Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Die Hard isn’t just a Christmas movie.  Die Hard is the Christmas movie.

Die Hard is quintessentially a libertarian-conservative American Christmas movie, and that’s what makes it The Christmas movie.  Despite what some people say.

Just to get this out of the way first – what’s often said about it is that it wasn’t released at Christmas, so it’s not a Christmas movie.  Release date doesn’t mean it’s not a Christmas movie, either.  “The Christmas Song” was written in the middle of summer, and no one complains that it’s not a Christmas song.  Anyhow, on to the story…

Starting with its hero, John McClane – the story throws an everyman cop out of his element into a situation he doesn’t expect and he, the individual, through his own resilience, perseveres.  It’s a celebration of individualism and independence, where one man can and does make a difference.  That one man isn’t alone in the world, but his individual actions make the difference.  Without him, everyone at the Nakatomi Christmas party would be fodder for murderous thieves.

die hard merry christmas

In contrast to other Christmas movies, John McClane doesn’t need Clarence to take him out of the world and show him what life would be like without him.  When John McClane is at his lowest, his friend – a friend whose face he’s never even seen – talks to him and reassures him that his actions matter.  John McClane doesn’t have an angel to come save him, but he has his friends who help him.

That friend whose face he’s never seen is important doubly so for that reason.  John McClane doesn’t know Sgt. Al Powell of the LA police department.  He knows nothing about him to begin with save that Al was a street cop based on his driving.  He doesn’t know Al’s race, his religion, or whether his ancestors and McClane’s fought each other in the old country.  They don’t judge each other based on some preconditions or some prejudice, there’s no room in their world for that, and there’s no reason in their world for that.

When government gets involved in the situation above the individual level, we see a very libertarian small-government criticism.  The 911 operators are blase and uncaring, dismissive of a citizen’s call for help.  Even when finally driven to action, they choose to dispatch a lone squad car on his way home – because they are blase and uncaring.

By the time Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson arrives, we really begin to see government involvement and its consequences.  Robinson starts by ignoring that Al was the man on the ground, had experience, and was as hands-on as the situation would allow.  Al has a grasp, but Robinson dismisses him and has some ham-fisted responses by sending in his teams in “standard two-by-two formation” – decisions that ultimately get good men injured and killed.  The further he goes from the individual, the more foolish he gets.  When he has men injured or dead at the door and in the car who are protected by John’s quick actions, he’s more concerned about the glass that the individual John McClane blasted all over the grounds.

Local government is shown as foolish, even moreso when it defers to the federal government.  When that same local goverment listens to the individual or starts to think about its role, it becomes more responsive and effective.

The federal government response is one you’d expect from Washington, DC.  It’s a one-size fits-all approach for an A7 scenario, running the universal playbook step-by-step, and it’s an even more ham-fisted and foolish one than the local government uses.

But Agent Johnson does add that “We’ll try to let you know when we commandeer your men,” in perfect parody of the uncaring fedgov taking over.

agents johnson and johnson die hard

In defense of the realism of Agents Johnson and Johnson, Die Hard was made prior to the siege in Waco, where the fedgov proved itself more incompetent, not less.

Over objections of local government in the form of Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson – who sucks up to the FBI heavily at first, but begins to question the wisdom of it later (as he realizes he could be held accountable, and thinks he should call the mayor) – and private citizens who object, the feds kill power to an entire grid.  Federal, local, and business authorities spend the whole argument ignoring Walt the technician who could cut power locally.

dwayne robinson johnson power guy 1

Walt is the individual, showcased again as the only competent one there, ignored by his company boss, the local authorities and the federal authorities.  Over his own objections and explaining that he can get the same result with no harm, he is threatened by Agent Johnson, and ends up being forced to shut down a power grid that inconveniences and harms local families on Christmas Eve, and plays right into the hands of the terrorist thieves.

walt die hard

Further from the consequences, as the FBI prepares its doublecross, Agent Johnson (no, the other one) comments that they’ll lose 20-25% of the hostages tops, and the other says he can live with that.  American lives he and his partner (no relation) are sworn to protect are ultimately expendible to him in his mission.  When Agent Johnson is rolling in with helicopter gunships, he whoops “Just like Saigon, eh, Slick?” – he’s become the embodiment of reckless militarization of police forces and the consequence-free actions the federal government would take against its own citizens while remaining assured of its own unaccountability.

