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Author Topic: The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies  (Read 7633 times)

John Morrow

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The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies
« on: May 17, 2008, 01:34:52 pm »
In a recently closed thread here, another past closed thread (here) was brought up that dealt with whether a fantasy setting dealing with pedophilia in a potentially positive way was legitimate or not.  As with the discussion of Poison'd, there were people who feel that you shouldn't judge people by the fantasies that they are willing to indulge in with others or the fantasies themselves, even though most people generally make exceptions for games like RaHoWa and FATAL, apparently believing that they can tell the difference between a person exploring dark fantasies for legitimate reasons from a person who gets their jollies out of such fantasies and would carry them into the real world.  I don't think it's that simple.

I think there are legitimate reasons why certain fantasies, especially expressed in public, creep normal people out who haven't been convinced to believe that it's abnormal to be disgusted by fantasies and normal to accept them.  I continue to be amazed by people who think it's a worse sin to condemn a disgusting fantasy than it is to enjoy it.  It's as if psychopaths have convinced the world that their cold analytical perspective is normal and that the normal reaction is abnormal.  Why do I say that?

In this article, the author writes:

   In another Hare study, groups of letters were flashed to volunteers. Some of them were nonsense, some formed real words. The subject's job was to press a button whenever he recognized a real word, while Hare recorded response time and brain activity. Non-psychopaths respond faster and display more brain activity when processing emotionally loaded words such as "rape" or "cancer" than when they see neutral words such as "tree." With psychopaths, Hare found no difference. To them, "rape" and "tree" have the same emotional impact -- none.

In other words, a normal person reacts differently to emotionally loaded words than they do emotionally neutral words because of the concepts that they represent.  It's not surprising that they react the same way to fantasies described with such words and evoking similar acts.  Arguing that this sort of reaction is somehow wrong and abnormal is saying that we should react with emotional detachment and indifference like psychopaths or hide and suppress our reactions if we don't.  But that negative reaction to certain words or ideas is why normal people don't push a three-year-old friend into the deep part of a motel pool because they want to see someone drown or say things like, "[M]y mother, the most beautiful person in the world. She was strong, she worked hard to take care of four kids. A beautiful person. I started stealing her jewellery when I was in the fifth grade. You know, I never really knew the bitch -- we went our separate ways."

When we hear things like that, we're supposed to be shocked and feel revulsion and the reason why we're supposed to be creeped out by people who have such fantasies is that it's safer to assume that they are psychopaths than to assume that they aren't.  Yes, normal people can have such fantasies and never harm anyone but treating such fantasies as normal makes it harder to sort out the dangerous psychopaths from normal people.  If you don't want people to think you are a psychopath, don't talk and act like one rather that telling me there is something wrong with me for being shocked by such fantasies and finding them unpleasant.  Such fantasies are a warning sign that there is something that's not right about a person and if you don't want people to think there is something wrong with you, find something else more normal and less shocking to fantasize about.  In fact, I think a big part of the reason why society used to demand a certain amount of restraint and conformity from people is that people who do have something wrong with them find it difficult to exercise restraint and to conform.

If you look at the Columbine killings, the Austrian who kept his daughter as a sex slave in the basement, and a large number of similar situations, there were almost always warning signs but those warning signs were ignored by people who wanted to assume the best, wanted to mind their own business, and didn't want to judge the behavior of someone else as strange.  We intuitively feel that strange people are creepy for the same reason that we intuitively fear falling from high places.  It's a survival instinct and we're stupid to simply ignore it.

In fact, here is an article about a psychopath, their fantasies, and how they see themselves:

   In 22 hours of interviews with Longview police Detective Scott McDaniel, Kondro compared himself to an alligator resting at the bottom of a pond. Sometimes, he came up to feed.

"There's an adrenalin rush," he explained later. "It's kind of addicting."

[...]


Kondro led a double life. As a Catholic schoolboy, he says he fantasized about hurting and raping girls. As a young teen, he put together a "rape kit" and kidnapped a young woman.

"I'm a sociopath, psychopath. I've done a lot of weird things," he said. "I can remember (as) a little kid being sexually deviant with kids in the neighborhood. And it never stopped. My victims never got older. I've been a serial child rapist ever since I was a child myself."

Kondro said he deserves to be put to death.

"If someone did what I did to my family," he said, "I'd want them on death row."

Maybe not everyone who has a fantasy like that is dangerous or will act on it, but plenty of dangerous people who do things like that often do fantasize about them first.  That makes such fantasies suspect, and rightly so.  I see no equivalent benefit in normalizing it.
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TonyLB

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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2008, 01:59:25 pm »
I totally think that people should be squicked out by such stuff.  I suspect that you'd find (if a calm conversation on the subject could be had) that even many of the people who cherish such fantasies are, simultaneously, squicked out by them.

I tend to take issue with the leap from "This squicks me out!  YUCK!" to "Even talking about this is morally repugnant."  But that's not what you're saying here, so ... I think that until and unless you go further on the whole "If you want people to think you're normal" line of reasoning, I'm in full agreement.
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Arminius

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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2008, 04:53:22 pm »
Not sure how this fits in, but I've been trying to figure out why I enjoy, and am not at all embarrassed to say I enjoy, stuff like S. Clay Wilson's Checkered Demon and Captain Pissgums, or R. Crumb, etc. Heck, I even thought that Natural Born Killers skated on the good side of the line separating worthwhile stuff from offensive crap.

Yet I'm turned off by Poison'd APs, Very Bad Things (with Christian Slater), and other cultural products--which at least at first blush I blame on "bad taste".

So far I see three possibilities.

1) It's entirely an issue of what I like, and I don't really care about the offensiveness issue at all.

2) It's a question of good art justifying the offensiveness in some way. As if Very Bad Things would annoy me less if it was just a bad movie instead of a bad movie that revels in grossness.

3) It's a question of honesty vs. self-indulgent hypocrisy. Then again the honesty I'd expect to find in RaHoWa isn't something I'd enjoy. Truth be told I can't help but read the grosser underground comics, or Troma films, as basically self-parodying. So maybe it's "good" irony vs. "bad" earnestness that turns me off.

jhkim

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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2008, 04:29:29 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
IWhen we hear things like that, we're supposed to be shocked and feel revulsion and the reason why we're supposed to be creeped out by people who have such fantasies is that it's safer to assume that they are psychopaths than to assume that they aren't.  Yes, normal people can have such fantasies and never harm anyone but treating such fantasies as normal makes it harder to sort out the dangerous psychopaths from normal people.  If you don't want people to think you are a psychopath, don't talk and act like one rather that telling me there is something wrong with me for being shocked by such fantasies and finding them unpleasant.

Logically, it seems to me that if

1) Your goal is to more easily sort out dangerous sociopaths.
2) A useful but not conclusive marker for sociopathy is not being revulsed by such material.  

Then you should encourage people to react naturally to such material. Such material should be available or it is useless as a test.  Further, you don't want to encourage people to feign revulsion that they don't feel -- since that would make it harder to distinguish.  

Obviously this means that anyone who feels genuinely revulsion by such should not be forced or encouraged to include it in their games.  However, I don't think that anyone has been arguing that regarding the questionable RPG material.  As far as I've seen, people have been saying that if it floats their boat, then that's their business.  


That said, I don't think I really buy those premises.  I'm not convinced that rare RPGs will have any impact in identifying dangerous sociopaths.  So the whole chain of logic doesn't really factor in how I think about them.  I'm not generally into the whole scene of dark-themed RPGs in general, and I would prefer culturally to push more positive themes.  However, my preference for doing so would be relatively low-key.

riprock

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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2008, 05:24:09 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
Maybe not everyone who has a fantasy like that is dangerous or will act on it, but plenty of dangerous people who do things like that often do fantasize about them first.  That makes such fantasies suspect, and rightly so.  I see no equivalent benefit in normalizing it.

There are at least four alternatives, when perceiving sociopathic anti-social behavior:
1) Positive emotion: "Hey, that sociopathic behavior is fun and everyone should try it!"
2) Negative emotion: "Sociopaths squick me!  I don't want to look!"
3) Absence of emotion with curiosity and intellectual approval: "I feel nothing but I want to use such tactics to my personal advantage."
4) Absence of emotion with curiosity and intellectual disapproval: "I feel nothing and I want to understand such tactics in order to exterminate those who use them."

