cast underfoot?

Yet in certain troll-heavy corners of the Internet, the SJW label is often applied as an insult.  For reasons I cannot fathom, some people consider it undesirable to be a person who lobbies for social improvement.  If you use the phrase social justice warrior as a pejorative, then what is the more appealing alternative in your opinion?  Somebody who fights for the status quo?  Somebody who thinks that social attitudes toward women and minorities are A-okay?  Because I can assure you, they really aren’t.  They really, really aren’t.

It’s confusing that the author of this meme decided that our white knight’s SJW sword should be used to “slice through” entitlement.  Most conservatives – and I think it’s pretty safe to say that the author of this meme is conservative – seem to think that social justice warriors draw their mana from entitlements.  This is just further evidence for my pet theory that nobody really knows what entitlement means, and that people simply use the word whenever they want to discredit their opponents’ ideology.

  • “Au Secour” Leggings

I’m certain the author meant to say au secours, which is French for to the rescue or, simply, help.  In either case, the author implies that one of the white knight’s ongoing missions is to rescue damsels-in-distress; specifically, feminists in danger of engaging in a logical debate.

The only way a logical debate might be dangerous – figuratively speaking – is if you have no logical backing for your arguments.  All feminist arguments are based on the underlying assumption that women are people who ought to have the same rights and treatment as other people, and the logic of their arguments blossoms from there.  To say that a feminist faces danger when she engages in a logical debate is either to say that this logic is wrong, or that feminists are overwhelmingly incapable of presenting their cases.  If you believe that the logic is wrong, we must once again ask what logic you offer to supplant it, Mr Meme Author?  Do you contend that women are not equal to other people?  Is it your assertion that the equality of women is not a logically defensible position?  Or do you simply believe that feminists are too inept to express their arguments in a cogent fashion?  I have to tell you, Mr Meme Author: neither position makes you look particularly appealing.

  • Cognitive Dissonance Helmet

Cognitive dissonance is mental stress that comes from holding conflicting opinions or beliefs at the same time.  Cognitive dissonance is not in itself a bad thing; we are all forced into situations of cognitive dissonance by the circumstances of our lives.  For example, we might be concerned about the environment, yet compelled to drive gas-burning cars to get back and forth.  In that case, cognitive dissonance might lead us to make decisions that lessen our environmental impact, such as walking or bicycling for short trips.  (On the other hand, it might lead us to decide that we don’t care as much about the environment as we pretend to – we all respond differently to cognitive dissonance.)

According to the meme’s creator, the CDH allows its wearer to accept radfem dogma.  I Googled radfem (a portmanteau of radical feminist) to discover exactly what constitutes radfem dogma, and came away with varying viewpoints.  For example, the usually-helpful Urban Dictionary tells us that a radfem is either:

  1. An ideologue who acts under the decades-outdated belief that gender, sexuality, and all parts of the human mind are learned and have no basis in biology, or
  2. A feminist who is more interested in revenge on the male gender than gender equality, or
  3. A radical feminist who often blogs and posts about sexism.

I encountered conflicting definitions from other websites as well.

So there appears to be disagreement about the meaning of radfem even among people who use the word.  Now far be it from me to insist that a word cannot have more than one meaning, but it seems that radfem, like entitlement, is simply another buzzword used by conservatives and anti-feminists when discussing people and ideas they do not like.  With no concrete definition for the word, it is impossible to evaluate exactly what the author means when he says that the CDH allows a person to accept radfem dogma.

If I had to take a guess, I would guess that the author of this meme does not know or care about the distinction between so-called radical feminists and the more moderate feminists that dominate the feminist movement.  I would go so far as to wager that the author believes that all feminists are radfems, but I can only speculate.

Male gaze is not something that can be corrected by a helmet; it’s a phenomenon that occurs in the visual arts, where the world is depicted primarily from the viewpoint of a heterosexual male viewer, using imagery that would appeal to him.  If you’ve seen some of the fast food commercials in recent years featuring scantily clad women writhing in ecstasy over a hamburger, then you have a pretty good idea of what male gaze is all about.  The author of this meme apparently does not.

  • Magic Breastplate

The Magic Breastplate allows the virtuous white knight to swallow his pride and check his privilege; both things that the author of this meme should try doing.  When you swallow your pride, you accept that you have to do things you might find embarrassing or which you might not want to do, but which you do because you know you’ll be making a positive difference.  For example, the author of this meme might swallow his pride and apologize for making such a wretched meme.

