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Michael Tyre
We live in a world. It is poorly used, quite soiled, and insignificant, but it is ours.
We live in a world. It is poorly used, quite soiled, and insignificant, but it is ours.

Michael's posts

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Let's talk about free speech. Let's talk about freedom of the press. Let's talk about what it is, and let's talk about what it's not.

I've got to say that this rant is going to be distasteful to me. The article linked below refers to a Wisconsin High School student who published an editorial in the school paper that was blatantly anti-homosexual, going so far as calling for the death penalty against gays. This is revolting to me. It is disgusting. This kind of hate from anybody, even a brain-dead high schooler, should make us sick. It does make me sick.

It's also his right to say it, and shame on the school for censoring his right to free speech.

There, I said it. I spat it from my keyboard like a vile, hateful thing. I want to be able to say the kid should be censored. I want to be able to say such horribly hateful ideas should be expunged from the universe. But I cannot, because this kid has a right to be a backwards, bigoted, hateful little schmuck with no value.

One key point that has been missing in this whole debate (not only in the article below, but in several other articles I read about the issue), is who greenlighted the article in the first place. I'm assuming the school paper does not just randomly publish op-eds without review. Does the paper have a stated policy against such vile intellectual filth? Does the school's anti-bullying policy extend to op-eds in their paper? I cannot find it. But even if the school's paper does have a policy against such drek, surely that falls on those who run the paper, not on the kid.

Yet this disgrace to his parents was hauled up in front of the head of his school and chastised for his hateful attitudes. That, perhaps was warranted. Then he was threatened with suspension. That was absolutely not.

High school bullying is a serious issue, and every gay teen who commits suicide is a blot on society's conscience that cannot be expunged. And it is tempting, very tempting, to respond to that by saying no one can hold any opinions about gay people at all. But that's not our world. And we do have free speech rights, and we do have free press rights, and those are sacred. Fuck, it hurts to type this. It hurts to THINK this. But the article was targeted at no one in particular, and it was this little shit's truly held opinion that he has a constitutional right to express.

So let's talk about free speech. The famous example for limiting free speech is yelling "Fire!" in a theater. The idea is that free speech cannot be taken to such an extreme that you are harming others. But doesn't all speech harm others? Surely this article must have been terribly hurtful to homosexuals. There was a terribly sad report in a local newspaper about a gay couple whose kid saw the article. How horrible! How shocking for them! But still... it's speech. There are horrible, shocking opinions held by bigots all over the world, and if you start censoring them because they hurt others you have taken a leap off the cliff. Free speech is too important to censor for such a thing.

What about incitement to commit a crime? If this twerp had suggested forming a lynch mob to get the gays, then I would not only be howling against him, I would be advocating jail time for incitement to commit a crime. But he's not. He's suggesting the death penalty for gays. This is an odious, disgusting opinion, and in fact if an organization expresses this opinion the Southern Poverty Law Center will denote that organization as a hate group (and well they should). But it is not incitement to commit a crime. It cannot be painted as such.

This kid is a wretched thing. He deserves the consequences of his ideas. He hopefully will be saddled for the rest of high school, and long afterward, with the reputation of being a vile, hateful idiot who does not deserve the friendship of decent men and women. That is the natural consequence of expressing hateful opinions. But this kid does not deserve official censorship. And certainly this kid does not deserve to be threatened with suspension.

When brought before the principal, the principal said "I was offended, so I know this offends people." What a ridiculous and stupid argument that is. That's the same argument homophobes use. "Gays offend me, so they must be offensive!" No. The proper response is "This is an odious, vile opinion, but it is his right to express it. It should not have been published in our school paper, and the editor of that paper will suffer the consequences of violating school policy on hate speech. In the next issue of the school paper we will be publishing a variety of articles both by and about our gay students, and the greater homosexual community, presenting a more realistic portrayal of their role in our diverse and tolerant society." But you don't go after the kid just because he's a hateful little shit. That only feeds into the homophobic persecution complex (as the paradoxically-named "Liberty Council" whined about, while conveniently ignoring the fact that the homophobe in question was calling for the death penalty.)

Ugh, this rant was hard to right. Free speech is hard when the speakers offend all human decency. But neo-Nazis get to hold rallies, and homophobes get to prove how idiotic and backwards they are. I need to go do something nice and uplifting. Maybe I'll find a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. to listen to.