Sociopaths are exactly that, a competitor form of social life.  If the larger society hopes to survive, it had better evolve some white blood cells.  I can't  imagine a smart white blood cell could have any reaction but (4) -- curiosity without approval.

In some happy circumstances, criminologists can help societies to reduce crimes.  Criminology cannot advance without appropriate scientific curiosity about crime.  Edit: Therefore I want to stress that it's possible to support popular criminology in clumsy ways, which do more harm than good, or in clever ways, which minimize reactions (1) and (3) while maximizing reaction (4).  In order to maximize reaction (4), I think it may be necessary to allow some observable sociopathic fantasies in the short run, but that such an apparent act of tolerance does not constitute "condoning" or "normalizing."
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JimLotFP

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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2008, 05:58:51 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
Maybe not everyone who has a fantasy like that is dangerous or will act on it, but plenty of dangerous people who do things like that often do fantasize about them first.  That makes such fantasies suspect, and rightly so.  I see no equivalent benefit in normalizing it.


This just seems so... thought police to me. And just because there's a consensus of what the bad behavior is now, in this instance, doesn't mean this is a good way to approach things. "You think it, therefore you're suspect," can not lead to anything good. Yeah, you might catch a few crazies before they do anything, but your wide net will also catch many, many harmless people merely exercising their minds. Where do you draw the line? "OOOhhh, those video games, they turned my child violent! Do YOU play violent video games?"

John Morrow

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« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2008, 12:06:09 pm »
Quote from: JimLotFP
This just seems so... thought police to me. And just because there's a consensus of what the bad behavior is now, in this instance, doesn't mean this is a good way to approach things. "You think it, therefore you're suspect," can not lead to anything good. Yeah, you might catch a few crazies before they do anything, but your wide net will also catch many, many harmless people merely exercising their minds. Where do you draw the line? "OOOhhh, those video games, they turned my child violent! Do YOU play violent video games?"

I don't agree that, "'You think it, therefore you're suspect,' can not lead to anything good," especially when a person lacks the restraint to keep their opinions to themselves.  Are you honestly telling me that if a person told you he had fantasies of driving around at night murdering homosexuals or raping little children that you wouldn't have concerns about that or consider them suspect?  Would you trust a friend with child molestation fantasies with a child and, if not, why not if not because their fantasies make them suspect?

If GTA encouraged you to engage killing homosexuals do you think that there wouldn't be an uproar over it?  Or how about GTA: Racial Holy War where you pick a race and drive around murdering members of another race?  Or how about a game where you play Nazis and get points for rounding up Jews?  Do you honestly think that such games wouldn't create an uproar?  And isn't the uproar that such games would create that keep them out of the mainstream and keep mainstream publishers from pushing those limits?  And, yes, that denies normal people the potential joy of playing a video game where they can murder homosexuals, participate in a race war, or round up Jews for extermination but is that really a shame?  Is society worse for that loss?  I don't think so.

As for the consensus over what is bad behavior, one of the characteristics of psychopaths is that they can't distinguish between moral violations and conventional violations.  Moral violations are things that people consider wrong regardless of whether social rules permit them or not while conventional violations are considered wrong only because social rules say that they are wrong.  Psychopaths treat everything like a conventional violation because they lack the innate moral compass that normal people have.  

You seem to be assuming that we only consider things wrong out of convention and not because anything is actually morally wrong.  While I don't think that makes you a psychopath, I do think that's another example of buying into the psychopath perspective -- that the only thing that makes things wrong is a "consensus" that it's wrong, thus given the right context, anything might be acceptable.  That's exactly the argument psychopaths use to justify doing anything that they want because when nothing is universally right or wrong, you can make an argument that anything should be permissible.
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The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2008, 12:10:52 pm »
You guys have way too much time on your hands.