While John McClane is on the roof and trying to move a terrified group of citizens back down and away from the bomb-laden roof of the building, it’s Johnson who’s gleefully commanding shooting and sniping at McClane, without having analyzed what the situation was.

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Hans Gruber and his gang as the bad guys are “the world”.  They are mostly Europeans and vaguely foreign characters, and Theo, of course, who is an amoral professional with a charming personality.

Hans and his crew, when silent, aren’t fully understood by anyone but John and Al.  John and Al understand in a direct, visceral way – the terrorist thieves are bad guys.  They show a traditionalist conservative or libertarian response to a direct threat – handle the threat.  They don’t need to pontificate about it – they know the bad guys are what they are, and somebody’s got to stop them.  There’s no introspection or “are we really the terrorists who brought this on ourselves?”  There’s not a thought to “Helsinki Syndrome” – which is mocked by the film itself.

“The world” is recognized for what it is – they aren’t ideologues – they’re thieves willing to use any tactics – “the world” has its own motivations, self-interested motivations, while naiive American govt. policies believe in the babble (Deputy Wayne Robinson) or ignore it completely and don’t even try to understand the motivations (FBI guys) that ultimately lead to failures by government at varying levels.

Hans, when he communicates their “demands”, play the slow-thinking local authorities for suckers, to such a degree that even his right hand man is thrown for a loop.

karl die hard asian dawn 2Asian Dawn?

hans die hard asian dawnI read about them in Time magazine.

John and Al see through it as a ruse.

Dwayne is duped, but baffled – again because he doesn’t listen to his own people on the ground.

The FBI simply ignores it, and fits it into their own plans.  They don’t even bother to wonder why such bizarre requests would be made.  Their sledgehammer-instead-of-a-flyswatter approach doesn’t even factor in that the “terrorists” are stalling, or why they were stalling.  It’s just an A7 scenario, and “we’ll take it from here”.

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On a whole host of topics, the movie subltly demonstrates a varying host of both libertarian and conservative beliefs.

On social issues of race or class, none are important – individual character is what matters.  Even just stripping away the action and drama of the story and looking at the characters shows people who are success stories due to their own hard work.

Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi, better known as Joe, is the man at Nakatomi, but he’s no rich robber baron or parody of zaibatsu business.  He’s an immigrant who worked his way up from humble beginnings, including spending young childhood years in the Manzanar internment camp, and he’s become a wealthy and powerful businessman, respected and loved by his employees.

On the other side of the spectrum is Argyle, who’s worked his way up from taxi driver to limo driver, and who’s personable and engaging with people he works with and ultimately for.  He helps John out with a plan to get back together with his wife, and agrees to help John find someplace to stay if things don’t work out.  He’s good people, showing character and initiative that doubtless was part of what got him moved up the socioeconomic and status ladder from taxi driver to limo driver.

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On gun control, the movie recognizes the bad guys will always be armed.  The terrorist thieves have rocket launchers – things that are already banned.  How did they get them?  Irrelevant – they’re criminals and criminals break laws.

On right to life, even Hans recognizes that a pregnant woman should be treated kindly.  He’s already calculated to kill everyone there as part of his scheme, yet he neither dismisses her nor her unborn child and their value to the Nakatomi community.  He does value them both less than the $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds in the vault.  But he recognizes the woman and unborn child as being respected by the community and responds to it for the value that Holly and the Nakatomi crowd place on her and her baby.

On smoking, characters smoke because they choose to – and they state they are aware of the dangers.  “These are very bad for you.”  It’s an individual decision, totally aware of the risks.

Abuse of hard drugs is shown to be something that’s ultimately self-destructive as it’s detrimental to the individual and the individual’s judgement.  There’s not a legal or moralizing argument against it, but more observation of the results of drug abuse and the poor decision making and foolish behaviors that drug abuse leads to.  Like the douchey thinking that just because you’re a corporate hot-shot, you can go and negotiate your way out of a situation with men who use guns, not fountain pens.

ellis die hard

The hubris that comes with trying to sleaze and bullshit one’s way through real-world threats is shown very vividly.  While Joe Takagi tried to negotiate as a civilized man with an enemy that feigned civilized manners and ultimately lost his life for it, Ellis douchily walks into a situation already knowing what the stakes are.  Ellis is the mush-brained slow-learner egocentric who thinks there’s a way to talk through problems that can only be solved by force.  He is the embodiment of negotiations with hostile international powers who will act to their own ends and don’t care what anyone talks at them.  He is as effective as the UN – a force only dangerous to those who are allied with it – because it empowers hostile forces by its own simultaneously naiive approach and arrogant sense of self-importance.

