Bear Baiting Callout September 16, 2010 10:17 PM   Subscribe

This FPP appears to me to be intentionally inflammatory. I participated in the derail and am bringing it here at the suggestion of Navelgazer.

The term 'civilized' is often used as a colonialist/racist/classist dog whistle. I don't think this was the poster's intent but the post comes across as such. The poster also implies that the US is not 'civilized' because of the action, or lack there of, of one state. Broad brush strokes and intentional GRAR does not make a good FPP.
posted by nestor_makhno to Etiquette/Policy at 10:17 PM (121 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Huh. I read it as inflammatory because the person really loves bears, not because the person really hates the USA, and because they are frustrated and surprised to have discovered that there is a place in the USA where this is tolerated.
posted by davejay at 10:26 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Which countries aren't civilized? Wouldn't they not be "countries" then?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:33 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not familiar with 'civilized' being a dog whistle. Can you provide a citation?

If this were happening in e.g. Hamburg, I would expect that it would be reported as happening in Germany, not simply in Hamburg with an asterisk that the other 15 German states aren't doing it and Hamburg is a little crazy for the bear baiting. South Carolina is a constituent state of the U.S.A, therefore whatever happens in South Carolina happens in the U.S.A.

In any case, you (1) wrote that bear baiting is horrific and (2) said "Your editorializing in a FPP is stupid and counter-productive to healthy debate." what kind of debate do you picture happening around the merits of bear-baiting?
posted by boo_radley at 10:35 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, is it really just this?
I fucking hate the term 'civilized.'
Say something about that, then and disentangle it from bear-baiting.
posted by boo_radley at 10:38 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


And finally, I wrote Hamburg repeatedly when I should have written Holstein in my example.
posted by boo_radley at 10:39 PM on September 16, 2010


The term 'civilized' is often used as a colonialist/racist/classist dog whistle.

If you eliminate Wikipedia from your search (often a good idea) for "dog whistle politics" you get this excellent result from our own Mo Nickels.
posted by mlis at 10:40 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you guys seen the poster for the upcoming Yogi Bear movie? There's something funny about it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:40 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


what kind of debate do you picture happening around the merits of bear-baiting?

I should have said 'discussion.'

The only citation I can offer at this point (it is bed time) is my experience debating assholes on the internet, in person and listening to talk radio on long drives. "Those Mexicans are uncivilized and ruining our country with their crime, drugs and baby-making. The Indians need to adopt Western values in order to be civilized. Those black people have a culture of laziness and drunkenness" Bear baiting is horrific and should be illegal. Calling a culture/country uncivilized paints a whole group of people with a very broad brush. It is inflammatory and unproductive.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:47 PM on September 16, 2010


The term 'civilized' is often used as a colonialist/racist/classist dog whistle.

Maybe so, but what's your point? That the term may be used as a dog whistle in some instances is not germane to this topic. If you think that it's specifically being used as a dog whistle in this FPP, please speak clearly and let everyone know what it's meant to be coded language as used in the FPP.
posted by dhammond at 10:47 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Strangely enough, nobody has a problem with the broad-brushing of Pakistan (where bear-baiting is illegal).
posted by vidur at 10:48 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


vidur: "nobody has a problem with the broad-brushing of Pakistan"

THB w/ you, I ain't never been, so I thought I'd let a Pakistani (or experienced traveller) say something.
posted by boo_radley at 10:51 PM on September 16, 2010


If you eliminate Wikipedia from your search (often a good idea) for "dog whistle politics" you get this excellent result from our own Mo Nickels.

That definition doesn't really change my belief that 'civilized' can and is used as a dog whistle term. Should it?

Those black people have a culture of laziness and drunkenness
This was a shitty example on my part. I stand by my callout on the use of the word 'civilized' and the phrasing of the FPP.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:52 PM on September 16, 2010


If you think that it's specifically being used as a dog whistle in this FPP, please speak clearly and let everyone know what it's meant to be coded language as used in the FPP.

I never said the OP meant to use the term as a dog whistle, but I think the use of the term 'civilized' is worth calling out. I did so in the original post and someone suggested I take it here.

Strangely enough, nobody has a problem with the broad-brushing of Pakistan (where bear-baiting is illegal).

I do. The term is colonialist/racist/classist. Three of these apply to Pakistan. Two apply to the US.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:58 PM on September 16, 2010

You know who else enjoys baiting?
posted by gman at 7:42 PM on September 16 [8 favorites -] [!]
Wait, I thought this was a reference to O'Donnell.
posted by blueberry at 11:00 PM on September 16, 2010


What isn't uncivilized about bear-baiting? What's dog-whistley about the word? Those of us not living in your area have no idea what you're on about. Or at least, I don't.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:03 PM on September 16, 2010


Whoa. How in the hell did my twitter client get log -in access to MeTa? I didn't ask it to.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:04 PM on September 16, 2010


Which terms apply to which country, in your mind?
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:05 PM on September 16, 2010


Bear-baiting: intentional GRAR
posted by Sys Rq at 11:06 PM on September 16, 2010


I think the use of the term 'civilized' is worth calling out

You're not going to like this, but: you're wrong. Ripping out a bear's claws and teeth, and then torturing it indefinitely, that is uncivilized. A mature society that is capable of reasoning and compassion is civilized. Guess what mature, compassionate societies don't do.

