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What You Can't Say

michael posted about 11 years ago | from the mental-gymnastics dept.

Censorship 1999

dtolton writes "Paul Graham has an excellent article posted on the subject of things you can't say. His article explores what ideas are generally considered heresy, and whether or not those ideas might be true nonetheless. He also presents advice for handling heretical ideas. Considering that many of the ideas in technology in general and Open Source specifically are near heresy, it's well worth a read."

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Don't forget... (-1)

SCO$699FeeTroll (695565) | about 11 years ago | (#7875204)

...to pay your $699 licensing fee you cock-smoking teabaggers.

Re:Don't forget... (-1, Offtopic)

Brahmastra (685988) | about 11 years ago | (#7875217)

Finally this troll can be considered on-topic. What it says should be added to the list of what you can't say.


CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | about 11 years ago | (#7875251)


gnaa rules trollkore drools (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875210)


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic.
Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
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Re:gnaa rules trollkore drools (-1, Insightful)

Frostalicious (657235) | about 11 years ago | (#7875240)

This is probably the one thread where the GNAA posts are ON topic.

Shit Fuck Cunt Whore? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875212)

What else....?

FAGS FOR YOU AALL!L!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875213)

[end transmission]

Imagine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875215)

A Beowulf cluster of things you can't say/


Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875222)

Was Jesus a NIGGER?

Many people are surprised to discover that Christ was a black man, but when one looks at Christ's lineage one discovers that He has numerous Hamatic Ancestors, with Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Naomi, Bathsheba and Jezabel being the most notable.

Here are the facts:

  • In ancient times, including Jesus' time, the Arabian peninsula was considered part of what we now call Africa, not "the Near East" or "the Middle East".
  • Christianity is frequently portrayed as "the White Man's religion". The truth is that most of the people in the Bible were people of color (i.e., not "Anglo"): Semitics, blacks, and Mediterranean, e.g., Romans.
  • In the United States today the general view on whether someone is "black" is the One-Drop Rule -- if a person has any black ancestors s/he is considered "black", even with a clearly Anglo skin color, e.g., Mariah Carry, Vanessa L. Williams, LaToya Jackson.
  • Jesus' male ancestors trace a line from Shem. However, ethnically and racially, they were mixed Semitic and Hamitic from the times spent in captivity in Egypt and Babylon. Rahab and probably Tamar were Canaanites. Although Canaanites spoke a Semitic language, they were descendants of Ham through his son Canaan. Bethsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah the Hittite, probably was a Hamitic (black) Hittite herself.
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G_____________________________________naann_______ ________G
N_____________________________nnnaa__nanaaa_______ ________A
A____________________aanana__nannaa_nna_an________ ________Y
A_____________annna_nnnnnan_aan_aa__na__aa________ ________*
G____________nnaana_nnn__nn_aa__nn__na_anaann_MERI CA______N
N___________ana__nn_an___an_aa_anaaannnanaa_______ ________I
A___________aa__ana_nn___nn_nnnnaa___ana__________ ________G
A__________nna__an__na___nn__nnn___SSOCIATION_of__ ________G
G__________ana_naa__an___nnn______________________ ________E
N__________ananan___nn___aan_IGGER________________ ________R
A__________nnna____naa____________________________ ________S
A________nnaa_____anan____________________________ ________*
G________anaannana________________________________ ________A
N________ananaannn_AY_____________________________ ________S
A________ana____nn_________IRC-EFNET-#GNAA________ ________S
A_______nn_____na_________________________________ ________O
*_______aaaan_____________________________________ ________C
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you don't say.... (0, Funny)

stonebeat.org (562495) | about 11 years ago | (#7875226)

i dont wanna say anything about the article :)

Here it is (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875227)

January 2004

(This essay is about heresy: how to think forbidden thoughts, and what to do with them. The latter was till recently something only a small elite had to think about. Now we all have to, because the Web has made us all publishers.)

Have you ever seen an old photo of yourself and been embarrassed at the way you looked? Did we actually dress like that? We did. And we had no idea how silly we looked. It's the nature of fashion to be invisible, in the same way the movement of the earth is invisible to all of us riding on it.

What scares me is that there are moral fashions too. They're just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they're much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.

If you could travel back in a time machine, one thing would be true no matter where you went: you'd have to watch what you said. Opinions we consider harmless could have gotten you in big trouble. I've already said at least one thing that would have gotten me in big trouble in most of Europe in the seventeenth century, and did get Galileo in big trouble when he said it-- that the earth moves. [1]

Nerds are always getting in trouble. They say improper things for the same reason they dress unfashionably and have good ideas: convention has less hold over them.

It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.

Is our time any different? To anyone who has read any amount of history, the answer is almost certainly no. It would be a remarkable coincidence if ours were the first era to get everything just right.

It's tantalizing to think we believe things that people in the future will find ridiculous. What would someone coming back to visit us in a time machine have to be careful not to say? That's what I want to study here. But I want to do more than just shock everyone with the heresy du jour. I want to find general recipes for discovering what you can't say, in any era.

The Conformist Test

Let's start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think whatever you're told.

The other alternative would be that you independently considered every question and came up with the exact same answers that are now considered acceptable. That seems unlikely, because you'd also have to make the same mistakes. Mapmakers deliberately put slight mistakes in their maps so they can tell when someone copies them. If another map has the same mistake, that's very convincing evidence.

Like every other era in history, our moral map almost certainly contains a few mistakes. And anyone who makes the same mistakes probably didn't do it by accident. It would be like someone claiming they had independently decided in 1972 that bell-bottom jeans were a good idea.

If you believe everything you're supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn't also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s-- or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.

Back in the era of terms like "well-adjusted," the idea seemed to be that there was something wrong with you if you thought things you didn't dare say out loud. This seems backward. Almost certainly, there is something wrong with you if you don't think things you don't dare say out loud.


What can't we say? One way to find these ideas is simply to look at things people do say, and get in trouble for. [2]

Of course, we're not just looking for things we can't say. We're looking for things we can't say that are true, or at least have enough chance of being true that the question should remain open. But many of the things people get in trouble for saying probably do make it over this second, lower threshold. No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.

If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking.

Certainly, as we look back on the past, this rule of thumb works well. A lot of the statements people got in trouble for seem harmless now. So it's likely that visitors from the future would agree with at least some of the statements that get people in trouble today. Do we have no Galileos? Not likely.

To find them, keep track of opinions that get people in trouble, and start asking, could this be true? Ok, it may be heretical (or whatever modern equivalent), but might it also be true?


This won't get us all the answers, though. What if no one happens to have gotten in trouble for a particular idea yet? What if some idea would be so radioactively controversial that no one would dare express it in public? How can we find these too?

Another approach is to follow that word, heresy. In every period of history, there seem to have been labels that got applied to statements to shoot them down before anyone had a chance to ask if they were true or not. "Blasphemy", "sacrilege", and "heresy" were such labels for a good part of western history, as in more recent times "indecent", "improper", and "unamerican" have been. By now these labels have lost their sting. They always do. By now they're mostly used ironically. But in their time, they had real force.

