The right wing and the just world fallacy

The just-world fallacy is the belief that contrary to what our parents told us, life is fair. Take care of your health and you’ll be healthy. Manage your money well and work hard and you’ll get rich, or at least non-poor. Dress modestly, don’t go out alone, and you’ll never be raped.

It’s a fallacy because, of course, it isn’t true. Bad things do happen to good people. We drive carefully and get hit by someone who didn’t (almost happened to TYG and me this week). You follow the rules for finding a good Christian man and you wind up with an abuser. You take care of your health but something still strikes you down. You get out there and meet people only you never meet anyone interested.

The just-world fallacy is common. It’s not something unique to conservatives. It’s reassuring — that there’s a reason for what happened to us/them, that we’re not all vulnerable to blind chance and tragedy, that the world makes sense. That it can never happen to us — sure, she got raped but we’d never do anything that foolish. He got robbed but we pack heat. He got cancer but we take care of ourselves. Conspiracy theories explain why the world isn’t just; just-world fallacy explains that it is. Both comforting in different ways.

With a lot of conservatives, though, it’s not simply a fallacy, it’s a policy. It’s the reason they justify denying people healthcare or benefits, or rewarding themselves by slashing their own taxes. If you’re rich it’s because you’re smart, talented, superior; if you’re poor it’s because you squander your money. Women aren’t in charge of things because men created the world. If you have diabetes, it’s your fault, that’s why you don’t deserve to have the government pay for treatment.

So no help for the poor, they don’t deserve it. Low taxes for the rich because otherwise you’re penalizing success and hard work.

And if your success doesn’t come from hard work? You got a head start because your parents were rich or you took over the family business? I suspect that’s one reason Trump likes to think he and his children are genetically superior — if you tell yourself your genes would have guaranteed success even if you’d grown up in a shack in Africa (and I have heard that statement made by other children of privilege) then having everything handed to you on a plate doesn’t matter. You’d still have succeeded so it’s still wrong to tax you.

Do they seriously believe it? Quite possibly. It’s always appealing to believe you’ve accomplished things through genius, not hard work. It’s easy to underestimate the role luck plays (something I explored in my short story Others Must Fail). At the same time I suspect there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance in play. Trump himself has admitted that having superior genes (for the record, I don’t believe that for a minute) is a matter of luck, but at the same time he sees himself as a super-achiever who earned everything (or he claimed to). Lots of wealthy people credit their talent with success but blame failure on luck, so they totally shouldn’t be penalized for it. Lots of welfare recipients believe “I earned it” through their years of taxes, just like they firmly believe nobody with a darker skin did.

And some, I’m sure, are outright liars who know better — it’s just a convenient excuse, like Paul Ryan claiming blue states are free-riding on the hard work of the red states (nope).

Whether delusion or rationalization, the just-world fallacy gets toxic when mixed in with politics.


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My new Screen Rant on movie stars who flopped on TV is out (#SFWApro)

More precisely, stars who flopped in series TV — Roddy McDowell did quite a bit of voice-over work and TV movies, for instance, but his three gigs as a series regular (Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Journey, Tales of the Gold Monkey) were all over in one season or less. And that’s not even counting his unsuccessful pilot Topper Returns or getting replaced as the voice of Niddler in Dark Water. None of which, as I note in the piece, reflects on his talent.

Below, McDowell as Galen from Planet of the Apes. All rights to image remain with current holder.


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Not much reading to review (#SFWApro)

But mostly because several books have been or will be given their own blog post.

J2: Secrets and Lies by Tom DeFalco and Ron Lim (cover by Lim, all rights remain with current holder) is set in the M2 universe where DeFalco’s Spider-Girl series took place. Here, Juggernaut’s son Zane Yama discovers he’s inherited his long-lost father’s powers, transforming back and forth to Juggernaut. As Juggy or J2, he’s one of the most powerful heroes around, but as Zane he’s just a high-school nerd. Which is the weakest thing about the book — it’s a stock teen hero set-up, nowhere near as fresh as May Parker’s happy, successful teen life. On the plus side, Juggy’s intereaction with other superheroes is great, from his friendship with Dr. Strange’s replacement, Doc Magus (May’s world is about 15 years ahead of the regular MU so there’s a lot of turnover) and his concern he might actually hurt the Hulk if he goes all out.

MASTERS OF HORROR: William Hope Hodgson collects several short stories by the creator of The House on the Borderland, all except “The Terror of the Water Tank” built around the sea and ships. Despite a similar formula in several yarns (if you’re trapped in a Hodgson story, do not investigate any mysterious derelicts you find floating in the sea) they don’t feel repetitive as some single-author collections can; the monstrous sea serpent of “A Tropical Horror” is just one of several hair-raising monsters herein.


