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Ancient Aliens aren’t Real

Largely thanks to the internet and a drive for ratings by the History Channel, so-called “Ancient Astronaut Theories” have resurfaced in the public imagination. Originally popular with New Age/Hippie types in the 1970’s, they found a renewed popularity among conspiracy theorists, and of course among their original demographic as well. However, these are works of proven liars and hoaxers, ones who ignore tested methods. If ever contrary opinions are mentioned, they misrepresent and simplify them. Often, academic explanations are made to appear dismissive of evidence. While genuine historians do not give these works of fiction the time of day, this blog does not make the pretense of being academic. This article will discuss the ideas of Ancient Aliens writers. Rather than refute every single claim made by these charlatans, we will group their evidence into three broad categories: monumental buildings, purported aliens and UFOs in art, and religious-related claims. Nearly every argument and “evidence” given by people such as Erich von Däniken and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos fall into these three categories. Ancient Astronaut/Alien Theories, for example the History Channel program “Ancient Aliens”, are demonstrably fictitious hoaxes. Grandiose claims require unquestionable evidence, and their “evidence” does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny by the outsider.

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Just being on the show makes you look nuttier. Ancient Aliens panelist Giorgio Tsoukalos holds a degree in Sports Information and Communication from Ithaca College

 

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“Chariots of the Gods?” author and popularizer of Ancient Astronauts ideas, Erich von Däniken, was convicted of fraud in 1968 and embezzlement in 1970 regarding illicit art purchases and issued a hefty fine. He wrote his book in prison, some have speculated it was to pay off his legal fees.

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While not popular until the 1970’s, an early antecedent of Ancient Aliens/Astronauts comes from the publications of early 20th c. American writer Charles Fort. A researcher of paranormal activity, Fort exerted considerable influence on the subculture surrounding Ancient Aliens, Cryptozoology, and other paranormal pseudo-academic studies. Charles Fort was, amusingly, satirizing scientific journals however.

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We have a proven fraud, a likely fraud and/or lunatic, and a guy from the 1900’s who was joking. Let’s go.

1. Monumental Buildings

These claims often go “Building X has Architectural Trait Y that was not feasible at the time, therefore aliens.” The building in question is often non-European and in a “remote” place. Examples which feature prominently in Ancient Aliens include Machu Picchu, the lesser-known Pumapunku (a large temple in modern-day Bolivia) the Nazca Lines, and of course various stone circles and similar structures. A common claim regarding the temple complex known as Pumapunku is that the stones are too exact and well carved for the technology of the time, fitting “perfectly” with “exact” carving. First, this complex isn’t remarkably ancient, it was built ca. 500-600 A.D. Secondly, the stonework would be remarkable if the buildings were not made of sandstone, a sedimentary rock which is relatively soft. The stone has been used decorative carvings and art all the way back to the Stone Age. Machu Picchu is further example, and they make clams about Incan stonework, a method which didn’t use mortar or cement. As earlier, Machu Picchu isn’t particularly ancient either, it was completed ca. 1450 A.D. Splitting stones using natural cracks with a large, cheap labour force is relatively simple. Furthermore, the Incas had copper tools which would have made the process forming the stones even easier. Especially if one uses limestone, another relatively brittle type of rock. It’s also important to note Machu Picchu wasn’t situated in a remote place if you were an Inca. It’s where they lived. Machu Picchu wasn’t found and seized by the Spanish Conquistadors and thus lost its importance to the city of Lima, modern-day capital of Peru, and thus became “remote”. Furthermore, on every continent for much of history cities were often built on hills and mountains as a means of defense. Norman castles in Wales do not feature in Ancient Aliens writings and programs. When compared to other buildings at the time, Machu Picchu and others become merely feats of human engineering, rather than supernatural ones.

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So the Inca built a city on a mountain in Peru (where Inca people lived) using relatively easily formed stone widely available in the area. They also had pack animals, large pools of manpower, and metal tools. Aliens don’t really need to be there at all.

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Amateur archeologist and blogger Aaron Judkins visited Pumapunku to refute Ancient Aliens claims, he released a series of amusing photographs pointing out alien technology isn’t quite as impressive as one might think.

 

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The aliens mastered intergalactic travel, but not right angles.

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The Byzantine Hagia Sophia was built ca. 532 A.D., about the same time as Pumapunku. While not abandoned, it was subject to several invasions and earthquakes. It does not feature in Ancient Aliens.

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The Florentine Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, finished 1436, around the same time as Machu Picchu. People were perfectly capable of monumental buildings at the time.

Pyramids from various cultures are a constant feature of Ancient Aliens writers. This is possibly due to the simple yet mysterious elegance of the Egyptian Pyramids. A claim made is “since various pyramids exist in unconnected cultures across the world (and that’s pretty insane amirite?) they must be some how connected, therefore aliens.” This would be remarkable if the pyramids of Egypt and those of Latin America were not built nearly 3,000 years apart. They were also built using vastly different construction methods, and for completely different purposes. Egyptian pyramids were marvels of engineering, being built to very specific and exact proportions. They were built as tombs for their God-Kings, and were constructed between 3,000-600 BC. Latin American pyramids were not built to the exact building standards of the Egyptians, they were built largely of rubble with a stone finish. They were stepped, but also had stairs to the top unlike the earliest Egyptian pyramids. Latin American pyramids often had a small building on top, a trait never seen in Egyptian pyramids. These pyramids were used as temples, palaces, and observatories. To support their claim of common extraterrestrial origin, Egyptian and Latin American pyramids would have to be similar in construction and purpose. Ancient Alien arguments about pyramids do not stand up to a simple application of context and a discussion regarding the important differences.

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Once again, the Aliens can manage space travel, but not interchangeable parts.

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One of the more amusing claims is Nazca lines were used as landing strips by aliens, why would a being that has mastered intergalactic travel need landing strips?

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Humans had interchangeable parts back in the days of Samuel Colt, inventor of the revolver. If Ancient Aliens writers are to be believed, despite their intergalactic travel, humans were actually much better at construction, and possibly had better industrial techniques and military equipment by the mid-19th century. Did the aliens perhaps master intergalactic travel using steam power?

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Humans also had float planes about as early as we had airplanes, French float plane from 1910

2. Aliens in Art

These claims often go something like this: “Painting X apparently depicts a UFO (spooky!)” These paintings are usually works from Byzantine, Medieval, and Early Renaissance art. If one is unfamiliar with artistic motifs from these eras, they may be easily mistaken for such phenomena. Frequently, Ancient Aliens presenters will show two or three paintings and then deliberately give no context. Art made during this period was often full of motifs and symbols which are unrecognizable to many contemporary viewers. They often couple this with a simplified explanation of the academic view, often a skewed rendering. Interestingly, they often depict the same scenes from the Bible. Art featured in Ancient Aliens television programs and writings is often depictions of the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Annunciation, when the Virgin Mary receives the news she is with child. When held against other works depicting the same events or motifs their any similarity to Unidentified Flying Objects becomes entirely superficial.

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Purported UFO seen in Ancient Aliens program

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Further purported UFO in Renaissance Painting

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What these actually depict is a circle of angels and a window into heaven, frequently seen in Christian art.

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Gustave Doré’s late 19th century illustration for Dante’s Divine Comedy depicting paradise. However, if I just told you it was an angel without showing you these other artistic works it would look like a UFO.

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This depiction of the Crucifixion also figures prominently in Ancient Aliens writing and television programs.

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They’re actually the Sun and the Moon, which feature prominently in many Medieval depictions of the Crucifixion, and sometimes they were anthropomorphized.

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Another example in stained-glass window.

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From the Sarcophagus of Domatilla, a wealthy Roman Christian woman from the 4th c. A.D.

3. Aliens in Religion

Claims made by Ancient Alien writers regarding extraterrestrials in religion are immense. This is a “debate” tactic used by numerous politicians, snake oil salesmen, and other charlatans: throw as many bullshit claims out there as possible so there’s too many to refute. They purport of extraterrestrials popping up in Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Ancient Babylonian and Egyptian religion, and in the mythology of an otherwise little-known African people called the Dogon. These claims often rely on speculation and ignore more conventional explanations regarding the origins of religion. These include a general universal human fear of death and thus mourning for the dead, as well as more groovy ideas such as psychedelic drug use by shamans and the like. The Dogon are a West African people who live in Mali, and according to Ancient Aliens writers the Dogon religion includes knowledge of the star Sirius, something they apparently could not have possibly known about using historical Dogon technology. This nevertheless excludes the fact the Dogon were not totally isolated, and could have easily learned about Sirius from any people trading with West Africa who did know about the star, such as the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The term “Anunnaki” is often thrown around by Ancient Aliens writers. It refers to a group of gods in Mesopotamian cultures. It is often claimed aliens were the inspiration for these deities. Hilariously, these claims are often paired with examples of Babylonian art which do not depict the Anunnaki. The winged and semi-animalian beings in Babylonian art are not gods or Anunnaki, but rather minor spirits and monsters. Babylonian gods were anthropomorphic, meaning they were depicted as humans. Once again, these writers rely on misinterpretation and misrepresentation to prove their ideas.

