Tag Archive | Logic

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 5

So-called “bathroom bills” are getting passed by cities, counties, and states lately, and it feels as if most of the queer community isn’t noticing. A lot of them are still tied up in various state legislatures, and since some of the misleadingly-named religious liberty laws have been killed once big companies threatened to take their businesses out of said states, it’s possible that a lot of queer folks just assume the same thing is going to happen with them.

At least I hope that’s what’s happening. I hope that it’s merely a lot of folks still feeling giddy about the Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide thinking that the big battle is won and queer people are equal, now. We won one big battle, but there’s still a long way to go. I hope, I sincerely hope, that it is not true (as some fear) that a substantial portion of the queer population doesn’t think that trans issues matter.

Because we really do seem to be letting the haters say whatever lies they want about trans people, and a lot of the media just repeats that factually incorrect information as if it is true.

Over at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, Alvin Erwin has been beating the drum about our complacency: ‘Lgbts want to harm children’ – the lie the community won’t kill, and Mothers of the transgender community speak out against the hateto give a couple of examples. I’ve been beginning to think he’s right, that we’ve given up on the fight because we think marriage ended everything.

So I am really happy that one of the LGBTQ rights groups has finally started to push back: GLAAD releases new resource for journalists: Debunking the “bathroom bill” myth. This isn’t enough. This is only a first step. It’s going to take much more than making a single press kit available to hold off the attack.

Especially not when Conservative Trolls Have Been Suggesting Men Go into Women’s Restrooms to Help Legislators Discriminate Against Trans People. That’s right, as a few people have gotten the word out that there are states which have explicitly allowed trans people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity for upwards of ten years, and that there has never, ever been a single instance of someone trying to use that law to go into a restroom and rape someone, the paragons of virtue have decide to manufacture some fake instances.

And make no mistake: these bills aren’t just aimed at trans people. It’s an attempt to get a wedge in to find other ways to discriminate against queer people of all kinds. If they normalize the idea (once again) that simply making some conservative people feel uncomfortable is an adequate defense to criminalize a behavior, trans people in bathrooms aren’t where they’re going to stop. Holding hands with a same sex partner in a public place makes those same people uncomfortable, after all.


Previously:

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people.

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 2.

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 3.

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 4

Dumbest arguments against anti-discrimination laws, part 1.

Dumbest arguments against anti-discrimination laws, part 2.

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Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 4

I’ve written before about dumb arguments people make for why there shouldn’t be legal protections for transgender people. And here’s one I haven’t tackled:

The Bible says it’s a sin!

You might want to read the whole book before you make that claim:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
—Galatians 3:28

The usual Biblical arguments about transgenderism ignore this verse, or try to claim that it’s being metaphorical about how god judges people. And then they point to verses in the Bible about how god created each person, or the verses about women covering their hair and so on to infer a definitive statement from god. But they’re wrong, as I’ll explain below… Read More…

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 3

mediamatters.org

None of those bathroom or locker room horror stories have a basis in fact. (Click to embiggen)

Media Matters has a nice compilation of statements from law enforcement officials and other experts from the 12 states that have had laws protecting transgender people on the books for a while (some going back to 1993!) about whether or not all those predictioned sexual assaults in bathrooms and locker rooms have occurred. Shockingly, no such assault has occurred in any of those twelve states. Who would have thought?

Well, obviously, since I debunked those sorts of claims in not one but two previous posts, I think a lot of us thought exactly that.

In my previous postings about transgender rights laws in particular, and LGBT rights laws in general, one of the dumb arguments I didn’t cover has come up and contributed to the temporary suspension and threatened firing of a teacher just because she was transgender. The argument takes several forms, but they’re all basically the same objection.

So let’s take a look at it, shall we?
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Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 2

http://images.mikhaela.net/cgi-bin/showpic.cgi?picdir=toons&picname=stop.gif

Make it stop (mikhaela.net)

Continuing from earlier this week, the people who argue against anti-discrimination laws for transgender people make some incredibly nonsensical arguments. And the worst of these come up around the issue of transgender protection policies or laws in schools which include allowing transgender students at schools to use the restrooms and similar facilities according to their gender identity:

You’re worrying about the .00001 percent while forgetting about other students! Transphobic bully is not a big problem!