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Samurai and Christmas: This week’s movies (#SFWApro)

Normally my movie viewing is 100 percent Christmassy in December, but I needed to free up a Netflix slot (too many non-Christmas DVDs on hand at the end of November) so I watched KILL! (1969), a Japanese send-up of both samurai film sand spaghetti Westerns (the music is very The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) as samurai, ronin and Yakuza battle over control of a small town. This definitely didn’t work for me — possibly the Japanese parody of Italian-made Westerns lost something in translation. “He sent me a love letter once.”

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) isn’t a great Christmas movie (it’s one of the many films that could as easily be set at some other time of year) but it’s a solidly entertaining film with Irving Berlin songs, Vera Allen and Danny Kaye dancing and Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing, so what’s not to like? The story, for anyone who doesn’t know, involves Kaye and Allen trying to matchmake Crosby and Clooney, while Crosby and Kaye also try to help out their old CO. Fluff, but like a lot of older movies, it’s very well made fluff. “‘Wow’ falls somewhere between ‘ouch’ and ‘boing.’”

By contrast, A PRINCE FOR CHRISTMAS (2017), another movie arbitrarily set at Christmas, is weak across the board. Wannabe reporter Rose McIver attempts to get the inside dirt on a playboy prince and winds up both romanced and caught up in the struggle for succession. It’s an obvious Didn’t Like The Movie reaction that I kept nitpicking at stuff that normally wouldn’t bother me — why do all these Europeans have Brit accents? Why does the film treat control of this postage-stamp kingdom as if it were the British Empire at the height of its power? With Alice Krige as the current queen and Sara Douglas as her factotum. “She’s the queen — so zip it.”

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT (2015) is even less impressive, a dull fantasy in which a woman falls for an obnoxious ghost and tries to lift the curse that makes him materialize every Christmas. Apparently just blindly picking every streaming Christmas movie Netflix offers is not a winning strategy. “Do they have chicken vindaloo in the hereafter?”

Jason Bateman and TJ Miller hold the ultimate OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (2016) in hopes of convincing investor Courtney B. Vance that their corporate culture is about Having Funny instead of The Bottom Line, and pay no attention to CEO Jennifer Aniston threatening to shut them down. This was the DVD I watched Kill! to get and it proved worth it — not as outrageous as it wants to be (the hook is seeing them do all the stuff at the party that HR never allows in the real world), but fun. With Kate McKinnon as an uptight HR executive (“I filed a sexual harassment complaint on myself.”) and Olivia Munn as a tech whiz. “If you’re planning to have intercourse tonight, please go beyond the floodlights at the edge of the property and into the Rite-Aid parking lot.”

(All rights to image remain with current holder)

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One thing pretty much dominated the week (#SFWApro)

My mother is about to die.

From my sister’s reports, it’s not that her health has gotten worse (as long-time readers may recall, it’s been bad for a while), it’s that she’s just tired. She doesn’t want to eat. Doesn’t want to take her meds (they’ve dropped all of them but the absolute life-saving ones). And the latest estimate is within the week. My sister’s theory is that after she saw my brother and his daughter at Thanksgiving (the first time since my wedding), Mum was ready to let go.

So at some point soon I’ll be traveling down there. TYG and I are figuring out the details (doggy boarding options, is it feasible to go before she passes?) and some time soon I’ll be off (TYG too).

At the moment this mostly feels like when TYG has a serious health problem, an odd, unpleasant, but very recognizable (to me, anyway, as I’m the one experiencing it) discomfort that makes it next to impossible to focus on work. I got my Screen Rant in (film actors who flopped on TV but not much else done once I got the news. A little bit of work on No-One Can Slay Her. Some revisions to my Applied Science short story collection.

Plus I spent Wednesday cleaning house (writer’s group Christmas party this weekend — and yes, it’s still on) and Thursday dealing with a structural inspector. Good news on that front at least: the house has some physical problems but we’re not at risk for it collapsing under us. That’s a great relief (fixing a major foundation crisis is high priced stuff).

And my short story End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor will be out next week. That’s very good news.

Mum’s imminent death outweighs everything else though. Though it doesn’t stop the selfish personal thought about how this will affect my schedule or my plans and how inconvenient it is. I believe that’s fairly normal. We’ll see what happens when I’m actually there and dealing with the death.

As I write posts in advance, things should continue as normal on this blog. Expect future personal updates sooner or later. Probably sooner.