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The sensationalist, short-attention-span media, in the character of Richard “Dick” Thornburg, is shown to be irresponsible and reckless, as well as dangerous.  He endangers McClane’s children for nothing more than a scoop, but does also briefly touch on the hypocrisy and foolishness of hiring illegal aliens when he threatens Paulina with the INS.  We not only see Thornburg as the kind of newsman the NYT would hire when they want to show weaknesses in US armor to enemy forces in combat, but also as the kind of self-absorbed ass we expect to see from the news, where the story is always about him.  The rest of the media and their wholly wrong assessment the Nakatomi situation has already been covered above.

Die Hard 2, would of course give us the contrast of the moral journalist in Samantha Coleman with WNTW news.  But I’ll save any further analysis on Die Hard 2 for next year.

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An a much deeper level, one could discuss how John McClane running through the glass and emerging with bloodied feet could signify the stigmata, or running on glass the miracles of walking on water, but those would all be a stretch, to say the least.  There are plenty of religious connections that could be made in subtle fashion, and really most would be more valid than celebrations of Christmas involving a fat guy in a red suit, flying big game animals, and toymakers from Lothlorien who live in the extreme arctic.

You could have another conversation as to the relative values and virtues of other Christmas movies, and the traditions they have (they aren’t bad movies, after all… but they aren’t Die Hard).

While some people are adamant that Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie… it really doesn’t matter.  Like Crow T. Robot famously said during the initial singing of Patrick Swayze Christmas – “you keep Christmas in your way and let me keep it in mine.”

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As an addendum, there’s also a criticism about Nakatomi having a Christmas party on Christmas Eve saying that they’re a horrible company for it.

This is nonsense.  Joe Takagi and the Nakatomi corporation recognize the dedication of their employees and treat them like family.  They know the amount of work that has been put in to their projects, and they offer a Christmas party for those working long distances from home – like Holly, who had to leave New York to work in LA.  Unlike others in the Nakatomi family, she has her own family that she moved – but she’s there at the party because she wants to support her fellow workers.  She’s not going to be there all night – as she’s already planned to take her husband home to see their children, and Argyle was expecting to be spending Christmas driving John home… and maybe head to Vegas at some point.

John Wayne on Liberals

Posted: April 18, 2013 by ShortTimer in Conservatism, Culture, Philosophy

Strange to hear John Wayne talking about Keynesianism and socialism on the horizon, as he dissects modern liberalism/leftism.

Democrats Like Taxes

Posted: April 10, 2013 by ShortTimer in Democrats, Government, Leftists, Philosophy, Tax, taxes

In other news, water is wet.

From WaPo, easily summed up by their graphic:

wapo who likes taxesWaPo tries to come up with some explanation for this strange phenomenon that no one has ever realized before:

What explains that massive disparity between Democrats and Republicans/Independents when it comes to the tax system?

Part of the answer may well be that Democrats are broadly supportive of the idea that government can and should collect taxes in order to provide services for the American public while Republicans and independents are more skeptical about giving money to the federal government to spend.

Another part may be that the tax question winds up being read by partisans as a broader test of their feelings about the federal government. Democrats, with President Obama in the White House, are more likely to feel favorably (or at least express a favorable opinion) about the government. Republicans are not.

Democrats liked big taxes under other administrations, they just liked them for their programs.  Under Obama, the well-meaning but foolish Democrats get more of their pet “save the world” projects, and they get plenty of self-serving plunder to boot; and the ill-meaning collapse-the-system Democrats get to hurt the “evil” producers in order to create “social justice”.  The power to tax is the power to destroy, and they use the power to tax to target people they want to destroy.

It’s more than simply viewing the government as a nanny state that takes care of everything and the feeling that money comes from nowhere.  It’s also viewing the government as a benevolent wonderful provider of a utopian state that can only be realized once all the evil people who hate utopia are eliminated… through taxation driving them away.

The tax system is a weapon, and they wield it as such against perceived class enemies.  Nothing really new here to those in the know, just confirmation.  (Sort of like how every year at Christmas a study comes up showing conservatives give more to all charities because liberals think they “gave at the office” through taxes.  Liberals are amazed, conservatives go “yeah, and?”)