The word "defeatist", for example, has no particular political connotations now. But in Germany in 1917 it was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge of those who favored a negotiated peace. At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that.

We have such labels today, of course, quite a lot of them. Many come from the left, including the startlingly general "inappropriate", but the most recent comes from the right: "divisive", which the current administration uses to silence opponents on almost any topic.

In any period, it should be easy to figure out what such labels are, simply by looking at what people call ideas they disagree with besides untrue. When a politician says his opponent is mistaken, that's a straightforward criticism, but when he attacks a statement as "divisive" or "racially insensitive" instead of arguing that it's false, we should start paying attention.

So another way to figure out which of our taboos future generations will laugh at is to start with the labels. Take a label-- "sexist", for example-- and try to think of some ideas that would be called that. Then for each ask, might this be true?

Just start listing ideas at random? Yes, because they won't really be random. The ideas that come to mind first will be the most plausible ones. They'll be things you've already noticed but didn't let yourself think.

In 1989 some clever researchers tracked the eye movements of radiologists as they scanned chest images for signs of lung cancer. [3] They found that even when the radiologists missed a cancerous lesion, their eyes had usually paused at the site of it. Part of their brain knew there was something there; it just didn't percolate all the way up into conscious knowledge. I think many interesting heretical thoughts are already mostly formed in our minds. If we turn off our self-censorship temporarily, those will be the first to emerge.

Time and Space

If we could look into the future it would be obvious which of our taboos they'd laugh at. We can't do that, but we can do something almost as good: we can look into the past. Another way to figure out what we're getting wrong is to look at what used to be acceptable and is now unthinkable.

Changes between the past and the present sometimes do represent progress. In a field like physics, if we disagree with past generations it's because we're right and they're wrong. But this becomes rapidly less true as you move away from the certainty of the hard sciences. By the time you get to social questions, many changes are just fashion. The age of consent fluctuates like hemlines.

We may imagine that we are a great deal smarter and more virtuous than past generations, but the more history you read, the less likely this seems. People in past times were much like us. Not heroes, not barbarians. Whatever their ideas were, they were ideas reasonable people could believe.

So here is another source of interesting heresies. Diff present ideas against those of various past cultures, and see what you get. [4] Some will be shocking by present standards. Ok, fine; but which might also be true?

You don't have to look into the past to find big differences. In our own time, different societies have wildly varying ideas of what's ok and what isn't. So you can try diffing other cultures' ideas against ours as well. (The best way to do that is to visit them.)

You might find contradictory taboos. In one culture it might seem shocking to think x, while in another it was shocking not to. But I think usually the shock is on one side. In one culture x is ok, and another it's considered shocking. My hypothesis is that the side that's shocked is most likely to be the mistaken one. [5]

I suspect the only taboos that are more than taboos are the ones that are universal, or nearly so. Murder for example. But any idea that's considered harmless in a significant percentage of times and places, and yet is taboo in ours, is a good candidate for something we're mistaken about.

For example, at the high water mark of political correctness in the early 1990s, Harvard distributed to its faculty and staff a brochure saying, among other things, that it was inappropriate to compliment a colleague or student's clothes. No more "nice shirt." I think this principle is rare among the world's cultures, past or present. There are probably more where it's considered especially polite to compliment someone's clothing than where it's considered improper. So odds are this is, in a mild form, an example one of the taboos a visitor from the future would have to be careful to avoid if he happened to set his time machine for Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992.


Of course, if they have time machines in the future they'll probably have a separate reference manual just for Cambridge. This has always been a fussy place, a town of i dotters and t crossers, where you're liable to get both your grammar and your ideas corrected in the same conversation. And that suggests another way to find taboos. Look for prigs, and see what's inside their heads.

Kids' heads are repositories of all our taboos. It seems fitting to us that kids' ideas should be bright and clean. The picture we give them of the world is not merely simplified, to suit their developing minds, but sanitized as well, to suit our ideas of what kids ought to think. [6]

You can see this on a small scale in the matter of dirty words. A lot of my friends are starting to have children now, and they're all trying not to use words like "fuck" and "shit" within baby's hearing, lest baby start using these words too. But these words are part of the language, and adults use them all the time. So parents are giving their kids an inaccurate idea of the language by not using them. Why do they do this? Because they don't think it's fitting that kids should use the whole language. We like children to seem innocent. [7]

Most adults, likewise, deliberately give kids a misleading view of the world. One of the most obvious examples is Santa Claus. We think it's cute for little kids to believe in Santa Claus. I myself think it's cute for little kids to believe in Santa Claus. But one wonders, do we tell them this stuff for their sake, or for ours?

I'm not arguing for or against this idea here. It is probably inevitable that parents should want to dress up their kids' minds in cute little baby outfits. I'll probably do it myself. The important thing for our purposes is that, as a result, a well brought-up teenage kid's brain is a more or less complete collection of all our taboos-- and in mint condition, because they're untainted by experience. Whatever we think that will later turn out to be ridiculous, it's almost certainly inside that head.

How do we get at these ideas? By the following thought experiment. Imagine a kind of latter-day Conrad character who has worked for a time as a mercenary in Africa, for a time as a doctor in Nepal, for a time as the manager of a nightclub in Miami. The specifics don't matter-- just someone who has seen a lot. Now imagine comparing what's inside this guy's head with what's inside the head of a well-behaved sixteen year old girl from the suburbs. What does he think that would shock her? He knows the world; she knows, or at least embodies, present taboos. Subtract one from the other, and the result is what we can't say.


I can think of one more way to figure out what we can't say: to look at how taboos are created. How do moral fashions arise, and why are they adopted? If we can understand this mechanism, we may be able to see it at work in our own time.

Moral fashions don't seem to be created the way ordinary fashions are. Ordinary fashions seem to arise by accident when everyone imitates the whim of some influential person. The fashion for broad-toed shoes in late fifteenth century Europe began because Charles VIII of France had six toes on one foot. The name Gary began when the actor Frank Cooper adopted the name of a tough mill town in Indiana. Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.

The prohibition will be strongest when the group is nervous. The irony of Galileo's situation was that he got in trouble for repeating Copernicus's ideas. Copernicus himself didn't. In fact, Copernicus was a canon of a cathedral, and dedicated his book to the pope. But by Galileo's time the church was in the throes of the Counter-Reformation and was much more worried about unorthodox ideas.

To launch a taboo, a group has to be poised halfway between weakness and power. A confident group doesn't need taboos to protect it. It's not considered improper to make disparaging remarks about Americans, or the English. And yet a group has to be powerful enough to enforce a taboo. Coprophiles, as of this writing, don't seem to be numerous or energetic enough to have had their interests promoted to a lifestyle.

I suspect the biggest source of moral taboos will turn out to be power struggles in which one side only barely has the upper hand. That's where you'll find a group powerful enough to enforce taboos, but weak enough to need them.

Most struggles, whatever they're really about, will be cast as struggles between competing ideas. The English Reformation was at bottom a struggle for wealth and power, but it ended up being cast as a struggle to preserve the souls of Englishmen from the corrupting influence of Rome. It's easier to get people to fight for an idea. And whichever side wins, their ideas will also be considered to have triumphed, as if God wanted to signal his agreement by selecting that side as the victor.