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One frequently cited example of purported UFOs in the Bible is the Vision of Ezekiel, 19th century Greek fresco. Ezekiel describes as seeing a flying wheel with un-UFO-like wings. The fact he uses the word “wheel” to describe a flying object is enough.

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They also cite Elijah’s vision of a chariot of fire, mentioned in the hymns “Jerusalem” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, Renaissance German woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle. Without a hint of irony they claim he used the word for chariot as he did not have the vocabulary to describe a saucer/wheel shaped object, despite having words for both “wheel” and “plate”, as he spoke the same language as Ezekiel. You see what I mean by throwing as much bullshit as possible at you?

For the sake of brevity, one cannot address every single claim made by Ancient Aliens writers in a single article. Nevertheless, every argument posited by these writers fall into one of these broader categories. Furthermore, European examples are almost never used, except for perhaps Stonehenge and other Neolithic monuments. While this is probably not intentional racism, it does often rely on patronizing and condescending views of the people of North America and Africa prior to European colonization. Their claims often carefully omit specific information, such as building materials and historical artistic motifs, rely on common historical misconceptions, and sometimes deliberately misrepresent more common explanations of what is being presented. To simply write off the mysteries of history as “aliens” is to write it off as magic. The Ancient Aliens writers have the absurd misconception they are skeptics, and describe themselves as such. Yet, they unquestionably write off any question as aliens. Many of the authors and presenters are known plagiarists and frauds, or at the very least thoroughly unqualified to discuss these affairs in any reliable form. While every Ancient Alien claim cannot be refuted in this article, a debate tactic they use, it has attempted to cover the general themes of their at times contradictory arguments. Nevertheless, given their frequent attention in the news media, they made an inevitable topic of discussion for this blog.

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There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question, part IX: What’s the Date Today?

Most governments and international organizations have adopted a standard calendar system. The Western Calendar is used for the purposes of business, politics, and international law. This however is not a total consensus. The world’s religions have different calendars, as do certain governments. According to North Korea’s glorious Juche calendar, this article was written in the year 104. Calendars are created using an array of  different methods, usually measuring a recurring phenomenon. This is why non-Christian holidays appear to “move” from year to year, they’re not fixed to the same calendar. In terms of geological or universal time, a single revolution of the Earth is inconsequential, yet to humans the difference is immense and must therefore be measured. As such, what’s the date today?

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It’s official policy on this blog to always refer to Best Korea with the adjective “glorious”

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Long will glorious Best Korea flourish with glorious Juche

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“Juche” is the official ideology of Best Korea, roughly translating as “self-reliance”, this is the glorious Juche Tower and Monument to Juche in glorious Pyongyang

The earliest calendars came from the cyclical nature of seasons, the sun and moon, as well as other occurrences in nature. The first codified calendars appeared in the Ancient Middle East. The first was likely in Sumeria. It was a lunar calendar based on twelve months, based on recurring constellations. It logically follows that as people became sedentary farmers and artisans fixed dates became more important. In a hunter-gatherer economy general weather periods are of greater concern, as opposed to specific dates. As people became sedentary, religions became codified and observances needed to be set. In addition, codifying the date was helpful economically, it made buying and selling easier and people can make delivery orders for example. Calendars were often set to lunar or solar cycles, but have historically been connected to other cyclical phenomena. The Ancient Egyptian calendar was based on the regular flooding of the Nile, which marked their growing season. Early non-Western calendars that are still in use are often religious ones. According to the the Jewish and Islamic calendars, this article was written in 5776 and 1437, respectively. There are many calendars from throughout history, and they used a variety of dating methods. How did the modern western calendar emerge?

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Amenhotep III wasn’t standing around on January 1, 1350 B.C. and say “gee I wonder what we’re counting down to”

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To which his Queen Tiye likely didn’t respond “I hope it’s worth it, it’s been a long time, pity we won’t get to see it though”

The calendar used by the Ancient Romans originally had ten months and 8-day weeks. The English month December came from the final month Decem, the Latin word for ten. The others were named for gods and festivities, and are also cognates of the English months. The Roman ten-month calendar received two new months under King Numa Pompilius, called Iuanarius and Februarius. Later, Julius Caesar changed the months of Sextilus and Quintilus to Julius and Augustus, for himself and his heir, Octavian Augustus. Caesar also realigned the year to avoid a seasonal drift. In addition, the Roman week was shortened to seven days. This was the Julian Calendar, and became predominant in Europe for the next 1,500 years. It is still used by many Eastern Orthodox Churches today. The seven-day week, and thus the Julian Calendar, was continued by the Christians as it coincidentally aligned with the Book of Genesis’ Seven Days of Creation. The days of the week in English, except for Saturday, are named for Germanic/Norse deities. The Roman days were named for their gods, so the system was reinterpreted with Germanic gods instead by those conquered by the Romans. Their use continued in languages such as English and German.

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Mani, God of the Moon

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Tyr, God of War

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Wotan, a.k.a. Odin, God of Wisdom and Poetry, King of the Germanic/Norse gods

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Thor, God of Storms

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Frigga/Frigg, Goddess of Love and wife of Odin, mother of Thor

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The Roman God Saturn because Dark Ages Germanic people didn’t really have a version of him but needed seven days

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and of course Sol, the Norse Sun Goddess, sister of Mani. The so-called Trudholm Chariot, believed to be a depiction of Sol’s.

The system for calculating years in the Christian world derives from Dionysius the Humble, a Scythian monk who concluded he was from the early 500’s. Using Roman records and the Gospel of Luke, Dionysius calculated that he was writing 525 years after the Nativity of Christ. Prior to this, Christians used several methods for year calculation. One was the “Anno Mundi“, the age of the Earth according to the Bible as determined by religious authorities. The other was a system devised during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, who was considered a tyrant and the year was to be changed. A.D. is shorthand for Anno Domini, Medieval Latin for “in the year of the Lord”. This term was popularized by the Medieval English Monk Bede (d. 735) in his work The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The use of the term “B.C.” appears to have emerged much later, from a translation of “ante Christi“, “Before Christ”, as it sounds oddly like “anti-Christ” in English, the earliest use of A.C. dates from the 1600’s in France.

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Dionysius the Humble, Latin: Dionysius Exiguus, the man who decided what year it is.

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Dionysius the Humble was also the less-fun Dionysius. The other Dionysius, standing, here depicted hanging out with Midas in a French Baroque painting.

The current Western dating system emerged quite gradually. Modern date calculation developed in the early Renaissance. Before, saints’ days were often used in official documents. In Medieval terms, this article was written on the Feast of Saint Eulalia. This system is still used by Christian Churches, but varies across Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant lines. Vestigial aspects remain in common usage, such as St. Patrick’s and St. Valentine’s Days. Dionysius’ chronology was not immediately universal, either. The Anno Mundi was still used by many church scholars late into the 1600s and was sometimes recalculated. In 1647, James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh calculated the date cited by many modern Young Earth Creationists today. Years were also reckoned using the reigns of kings and queens. The phrase “time immemorial” derives from a 1275 Normano-English legal statute regarding property. Legally speaking, “time immemorial” is before the 6th of July, 1189, the date of the coronation of King Richard I. The shift towards the pagan, vernacular system was brought about by late Medieval merchants for the simple reason that it was much more easy to use. Remembering each saint’s feast day is difficult, and using monarchs’ reign lengths makes it difficult to conduct foreign business. This change seems to have happened rather quickly. In the play Henry the Fifth, Shakespeare used the phrase “today is called the Feast of Crispin” in a pivotal moment. The scene is before a battle and King Henry gives his soldiers a stirring speech, telling them they will always remember the Feast of Crispin. Shakespeare intended to add an air of importance and historicity with this phrase. While stirring to our and Elizabethan ears, the phrase would be heard as “today is called October the 25th” by a soldier at the Battle of Agincourt, the depicted battle, only two generations earlier.

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Saint Eulalia was the patron saint of torture victims, shown here being martyred by the Romans, who are dressed as Medieval Dutch people for some reason.

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Saints Crispin and Crispian, mentioned in the speech, were also patrons of cobblers. Not exactly militant, patriotic figures.