Born Alive Infanticide

Posted: March 29, 2013 by ShortTimer in Eugenicists, Leftists, Philosophy
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Via HotAir and Weekly Standard:

Florida legislators considering a bill to require abortionists to provide medical care to an infant who survives an abortion were shocked during a committee hearing this week when a Planned Parenthood official endorsed a right to post-birth abortion.

Alisa LaPolt Snow, the lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, testified that her organization believes the decision to kill an infant who survives a failed abortion should be left up to the woman seeking an abortion and her abortion doctor.

This isn’t really new.  It’s also nothing like what conventional pro-choice folks think they’re supporting… but they are.

Just a month or so ago, a Salon Leftist made the argument that “All life is not equal… a life are worth sacrificing.”  And last year, the Journal of Medical Ethics argued for post-birth abortion… that is, infanticide.

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

This isn’t a new idea.  The core of it is getting rid of unwanted humans, who are unwanted for whatever reasons.

300_skulls

If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred.

Margaret Sanger would be proud.

The title and conclusion from this Salon piece, entitled “So what if abortion ends life?”:

I believe that life starts at conception.  A life worth sacrificing.

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

The thing is, leftists are death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers.  They make judgements against those who truly bear no responsibility for their condition (grandma and babies), while defending those who are responsible for their own problems (terrorists and murderers).  The left wants their lives to be consequence-free.  That someone would argue an innocent life has no rights is a very telling position to take.

But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise.

The big difference is that these examples – drone strikes, the death penalty, terminal illness, and even sometimes accident victims, involve decisions made by those actors.  Those life and death choices are made as a result of their actions.

Drone strikes used against terrorists are supposed to be used in order to minimize casualties of good people and hold accountable only terrorists and their allies.  Terrorists chose to be terrorists.  The death penalty exists only because there are people who have chosen to commit atrocities against their fellow man and are being held accountable for it.  Murderers chose to be murderers.

Patients with terminal illnesses are fully developed people who are able to make decisions about their own lives.  The terminally ill can choose what they wish with their lives.  Accident victims depend person by person, depending on wishes they expressed to their families prior to their injuries; so even they sometimes have choices as to whether they wish to continue living or end it – even if incapacitated.

A human life that is not fully realized is no less human.  The Salon writer agrees, but simply does not care.  This is honest, but shows how cold and callous a philosophy this is.

When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born.

The Salon writer agrees that both are human life.  This is again both honest and very telling.

Consider the sub-heading to her piece:

I believe that life starts at conception. And it’s never stopped me from being pro-choice

And she finishes with this:

…it saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

Some of this is similar to the “future like ours” argument.  If a prospective baby wouldn’t be loved or would maybe have poor opportunities in life, it’s not as valuable as other lives, and it can be/should be destroyed.  It’s a sketchy argument because it leads down a road that justifies killing children and adults as well if they don’t have “good” lives.  But in this case, it’s more an argument of “if it inconveniences the mother”.

See what this really sounds like now:

I believe that life starts at conception.  A life worth sacrificing.

This is making fundamental judgements not about life choices by an individual who can make their own decisions and who will live with accountability with those decisions.  This is about one person making a decision to exterminate a human life based on the idea that “women’s choices and their possibilities” are more important than the human life they carry.  And this ignores entirely that the woman and man (or men, if that’s her thing) involved had the choice to avoid pregnancy entirely.  (There are plenty of ways.  The internet is full of suggestions.)

Let’s revisit this medical ethics paper from the Journal of Medical Ethics:

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred.

As the Salon writer agrees that human life begins at conception, but that some lives are worth sacrificing… well, we’re back to the old eugenicist arguments again.

We’re back to a group of leftist-progressive planners who decide whose life is worth saving and whose is not – based on their own whims.  In this case, they do so on both a personal level and on a societal level by advocating for abortion.  (Which is what Margaret Sanger did.)

There have been no actions made by the life forfeited to deem it worthless.  The human life destroyable by the Salon writer so she isn’t “punished with a baby” has no influence on its death.  It did nothing wrong, and made no choice.  Again, the murderer and the terrorist who face death at someone else’s hands do so because of actions they chose.  The terminal patient or accident victim may choose to face death by their own hands or with the help of others as that is a choice they have made.  The evil parties made their decision to forfeit their lives, the good parties made their decisions to end theirs.  Those parties are responsible for their own ends, for good or evil.  The zygote, fetus, or infant destroyed so the mother (and perhaps father) can skip out on the physical, financial, and social burdens of parenthood is destroyed due to no fault or decision of its own.