Either you're taking offense just to be offended about something, or something else and I don't know what that something else might be. Either way, the word "uncivilized" looks pretty accurate from here.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:09 PM on September 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


What isn't uncivilized about bear-baiting? What's dog-whistley about the word? Those of us not living in your area have no idea what you're on about. Or at least, I don't.

The objection is all in the implication of unnamed uncivilized countries, and a distinct line between those countries and ours*.

*I'm assuming Canada is on the civilized list, but who the hell knows.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:10 PM on September 16, 2010


While I agree that the term 'civilized' is often used in a colonialist/racist/classist way, I don't think it's always the case. If a behavior goes against norms set by the rest of civilization (which encompasses every nation) it is entirely accurate to describe that behavior as uncivilized.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:12 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


What's dog-whistley about the word? Those of us not living in your area have no idea what you're on about. Or at least, I don't.

'Civilized' is often used to degrade a whole group of people for what a sub-set of shitty human beings are doing. In this case, and in many others, the group of people are poor and/or brown. Muslims aren't uncivilized because a few of them fly planes into buildings. Pakistanis/Americans aren't uncivilized places because some of the people living there torture bears. Shitty people do shitty things.
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:13 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you hit it solidly, Ivo.

also i'm secretly jealous of your mefi name

cold-riveted girders with cores of pure selenium!
posted by Mikey-San at 11:15 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is, at best, editorializing. Grading countries as civilized or not depending on their bear baiting laws is rather questionable.

That sentence is completely unnecessary for that FPP.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:16 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The U.S. prison system is uncivilized. The U.S. health care system is uncivilized. Bull fighting in Spain is uncivilized. The idea that the term is racist etc. is bullshit. Guess what, non-white, formerly colonized people do uncivilized things from time to time. So do first-world white guys. The term applies in both circumstances. I can't stand it when the P.C. brigade tries to stop the condemnation of heinous crimes because the perpetrators happen to be non-white. Honour killings in Pakistan are uncivilized, and we should say so. Saying so doesn't let us off the hook for our own wrongs, and not saying so doesn't make us into some sort of sensitive, post-colonial deconstructivist, or whatever other bullshit we absorbed in undergrad.
posted by Dasein at 11:19 PM on September 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


Two of those links in FPP refer to Pakistan. One is a first person account of a bear-baiting incident in a "small town in the North East of Pakistan". The other says that the number of fighting bears [in Pakistan] has been reduced to around 70 (down from 300).

If anything, Pakistan is a success story in combating bear-baiting. It is quite clear that far from turning a blind eye, some Pakistani officials are doing something right to stop this activity. If I were a Pakistani, I would be offended at the FPP's implication that this heinous crime is a widespread problem that goes unchecked in my country.

I am not a Pakistani, so I don't have a dog in this fight (really sorry!). But, I still feel that the FPP could have been framed better.

The phrase "every civilized country" is rather pointless in this context unless someone can name some countries where bear-baiting is actually legal. It is not legal in the two countries named in the FPP.
posted by vidur at 11:19 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


If a behavior goes against norms set by the rest of civilization (which encompasses every nation) it is entirely accurate to describe that behavior as uncivilized.

IvoShandor, this is what the FPP said: "It is illegal in every civilized country.".

The term "civilized" was not being applied to a "behavior", but to unnamed country/countries. The implication being that there is at least one uncivilized country out there.

Unlike nestor_makhno, I didn't find it "intentionally inflammatory". I think it was just Editorializing Under the Influence (of grar).
posted by vidur at 11:28 PM on September 16, 2010


The phrase "every civilized country" is rather pointless in this context unless someone can name some countries where bear-baiting is actually legal.

I disagree. While the post clearly got it wrong in implying that it was legal in Pakistan, I don't think pro-forma illegality lets a country off the hook. If a practice is de jure illegal but de facto tolerated, the society or culture can be considered just as uncivilized, to use the term of choice here, as if the activity were officially sanctioned by the state. To say otherwise is to let people off the hook way too easily.
posted by Dasein at 11:29 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If a practice is de jure illegal but de facto tolerated, the society or culture can be considered just as uncivilized, to use the term of choice here, as if the activity were officially sanctioned by the state. To say otherwise is to let people off the hook way too easily.

Well, there you have it. United States of America: Uncivilized. QED.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:38 PM on September 16, 2010


Yay, another "offensive word" MeTa...
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:50 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree, there aren't many civilized countries in the world. 1500 years after the collapse of Roman civilization, moral civilization is still something that eludes most bodies politic.
posted by Dasein at 11:50 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't stand it when the P.C. brigade tries to stop the condemnation of heinous crimes because the perpetrators happen to be non-white.

