Realism Exposed

Rude Friends

The author of this meme says that your jerkwad friend is a realist.  I’m pretty sure this is a hilarious typo, but let’s examine the implications of the author’s bold assertion nonetheless.

Ted: “You know, Bob, your friend Tony is quite rude!”

Bob: “I know, but he assesses situations realistically and makes rational and appropriate decisions based on his assessments.”

See, that doesn’t quite work.  Maybe the author had a different meaning of realist in mind.

Ted: “You know, Bob, your friend Tony is quite rude!”

Bob: “I know, but he’s a painter who portrays his subject matter realistically.”

No, that doesn’t seem to work either.  I’m going to wager that the author meant to use the word realest, as in most real.  What does it mean to be real?  From a philosophical standpoint, it means that your feelings of existence are justified.  So, your realest friend is the one least likely to be a hallucination…I guess.  According to this meme, your realest friend is also a giant asshole.

Ted: “You know, Bob, your friend Tony is quite rude!”

Bob: “I know.  That’s how I know he exists, you figment of my imagination.”

Ted: “What? I’m not a figment of your imagination, you idiot!”

Bob: “Okay, now you’re real.”

Ted: “Thank you, Bob.  It’s quite nice of you to say that.”

Bob: “Oh no!  I’m not real!”  *poofs out of existence*

All silliness aside, I know exactly what the author is trying to say.  He’s saying that if your friend is terminally tactless, it’s just because he is being honest with himself and with others.  Personally, I don’t buy that.  I do not accept that humanity’s default setting is asshole, and that civility and politeness are merely masks to disguise our true selves.  Being genuine and being polite are not mutually exclusive.

In my opinion, this meme might be shared by a person who, instead of working on his social skills and becoming more of a people person, would rather write off his rudeness as a side effect of his Earth-shattering realness.  I’ll tell you what’s real: if you are rude all the time, even to those you call friends, that is a character deficit.  The grown-up approach would be to improve your personality, not try to disguise yourself as honest.

 

Gun Lies

Hillary v Washington

If you believe this meme, Hillary Clinton is a threat to Americans’ Second Amendment rights.  Thing is, you definitely shouldn’t believe this meme.  Every part of it is a lie.

Let’s start with the alleged statement made by Presidential candidate Clinton.  I deployed my considerable resources in a comprehensive fact-gathering mission to determine the veracity of this quote…I’m just kidding; I Googled it.  And do you know what I found?  If you’re the person who put together this meme, I’m going to guess the answer is no.

I found that the Clinton quote is completely fabricated, according to the urban legend debunking website Snopes.com, who rated this claim false:

…the link included with the above-displayed meme didn’t lead to a page containing Clinton’s purported quote. Additionally, a search of the Des Moines Register‘s archives yielded no results for the phrase in question. In fact, this utterance was absent from all major news publications.

We looked into a handful of memes posted by the “Shocking Hillary Clinton Quotes …” Tumblr page and found that the provided source links never matched up with the purported quotes.

And let’s not just take Snopes’s word for it.  The fact-checking website Politifact.com called this fabricated quote “Pants on Fire”, saying:

Clinton campaigned heavily in Iowa throughout the summer and fall of 2015, and Register reporters and the paper’s editorial board interviewed her several times. But she was not in Iowa on Aug. 8, when she allegedly made the statement. Clinton’s first visit to Iowa in the month of August occurred on Aug. 14, followed by public events on Aug. 15 and Aug. 26.

A review of the Register’s archives show Clinton was neither interviewed nor quoted directly on Aug. 8 or in the days immediately following.

It is well known that Hillary Clinton does support stronger gun control laws, including broader background checks, especially at gun shows.  She also proposes restricting gun sales to domestic abusers and the mentally ill.  At no point, however, has she publicly called for banning all handguns or dismantling the NRA.

Now let’s talk about George Washington, the man who, according to myth, could not tell a lie.  Too bad the author of this meme didn’t follow his example.