A final important shift in the Western Calendar came with the Council of Trent in 1563. This was when the Orthodox and Roman Catholic calendars split. Importantly, “The Great Schism” which split the churches themselves came much earlier. Pope Gregory XIII and his Cardinals noticed the date of Easter was shifting gradually due to leap years, and a fixed date set to Passover needed to be approved. In addition, January 1st, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ in the liturgical calendar, was made official as the new year, like the Julian Calendar. Hitherto, individual parishes determined Easter based on full moons, and observation of the New Year varied. Creating the Gregorian Calendar was a complicated process, involving the work of early astronomer Tycho Brahe to determine the Vernal Equinox. This was part of the Counter-Reformation, an attempt by the Church to stem the tide of Protestantism. Many countries which adopted the teachings of the Reformation were slow to adopt the Gregorian Calendar due to its Catholic origin. Britain did so in 1752, and had before observed New Years on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. Today however most non-Christian countries use the Gregorian calendar, at least for official purposes. Only a handful of countries have not done so, usually for political or religious reasons.

V0017407 The circumcision of Christ. Oil painting after Hendrik Goltz

Obviously the three things that come to mind when I think of New Years are champagne, kisses at midnight, and the Holy Foreskin of Christ.

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If you’re interested in seeing the Holy Foreskin of Christ, you ought to visit Lazio, in Italy. Eat the fabulous food. Take in breath-taking mountain vistas and quaint Medieval villages. And to top it all off, a dried up old Middle Eastern foreskin, which may or may not have come from Jesus. The village church has the formerly Vatican-approved Holy Foreskin. A Flemish noble had purchased two purported Holy Foreskins (just in case, you know?) in the early 1100’s, causing theological dispute. The Cult of the Holy Foreskin became a target of mockery for the Protestant Reformers, obviously. In 1900, the Vatican decreed anyone would be excommunicated if they mentioned or wrote about the Holy Foreskin. Vatican II quietly dropped this and renamed the Feast of the Holy Circumcision as New Years.

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Sort of makes you think why so many countries kept observing New Years on the Feast of the Annunciation, when Mary learns she’s pregnant. Also, it was on March 25th, nice time really, spring time and all that, and it celebrates a baby being conceived, not you know, circumcision.

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Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?

Dates and calendars are complicated things, and vary widely across cultures and societies. They are often reckoned using a mixture of science, history, religion, politics, and mere convention. Certain systems calculate time in terms of cycles, rather than linearly from a specific event. This is a radically different conception of time, history, and the universe. It also reflects a different view of humanity. If time is cyclical we’re doomed to repeat ourselves, while linear time implies we can learn from our mistakes and possess free will. A calendar reflects a society’s culture, history, and its view of time itself. Largely, except for religious purposes, the Gregorian Calendar has come to dominate the world. Exceptions to this rule have included Revolutionary France and Cambodia under Pol Pot, who set the year to 0, and of course North Korea’s glorious Juche calendar, adopted in 1997 and reckons time from the birth of Kim Il Sung. This short list also includes theocratic-based governments, such as Wahhabi Saudi Arabia or Hindu Nepal. People do everything for a reason, so even a simple question such as “what’s the date today” might have a very complex answer.

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A Brief Explanation of Protestantism

The exact number of Protestant denominations is not definitively known, some estimates go as high as over thirty thousand. This is likely impossibly large, and furthermore the vast majority of Protestants worldwide belong to a handful of major groups. These are, in no particular order: Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals. There are many other minor ones, and often a group’s current size does not do justice to its historical importance. Such as what are now called Congregationalists, these people are known to history as the Puritans, and played an important role in both English and American history, yet they represent less than one percent of Protestants today. Also, there are looser terms used for more general groupings of Protestantism, such as Calvinism, named for the French theologian John Calvin, or the more amusingly named Zwingllism, named for the Swiss theologian Huldrych Zwingli. This article will not discuss all individual Protestant denominations, theologians and their role in history, but rather will give a general overview of the Reformation, certain major groups, and the role of Protestantism in history, the Reformation being a central event of European Renaissance history, and lead to the creation of the modern idea of a nation state.

Though influential in Switzerland and among other Reformers of the time, Zwingli was not so in other Reforming countries. No one wants to admit it's because his name was Huldrych Zwingli and no one wants to go to a Zwinglian Church.

Though influential in Switzerland and among other Reformers of the time, Zwingli was not so in other Reforming countries. No one wants to admit it’s because his name was Huldrych Zwingli and no one wants to go to a Zwinglian Church.

Over 200 million people however go to Pentecostal Churches, a minority of whom do this.

Over 200 million people however go to Pentecostal Churches, a minority of whom do this, America does strange things to things.

Traditionally, the history of the Reformation has been told as beginning with Martin Luther. While Luther is certainly one of the major figures in the history of Protestantism, the Reformation began more gradually. Other groups such as the Lollards in England, the Cathars and Waldensians in France, as well as the Czech Hussites predated Luther but made similar calls for reform of the religious authority. The so-called Humanists within the Church also had similar ideas. In addition, conflicts over the appointment of bishops, who often became important figures in their episcopal seats, between kings and popes was also an important theme in Medieval history which contributed to the Reformation. Certain historians have gone so far as to posit that the Protestant Reformation also created modern Roman Catholicism, as the Church made greater attempts at creating and enforcing uniform doctrines and practices, as well as entrenching greater Papal authority. Certain Roman Catholic cardinals at the time, known as Conclavists, favored a church governance style similar to what is found in Calvinist Presbyterianism. These attempts at Church reform from within failed, and thus was the importance of Luther, who advocated creating a new Church entirely and died successful. Luther’s influence on the Reformation should neither be understated nor overstated, but he alone was not the Reformation, and nor was Henry VIII.

The Hussites were founded by Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake.

The Hussites were founded by Jan Hus, who and his followers were burned at the stake.

The Lollards were founded by John Wycliffe, and they're among the few groups not named for someone. It was originally a derogatory word for an educated person. They were also all burned.

The Lollards were founded by John Wycliffe, and they’re among the few groups not named for someone. It was originally a derogatory word for an educated person. They were all hanged and then burned at the stake.

The Cathars and Waldensians had a crusade sent against them, and then their leaders were burned.

The Cathars and Waldensians had a crusader army sent against them, their towns and villages sacked and plundered, and then their leaders were burned at the stake.

Major centers of the Reformation included Germany, Holland, England, Scotland, and Switzerland. Papal authority had been centralizing at the cost of local dhurch and civil autonomy during the Middle Ages, and many people, primarily in Northern Europe, felt cut off from the Mediterranean-faced Church in Rome. The Black Death had stifled what trade connections existed on the North-South axis. Trade within Northern Europe and eastward towards the Baltic and Russia in the Late Middle Ages was facilitated by the German Haseatic League, and a new Northern European wealth and confidence emerged. The Printing Revolution in Europe was the Renaissance equivalent of the internet, creating a flurry of ideas and increasing access to information dramatically. The cloth making trade in modern Belgium, the Netherlands, and Britain was also flourishing at this time, along with wool, lace, and for the first time, beer produced for economic export. Meanwhile, Italy was also entering a golden age of art and culture, mainly centered around Florence, Venice, and Rome, where Pope Julius II, known as “The Fearsome”, initiated plans rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica, a project which would outlast him and prove exorbitantly expensive. The Pope’s prestige had been restored after the Avignon Papacy, a time when the Pontiff was subject to the King of France. Julius, a.k.a Giuliano delle Rovere, was the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. In Latin, “nephew” is nepos, hence the word “nepotism”. The construction extended past the death of Julius, and to raise money the infamous Medici Pope, Leo X, issued a large number of what were called indulgences. Depending on the cost of the indulgence, these would buy years off purgatory, essentially heaven’s waiting room. This infuriated Luther, who was a monk at the time. Luther also contended that the Bible ought to be available in local languages. At the time, the Bible was only available in Latin, Luther and many others, such as the earlier John Wycliffe, made translations of the Bible in a language comprehensible by everyday people for the first time.

There was a Pope Sixtus the Fifth, but sadly there has not yet been a Pope Sixtus the Sixth.

There was a Pope Sixtus the Fifth, but sadly there has not yet been a Pope Sixtus the Sixth.

The Printing Revolution and the Digital Revolution are the same in many ways, Reformation printed woodcut depicting people farting on the pope.

The Printing Revolution and the Digital Revolution are the same in many ways, Reformation printed woodcut depicting people farting on the pope.

Leo X was notoriously corrupt, fathering several children and would have decadent feasts with large numbers of prostitutes.

Leo X was notoriously corrupt, fathering several children and would have decadent feasts with large numbers of prostitutes.