This argument is a favorite of bigots of all kinds: the group in question is such a small fraction of the population, that this isn’t really a problem. That isn’t how society makes a decision about whether or not the legal protections of society extend to them. For instance, no one is arguing that Jewish people don’t deserve the full protection of the law merely because they make up only 1.4% of the population. Similarly, the murder rate in the U.S. is only about 15 per 100,000, which translates to 0.015%. No one is arguing that we don’t need laws against murder anymore.

Before arguing that transgender protection is hardly the same thing as murder, you might want to google Transgender Day of Remembrance and read some stories of things that have happened to real trans people. Furthermore, things like the “safe schools for trans kids” policies mention restrooms and locker rooms precisely because it is around this issue more than anything else that harassment, bullying, and assault take place in schools. The policy is about allowing these kids to use the appropriate facilities without facing all of that. Yes, that means educating some kids that it isn’t acceptable to harass, tease, bully, or assault their trans classmates, but why would a just society allow one group of kids to harass, tease, bully, or assault another, period?

Which leads us to the other big flaw in this argument. This argument is a variant of the moldy old “more important things” argument. They are claiming that it isn’t possible to pursue the goal of allowing trans kids to be safe in schools without diverting valuable resources from other things. As if we won’t have the money to buy text books because allowing these kids to use the bathroom costs so much. But, allowing kids to go to one bathroom as opposed to the other doesn’t cost the school district extra. Dealing with kids bullying other kids is something we already expect schools to do, so again, this isn’t a new expense.

And contrary to what the organizations currently trying to repeal California’s law on this has been saying: there have been zero cases of transgender kids harassing the other kids in the bathroom. Furthermore, the physical genitalia of one kid in a bathroom stall has no effect, one way or the other, on any other kids in the same bathroom. Preventing a kid who claims to have a deep religious belief about another kid’s gender or sexuality from bullying that kid is not itself bullying.

It would make students uncomfortable by forcing them to be naked in front of someone that they might want to ask out!

In both the “news” videos where I saw a person make this argument, he said this about restrooms. And my first thought was, “who is forced to be naked in a restroom, and when is it in front of everyone?” I don’t know of anyone who has to get completely naked to use a restroom (although if you’re in a particularly complicated Halloween costume or similar, taking it completely off might be required, I don’t see that as a daily occurrence).

And if your sensibilities are so delicate that you don’t want anyone you don’t approve of possibly catching a glimpse at the urinal, you probably have a lot more to worry about from the closeted gay and bi guys around you (and there are a whole lot more than you think), than any transgender people.

I suspect that even though the spokesman used this example twice in referring to restrooms, that he actually was thinking of locker rooms. Using a locker room usually involves being seen naked by other people using the locker room. It’s quite difficult to change from street clothes to a basketball uniform, for instance, and then afterward change out of the uniform, take a shower, and then put your street clothes on without getting naked and being seen naked.

And since gym class is often mandatory, an argument can be made that one is forced to be naked in front of people in that circumstance.

But here’s the thing. The people most likely to be upset about this are religious conservatives. And the thing I’ve always wondered about particularly the ones who claim to take the bible literally is: why are you willing to be naked at all? Think about it, in the story of Adam and Eve, after they eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, what does it say? It says that they realized that they were naked, and that it was wrong to be naked, so they fashioned clothing from fig leaves to cover themselves. That is how god knows they’ve eaten the fruit, according to the story. Not because he was omniscient, but rather because they were hiding from him and had covered their nakedness.

Now think about that for a minute. The Bible doesn’t say, “they suddenly realized that they could see each other naked.” It says they realized they were naked. And not only did the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil tell them that being naked is a sin, but it revealed to them that allowing god to see you naked is a sin! The people up in arms about restroom and locker room policies should not be worrying about one transgender classmate seeing them naked, they should be upset about the fact that anyone at all can see them naked, and especially that god is seeing them naked!

And don’t tell me that what the story really means is that boys are allowed to see boys naked and girls are allowed to see girls naked and that hiding from god was an overreaction and that god not knowing until they came out of hiding was just a metaphor. If you’ve ever claimed to take the bible literally, then you need to take all of it literally and are not allowed to say the things you don’t want to worry about are metaphors, while the things I don’t want to worry about are horrible abominations that will spell the destruction of this country.