JimLotFP

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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2008, 12:33:47 pm »
Quote from: John Morrow
I don't agree that, "'You think it, therefore you're suspect,' can not lead to anything good," especially when a person lacks the restraint to keep their opinions to themselves.  Are you honestly telling me that if a person told you he had fantasies of driving around at night murdering homosexuals or raping little children that you wouldn't have concerns about that or consider them suspect?  Would you trust a friend with child molestation fantasies with a child and, if not, why not if not because their fantasies make them suspect?


It completely depends on the context of the conversation. "Thinking about and/or describing" =/= "fantasizing about."

Quote from: John Morrow
If GTA encouraged you to engage killing homosexuals do you think that there wouldn't be an uproar over it?  Or how about GTA: Racial Holy War where you pick a race and drive around murdering members of another race?  Or how about a game where you play Nazis and get points for rounding up Jews?  Do you honestly think that such games wouldn't create an uproar?


They would now, but there are periods of time and places when they probably wouldn't have, and that's what I'm talking about when I say "consensus." These standards always change. It wasn't all that long ago that openly discussing beliefs in racial equality put you on the fringe, and advocating atheism still does. Or being openly gay and saying there isn't anything wrong with it. How about being a communist, or even not ardently disavowing communism? How about wanting marijuana for medical purposes? A lot of hysteria ends up looking very bad with time, and you'd think people would make an effort to not keep repeating this cycle.

Being in a rush to act outraged over what other people are thinking... *shrug* Yes, I do it too sometimes, concerning racially charged metal bands (whereas the gore-related stuff, especially directed towards women, just makes me yawn... google the lyrics to Necropedophile and realize that was written by the same band that made it into the Ace Ventura movie and got mentioned by Bob Dole in 1996).

I'm not saying "everything should be allowed" when it comes to people you talk to, or people posting here, or whatever. "Dude, that's not cool. Hush." And if they keep up, it's an issue of disrespect, not their thoughts.

If they actually harm someone, nail them to the fucking wall.

Otherwise... *shrug*

Quote from: John Morrow
As for the consensus over what is bad behavior, one of the characteristics of psychopaths is that they can't distinguish between moral violations and conventional violations.  Moral violations are things that people consider wrong regardless of whether social rules permit them or not while conventional violations are considered wrong only because social rules say that they are wrong.  Psychopaths treat everything like a conventional violation because they lack the innate moral compass that normal people have.


I think downloading music is morally wrong. Does that mean that I should treat everyone that does it like a psychopath?

Quote from: John Morrow
You seem to be assuming that we only consider things wrong out of convention and not because anything is actually morally wrong.


I believe morality is completely invented by people. I believe the only difference between your definitions of "morally wrong" and "conventionally wrong" is the amount of dissenters within the population, especially when it comes to sexual morality.

And I will say that "sex with children in real life" is a very, very different thing than "sex in a fictional setting with people that can give informed consent that are called children." If they can give actual consent (telepathically determined in whatever setting whatsisface wrote, as I recall), they're not really children in any meaningful way.

Koltar

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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2008, 01:01:02 pm »
SO,.... What is this?

 You guys browse at extreme porn on the web and are hoping someone says thats "okay' or something?

Had violent thoughts toward your boss or co-workers?


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John Morrow

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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2008, 01:51:55 pm »
Quote from: JimLotFP
It completely depends on the context of the conversation. "Thinking about and/or describing" =/= "fantasizing about."


There is not a 1:1 correspondence, but the former can certainly be an instance of the latter.  

Quote from: JimLotFP
They would now, but there are periods of time and places when they probably wouldn't have, and that's what I'm talking about when I say "consensus."


And there were periods of time and places were actually going around and murdering homosexuals, members of another race, or Jews were socially condoned.  But if you look at how that's done and what the people really think about what was going on, the moral reasoning underneath is still there.  Have you ever seen pictures or movies of Germans forced to go on tours of concentration camps after WW2?

Quote from: JimLotFP
These standards always change. It wasn't all that long ago that openly discussing beliefs in racial equality put you on the fringe, and advocating atheism still does. Or being openly gay and saying there isn't anything wrong with it. How about being a communist, or even not ardently disavowing communism? How about wanting marijuana for medical purposes? A lot of hysteria ends up looking very bad with time, and you'd think people would make an effort to not keep repeating this cycle.