The complex theological aspects of the Protestant Reformation sometimes conceal its importance in everyday life. Luther and other reformers felt that the Papacy had begun to ignore what the Bible actually said, versus the will of individual popes and cardinals. One of Luther’s most important ideas, and one essential to Protestantism, is that of sola fide, sola scriptura, solely faith, solely scripture. To the Reformers, Faith and Scripture were the only things necessary for eternal salvation, not sacraments such as confession and the eucharist. This idea however is inherently fractious, as different people disagreed at what the Bible actually meant. In general terms, this is what lead to the numerous Protestant denominations we see today. Issues included appointment of bishops, which begged the further question whether bishops were necessary at all, adult and infant baptism, and many more. While these may seem arcane, they concern issues of personal autonomy, translating the Bible also meant a discussion among the educated about the meaning of language, and it is important to remember bishops held political sway at the time, influencing local leaders and often acted as a lord themselves. Certain people in Scotland, most notably John Knox, believed bishops were not ordained by scripture. They advocated the members of an individual parish church elect their own church leaders, called a presbytery. This is the origin of Presbyterianism, and was an inherently democratic movement at the time. Luther noticed that while there were no popes and bishops in the Bible, but there were certainly kings, who were just so long as they were godly. This is the idea that got Luther influential allies, kept him from the fury of the Inquisition, and makes the Reformation get very interesting.

The denomination founded by John Knox is called Presbyterianism, but with its plain churches and pews, it's stern predestination, I believe it should have been called the School of Hard Knox.

The denomination founded by John Knox is called Presbyterianism, but with its plain churches and pews, it’s stern predestination, I believe it should have been called the School of Hard Knox.

Page from a Gutenberg Bible, there are 23 known complete copies which exist today.

Page from a Gutenberg Bible, there are 23 known complete copies which exist today.

Woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder, claiming the pope was anti-Christ.

One of the most interesting and important aspects of the Reformation was the establishment of the state of Prussia, the first officially Protestant, Lutheran, state. Hitherto, the region was not really a “state” in the modern sense of the term. It was the territory owned and ruled by the Teutonic Knights, a monastic order of German knights who had conquered a large portion of modern day Poland, Germany, and the Baltic states during the Middle Ages. The last leader of the Teutonic Knights, Hochmeister Albrecht von Brandenburg, agreed with Luther and converted. He took the title Duke of Prussia, as he was no longer a monk he could father a dynasty, the House of Hohenzollern. The Duchy of Prussia would expand and eventually unify the German states and become modern Germany, the Hohenzollerns would rule the German Empire until the end of World War One. Switzerland, too, became an important centre of the Reformation, with many important thinkers there, especially in Geneva. Theologians who lived and wrote in Switzerland included the Presbyterian Knox, the Calvinist John Calvin, and the Zwingllian Huldrych Zwingli. Also however were painters such as Hans Holbein the Younger, and the city welcomed large numbers of Protestant refugees from France and other Catholic countries.

For those who are sad the vikings did not wear horned helmets, the Teutonic Knights did.

For those who are sad the vikings did not wear horned helmets, the Teutonic Knights did.

Helmet styles, late 1400s.

Helmet styles, late 1400s.

The Protestant Reformation also profoundly effected countries which remained predominantly Catholic. In 1492, the last Muslim state on the Iberian peninsula, Granada, was conquered and the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united, becoming the Kingdom of Spain, at the time the most powerful nation in Europe and soon to become the most powerful empire on Earth. These events occurred the same year Columbus reached North America, and some historians have drawn a connection between the brutal campaigns of conquest by Cortez and Pizarro to the Crusading zeal felt by Spain with the end of the Reconquista. However, with the Muslims defeated this zeal was directed towards Protestantism and the natives of the Americas. Through strategic marriages the Spanish royal family was united with the Austrian Hapsburgs and Charles V, King of Spain became the most powerful man in Europe, ruling a vast dominion in modern Spain, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and the Low Countries. Charles was imbued with vociferous anti-Reformation spirit, and believed that Spain was God’s tool for saving the soul of Christendom. Phillip II of Spain would wed Mary I of England, and they attempted to undo Mary’s father Henry VII’s conversion of England, re-Catholicizing England with sword and fire.

Empire of Charles V

Empire of Charles V

While in hiding Luther grew a beard, but still got his portrait painted.

While in hiding Luther grew a beard, but still got his portrait painted.

Let us however pause for a moment, as history is not only the deeds of monarchs and princes. Luther’s criticism of the Church and Papacy triggered a movement questioning all hierarchies and hitherto “received wisdom”. Coupled with heavy taxes a string of peasant rebellions swept modern Germany from 1524-25 and were brutally suppressed, it has been estimated that over 100,000 peasants were killed as a result of the rebellions. There was a movement that has come to be known as the Radical Reformation, which questioned the authority of all governments and kings. These included Thomas Müntzer, a Reforming opponent of Luther who supported the Peasant’s Revolt, and was executed as a result. Ironically, despite the violent beginnings of the Radical Reformation, it is the origin of the modern Mennonites and Amish, influenced by the Reformation-era Dutch theologian Menno Simons and seventeenth century Swiss thinker Jakob Amman, the founders the Mennonites and the Amish. The Radical Reformers known as the Swiss Brethren, of which Menno Simons was member, influenced their beliefs about the virtues of simplicity, and rather than taking a violent tone, they adopted a strong pacifism.  Remember, the current Amish lifestyle was the norm across North America and Europe for a long period of time. These groups didn’t begin to adopt ideas of anti-Industrialization until the 1850s and 60s when the changes brought the Industrial Revolution were in full swing.

Johann Jacob Amman

Drawing of Jacob Amman

Now you know.

Now you know.

1568 woodcut depicting printing process

1568 woodcut depicting printing process

Different European monarchs were quick to pick sides in the Reformation. Within a single lifetime, Europe had gone from near-complete religious uniformity with a limited degree of local variety, to widespread religious violence and was replete with numerous religious schisms. France today is seen as a mostly post-religious but semi-Catholic country, but had a significant Protestant minority until the Wars of Religion during the 1500’s. The conflict left most of the French Protestants, called Huguenots, dead, refugees, or in genteel exile if wealthy. In several weeks of apocalyptic violence in 1572 between 5,000 and 30,000 French Protestants were murdered by Catholic mobs with the approval of the King. Between 1615 and 1648 Europe was gripped by the Thirty Years War (yes, it was 32 years long) wherein Europe was split mostly between Protestant and Catholic countries, it was the deadliest conflict in Europe until that point, and was the reason modern Germany remained a small patchwork of duchies and principalities until the late 19th century.  The 1648 Peace of Westphalia contained an agreement that states would respect each other’s different religions and local governments, during the Middle Ages a more loosely defined idea of “Christendom” held a stronger idea in people’s minds. Furthermore, state interests had trumped religion, Cardinal Richelieu, who was essentially the first “Prime Minister”, dominated French political life, surprisingly however France fought on the side of the Protestant countries, such as Sweden and England in the Thirty Years War, against Spain, Austria, and the Catholic German states, known as the Catholic League. After the Peace of Westphalia, religion played a less defining role in international politics. Internal politics were a different affair however, especially in the British Isles. Nevertheless, the Protestant Reformation, through the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia, played a central role in the creation of the contemporary idea of the nation state.

The massacres of the French Protestants were widespread across the country. People were killed with swords, axes, fire, and forced drowning, often by other everyday people in their villages.

The massacres of the French Protestants were widespread across the country. People were killed with swords, axes, fire, and forced drowning, often by other everyday people in their villages, it was essentially apocalyptic nightmare violence, contemporary painting.

19th century painting depicting a man sewing a white cross on his hat to signify his Catholic religion. The dainty and delicate task is contrasted with the sword and breastplate.

19th century painting depicting a man sewing a white cross on his hat to signify his Catholic religion. The dainty and delicate task is contrasted with the sword and breastplate.

During this time the Bible was never translated into Gaelic. As such, most of the Gaelic-speaking inhabitants of Ireland remained Catholic, given most could not understand, let alone read, using English. Elizabeth I began to enforce Protestant religious uniformity and English law to a greater degree than Henry VIII had done, and thus many of the Gaelic-speaking and Catholic Hiberno-Norman Lords, most notably Hugh O’Neill who was appointed leader of the Irish army by the Pope and was supported by King Philip of Spain, the husband of Elizabeth’s dead sister Mary, revolted against Elizabeth, and the Queen reacted in kind. The rebels were crushed militarily, but Elizabeth sought a permanent solution to Irish issues, the country was to be settled by Protestants. People mainly from the Scottish-English borders were brought to live in Ireland; the many forests were cleared to be turned into farmland for the new inhabitants. This was known as the Plantation, and the bulk to the new settlers were brought to the north-eastern province of Ulster, these Protestant settlers are the ancestors of most of the Protestants of Northern Ireland today. The popes would continue to directly support Irish rebellions with money and arms; once in 1672 these were hand delivered by a cardinal. Conflict between Anglicans, Puritans, Catholics, and Presbyterians would be a continuing trend in British and Irish history, even into the early 1990’s. Since Hugh O’Neill’s Rebellion, Catholicism with Irishness and Protestantism with Britishness became uncomfortably dually wed, and until very recently have remained as such.