We often like to think of World War II as a triumph of freedom over totalitarianism. We conveniently forget that the Soviet Union was also one of the winners.

I'm not saying that struggles are never about ideas, just that they will always be made to seem to be about ideas, whether they are or not. And just as there is nothing so unfashionable as the last, discarded fashion, there is nothing so wrong as the principles of the most recently defeated opponent. Representational art is only now recovering from the approval of both Hitler and Stalin. [8]

Although moral fashions tend to arise from different sources than fashions in clothing, the mechanism of their adoption seems much the same. The early adopters will be driven by ambition: self-consciously cool people who want to distinguish themselves from the common herd. As the fashion becomes established they'll be joined by a second, much larger group, driven by fear. [9] This second group adopt the fashion not because they want to stand out but because they are afraid of standing out.

So if you want to figure out what we can't say, look at the machinery of fashion and try to predict what it would make unsayable. What groups are powerful but nervous, and what ideas would they like to suppress? What ideas were tarnished by association when they ended up on the losing side of a recent struggle? If a self-consciously cool person wanted to differentiate himself from preceding fashions (e.g. from his parents), which of their ideas would he tend to reject? What are conventional-minded people afraid of saying?

This technique won't find us all the things we can't say. I can think of some that aren't the result of any recent struggle. Many of our taboos are rooted deep in the past. But this approach, combined with the preceding four, will turn up a good number of unthinkable ideas.


Some would ask, why would one want to do this? Why deliberately go poking around among nasty, disreputable ideas? Why look under rocks?

I do it, first of all, for the same reason I did look under rocks as a kid: plain curiosity. And I'm especially curious about anything that's forbidden. Let me see and decide for myself.

Second, I do it because I don't like the idea of being mistaken. If, like other eras, we believe things that will later seem ridiculous, I want to know what they are so that I, at least, can avoid believing them.

Third, I do it because it's good for the brain. To do good work you need a brain that can go anywhere. And you especially need a brain that's in the habit of going where it's not supposed to.

Great work tends to grow out of ideas that others have overlooked, and no idea is so overlooked as one that's unthinkable. Natural selection, for example. It's so simple. Why didn't anyone think of it before? Well, that is all too obvious. Darwin himself was careful to tiptoe around the implications of his theory. He wanted to spend his time thinking about biology, not arguing with people who accused him of being an atheist.

In the sciences, especially, it's a great advantage to be able to question assumptions. The m.o. of scientists, or at least of the good ones, is precisely that: look for places where conventional wisdom is broken, and then try to pry apart the cracks and see what's underneath. That's where new theories come from.

A good scientist, in other words, does not merely ignore conventional wisdom, but makes a special effort to break it. Scientists go looking for trouble. This should be the m.o. of any scholar, but scientists seem much more willing to look under rocks. [10]

Why? It could be that the scientists are simply smarter; most physicists could, if necessary, make it through a PhD program in French literature, but few professors of French literature could make it through a PhD program in physics. Or it could be because it's clearer in the sciences whether theories are true or false, and this makes scientists bolder. (Or it could be that, because it's clearer in the sciences whether theories are true or false, you have to be smart to get jobs as a scientist, rather than just a good politician.)

Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas. This isn't just because smart people actively work to find holes in conventional thinking. I think conventions also have less hold over them to start with. You can see that in the way they dress.

It's not only in the sciences that heresy pays off. In any competitive field, you can win big by seeing things that others daren't. And in every field there are probably heresies few dare utter. Within the US car industry there is a lot of hand-wringing now about declining market share. Yet the cause is so obvious that any observant outsider could explain it in a second: they make bad cars. And they have for so long that by now the US car brands are antibrands-- something you'd buy a car despite, not because of. Cadillac stopped being the Cadillac of cars in about 1970. And yet I suspect no one dares say this. [11] Otherwise these companies would have tried to fix the problem.

Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advantages beyond the thoughts themselves. It's like stretching. When you stretch before running, you put your body into positions much more extreme than any it will assume during the run. If you can think things so outside the box that they'd make people's hair stand on end, you'll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative.

Pensieri Stretti

When you find something you can't say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don't say it. Or at least, pick your battles.

Suppose in the future there is a movement to ban the color yellow. Proposals to paint anything yellow are denounced as "yellowist", as is anyone suspected of liking the color. People who like orange are tolerated but viewed with suspicion. Suppose you realize there is nothing wrong with yellow. If you go around saying this, you'll be denounced as a yellowist too, and you'll find yourself having a lot of arguments with anti-yellowists. If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.

The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want. And if you feel you have to say everything you think, it may inhibit you from thinking improper thoughts. I think it's better to follow the opposite policy. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed. Within my head I make a point of encouraging the most outrageous thoughts I can imagine. But, as in a secret society, nothing that happens within the building should be told to outsiders. The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

When Milton was going to visit Italy in the 1630s, Sir Henry Wootton, who had been ambassador to Venice, told him his motto should be "i pensieri stretti & il viso sciolto." Closed thoughts and an open face. Smile at everyone, and don't tell them what you're thinking. This was wise advice. Milton was an argumentative fellow, and the Inquisition was a bit restive at that time. But I think the difference between Milton's situation and ours is only a matter of degree. Every era has its heresies, and if you don't get imprisoned for them you will at least get in enough trouble that it becomes a complete distraction.

I admit it seems cowardly to keep quiet. When I read about the harassment to which the Scientologists subject their critics [12], or that pro-Israel groups are "compiling dossiers" on those who speak out against Israeli human rights abuses [13], or about people being sued for violating the DMCA [14], part of me wants to say, "All right, you bastards, bring it on." The problem is, there are so many things you can't say. If you said them all you'd have no time left for your real work. You'd have to turn into Noam Chomsky. [15]

The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it's also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.

Viso Sciolto?

I don't think we need the viso sciolto so much as the pensieri stretti. Perhaps the best policy is to make it plain that you don't agree with whatever zealotry is current in your time, but not to be too specific about what you disagree with. Zealots will try to draw you out, but you don't have to answer them. If they try to force you to treat a question on their terms by asking "are you with us or against us?" you can always just answer "neither".

Better still, answer "I haven't decided." That's what Larry Summers did when a group tried to put him in this position. Explaining himself later, he said "I don't do litmus tests." [16] A lot of the questions people get hot about are actually quite complicated. There is no prize for getting the answer quickly.

If the anti-yellowists seem to be getting out of hand and you want to fight back, there are ways to do it without getting yourself accused of being a yellowist. Like skirmishers in an ancient army, you want to avoid directly engaging the main body of the enemy's troops. Better to harass them with arrows from a distance.

One way to do this is to ratchet the debate up one level of abstraction. If you argue against censorship in general, you can avoid being accused of whatever heresy is contained in the book or film that someone is trying to censor. You can attack labels with meta-labels: labels that refer to the use of labels to prevent discussion. The spread of the term "political correctness" meant the beginning of the end of political correctness, because it enabled one to attack the phenomenon as a whole without being accused of any of the specific heresies it sought to suppress.

