Apr 08 2008

Same oppressive paradigm, different fascists. No wait, it’s the same fascists

Remember the old days — they were good old days, weren’t they? — when you could make a prank call from your own phone and get away with it because nobody had invented Caller ID yet?

Remember when you were at work and could look at Peter Pan guy [MIDI soundtrack alert] or whatever cute, pornulational, or craptastic corner of the Internet you felt like, because your boss hadn’t installed spyware on your computer?

And I understand there was once a time when people didn’t risk arrest by leaving the house without ID cards. Sometimes I revive the old pioneer spirit by jumping into the car, yes, without my wallet, and taking a spin around the block! Man, I’ve never felt so alive!

Well, supposedly free citizens of the supposedly free world, apparently these little erosions of your civil liberties are a mere tiptoe through the civil-liberties-erosionational tulips compared to what’s in store. The time is coming, says Wired’s Clive Thompson, when your brains will not be your own. You’d better get ready, Thompson prophesizes, for “a host of emerging technologies aimed at tapping into our heads.” What host of emerging technologies, you ask? OK, there’s hypersonic sound, where advertising physically gets inside your skull, and fMRIs, which can recognize your “racist thoughts,” and propranolol, a drug that selectively “erases” memories. Get a load of this:

Let’s say you’ve been assaulted and you want to take propranolol to delete the memory. The state needs that memory to prosecute the assailant. Can it prevent you from taking the drug? “To a certain extent, memories are societal properties,” says Adam Kolber, a visiting professor at Princeton. “Society has always made claims on your memory, such as subpoenaing you.” Or what if you use transcranial stimulation to increase your empathy. Would you be required to disclose that? Could a judge throw you off a jury? Could the Army turn you away?

Wired is shocked, shocked, at the prospect of such cognitive incursions. As though the potential for state interference in personal brains would be the first-ever instance of third-party annexation of sovereign organs. O silly, dudely Wired. Not an instant has gone by since “civilization” began when women’s uteruses have been free from appropriation by occupying forces.

Not that brain control is an outcome that spinster aunts in any way advocate, but if you ask me, the degree of human rights abuses fomented by millennia of institutionalized uterus-confiscation exceeds somewhat the hypothetical nuisance-factor of getting thrown off a jury sometime in 2024. Assuming the species hasn’t self-destructed by then.

Still, the fact that Wired reports the convening of a brain trust to sort out the legal ramifications of brain-snatching comes as no surprise. Eventually compromises will be reached which will effect the least inconvenience to honky dudes of means, with unfavorable outcomes increasingly tolerated the further down the race/gender hierarchy you go.

For example: currently in the US, well-to-do white urban women in a few states have the best chance of controlling their own internal organs; good luck finding public funding for your abortion if you’re poor, or finding a clinic if you’re rural — in nearly 90% of US counties there is no abortion facility at all. Not to mention all the bureaucratic obstacles shoved in your way by assorted state-level uterus-occupying assholes: parental or sperm donor notification, waiting periods, mandatory “counseling,” criminalization of providers, bogus pregnancy “crisis centers,” denial of access to birth control, ‘abstinence-only’ programs.

More oppression seems to be the only remedy anyone can ever come up with to fix the horrible problems caused by oppression. The state could just leave your uterus alone, but no. It must own your uterus. Wham, a host of emerging oppressions spring up to protect society’s claims, and if along the way they imprison you in some bogus biological destiny-hole, tough shit, you just gotta suck it up, lady. Or society decides that honky Jesus is better than brown Mohammed? Wham, the second-generation Iranian-American guy at the KwikMart has to plaster American flags all over his store and we get 2-hour lines at the airport, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo.

The more oppression you have, the more oppression you need. And so forth. If the megalotheocorporatocracy were not a social order based on class oppression, jagoffs trying to get ahead in advertising wouldn’t be broadcasting ad copy into your skull; drug addicts wouldn’t assault you, thereby obviating the need to erase your memory; there would be no paternalistic governing body to “make claims” on the contents of your personal brain; and there would certainly be no Army to turn you away (although if an army decided to turn me away I’d throw a yacht party in Fiji).