Please point to where I, or others in this thread, did this.
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:53 PM on September 16, 2010


Dasein, what is your standard of "de facto tolerated" to call a country uncivilized?

Reference data: Pakistan's population is more than 166 million.

Don't you think it makes sense to avoid such obvious editorializing/generalizations in the FPP (or elsewhere)? Why not be specific and point out the uncivilized nature of an act or behavior rather than calling an entire country uncivilized?
posted by vidur at 11:56 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wasn't it the architects of Western civilisation, the Romans, who put an amphitheatre in every major town as 'representative of the victory of culture over lawlessness, of civilization over savagery' (it says here)? Not being funny for the sake of it, rather saying seems an odd choice of word to condemn this horrid practice when such spectacle has been integral to the civilising project.
posted by Abiezer at 11:58 PM on September 16, 2010


You objected specifically because you thought the term "civilized" was racist. Am I to take it that you're concerned about racism against white South Carolinians? Or should I have added: "because the perpetrators happen to be non-white or poor" to address your inclusion of classism? Either way, it's the sort of argument that gets trotted out only at politically convenient times. Would you seriously object to calling, say, the death penalty or the denial of health care to poor kids in the U.S. uncivilized?
posted by Dasein at 11:59 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The term "civilized" was not being applied to a "behavior", but to unnamed country/countries.

But why was it being applied to countries? It was because they don't turn a blind eye to uncivilized behavior. I think it was more a commentary on how uncivilized the nations that allow it to happen are, than a commentary on how civil or uncivil the unnamed countries are. Either way, in the end it is editorializing, but I don't think it's as harmful here as some commenters have made it seem.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:04 AM on September 17, 2010


Dasein, what is your standard of "de facto tolerated" to call a country uncivilized?

I would probably call a particular (sub)culture or region within X country uncivilized unless it were really widespread. What's "really widespread"? I don't know. It might depend on just how awful the thing discussed is. Bear baiting: pretty awful, but a subculture doesn't make the whole country uncivilized. Something like honour killings, when it occurs across a country and across social strata in society, makes me more inclined to call the whole damn place uncivilized even if a lot of people don't condone it, because it's so abhorrent that either everyone should be working to stop it or they're complicit.

Short answer: I don't really know, but these things are never clear-cut and civilization is not an invalid rhetorical term as a result of that imprecision.
posted by Dasein at 12:08 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey nestor, don't presume to tell people what words they can and can't use.

It's fucking barbaric.
posted by felix betachat at 12:10 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


And per my comment in the FPP, although it is only being pointed out to have occurred in one part of the U.S., I don't think it's unfair to characterize the nation itself as being uncivilized for allowing it. It's not like the federal government is powerless to act here. But they don't. They blow off people who are concerned about it and, like I said, go back to naming post offices.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:13 AM on September 17, 2010


I think we all1 agree that the term was needless editorializing, and that it wasn't intended to be inflammatory.

[1] not valid for large values of "all".
posted by vidur at 12:25 AM on September 17, 2010


Still thinking more about this, and despite what I posted earlier, I do agree that it was probably editorializing that didn't belong in the FPP. It just seems unnecessary, as a sentence, adding nothing but an argument to an otherwise okay post.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:28 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


a country that possesses thousands of nuclear weapons is certainly potentially uncivilized, isn't it?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:29 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the post has a lot of problems and is an example of "recreational outrage" to the point there isn't much to discuss besides fighting over the wording. The wording of the FPP is also misleading, or so it seems to me. This bear baiting is illegal in Pakistan (and in 49 of 50 US states, whereas South Carolina has not made it illegal but has taken steps to eliminate the practice). So what's with the sentence about "every civilized country"? What is with the repeated sentences at the end of the FPP? It's poorly written, it's inflammatory, and does not include any great links for discussion or education.
posted by Danila at 12:30 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


for clarification, could someone list the uncivilized countries in the world?

also, is the working definition of uncivilized 'some people do something I don't like, and their government doesn't prosecute them?'?

Finally; veal is still okay, right? Veal is a civilized tasty food to eat, right?
posted by el io at 12:36 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


That definition doesn't really change my belief that 'civilized' can and is used as a dog whistle term. Should it?

Whether it can or not doesn't really have a baring on it's use in other context.

Anyway, since when has 'civilization' ever really meant compassion? If we really viewed the term that way then civilization has only been around for, like, 50 years. Certainly if you go back a couple of hundred years animal cruelty was popular all over the 'civilized' world. Bull fighting, burning bags of cats, bear bating, etc. The Romans used to feed people to lions for fun.
posted by delmoi at 12:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Veal is cruel and inhumane. To keep a calf chained up all alone in a crate and feed it nothing but baby formula is positively barbaric. This is why all my calves are fed foie gras and shark fin soup and allowed to roam free in groups of nine inside a running Hummer.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


“I fucking hate the term ‘civilized.’ ... The term is colonialist/racist/classist.”