Another way to counterattack is with metaphor. Arthur Miller undermined the House Un-American Activities Committee by writing a play, "The Crucible," about the Salem witch trials. He never referred directly to the committee and so gave them no way to reply. What could HUAC do, defend the Salem witch trials? And yet Miller's metaphor stuck so well that to this day the activities of the committee are often described as a "witch-hunt."

Best of all, probably, is humor. Zealots, whatever their cause, invariably lack a sense of humor. They can't reply in kind to jokes. They're as unhappy on the territory of humor as a mounted knight on a skating rink. Victorian prudishness, for example, seems to have been defeated mainly by treating it as a joke. Likewise its reincarnation as political correctness. "I am glad that I managed to write 'The Crucible,'" Arthur Miller wrote, "but looking back I have often wished I'd had the temperament to do an absurd comedy, which is what the situation deserved." [17]


A Dutch friend says I should use Holland as an example of a tolerant society. It's true they have a long tradition of comparative open-mindedness. For centuries the low countries were the place to go to say things you couldn't say anywhere else, and this helped to make the region a center of scholarship and industry (which have been closely tied for longer than most people realize). Descartes, though claimed by the French, did much of his thinking in Holland.

And yet, I wonder. The Dutch seem to live their lives up to their necks in rules and regulations. There's so much you can't do there; is there really nothing you can't say?

Certainly the fact that they value open-mindedness is no guarantee. Who thinks they're not open-minded? Our hypothetical prim miss from the suburbs thinks she's open-minded. Hasn't she been taught to be? Ask anyone, and they'll say the same thing: they're pretty open-minded, though they draw the line at things that are really wrong. (Some tribes may avoid "wrong" as judgemental, and may instead use a more neutral sounding euphemism like "negative" or "destructive".)

When people are bad at math, they know it, because they get the wrong answers on tests. But when people are bad at open-mindedness they don't know it. In fact they tend to think the opposite. Remember, it's the nature of fashion to be invisible. It wouldn't work otherwise. Fashion doesn't seem like fashion to someone in the grip of it. It just seems like the right thing to do. It's only by looking from a distance that we see oscillations in people's idea of the right thing to do, and can identify them as fashions.

Time gives us such distance for free. Indeed, the arrival of new fashions makes old fashions easy to see, because they seem so ridiculous by contrast. From one end of a pendulum's swing, the other end seems especially far away.

To see fashion in your own time, though, requires a conscious effort. Without time to give you distance, you have to create distance yourself. Instead of being part of the mob, stand as far away from it as you can and watch what it's doing. And pay especially close attention whenever an idea is being suppressed. Web filters for children and employees often ban sites containing pornography, violence, and hate speech. What counts as pornography and violence? And what, exactly, is "hate speech?" This sounds like a phrase out of 1984.

Labels like that are probably the biggest external clue. If a statement is false, that's the worst thing you can say about it. You don't need to say that it's heretical. And if it isn't false, it shouldn't be suppressed. So when you see statements being attacked as x-ist or y-ic (substitute your current values of x and y), whether in 1630 or 2030, that's a sure sign that something is wrong. When you hear such labels being used, ask why.

Especially if you hear yourself using them. It's not just the mob you need to learn to watch from a distance. You need to be able to watch your own thoughts from a distance. That's not a radical idea, by the way; it's the main difference between children and adults. When a child gets angry because he's tired, he doesn't know what's happening. An adult can distance himself enough from the situation to say "never mind, I'm just tired." I don't see why one couldn't, by a similar process, learn to recognize and discount the effects of moral fashions.

You have to take that extra step if you want to think clearly. But it's harder, because now you're working against social customs instead of with them. Everyone encourages you to grow up to the point where you can discount your own bad moods. Few encourage you to continue to the point where you can discount society's bad moods.

How can you see the wave, when you're the water? Always be questioning. That's the only defence. What can't you say? And why?

Thanks to Sarah Harlin, Trevor Blackwell, Jessica Livingston, Robert Morris, and Eric Raymond for reading drafts of this essay. Needless to say they bear no blame for opinions expressed in it, and especially for opinions not expressed in it.

Re:Here it is (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875285)

Do you mods even read the posts?
In 1989 some clever researchers tracked the eye movements of radiologists as they scanned chest images for signs of lung cancer. [3] They found that even when the radiologists missed a cancerous lesion, their eyes had usually paused at the site of it. Part of their brain knew there was something there; it just didn't percolate all the way up into conscious knowledge. I think many interesting heretical thoughts are already mostly formed in our minds. If we turn off our
taco sucks self-censorship temporarily, those will be the first to emerge.

Re:Here it is (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875307)

If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot. Post on slashdot, and you become a raving homosexual deviant, intent on sodomizing little boys and sucking off gay men in truck stop restrooms.

Well said.

I'm not uncomfortable with speaking my mind (2, Interesting)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | about 11 years ago | (#7875361)

Not because people agree with me, which I can find 9 of 10, and maybe even 10 of 10 who would disagree, even greatly, on something.

I'm not uncomfortable, because I am confident in my opinions. As a Network Engineer, I will gladly discuss why I do not like VPNs and QoS. As an economist, I will gladly discuss why the Federal Reserve is an abomination and must be abolished instantly. As a citizen, I will gladly discuss why welfare must be abolished instantly, both for the poor and for the rich.

As a mortal being, I will gladly say that I believe humanity is on track to repair its damages already done, and to improve its condition in the future, so long as this absurdity called "government" is restrained from causing yet more harm.

As a male, I'll gladly say that Japanese women are the most beautiful in general.

Confidence, not agreement.


Things like... (5, Interesting)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 11 years ago | (#7875231)

Mr Hitler was a fantastic orator? (who would doubtless have made a great comedian).

While I'm on the topic, its interesting that an entire moustache can be effectively banned around the world due to the actions of one man.

Unless you happen to be Robert Mugabe (anyone notice his chosen moustache style?).

Re:Things like... (5, Interesting)

culain (733686) | about 11 years ago | (#7875413)

It certainly is frowned apon to say anything positive at all about Hitler, even though he obviously did some amazing things (some horrific too of course). And yes, i find it amazing that the demonization of one man has such a large effect on fashial hair fashions. Did this kind of thing happen during other large conflicts? Were there any historical figures who were demonized as much as Hitler? I suspect a similar situation developed with Napoleon.

Re:Things like... (5, Funny)

culain (733686) | about 11 years ago | (#7875433)

"fashial"? It's going to be one of those days, i can tell.

Best examples of heresy I can think of (3, Interesting)

corebreech (469871) | about 11 years ago | (#7875239)

Pointing out the evidence implicating Israel in 9/11.

Pointing out that the war on drugs is genocide.

Pointing out that feminism has ruined America.

I'm sure there are others, but I expect this is enough to score me -1, Heretic.

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875295)

That torrent you've got in your sig could use some seeds. It seems dead at the moment.

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875342)

OK, try again.

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (2, Funny)

Keebler71 (520908) | about 11 years ago | (#7875316)

ah...so you are anti-semetic AND a chauvenist pig!

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875319)

1. I don't know if it's heretical as much as I would call it just plain silly. :)

2. I think genocide is the wrong word, but the war on drugs as is stands today is definitely a very bad thing and hurts far more people than it helps.