The leftist decision here is that “yes, life begins at conception, but I can take a life because I want to”.  That’s basically it.

I believe that life starts at conception.  A life worth sacrificing.

This is about abortion, but it’s actually bigger than that.  It’s about the value of life in competing value systems.

The conservative/traditionalist value system looks at life and all its possibilities, whether intended or not, as a bounty and a treasure.  That same view sees that life is a gift that can be squandered or misused.  Those who abuse their life and the natural rights they enjoy simply by their existence (regardless of whether you see life and rights as preexisting by being God-given or nature-given) may have their lives ended.  In short, bad guys may forfeit their lives by their decisions.  Conservatives/traditionalists tend to argue against euthanasia and the ending of ones’ life out of respect for the gift of life – they may empathize with the pain, but often empathy for the desire to end suffering will not outweigh their love for life.  This often comes from a long view of history, which is full of people who overcome suffering – and thus it leads to a desire to help those who are suffering to go on living.

The leftist/progressive value system feels that life is only a treasure if you feel like it.  They view that it’s “unfair” to those who are fully developed that they should have to suffer consequences of their actions.  This applies to the hapless new mother and father who didn’t take enough precautions as much as it applies to the villain who didn’t care about someone else’s life.  They see the developed lives in front of them and fall to the Broken Window fallacy – they truly can only see what’s in front of them.  They can’t see the loss of the potential life destroyed.  They feel for the murderer and listen to his story of disadvantages and “social injustice”, but they don’t care about his victims.  The left never really cares about actual victims.   They feel that an unformed life is worth destroying, that a human life that isn’t fully developed isn’t of any worth at all – because it’s all up to them to arbitrarily assign value.

To quote Thomas Sowell:

“For the anointed, traditions are likely to be seen as the dead hand of the past, relics of a less enlightened age, and not as the distilled experience of millions who faced similar human vicissitudes before.”

The “new man” leftist/progressive has decided that their value system, arbitrary as it is, is better in all means.  In their hubris, they disregard history, and substitute their new amorphous morality.  This applies at all levels – it applies to the value of life – and it applies to human life that may be sacrificed for the greater good.

The “greater good” in this microcosm is the mother’s physical life (which very few object to), and then it progresses to the mother’s financial and social life (which more object to), and finally simply to the mother’s convenience and whim.

The “greater good” in the larger leftist view sees “the mother” become “the people”, and the individual human life that can be sacrificed becomes… the individual human life that can be sacrificed – all for the “greater good”.

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From a purely libertarian point of view, being able to live freely of coercion is the most important thing.  If the life of a mother is threatened because of a pregancy gone awry, the mother’s life is sacrosanct – she should not be forced to risk her life.  If a woman is raped and rendered pregnant from it, the woman was forced to become pregnant, but the life created did not choose its origins and is also guilty of nothing.  Whatever the mother chooses – to reject the force that made her pregnant and terminate the pregnancy, or to acknowledge the pregnancy as a human life and as a victim of things outside its control – either should be her choice.  If life itself isn’t formed at a certain level, if something is still a medical condition that may or may not be life, then that leaves some area for a mother’s choice (hopefully with the father’s input as well).  A lot of both acceptance and rejection of abortion stems from where people believe that level is.

But if both sides of the debate have decided that a life is a life, and one side claims that it can just be killed arbitrarily, that leads to a conclusion that coercion, domination and destruction of other lives is acceptable.

I believe that life starts at conception.  A life worth sacrificing.

The author asks “So what if abortion ends a life?”  The response to that “so what” is that by the same reasoning, all lives are worth sacrificing on a whim.

The Salon author’s argument that she should be able to kill kids based on feelings holds every bit as much weight as Adam Lanza’s.

Update: Moonbattery gets it, too.

Presumably the same thinking would apply to humans of all ages deemed to be inconvenient.

Liberalism is reducing us to a society of monsters.

In the first video – “Is Feminism Hate?” she utterly destroys the feminist’s initial statements, before going into the greater detail.

Part 1:

If you’re not familiar with Girl Writes What?, it’s probably better to watch them both in order, if you have the time.  If you don’t have time for both, part 2 stands incredibly well by itself.

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This second video is Part 2 of Girl Writes What?’s response to a few stock feminist statements.  I want to stress that it really does stand incredibly well by itself.  Take a few minutes, sit back, and enjoy having your mind blown on gender issues.

Part 2: