Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.


Gary Younge: Farewell to America

"...in America 'a black male who drops out of high school is 60 times more likely to find himself in prison than one with a bachelor’s degree'. Previously, I’d have found that interesting and troubling. Now it was personal. I had skin in the game. Black skin in a game where the odds are stacked against it." #link


Fintan O'Toole: Why the Irish vote for corruption

This is not a surprise to me. The last seven years – no, several decades – should mean it's no surprise to anyone. And yet here we are, vacillating between the blue team and the green team as if those should be our only options. #link


OK, it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary – but do you know what ‘cis’ means?

"If I can’t say a word to my hairdresser and expect to be understood, it’s not, in my view, a good word. Cisgender smacks too much of esoteric gender theory to me; all very well if you get a kick out of discussing the minutiae of identity politics all day, but I’d rather talk about important stuff. Like lipstick." Ha! But joking aside, there's an important point here about using (misusing?) academic terminology outside of that context, however well-meaning. (The same goes for concepts like 'microaggression': misapprehended by a broader audience that doesn't grok the discrete difference in meaning a term like 'aggression' can have.) #link


ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape

A timely reminder that it's not about religion or culture or any of that obfuscating bullshit: it's about power, power of over individuals and over populations. Like feudalism, like the church in the middle ages, like warlords in the Horn of Africa, like the Third Reich. It's all the same when you reduce to the essence. #link


La Guerre Éternelle

Leonard Pierce says everything that needs to be said about last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris and their aftermath. #link


Syria's Climate Conflict

A graphic lesson in how climate change precipitated the Syrian crisis, and all the awfulness that's come with it. #link


I'm a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

'Liberal' in this case being redefined, I fear, as 'Not only am I free to believe whatever I believe as true, but if others don't share those beliefs, that constitutes a violent assault on my selfhood.' Or as Laura Kipnis puts it, "emotional discomfort is regarded as equivalent to material injury, and all injuries have to be remediated." (There's a lot to unpack in that essay, too.) #link


Migrants or refugees: what’s the right word?

The reason why 'migrant' and not 'refugee' so often is that the latter is usually conflated with UNHCR-identified programme refugees; it's then assumed to be a specific term, and ergo 'migrant' is preferable (coming from a standpoint of acute awareness of media law, at any rate). But of course, 'migrant' implies agency (in most people's ears, what they hear is 'economic migrant') whereas 'refugee' implies no choice but to GTFO. And you don't need to know the specifics to understand that the people fleeing conflict in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere are doing so out of absolute necessity. Refugees they are. #link


Nine trains delayed for four hours by one abusive passenger with no ticket

I was on one of those trains. Missed an important bus connection because of it. Seriously, fuck that guy. But also, fuck the toothless system that allowed him to basically hijack the whole Maynooth line. Where the hell were the guards? Cabra Garda Station is a five-minute drive from Ashtown, where this prick held up his train; you're telling me they couldn't spare a single car? #link


The Coddling of the American Mind

You know that bit Stewart Lee does about 'political correctness gone mad'? I think even he would turn green in the face of this sheer self-righteous ignorance, this kind of selective outrage that priorities certain people's feelings over others in situations where there is no incitement to hatred and, perhaps worse, equates mild discomfort on the part of otherwise well-meaning people expressing solidarity with (but ultimately condescending to and patronising) vulnerable others with long-lasting psychological or physical injury. So there! On a related note, the same issue of The Atlantic has a piece on how stand-up comics in the US have to censor their humour for college campuses, but weirdly I think the situation provides some pause for self-reflection: American stand-up is mostly unfunny shit, because it takes stereotypes as an end in themselves without unpicking them and playing with them in the same way observational comics do on this side of the pond. (Though even at that, I guarantee that Stewart Lee bit above would be enough to earn him a ban from many 'forward thinking' campuses.) #link


Lighten Up

"This is an example where privilege and social literacy intersect with art." Cartoonist and comic book artist Ronald Wimberly on white ignorance when it comes to race, and why it matters. (NB He doesn't explicitly say 'white', but privilege usually equals white, it's a fact.) #link