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AlterNet is a bit of an odd duck. Wildly partisan, I have yet to catch it in a blatant lie (though, to be fair, I only read it when a colleague links me to an article). But as Fox News has taught us, there are many, many ways you can twist perception without being blatant. In general I treat it as I treat any other propaganda network. Often amusing, but never to be trusted. But when I was linked to an AlterNet article listing the "10 Most Brazen Lies Offered By The Remaining GOP Hopefuls" ( I fully expected to be amused. AlterNet did not disappoint. The gleeful schadenfreude of reading about the stupid, stupid lies the GOP told during this election was a balm to my twisted, prune-like soul.

Sadly, it was not such a balm to my ever-active, over-critical brain.

Oh, the lies themselves were spot on. Yes, the GOP really says some amazingly ridiculous things, and yes, they are in fact lies. But in commenting on the lies, AlterNet revealed two of its own biases that caused the tiny little critic that lives in my head to stand up and shout, "Fantasia, you suck." That's right, it was so jarring that my inner critic referred to American Idol Season 3. You know you've hit a low point when that happens.

The first bit was just AlterNet showing that they did not understand the American economy. They understand it better than Ron Paul understands it (which is the point), but they don't understand it. Neither do most people, so it's forgivable. We can argue about the proper way to look at the economy once we kick out the class dunces from congress. As long as AlterNet sufficiently realizes that there's something wrong with the way our country manages its money I am satisfied.

But the second issue got me a little hot under the collar. Romney accused Obama of forcing people to give out free contraceptives, even if they did not believe in them. Oh boo hoo, the poor persecuted religious super-majority. AlterNet accurately pointed out that this was, of course, ridiculous, and no such law exists.

And that made me think, "Why not?"

Why the hell isn't there a law on the books that says religious hospitals have to give out contraceptives? Why the hell do we allow contraceptives to be one of the many benefits to mankind that religions regularly deny their constituents?

I know the real reason why: The religious majority controls politics and would gladly murder children in their sleep if it either helped them maintain power or if their magic book told them too. But here's the thing: They're not allowed to murder children in their sleep. They're not allowed to kill non-believers, they're not allowed to stone adulterers, they're not even allowed to kick women out of town during their periods (whatever happened to family values?)

And the reason they are not allowed to do these things is obvious: Because an individual's right to religious choice ends the moment it interferes with another individual's rights. I'm going to say that again. An individual's right to religious choice ends the moment it interferes with another individual's rights. I'll say it a third time, because I know Baptists don't hear anything unless it's repeated three times. An individual's right to religious choice ends the moment it interferes with another individual's rights.

Anyone who disagrees with that statement has my permission to seek out their nearest devout Muslim and beg them to kill you as an infidel. You'll have to pester them for a while though, because most American Muslims are intelligent enough to know that an individual's right to religious choice ends the moment it interferes with another individual's rights. No matter what it says in the Quran.

So, back to the issue of contraceptives. When I hear the word "contraceptives" I think of two things: Free Sex and The Konami Code (get it? CONTRA-ceptives?) No, I mean birth control and condoms. Both of these things are beautiful, magnificent inventions that have made human life so much better. Both of these things have been declared evil and sinful by many Christian churches (most notably the Catholics). And, this is the important part, both of these things are absolutely vital to maintaining the rights of others.

For condoms this is an easy argument. Condoms aren't just there to give you consequence-free sex. Condoms are there to give you disease-free sex. Notably diseases like AIDS. Now in the United States it's gotten to where someone with HIV can live a full, normal, healthy life, and that's wonderful... in theory. But I know that's not happening in Africa and Asia, where people are too poor to get the cocktail medicines necessary to fight HIV and AIDS. And if it's true on a large scale in Africa and Asia, then there are almost certainly cases where it is true in America. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Untreated, or poorly treated, it leads to death. Denying condoms to people is as despicable as denying vaccines to a deadly disease during an outbreak.

I am fully aware that various magic books say condoms are bad. Fuck them, people's lives are on the line. End of discussion. The right of others to live is far more important than your right to deny them consequence-free sex.

But what about contraceptives? Those don't necessarily block deadly diseases, do they? They might as well. And I'm not just referring to the philosophical metaphor that life is a sexually transmitted disease, though that is a darkly humorous way of looking at it. No, I mean having children ruins your life.

Now wait, wait, before you send the hate comments, I didn't say it makes your life horrible. I said it ruins your life. Ask anyone who has ever had kids if their life was the same before and after. It's not. If you still have trouble grasping the concept, I refer you to a song that gets me choked up every time I listen to it:

But here's the thing: The new life built on the ashes of the old is not always a good one. Having a child destroys careers and futures. Having a child unexpectedly does even more damage. It very often leads to an embittered existence, bitterness then passed on to the children in psychological scars. For many of these people, you might as well have killed them.