O'Neill spoke Gaelic and was

O’Neill spoke Gaelic and was “Irish” to a degree, but many other Catholic Gaelic lords were descended from Norman ones, like their British Protestant counterparts. Arguably, British and Irish identity developed in spite of and because of one another.

While there were some Planters who were Catholic, the process accelerated following the reign of Elizabeth.

While there were some Planters who were Catholic and were sent during the reign of Mary I, the process accelerated following the reign of Elizabeth.

A question debated by historians is whether Martin Luther was the first Modern man or the last Medieval man. Regardless of the answer, he and the Reformation represent an important change in the intellectual consciousness of the world. Proponents of Luther’s modernity posit that his ideas about scripture contributed to ideas about evidence-based reasoning, one should believe something because there is proof for it, rather than from tradition, a belief which held sway during the Middle Ages. Historians who claim his “Medieval” mind point to Luther’s strong religious beliefs and his anti-semitism, particularly his work Von den Jüden und iren Lügen, “On the Jews and Their Lies”, a vehemently anti-semitic work, which advocated Jews ought to be killed, their property taken, as well as their synagogues and religious books burned. This work however was written and published quite late in Luther’s life, was written after many failed conversion attempts, and is not considered doctrine by the Lutheran Church. In addition, Luther learned Hebrew for his translation of the Bible to ensure accuracy. Some historians have claimed that Luther’s anti-semitic writing was an antecedent of World War Two era anti-semitism. Yet, it is worthy to note that Spanish and Italian fascism were supported by the Catholic Church, and Hitler himself was raised Catholic, Fascism was seen by the mid twentieth century Catholic Church as an effective ally against the Atheistic Communists and the Materialistic Capitalists. Furthermore, one must remember that “modern” is not synonymous with “good” or “beneficial”, Luther’s anti-semitism differed from Medieval and most Renaissance-era anti-semitism, a rebuttal posited by advocates that Luther was the first modern man. In Luther’s work he contends that Jews are inherently corrupt, rather than able to convert and be redeemed; he believed most Jews who converted were lying anyway; this is why it is a “happy” thing Shylock is forced to convert at the end of The Merchant of Venice, he’s Christian now so he’s okay. Luther was different from his contemporaries in this way. People are always complicated beings.

Early Protestantism's relationship with the Jews was strange. Cromwell for example ended the Medieval ban on Jews enacted by King Edward I of England, but this was for economic connections to the wealthy Jewish community in Amsterdam, as well as the belief they might convert.

Early Protestantism’s relationship with the Jews was strange. Cromwell for example ended the Medieval ban on Jews enacted by King Edward I of England, but this was for economic connections to the wealthy Jewish community in Amsterdam, as well as the belief they might convert.

Title page from a different anti-semitic work by Luther. It depicts a Judensau, or Jew's Pig, a motif seen in some Medieval art.

Title page from a different anti-semitic work by Luther. It depicts a Judensau, or Jew’s Pig, a motif seen in some Medieval art.

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs one should understand how and why the Protestant Reformation had a profound impact on human identity, government, and intellectual spirit. The Reformation was one trend of many during what we call the Renaissance, a period which saw a blossoming intellectual, economic, and cultural environment in Europe. Luther was a contemporary or near contemporary of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bosch, Shakespeare, and Machiavelli. Furthermore, the events of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries in Europe were heavily tinged with religion, and the conflict in Northern Ireland from the 1960s to the 1990s was the reverberation of these earlier conflicts. In addition, the intellectual and cultural environment of Europe was given an electric shock from the Reformation, paving the way for the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. Even Catholicism was irrevocably changed by Luther, as for the first time the Church needed to articulate its beliefs, and began to publish official printed catechisms and adopt more rigorous education standards for its priests and clergy. In the 1960’s the Catholic Church held the Second Vatican Council, the Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum, which allowed for Bibles not written in Latin, something Luther had advocated in 1517.

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Four Words and Phrases that *aren’t* Actually Offensive

The internet is peppered with lists of common terms and idioms which they purport have offensive origins. In truth, there are many such terms, these include “gypped”, relating to “gypsies”, “paddy wagon”, relating to Irishmen, “Paddys”, and obviously “Indian Giver”, someone who gives or sells something and then wants it back, relating to beliefs about the Aboriginals of North America. Other ones include phrases which have their origins in a racist past, such as “sold down the river”, meaning a betrayal, was an idiom which came from American slavery. The more northerly slave states had better conditions than those in the Deep South, and families were often broken up when members were sold down the (Mississippi) river to the blood-stained cotton fields of Alabama and Georgia.  Some of these lists however contain incorrect folk etymologies and misinterpretations, and furthermore, are often used by ideological people on both the Left and Right to suit their political purposes. Therefore, to add a touch of variety, here is a list of everyday words and phrases which are not offensive, but are often incorrectly labelled as such.

Without further ado, the List

Without further ado, the List

  1. “History” is not “His Story”

    This misconception makes for a good first choice. The term history is saddled with an incorrect folk etymology, sometimes relayed by self-described feminists. Rather, “history” derives from the French histoire, which means, well, “history”. The French word in turn derives from the Greek historia, which also means “history”. This was the title of Herodotus’ account of the Greco-Persian Wars, written ca. 450 BC, usually translated as “The Histories”. Essentially, the term “history” and various cognates have meant “history” for over two thousand years.

    Herodotus is sometimes called

    Herodotus is sometimes called “The Father of History”, but nevertheless he wasn’t very great at what historians call “not making stuff up”, so he’s more accurately called “The Father of Using History to Achieve Your Own Political Ends”, Mr. Herodo-“Fuck the Persians for Wearing Pants and not having sex with young boys”-tus

    Not a joke, Herodotus believed that the Persians were barbaric, uncivilized, and even unmanly for wearing beards, clothing modern people would recognize as pants, and for not having sex with young boys.

    Not a joke, Herodotus believed that the Persians were barbaric, uncivilized, and even unmanly for wearing clothing modern people would recognize as pants, and for not having sex with young boys.

  2. “Rule of Thumb”

    This term comes from Northern Europe during the Renaissance. England at the time had large cloth-making and wool industries. This was a term relating to tailors and cloth merchants whereby the width of their thumbs was legally an inch. Modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands too had a thriving cloth trade at this time, and to this day the term duim means both “thumb” and “inch” in Dutch, and is a cognate of the English “thumb”. Interestingly, one of the earliest written uses of this idiom dates from early 1700’s England, and is actually exposing this misconception as incorrect. One of the earliest written American law codes, “The Liberties of the Massachusetts Collonie (sic) in New England“, written 1641 stated in Article 80: “Everie marryed woeman shall be free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband, unlesse it be in his owne defence upon her assalt.” The belief that one lives in an enlightened present and are inheritors of a barbaric and ignorant past is not a delusion isolated in the twenty-first century.

    It's almost as if you study history and not gender studies you learn things.

    It’s almost as if you study history and not gender studies you learn things.

    Cheap shot, I know. However, ideologies are dangerous. Every brutal ideology of the twentieth century promised a new day and to vindicate historical grievances. I do not believe it is mere coincidence most people who have a strong knowledge of history are political moderates.

    Cheap shot, I know. However, ideologies are dangerous. Every brutal ideology of the twentieth century promised a new day and to vindicate historical grievances. I do not believe it is mere coincidence most people who have a strong knowledge of history are political moderates.

    I think you're all stupid

    I think you’re all stupid

  3. “Picnic”

    Another internet rumour is that “picnic” derives from “pick a nigger” and referenced lynching. This is incorrect, as the term “picnic” derives from the French piquenique (meaning an outdoor meal) and actually predates the racial slur, and even the American Revolution as the first written usage of the French word comes from the 1630’s. There are several similar words and phrases which are similarly misattributed to the racial slur, such as “niggardly”, meaning stingy or cheap. This word also predates the racial slur, coming from the Old Norse (Viking!) nigla, which means to be heavily concerned with unimportant or trivial matters. Whereas the word “nigger” came from the Spanish negro, which came from the Latin niger, hence the countries Niger and Nigeria as well as the Niger River, and means “black”, as in the colour. The word did not gain a racial connotation until much later during European colonization of North America.

    Also, the internet activists have an oddly Eurocentric post-Rousseau view of history, i.e.: Everything was jim-dandy and wonderful until white people came and ruined the Edenic paradise that existed before.

    Also, the internet activists have an oddly Eurocentric post-Rousseau view of history, i.e.: Everything was jim-dandy and wonderful until white people came and ruined the Edenic paradise that existed before. “PoCs” were perfectly capable of oppressing and fighting amongst themselves before.