Politifact weighs in on this quote as well.  Spoiler alert: it’s made up.  According to Politifact, Edward Lengel, editor-in-chief of the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia, says “there is no evidence that Washington ever wrote or said these words, or any like them.”  Lengel then says that while it’s impossible to prove a negative, he’s quite certain that the quote did not originate from George Washington.

What was Washington’s stance on gun ownership, while we’re on the topic?  In George Washington’s own words (his real words, taken from his first State of the Union address in 1790):

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies. (emphasis mine)

Washington experts agree that the first President was referring to a trained militia for defending the new nation, and for national self-sufficiency in creating military supplies.  Lengel explains:

The idea of resistance to tyranny being dependent on a nation of gun-wielding individuals acting at their own behest or even on local initiative would have been anathema to Washington.  Indeed, during the (Revolutionary) war he very frequently lamented the crimes carried out by armed civilians or undisciplined militia against their unarmed neighbors. The solution to these crimes, as he understood it, was to increase the power of the government and the army to prevent and punish them — not to put more guns in the hands of civilians.

If you are in favor of looser gun control laws, it seems that George Washington might not be your primary source for inspirational quotes.

I’m not telling you this to sway your vote, by the way.  To paraphrase a meme from long ago, I don’t care if you don’t like Hillary Clinton – or any political candidate – but I do care if the reason why is a lie.  In fact, I mind it very much if any of your political opinions are based on lies.  Do some research, and make sure you know exactly whom and what you are voting for – as much as it is possible to know – when you step into the booth.  You owe your fellow Americans that much.

 

Partly Paradoxes, Part 4

Ahh, here we are at last!  We have arrived at the final five memes in our Partly Paradoxes miniseries.  Perhaps you’d like to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 before proceeding.

As before, we’re still working our way through the Cracked.com article called 20 Paradoxes Most Human Minds Can’t Wrap Themselves Around.  It’s not that the meme-based article is particularly bad; it’s just that the person who compiled the memes doesn’t seem to fully understand what a paradox is.  I’ll admit, it can be difficult to determine whether a proposition is truly paradoxical or not, but that’s why I’m doing this.  I thought it would be an educational and challenging mental exercise to examine each of the article’s memes and determine whether they depict paradoxes or something else.  And you know what?  It has been!  I feel that I’ve learned a lot over the past week, and if you’ve been following along, I hope you did too.  So without further ado, let’s finish this!

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Partly Paradoxes, Part 3

Let’s continue our whirlwind tour of Cracked’s roundup of 20 Paradoxes Most Human Minds Can’t Wrap Themselves Around.  If you haven’t already read them, you might want to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

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Partly Paradoxes, Part 2

Yesterday we examined the first five memes from a Cracked.com article called “20 Paradoxes Most Human Minds Can’t Wrap Themselves Around“.  These memes are not particularly Stupid or Bad, but three of them didn’t fit the definition of paradox.  I know the world won’t end because of this.  I just thought it would be fun and informative to look at each meme individually and discuss the ideas contained therein.  If you’ve come looking for the brain-meltingly heinous memes that are usually my stock-in-trade, I promise: there will be a fresh shipment next week.  Until then…

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Partly Paradoxes, Part 1

Back in May, the Cracked website produced a page called “20 Paradoxes Most Human Minds Can’t Wrap Themselves Around“.  As a subscriber of the Cracked YouTube channel, I am well aware of Cracked’s penchant for misleading clickbaity titles.  (Interestingly, the URL contains the string “insane-thought-experiments-thatll-blow-your-mind”, which is an entirely different concept.).  I knew going into the article that at least some of the examples they presented would not be true paradoxes, nor would they be particularly difficult to comprehend.  I was correct in my suspicion.  This week I thought I’d take a break from the depressingly never-ending slideshow of racist, sexist, privilege-soaked memes to examine a group of memes that stretch the meaning of the word paradox to its very breaking point.

We’ve looked at an alleged paradox before.  Since many people struggle with the definition of paradox, let’s consult our friends at dictionary.com before proceeding:

paradox [paruh-doks]

noun

  1. a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
  2. a self-contradictory and false proposition.
  3. any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.
  4. an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion.