3. Feminism is a good thing though! It's anti-male-ism, reverse discrimination, and political correctness that are hurting us.

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875392)

Actually, number one is dead on. Zionists have been deceptively undermining our country from at least WW-II. It's no wonder Hitler wanted them out; everyone seems to have forgotten the post-WW-I territory takeovers which got the German Jews into trouble in the first place.

yeah, yeah, -1 Flamebait, I know. Just go google +Israeli +"high fiving" and follow the conspiracy theories from there :)

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (1)

DAldredge (2353) | about 11 years ago | (#7875431)

Why is is that pricks like you always post as AC?

To insecure in your beliefs to post without hiding your id?

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (5, Interesting)

YetAnotherDave (159442) | about 11 years ago | (#7875343)

please, by all means, back your hersies with discussion - I think they could lead to good discussion...

1) I haven't seen too much evidence of israeli involvement, but I think there are lots of interesting things one could say both about this and in comparison of israel v. iraq in their handling of UN resolutions. Since the US administration's stance seems to be 'israel good, other middle eastern places bad' this could be called heresy in the states, but probably not in other places...

2) I wholeheartedly agree with this, the war on drugs has done nothing to combat the evils of addiction, and the human cost of the 'war' has been terrible

3) I disagree with this, but I'd still like to hear your arguments (if you or any other slashdotters present actually want to make that argument)

One thing I find interesting in the article is the test near the beginning: "Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?"

I'd say that I don't, but that's probably more a result of how I define my peers than the acceptability of my ideas. Some of my opinions might not be shared by my peers, but they would be more likely to debate my points than declare me a heretic...

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875369)

Three is obviously true. Since women could vote, we have had higher taxes and bigger government. Our country is falling apart because of feminism.


Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875414)

1) google [Israeli +"High fiving"]. If you have a patriotic bone in your body, it will piss you off.

Re:Best examples of heresy I can think of (1)

DAldredge (2353) | about 11 years ago | (#7875367)

Pointing out the evidence implicating Israel in 9/11.

What evidence is that?

Better examples of heresy I can think of (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875393)

Posted anonymously for obvious reasons.

There is a relationship between race and intelligence (think "Bell Curve").

Female circumcision, like male circumcision, is needed for the health and happiness of the girls upon which it is practiced.

People are easily swayed by slick advertising. That doesn't mean other people, that means you.

Children have a developed sexuality, and children under the age of 18 are capable of informed consent.

That's not to say that I personally do or do not believe in any of the ideas expressed above, just that if one were to express those beliefs in a public location they would be promptly shot.

Self Censorship is a problem with nerds? (1)

Fortunato_NC (736786) | about 11 years ago | (#7875243)

Obviously, this guy has never seen a slashdotter putting the moves on a lady!

Re:Self Censorship is a problem with nerds? (3, Interesting)

Taboo (263223) | about 11 years ago | (#7875279)

Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.

All relative notions of course. The office slut is ostracized by the prude secretary, but embraced by the CEO with a hard-on. "Candyass" expidites her corperate success while "violating moral fashions".

On Slashdot.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875246)

what you want to really say can get you censored or even banned.

So if the slashdot system removed these shackles and opaque moderation system we would have a better discussion, instead of having karma whores, slashbots, and other sheep here.

Re:On Slashdot.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875304)

Karma whores only exist because of the mentality of the moderators who give them points. Its sad that if you moderate fairly & mod up the comments that were unfairly modded down you lose your mod status on here. The majority is not always right when the majority are sheep and -1 mod happy based on bias.

Attention Canadians: (4, Funny)

s20451 (410424) | about 11 years ago | (#7875247)

For all the Canucks in the house, here's something that's true but you can't say:

Two-tier, user-fee health care is the way of the future.

There, I said it.

It's not "Funny" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875297)

It's not "Funny", it's merely one of the options

Re:Attention Canadians: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875328)

Then I want my fucking money back!

About %50 of my income goes to paying tax of one sort or another. I get almost nothing in return.

I get roads, partial healthcare (no drugs or dentistry), and ... and... ? Huh .. shit that's it!

Maybe one benefit is to see all the fat lazy bastards in government pass laws and more taxes. Yes, I knew I had something of value from all that!

Endless entertainment.

Re:Attention Canadians: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875407)

Another heretical idea:

Transfer payments are good.

Forbidden thoughts (5, Funny)

aynrandfan (687181) | about 11 years ago | (#7875248)

Ya know, I think SCO might have a point there . . .

As always... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875250)

As always, Paul is a smart guy and has some important things to say. However, he could be more succint. The article does tend to ramble on a bit.

Proud to be a Heretic! (3, Insightful)

soluzar22 (219097) | about 11 years ago | (#7875254)

Things you can't say, hmm? Ironic that this should be slashdotted, since ./ is more-or-less the last bastion of the kind of free-speech, open-debate that exists. In ancient Greece, there would be many places where the population would gather to discuss the matters which were of consequence to them, but such places no longer exist. It is of course from such places, I believe, that we derive the term 'forum' which is widely used on the internet.
Back to my point, such places no longer exist, and while ./ claims to be just about tech and geeky stuff, really it covers such a wide range of issues, when the debates digress, that it's the closest thing to a community that I think most of us have got now. There are very few things that you cannot say here, and while you'll get flamed by anonymous cowards and trolls, if your statements have any merit, that will be recognised. That's why I continue to visit, despite not really being as much of a techie as I once was.
I like my free speech, and here is one of the only places I can be the heretic that I am, and not suffer unduly for it. :-)


ObDisclaimer: My heresy doesn't extend to thinking I'm a God, or wanting to sacrifice people to one, so please don't take that to mean I'm a dangerous looney.

Re:Proud to be a Heretic! (5, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | about 11 years ago | (#7875310)

Ironic that this should be slashdotted, since ./ is more-or-less the last bastion of the kind of free-speech, open-debate that exists.

Since your uid is about half of mine, I guess I can't call you a n00b. However, this is pretty much the opposite of my experience with Slashdot.

There are all kinds of sacred cows here, that you criticize at your peril: the effectiveness of Linux, the evil of copyright in general and the recording industry in particular; the lack of merit to SCO's lawsuit ... the list goes on. I am astonished as to the level of thought conformity that goes on here, under the guise of free speech.

Outside commentators (such as those from Forbes) have referred to Slashdot and like sites as "echo chambers", where the same ideas bounce around ad infinitum. For example, just look at any article critical of Linux and you will see that every response is basically the same, and that high moderation is given to anything that restores the proper groupthink. I wonder if this is because a certain type of person is attracted to Slashdot, or if Slashdot transforms people's opinions? Perhaps a little of both.

I think this is one of the ironies of internet communication -- in an environment which supposedly promotes universal communication, people only seem to communicate in enclaves of like minds, reinforcing each other's narrow world views.

Re:Proud to be a Heretic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875416)

I, personally, don't pull my opinions from Slashdot. It might influence my opinion by giving or taking away examples for or against it, but I would like to think that my opinions are my own.

