I have come to the conclusion that the internet is for three things: porn, cat videos, and whining. The first two are not the subject of this piece though. It’s not hard to see how whining has turned to the cybersport of choice: since dawn of the World Wide Web, whiners have been able to expand their audience beyond mere family and friends (assuming they have any of the latter left), in the process assuming a self-importance that transcends normal human egotistical limits. Now, there are various types of whiners, from the semi-literate morons which turn any YouTube video into the inevitable anti-US/pro-US political troll-fest to the more educated ones, some of which actually write for major publications. These generally take the form of condescending, holier-than-thou liberals/leftists, making mountains out of molehills out of any perceived offense or indignity (disclaimer, I’m a liberal/lefty myself). Recently, they’ve been on a roll.
The Ice Bucket whiners
Until the past month or so, a lot of people had never heard of ALS. It is an awful disease, not just for the way it turns a healthy body into a muscle-less pulp of skin and bone in a matter of just a few years, but for the fact that it is incurable, untreatable, and unpreventable. It is a randomized death sentence for all but a minuscule and statistically insignificant few (astrophysicist Stephen Hawking being the most famous case). That has not stopped a legion of internet whiners from finding reasons to gripe about the Ice Bucket Challenge. That it’s slacktivism. That it wastes water. That ALS is rare and there are other diseases that kill many more people. That we must prioritize our charity to the most needed.
Ok, first argument to be debunked: that it wastes water. Well yes, it does. You’re pouring a bucket of water that could probably be more useful to a starving, thirsty African family. Problem is, you’re not in Africa, and pouring or not pouring that water is therefore irrelevant to that African family’s well-being. Are you actually going to export it to another continent so that they don’t starve? Of course not. Wasting a bucket of water will not make people on other continents less thirsty because there’s no way of sending them that water. In other words, water is a resource that has very limited transportation potential because you need so much of it that it’s logistically impossible (or prohibitively expensive). It’s a regional resource, not a global one.
Sadly, the world is a very unequal place when it comes to water and I think it is common sense that if you live in a place where water is not abundant, then you should not waste it. But there are those who still think doing the challenge is a bad even if you’re living on a barge on the Mississippi. Let’s put this into context. The average bucket can fill about two toilet flushes, right? And about 2 million people have taken the challenge, aye? So, that’s equivalent to two thirds of one percent (0.66%) of all the population of the US taking two extra flushes of toilet water over the course of their lifetimes. Seriously, is it that scandalous now? Next time you go boozing with your homeboys and take a leak every half an hour, think of all the water you just wasted. Ah, but you’re not whining about THAT, right? Because it’s easy to whine about slacktivism through the comfort of your laptop or iPad and yet live a lifestyle that pretty much goes against what you’re whining about. If you cared so much about water, stop drinking that diuretic known as alcohol. Better yet, if you cared so much about Africa, put your money where your mouth is and donate to WaterAid.org or any other similar charity.
There’s other silly arguments. One doing the rounds asks why we spend so much on ALS which is a relatively small killer in the grander scheme of things, compared to other diseases like heart disease or stroke. Well, here’s the thing about the other big killers: they’re largely preventable. You want to prevent heart disease? Eat well and do exercise. Don’t fancy lung disease? Don’t smoke. Trying to avoid HIV? Use a condom. But there’s nothing you can do to stop getting ALS, because modern medicine has yet to find the cause. A piece by an ex-Canadian diplomat, Scott Gilmour, claims that charitable donations to ALS are among the highest per death, compared to heart disease. But we already know quite a lot about heart disease, as well as its prevention and its treatment. In contrast, our scientific knowledge of ALS is still miles away from a cure (or even a treatment) which means the value added of every additional dollar to the cause is much higher.
Finally there’s the efficiency argument. On a global level, far more people die of malaria and infectious diseases than ALS. If we are to spend money, why not do it on that? Well, the argument here assumes that every dollar spent on ALS research would have been spent somewhere else had it not been for the Ice Bucket Challenge. But the reality is that most of it wouldn’t. In other words, charity is not a zero sum game where donating to one cause denies you the ability to donate to another. You can donate to ALS research AND donate to malaria nets, or rabies vaccinations, or serum for cholera victims. And inversely, if you did not plan on donating to ALS, it is quite likely that you were not planning on donating to anything at all. Ultimately you choose to donate or not, and if you do, choose what to donate to. Why should your choice be criticized by a bunch of whining self-righteous assholes?
