Posts from April 2004

Priceless.

photo: a MILLION march for choice!

I’m more than a little worn out from driving, so there won’t be much to say about the March tonight. But I would like to point out that it was incredible, that it was enormous, and that I’m humbled, and delighted, to have been a part of it.

The organizers estimate an astounding 1.15 MILLION PEOPLE attended the March. Volunteers were working on putting together a person-by-person count; I’d be interested to see how close that poll came to the estimated figure. In any case, even the lowball police estimates (according to the Washington Post) put the figure over 750,000-850,000. No matter how you count it this was the largest march on Washington DC in history. The downtown of Washington has something of the air of a stately necropolis; but on Sunday, it was no longer the tomb of American law. It was alive and seething, and we were standing up there to make the law defend a woman’s right to control her own body.

Snide sidebar: Randall Terry gave an interview on the morning news the day of the March, promising an ocean of signs and banners to confront the marchers. It seems that like the Aral Sea, Terry’s ocean had receded quite a bit. There were a few antis strung out in ragged lines across two or three city blocks; Randall Terry positioned himself in front of some fetus signs pasted up on free standing boards. When I saw the interview on the morning news, I went back to the hotel room and made up a sign for blocking the computer-generated fetus graphics that read Randall Terry GO HOME; if I’d known what the anti contingent would be like, I would have made it Is this the best you can do?

I am awestruck and hopeful about what has just happened in the capital. This was incredible. It was historic. I only wish that I could have sat down with the organizers and talked about the mobilization effort that went into it over the past several months; I am sure that there is a fascinating story to tell about the use of the March for Women’s Lives MeetUp and other Internet geegaws for organizing, and the incredible way in which these online tools were transitioned into real offline action.

Have you written a letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining your support for the March (and abortion rights) yet? If not, you should. It’s time to take this piece of history into the future. The political bloviators and spin-meisters need to hear, loud and clear, how 1.15 MILLION PEOPLE just stood up and marched for choice, and how millions more stand behind them. If we raise this issue–if we put women’s rights to their own bodies on the table–if we make George W. Bush talk about it rather than utter mealy-mouthed dodges from one side of his mouth and anti-choice code words from the other–if we make John Kerry talk about it rather than look nervous and start muttering weak euphemisms–then we will win and the antis will lose.

Let’s begin.

Three Ways To Stand Up For Choice

(this post is part of the Stand Up For Choice BlogBurst)

Stand Up For Choice: I stand with the March for Women's Lives!

I support the March for Women’s Lives

on April 25, 2004 in Washington DC

Stand up for choice!

Here’s three ways you can support the March for Women’s Lives, even if you can’t be there yourself:

  1. Show your support for the March by putting a post like this one on your own website. Be sure to add your own thoughts on why you support the March and a woman’s right to choose!

  2. Take those thoughts and turn them into a letter to your representatives in Congress. (Make sure you mention your support for the March, and make sure they know you’ll be voting pro-choice in November.) Then, take that letter and turn it into a letter to the editor of your local newspaper!

  3. Make a small contribution to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America: support the effort to protect choice as a right and to make it a reality.

Why?

I stand with the March for Women’s Lives because American women’s right to choose is under threat. Four more years of anti-choice politics will mean an unprecedented opportunity to chip away at the landmark victory of Roe v. Wade–and may even mean the opportunity to overturn it. That cannot stand. Everyone has the right to control their own bodies, and for women that right doesn’t stop at the uterine wall; a government that bans abortion is forcing women to continue pregnancies against their will–and that is nothing less than legalized slavery. While men in government offices play at politics, women will hurt and women will die because men in government uniforms think they have the right to tell them what to do with their own bodies.

A generation ago, women (and the men who stood with them) rose up, organized, and agitated to win the right to choose. This weekend, we will rise up again. Together, we can win again. And we will.

Onward!

We will make ourselves heard. We will support pro-choice work in our communities. Our struggle is here. Our time is now.

P.S.: Don’t forget to spread the word: if you support the March and its goals, rip off this post for your own website. Do it! Now!

Stand Up For Choice: at home or abroad! (A BlogBurst)

Martin Striz (of plausible thoughts fame) asked me an excellent question in an e-mail the other day: are there any emblems or other efforts to show support for the March for Women’s Lives this weekend if you can’t go yourself? (The March websites have some pages on ways to support the March if you can’t make it, but they all focus on things that you could have done a few months ago to help publicize the March.)

Well, it’s late in the game, but we are working on Internet time here, so here’s my idea. (I’m just tossing it out to see if it sticks; feel free to rip it off, alter it, deride it, ignore it, or whatever seems best.)

If you’re not going to the March this weekend–or even if you are–why not show your support by participating in a [BlogBurst][] in support of the March and abortion rights?