Checking your privilege is something you should always do if you occupy any position on the American Star of Privilege.  (Yes, I’m tooting my own horn.)  If you are a white, straight, Christian, cis-gendered, relatively wealthy male living in the United States, then you receive certain social benefits that simply are not offered to people who do not meet all of those criteria.  Ironically, the more points of the Star that apply to you, the more likely you are to deny that privilege exists at all.  Don’t.  Being privileged doesn’t mean you didn’t earn any of the things you have; it simply means that society totally had your back along the way.

When somebody says “check your privilege”, they’re saying that you should recognize your privilege; to acknowledge that your race, sexuality, or socioeconomic status affect the way others respond to you.  Check your privilege is not an admonishment not to be yourself, or to live to some extreme standard of political correctness; it’s only an invitation to be aware of your place on the social ladder.  Everybody could benefit from that.

  • Magic Gauntlet and Mace

The gauntlet and mace help the white knight dismantle the patriarchy, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  Despite the fact that women make up about 50% of the population, they are sadly underrepresented in positions of power (seats of Congress, for examples, or CEOs of large corporations).  Given the sarcastic tone of this meme, I assume that the author believes that dismantling the patriarchy is unwise, perhaps impossible.

  • Protective Knee Pad

And here we get to the crux of what the author thinks about feminist allies: he believes that we live our lives apologizing for everything our less-refined brothers (the creator of this meme, e.g.) have ever done or said that was demeaning toward women.  Perhaps some people spend their time that way, but I don’t think most feminist allies do.  Apologies are not without merit, but they do not change history.  That is simply impossible.  What we can do is acknowledge our history – to admit that the patriarchy has caused grievous harm to women (and continues to do so).  Even if we don’t beg forgiveness for the sins of our fathers, we can live a life that sets an example for our sons.  We, the people of the present, can live in such a way that the people of the future will be proud to be our descendants.  Part of that will involve treating women – nay, treating everyone with the same basic dignity.

And that is why I hate this meme so much.  The author portrays feminist allies as leches in knight’s armor.  He insults us by imagining us to be like him.  I truly grieve for the author, who is able to see no further than the tip of his own penis.  If I were ever going to apologize for any man’s behavior, it would be his.

General Lee Speaking, This Meme Is Awful


You know, because of idiotic memes, I cannot even look at Willy Wonka’s grinning mug without wanting to punch something.  Now they’re trying to ruin Kermit the Frog for me too.  Bastards.

We’ll talk more about Bill Cosby and Subway in a moment, but let’s start with The Dukes of Hazzard, a television series that originally aired on CBS from 1979 to 1985.  The show followed the adventures of Bo and Luke Duke, cousins on probation for transporting moonshine.   Their trademark vehicle, which they used to commit shenanigans and to jump over stuff, was an orange 1969 Dodge Charger called General Lee.  The General Lee, as you might expect from the name, featured a large Confederate battle flag on its roof.

The cable channel TV Land started broadcasting TDoH reruns on June 10, 2015, but pulled the program just three weeks later in the wake of the Charleston shootings.  Although TV Land gave no public explanation for their decision, the show was yanked in the midst of increased public scrutiny regarding the modern display of the Confederate battle flag.  Confederate flag supporters and Civil War revisionists (but I repeat myself) cried foul, arguing that the flag didn’t stand for racism and besides, them Duke boys never meant no harm.  People who know how to use Google responded with crushing evidence that the Confederate battle flag was very much a racist symbol at the time of its creation, and that it had been resurrected by an organization with racist goals.  Granted, nobody is claiming that The Dukes of Hazzard itself was a racist show, but it did prominently and proudly feature a racist symbol.  Unwilling to admit defeat even in the face of overwhelming evidence, flaggers launched an immediate tu quoque campaign.  Their goal: to find unsavory slobs whose related franchises were nevertheless still available for consumption, and to hold them up as shining examples of liberal hypocrisy.

If you were looking for unsavory, you could hardly do better than Bill Cosby.  Bill Cosby, once America’s beloved father-figure, lived a second life as a serial rapist.  According to the allegations of more than fifty women, Bill Cosby harassed, threatened, and drugged women to make them have sex with him.  That’s rape, ladies and gentlemen.  It doesn’t get any more clear-cut than that.

Like the Confederate-flag-festooned General Lee, Bill Cosby was featured in a popular television show from the 1980s.  The Cosby Show originally aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, and it literally made NBC’s Thursday night lineup.  The Cosby Show was in the top ten Nielsen ratings for all but its final season; still, when one thinks of the show now, one must consider the fact that even while Cosby was filming it, he committed multiple acts of sexual assault, including rape.  Clearly the man is scum.

So TV Land should be ashamed – ashamed – to continue airing a television show featuring a man who, by all accounts, is a monstrous rapist, when they pulled The Dukes of Hazzard for nothing more offensive than a decoration on the roof of a garish car.

Except…TV Land is not airing The Cosby Show anymore.  That’s right, TV Land pulled The Cosby Show in November of 2014, again, without an official explanation.  One assumes that TV Land wishes to avoid controversy – and they aren’t alone.  In fact, many media outlets pulled programming featuring Bill Cosby, and some canceled planned projects.  You would be hard-pressed to find Bill Cosby’s face on any TV channel, unless you’re watching a news story about another one of his victims shedding light on his terrible, terrible past.

Interestingly, both The Dukes of Hazzard and The Cosby Show are still available on several digital services, including Amazon, Netflix DVD, and Hulu, none of whom have announced their intentions to drop either program; ergo, the double standard that the meme tries to suggest simply doesn’t exist.  The most-talked-about network that gave the axe to the goose, gave it to the gander as well.  If other, smaller networks decided to keep one show while ditching the other…well, that is for them to explain.

Now then, let’s talk about Subway, shall we?  Subway also found itself at the center of controversy recently when its long-time spokesperson, Jared Fogle, became embroiled in a sex scandal of disgusting proportions.  Fogle, apparently not content to let Bill Cosby be the ickiest person in the world, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography and paying for sex with a minor.  Subway severed ties with Fogle before the proverbial excrement hit the cooling device, but now the question becomes: How much did Subway know about Fogle’s actions before letting him go?

At least two people claim to have alerted Subway that something was wrong with Fogle prior to the FBI investigation that exposed his sick deeds and officially ended his career as Subway’s pitchman.  One of the whistle-blowers was a Subway franchise owner.  She says she met with upper management to alert them that Fogle had asked her about the possibility of having sex with her underage cousin, and that he had admitted to paying a 16-year-old for sex.  She suggested – very reasonably, I think – that Jared’s image and merchandise should not be displayed in Subway stores, nor should he be allowed to interact with children.  Despite her conversation with the higher-ups, Subway made no immediate move to distance itself from Jared Fogle.

Rochelle Herman-Walrond, a Florida radio host, says she spent four years recording conversations with Fogle, who allegedly confided in her about his deviant interests.  She says the information she provided to the FBI was crucial in its investigation of Fogle.  She claims to have warned Subway about Fogle’s creepy behavior via an online form, but she never received a response.  Subway denies knowledge of either woman’s allegations.

Assuming that both women are telling the truth, then somebody at Subway knew about Fogle’s problematic behavior long before it became public, yet Subway failed to act.  That is a very big problem.  In that case, we must shift the question: To what extent is Subway culpable in this tragedy?  And what should we, the conscientious consumers, do about it?

It’s a difficult question to answer.  Subway publicly denounced Jared Fogle’s actions.  It’s not like they’re digging in their heels in the immediate wake of public controversy, unlike some fast-food chains I could name.  Still, one suspects they could have acted sooner – they should have paid more attention to the troubling claims brought to them by those two women.  Ultimately, I suppose, the consumers will determine whether Subway escapes from Jaredgate relatively unscathed, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to insist that Subway face some very close scrutiny regarding its delayed response to the Jared Fogle case.  At the very least, it may be time for an overhaul of Subway’s communication policies and a changing of the guard in the upper echelons of management.

Would it be appropriate to boycott Subway, in the same way that LGBT-supporters boycotted Chic-Fil-A after that corporation’s financial support of notoriously anti-gay organizations became public knowledge?  Again, that is for the consumers to decide.  If you eat at Subway, there’s no reason to expect that your dollars will eventually harm somebody (going forward, anyway).  But your patronage of that restaurant might also send the message to its directors that you agree with, or at least, don’t disagree with – their treatment of the two women and the information they provided.  One could argue that you are implicitly endorsing Subway’s reluctance to put morals above profits.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if you can live with that.

So what’s the final judgement on this meme?  Well, it was TV Land’s decision to take down The Dukes of Hazzard, and although the channel didn’t specifically say why, it’s reasonable to assume that it was related to the Confederate flag controversy.  But the network also responded to the Bill Cosby scandal in a similar fashion, so there is nothing hypocritical about their actions.  And the Subway case is a whole other can of worms.  As troubling as Subway’s early response (or lack thereof) to the allegations about Jared Fogle may be, they did eventually dump him.  Each person will have to decide whether he or she is comfortable eating fresh, but no one should feel that he or she is supporting a child molester for doing so.  The author of this meme seems to think that he is terribly clever for sticking it to the hypocrites who canned his beloved Dukes of Hazzard show, but the barb of this meme is simply too weak to puncture.  This meme aims at too many targets, and misses them all.

The Right To Stomp

Flag Assault

Noooo, that’s assault, and it’s a crime.

There are a lot of problems here.  Let’s enumerate them, shall we?

  1. This meme is based on a logical error called a non-sequitur (Latin for “does not follow”).  It opens with a premise (“Stomping on the U.S. flag is free and protected speech”), then leaps to a completely non-supported conclusion (“Stomping on a flag-stomper is free and protected speech”) based on nothing more than a superficial similarity between the two acts.  In fact, stomping on any person is probably a crime, regardless of what unsavory act the stompee perpetrated.
  2. It’s disturbing how many people think that violence – or the threat of violence – is an acceptable way of addressing folks they disagree with (and they wonder why gun control advocates push for stronger gun laws).  Toddlers are often told to “use their words” when they feel frustrated, but apparently that advice has lost its grip by the time people acquire the sophisticated vocabulary necessary to heed it.  Adults who create and share memes like this are operating on a preschool level of problem-solving.  Rather than try to sway public opinion with impassioned speeches, thoughtful essays, or protests, their first thought is to come out swinging.  Sounds like somebody needs a time out.
  3. This meme is representative of the kind of hyper-patriotism that is actually, in my opinion, harming our nation.  It’s fine to love the United States, but you should realize that no nation – not even ours – is perfect.  When you hold fast to the idea that the U.S.A. is perfect, you do a disservice to your country.  When you pledge to blindly defend the nation and its symbols, with violence if necessary, against ideological criticism, then you are no longer an asset to your nation.  You are a wart, a blemish.  You are not upholding the ideals of this great nation; you are preventing them from maturing.  By violently squelching unpleasant growing experiences, you become the guy who peaks in high school; so enchanted with the way things are now that he resists moving forward.  Don’t be that guy.  You should seek to address the issues that drove somebody to desecrate the flag, not to punish them for doing so.  Speaking of which…
  4. You ought to champion the rights of people to stomp on the flag, even if you strongly disagree with the message they’re sending.  The First Amendment protects all Americans’ rights to speech, including speech that criticizes the U.S. government, its policies, its citizens, or its flag, symbolic speech, and speech that others find offensive. The Supreme Court has ruled twice (in Texas v. Johnson and in United States v. Eichman) that laws prohibiting flag desecration are unconstitutional.  Despite numerous attempts by Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment that would settle the issue once and for all, none have succeeded.  At least for now, flag desecration (distasteful as it may be) remains a valid and protected way for an individual to express his or her opinion.  You cannot claim to be an American patriot when you are unwilling to tolerate people making full use of the protections offered by the American Constitution.
  5. The name of the website that apparently produced this meme,, is particularly ironic.  Somebody who is so offended by displays of ideological dissent that they must hurt the dissenter is the opposite of strong.  The website should be called
  6. To the person who said “I’m prepared to go to jail if I see someone stomping on our flag”: are you prepared to be labeled a terrorist?  Because if you hurt or threaten to hurt somebody in order to intimidate them into espousing your political position, or to punish them for expressing their own, that’s what I’ll call you.  Of course, that’s just my opinion, and you don’t have to agree with it.  My opinion does not come with the threat of violence; only the assertion that the person who stomps an American flag is causing less harm to this nation than the person who stomps the stomper.