But I digress. Again, if the issue is worrying about people lusting after your naked body in the locker room, there’s a few things you really need to know. Regardless of which estimate of the percentage of the population which you believe to be gay is (and it’s definitely not zero), there are going to be at least a few gay people in that locker room. And a lot more bisexual people. And I mean a whole lot more.

In the 1990s the CDC did a bunch of studies about sexual activity to try to better predict how new sexually transmitted diseases would spread. In addition to concluding that “Americans would rather admit to being heroin addicts than bisexual” the study found that about 45% of the population engaged in bisexual activities for a significant number of years during their adult life. Please look at that number again: 45%.

Now, add whichever of the statistics you believe represent the percentage of gay people (I happen to think, for complicated mathematical reasons I won’t bore you with now, that the actual number is between 5% and 6%, less than the oft-quoted 10%, but significantly more than the low ball numbers it has become fashionable to toss around), and you’re in the neighborhood of half. So, any time you’re naked in front of a crowd that consists only of people of your gender, close to half of them are in the pool of people who might be attracted to you.

But the stated argument isn’t about the desires of the people looking at you. That’s part of what makes this argument so very intriguing: “naked in front of someone they might want to ask out on a date.”

Seriously?

Now, seriously, I want you to picture the kind of teenager who is most likely to be uncomfortable sharing a locker room with a transgender student. Is that kid really interested in dating a transgender classmate? Maybe my sample size is skewed, but all of the trans people that I have known before and after transitioning were gender non-conforming to an extent long before they started talking publicly of transitioning. I don’t mean that they were dressing like members of the other gender, I mean they had certain personality characteristics and mannerisms. People often assumed they were gay or lesbian.

So I just don’t see it. It doesn’t seem as if it ought to be a common occurrence. Is the guy projecting, here? Is perhaps this spokesman himself attract only to women who are masculine? Is he hot for a transman? Or is he just completely clueless.

Given all the research that shows that the most phobic acting people are also the ones who are most strongly aroused by the very thing they’re always hating on… maybe a bit of all three, you think?

(To be continued…)

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people

Woman looking into another stall in a bathroom, just in case.

Keeping one’s priorities “straight.”

A couple weeks ago I started writing about the Dumbest Arguments Against Anti-Disrimination Laws. It took me no time to reel off a longer blog post than usual, and I hadn’t covered everything, so I ended that one with a “To be continued…” then wrote part 2 to post the next day. Even then I wasn’t quite finished, because there is an even more dreadful level of stupidity achieved by people arguing against transgender anti-discrimination laws.

So, let’s dive in…

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Why do we need exemptions, exactly?

Boys painting homophobic slurs, but it's okay because it's their religion.

Religion excuses everything (http://brucegarrett.com)

So, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but everyone is certain that the Republican leadership in the House won’t let it come up for a vote.

And, actually, that’s a good thing. Because the Senate added more religious exemptions to this version of ENDA than it has had for the nineteen years it has been kicking around in the Congress. The religious exemptions it had were different than the religious exemptions granted to any other federal legislation, and they were crazy then. The additional ones essentially gut the law…

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Dumbest arguments against anti-discrimination laws, part 2

Political cartoon about a distinction without a difference.

I’ve always loved this D.C. Simpson cartoon.

Continuing from yesterday, there are some really ridiculous arguments people assert against anti-discrimination laws. The ones that annoy me the most are those put forward by people who claim that they don’t believe in discrimination, and support fair and equal treatment for everyone, it’s just that…

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That isn’t what discrimination means

One of my math professors began one of our classes with a lament about the loss of the word “discriminate.” She didn’t have a problem with any of the various movements to stop discrimination, of course. Having been a woman pursuing a career in science from the 1940s on, she had experienced her fair share of gender-based discrimination.

Discrimination ultimately means to perceive or distinguish the differences between things. “It’s unfair discrimination that’s the problem,” she said. “Someone’s race or gender has no bearing on how qualified someone is for a particular job. It’s perfectly legitimate to fire someone for incompetence, or for stealing on the job. In those cases you’re distinguishing between good employees and bad.”