Speaking of Caller ID, enough already with the Hollywood cop shows where Detective Buttmunch and his sexy, sassy sidekick (who will eventually — this is non-negotiable — star in at least one episode wherein she is captured by a psychokiller and depicted in her underwear hanging by the wrists from rusty chains in a dungeon to await her rescue by Buttmunch) get all worked up trying to “trace the call” but the kidnapper is wise to their ploy and hangs up just before the 42-second mark or whatever. It’s 2008, mediocre Hollywood cop show writers! Get a new plot device!


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  1. Ariann


    Please comment. My favorite part (and I think it will be your favorite part too) is the absolute wisdom of the “evolutionary psychologists.”

  2. Erica

    I realize this is not the main point, but I feel it necessary to highlight that propranolol does not “delete” memories.

    It is a beta-blocker that is commonly prescribe for typical beta-blocker purposes (hypertension) but also for prevent migraines. I took it for 6 years to prevent migraines, and as someone with PTSD, I can attest to it not removing any memories, although that might have been nice.

    There is some interest in researching beta-blockers and their possible role in diminishing some of the effects of PTSD if the patient receives it soon after the trauma. Since I started taking it 3 years after the trauma (no causal relationship that is just when the migraines started), I suspect there was no benefit to my PTSD.

    “Patients who received a short course of propranolol in the wake of a traumatic event were less likely than placebo recipients to have a physiological response when thinking about their trauma, according to findings from a recent pilot study. Although the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) per se did not significantly differ between the two study groups, the findings do suggest that further exploration of preventive pharmacology for PTSD is warranted.”

    On topic, I would like the government out of my uterus and to stay out of my brain too.

  3. slade

    Tomorrow is Lobby Day for Planned Parenthood/NARAL here at the Ohio State House…so this post was quite timely. I wonder what dimwit legislative asshole I will be assigned to speak with tomorrow.

    Anyone have any questions that would like to pose to the asshole…or any words of enlightenment they would like me to deliver?

    All the people with brains have pretty much left Ohio…so we could use some good comments and questions. We’re a backward state now…someone called us ‘the Mississippi of the North.’ But our legislature loves those fetuses.

    I blame daily. My grandmother’s maiden name was Blamer!

  4. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Dang, I forgot about Peter Pan guy. And anyone who’s foolish enough to wanna snatch what passes for my brain needs to have their own head examined.

    But I do yearn for the good old days. I’ve been working the same job for 24 years now, and recently had to get my bad self in compliance (I hate hate hate that word) with Homeland Security Presidential Directive -12. Said Directive means I had to allow exhaustive background checks and prying (call it Long Day’s Journey into up My Ass) in order to keep my present job. Because I like living in a house instead of a refrigerator box, I had no choice.

  5. Catie

    Echoing Sara’s comments, the mechanism of action for propanolol is much more complicated than just erasing memories. Specifically, propanolol helps reduce the link between a severe psychological response to a traumatic event, i.e. trigger warnings. You still retain the memory, but hopefully not the heart-stopping anxiety that accompanies it. A better explanation would be propanolol stops heightened memories. I’m a neuropharmacology Ph.D student, so I guess I’ll be nerdy and say that the drug weakens the link between the amygdala (most often associated with fear) and the hippocampus (associated with learning and memory) for that particular event. Often, memories of a traumatic event are much more detailed than everyday memories. But, no one has ever said that you need a heightened memory to be a witness at a trial. Am I not allowed to recall everyday events as a witness? Thompson’s assertion is not only wrong, it’s ridiculous.

  6. Catie

    Despite the wrong information, I do agree with Twisty’s argument.

  7. BadKitty

    trying to get ahead in advertising

    Slightly off topic but can I just say here that this (How to Get Ahead in Advertising) is a totally hilarious movie? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097531/

    On topic, MRIs can “recognize your racist thoughts”? Can they recognize my blaming thoughts? I doubt it, because the tech at my last MRI would probably not have been very polite to me afterwards.

  8. Casey

    The more oppression you have, the more oppression you need.

    Yep. And it’s sadly funny to me to see “hip” tech guys get all worked up over the hypotheticals when there’s so much real, ongoing oppression. But I guess the hypothetical stuff has a higher “cool” factor.