Let's be honest, shall we? You're upset because you feel insulted that it was implied by the post (clearly unintentially, by the way) that Pakistan might be 'uncivilized.' You don't really give three shits about the US being painted with a broad brush.

And given the fact that the poster is clearly from the US (I'm not linking someone's posting history, but you can find it yourself) this falls under the category of 'I'm righteously upset about this happening in my country' – not 'look at these uncouth natives.'

Now, I'm all for voicing your concerns, but you're really bringing your own fight to this; it wasn't in the post. She used the word "civilized," and you're upset and annoyed because you've heard people refer to Pakistan as "uncivilized" in obnoxious and colonialist and sometimes racist ways. That's a fair position; and I'm certain that that's an obnoxious thing. Pakistan in particular has had to deal with a lot of that kind of crap, particularly from us Americans, who can't seem to get it into our skulls that Pakistan is an often-metropolitan nation with millions of people and industries and active commerce and trade and everything.

But please note the sense in which she used the term "civilized." She clearly didn't mean "colonizing force" or "master race" or "upper class" – if you can point to that anywhere in the question, then I'd like to hear about it. What did she mean by "civilized"? She clearly meant 'kind enough and gentle enough to understand that outright cruelty to animals is a terrible wrong.' I don't find that offensive; and frankly, I think you're bringing a lot of baggage to this. 'Civilization' has sometimes had the loaded-down colonialist sense to it that you're seeing here; but usually it's a nebulous concept that includes all kinds of things – the arts, literature, politeness, social norms, etc. Many of those things are good, I think, and it'd be difficult to disagree with them; artistic endeavors, which are almost always seen to be part of 'civilization,' the written word, mechanical innovation – these are all good things.

In fact, I think the most worthy conception of 'civilization' is as 'a place where a rational moral code prevents cruelty to humans and to animals.' That's a conception of civilization I can get behind. It's something I can support. And while I accept that maybe you have far too many negative associations with the word 'civilized' to ever value it as a term, I wonder if you might at least accept that the way this poster has used that word is frankly somewhat noble, even if she is a little worked up about it, and even if she inadvertently implied that Pakistan is 'uncivilized.'

(Really, it was clearly inadvertent. There's nothing else in the post about Pakistan; it's not about Pakistan being terrible, it's about how the poster's own country, the US, should know better. Yes, I would've phrased it differently, knowing how that looks; but I don't think she can be blamed for having some vendetta against Pakistan.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 AM on September 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Shit like this is unbearable.

Goodnight.
posted by mullacc at 1:00 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


for clarification, could someone list the uncivilized countries in the world?

Russia, China, The United States, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, South Korea, and possibly joining the club in a few years...Iran.

If we really viewed the term that way then civilization has only been around for, like, 50 years.

Civilization is just a word and words have a habit of changing meanings of over time. Kinda like culture and what it deems as acceptable forms of behavior.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:09 AM on September 17, 2010


nestor_makhno: “That definition doesn't really change my belief that 'civilized' can and is used as a dog whistle term. Should it?”

That's a cheap cop-out, and you know it. If you're going to make an accusation, just step up and do it, eh? Either Susurration is being a racist, or a classist, or a colonialist; or she's not. Either she's intentionally using a dog whistle or she unintentionally implied that Pakistan is uncivilized. Which is it? Let's be clear about this. It doesn't matter at all how any of us has heard the word used in the past. What matters is how she used it. So how was her usage racist, classist, or colonialist?
posted by koeselitz at 1:14 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh shit I forgot to add my 2 cents on the meta topic...yeah what koeselitz said. I don't think the term was being purposefully inflammatory. Susurration was probably kinda outraged and that came through in the fpp. No biggie.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:19 AM on September 17, 2010


Either Susurration is being a racist, or a classist, or a colonialist; or she's not. Either she's intentionally using a dog whistle or she unintentionally implied that Pakistan is uncivilized.

1. Who said she was racist?
2. Who said it was intentional?

The fact that it one accidentally slips off a cliff rather than swan-diving over the edge leaving a well-worded suicide not does not make one any less of a feast for the vultures.

The problem is NOT that she implied Pakistan was uncivilized (indeed, she explicitly includes that country and the US among the civilized, despite the bear-baiting). The problem is that the word 'civilized' very often refers to one's superiority over "primitive" "savages," and intentional or not, that's kind of totally shitty.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:27 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


*it, note
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 AM on September 17, 2010


The problem is that the word 'civilized' very often refers to one's superiority over "primitive" "savages," and intentional or not, that's kind of totally shitty.

I would think that the intention would determine whether it's use is "shitty" or not. In this context I don't think it was being used maliciously.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:43 AM on September 17, 2010


Sys Rq: “The problem is that the word 'civilized' very often refers to one's superiority over "primitive" "savages," and intentional or not, that's kind of totally shitty.”

I disagree. That might have been a common use of the term in 1953; I haven't seen it in many years. I have met two or three people that still sneer about people they perceive to be 'beneath' them by calling them 'uncouth' and 'uncivilized;' none of them were were under the age of 80.