While dictionaries still list the “distinguish between” definitions, in most modern discourse, people almost always use it to mean “an unjust or prejudicial distinction.”

When the largest ex-gay organization out there, Exodus International, disbanded recently, several of the smaller groups went into a bit of a panic. The spokesman for on the International Healing Foundation, Christopher Doyle, was right at the forefront. And then he announced that his organization, in concert with groups like the Family Research Council, was going to sponsor Ex-gay Pride in July, as a “balance” against Gay Pride. He even announced a banquet and reception at FRC’s headquarters, and so forth.

Except none of the more generic anti-gay groups he named would confirm they were attending the banquet. FRC wouldn’t even confirm that such an event was happening in their building! Next thing you know, they announced that they were re-scheduling it, claiming that they’re received death threats. Except, of course, they wouldn’t provide proof of the threats, nor could any news organization get any spokesperson from the other groups to confirm that they have planned to participate.

Doyle won’t be deterred, though. In radio interviews he repeated the charge of threats and talked a lot about how oppressed and discriminated ex-gays are.

“We want federal protection just as gays are given. Ex-gays also need to be given protection.” —Christopher Doyle, International Healing Foundation

There are several problems with that. First, gay people aren’t explicitly given any federal protections. None. Zero. Zip. The two big Supreme Court rulings that all the anti-gay organizations point to in this regard don’t extend anti-discrimination protection to people based on sexual orientation.

  • Lawrence v. Texas: struck down sodomy laws in 2003. The Court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct between adults was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling invalidated sodomy laws regardless of the gender. Most of the sodomy laws in question in theory could have been applied to opposite sex partners (remember that the original definition of sodomy is any sexual act that can’t result in pregnancy, it doesn’t just refer to anal sex between men, contrary to popular belief), though in practice they were almost never used against straight couples.
  • United States v. Windsor: struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act. The court ruled that if a state recognizes a marriage, then the federal government must also recognize the marriage. The ruling skirted around the issue of defining exactly what level of scrutiny should apply to cases of applying rights based on sexual orientation, though it implied a level greater than the lowest level, rational basis.

Neither ruling created any federal protection against discrimination. In fact, the second ruling was written in such a way as to completely sidestep the question of whether gay rights rise to the level of a constitutional right requiring strict judicial scrutiny.

Even their decision that effectively restored marriage equality in California didn’t create any federal protection. The ruling was specifically that the anti-gay groups didn’t have standing to appeal a lower court ruling.

The second problem with Doyle’s plea is what do they need protection from? As several people have pointed out, if what they say about their therapy is true, than an ex-gay is merely a straight person. So who is discriminating against them? No one is beating them or shooting them for holding hands in public with an opposite-sex person. No one is prohibiting them from marrying an opposite-sex person. No one is denying them any legal rights at all.

When confronted with these arguments, Doyle says that ex-gays are harassed by gay people. “There are tens of thousands of ex-gays out there, but they are afraid to go public because they are harassed, and threatened, and called liars.”

Here’s the thing. Every time that an ex-gay therapist or organization has been put under oath in a court of law, they have had to admit that they don’t cure gay people. Ever. For a while they claimed a 15% success rate (which seems dismal by any standard), until they had to defend the methodology in a court of law, at which point it was learned that the one study they pointed to was of 73 patients who enrolled in the same year with one ex-gay organization. They only got the 15% rate by excluding 98 other enrollees who dropped out before completing therapy, and by defining success as “the person reports that they feel their same-sex attraction is less than it used to be.”

More recently, they admitted their success rate was less than 0.1 percent. That means that 99.9% of people who try therapy, or pray-away-the-gay programs, et cetera, are unable to change from being gay. And even then, success is defined as refraining from same-sex sexual activity, not actually ceasing to be attracted to members of the same sex.

One of the former leaders of a couple of these groups published a book chronicling a couple of case studies of young men he treated from adolescence into adulthood. The book concluded by declaring great victory in one case, naming the boy as proof that god and therapy could cure homosexuality. The problem was that the young man in question had committed suicide, six years before the doctor published the book. The young man’s suicide note indicated that all the years of therapy (including aversion therapy, drugs to deaden his libido, et cetera) and praying hadn’t changed how he felt. And he would rather die than face rejection from his family.