And you think all of those things are equivalent?  Being outraged over the idea of a video game where the players drive around killing homosexuals is the same as being outraged over the idea of a black person and white person getting married and having children?  

Quote from: JimLotFP
I'm not saying "everything should be allowed" when it comes to people you talk to, or people posting here, or whatever. "Dude, that's not cool. Hush." And if they keep up, it's an issue of disrespect, not their thoughts.


And what if they tell you that they think it's cool and that you should mind your own business?  Then isn't it an issue of you disrespecting them?

Quote from: JimLotFP
If they actually harm someone, nail them to the fucking wall.


Lots of people drive legally drunk without ever getting into an accident yet we make drunk driving illegal, even though it punishes people who have never gotten into an accident and may accidentally be driving while legally intoxicated.  Do you think it's legitimate to make drunken driving illegal because of the risk that it poses to others or do you think we should wait until they actually get into an accident and hurt someone else before arresting them?

Quote from: JimLotFP
Otherwise... *shrug*


So how do you believe that people develop their morality, if you don't believe there is some sort of innate or objective core to it?  Do you believe that people learn their morality?  If so, where do they learn it from?  If they learn it from their environment and the prevailing culture around them, how can you simultaneously argue that one should be indifferent to the quality of the environment or the elements of the culture that surrounds people?  

Quote from: JimLotFP
I think downloading music is morally wrong. Does that mean that I should treat everyone that does it like a psychopath?


It's been my experience that the people who do oppose downloading music illegally do consider it a moral wrong because they see it as stealing while people who don't oppose downloading music illegally tend to see music, because of commercial radio and MTV, as something freely available.  A sense of fairness and value also comes into play.  And of course estimates are that around 4% of the population are psychopaths who are often intelligent, articulate, and like to justify their behavior so I wouldn't be surprised if they were over-represented on the side supporting illegal downloads.

The way a normal person frames a moral problem can change how they view a situation.  Brain scans of people making moral decisions show, for example, that people are more willing to throw a switch to sacrifice one person to save five (a pure impersonal rational decision) than to push one person to their death personally to save five (a personal emotional decision) because the problems are processed differently in most people's minds.  Thus if you see downloading music as denying a deserving artist of compensation for their work, it's my experience that you are more likely to consider illegal downloading wrong than if you see downloading music as casually copying something that you can get for free on the radio and that the only one who is getting hurt is a large faceless music company that abuses musicians and rips customers off, anyway.  

Yes, you can reframe the moral landscape all the way up to getting people to support murder and genocide, but the core morality is almost always there.  It was that common moral foundation that allowed people to convince other people that slavery was wrong, that women should have the right to vote, that enemies in times of war should be treated fairly, and so on.

Quote from: JimLotFP
I believe morality is completely invented by people. I believe the only difference between your definitions of "morally wrong" and "conventionally wrong" is the amount of dissenters within the population, especially when it comes to sexual morality.


Brain scans suggest otherwise.  You can find a good basic overview of some of the research here.  And research on psychopaths, as I mentioned earlier, suggests that they don't react physiologically to moral issues as non-psychopaths do.

But assuming for the sake of argument that morality is completely invented by people, where do people get their morality from, then, in your opinion and what shapes a person's morality?

Quote from: JimLotFP
And I will say that "sex with children in real life" is a very, very different thing than "sex in a fictional setting with people that can give informed consent that are called children." If they can give actual consent (telepathically determined in whatever setting whatsisface wrote, as I recall), they're not really children in any meaningful way.


The reasons why children are not considered able to give consent extends far beyond knowing what they truly want.  The problem is that children often do not understand the context and consequences of their choices, thus telepathy or something like it could not solve key problems.

But the reason why it's creepy is that it raises the question of why one would include children that are not children in the game.  it suggests an attraction to the physique of children and many pedophiles, in defense of their actions, make arguments that the child went along with it or that the relationship was good for the child.  It's like making feces and edible and nutritious delicacy in a game setting.  It makes people wonder why a game designer would possibly include something like that.  And I would argue that human beings have that sort of emotional response for a reason -- because it's useful.
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« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2008, 03:02:21 pm »
Quote from: John Morrow
There is not a 1:1 correspondence, but the former can certainly be an instance of the latter.