I still say this doesn't matter. There are a few words that we call upon ourselves to be very careful with, because they directly insult someone; 'civilized' isn't going to be added to that list any time soon. It had its history, just like many words; but it's very, very important that we're serious about the words we choose to make taboo, and I see no reason to brand 'civilized' as a simply insulting word. And given that it's not a simply negative word, yes, the context matters. It's a word that means a lot of things to a lot of people.

So, yes: this is a callout of a thread. The callout says: 'I don't like this word, because it's often used as a dog whistle word.' Well, then – is it being used as one? The intention matters – yes, it matters if people get hurt, but I still have a hard time believing that 'civilization' is a word that's loaded enough to wound people. Even if it were, intention would play a pretty huge part. If someone starts talking about 'doo wop' music, do we criticize them for using a racial slur against Italians? Only if the slur was intentional.

The word 'civilization' has at least as many positive overtones as negative ones. The positive ones are very worthwhile. How can you condemn the whole word as colonialist like that? It seems insane to me. Many truly great things have been done in the name of civilization. It's not all gloom, doom, and enslavement of native peoples, you know.
posted by koeselitz at 1:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not so obvious things one shouldn't say to Metafilter.
posted by nomadicink at 2:34 AM on September 17, 2010


Russia, China, The United States, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, South Korea, and possibly joining the club in a few years...Iran.

I'm thinking you mean North Korea.

But for what it's worth on the main topic, I got no sense of the post being either inappropriately inflammatory or provocative of recreational outrage. It was news to me that bear baiting still occurs anywhere in the world, and I feel a certain (measured) level of anger and outrage about that is the only correct and suitable reaction. Kudos to the OP for bringing it to the attention of a new audience.
posted by Ahab at 3:30 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with this callout for the reasons stated. Civilized is a loaded term, with a charged and ugly history. It is repeatedly used along with "Pakistan" as if that country embodied all that is bad and uncivilized. That is tacky at best, as were all the jokes about South Carolina embodying all that is wrong with the US, when in fact you can find plenty of fodder for "recreational outrage," which is exactly what that post is, in every state in the US. Why take a shocking and unconfirmed practice and make an FPP of it? That FPP should be deleted with impunity.
posted by vincele at 3:43 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a silly callout.

That said: I approve of AElfwine Evenstar's list of uncivilised countries.
posted by pompomtom at 3:46 AM on September 17, 2010


I never said the OP meant to use the term as a dog whistle, but I think the use of the term 'civilized' is worth calling out.

That's like saying that people should not use the phrase "there's a nip in the air" or "she has a chink in her armor" simply because the terms "Nip" and "Chink" have at times been used as derogatory terms for Japanese and Chinese people.

It is indeed true that those terms are insulting and derogatory -- IN THAT SPECIFIC CONTEXT. However, it is clear to most reasonable and intelligent people that when you say "there's a nip in the air" you are not actually at the time referring to a person of Japanese descent, you are referring to a little chill in the weather. So -- to accuse someone of being a racist when they have said something which is not actually racist is...baffling, at best.

THIS, actually, is what "political correctness" was actually about -- I was in college right when the movement first swelled, and remember all too well what most people have forgotten; that the "politically correct" movement was an effort to change the way people thought by critiquing the actual words they used. While there is a grain of truth to this -- what you say about not dismissing certain groups as "uncivilized" because it is a "dog whistle" has a basis of truth in most contexts -- what the PC movement overlooked is that there are certain contexts in which...it doesn't apply. The way to eliminate anti-Japanese sentiment is NOT by removing the word "nip" from the language. Because the word "nip" can also mean "tiny bite", it can mean "nipple," it can mean...many other things that are not "Japanese person."

The PC movement forgot that context means a hell of a lot as well. Fortunately, even though most people dismiss "PC" thinking these days, at least they're accurate in that it's the THINKING that is ultimately a problem in society, not THE WORDS THEMSELVES.

Yes, civilized is a loaded term -- IN CERTAIN CONTEXTS. It is ultimately doubtful, though, whether THIS was one of those contexts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 AM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


My take on the civilized issue: we're talking about people standing around watching an animal be brutalized for enjoyment value. People who derive pleasure from watching a defenseless animal savaged by dogs (trained, by the way, to attack/kill/maim for the purposes of providing pleasurable entertainment). Maybe this is just sort of crazy, but I kind of think this sort of activity is considered outright barbaric by most people. Yes, there are people who think cock-fighting is a hoot, that bear baiting is a great time, and bull-fights are a classic form of entertainment. And again, I would imagine that a large number of people would consider that to be barbaric, which, y'know, is kind of the opposite of civilization.

Including Pakistan? I don't think it's intentional racism. I think it's trying to point out just how backwards bear baiting really is. And really, considering it's company, shouldn't Pakistan want to change its mind on the issue? When you belong to a club, and South Carolina is the only other member, is that really a club you want to belong to?
posted by Ghidorah at 4:29 AM on September 17, 2010


This callout is just americans having trouble facing the reality of America. Arguing about terminology in this case is childish denial.