    They also use the term

    They also use the term “Patriarchy” incorrectly, which refers to tribal level societies which place lineage emphasis on the father, versus ones which are termed “matriarchal”, which place emphasis on the mother’s line.

    Also, historians use the term

    Also, historians use the term “Racism” to specifically refer to post-19th century views about biological races being a real thing and a mark of superiority or inferiority. Not “prejudice plus power”. Historians are super big on using the real meanings of words.

  4. “To Call a Spade a Spade”

    This is a unique example, rather than having an offensive origin this term ironically “became” offensive. The word “spade”, meaning a small shovel used in gardening, comes from the Middle Ages. The idiom comes from a 1500’s mistranslation of the Ancient Greek writer Plutarch, ta suka suka, ten skaphen de skaphen onomason, “to call a fig a fig, a trough a trough”. The use of “spade” as a racial slur dates from America in the 1920’s, coming from the black playing card suit, depicting a stylized version of the gardening tool. Modern playing cards date from the Renaissance. Interestingly however, the idiom is often used by anti-immigration pundits as a covert way of using racialized language, sometimes called “dog whistle” politics.

    Personally, I am proud to be fiercely moderate and unabashedly curious.

    Personally, I am proud to be fiercely moderate and unabashedly curious.

    What's with the American Right and Revolutionary War uniforms? Does he know that uniform was designed and paid for by foppified King-loving Frenchmen?

    What’s with the American Right and Revolutionary War uniforms? Do they know those uniform was designed and paid for by foppified King-loving Frenchmen?

    They also like to forget the American Revolutionaries often violently disagreed with each other, so violently that they shot and ritualistically murdered one another.

    They also like to forget the American Revolutionaries often violently disagreed with each other, so violently that they shot and ritualistically murdered one another.

This is the danger of folk etymologies. If one hears an explanation of a word or phrase which is either humourous or makes a political point, a degree of skepticism is often in order. Most English words have rather boring etymologies, often coming from Greek, Latin, Germanic or French words with similar meanings. A common misconception is that the term “politics” comes from “poly”, meaning many, and “ticks”, meaning blood-sucking creatures. This is demonstrably false, “poly”, from the Greek polus and polloi, and “ticks” from the Germanic tik or tikka which means to pat or touch. “Politics” comes from the Greek politikos, which was the title of a work by Plato, sometimes translated into English as “The Statesman”. Polis is Greek for city, Constantinople was historically Konstantinopolis, and more modern examples include Indianapolis and Minneapolis.  It is incorrect to mix word origins in this way and does not often naturally occur in a language. In summation, do not trust the etymologies and historical narratives of ideological people.

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There’s no Such Thing as a Dumb Question, pt. VIII: Why is English Spelling so Strange?

For those new to English as well as native speakers, English spelling is unendingly perplexing. Bow and bow are totally different words; the former rhyming with bough and the latter with mow. For a language which is so widely used in business and science this seems incredibly illogical. The answer to this question lies in the development of English as a language. When the origin of a word is noted, its spelling becomes more understandable. English words and grammar came from a variety of different sources, and the spelling conventions in those languages were merged with English ones. As such, why is English spelling so strange?e2586a613ea59e25d53fdbc1ad59d519 potatoAfter the end of Roman rule in Britain, Germanic tribes known as the Angles and the Saxons, hence Anglo-Saxons, migrated into what is now the United Kingdom. This was during the Fifth Century A.D., arriving from what is now Northern Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. As well, the Jutes arrived from Denmark. Interestingly, the most commonplace, “phonetic”, words in English derive from Anglo-Saxon, also called “Old English”. These especially include words relating to animals and simple everyday objects. Examples include dog, cat, cow, house, man, woman, brother, sister, love, hate, up, down, and so forth. Many place names in England, and by extension North America and Australia, come from the Anglo-Saxons; any place which ends in “-ham” means farm, such as Birmingham, or “-borough” and its derivatives, a cognate of the Germanic “-berg”/”-burg”, which meant a fortified town. Another early influence were the Scandinavian Vikings, who brought new words into English, most interestingly, the words “us” and “them”. By the early Middle Ages, two further historical shifts brought a variety of new words into English.

Map of Anglo-Saxon settlement.

Map of Anglo-Saxon settlement. Why “Anglo-Saxon”? Because fuck the Jutes, that’s why.

Interestingly, FDR's

Interestingly, FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” uses only Anglo-Saxon origin words.

The sentence

The sentence “My hovercraft is full of eels” is also entirely of Anglo-Saxon origin.

While “son” and “daughter” are Anglo-Saxon, “mother” and “father” are Latin. “Sword” and “king” are Anglo-Saxon, but “jury”, and “crown” are French. The Christianization of England and the later Norman Conquest were major turning points in the history of English. Many legal words in English are derived from Latin or French-based words; this is why “castle” has a silent “t”. One of the most indelible results of these additions to English is what we consider “English” names. Most names used in English-speaking countries come from Norman French or the Bible. From the Normans we have Richard, Anne, Henry, and of course William. From the Bible we have Peter, Paul, and Mary. One meets very few named Athelstan, Loefric, or Aedwinga. Even Anglo-Saxon names that are less-foreign in sound appear old-fashioned to our ears, varying from the relatively common Alfred and Harold to the rather Victorian Cuthbert. To this day, in England, those with Anglo-Saxon surnames are less wealthy and have shorter life expectancy than those with Norman ones. For much of the Middle Ages, England was ruled as a possession by French-speaking Norman Lords, and this left an imprint on the language.

That is a silent "T" as in croissant.

That is a silent “T” as in croissant.

Not all Biblical names caught on, such as Jeroboam, here depicted confronting Rehoboam. (See 1st Kings, 12)

Not all Biblical names caught on, such as Jeroboam, here depicted confronting the King of Judea, Rehoboam. (See 1st Kings, 12)

And of course Melchizedek, who met Abraham after the defeat of King Chedorlaomer.

And of course Melchizedek, who with Nianhazel of Zoar at the Battle of Siddim defeated Shemember of the Zeboiim and King Chedorlaomer, the destroyer of the Zuzims of Ham.

Old Testament jokes aside, the Bible did give us Andrew, Mark, David, Jacob, Rebecca,  Noah, Matthew, James, John, Rachel,  Joshua, Simon, Luke, Benjamin, and Thomas, which are nevertheless more common than Oeswine and Aedelwulf, so the point still stands.

Old Testament jokes aside, the Bible did give us Andrew, Mark, David, Jacob, Rebecca, Noah, Matthew, James, John, Rachel, Joshua, Simon, Luke, Benjamin, and Thomas, which are nevertheless more common than Oeswine and Aedelwulf, so the point still stands.

The sentence

The sentence “my nipples explode with delight” contains Norman and Latin origin words. Namely, explode (Latin) and delight (French). My, with, and nipples however, are Anglo-Saxon.

In this period, Norman French and Latin were the languages of the elite and educated. We have cats, and we have felines, dogs as well as canines. Scientific and formal academic language are often derived from Latin or Greek, being the languages of the Church. We have cows, and we have beef, chicken and poultry, deer and venison, from boeufpoulet, and venison. Being the peasantry, the Anglo-Saxons were more likely to see the animal, while the Normans, being the military aristocracy, were more likely to see the prepared dish. This however gave English a descriptive wealth of vocabulary. The 100 Years War proved to be a major turning point in the history of English. In a break with convention, Henry V announced his victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415 with a proclamation written in English, rather than Latin or Norman French. By the end of the War, the aristocracy in England had lost most of their French territories and came to speak primarily in English.

While the ratio of English to French troops is often exaggerated, the Battle of Agincourt was an important turning point in English and French cultural identities. French knight at Agincourt.

While the ratio of English to French troops is often exaggerated, the Battle of Agincourt was an important turning point in English and French cultural identities. French knight at Agincourt.

The works of Chaucer, too, proved a major development in the history and development of English.

The works of Chaucer, too, proved a major development in the history and development of English.

The Medieval Church also gave English some interesting word. Nephews were often the closest to sons a celibate medieval priest could have, the Latin for

The Medieval Church also gave English some interesting words. Nephews were often the closest to sons a celibate medieval priest could have, the Latin for “nephew” is “nepos”, from which the term “nepotism” is derived.

Nevertheless, Latin remained the language of the educated. This was due to the monopoly on learning held by the Roman Catholic Church. The King James Bible published in 1611 was the first book widely read throughout the Kingdom of England. The invention of printing allowed completely identical books to be mass produced for the first time. As such, this period saw a flowering of English literature as well as scientific and political thought. This included the works of Milton, Hobbes, Bacon, Newton, and of course, Shakespeare. The impact of the King James Bible and Shakespeare on the English language is profound. Hundreds if not thousands of new words and idioms were added to English. While the accent would be considerably different, between 1500-1650 would be the earliest a modern person could travel back in time while still understanding the vernacular speech with little difficulty. “Early Modern English” was born.

