ban hate speech

The Problem With Trying to Ban Hate Speech

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Politics

By now, we’ve also seen what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Despite the President not condemning it in the strongest possible terms, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has implored the white supremacists to go home. While the rally ended up being fatal to some, even more have called to ban hate speech entirely. That’s not to say what happened wasn’t horrific. It was. And to deny that running over counter-protesters is terrorism is to deny the definition of terrorism itself.  But the reality is that the political culture wars surrounding this type of event have been around for a long time. I’d even argue that radicalization online was happening even before Gamergate.

Still, the issue here is that of language, and what constitutes political speech and hate speech. As liberals, we’ve grown accustomed to softening our language. This is partly the result of media, but also the result of enforcing cultural norms online, and the subversion of that. This is because, as we’ve correctly determined, the words we use have power, and why we choose them says a lot about ourselves. But language is ultimately an ephemeral thing. The cultural norms of yesterday are the cultural taboos of today, and the hippies of yesterday are largely the conservatives of today.

That isn’t to say we need to normalize hate speech. But we can’t ban hate speech. Not unless it explicitly calls for violence. As horrific as it is for other people to think you are subhuman, you also have the right to view them as subhuman, and even tell them so. But to successfully have a society where we value free speech, we also have to have a combative society. Everyone is fighting for their right to exist, their right to set the cultural milieu to their preferred standards.

Meanwhile, we’re all be giving a raw deal. Just like in the Spanish Inquisition, the government is stirring up cultural fervor. And the only time the establishment ever tries to do this is when things aren’t going well financially. That isn’t to say Fuck White Supremacy in the strongest possible terms. But what it is saying is that rallies like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia are meant to be outrageous by design. Nobody rabble-rouses just for the sake of it.

Instead, as insubstantial as Trump’s remarks were, we should consider taking the essence of them in to consideration. We do need to get to the bottom of this. Like it or not, we need to inhabit the same country. Not the same parts of it, mind you. But the same country nonetheless. And as much as some liberals want to punch Nazis, that can only be done for so long. Eventually, we’re going to have to head back to the voting booth, and decide whether or not we want to ban hate speech altogether. And that’s where the real cultural battle will be had. Not on the streets, but with our votes.

games workshop gets sued

Games Workshop Gets Sued: My Thoughts as a Former Warhammer 40k Player

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Comic Books, Culture, Video Games

Like many young nerds, I spent too much time (and money) on Games Workshop products. While this mostly extended to Warhammer 40k, I also bought plenty of Warhammer Fantasy models as well. In total, I probably spent well over $2.5k, which is far more than I should have spent. But since moving on to college and post-college life, Games Workshop products have fell by the wayside. Like many nerds my age, I no longer have the time or the disposable income to keep up with such a demanding hobby.

Still, it was interesting to see in the years since I quit the Warhammer tabletop universe how out-of-control the prices have gotten. And now, a lawsuit against Games Workshop alleges that the company makes a 50,000% markup on its models. While the scope of this lawsuit seems a bit outlandish (and also attempts to implicate Games Workshop in anti-trust and intellectual property theft), the fact is that the price of the models is too damn high. This is especially true given the demographic that Games Workshop targets. These are mostly teenagers whose parents are mostly paying for their products. Or for other teenagers (like myself), they are using the money from summer jobs to fund buying plastic models.

That’s not to say that the plastic models are all your buying when you buy Warhammer models. What you’re really getting is an introduction to the universe. When I was a teenager, Warhammer 40k was my introduction to a lot of sci-fi elements. That isn’t to say that I hadn’t seen Star Wars or wasn’t aware of Star Trek. But Warhammer 40k offered something more brutal, more raw, and something way darker. It didn’t matter to me that many of the key parts of its lore are ripped from sci-fi novels and movies like Alien. In fact, I wasn’t aware at the time and would now consider that pastiche. It’s just a mashup of the greatest hits of dark sci-fi, much of which is not immediately accessible to the average teenage nerd.