Remember "we are better off that anyone but germany"?
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:31 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's political correctness gone mad!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:32 AM on September 17, 2010


A mentor of mine used to refer to "western snivelization."

This thread is a good example thereof.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:38 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Interesting to note that this has gotten more comments than the original post.

Anyhow, I posted this editorial in on the blue, but there are a couple quotes there that seem relevant to this callout.

From a bear owner: “We don’t want our heritage to be forgotten because civilization has taken over.”


The writer's response: And when the choice is between “heritage” and “civilization,” as the bear owner so aptly put it, it ought to be a pretty easy one to make.

posted by TedW at 5:00 AM on September 17, 2010


I want a bear whistle.

*inaudible whistle*

wait...

*audible growl*

posted by pracowity at 5:07 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Really, there was enough recreational outrage in the thread already without having to create more out of whole cloth. It might have not been the best choice of words, but are we utterly bereft of our ability to discern intent?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:20 AM on September 17, 2010


Today, we are all mouth-breathers.

Le Monde, 17 September 2010.
posted by Mister_A at 5:21 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pakistan in particular has had to deal with a lot of that kind of crap, particularly from us Americans, who can't seem to get it into our skulls that Pakistan is an often-metropolitan nation with millions of people and industries and active commerce and trade and everything.

It was also home to the largest of the early urban civilisations in the history of mankind - overshadowing Egypt, Mesopotamia & China, around five thousand years ago.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:26 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, this is a silly callout.
posted by smackfu at 5:41 AM on September 17, 2010


Yay, another "offensive word" MeTa...
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:50 AM on September 17


Oh God. Is 8:45 AM too early to start drinking?
posted by Decani at 5:44 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The way I read it, the OP was using an odd metric to put Pakistan and the U.S. in some sort of exclusive club of uncivilized countries. By this standard, I really can't think of a single nation who shouldn't also be allowed access. My own country with its deplorable treatment of the Native population, Japan and its whaling for meat, Singapore's draconian punishments, France's expulsion of the Roma, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, etc. etc. etc.
posted by gman at 6:20 AM on September 17, 2010


I'm less concerned with the use of the word "civilized" and more about the wholesale dismissal of people from South Carolina. I guess I'm just oversensitive, seeing as how that's, you know, where I live and enjoy living. Oddly, I'm also literate, upset by racism, neither vicious, nasty, nor rotten and pretty staunchly against bear baiting.

I guess that means I must not be from South Carolina.
posted by This Guy at 6:37 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I guess I should note that I do live in the one single place in this state that I'm comfortable really even stopping for gas, so...grain of salt maybe.
posted by This Guy at 6:52 AM on September 17, 2010


No true This Guy!
posted by Jahaza at 6:53 AM on September 17, 2010


Don't love the post, at all. Don't much like the framing either. It was a borderline thing last night, I left it up instead of nixing it right before bed. Still pretty uncertain about that.

That said, people seem to be capable of at least having a discussion about it, and some problematic framing in the post text aside it feels like bear-baiting is maybe one of those thing that (a) everybody has heard of but (b) not so many people know anything in detail, so if folks want to and can manage to have a decent conversation about it, that's a silver lining on the whole thing.

This metadiscussion should have come here sooner, nestor_makhno, but I appreciate you recognizing the problem with doing it in thread and bringing it to Metatalk instead of keeping it up there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:56 AM on September 17, 2010


LAY OFF THE GOD DAMN WHISTLES PEOPLE my ears are killing me.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:02 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm less concerned with the use of the word "civilized" and more about the wholesale dismissal of people from South Carolina.

And Philadelphia, Maine, and of course, Texas.
posted by TedW at 7:04 AM on September 17, 2010


I guess that means I must not be from South Carolina.

Hi! My name is Chris and I'm a LOLTEXAN! Welcome to the club, the bottled water's in a cooler over there, but the power's out half the time because all the utilities got outsourced, so it's warm. And it's 5 bucks. Therapy's at noon. Today in group, we're supposed to be working on not letting the internet get to us, any more. Better happy than right! Learn that if you want them to let you out of here.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:22 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Recreational outrage.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:32 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the trouble here stems from two, quite different, possible readings of the phrase. Most people here seem to be arguing about whether the phrase implies that Pakistan and/or the USA is uncivilized. Maybe it does, but I think the phrase is potentially offensive without any implication about particular countries.

"Every civilized country" makes it pretty clear that there is a list of civilized countries and a list of uncivilized countries. That very idea is offensive, particularly when you consider the historical use of the term (i.e. white Europeans = civilized, everyone else = uncivilized). I don't think this was the OP's intent, but you certainly wouldn't have to look hard in the USA to find people who think that e.g. predominantly Muslim countries are uncivilized.