And to the hateful, despicable bastards who say that "they deserved it" and "they should have been more careful", I want you to think back to your first car accident, no matter how minor. Now I want you to imagine having your license suspended for the rest of your life and being condemned to an impoverished life working in a car manufacturing plant for that single offense. Now I want you to realize that it is way easier to make an error in judgment that leads to sex than it is to make an error in judgment that leads to a car wreck. Are you really saying that a one night stand when you are 16, or 26, or even older, is worthy of the punishment of destroying your life?

So if religious nuts want to preach against condoms and birth control... well, it's still not okay. It's despicable and they should be ashamed of themselves. But it's legal for them to do so, and I would not dream of trying to legally take away their right to do so. But if they want to deny the availability of condoms and birth control to the public, they are murderers by negligence, destroying lives by turning the needy away.

So I have to ask... why is Romney's statement a lie? Why are we living in a world where Romney has to lie to make it seem like we are doing the good, moral thing? Why aren't we stripping away the rights of the religious, and anyone else, to so limit another person's life?

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So by this point I am guessing many of you have heard that, the popular file sharing site, has been taken down (,2817,2399105,00.asp). News reports on this seem a bit sketchy. Apparently the legal action was instigated by the United States government, but the arrests of the guys in charge were made by New Zealand police (as they have to be, those gents living in New Zealand and all).

This is coming so hot on the heels of the anti-SOPA/PIPA blackout that I have to see it as a giant middle finger from the Justice Department. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the evil beings who have dedicated their lives to destroying our freedoms are not just soulless automatons, they are people. People like you and I, only richer and more evil. And as people, when they see their Blowfeld-esque plans crumbling around them they are prone to fits of anger and violence, like Darth Vader choking the life out of his insubordinate.

Indeed, I admire their restraint in waiting for a whole day before shutting down Megaupload. I can imagine Eric Holder sitting in his strangely egg-shaped chair, stroking a white cat. A sniveling, fawning underling creeps toward him tentatively. "Mister Holder, Sir... I have bad news... Wikipedia joined the blackout, and Google blacked out their logo."

Languid malevolence gives way to vein-popping rage as Holder slams his fist down on his armrest, prompting his cat to yowl and leap away.

"They dare? THEY DARE? Take Megaupload! Take Megaupload and destroy it! They black out a website for a day? We put a website in the grave!"

Maybe I'm over-dramatizing just a tad. But I remember when the unions were rallying in Madison in protest of Wisconsin Governor Walker's ridiculous anti-union measures. A soulless automaton would have done the right thing, that is lay low, make soothing sounds, and tone down the evil until the public outrage had gone away. Instead Wisconsin Republicans met secretly in an illegal session to ram the bill in question down the public's throat, even as a mob chanted "shame" from outside. That is not the action of a soulless machine of evil. That is the action of a pissed off party taking out their rage on others.

Corporate apologists and government bootlickers often like to protest, "You act like corporations and the government are these soulless beings. But they're made of people! People like you and I!" Well, they're made of people, sure. But not like you and I. They are made of evil, angry people, whose egos are so fragile that when faced with the end of their careers, they would rather smash as much as they can instead of try to save themselves.

Be wary of a cornered animal, o reader! Megaupload is only the first casualty.

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Blacking out to fight SOPA and PIPA. Fuck censorship.

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There comes a moment when you just god damn love the human race. This is one of those moments. As we speak legions of Americans who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore are marching on Washington for +Occupy DC. And that is beautiful and incredible, and I may shed my jaded and cynical exterior and cry.

I am not being cute, and I am not being snarky. This is America. This is what America should be. I know people like internet blogs more if they are cynical and insulting, and I really would like to be, but I can't. These people are marvelous and magnificent and they prove that the human race is not done yet, not by a long shot.

The other beautiful thing is how much outcry has happened over SOPA and PIPA, often from the exact same people. Wikipedia once again proves how awesome it is by going black, as will Reddit, and many other sites. The MPAA responded with insults and whines, which only proves that they deserve to be pirated, the government is howling, the corporations are up in arms, and it is beautiful. That's something they did not show at the end of V for Vendetta: The millions upon millions on the internet, backing up and supporting the thousands upon thousands who were there physically.