That being said, Games Workshop and the Warhammer universe definitely has a pricing problem. I spent thousands of dollars on amassing armes of Orks, Necrons, Fantasy Orcs, and Dwarves. And I really don’t have anything tangible to show for it. And while I did have a great time playing Warhammer tabletop games, I don’t think I needed to spend quite the amount of money that I did. Really, it mostly served to drain my teenage bank account. But in times when I felt more marginalized, the Warhammer universe and Games Workshop were there. It just wasn’t there without a huge price tag that I feel is very unconscionable to young tabletop players. And for that reason, I think that Games Workshop deserves whatever comes to them from this lawsuit and beyond.


curvy wife

Why I’m Actually the ‘Curvy Wife’ In My Relationship

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Internet

Hi, it’s me . The curvy wife of your dreams. Except I’m actually a man. And I don’t go on social media to brag about how a ‘real woman’ should look like Robbie Tripp. But already, the man is receiving backlash. A lot of people don’t get where he’s coming from; there really is a certain prejudice about mixed weight couples. And it’s obviously rooted in sexism. But like most issues revolving around weight, it goes both ways.

Really, it’s no secret that I’m the bigger man in my relationship. Besides being practically a foot taller than Alex, I also weight more than double her sub 100 pound frame. That doesn’t really bother me (of course, I’m a male, so it doesn’t), but I guess some people would call us a mixed weight couple. But being the curvy wife in this scenario not only isn’t that bad for me, but has also helped me to address a lot of my male body image issues.

Still, I don’t think that cultural call-out culture is all that great. The man obviously had good intentions in drawing attention to him and his wife being a mixed weight couple. And more importantly, his self-identifying curvy wife doesn’t exactly seem to have minded.

“He always makes me feel so loved and appreciated. As a body-positive fashion blogger, I’ve been very open about my body love journey and my goal to help other curvy women learn to love their body. I just feel so lucky that I have a husband who has loved every inch of me since the day we met,”

Given his wife’s feelings, is it okay for us to shame a man who just wanted to praise his wife? The road to help may be paved with good intentions, but not every perceived faux-pas needs to lead to damnation. That being said, being the curvy wife in a relationship can be difficult. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, and a lot of people feel that one partner isn’t getting a ‘fair deal’ based on attractiveness.

The reality is is that people also don’t like people who date people who are different than they are. In whatever form that may take. But the backlash to Robbie Tripp’s Instagram post is rooted in the fact that he was congratulating himself. And I get that backlash — standing up to the world and marrying a curvy wife is not an accomplishment. And neither is travelling the world. But if there are things you want to do, you should be able to do them. And nobody should tell you otherwise.

country collecting

Why I’m Done with Country Chasing While Traveling

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Culture, Travel

When I first decided that I was moving abroad on a budget, I had already been to many countries. While I had already been to plenty of countries, and on occasion had indulged in country collecting, I never thought of it as a competitive sport. But when people are bragging about travel, it often comes up that they are also country chasing. As a traveler, this type of behavior involves collecting passport stamps at as many countries as physically possible. This often encourages travelers to put in the least amount of effort in each individual country that they can. According to that logic, we should have gone to Belize and Costa Rica instead of spending two weeks in Guatemala and exploring all of its little intricacies.

But that often doesn’t make for good travelling. Developing surface-level relationships with a country is a surefire way to learn nothing from your travels. In fact, looking at travel as a commodity is probably the worst way to travel. But while country collecting can easily happen while traveling among the smaller countries in Europe, it certainly doesn’t have to. If you give yourself the time, you can actually spend more time in one place and not start country chasing. This will allow you to actually gain more from your experience and have thoughts and opinions on where you traveled to, such as my experience after leaving the Southern European countries.

Fortunately, the more you travel the less country collecting matters. While new travelers are likely to want to go country chasing all over a different region, they’ll quickly find that this approach leads to burnout. While many travelers have a limited amount of time, country chasing will also break your budget. The more and quicker you move around, the more headaches you will cause for yourself. This is often caused by a ‘go, go go’ attitude. But the world doesn’t move as fast as you do. And instead of trying to see the world before 30, its better to enjoy the travelling you actually do accomplish.