However, the reason I read sites like slashdot or Salon.com [salon.com] or a few others is because I like to hear my own opinion repeated back to me. I find it comforting that someone, somewhere, also believes the same things I do. We may disagree on details, but the gist of whatever thought is the same.

How about the rest of you lot?

Perhaps the best policy is to make it plain . . . (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#7875256)

. . . that you don't agree with whatever zealotry is current in your time.

XML and OOP suck big, fat, hairy monkey balls.

There, how'd I do?


How about no? (1)

Film11 (736010) | about 11 years ago | (#7875261)

I can think whatever the hell I like, and he can't stop me. If I'm having bad and naughty thoughts considered "heresy", he doesn't know I'm having them and neither does anybody else, so why should he be bothered? Also, some thoughts my considered "heresy" by him but not by others.
My thoughts, my life! Who's with me?!

Re:How about no? (CORRECTIONS) (1)

Film11 (736010) | about 11 years ago | (#7875298)

I kinda drifted through the article swiftly =\. Replace all the things about thinking and stuff with saying. eg:I can say whatever the hell etc. you get the picture. Thank you!

Re:How about no? (1)

Selecter (677480) | about 11 years ago | (#7875349)

The problem is damn few poeple actually have the balls to risk their family or their livelihood over it. It's sad, but thats USA circa 2004.

If you make those thoughts public, and they are radical enough or you percieved as someone who needs to be taken down becuase you threaten their gravy train, they will do so. And, they will use all aspects of the media and the public information system to do so.

America's greatest freedom has always been freedom of speech - but all of our personal freedoms have been eroded over the last 100 years becuase no one in power seriously considers the Bill of Rights to be enforceable today.

Warning: (4, Funny)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | about 11 years ago | (#7875263)


This article has nothing to do with current technology sans a single 1 sentence reference to the DMCA.

Why a warning ? (4, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | about 11 years ago | (#7875357)

[I realise your post was intended as humour, but it sparked the flame :-]

This is after-all a site for "stuff that matters". What the author is trying to express is that blind obedience to society norms is a bad thing. Effectively, he's saying "distrust Authority", an old maxim, but one that needs reiteration from time to time.

I have to say that I identify closely with a lot of his ideas, nothing depresses me more than the continued conversion of people into "consumers" told what to "consume", when to do it, how much to do it, and presumably when to stop.

The only way out of the cycle is education - but not facts and figures, instead the freedom to think and postulate, debate and conclude. The sort of education that we (at least in the UK) tend to reserve for the 18+ year-olds who go to college.

We live in an ever-more complex society, with ever-more subtle distinction between right and wrong, between do and do-not. It is a crying shame that most are incapable of distinguishing those distinctions. The "system" has failed these people.

I wonder if we are indeed moving into the "Corporate state" governmental model (anyone who played 'elite' will know that these are the most stable of governments), which simply exist to exist. Life should be more :-(


Belgium (1)

GuineaPigMan (663444) | about 11 years ago | (#7875282)

"Belgium," said Arthur.
"Raaaaaarrrchchchchch!" screeched the pterodacyl.
"Grrruuuuuuyyyghhhh," agreed the seven-toed sloth.
~Life, The Universe and Everything

Are you sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875284)

Are you sure people sould be allowed to say anything?

Because I think all Muslims should be wiped out, they kill far too many people. Killing them first would be a very good thing.

But, you won't catch me saying this in public too often.

Any while on the subject I think all homosexuals should go back in the closet - I don't care what you do at home, but don't let anyone know about it.

What else....

People who preform abortions for convenience (i.e. not including danger, or rape, etc.) should be executed for murder.

I really do believe these things, but I don't dare say them.

Re:Are you sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875403)

Muslims? I thought you would write: 'Jews'

It seems more accurate.

change (2, Insightful)

Popadopolis (724438) | about 11 years ago | (#7875286)

There is a possibility for change, though. With enough people or atleast someone powerful enough to influence, herecy changes. The idea of what is blasphemous is a morphing entity, and popular thought drives it and consent from those with power and money is a catylist.

Interesting, but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875287)

My eye was caught by this part:

Scientists go looking for trouble. This should be the m.o. of any scholar, but scientists seem much more willing to look under rocks.

Why? It could be that the scientists are simply smarter; most physicists could, if necessary, make it through a PhD program in French literature, but few professors of French literature could make it through a PhD program in physics.

Why, then, was the membership of my church at university drawn about 80% from the sciences and only 20% from the humanities? In fact my experience suggests a general trend here - scientists seem more likely to have strong religious views than artists.

I thought strong religious views were supposed to be signs of closed minds and credulity, not open minds and intelligence!

The first 15 posts on this are things you cant say (4, Insightful)

Selecter (677480) | about 11 years ago | (#7875290)

I think he overgeneralizes the articles points. A really useful article would have used some harder examples of politically and socially correctness. He steps around modern day issues....well, like he cant say anything about them.

My favorite example is why some African-Americans can & do use the term "nigger" to describe themselves without inpunity or shame, but if a white person does so, they can/will be fired and their lives ruined. Why is it a double standard, and it's a negative hateful word. Why do blacks in certain circles constantly use it?

(and there's no need to mod me down for *actually* saying things you cant say - if thats the case then /. is worthless.)

Re:The first 15 posts on this are things you cant (4, Insightful)

Dalroth (85450) | about 11 years ago | (#7875346)

It's a double standard and it's called reverse discrimination. It's idiotic, and the black people who continue to behave like this are only hurting their cause. If you don't practice what you preach, how can we take you seriously?

* I refuse to put a disclaimer on this message. I feel that the continued use of that word by black culture is absolutely sickening. I am white.

Re:The first 15 posts on this are things you cant (5, Insightful)

catbutt (469582) | about 11 years ago | (#7875372)

Why is it a double standard, and it's a negative hateful word.

Same reason your wife can say "I am so fat", but you get in trouble if you say "honey, you are fat". I don't see why that is so hard to understand why the difference.

Wonders if its okay (1)

RedHatLinux (453603) | about 11 years ago | (#7875292)

to point the US Army War college and the USMC both blame Iran not saddam for gassing the kurds.

Or to point out the CIA and state department cant agree on how many Kurds were actually killed at Halabja or in the the other Iraqi WMD attacks.

According to George Carlin... (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 11 years ago | (#7875294)

I can't say the following on the radio... What you can't say [georgecarlin.com]

The word "Niggardly" (1)

Taboo (263223) | about 11 years ago | (#7875303)

Re:The word "Niggardly" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875415)

That is the single most retarded thing I have ever seen. People need to chill the fuck out over political correctness.

A Troll Manifesto? (3, Insightful)

Royster (16042) | about 11 years ago | (#7875305)

This guy takes a pretty obvious statement -- that certain ideas are unpopular at some times and popular at others -- and confuses this with fashion.

He uses Galileo as an example as an example of someone who expressed unfashionable ideas. But Galileo was starting a new fashion. He popularized and provided evidence for a new truth of which the world was unaware and generally unprepared to accept.

The difference between Galileo's writings and an unfashionable idea is that Galileo expressed a TRUE statement. Many unfashionable statements are unfashionable precisely because they are wrong.

There's a time and place for non-conformism, and this isn't it.