Not that V for Vendetta is good for much other than symbolism for this movement, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that after decades of brilliant people banging on our pretty little bird cages and screaming at us to wake up, we're finally waking up. We're getting off our asses and doing something, or in some cases staying on our asses and still doing something.

I wish I could be with everyone in D.C. right now, but I have been poisoned by agents of the Orwellian government. By which I mean that I am laid out sick as a dog, which almost certainly has nothing to do with the government, Orwellian though it may be. But my thoughts are with you, and more importantly, my words and my actions are with you.

In one hour I go black to protest SOPA and PIPA. See you Thursday. Fight the good fight. Never give up. And remember that they only have power if you believe them.

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This is to all the brave souls in Washington today. You are the champions of our country. Our thoughts and support are with you.
#j17 #Occupyyourcongress Boodschap van Anonymous om vandaag te komen protesteren in Washington:

Today I am going to talk about the disconnect between the ideal and the inevitable. For any social crusader, in their freshly polished armor of rationality and idealism, ready to march forth and slay the demons of injustice, there is one virtue that must not be overlooked: pragmatism. For my illustrative example, I am going to use internet privacy.

It's dead. Get over it.

Nonsense! You scream with your raw throat as you thrust yourself against the door to hold out evil, struggling against the mighty thump of the demons without. Privacy has suffered a blow from social networking, internet providers, the telecommunications industry, the FCC, and the government, but it is not dead! It can be revived! All we have to do is fight! All we have to do is switch to G+, or Diaspora, or to a third-party telecom, or use an anonbox! We can hold back this zombie-horde of anti-privacy! And so you stand ready at the door, holding it shut, not realizing that the zombies are already in the house and eating your girlfriend.

Now I certainly do not begrudge anyone for talking about privacy. We SHOULD talk about privacy. We should rail against the lack of privacy. We should beat our fists against our chests and say that society goes too far when stalkers are only a google search away from discovering where we go every second of every day. Because privacy is important, and anonymity is important. Without privacy and anonymity, Twitter and Facebook could never have been the bastions of democracy that they were during Arab Spring, and before. Without anonymity and privacy, citizen journalists could not report from censorship-happy nations like China and the United States. Anonymity and privacy are incredibly important, and we should say they are incredibly important.

But there comes a time when we have to wake up and smell the coffee. Privacy, as we know it, is not going to exist in twenty years. Oh, we'll have some privacy. As wonderful a movie as Brazil was, I don't think there's much chance of us heading to a full-on Orwellian dystopia. It's not impossible, but that bleak future, at least, we can fight. But what we won't have is anonymity. We won't be untraceable. And as much as we rail against that, and stand against that, we also need to start preparing for it, because it is coming.

Teenagers today are growing up in a world where your user name is your real name, your cellphone tracks your movement, and anyone can contact you at any time. "Off the grid" now means not using Facebook for a little while, and it's not really off the grid at all. In twenty years, those teens will be the mainstream. They do not have the ingrained desire for anonymity that those of us who remember Internet 1.0 have. For them the Internet is not a magical alternate reality where we are things that we are not, but rather a cyber-extension of their own lives. And if the internet is just a cyber-extension of our own lives, why should we walk about in a disguise? Let us be ourselves, in cyberspace as well as real space!

That is lamentable. That is sacrificing something precious and vital. That is opening ourselves up to abuse and danger. But that is what will be. At this point the die is cast. So we need to inject a new element into dialog: What are we going to do to make the privacy-free world bearable?

My answer: We must expunge the idea of censorship in all its forms. This is vital even now, when we can still legitimately be anonymous, but it will be even more vital in the future when anonymity is impossible. The government will be able to know exactly what you say and what you think as long as you use the internet, and if you don't use the internet then you are a dinosaur doomed to extinction. It is impossible to stop the ability of the government to know what we do on the internet, so instead we need to ingrain into the government, with every ounce of dogmatic fanaticism that is shown to the pledge of allegiance, that censorship is abhorrent. Yes, we are aware that Mr. John Doe recently ranted that the government was a cesspit of filth, that taxes were a criminal institution, and that civil disobedience must be called for! We know Mr. John Doe advocated the breaking of American law to make a political point! And we shall allow Mr. John Doe to do so, because censorship is abhorrent.