At the end of the day, the only person that sees your passport is you (and immigration officers). Nobody is going to care about your country chasing antics except for you. While a plethora of passport stamps can itself become a collectors item, that doesn’t mean that you should also be country collecting. The number of countries you’ve been to is irrelevant to your travel experience. Rather the connections you forge with different cultures is what makes travel worth it. And besides, a country chaser isn’t exactly the life of the party anyway.

southern european countries

What I Won’t Miss About Southern Europe

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Culture, Travel

In every traveler’s life, there comes a time where you you need to think about moving back home after living abroad. For me, that time has arrived. That’s not to say that is a permanent state. For me, it’s only going to last two months — but for others, that journey home lasts a lifetime. Still, there is a lot to love about living in the southern European countries.  It’s not exactly like going on your first cruise, but the lifestyle is very relaxing. There’s also a lot to do and you can pretty much live your life however you want to, even if that means growing a travel beard.

But there’s also a lot that is frustrating. This is especially true when it comes to efficiency. If that’s something you care about, then moving abroad on a budget might not be for you. You can’t expect to go to one of the southern European countries and have anything be on time or work properly. That’s just not how it works.

As a New Yorker, I initially found this maddening. It made me feel like I was traveling to the third world.  The MTA might never work properly, but at least New Yorkers get mad about it. And at first it felt like that. But then I recognized that in the Southern European countries, inefficiency is everything. But you always have to remember that you aren’t paying for efficiency. The bus may take go ten hours in the wrong direction to get to a destination that is only six hours away (just ask my brother), but nobody wants to pay for it to work any better than it does.

This is particularly true of the four most infamous Southern European countries: Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Of course, I’ve been to all of these countries in the last six months (look, now I’m bragging about travel), and have found the same thing to be true of all of them. All of them once had great empires. And now all are now content to rest on their laurels. Not that this requires an eagle-eyed individual to point out. But it does point to a big difference between ‘America first’ exceptionalism and  the ‘live and let live’ attitude in the Southern European countries.

At the end of the day, I won’t miss siestas, although those may soon be on the wane. Interruptions in the middle of the day are frustrating when you’re on a messed up sleep schedule like me. But what I will miss about the southern European countries is the freeing lifestyle. People here live way more varied lifestyles than back in America. While part of this is because there is less wealth to go around, it’s also because the cultural values of the southern European countries are fundamentally different than our own. And while I won’t always miss some of the day-to-day consequences of that, I will miss a lot of the cultural implications. I’ll miss the fact that we climbed a mountain near our apartment and found people literally living in caves. And more importantly, I’ll miss everything that comes with lifestyle choices like that.

no money in internet culture

There’s No Money in Internet Culture: Why You Shouldn’t Try To Make Money off Memes

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Internet, Journalism, Marketing

You don’t have to go very far online to find marketing discussions surrounding user generated content campaigns. What these refer to are brands encouraging users to create memes and content featuring their brand to share on social network sites. Despite having written about the topic in the past (for pay, so I will not be linking here), I don’t inherently think that encouraging people online to do anything for your brand is really a good idea. Like the political culture wars that define it, internet culture is not the place to look to kickstart your brand online. In fact, as prominent online culture peddlers will tell you, there’s no money in internet culture.

Countless articles online will tell you that businesses like Soundcloud, Tumblr, and even Reddit have failed because they haven’t monetized properly. But maybe that’s inherent to the business. Maybe there’s no money in internet culture in the first place. Unlike marketing a blog, there’s really no well to draw from. Just look at Vine. Twitter bought it and thought they could monetize it. And then quickly realized they couldn’t. This isn’t because Vine lacked an audience. It’s because they lacked an audience willing to pay. And you can’t host that much video if no one is willing to pay for it.