First Instance: PUCK: What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, So near the cradle of the fairy queen?

First Instance: What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, So near the cradle of the fairy queen?

Front page of the King James Bible. Common idioms and phrases from this translation include:

Front page of the King James Bible. Common idioms and phrases from this translation include: “a broken heart”, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, “at his wit’s end”, “how the mighty have fallen”, “the skin of your teeth”, “the ends of the earth”, and “the writing on the wall”

However, while Shakespeare and Chaucer are often lauded as important creators and shapers of the English tongue, they are for artistic reasons. While less well-known are Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster, two figures who are essential in the creation of Modern English. Samuel Johnson was one of the greatest minds of the early 18th century,  he wrote what would become the most respected dictionary of the English language for a century and a half. Noah Webster was an American lexicographer who wrote the first dictionary of American English, which became known as Webster’s Dictionary, still published today. Interesting definitions from Johnson’s Dictionary give insight into the humor of a different time: “Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work” and “Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.” These two men greatly influenced the way we spell our words today.

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

Noah Webster. Both looking like people who would correct your spelling all the time.

Noah Webster. Both looking like people who would correct your spelling all the time.

The final chapter of English is one of expansion and empire. English-speaking people settled across the globe, bringing their language with them and adding new words to its vocabulary. Native North American, Australian Aboriginal, and words from the Indian subcontinent were added to English during British rule and the American westward expansion. New local varieties of English emerged, such as Australian, Canadian, and Caribbean English. Arguably, popular media has spread English as much as American and British Imperialism, which propelled English as the language of business and science. This all happened during a relatively swift period, Britain only surpassed France as the world’s superpower after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Even during the early 20th century French was used by many in diplomatic circles; both ironically, French words. American military and economic hegemony after World War Two cemented English’s dominance as the world’s second language.

Even

Even “Waterloo” has become a term meaning one’s demise.

Map of the world's countries by English-speaking proficiency,

Map of the world’s countries by English-speaking proficiency,

The rapidity of this swift however contributed to the idiosyncrasies of English; compare the nearly two thousand years of Latin dominance in Europe. Many English words are spelled in the same fashion as they were in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, unlike many other languages, English experienced slightly less formal standardization; albeit attempts were made as such, during one such attempt we added the “b” in “plumber”. As such, English has many confusing silent letters and unphonetic letter combinations. Nevertheless, this process lead to a multitude of synonyms, near-synonyms, and metaphorical language. That is why English spelling is so strange.

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Five Reasons the 1990’s Actually Kind of Sucked

Clickbait websites, most notably Buzzfeed, are full of “articles” replete with pictures of 1990’s fads. A large component of the most internet saturated among us grew up during this decade. Seeing images of Kid Pix, Tamagochi, and Capri Sun juice packets give the reader a whiff of nostalgia for their childhood. Dangerously however, nostalgia is often inaccurate. This author grew up during the 90’s, and also enjoys seeing pictures of Dexter’s Laboratory, Rugrats, and Art Attack. Nevertheless, the readers of these articles were children during the period. Our image of the decade is formed by the innocence, if not ignorance (often being intertwined), that childhood allows. On the contrary, the 1990’s were a period where our contemporary political issues began to ferment; proving to be the final decade of the Pax Americana, following the Second World War. Behind the Nickelodeon cartoons and gimmicky toys therein lied a darkness our childhood minds did not comprehend, and furthermore, a darkness that went unseen even among the political class, believing we lived in the End of History.

pokemon

We 90’s kids know it’s Pokémon, not “Pokeyman”, amirite?

you-know-youre-a-90s-kid_o_151942

Boondoggle bracelets!

BoyMeetsWorld_S5

Prepare to Meet the World, Boy.

1. School Games!

The 90's!

The 90’s!

Columbine_Shooting_Security_Camera

The 90’s!

Security-Camera-View-of-Students-Entering-School

The 2000’s!

Columbine. On April 20, 1999 two fourth year students from Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 15 of their classmates and faculty members, injuring over a dozen more; all filmed by the school’s closed-circuit cameras. Nearly every politician and guru offered their own explanation. These varied from rational ones, such as lack of gun control, to nonsensical theories, like condemning the television programme South Park. Others pointed to bullying, however later testimony from other students painted the killers as surly and aloof. Many blamed the rock musician Marilyn Manson, a performer neither of the perpetrators appeared to have enjoyed. Regardless of the cause, the mass-killings at Columbine High School contributed to a growing climate of fear which existed even before the events of September 11, 2001. Children were no longer safe at school.

2. Wasn’t Clinton Zany?

Clinton AND Arsenio Hall?!!

Clinton AND Arsenio Hall?!!

AND THE ANIMANIACS!

AND THE ANIMANIACS! SO. 90’S.

“When Clinton lied, no one died”, as goes the rhyme. The disastrous Bush presidency lead to an upswing in nostalgia for the relative prosperity of the Clinton Administration. Once again, hindsight isn’t 20/20. In Waco, Texas there was a small religious group known as the Branch Davidians. They were an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian denomination founded during the Second Great Awakening in the mid-Nineteenth Century. The Davidians were followers of a man named David Koresh, and were a strange religious cult, believing Koresh was the Second Coming of Christ. However, certain high-ranking members of the Clinton Administration, most notably Janet Reno, feared a repeat of the Jonestown Massacre, where hundreds of people committed mass suicide during the 1970’s. The Davidians did have a number of weapons, nevertheless, this was in rural Texas. Members of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) stormed the Branch Davidians’ farm, and nearly 100 people were killed. There is dispute among certain circles whether members of the ATF started a fire at the compound which killed several children. The so-called Waco Siege, lasting from February to April 1993,  is still a controversial event among many Americans; Libertarian extremists in particular. Regardless of the fire’s cause, the Waco Siege was a thoroughly botched exercise on the part of the ATF, and was intrinsic in contributing to the growing climate of fear and insecurity before September 11th, and the police and civilian militarization ever since.

The Waco Siege was soooo 90's.

The Waco Siege was soooo 90’s.

Let's keep this train a-going.

Let’s keep this train a-chuggin’!

3. Everybody got Along!
One such Libertarian extremist outraged by the events in Waco was Timothy McVeigh. He believed the Siege was proof-positive of a government conspiracy to overthrow personal liberty and the rule of law. On April 19th 1995, on the two-year anniversary of the Siege’s end, McVeigh and his associate Terry Nichols car bombed a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. McVeigh has often been touted as an example of Christian terrorism, however, this is an inaccurate portrayal. McVeigh described himself as an atheist or agnostic in several interviews. Rather, McVeigh is an example of an anti-government/Libertarian terrorism. Once again, September 11th did not create America’s current anxiety, rather, it was the culmination of a decade’s worth of home-grown strife. Arguably, 9/11 created a headstrong and more outwardly bellicose American foreign policy. Furthermore, foreign reactions to American economic and political supremacy did not begin with the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, their seeds were planted much earlier, during the 1990’s.

The Oklahoma City Bombing: 100% 90's

The Oklahoma City Bombing: 100% 90’s

Only a true 90's kid remembers the Michigan Militia.

Only a true 90’s kid remembers the Michigan Militia.

4. Wasn’t Yeltsin Kooky?
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was on its knees. Many within the country wanted to be accepted as a part of Europe and the West. However, many of the economic policies inflicted upon Russia were inspired by a vindictive streak among many of the old Cold Warriors in the United States government. The policies of “Shock Therapy” employed during this period allowed unscrupulous businessmen to gobble up vast swathes of the Russian economy, especially its manufacturing sector. The top-heavy Soviet government was privatized nearly overnight, all under the watchful gaze of the incessantly intoxicated Boris Yeltsin. These businessmen came to be known as the Oligarchs, and were hated by much of the Russian populace. On December 31st, 1999, the last day of the decade and the millennium, Vladimir Putin became President of Russia. Putin was able to quickly purge many of the Oligarchs, creating a loyal business class, all the while able to cast himself as a friend of the people, and more importantly, a restorer of Russian pride.

Vice News conducted a series of interviews with oligarchs, producing this image.

Vice News conducted a series of interviews with oligarchs, producing this image.

They all look like James Bond villains.

They all look like James Bond villains.

THE 90'S!

THE 90’S!

5. THE TOYS! THE TOYS!
No 1990’s Nostalgia Peddling Buzzfeed article is complete without discussing 1990’s era toys. These, too, are emblematic of the issues which began in the 90’s leading to our contemporary social and political issues. While innocuous within themselves, these cheap plastic toys were products of President Clinton’s deregulation of the manufacturing sector and liberalization of trade policies with the Chinese, policies which continued during the Bush Era. This Liberalization would lead to the mass job losses during the Great Recession and the total annihilation of the Western manufacturing sector. While this process began during the Reagan and Nixon Administrations, Clinton did nothing to stop these changes, and in certain ways accelerated the process. The wide variety of inexpensive plastic (Chinese-made) trinkets available during the 1990’s are symbolic of the industrial sector’s collapse throughout the developed world.