We cannot fight technology. The reason privacy will die is because technology makes it too easy to break privacy. Technology will march on, always, despite all our efforts to stop it. Just as technology gave us the ability to destroy ourselves with atomic power, so technology will give us the ability to create a truly totalitarian state the likes of which Orwell could never have fathomed. We cannot stop that technology. It will happen. But we can determine what kind of world that technology will exist in. And that is the difference. There are two kinds of futures, utopia and dystopia, and the difference between them is not one of technology, but of sociology. It is not one of advancement, but of politics.

We must have class equality. We must have fundamental rights of expression. We must have individualism. Without these things, our technology will inevitably be used to oppress us. With these things, our technology will usher in a brighter era. Privacy will die, but whether that privacy gives way to a global community or an Orwellian nightmare is up to us.

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This is as good a place as any to start with my first post on G+. First, the current event that sparked this discussion involves atheism, but atheism itself is not really the point. The point is about offense, and respect.

We live in a world where, thanks to the perceived anonymity of the Internet, trolls and their ilk take great delight in spewing forth the most disgusting detritus imaginable in the mistaken belief that they are witty and amusing. This is clearer in some taboo topics than in others: Just try posting anything about feminism and legions of sexist hordes will descend demanding you get back in the kitchen and make them a sandwich. They persist in this despite patient explanations that there is no way to make the sandwich travel through the tubes of the internet to reach them, and that the sandwich is poisoned.

Such behavior is clearly offensive, and should cease. There you are, I've said it, people are far too offensive and they should try to stop being so. They should show a little respect and decency to their fellow humans, because if they do that enough they might fool the rest of us into thinking humans deserve respect and decency. And the first person who tries to pretend that this is an argument for censorship has my invitation to strike themselves repeatedly in whatever part of their body causes them the most blinding pain. This isn't about censorship, but self-control.

However, there are times when offense is not only acceptable, but absolutely vital. And this is when people are offended not by insults, but by opinions. And that is a whole different animal because opinions are part of free speech, which is the only thing that prohibits us from degrading into the roles of grunting chimpanzees in mental shock collars that the loosely decided consensus of moral society wants us to become. I firmly believe (to draw forth an example tailor-made to drawing the most vitriolic comments) that anyone who follows Ron Paul is either deluded, ignorant, or monstrous, and that is a very offensive opinion. It also happens to be a very accurate one, and since that opinion reflects reality it should be shouted loudly and proudly from the mountaintops like a thirty-year-old virgin after his first hooker, no matter what rabid or well-armed fanatics it offends.

But what about the opinions in between? What about satire, that marvelous and heaven-sent genre of comedy that uses insult and offense to illustrate opinion? Jesus and Mo definitely falls into this category. It deliberately attempts to be offensive, not only by depicting Mohammed in all his poorly drawn glory, but also by illustrating the fact that Jesus was a likely fictional character who espoused thought-crime and Mohammed was a child-raping illiterate warmonger, and that both their religions have the intellectual value of a sitcom written by a committee of twelve different network executives who had only ever watched sitcoms.

And that is a good thing. And it is a good thing for a very important reason: Because the establishment has declared that such opinions are taboo. No longer are we speaking of internet trolls who are spewing casual blasphemies in order to get a rise out of people, no. We behold, awe-struck and humbled, these great warriors of free speech who stand up to the terrifyingly militant, obsessively violent mob of homophobic, xenophobic, luddite religionistas and thumb their noses. Society, that disgusting, filthy word, has told us that we must respect the Muslim desire never to see a picture of Mohammed, and pretend that Islam, and Christianity, and any other religion somehow has value. This has not merely been espoused by a few people, but by the majority of the unelected authorities in the censorship-happy society in which we live.

At that point, censorship must be torn down like a paper wall between Nancy Pelosi and her crack pipe. Society tells me not to draw pictures of Mohammed? Let us all draw pictures of him! Draw pictures of him naked, or with a bomb on his head, or about to rape his nine-year-old child bride, or with a derpy face. Let us make derpy-face Mohammed a symbol for the ages! Society tells me to respect the opinions of Christians? Let us point the giant finger of reason at them and assail them unceasingly by calling their god a magic sky-daddy, and comparing Jesus to L. Ron Hubbard.

One blessed day in the far future perhaps we can have a civilized dialog on religion (or politics, or sexism, or racism, or any other of a thousand taboo topics), and then I will gladly stand up and say, "Hey, there's no need to be insulting, let's discuss these religions on their merits." At which point we will do so, and religions will be soundly cast out as utterly absurd. But until that blessed day arrives, then we must be offensive, we must be insulting. Not because any particular religion is wrong, but because we have been told that insults are not allowed.
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