The nail polish whiners
These ones are worse. According to recent news, a group of students from Stanford University managed to create a special nail polish that changes colors when it comes in contact with any one of the three main date rape drugs. A girl just needs to stir a drink with her finger and voilà, will know if someone slipped her Mickey. Now, assuming this works as advertised, it’s potentially a great way of preventing at least some date rapes. However this clearly is not enough to some ultra-feminists. According to these people, the nail polish is bad because 1) the problems is that men rape women, not that women fail to prevent rape and 2) continues to put the burden on women, because if she doesn’t wear the polish and gets raped, it was only her fault (kind of like, it’s your fault for getting your bike stolen if you didn’t use a lock).
Again, this is horse crap. First of all, nobody is arguing that the existence of this nail polish in itself suddenly shifts the blame on women, as if men were now to get off the hook if they actually rape someone. Believe it or not, you can take measures to reduce rape and at the same time advocate stricter laws against it (hey, I’m all for castrating rapists without anesthesia, in fact, I’ll gladly volunteer with some gardening scissors). Now, I agree that it will take a while before attitudes change and a greater proportion of men are purged of the bestial sexual urges that prompt this type of behavior. But it ain’t happening anytime soon. I’d give it a few decades at the very least but it’ll likely not be in a long, long time if ever. In the meantime, what’s wrong with a nifty and cheap idea that might actually work? Nothing. Unless of course, nothing satisfies your lust for whining, which is clearly the case for these people caught in their manic moral warpath.
The Celebgate whiners
Sorry, haven’t finished with the ultra-feminists. As you all know, recently dozens of racy and nude pictures were hacked from various celebrities, including megastars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton. The outrage has sparked calls for people comparing looking at these picture to outright abuse as they were obtained without their consent. This is definitely true, no doubt about it. The hacker may be a hero to thousands of horny 17 year-olds but has committed a clear breach of privacy that will surely result in a hefty and well deserved sentence if he is ever caught.
Now, I am not an internet security expert but I take sensible precautions. I don’t use the same passwords on every site. I don’t click on suspicious links in my e-mail knowing they likely harbor trojans, viruses and other nasties. I do not send money to Nigerian princes who need someone to deposit their oil wealth with. And, well, I don’t take naked pictures of myself but if I did, I sure as hell would not keep them online however presumably secure they might be! Unfortunately, for a group of people the suggestion that these celebrities are at least remotely at fault for leaving their secrets unguarded is akin to shifting blame from the hacker to them. From this, it follows that there is no reason not to use online storage or the cloud to guard one’s intimate data since hackers shouldn’t steal it in the first place. A New York Times commentator tweeted an analogy with a bank: I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards. – Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo)
WRONG. First of all, no internet storage service has ever guaranteed the security of your data. Put in legal terms, this means that it is not responsible for any sort of loss or theft. In fact, here’s this bit from Apple’s iCloud terms of service:
TO THE GREATEST EXTENT PERMISSIBLE BY APPLICABLE LAW, APPLE DOES NOT GUARANTEE OR WARRANT THAT ANY CONTENT YOU MAY STORE OR ACCESS THROUGH THE SERVICE WILL NOT BE SUBJECT TO INADVERTENT DAMAGE, CORRUPTION, LOSS, OR REMOVAL IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, AND APPLE SHALL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE SHOULD SUCH DAMAGE, CORRUPTION, LOSS, OR REMOVAL OCCUR. It is your responsibility to maintain appropriate alternate backup of your information and data.
Can you imagine the terms of service of ANY bank offering internet services where it does not guarantee your money is safe? Absolutely not, because nobody would use it, so the analogy is moot. Furthermore here’s my analogy: would anyone in their right minds NOT blame a parent with negligence if they leave their children alone on the street and they get kidnapped? I mean, they didn’t commit a crime, the kidnappers did. In a righteous world child kidnappers wouldn’t exist. Unfortunately, we live in a shit world, in which child kidnappers and hackers exist. Blaming these celebrities for being careless with their personal data knowing very well the risks they face online is not sexist because as in the case with the nail polish, it is not mutually exclusive with believing that the hackers should pay the price for what they did. Yet these false dichotomies pop up all the time. Most recently, those who blamed Ray Rice’s fiancee for staying with him (and marrying him) after being brutally punched in an elevator are labelled as sexist, as if there were some logical impossibility in believing that the perpetrators of domestic abuse deserve to be locked up AND that at the same time women who forgive them should also share some of the blame for perpetuating the belief that men can get away with it.
This isn’t sexism, it’s common sense. About time the legion of internet whiners got some.