Archive for January, 2022

On Book Banning…

Posted in Grumblings on January 29, 2022 by chemiclord

So, social media is on a bit of a boil over two separate but kinda similar-ish sorta events.

  1. A school board in Tennessee removed the work Maus from their library, and banned it from being taught in their school. (Link)
  2. A school board in Washington state removed the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from their curriculum’s required reading list. (Link)

Now, you may assume that being a writer, I’d be vehemently against the idea of “banning” books (in the sense of academic use). You’d be wrong. As far as it pertains to teaching purposes, I’m generally not bothered by what books are and aren’t specifically used. There are many books in this world, and any of them can be used by teachers to convey the messages and writing techniques that they wish to convey to students.

I do have a bit of a problem when they are used to score political points, which to different degrees both of these incidents are. A big clue is that neither school board has shown any indication what they intend to replace those books with in their curriculum… or even if they have any plans to do so. These were decisions to demonstrate to the parents just what these school boards believe in.

Sure, both school boards will give their reasons. To Kill a Mockingbird has problematic “white savior” narratives that run through it, or Maus contains “graphic imagery” that is disturbing to young students, for example. Many of the criticisms will be legitimate on its face. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to see how they aren’t a fairly clear political message.

(On an aside, to Mike Cochran of the McMinn County School Board: I had many emotions running through my mind as I read Maus. “Enjoyment” was certainly not one of them. While I am willing to accept that you poorly chose your words in an off-the-cuff quote, there is a significant number of the world’s population that would genuinely “enjoy” the imagery of that graphic novel, and those are not good people. Anyone who said they “enjoyed” Maus would be asked to provide a pretty damn good explanation for their choice of words lest they quickly find themselves no longer talking to me, and probably for good.)

That said, these two stories are, in fact, not the same, and our fourth pillar would be served to not treat them as if they are. Much like nearly everything else in our political discourse, one side is significantly more guilty and with significantly greater severity than the other. The conservatives and reactionaries among us are a far greater threat to our political discourse and sustainability of our society at this moment, and these two stories reflect that.

Maus was outright banned. Teachers are no longer permitted to discuss it. The school library is not allowed to have it on their shelves, or even in their stacks. For students whose only exposure to books is their school library (which is no doubt a non-zero number), Maus no longer exists in their world.

Meanwhile, To Kill a Mockingbird is simply no longer required reading for students in the Mukilteo school district. Teachers are still allowed to present it to students as supplementary text (and I’m sure many will). Students can still be recommended it and it can still be found in their school libraries. Depending on what book is chosen, there is not necessarily any meaningful loss in the education of these children. Presuming, of course, that a replacement actually is chosen or at the very least some rationalization that other books already in the required reading list can fill that niche.

Which it may not be, because again… it’s hard to see how at its core, this move isn’t political posturing of its own. But at the same time, it is long past due to stop approaching such decisions as binary actions of equal severity.

Any Attention is Good Attention

Posted in Grumblings on January 7, 2022 by chemiclord

Welcome back to another (extremely intermittent) commentary on people and the things they do to be noticed and stay noticed.

In today’s episode, we meet Tectone.

Tectone is a content creator, most notably for the game Genshin Impact, but not exclusively. Now, Tectone’s typical creative process runs something like this:

  1. Make a juvenile but otherwise largely innocuous bawdy tweet about something, like “waifus” or the size of a game character’s chest or ass.
  2. Soak in the angry replies from the professionally outraged on Twitter who seem to make a living out of overreacting to anything that happens to come into their vicinity.
  3. Make a Youtube video complaining about how he’s being attacked on Twitter.
  4. Repeat.

Now, let’s get some things out of the way.

Firstly, this process is entirely intentional. Tectone knows exactly what he’s doing.

Secondly, there’s absolutely nothing new about this. If anything, Tectone has merely refined the process of instigating a fight, then crying foul when he gets exactly what he was looking for, that has existed on social media pretty much since it’s inception.

Thirdly, Twitter is certainly filled to the brim with people who haven’t matured emotionally since fifteen and giggle delightfully when someone makes a tweet about “[insert character name here]’s massive mommy milkers,” and a legion of people who are too chickenshit to fight in real life, so they trawl the internet for hours every day looking for an opportunity to throw metaphorical hands.

Of course, none of this should happen this way. Is Tectone playing down to the juvenile? Yeah, he is. But there is absolutely nothing the dude says that should warrant anything more than an eyeroll. The proper response to his games is to mute the conversation, then go on with your day. Let him have fun with the forever teenagers. It simply isn’t worth ruining your day over. They aren’t an army of dangerous incels. They’re a bunch of just out of college aged kids that still laugh at fart jokes.

On the flip side, you kinda start losing sympathy for a person that keeps sticking his hands in a cage filled with angry dogs and inevitably gets bit. Should there be a pack of angry dogs in that cage? Probably not. But they are, and at some point, you lose the right to whine when the dogs in that cage attack you after you’ve stuck your grubby mitts in their face one too many times. I mean… what do you think is going to happen?

At the end of the day, social media has gone all in with the old journalistic maxim of, “All press is good press.” It doesn’t matter what you say, as long as a million people react to it.

And it’s just as tiring to witness now as it was twenty years ago.