  9. thebewilderness

    Not at all Catie, We’re all about the amygdala around here.

    Even if they don’t currently have a brain drain drug that will do such a thing, I’m sure the menz is working on it. They’ll be selling it as a companion to the date rape drug, so you won’t know how the hellz you got pregnant, but you won’t be getting the pills for contraception or an abortion any time soon.

  10. atheist woman

    Well yes, that’s because the ‘hip’ young technophiles feel life isn’t worth living if it doesn’t in some way resemble an Orwellian sci-fi dystopia. Why do you think we have things like the space needle?

  11. Lost Clown

    Thanks Erica, because I was gonna say I was on that and I never lost any memories. (For migraines which in my case have existed since middles school and can you be post-traumatic if you’re still in the abusive home? I’m gonna say they preceded the PTSD.)

  12. Lara

    I agree with thebewilderness. As long as men have control of these technologies they will only use them to hurt women. It’s just incredible how all these sci-fi male-centric movies about GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLING-YOUR-BODY-AND-BRAINS!!! themes (add dramatic echo and music) act like this is all something that hasn’t happened yet. Um, no doodes, we women have been mind-fucked and had control of our bodies handed over to others (men) for thousands of damned years, but thanks for the consideration :/

  13. Dawn Coyote

    Chris Crocker scares me.

  14. atheist woman

    Yeah, and nobody on the planet has ever ever been abducted by strange people in ‘ships’ and enslaved in a far away land for hundreds of years . Nope, that never happened, and it sure as hell isn’t still happening or anything.

  15. Shelby

    The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I could do with some at the moment.

  16. Narya

    Okay, I want that five minutes back–the two minutes watching that video and the three minutes I shared with Peter Pan. Unlike some of you, apparently, I had never seen him, and, trust me, I was much happier before I knew he exists. I’m trying to figure out a way to B the P for this, but am failing miserably.

  17. atheist woman

    Narya, the minutes you just spent watching the Britney video will stay with you forever, and ever, and ever. At least, that is how mine have been, pesky little buggers.

  18. TwissB

    Slade — Instead of going up to the Capitol in the best Planned Parenthood/NARAL politics-disguised-as-abortion-rights style to give your assigned legislator his jollies by pleading with him not to vote for the latest piece of tortureporn anti-abortion legislation, why not operate from the right analysis, the one that puts him and his cronies on the defensive and generally makes him mad – in short, the one that ever-so-clever Justice Blackman screwed with his jerry-built Roe v. Wade workaround that was designed to legalize abortion for men’s convenience while leaving them free to torment women with every possible obstruction right up to but not quite making the procedure illegal. What is that right analysis, you eagerly ask? Go to http://www.equality4women.org and click on “Stop Abotion? Fix Men!” a one-pager that will show you how to ask questions that mess with their minds – somewhat akin to Twisty’s little reversal ploy for chatting with Rush. Remember, you’ve got NOTHING to lose because men WANT abortion to be legal, so why not have fun and declare independence at the same time from those political groupies at PP/NARAL who are dedicated to getting women to waste the rest of their lives saving that Fabulous Invalid Roe v Wade, Sisyphus and the rock style, instead of getting on with the Women’s Movement and a strong demand for the only remedy that will work – equal protection of the law to a human standard that encompasses women’s needs, not just men’s.

  19. TwissB

    When will I ever learn to proof read before pressing the Blame button? That title is “Stop Abortion? Fix Men!”

  20. panoptical

    “More oppression seems to be the only remedy anyone can ever come up with to fix the horrible problems caused by oppression.”

    Amen to that!

    It never ceases to amaze me that we still live in a society where the state can just claim ownership of whatever it wants through “eminent domain” and “due process” and other throwbacks to ancient English law. Nowhere is the patriarchy so evident as in our system of laws that took the power away from the King and gave it to some other rich white guys.

  21. ate

    Oh the distress of the Wired geeks (and i say that as a ‘geek’ myself)! Their utopian future could possibly be threatened by reality! The continuation of oppression! Golly gosh! Nonetheless I am surprised by the outcry here. Why are we worried? The menz already think they know what is good for us (particularly in terms of reproduction!), i can’t imagine a world where they are interested in our opinions or what is occuring in our brains.