Hardly a success.

Just google ex-gay and see how many news stories pop up of “famous” ex-gays who have been caught trying to hook up for sex in gay bars, or using hook-up apps, or hiring young male prostitutes to accompany them on overseas lecture tours. You’ll also find stories of once prominent ex-gays having quietly left the movement and taken up with a same-sex partner.

Even a superficial attempt to research this topic will make it clear that the only living ex-gay they can name are people who now make their living entirely by peddling ex-gay therapy or working for things like anti-gay political action committees.

When you make your living selling a therapy that has been proven not to work, when you prey upon people who fear rejection from their families and communities by promising a cure that has been proven not to work, when you sell people $300+ “introductory kits” and charge them exorbitant fees for therapy sessions that have been proven not to work, you are lying.

That makes you a liar.

Pointing out the fact that you are a liar when it has been demonstrated again and again and again that you are lying is not subjecting you to unjust or prejudicial discrimination. It’s an accurate description.

If we go further and point to people like that one young man who committed suicide (and there are far, far more than just him) as a result of your failed therapy, that isn’t unjust or prejudicial, either. That’s called holding you accountable.

After canceling Ex-gay Pride, Doyle announced an Ex-gay Rights Rally in Washington, D.C. He did the arch-conservative radio circuit confidently predicting that thousands of ex-gays would show up to demand their rights.

Three people with signs, two speakers, and a podium

Speakers at the big Ex-gay Rights Rally earlier this week. (Click to embiggen)

They came up a little short.

And to be clear, this isn’t a picture taken from in front of an enormous crowd of the oppressed masses of ex-gay people. There was no crowd. At all.

Afterwards, Doyle admitted that only nine ex-gays attended, but he declared it a success, because those nine people overcame great fear of discrimination to bravely show their faces. He failed to mention that he was including himself and eight other employees of ex-gay ministries in that count.

Eight people behind the podium, only reporters and camera men in front.

They didn’t just outnumber the crowd, there was no crowd. (Click to embiggen)

In the second picture I’ve included, everyone you see in that wide shot is an employee of one of the ex-gay groups, or someone there covering the “news” event. And please note, the camera crew was hired by one of the ex-gay groups hosting the event. Even Fox News couldn’t bother to send a camera man, they later ran the video shot by the organizers. The Wonkette news blog went so far as to issue an apology for its earlier story about the announcement which had predicted “maybe tens or even dozens” of attendees.

Just as accurately being described isn’t discrimination, trying to appear relevant so donations will keep coming in isn’t fighting discrimination.

It’s just pathetic.

Future events such as these

iPad connected to TV to show facetime on large screen.

Jared attending an editorial meeting via FaceTime. (Click to embiggen)

I like living in the future.

We had an editorial board meeting last night, and it being busy, crazy summertime, we almost didn’t have quorum. Fortunately, Jared was able to join us via FaceTime. We’ve done it a couple of times before, propping up my iPad so the person could see most of us. Chuck thought we should do it on the big screen, and I almost never hook the iPad up to the TV, so we did.

Now the future hasn’t quite turned out as we were promised. If I mention “flying cars” certain people will snarkily repeat a meme that’s been going around lately. The first variant I saw was, “Unless you’re 60 or older, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia.”

That’s simply wrong, on many, many levels. The “we were promised {fill in the blank} in the future!” is a reference to things we learned during our childhood from popular culture about what the future would be like. The first appearance of cyberpunk, in any way, shape, or form, was the 1980 novel Web of Angels, by John M. Ford. Therefore, a person who is 59 now, would have been 26 years old when the first hint of a cyberpunk dystopia could have appeared in any popular culture. Twenty-six is not childhood.

The Jetsons, broadcast Sunday nights from 1962-63, reruns Saturday mornings from 1964-73.

The Jetsons, broadcast Sunday nights from 1962-63, reruns Saturday mornings from 1964-73.

I’m still a half-dozen years below 59, and I can assure you that my childhood pop culture did, indeed, promise me flying cars.