I think the callout is pretty clear that the issue here is about this meaning of the term, with particular implications about the countries under discussion as secondary. Making this about Pakistan, when the callout doesn't even mention Pakistan is a bit weird.
posted by ssg at 7:32 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


In colonial North America (which is to say, all of it), civilization is a verb. It's a colonial weapon used to strip native people of their culture and economy and turn them into pale (metaphorically speaking) imitations of the colonists. In this context, "uncivilized" is basically intended to mean, "not yet human." Compared to the colonists, the Natives' cultures were (are) ethical, peaceful, egalitarian, and sustainable. To people with an interest in colonialism, "civilized" can mean the exact opposite of what was intended by the OP.
posted by klanawa at 7:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


LAY OFF THE GOD DAMN WHISTLES PEOPLE my ears are killing me.

Completely off topic:

Growing up, I never understood why people called dog whistles "silent" I mean, sure, they aren't as loud as normal whistles, but they are clearly audible.

It was only in the last couple of years that I came to realize that most people can't hear frequencies over 15K Hz and for whatever reason, I still can without any kind of difficulty. (and really wish I couldn't sometimes. **grumble, grumble, CRT flyback, grumble, grumble**)

And it came as a huge revelation to me one day that something I've always taken for granted; that dog whistles are clearly audible, wasn't the conventional reality. For most people, it really is a silent thing.

I found this incredibly weird.

posted by quin at 8:10 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The term 'civilized' is often used as a colonialist/racist/classist dog whistle.

Not that I disagree with you, comrade, but I think you sort of need to contextualize your approach and think about who is talking and what they're trying to accomplish.

If I were to say something like that, sure I'd be all over that "up against the wall motherfuckers" implication and semiotic frisson.

I don't think that's what's going on here. Similarly to how we have two major senses of the idea of racism, one which holds within it an implicit power struggle where a white person can't, by definition, be racist against a black person in the US and one in which racism means prejudice/bigotry, plain and simple and anyone can be racist about anything to anyone.

Knowing your audience and understanding which sense they are likely using is key to having a fruitful conversation about anything. The bear baiting post [and thread] are really pretty sucky but I don't think it's for the reasons you outline.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reporter: What do you think of Western civilization?
Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2010


nestor_makhno, if you freak out like this every single time you hear or read the words civilized and uncivilized, your existence must be a dreary one. My sympathies.
posted by languagehat at 8:50 AM on September 17, 2010


I am changing my name to Masturbear!
posted by Mister_A at 9:12 AM on September 17, 2010



Some folks drive the bears out of the wilderness
Some to see a bear would pay a fee
Me I just bear up to my bewildered best
And some folks even see the bear in me

So meet a bear and take him out to lunch with you
And even though your friends may stop and stare
Just remember that's a bear there in the bunch with you
And they just don't come no better than a bear
posted by Skot at 9:41 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I find bear 'baiting uncivilized as well. I'm not trying to be all colonialist against bears, I would just prefer they be shocked and prodded into conformity with polite society.
posted by dgaicun at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2010


I thunk the fundamental metric for considering whether a country can be considered civilized is whether it endorses the use of torture.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of humans.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2010


I don't think this was the poster's intent but the post comes across as such.

If you don't think it was the poster's intent, then give them the benefit of the doubt next time. Assume the average person here has no intent to be racist when they're angry about the abuse of bears.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am still reading through all of the responses, but I realize now that I should have (maybe) framed my post differently. The poster is painting large groups of people as uncivilized because of what a very small minority of assholes do. This is bad framing for the post.


nestor_makhno, if you freak out like this every single time you hear or read the words civilized and uncivilized, your existence must be a dreary one. My sympathies.


I don't recall freaking out. There is some language and rhetorical techniques that I don't like. I guess that makes my existence dreary.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:03 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, I'm sure it's already been done to death, but my reading of the post is that, while it's illegal in the US and Pakistan, authorities turn a blind eye in Pakistan and in parts of the US, like South Carolina.
posted by Mister_A at 10:11 AM on September 17, 2010


I guess that makes my existence dreary.

Welcome to the club. Our meetings aren't much to write home about, but there are snacks!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:32 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but they're not very good snacks. I didn't even know they were still making Bugles.
posted by boo_radley at 12:05 PM on September 17, 2010


Well there was fruit cake that one time!
posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on September 17, 2010


Alright, I'll show up. But there better be some mini bagels.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:40 PM on September 17, 2010


I didn't even know they were still making Bugles.

Oddly enough, I just heard that they recently announced that they are no longer making bugles. Although since I don't like them and thought they were discontinued in the late '80s, I'm really nonplussed about the whole thing.
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:08 PM on September 17, 2010


I just heard that they recently announced that they are no longer making bugles.

Please say that is not true. They are still in stock at the store downstairs. The best way to eat them is with a dollop of almond bark and an M&M at Christmas time.
posted by soelo at 1:25 PM on September 17, 2010


Next you'll tell me that Funyuns are no more.
posted by micawber at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2010


Perhaps replace "uncivilized" with "inhumane"?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:42 PM on September 17, 2010


I'm so glad my name is connected to this.

just messing with you, nestor
posted by Navelgazer at 2:22 PM on September 17, 2010


over a hundred comments and nobody's said "support your right to arm bears'
posted by jfuller at 2:24 PM on September 17, 2010


No way! That would give them an unfair advantage against the teenage boys & their knives.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:34 PM on September 17, 2010


I'm thinking you mean North Korea.