How I Gave Up Alternating Current

Wherein the software engineer and Soylent creator displays breathtaking privilege and ignorance of the world at large from behind his shield of environmental concern, and all ultimately in the service of promoting his new product. Even putting aside that cynicism, his approach is that of a corporate downsizing consultant, only concerned with increasing the efficiencies of life, without regard for the invisible hands -- exploited workers in China, farm-to-fork agrifood infrastructure, etc etc -- that move the world he must believe he makes revolve through force of his own will. #link


Buy now, pay later

Explaining the Irish banking crisis, in typically Irish terms. It's still pisses me off that we've never really learned the lessons of what went down, and we're bound to repeat it again. No real sense of people pulling together, everyone out for themselves. The upcoming marriage referendum has brought it out again: such an absence of empathy in such a supposedly 'Christian' nation; personal 'conscience' as an excuse for denying others trumps all. As a people, we're a sham, we really are. #link


Millions spent but are our streets more cycling friendly?

I don't know where they're spending their millions because the answer is a resounding 'no'. Here's two simple things that would help immensely: educating motorists that cyclists are allowed to 'take the lane', especially when it's unsafe to keep left; and making sure road surfaces are free of debris and uneven surfaces (poor tarmac laying around shores is just one depressingly regular example, grand for cars but potentially lethal for cyclists). #link


The case against human rights

Or rather, a motion for a different, non-hypocritical basis for human rights, because the system as it stands is constantly undermined by politics for good and for ill. #link


More thoughts on Charlie

Further to my comments the other day, here are a few other, related articles to consider. First, there’s Will Self writing for Vice on “the awkward truths about our fetish for ‘free speech'”:

The memorial issue of Charlie Hebdo will have a print run of 1,000,000 copies, financed by the French government; so, now the satirists have been co-opted by the state, precisely the institution you might’ve thought they should never cease from attacking. But the question needs to be asked: were the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo really satirists, if by satire is meant the deployment of humour, ridicule, sarcasm and irony in order to achieve moral reform? Well, when the issue came up of the Danish cartoons I observed that the test I apply to something to see whether it truly is satire derives from HL Mencken’s definition of good journalism: it should “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”. The trouble with a lot of so-called “satire” directed against religiously-motivated extremists is that it’s not clear who it’s afflicting, or who it’s comforting.

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Je suis Charlie

These days I’m generally loath to be a knee-jerk bandwagon hopper. I say that because, after reading with disgust about the murder of 12 people in yesterday’s attack on the Paris-based satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, I admit that it set off alarm bells, a distress signal warning of an incipient new wave of Islamophobia of the kind that polluted the cultural waters in the wake of the last cartoon controversy.

And one can read all sorts of motives and reasonings into the situation at large. At the top of my mind, there’s the privilege of self-professed non-conformists in poking fun at any and everything around them, in possible/probable ignorance of the very tangible effects of a society that’s marginalised those of minority ethnicity, both figuratively (cutting them out of the public discourse) and literally (encouraging ghettoisation in the banlieues). On closer view the Charlie Hebdo team probably mean well, and publish in good faith, but everyone has their blind spots.

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The Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates states the facts, which alone make an argument that's impossible to deny, in this authoritative essay for The Atlantic. #link


Bradley Manning and the Two Americas

The story of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning is an interesting one as it really seems to be the case of an individual coming to terms with their conscience and acting upon it, not that I agree with the way the leaked data was handled (too much information, especially unfiltered, can be a dangerous, volatile thing). Compare to Edward Snowden, who comes across to me not so much a whistleblower as a mole, someone with an agenda from the outset who sought out positions where he could achieve his goals. It saddens me that Snowden's become the poster boy via his deliberately spun James Bond bullshit, while Manning stews in prison unjustly, and for all intents and purposes forgotten. #link


Telling women to be careful gets men off the hook

"Women should be free to talk to whomever they choose and go wherever they want without threat of assault. Men have the choice to either create this freedom, or uphold the threat." The thing is that it feels like everybody needs to be guarded and vigilant but it's only women who seem to get berated with that message, mostly by men, which is funny because the stats are pretty clear. Whenever I feel defensive about this -- you know, I wouldn't walk through town on my own in the middle of the night, there's threat around every corner, whatever -- I have to catch myself and remember that it really is worse for women. I still think anyone who gets so shit-faced drunk that they have no idea what they're getting into is fucking stupid, because we clearly don't live in a perfect world where we can do that without blundering into danger we would otherwise avoid. But that often turns straight into victim blaming -- especially when the victim is a woman -- which immediately clouds the issue and is so damaging because, let's face it, the bastards who take advantage of these situations are the only ones to blame. The onus shouldn't be on the victim when the one perpetrating the crime -- any crime -- could choose not to do it. #link