So? I don't care if there is a 1:1 correspondence, the monitoring and attempted censorship of thought is always more evil than any thought that can be had. I believe that intellectual freedom must be absolute.

Quote from: John Morrow
Have you ever seen pictures or movies of Germans forced to go on tours of concentration camps after WW2?


Were they the same ones running the place?

Quote from: John Morrow
And you think all of those things are equivalent?  Being outraged over the idea of a video game where the players drive around killing homosexuals is the same as being outraged over the idea of a black person and white person getting married and having children?


Being upset over interracial marriage strikes me as being more sensible than being upset over a video game. At least it's real. And to be clear - I have no problem with interracial relationships whatsoever.

Quote from: John Morrow
And what if they tell you that they think it's cool and that you should mind your own business?  Then isn't it an issue of you disrespecting them?


I've disassociated myself from people for sillier reasons than that. People don't have any obligation to get along and be friendly.

Quote from: John Morrow
Lots of people drive legally drunk without ever getting into an accident yet we make drunk driving illegal, even though it punishes people who have never gotten into an accident and may accidentally be driving while legally intoxicated.  Do you think it's legitimate to make drunken driving illegal because of the risk that it poses to others or do you think we should wait until they actually get into an accident and hurt someone else before arresting them?


This isn't the same thing at all - these people are physically impaired.

Quote from: John Morrow
So how do you believe that people develop their morality, if you don't believe there is some sort of innate or objective core to it?  Do you believe that people learn their morality?  If so, where do they learn it from?  If they learn it from their environment and the prevailing culture around them, how can you simultaneously argue that one should be indifferent to the quality of the environment or the elements of the culture that surrounds people?


I do believe that people learn their morality. And we shouldn't be indifferent, and we should express our opinions about what is right and wrong, but the bottom line is you can't have freedom and liberty without the ability to think of and express even the most revolting thoughts.

Quote from: John Morrow
The way a normal person frames a moral problem can change how they view a situation.  Brain scans of people making moral decisions...


I really don't care what happens in people's brains. I mean, it's interesting, but it's completely irrelevant to the topic.

Quote from: John Morrow
It was that common moral foundation that allowed people to convince other people that slavery was wrong, that women should have the right to vote, that enemies in times of war should be treated fairly, and so on.


So where was this common moral foundation for the thousands of years in history when women were politically inferior and slave-holding was the norm?

Quote from: John Morrow
But assuming for the sake of argument that morality is completely invented by people, where do people get their morality from, then, in your opinion and what shapes a person's morality?


Ultima IV. (that'll sound snarky, but...)

Really, I have no idea. You can feed the same input into different people and get different results. People are different. When we figure out why we're different, and come up with effective ways to influence that on an internal, immutable level (genetic engineering?), then being human will be meaningless and being free will be impossible.

Quote from: John Morrow
But the reason why it's creepy is that it raises the question of why one would include children that are not children in the game.


Maybe he enjoys pissing people off. Who cares? I think it's pretty dodgy myself, but there's a world of difference in saying "Well that's pretty icky" and engaging in a crusade to make sure everyone else thinks it's icky too and convince people that Something Should Be Done.

Serious Paul

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The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2008, 03:53:13 pm »
I'd like to answer  a small section of John's post, out of context slightly. John should feel in no way obligated to reply-as this is simply something I'm posting for my own edification.

Quote from: John Morrow
So how do you believe that people develop their morality, if you don't believe there is some sort of innate or objective core to it?


Well obviously the answer varies, after we don't all grow up the same way, under the same circumstances, or with the same inherent abilities, or genetics-or whatever you'd like to use as your particular yard stick in this case.

I do not believe in morality as innate or objective thing. You, quite obviously, do. I suspect that in the end neither of us will agree with each other on how people develop morality, or where the lines should be drawn. However keep in mind that I'm okay with you drawing your lines in a different spot, and a different fashion than i do my own.

Quote
Do you believe that people learn their morality?


In part, I do. I am certainly not a scientist-nor am I particularly educated man (I read, I have two years of college, I have military and law enforcement training. But Aristotle I am not.)-so I may not be able to provide you with pages of empirical data at a moments notice, however I will endeavor to be clear in my opinions, and logic. As clear as I can. However in the end we're debating about something that is subjective, and there will be no real concrete conclusion.

Now that said I say in part, because I do believe that some people-for whatever reason-are genetically predisposed towards certain behaviors.

Quote
If so, where do they learn it from?


I think that people learn morality from a variety of sources, almost all fo them environmental.

Quote
If they learn it from their environment and the prevailing culture around them, how can you simultaneously argue that one should be indifferent to the quality of the environment or the elements of the culture that surrounds people?  


I think this is a valid point. I agree that you cannot ignore or be indifferent to the quality of the environment that surrounds people-I'm taking a more altruistic stand point/point of view here than I might normally give at any given moment.

If you do care about how other people act, then yes you do have to be concerned about what they are exposed to and why. I don't think anyone here is arguing for, or pushing for a society devoid of limits-but I think JimLotFP would agree with me that some of us don't think all of the limits are in the right spots for the right reasons. (Does that make sense?)

At any rate I'm enjoying reading this.

TonyLB

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The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2008, 05:56:50 pm »
Quote from: Koltar
Had violent thoughts toward your boss or co-workers?
I'm pretty sure that John is telling me that I'm morally forbidden to talk about such things.  It would be suspect, and permitting discussion of suspect material will let the Nazis come back.

Which is to say:  John, you've officially hit the "unless and until you take it further" point I discussed earlier.  I have gone from agreeing with your original posting (squicky subjects make people feel squicky) to thinking that your extension of it into a push for the moral necessity of conformity and self-censoring is complete ass.

Can't you just leave it at "If you squick people out then they won't want to hang around with you" without saying "It is a SIN to squick people out"?  Is that honestly so hard?
Superheroes with heart:  Capes!

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« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2008, 10:34:47 pm »
I think there are several questions that are potentially being tangled up here. To my mind some of the issues include

  • Is it okay to think less of someone for talking about taboo subject material?
  • What about considering them dangerous? What about considering them dangerous enough to take legal action against?
  • Is it morally wrong to talk about taboo subject material?
  • Should it be illegal to talk about taboo subject material?
  • Does the quality of the discourse change any of the above?


I'm probably missing some. These are all very different answers for me. My answers would be that I apply a couple of principles, most of which deal with intent (which cannot necessarily be known, but can be inferred):

  • Do I think they morally endorse hurting other people?
  • Do I think they intend to incite others take harmful action?
  • Do I think they are planning to take harmful action (E.g. the fantasies they are indulging in are an ideation stage for actual, real-world harm)?


If I think the answer is 'yes' to any of these then I would consider it a sever moral and possibly psychological character defect on the part of the writer, I would advise caution in dealing with them personally.

I stop short of thinking people should be locked up for having nasty fantasies -- although in some cases it might be indicated (where the fantasy is, essentially, a threat).

Now, this has very little to do with subject matter -- A Clockwork Orange is full of violence and degradation but I don't think less of Anthony Burgess. My assessment is based on my subjective reaction to the work in question.

Now, I don't think the Poison'd Actual Play falls into any of those categories. I don't know about the pedo stuff (I didn't read it) but it might. Things like the Turner Diaries or RaHoWa probably does.

If the work doesn't fall into the above categories, but appears to be transgressive for shock value and without other redeeming qualities I would probably think a bit less of the writer (this is where I find the Poison'd AP falling), but I wouldn't necessarily call it a serious moral failing.

It's just... not-classy.

Transgressive, with redeeming quality (in my opinion) is fine, and would encompass some works I really dig.

I realize this opens up a whole set of quality-of-art issues -- but getting agreement on what constitutes redeeming quality seems to be asking a bit much for these conversations.

Finally I would look at subject material that deals with real-life atrocities in (more or less) living memory. I think it's very hard to do these things justice and the result is likely to be not-classy...

I'm a bit disappointed in highly judgmental folks who think it's wrong to judge others based on the content of the work they publish. It seems, if not hypocritical, then at least philosophically asymmetric.

Cheers,
-E.