The Huffington Post and your masturbatory co-workers

On the Huffington Post and the problem of clickbait, with reference to a “recent” “survey” that will SHOCK and AMAZE you regarding how often your co-workers masturbate at the office.

This post isn’t about “fake news“, a term which has gone from useful to meaningless in a record time. It’s about nonsense published as if it’s news, and about the willingness on the part of some publications (okay, one in this case) to take a published piece of nonsense and then make it even worse in order to get you to visit their website. Continue reading “The Huffington Post and your masturbatory co-workers”

Two more homophobic churches for South Africa!

“We didn’t even speak about homos, we just went and evangelised,” said Bougardt, allegedly a man of God, regarding his meeting with homophobic pastor Steven Anderson.

Last year, I disagreed with Malusi Gigaba’s decision to bar the homophobic preacher Steven Anderson from entering the country. One of the arguments I made was that it’s good to be able to identify and expose bigots like him and his supporters, and that we can use occasions like this to demonstrate the weakness of their positions. Continue reading “Two more homophobic churches for South Africa!”

Bungalow, racial classification, Zille and Twitter outrage (again)

Helen Zille is again in the spotlight for intemperate Tweets. But as was the case with her “refugee” Tweet, is she being misunderstood, or worse, misrepresented?

Earlier this month Mike Dzange, a waiter at a Camps Bay restaurant called The Bungalow sparked a Twitter debate and quite a few columns when he opted to include “2 BLACKS” on the docket of a couple he was serving.

The couple was black, as was the waiter – and while that doesn’t preclude the possibility of the waiter himself having internalised some racist attitudes (here, simply meaning that he might never use that shorthand for white couples), it does make it less likely that he was intending to demean this couple. Continue reading “Bungalow, racial classification, Zille and Twitter outrage (again)”

“Post-truth” doesn’t have to mean factual relativism

In Scientific American, Dr Julia Shaw offers a good example of why science and philosophy are distinct branches of knowledge, and of why we should sometimes stick to our fields of expertise.

Most pieces about the “post-fact” or “post-truth” world express concern regarding the possibility that it’s now commonplace – or even somehow acceptable – to make stuff up instead of offering arguments and evidence for your claims.

My contribution to the discussion was to point out that truth has never mattered as much as we might prefer. But the fact that people don’t care to (or find it difficult to) escape their filter bubbles doesn’t need to entail giving up on facts and the truth entirely. Continue reading ““Post-truth” doesn’t have to mean factual relativism”

Sugar, the SAIRR and conflicts of interest

It turns out that the South African Institute of Race Relations were funded (in part) by Coca Cola to conduct research into South Africa’s proposed sugar tax. Not only was this not disclosed, the SAIRR seem to think it never needed to be.

The South African Institute for Race Relations (IRR) identifies itself as a liberal think-tank, focusing on research and ideas that might conduce to investment and economic growth.

As you’d know, the term “liberal” means many different things to different people. On my terms, the IRR has often been empathy-light, in that its idealistic vision of what the data tells us we should do can sometimes appear blind to important social and political contexts. Continue reading “Sugar, the SAIRR and conflicts of interest”

Stransham-Ford and physician-assisted euthanasia

The Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld the appeal by the Minister of Health and others against the Pretoria High Court ruling allowing for Stransham-Ford to seek physician-assisted suicide.

Allowing physician-assisted euthanasia (or suicide) is the morally correct thing to do, as I’ve argued many times in the past. This doesn’t however mean that any given attempt to make it legally permissible is sufficiently persuasive.

A court has to decide on the merits of the case before it, and the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold an appeal by the Ministers of Justice and Health (among others), against the Pretoria High Court’s 2015 ruling permitting Stransham-Ford’s assisted suicide, seems to have been the correct one. Continue reading “Stransham-Ford and physician-assisted euthanasia”

(Detective) Lethobo: the Profits from Doom

While we should be biased towards allowing people to make “free” choices (inasmuch as determinism makes that possible!), is moral judgment – and even legal intervention – not permissible when freedom of religion results in people being harmed by charlatans? (Skip to the end for a podcast of me talking to Eusebius McKaiser about this on Radio702.)

Charismatic pastors have long been abusing the loyalty and faith of devout Christians, and I’m sure this happens in other religions also. In South Africa, though, we’ve recently heard of some quite bizarre examples.

Penuel Mnguni telling people they should eat snakes and Lesego Daniel making a sacrament of grass and petrol come immediately to mind. And then there are the more traditional forms of exploitation, like Pastor Mboro telling parishioners that he can get them to heaven for R 10 000 (or, secure them a VIP seat next to Moses, Abraham and even Jesus for R 30 000). Continue reading “(Detective) Lethobo: the Profits from Doom”