Re:A Troll Manifesto? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875382)

There's a time and place for non-conformism, and this isn't it.

No... You wouldn't want people posting anything outside of standard conventions here on Slashdot. That's not the point of this forum. People should only post comments that are a part of the accepted mainstream TRUTH. Anything else is inappropriate, and should be modded to the level of a goatse post.

Re:A Troll Manifesto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875428)

Anything else is inappropriate, and should be modded to the level of a goatse post.

I find Goatse appropriate. Don't follow the mainstream.

one thing not to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875306)

Well, you can't threaten the first lady (or a previous first lady) cnn article [cnn.com] without facing some time in prison.

now hear this (0)

nil5 (538942) | about 11 years ago | (#7875312)

howard dean sucks

Uh oh (2, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | about 11 years ago | (#7875315)

This is going to turn into a debate about conservatism vs. liberalism real soon. There are many people that believe thinking outside the box is a bad idea. Sucks, but people are stupid.

Re:Uh oh (1)

stewball (83006) | about 11 years ago | (#7875377)

I think that the use of overhyped management buzzwords is a bad idea. Does that mean that I'm thinking outside the box?

Whoops, I seem to have caught myself in a recursive sarcasm loop. Darn.

/. Herasy (1, Funny)

Cyno01 (573917) | about 11 years ago | (#7875318)

Windows really isn't all that bad.

Re:/. Herasy (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 11 years ago | (#7875351)

Windows are great!
(for throwing computers out of).

2+2=5 (1)

ShadowRage (678728) | about 11 years ago | (#7875326)

is actually possible.

2.5 + 2.5 = 5

Heresy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875332)

Enterprise is the best series ever.

A Slashdot subscription is money well spent.

BSD isn't dying.

Windows XP is okay.

The Matrix is mediocre.

Slashdot editors are workaholics.

Here's the thing (2, Interesting)

stewball (83006) | about 11 years ago | (#7875333)

Although it's worthwhile to examine and criticize the existing orthodoxies of your society/timeperiod/family, the question is whether one truly examines one's own deeply held beliefs (i.e., the ground from which you're throwing bombs at the "establishment"). I've spent a lot of time around people who have a staggering degree of certainty that they're in the minority and an astonishing level of belief in their own victimhood and the heretical nature of their opinions.

The fascinating thing about those folks is that most of them were highly-educated white men (as am I) who thought that the deck in the US was stacked against them. They took the academic intellectual critiques of the existing society to mean that they were personally under attack and could never get a fair break, so that their boorish behavior was actually "speaking truth to power."

I guess my point here is that just because one fancies oneself a heretic doesn't mean that one is. A lot of self-styled heretics are just rude people looking for someone to blame outside themselves.

the worst thing on slashdot... (1)

Keebler71 (520908) | about 11 years ago | (#7875335)

Or the worst thing you can say on slashdot:

"I made the switch!... from Linux to Windows XP! (true story actually...)

color (0)

DrLZRDMN (728996) | about 11 years ago | (#7875338)

^^^ OK Who went and made that yellow...

A quick list (5, Insightful)

johnbr (559529) | about 11 years ago | (#7875339)

The point of the article was to come up with lists and discuss. So here's mine: Sexual:
  • Masturbatory habits ("Hey Chuck, what'd you do last night?" "Oh, I stayed home and surfed for porn - had two great orgasms!")
  • Fetishes ("So Julie, what did you get for Christmas?" "Oh! A batman cape? I can't reach orgasm unless my lover is wearing one!")
  • Adultery (although this might be legitimate)
  • "Sure I hit my wife - when she deserves it!" (this is probably less of a taboo than it should be)
  • In most of middle america, announcing that you're an atheist is pretty eyebrow-raising.
  • You can't say 'nigger', unless you're black.
  • You can't usually use a racial slur at all unless you're either kidding or in a particular bigoted crowd.
You know, most taboos are only taboo in a particular circle you're in. For example, announcing that the War on Drugs is destroying this country would be applauded in one circle I travel in, and ignored or shrugged off in several others.

Re:A quick list (3, Funny)

Selecter (677480) | about 11 years ago | (#7875375)

Have you got Julie's phone number?

Re:A quick list (1)

mekkab (133181) | about 11 years ago | (#7875395)

For example, announcing that the War on Drugs is destroying this country would be applauded in one circle I travel in...

Ohhh, so you get high, too?! ;)

Re:A quick list (1)

YetAnotherDave (159442) | about 11 years ago | (#7875418)

with the exception of the violence reference, I'd call the rest poor taste (or just more info than I want to hear), rather than heresy

I think it's perfectly legit for a man to take a swing at his wife (or any other woman) in two cases only:
1) she's robbing you, or threatening you with a weapon

2) you're in a ring, with a referree

otherwise you're an asshole, and should be beaten soundly by at least a dozen old ladies with heavy umbrellas

Poor article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875340)

The linked article seems poorly written, with few relevant pieces of supporting evidence. When there is supporting evidence it is sometimes ill suited or off-topic.

It's all conjecture and hypothesis with incomplete support and transitions.

Therefore his conclusions are hersey.

What a misleading name for an article (1)

NetAngler (209960) | about 11 years ago | (#7875347)

An excellent article? Not. Here I thought it would be an interesting discourse on the things you can't say today contrasted with the things you couldn't say yesterday, an interesting idea for a story. No examples, no sources, not very interesting....

Instead I keep reading hoping that there would be some actual meat, but all I got were generalities and vague comparisons. You'd think with a title like that there would be some contraversial thoughts, Bah...who checks these submissions anyway.

America's heresy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875348)

America's heresy is to suggest that Bush hasn't exactly been honest regarding the Iraq war. To question our motives, you're immediately branded a liberal, a Saddam lover, or unpatriotic. Dissent is the sign of terrorist.

Well pfffffffft. The emporer has no clothes.

I laugh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875355)

The idea that the term "divisive" came from the Right and the current Administration is hilarious. Doesn't anybody remember Newt Gingrich being attacked for his divisiveness?

And you want heresies? How about:

"The Kyoto Protocol is an expensive boondogle that won't solve a problem that doesn't actually exist."

"The United Nations is an illegitiamte entity that should be shut down immediately. Anyone who says we should listen to it should be turned out from political office."

"To refuse to execute murderers is immoral. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life is the soul of justice."

"Jesus, Gandhi, and everyone else who advocates nonviolent resistance are morally complicit in the depredations of every police state."

"Homosexuality is immoral, disgusting, and dangerous, and should be illegal."

"Wives should obey their husbands."

"The divorced-and-remarried should be shunned as sinners."

Re:I laugh! (1)

dzym (544085) | about 11 years ago | (#7875401)

I'd mod this Insightful if I ever got any mod points.

And since I have never ever seen any mod points in all the years I've spent reading slashdot, I can only come to the conclusion that I've uttered some heresy in some not-so-distant past that was sufficient to have some marker placed upon me that prevent my input into the moderation process.

Freedom of thought and freedom of expression indeed.

best way to see what you can and can't say: (1)

pummer (637413) | about 11 years ago | (#7875356)

Post it on /. and see if you get modded down!

Freedom of Information (1)

igrp (732252) | about 11 years ago | (#7875366)

Hmm... I think Graham makes a compelling case for the importance of freedom of information.

Being able to express unpopular topics or even matters deemed to be too taboo by a restrictive society and even being able to discuss them is what makes (semi-)anonymous systems such as Freenet [sourceforge.net] and Mute [sourceforge.net] so important these days. In a way, it's this centuries' way of doing what Hans and Sophie Scholl [jlrweb.com] did in the 1940s [jlrweb.com] .

Without freedom of though, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, conformity is pretty much the only way. Look at it this way - all great men (CEOs as well as philosophers, politicians; the list goes on) were special in their thinking or understanding of things. That's what made them truely stand out from the "regular" masses, and that's often what made them a success.

aut0tr0ll is teh sp0kE!? (-1)

Jack Froidalbungle (730156) | about 11 years ago | (#7875368)

Hello master.


This is a joint venture that will be mutually advantageous to both parties involved.

Grammar Nazis (1)

Quirk (36086) | about 11 years ago | (#7875374)

a separate reference manual just for Cambridge. This has always been a fussy place, a town of i dotters and t crossers, where you're liable to get both your grammar and your ideas corrected in the same

Grammar Nazis are bred in Cambridge... nuke it now.

What should be a taboo (0, Redundant)

Confused (34234) | about 11 years ago | (#7875380)

After reading the article, I have the strong feeling, the author shouldn't have written 90% of the article - the long and boring part without real message. But unfortunatly, boring your audience isn't a taboo these days.

In defense of -ist and -ic (5, Interesting)

target (97212) | about 11 years ago | (#7875384)

Calling something x-ist, as the author suggests, is often used to suppress ideas, even true ideas. But that doesn't mean that the concept of racism or sexism is just a form of censorship, as this article seems to imply. In fact, such labels are very useful for discussing implications as well as the truth value of a sentence.

That's pretty vague, so how about an example. If someone says, "Girls are bad at math", it can mean a lot of different things. One of the meanings might be, "Girls tend to do worse on math tests than boys of the same age," which if the age in question is high school, as opposed to elementary school or junior high, would be true. And yet, I can hear the cries, even though it's true, it gets labeled as sexist!

Well, there's a good reason for that. If what our hypothetical speaker really meant to say was, "Girls in high school perform worse on math tests that boys in high school," then why didn't he say that? The main difference in the two sentences, or in the general approach behind the sentences, is twofold: the implications of the sentence; and the assumptions behind it.

Those things need to be addressed, and it's not enough to say, "That's not true!" as the author of this article would have it. Because the sentence *is* true, but at least one implication -- that girls are naturally worse at math than boys, and there's nothing to be done about that -- is *exactly* the kind of idea that the author wants to avoid! It's pervasive, it's hard to get rid of, in most places in this country, people believe it implicitly. But it's also hard to talk about the general phenomenon without bringing up the concept of sexism.

So be careful of just rejecting x-ism and y-ic. They exist because they can be useful tools for uncovering the exact "fashions" which the author claims they hide.

Alternately (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875386)

Most of these things you "can't say", there is lots of money to be made in saying.

Snoop Doggy Dogg says all the "offensive" words there are and becomes a popular success among people who want to look "bad".

The Skeptical Environmentalist violates all of the scientific community's taboos in one book-- beginning with the taboos concerning poor research and use of logic and statistics, and ending with questioning things that practically every branch of science points toward-- then shoves this in everyone's face until he finds people who attack him for it, and makes lots of money off of appearing "repressed".

Can't say? Hmm..

So I can't say... (1)

strider69666 (733972) | about 11 years ago | (#7875396)

SCO is akin to gelatinous pig shit.

DRM must mean Dickless Retarded Microsoft.

Napster went from Superman to Lex Luthor.

Guns don't kill people, it's the small hard metal projectiles that they release at supersonic speeds piercing through peoples soft body tissue and exploding through the other side in a spray of blood, guts, excrement, brain matter, liver tissue that kills people.

Sadaam Housein should be tied to an ant mound (fire ants) naked and have his balls smeared with honey because he is a goat flucking gizz gargling bitchbastardbuttdongdildoshitlipped rooster sucker.

I want to have sex with Paris Hilton in ways that are illegal in most countries.

So, I can't say any of the above? Ok, at least I was told before I offended anyone. Whew!!!

"We are not any safer since Sadam was arrested" (1)

hey (83763) | about 11 years ago | (#7875397)

Still at high (orange) alert.
Ooops... I can't say that.

Sadly, universities have the least free speech.... (5, Insightful)

Brian_Ellenberger (308720) | about 11 years ago | (#7875405)

Sadly, universities are becoming the places where free speech is the *least* tolerated. Orwellian indoctrination classes and speech codes are the norm. Punishment for controversial speech is becoming more severe. College newspapers exposing "dangerous" thoughts are being stolen or banned. Anyone who speaks up is labeled a "racist conservative Nazi facist".

If you want detailed specifics check out the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [thefire.org] .

Brian Ellenberger

Some possible examples. . . (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7875411)

1. Religion is the greatest folly of mankind.

2. Reproductive human cloning is a desirable technology.

3. Liberal and conservative are both worn-out and obsolete political philosophies.

4. A greenhouse effect ehanced by man-made pollutants is the only thing currently holding back a return of the Ice Age.

5. Greater availability of firearms tends to reduce the incidence of violent crime.

Hmmm. . . . Although I wouldn't normally do so, I think I better most this one anonymously.

Here's where... (1)

AllergicToMilk (653529) | about 11 years ago | (#7875419)

Here's where a bunch of folks who didn't read the article try to show us how open-minded they are by doing exactly what the article recommends they not do: keep their mouth shut and their minds open.

Thought Provoking... (2, Interesting)

herrvinny (698679) | about 11 years ago | (#7875423)

Just finished reading it. Very interesting. He covers what we know we should do, but we often don't.

Much of his story is quite true. Another thing I might point out, is that while Graham does note that the current administration throws around the words "divisive" and "inappropriate" I can think up one more: "patriotic", where suddenly anyone who criticizes the war in Iraq is unpatriotic*. I really see how this guy earned his Ph.D.

*I supported the war in Iraq 100%, and support it to this very day, but I still find it a little disturbing that my opponents qualify for the title of "unpatriotic"

politically correct (4, Insightful)

highwaytohell (621667) | about 11 years ago | (#7875430)

If everyone wasn't so politically correct there wouldnt be a need for an article like this. It appears that everyone has become so sensitive to anything that comes out of peoples mouths, that we all have to watch what we say otherwise the PC demons will come and take our souls back to buzzword land. A joke is taken out of context and suddenly you find yourself in court for slander. What's the point in speaking when you have to watch what you say all the time. What's the point in activism when people get offended so easily.

I wish... (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | about 11 years ago | (#7875432)

let me
how wide
the page
should be.
I hate

coprophiles (1)

Quirk (36086) | about 11 years ago | (#7875436)

coprophiles-- literally, "feces-loving"--

for the overly sheltered like myself who had no idea what coprophile meant... it's just another troll

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