At least if she’s going to go, it appears it’s by choice. That’s a good thing, maybe?

Below, Mum and her partner from a happier period.

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Music, music, music (#SFWApro)

I love listening to music while I write.

This isn’t a universal feeling. Two of my friends say they need absolute quiet when they’re working. That’s occasionally true, but usually I’m much happier and more focused when music is playing in the background.

My typical approach is to set my iPod on album shuffle. That was musicals and carefully structured albums like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band stay intact but I have the pleasure of not knowing exactly what I’ll be listening to next. Since the greater part of my collection came from CDs picked up at library discard-sales and used-CD stores, the selection is random: musicals, Beatles, traditional English ballads, WW II songs, some Motown, assorted artists whose CD I stumbled across.

Starting December 1, though, my listening is all Christmas. I have a little over 500 Christmas songs, which I segregate into their own playlist (the Non-Christmas playlist is what I listen to the rest of the year). The big drawback to Christmas listening is that I end up with the same songs over and over again, just by different singers. That’s why I’m very fond of The Killers’ Red — it’s their own set of Christmas songs, and they’re good.

I also like Lady Antebellum’s Christmas album because their singing is awesome. And this year I picked up Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ Christmas album, one of several instrumental LPs I have. The Tijuana Brass were very popular when I was a kid —  my parents had several albums — and they’re distinctive enough not to feel like just a cover of the same old songs.

Come Dec. 26, back to my non-Christmas listening.

(All rights to album cover image remain with current holder)

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Jesus and Ayn Rand are not the same person

But some conservatives keep insisting that objectivism’s belief in survival of the fittest is completely compatible with Christian tenets of mercy and sympathy for the poor and downtrodden. The Conservative Bible Project, for instance, wants to translate (or “wanted to” — I don’t know if that particular crusade is still active) all Jesus parables in ways that show he was really talking about the importance of the free market. Short answer: no he wasn’t; for a long answer, find a blogger better at theology than I am. One such blogger, Rachel Held Evans catches right-wing pundit Erick Erickson arguing that the Bible tells us charity is strictly an individual responsibility, not something for government. Evans points out that’s bullshit.

Certainly right-wing economist Stephen Moore has no trouble worrying about anyone but himself. He’s celebrating that the tax bill hurts education, hurts unions, hurts state government’s abilities to raise taxes or provide services — in short, hurts everyone but the rich. That it makes class divisions more firm (the rich stay rich, the lower classes will find it harder to rise) is, I’m sure, part of it, though Moore doesn’t mention that. And Paul Ryan, lying as usual, declares that cracking down on high-tax states punishes the states that “take” from the low-tax states that prop up the country economically. Nope. Apparently both Ryan and Moore are excited about turning all 50 states into Kansas.

Yet another man exposed as a sexual harasser, specifically Rep. John Conyers, who’s resigning from office. The Root asks if Conyers, a black man, isn’t being judged more harshly than white politicians.

The thing about all those sexual harassers like Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin and Bill O’Reilly? Their sexism helped shape the media narrative that helped elect Trump.

All the ways Republicans will make it harder for students who take out government loans.

Nixon claimed anything he did was legal. W’s attorney John Yoo claimed the president had no legal limits on his power. Now Trump’s lawyer claims that obstruction of justice charges against the president are by definition impossible. The problem isn’t just Trump, it’s Republicans. As noted here.

Roy Moore is unsurprisingly self-righteous in denouncing his critics as pure evil. Dammit, why can’t they respect a man’s need for teenage tail? As Lance Mannion notes, many conservatives love feeling persecuted. The Slacktivist blog once suggested it’s partly because the Bible was written for Israelites in exile and a persecuted Christian church. It’s much easier to imagine themselves as Israelites in bondage than realize that in the US, they’re Pharaoh. Heck, some of them think ABC reporting on Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s people makes ABC a terrorist group.

Speaking of Moore his massive sexism is another good reason not to vote for him.

Apparently Republicans rushed the tax bill through so fast, they screwed up on delivering the corporate tax breaks. Oh, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who organized the multi-trillion dollar tax cut says the CHIP children’s health-insurance program is having trouble passing because the government has no money to spare.

All that stuff about how the only thing we can do to prevent mass shootings is pray? Totally different if the shooter is an illegal immigrant.

Every Democrat in the Senate voted against the tax bill from hell. For some left-wingers, that just proves Democrats supported it.

For something more positive to end with, Slacktivist looks at the Muslims who keep the peace at Christianity’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

And for something random, here’s a photo by me of a storm drain near our house.

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