North Carolina, South Carolina...why split hairs. :)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2010


Next you'll tell me that Funyuns are no more.

My life was pretty seriously disenrichened when Keebler quit making Lemon Coolers.

I can content myself with a bag of Donettes, but it's just not the same. Donettes are just a tiny bit dreary by the bottom of the bag.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:10 PM on September 17, 2010


I'm much too civilized to respond in this thread. Instead, I'll just leave a few small pox ridden blankets for you guys to use.
posted by geoff. at 3:47 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


CORRECTION: Apparently, Bugles have just been discontinued in Canada (however, my USian friends, they may be discontinued there soon if you don't start buying them by the pallet).
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:02 PM on September 17, 2010


Sorry This Guy. I grew up in SC and go back all the time to see my family still trapped there.

It is not a civilized place in any sense of the word. Nothing left but detritus on the interstate all balled up and seething. I think of going there as only nominally more safe than visiting Somalia.

There's a reason my mother carries concealed all the time.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read it as inflammatory because the person really loves bears, not because the person really hates the USA, and because they are frustrated and surprised to have discovered that there is a place in the USA where this is tolerated.

I bet some of those handlers really love bears too! They really love having something to cut the dogs loose on...
posted by BigSky at 5:56 PM on September 17, 2010


It was only in the last couple of years that I came to realize that most people can't hear frequencies over 15K Hz and for whatever reason, I still can without any kind of difficulty.

I was in a recording studio in about 1983, an the engineer was calibrating the tape deck, using test tones generated by the mixing console. He hit the 20K button while a bunch of us were standing around talking, and I winced, and covered my ears and shouted "OW!" Everyone just kinda looked at me, and after a second, the engineer realized what was going on and said "sorry, most people can't hear that -- let me take it out of the monitors."

I was only 20 or so then -- now at 47, I can still barely hear 16k, though not very well.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:02 PM on September 17, 2010


Strangely enough, it never occurred to me that the use of the term "civilized countries" (in which I intended to include both Pakistan and the USA) would be seen as inflammatory. I posed the FPP in that way because there are less "governed" nations where blood sports are neither exceptional nor illegal. As a couple of people surmised, I used the term to underscore the irony of bear baiting in a US state - where one would definitely not expect such blatant animal torture to be tolerated. One can understand the difficulty of policing this in Pakistan, where the activity is illegal but the population is dispersed. But not in South Carolina. My post was simply intended to raise the visibility of the issue, not to be inflammatory.
posted by Susurration at 9:31 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bugles and Mallomars are the Abe Vigoda of the junk food kingdom.
posted by dgaicun at 10:29 PM on September 17, 2010


I used to have hearing so sharp I could hear a gnat fart.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 PM on September 17, 2010


I am 30 and can hear just up to 17Khz. My mother cannot hear above 10khz and my sister and I were teasing her about it (she thought we were lying about the tone). I frequently can hear piercing sounds like tv screens and electricity in the walls. I often can't be around florescent lights (sensitive to their light and sound sometimes). But apparently I can't hear the low tones very well (60hz on one test and 150hz on another, assuming I'm doing it right). Hmm, might need to get that checked out, since I often have tinnitus.
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:02 AM on September 18, 2010


When I was a kid I vomited after eating Bugles, so they are on my shit list. Fuck you Bugles.
posted by cj_ at 3:02 AM on September 18, 2010


One can understand the difficulty of policing this in Pakistan, where the activity is illegal but the population is dispersed. But not in South Carolina.

Pakistan has four times the population density of SC, so this is a kind of weird thing to write.

In general, I don't think anyone is accusing you of intending to slam any specific countries for being uncivilized, but just to point out that the use of that term can be a bit loaded and that the phrasing of your FPP could be read in a way you didn't intend.
posted by ssg at 9:02 AM on September 18, 2010


When I was a kid I vomited after eating Bugles, so they are on my shit list.

Wrong list.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:47 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The bucket list, then?
posted by boo_radley at 7:15 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) I really don't see why Pakistan was a part of the original post, frankly.

2) I'm willing to bet that there are other countries where authorities turn a blind eye to bear baiting and similar activities, even though they are illegal.

3) The issues of police competence that Pakistan faces are much bigger than whether the rights of animals are being protected, frankly.

4) One can understand the difficulty of policing this in Pakistan, where the activity is illegal but the population is dispersed. But not in South Carolina.

Pakistan has four times the population density of SC, so this is a kind of weird thing to write.


Yes, but that's average population density over the whole country. Being densely populated overall doesn't mean that population is evenly distributed. And yes, I realize that this may be true of South Carolina, as well, but the areas in question are significantly different in size. And the variation of population density within Pakistan is so huge that it is a source of significant political grievance.
posted by bardophile at 5:50 AM on September 19, 2010


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