In contrast, a blog is a personal following on a platform you own. When someone creates a blog, or even a branded publication, they own the content on it. They can monetize it how they see fit. This is very different from internet culture, no matter the platform. Take the example of Ben Schulz, the player behind Leeroy Jenkins. He created an everlasting icon for Blizzard that goes well beyond the confines of World of Warcraft. And though he attempted to monetize the character, he was not able to profit from the internet culture that he created.

This is why creating internet culture is a raw deal for the creator. Without an actual product that people are willing to pay for, it’s difficult to find much money from something people can get for free elsewhere. Reddit may get billions of page views a month, but even with hiring a former Google advertising executive, they haven’t been able to make money off them.

People may consider authenticity important from brands they buy from. But generating user-generated content can’t itself be the business model. This is why Facebook encourages you to share personal updates as much as possible. They’re aware there’s no money in internet culture, but they want to use your status updates to sell your ‘likes’ and interests to advertisers to customize your ad experience. They’re even trying to get publishers in on it by charging readers to view their content. 

I personally think that is a mistake. Even legacy publishing brands are susceptible to the effects of user-generated content. Because someone somewhere can always make a blog to post the news. Now that we have options, we don’t care about where we get our news. As much as legacy publications are well-known, they aren’t necessarily trusted.  People in my age group are especially are willing to use alternative news sources.

All these new news sources represent is a shift toward blog content. And that’s not say the site owners can’t make a killing off repackaging the news. They can. But  Internet culture at large has a long way to go before it becomes profitable. Perhaps it will never get there. But expecting to make money off content that others generate will never make money. Just ask CondeNast, owner of Reddit and itself owned by Advanced Publications.

You can’t make money off the backs of other people’s creations, no matter how derivative. A platform or aggregator is never going to work that way, unless its an eCommerce store. But where the money is at for the modern content creator is creative entrepreneurship, which of course goes beyond making memes. It all comes down to owning your ideas, and if you don’t, then you’ll never be able to capitalize on them.

political culture wars

Why Politics are Subservient To The Cultural Battles That Shape Them

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Culture, Politics, Reading

Although I’ve stopped writing about politics for a while, now seemed to be the perfect time to jump back into the fray. This isn’t because I’ve had no thoughts on the matter. Rather it’s because if you look at the backlog of my politics posts, I’ve had nothing original to say. Since reading Kill All Normies, a book about the political culture wars that have taken place online, I’ve realized that I was saying the wrong things and thinking of things in the wrong way. In essence, I was thinking in a left-right paradigm instead of thinking about the political culture wars that were taking place right in front of me.

Like most liberals, I was pretty hysterical and upset about the election of Trump. Facebook status after Twitter post admonished Trump’s election, including a garish ‘Not My President’ profile picture. Like many others, I started hashtagging my way to relevance, joining the ‘Resistance’ along the way. Living in a foreign country has helped ease my mind in that regard. Removing myself from the day-to-day has helped gloss over the details.

But let’s remember that liberals reconcile drone warfare with pro gay marriage and abortion stances. Meanwhile, conservatives cheer the construction of a brutal healthcare bill, so as long as it devastates unions and sticks it to ‘liberal cucks.’ Neither of these is a truly coherent political philosophy. What these are are cultural points of view. They show that despite conventional belief, the political culture wars are going strong. And they have no sign of stopping soon.

Transgression, whether philosophical or culture, has always been a core part of the political culture wars and the democratic process. From political philosophers like Nietzsche, to the hippies in the 60’s and early 70’s, the dominant culture has always been questioned. For a while, it seemed like the dominant culture would be nativism. Once the French election was decided, that seemed to be less of the case.

‘Hitler was right’ became the kind of thing you saw in Minecraft because its contrary to the dominant culture. It’s culturally unacceptable to say this sort of thing, so it becomes a kind of symbol. This is why anti-semitism and anti-feminism became the rallying cries of online counterculture. But being subversive has always been a performative art. And that doesn’t change the fact that a few hundred thousand people in swing states are ultimately who decide contentious American elections.