We can (1) get out the pro-choice message and bring it front and center in political discussion, (2) raise the visibility of the March even more through Google and political weblogs, and (3) take our support out into the world–and help others do the same–with letters to the editor, letters to our representatives, and contributions to pro-choice organizations. Here’s the format (you can see a SAMPLE POST here):

  1. A post to your web page headed up by a link back to this BlogBurst:

    <p><strong>(this post is part of the <a href="http://radgeek.com/gt/2004/04/22/stand_up.html">Stand Up For Choice BlogBurst</a>)</strong></p>

    and either the March emblem:

    March for Women's Lives

    or this one:

    Stand Up for Choice!

  2. Link to the March for Women’s Lives website.

  3. Offer three ways to support the March for Women’s Lives even if you can’t be there yourself:

    Here’s three ways you can support the March for Women’s Lives, even if you can’t be there yourself:

    1. Show your support for the March by putting a post like this one on your own website. Be sure to add your own thoughts on why you support the March and a woman’s right to choose!

    2. Take those thoughts and turn them into a letter to your representatives in Congress. (Make sure you mention your support for the March, and make sure they know you’ll be voting pro-choice in November.) Then, take that letter and turn it into a letter to the editor of your local newspaper!

    3. Make a small contribution to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America: support the effort to protect choice as a right and to make it a reality.

  4. If you’d like to follow any or all of these suggestions yourself, well, hell, it couldn’t hurt, could it?

Sound reasonable? I’ll get the ball rolling with an example post here at the RGPD. Let’s begin!

Jesus

Rush-hour blasts probably caused by car bombs have hit three police stations in Iraq’s second city of Basra, killing at least 40 and injuring scores.

Two school buses, one of them apparently full of children, were destroyed in one of the attacks, an AP correspondent reports from the scene.

A British officer said the three attacks had been near-simultaneous.

— Bombs hit Basra police stations: BBC 2004/04/21

I opposed the war. I hate the occupation and I wish that it would end tomorrow. I think that the Iraqi people have the right to resist the bloody occupation, collective punishment, and martial law that are being imposed on them by the Bush gang–by force, if necessary. But the next time that I hear some comfortable Leftist professor uncritically droning on about the Iraqi resistance–as if it were all of a piece, and as if anyone blowing shit up in Iraq were engaged in a just uprising–I think that I am going to cry.

This Is Not A Meme

This post is not the replication of a meme; it cannot be, because there’s no such thing as a meme. That deserves a longer argument than I’ll give it here–and it probably will get one in this space sometime in the near future–but for now the short version will have to do. The essential point is this: to give a memetic account of something you are supposed to give an account of it in terms of the replication of the memes that are most fit. Ideas (or, mutatis mutandis, slogans, habits, etc.) spread because some people have reasons to spread them, and other people have reasons to accept them. Understanding that is entirely a matter of understanding facts about people and their reasons: thus, understanding logic, rhetoric, psychology–phenomena such as giving evidence, drawing conclusions, weighing alternatives, informing, deceiving, manipulating, elucidating, misdirecting, revealing, and all the other things that people do when they talk with one another. But if memetic explanations are supposed to do anything special at all–instead of just restating the content of a logical or rhetorical (or whatever) explanation using cutesy neologisms–then it would have to give some characterization of the spread of an idea independently of these sorts of facts about their hosts. That there can be no such independent characterization puts memetic explanations in a double-bind: they must either be false or completely vacuous. (This double-bind may help explain why memetics talk rarely amounts to more than elementary folk psychology concealed under cutesy pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo: smuggling in folk psychology keeps the account from being revealed as plain nonsense; the specialized argot conceals the fact that the explanation is entirely parasitic on understanding some other field.) What meme-talk amounts to, then, is nothing more than a conceptual misdirection; we are told we are finding out something about how ideas spread, but what the explanation points out can’t be the (logical, rhetorical, psychological, …) facts that actually explain why people spread the idea. At best, it will be empty memetic terminology that stands in for whatever the real explanation happens to be. Because it is a conceptual misdirection, meme-talk is also pernicious; by directing attention away from the reasons that people have to accept or reject an idea, to spread it or to combat it, it attempts to talk about human actions and ideas in a literally dehumanized way. And we have more than enough of that already, thank you very much.

With that preface out of the way, let’s turn to the idea itself. (In the spirit of operating within the space of reasons, I might mention that it’s an idea I’m spreading because it’s a fun way to let people know something about what you’re reading; it can sometimes provoke interesting discussions about books; and because it gives me a chance to rant about why I don’t like the word meme.)

(the idea comes from everyone and their grandmother)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

From: Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick

(Nozick is discussing the Weberian conception of the State in terms of a monopoly on the use of force in a territorial area)

Nor need everyone grant the legitimacy of the state’s claim to such monopoly [for it to count as a state], either because as pacifists they think no one has the right to use force, or because as revolutionaries they believe that a given state lacks this right, or because they believe they are entitled to join in and help out no matter what the state says.

You’re lucky, by the way, that Nozick was a couple inches closer to my hand than the other book on my couch: Modal Thinking by Alan R. White, which is an excellent book with many good passages–none of which happen to be on page 23. I checked, and what you would have gotten by the rules of the exercise is a disquisition on the ordinary language uses and implicature of could have and how it can appear in places other than counterfactual conditionals.