    P.s. In Australia we have no law or constitution that protects a right to free speech. Though in the late 1990s the High Court of Australia found that there was an “implied right of free speech in relation to political or economic matters”. What?!?! Two areas dominated by white haired white men?!?! Here is a good article on Australia and free speech/freedom of press and how that changed under the last prime minister (the same prime minister that couldn’t understand the objections to a Goods and Services Tax on tampons when there was going to be the same tax on shaving cream and it’s like the same thing, right?)


  22. hanna jörgel

    Not trying to pile on, but I used to use propranolol for performance anxiety in music performance.

    It was really strange. I was terrified in a room full of people, but there’s no adrenalin pumping. None. My hands didn’t shake. I didn’t get any butterflies.

    Later, I’d crash. But I didn’t forget the horror of being in a room full of people playing music very badly. I became a much better performer once I got off the stuff and learned how to harness the fear.

  23. hanna jörgel

    (To be precise, the adrenaline was pumping, it just wasn’t finding any cozy receptors to call home)

  24. murphy

    TwissB, I read your one-pager about how to “stop abortion.” Wow, thanks! I love reading people like Twisty and you who effectively change the frameworks of how I didn’t even realize I was thinking. It’s what true original thinking consists of and is generally in such short supply, though not so short among women in my experience. maybe why the accusation of “irrational” gets flung so often.

    I’ve printed it out and taped it to my office “door of things to think about” for my daughters to read.

  25. Dr. Steph

    Thanks for the link TwissB. I’ve used that argument in the past with men who think they have some right to decision making about abortion. My response: your decision to conceive or not conceive children comes when you stick your penis in a woman. If you don’t use condoms then you’ve made your choice and have to live with the consequences.

    It’s amazing how they suddenly get this feeling of having no agency and choice. If only for a nano second, they get a sense of being a woman.

    It never really sticks though. IBTP.

  26. Sev

    Speaking of technology and loss of privacy here’s a story about how every Dude’z fantasy is becoming real:


    Combine this with the fact that electronics keep becoming smaller and more discrete and well…

  27. TwissB

    Thanks, murphy and Dr. Steph for kind and interesting words.
    I forgot to provide a sample question for Slade to ask an anti-abortion legislator e.g:
    “Are you drafting legislation to regulate male fertility since uncontrolled male fertility is the main cause of the need for abortion?” (Don’t accept any protests that it can’t be done. Of course it can.) Suggestions for other questions welcome.

    To read a discussion of way that First Amendment Fundamentalists use Roe v Wade’s basis in women’s nonexistent first amendment right to privacy (thanks for nothing, Justice Blackmun) as a gotcha on behalf of pornography, see #417 (Yale J. of Law & Feminism article) at http://www.equality4women.org.

  28. utri

    20 years from now MTV has the show “Pimp my brain”

    One more step to the glorious posthuman era. Well glorious if your rich because enhanced intelligence, life extension and designer babies cost megabucks. The poor on the other side are busy living in biddonvilles after most of the jobs go to robots

  29. Crowfoot

    Long time blamer, probable second time delurker here with a question that is a few days late for slade and her legislative asshole (but good for any other Blamer with a fetus fetishist in their sights):

    Ask them if they were also interesting in legislating compulsory liver, kidney and bone marrow transplants. Reassure them that it would only be half of their liver, and in about a year, they’d back to normal and right as rain. One must think of saving lives, after all.

    (yeah I probably got the liver/marrow recovery time wrong and that one kidney doesn’t grow back, but you get my meaning. Inspired by Susan Bordo’s chapter “Are Mother’s Persons?” in Unbearable Weight)

    (erk, and I’ll likely get the tags wrong)

    (Oh! and hello all, this site is a lovely wonder of blamerishessness. yum!)

  1. Feminist SF - The Blog! » Blog Archive » privacy, autonomy, religion (and science fiction)

    […] of all, Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy, in her own inimitable and unerringly accurate way, rightfully points out the cultural blindness and ahistoricity of this concern: Wired is shocked, shocked, at the prospect of such cognitive incursions. As though the potential […]

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