Consider the Twin Paradox.  In the Twin Paradox, one half of a pair of twins sets off from Earth in a spaceship traveling very close to the speed of light.  Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity says that if you travel very close to the speed of light, a stationary observer will see your clock running more slowly than his own clock.  Hence, the Earthbound twin, who is stationary for all intents and purposes, witnesses his twin aging slower than he is.  When the traveling twin returns, he ought to be younger than the twin he left behind.

But Relativity also tells us that there is no preferred inertial reference frame; i.e. the traveling twin may reasonably view himself as being stationary while Earth speeds away and then returns to him.  From the traveling twin’s reference frame, the Earthbound twin’s clock is running more slowly, so the traveling twin might expect to return to find that his Earthbound brother has aged less than he has.  If both inertial reference frames are equal, then both twins ought to be correct – a contradictory answer.

Many paradoxes can be resolved with a deeper understanding.  The resolution of the Twin Paradox comes from within Special Relativity.  Since the traveling twin’s reference frame changes between the outward and homeward legs of his trip, it is he that ages less than his twin.  The traveling twin returns to find that his brother (and everybody else on Earth) has experienced more time during his absence than he did.

A paradox need not be unsolveable, or even unsolved, to be called a paradox.  But it must lead simultaneously to two contradictory outcomes, even if the contradiction disappears with further study.  Without further ado, then, let’s see how Cracked’s list of paradox-bearing memes measures up.

(To be fair, some of the memes do depict actual paradoxes, and when they do, I’ll say so.)

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Irrational Vindictiveness

PoliceVindictiveness

No, dispatchers don’t really scan your social media profile, and even if they did, it would be illegal for them to refuse you aid because of your sentiments vis-à-vis having sexual relations with police officers.  This meme is pure fantasy, which raises the question: What twisted, dark, depraved mind fantasizes about a world in which a person can be abandoned to die for exercising his or her Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech on social media?

Apparently, The “Rational” Party does.  I looked up rational in the dictionary, and this meme isn’t it.  This meme is petty and vindictive, and those are its best qualities.

Imagine a scenario where you are angry, frustrated, maybe even fearful enough to write “F*ck the police” on your favorite social media outlet.  What could have driven you to do so?

Some people – the aforementioned “Rational” Party, perhaps – would say that only criminals fear the police, but that’s myopic and wrong.  If you’ve followed the news recently, you know that many people who have committed no crime nevertheless have a valid reason to fear the police.  I’m not only referring to black folks; Hispanics, poor people, and the mentally ill have also born the brunt of unjust police aggression. Any one of a number of disadvantaged minority groups could express their fear, distrust, and disdain for law enforcement officers, and I would understand their position.

There are also the supporters, by which I mean non-minorities who see what’s happening and find it disturbing.  A sympathetic soul – unlike a member of the misnamed “Rational” Party – might also post a derogatory meme about police officers, and by extension, the culture that allows them to be abusive toward minorities.  Our hapless victim might not be a member of a minority group at all; he may simply have had enough.  Who can blame him?  Who can look at the various ills that plague the justice system and not be disgusted to the point of profanity?

Let’s not lose sight of the most important point, though.  Whether the caller was justified in his social media rant or not, the police are not absolved of their responsibility to serve and protect.  That may be the most concerning problem with this meme.   Police officers swear an oath to uphold the law, and that oath does not include the words “unless the guy hates cops.”  Could you imagine if a doctor refused a life-saving procedure because he found out that his patient tweeted about how much he hates doctors?  Of course not!  That doctor would be justifiably booted out of the medical profession!  So what makes it such a funny fantasy to imagine a police officer or dispatcher doing the same thing?

As always when I write about police brutality against minorities, I feel compelled to reassure my readers that I know the problem isn’t endemic to all, or even most police officers.  But there’s a culture of protection for crooked cops that does stain all police officers.  That culture is maintained by people like the “Rational” Party, who, instead of acknowledging the problem and working to fix it, would rather blame those most affected by it.  Seriously.  F*ck the “Rational” Party.