Pullman v. Casserly: The future of copyright

Copyright is broken only insofar as the media industries' use of it as a weapon is destructive to everyone, makers of things and the people who enjoy them alike. Meanwhile, the arguments for and against come from very different places. Pullman makes a sympathetic case, showing his proper understanding of the chains of production that get the words he writes to the people who read them, but he's perhaps naive to ignore that he and other creatives should be getting a better deal from their publishers for what they do. Casserly highlights one example of a better deal: authors bypassing the traditional system to market their wares themselves, and often making a good living out of it. But she's also naive in assuming that's something everyone can achieve. For instance, Cory Doctorow isn't just successful because he's a gifted and hard-working writer; his editorship of the highly trafficked web culture blog Boing Boing played no small role in his success, too. Would he be where is is today were it not for already having significant visibility among the bulk of the audience that pays for his work? I doubt it. #link


Hero inflation

"Calling "hero" everyone killed in war, no matter the circumstances of their death, not only helps sustain the ethos of martial glory that keeps young men and women signing up to kill and die for the state, no matter the justice of the cause, but also saps the word of meaning, dishonouring the men and women of exceptional courage and valour actually worthy of the title." Damn straight. #link


There’s Always A Better Answer

An Irish woman with direct experience of abortion responds to those disgusting Youth Defence billboards, which reflect a general lack of understanding or even empathy among the Irish populace as a whole. #link


On the fiscal treaty referendum

A couple of weeks ago, I commented among friends in response to this article in The Irish Times, and specifically the quotes from our Minister for Finance (and Fine Gael member) Michael Noonan. His pathetic, transparent attempts to butter up the electorate and play on our egos made me sick, quite frankly, and it prompted me to get some things off my chest.

With today being the day we go to the polls, I think it bears repeating:

I’m seriously considering writing ‘Fuck you’ on the ballot paper. There’s nothing democratic about this referendum, it’s the illusion of choice. Only the whims of the banks and the markets will dictate where Ireland and Europe go from here; is the Government completely ignorant of this, merely naive, or in on the take? Take any one of those three, it doesn’t matter — the powers that be (there’s a conspiracy-theory phrase for ya!) are trying to convince us, the citizenry, that the decision is in our hands, so that when we make a bad one they can pin the blame on us. Fuck that shit.

A lot can change in two weeks, especially with a decision as complicated as this one (and that’s the point really, as it’s so complicated that it’s quite unfair to expect the electorate to make a truly informed decision). I remain convinced that whatever way we vote, it will be effectively meaningless in terms of the economic situation in the long run.

But if there is something to worry about, it’s the notion of changing our constitution to institutionalise a system that’s clearly failing.

Think about it.


Sherlock agrees to attend debate with organiser of anti-’SOPA’ petition

That's after he initially refused to attend if Simon McGarr wasn't removed from the panel, accusing him of "causing some reputational damage to this country by deliberately misinterpreting the [new legislation] as SOPA" (which wasn't the case, and he knows it, but howandever). Shame I can't attend the debate this afternoon; seems like the hashtag is #DRF2012 so I can follow things on Twitter later. #link


One Town's War on Gay Teens

Here's my alternative standfirst: Why wretched people like Michelle Bachman and her supporters are dangerous and evil and must be stopped. #link


My Guantánamo Nightmare

The shocking story of one man's abuse at the hands of a system (and a society) determined that 'someone' should pay for evil deeds done, whether they're guilty or not. Utterly shameful. #link


Now that Ireland’s SOPA is law, what next?

So the proposed legislation dubbed ‘Ireland’s SOPA’ has been enacted into law by Statutory Instrument, despite vociferous opposition from that section of the public clued in to such things. And now the junior minister responsible, Seán Sherlock, has launched a public consultation that, he says, could lead to new laws which would supersede the current one.

Leaving aside the notion of holding a public consultation after the proposals in question were already made law through the back door, we see that Minister Sherlock has made a gesture of sorts to his critics, calling on “those people who were exercised by the statutory instrument” to “engage in the very nature of copyright [and] engage on the issues within the consultation paper”.

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