Still, a lot of what is going on now, on both sides of the political spectrum, is performative. The political culture wars demand that everyone fly their colors loud and proud. And if the media (both social and traditional) is to be believed, this is certainty happening. But the media is just a cultural amplifier. Nobody goes about their day-to-day wallowing in the despair of others. And if they do — they should find a new type of life to lead.

But the political culture wars are far from over. Really, they’ve just begun. The culture of early 2016, of enforced political correctness, is just as bad as the political culture wars going on right now. As long as we refuse to see how we got here, we’re doomed to repeat this cycle.

In other words, values should not and cannot be enforced. As long as there’s a dominant culture there will be political culture wars to stir up the pot. The more hysteria we indulge ourselves in, the more we lash out, the less we end up learning. When everything from the casting of Aladdin to the announcement of the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who causes us to hyperventilate, then the political culture wars are lost, no matter who is winning.

It’s not as simple as saying we need to love our fellow man. Jesus said that and it lead to the Crusades. Also, we have the right to dislike people on an individual level. But what we can do to fight against the political culture wars is allow people to say exactly what they need to.

We can allow Bill Maher to have Milo Yiannopoulos on Real Time without collectively exploding into tiny fragments. But then we can also turn around and point out how stupid he looked. To me, that’s the only way to end the vicious cycle of political culture wars. And although it will likely never happen — coming to some sort of understanding is how we get out of this.

bragging about travel

How Bragging About Travel Makes Travel Worse For Everyone

Posted on 26 CommentsPosted in Culture, Travel

If there’s one thing that Fox News and The New York Times agree on, it’s that bragging about travel has become a serious problem among travelers. While this criticism might unfairly target millennials, it’s not far off. While we are the first generation to have the opportunity to move abroad on a budget (often while taking our work with us), that doesn’t mean we should be talking about going to countries as though they are something to collect.

The idea of bragging about travel actually recalls a situation with my girlfriend (who travel blogs regularly about the ethics of travel) and an acquaintance. Engaged in a one-sided conversation, the acquaintance remarked to Alex that he felt that the two of them were the most sophisticated people in the room because they are the only ones who have traveled extensively. Alex later told me about this — and it just made me laugh. Obviously he wasn’t aware that generally wherever Alex travels I travel too .It also seemed that he wanted to gloat about where he’d been without expressing an actual opinion about what he did and saw in the places he traveled to.

Prior to starting to write about travel, I haven’t really talked about my travels that much. Partially that’s because I didn’t want to come off as someone who was bragging about travel. Unlike some people who talk about travel, I don’t feel need to list off every country I’ve ever been to. It doesn’t make me a big man or a better person. But what it has done is inform my sense of self and has helped me grow in ways I didn’t know were possible. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be a part of every conversation I have.

Believe it or not, there are ways to have a conversation about travel without being a dick. The best way to actually do this is to start to develop opinions about your travels. Of course, opinions can’t be developed in a vacuum. You need to be able to quantify your experience in some way. In many conversations I’ve had with people about travel it’s almost impossible to tell if they’ve actually enjoyed their travels or not. It’s almost as if going is the only thing that counts, not the actual experience.

Another important thing to understand about travel is that there are many different ways to do it. And that’s not to say that one way is more legitimate than another. In the span of three months, we’ll be leaving our temporary home in Granada, Spain and trading it in for the comparatively luxury accommodations of a work-travel program in Southeast Asia. Both experiences appeal to different types of people who want to different kinds of conversation around travel.

As long as those conversations don’t devolve into bragging about travel then they are equally legitimate. There’s no better way to experience a new location while traveling. But there is a better way to talk about travel — and it should start by not namedropping the countries you’ve been to or bragging about travel experiences without offering insight.