These people made your favourite 90's toys. Compete with lead.

These people made your favourite 90’s toys. Compete with lead.

BOONDOGGLE!

BOONDOGGLE!

Tamagotchi's are sooOoooOOOoo 90's! Why can't any of us find a job?

Tamagotchi’s are sooOoooOOOoo 90’s! Why can’t any of us find a job?

Francis Fukuyama is soooo 90's

Francis Fukuyama is soooo 90’s

The internet is inundated with lists that contain pictures of toys, media, and fashion trends of the 1990’s, creating an image of care-free and innocent halcyon days. This perception is a by-product of those who were children during the period, and were not yet old enough to understand the era’s events. Nevertheless, those in the the political class at the time were as blind as the children. In 1992, Japanese-American political scientist Francis Fukuyama published a book entitled The End of History and the Last Man. In his work, Fukuyama posited that since over the Twentieth Century all competing political systems to Liberal Democracy, i.e.: Absolute Monarchy, Fascism, and most recently at the time, Communism, had failed, and as such, the world had come to “the End of History”. Liberal Democracy would flourish across the globe and a new world of peace and prosperity would commence, In retrospective, his thesis was fatuous, ideological, and arguably self-serving, being praised by many capitalist and political elites in America. Fukuyama’s idealized period of peace and prosperity included the events described herein, as well as the Yugoslav Wars and the Rwandan Genocide. Fukuyama has since moderated his views without completely recanting his earlier claims. Neither hindsight nor foresight is ever 20/20, it would seem we are all wandering blind. Whether we fall into the abyss or avoid it appears to be a mere matter of chance.

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Why I’m Not a “Feminist”™

One who can define their entire political belief system in a single word is likely a simplistic and ideological minded person, lacking in nuance and intellectual curiosity. This blog has perhaps been somewhat hard on Libertarians; such as when it contended they live in an upside-down nonsense world. Nevertheless, there are still certain issues this author agrees with Libertarians on, such as the decriminalization of drugs and the demilitarization of American police forces. This is the same with those who self-identify as “Feminists”, issues including access to abortion and paid maternity leave are important for women and society as a whole. The term “Feminism” seems to be the it-word of 2014; Celebrities have been quick to either attach or detach themselves from the term as if it was a rite of passage. Words which are overused have their meaning diluted, arguably this has happened to the term “Feminism”.

And seriously, I just don't like Beyonce, okay? She's a two-bit Diana Ross. Doesn't mean I have a problem with paying women the same.

And seriously, I just don’t like Beyonce, okay? She’s a two-bit Diana Ross. Doesn’t mean I have a problem with paying women the same as men for the same work.

Because girls, if you can "sing", dance, have a chest, and if you're black dress up and mold your body to look as much like a white woman as possible, you too can have CEOs make truckloads of money off you.

Because girls, if you can “sing”, dance, and be chest-y, you too can have CEOs make truckloads of money off you.

Has anyone else noticed this? Seriously, we all made fun of Michael Jackson when he did it.

Has anyone else noticed this? Seriously, we all made fun of Michael Jackson when he did it.

What is meant by “Feminism” in this article? What does anyone mean by “Feminism”? There seems to be a general agreement that the term means the belief system in which men and women should be treated as social and political equals, a statement which is perfectly agreeable. Can one agree with this sentence, yet choose not to self-identify as a “Feminist”? The term has become so laden with connotations and caveats that it is impossible to adhere to them all. There are many people who admire the actions and teachings of Christ, yet do not self-identify as “Christians”. Many contemporary “Feminists” have taken a decidedly anti-scientific bent, are aggressively capitalistic with their praise of concocted pop stars and female CEOs, have taken to pillorying individuals rather than institutions, and furthermore, are not adverse to using people’s fears and prejudices as motivational tools. In short, “Feminism” has become the gutter politics of the Left. “Feminism” is similar to Far-Right political movements in this capacity. How did the “Feminist” movement become what it is today?

Such as this fellow, who is a talented scientist, for wearing a shirt. Why not petition the clothing company?

Such as this fellow, who is a talented scientist, for wearing a shirt. Why not petition the clothing company?

Bill Cosby is a rapist and a sanctimonious asshole. Maybe we shouldn't idolize celebrities.

Bill Cosby is a rapist and a sanctimonious asshole. Maybe we shouldn’t idolize celebrities.

Arguably, the seeds of the issues with modern “Feminism” began with the nativity of the movement. Powerful forces within the Capitalist class quickly realized the utility of the movement from an early stage, most importantly for the Suffragists was the participation of tobacco companies. False parades were organized where young women would smoke in public en masse, the term coined by the PR machine was “Torches of Freedom”. Smoking cigarettes quickly became a symbol of the liberated woman, as hitherto it was considered improper for a well-to-do lady to smoke. As such, the tobacco companies were losing a significant proportion of their potential market. The Suffragists, “suffragette” was in fact a derogatory term used at the time, were a loose collection of different important figures and societies. Two early, and very large, women’s movements are not often mentioned in “Feminist” narratives of history, for obvious reasons.

A woman smoking became a symbol of the New, Liberated Woman.

A woman smoking became a symbol of the New, Liberated Woman.

Note the bobbed hair, very early women's lib.

Note the bobbed hair, very early women’s lib.

Cigarette advertisements for women continued in this capacity well into the 1970's.

Cigarette advertisements for women continued in this capacity well into the 1970’s.

One important early women’s society that wielded substantial political influence during the first-half of the twentieth century was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU); which at its height had nearly half a million members. The WCTU was instrumental in the creation of anti-alcohol laws in America during the 1920’s. Alcohol was blamed for spousal abuse, poverty, and all number of social ills, especially those relating to women and children. A contemporary women’s organization was the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), which had nearly 250,000 members, some estimates go as high as three million. A predominant fear among the WKKK was the rape of white women by black men. The viral “cat-calling video” is a modern echo of this sensibility. Whereas these organizations did stress “traditional” roles for women as wives and mothers, nevertheless it was controversial by the standards of the time for women to express political opinions at all, let alone form political societies. Arguably, these organizations were “Feminists” by the moral norms of the 1900’s.  “Feminists” have long used people’s fears and prejudices as a motivational tool. Furthermore, “Feminism” has always been a predominantly middle class and white social movement.

The Temperance Movement was an important early political cause that attracted women's organizations.

The Temperance Movement was an important early political cause that attracted women’s organizations.

Initiation

Klan wedding, 1926.

Klan wedding, 1926.

Still happens.

Still happens.

A prominent “Second-Wave Feminist” was Gloria Steinem, arguably the unofficial loudspeaker of the movement. It came to the attention of several “Feminist” organizations, as well as The New York Times, that Steinem had been in the employ of the C.I.A. and several of her organizations had received C.I.A. funding. It is this author’s opinion that modern “Feminism” was facilitated by the C.I.A. as an attempt to split the Political Left during Cold War; thus placing the emphasis on gender rather than criticisms of Capital. As, if “Feminism” was truly a radical and revolutionary force, why do major music, clothing, and personal hygiene companies cling to and utilize the idea to their strongest capacity? Remember, Dove and Axe are owned by the same parent company.

If "Feminists" are out to destroy Capitalism, why is it so easy for large companies to pander to them?

If “Feminists” are out to destroy Capitalism, why is it so easy for large companies to pander to them?

BUY UNDER ARMOUR

BUY UNDER ARMOUR

BUY SOAP

BUY SOAP

They've been falling for this crap since the 50's.

They’ve been falling for this crap since the 50’s.

Since the beginning of the Twentieth Century women have made great strides throughout the Western World. Nevertheless, the Women’s Movement has been subject to the same biases, prejudices, and fears which permeate the societies they were created in and subject to the same frailties of nature. Like any ideology, “Feminists” ignore facts which contradict their belief-system. Anti-rape rhetoric is problematic as it ignores human nature, which is often violent, brutal, and selfish. Replace “rape” with “murder”, which, too, is often committed by men, and women are more likely to be killed by men than other women, would render a “Feminist” polemic laughably utopian. One never hears “murder culture” despite the shocking violence in television, cinema, and music on a daily basis. No amount of “Sultwalks” will end rape, humanity is comprised of apes in silk. Those who would like to see positive charge for women should seek positive changes for society as a whole, looking to economic factors leading to inequality. Such as issues like paid maternity leave and government-funded abortion. These pivotal steps forward for women were part of a greater call for a social safety network during the first half of the twentieth century. But those things are boring and hard.

And that is why I am not a “Feminist”.