I don't like the Beatles

Why I Don’t Like the Beatles: Hint — It’s Not Their Music

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Culture

I know, I know. I’m aware of what you must be thinking. For a guy who writes a lot about culture he sure doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But there’s a reason I don’t like the Beatles, and it’s certainly not their music. While I mostly write about video games, television, and travel, I do listen to a lot of music. At least enough to have an idea of how the Spotify algorithm works. But while I haven’t really written a whole lot about music, I do know how music influences culture. And it’s not always good.

In short, the Beatles are everywhere. Not just in their physical presence, but in their cultural influence. While you’ve likely heard the Beatles greatest hits compilations while you were still in the womb, you probably aren’t as familiar with the music they were inspired by (or some would say ripped off). Artists like Chuck Berry and Bobby Parker, even after their deaths, haven’t really gotten their fair shake. And that’s not just unfortunate — it makes music worse.

It also means that the discourse around pop music hasn’t really changed for almost half a century. For instance, is it really fair to say that Harry Styles ripped off the Beatles’ “Blackbird”  when the song itself was inspired by Bach? Pop music, in a sense, has just become a rehashing of itself, and that is a big reason why I don’t like the Beatles. The buck always stops with them. Their cultural influence on the discourse of music stops any serious conversation from happening. And declaring that “I don’t like the Beatles” is tantamount to committing musical treason.

Still — that isn’t to discount the Beatles musically. They’re a solid precursor and are super prolific. And they brought a very different style of music into the public consciousness. But that style hasn’t changed in half a century. And that not only makes our own culture poorer, but it makes our experience of listening to music poorer when we refuse to take anything seriously that doesn’t sound like the Beatles.

moving back home after living abroad

Moving Back Home – Leaving Your Place Abroad

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in Culture, Travel

Moving back home after living abroad is always a challenge. For Alex, this is her forth time moving abroad (if you count study abroad). For me, it’s my second (again, if you count study abroad). But moving abroad on a budget has been fundamentally satisfying in a way that study abroad never could.  When moving abroad, things are not arranged for you. Nobody acquired us a place to live or gave us a lifestyle to mold into. Instead we figured it out all ourselves. While that has been a challenge, perhaps the bigger challenge will be moving back home after living abroad.

Just as there’s no rulebook for moving abroad in the first place, there’s also no rulebook for moving back home after living abroad. Although we’ll only be back in New York for two months, it will be a significant cultural adjustment. I imagine that I’ll accidentally say gracias to thank people for their service, but it will of course go beyond that. Living in Southern Europe is very different than being in the US. From the lifestyle to the cultural expectations, everything is different. Some things — such as the more relaxed lifestyle — are unquestionably better. I’ve spent the majority of my time here sleeping in until whenever I want to. But there are some things here that are also worse. You have less options in everything, from eating and cooking to hygiene products, and there is that cultural barrier that is difficult to overcome.

Not having any mastery of Spanish, neither of us truly culturally integrated in the past six months. While we did take private lessons, those mostly served to buffer our serviceable knowledge of the language. This arms length approach will likely make moving back home after living abroad a bit easier. This has been particularly true when it comes to meeting people, who may not share a lot of the same sentiments as you — even if they are expats.

This has been a main reason why neither of us have made any permanent connections while being here. When we moved, we knew that we would only be here for six months. Also, one of those months was dominated by family. This means that we didn’t have a ton of time to acclimate and start making new friends. And we also didn’t have a strong inclination given the strong cultural barriers. In fact, both of use have made more new connections while traveling rather than while living abroad. Given that the lifestyle in Granada is fairly static, there also isn’t a ton of opportunity to meet others who are in a similar situation.

That’s not to say we haven’t gone out and met new people and couples. We have. But between being in contact with friends back in the US (who are normally busy anyway) and working, we weren’t really able to make any strong connections.  While I imagine that will make moving back home after living abroad quite a bit easier, it will still be a challenge. From our apartment with its gorgeous view to our day-to-day lifestyle, there is a lot I will miss. But more importantly, there were a lot of memories that were made while moving abroad. And moreso than connections, those are the types of things that stay with you a lifetime.