The Jetsons was the first show to be broadcast in color on ABC-TV. A cartoon set 100 years in the future, the show ran during primetime beginning in 1962. That’s right, it was not meant to be a children’s show. After it complete its primetime run, the existing episodes were re-run as a Saturday morning cartoon for nearly 10 years. The screen shot is a frame from the opening seconds of the opening theme song of the show. Right there, flying cars. The show depicted a fairly utopian future, with robot maids, devices that could create an entire new outfit, on your body, in seconds, and so forth.

If your childhood included any of the years from 1962-1974, you were, indeed promised flying cars. If we assume one needs to be a minimum of four years old to recall a television series, that means anyone 43 or older can legitimately claim that The Jetsons, at least, promised them a utopian flying cars future.

Jonny Quest floats in midair wearing a jet backpack.

Jonny Quest flying in a jet pack (some of his villains had flying cars).

That time period also included the iconic TV series Lost in Space, the original Star Trek, and Johnny Quest. Not to mention such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey. They didn’t all have flying cars (some had transporters—even better!), but their futures are each the opposite of an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia.

But let’s loop back to that first cyberpunk book. How many people who know what cyberpunk is have even heard of Web of Angels? Most people think of cyberpunk as beginning with either Blade Runner (1982) or Neuromancer (1984). And while Blade Runner is the greatest movie ever made, bar none, the sad truth is it didn’t do well in theaters the first time, and didn’t start developing a cult following until it started appearing on cable in late 1983. So I’m going to say that the beginning of the switch-over to cyberpunk dystopias becoming dominant in pop culture was 1984.

That means 1983 is the last year in which the flying car utopia was promised as a future to kids, so anyone who was at least four in 1983 would be the actual cut-off age, rather than 60, so that means the meme should state: “Unless you’re 34 or older, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia.”

Movie poster from 1985's Back to the Future.

Marty McFly, trying to get back to the future…

But wait! That calculation assumes a very simple binary situation. Cyberpunk dystopias became one possible future in 1984, but it wasn’t the only one. Because in 1985 we got Back to the Future! While the movie primarily follows the adventures of our young hero, Marty McFly, trapped in the 1950s in a time traveling car, trying not to screw up his own future before getting back to his own time. At the end of the movie, Doc Brown goes 30 years into the future, and then comes back, showing off a much upgraded version of the time-traveling car. So, as my friend, Matt, pointed out, if your formative years include Back to the Future, then not only were you promised flying cars, you were promised time-traveling fusion-powered flying cars fueled by household garbage!

So, no, we were promised flying cars!


I’ve had more than one person bring up the fact that Blade Runner had flying cars. I know that. When I said that Blade Runner was the greatest movie ever? Implicit in that statement is the fact that I owned several different cuts on VHS back in the day, and I watched at least two of the tapes so many times that they wore out. I am well aware of the flying cars in Blade Runner. But as I explained on Twitter, the invalidity of the assertion of a dichotomy between flying cars and cyberpunk dystopias is worthy of a posting of its own.

Sentences that fill me with dread, part 2

“Oh! You work with computers?” or “You know about computers, right?”

In many ways this has gotten worse as computers become more ubiquitous.

The person most likely to ask this question is someone for whom computers are little more than magic totems. They don’t understand them. To the extent they use them, it is like a ritual. The only way they know how to do anything is to try to repeat the exact steps they have done before. If the machine reacts in a different way than it did before, they don’t stop to try to figure out what they did wrong, they just try to find a way to perform the next step in the ritual.

So they will click Okay or Continue or “that little X in the corner that makes things go away” without reading the message, and keep clicking hoping to see the thing they were expecting to see. And thus install all sorts of malware and bloatware and other things that eventually make their computer unusable.

That’s if they have a computer and programs that they have been using.

Worse are the ones (such as the last person who spoke the dreaded sentence to me) who have bought a computer “because they found a good deal” or took a hand-me-down from a friend of a friend, and now they want just a “little” help to set it up.

The particular person who most recently did this is a musician who is a new neighbor. She stopped me as I was walking past her place and asked the dreaded question. She explained that she had become very intrigued at things that another musician she met was doing in GarageBand on his iPad. He had explained that he had “the same program” on his computer, where he could do a lot more.

So she had bought a computer at a yard sale, and wanted me to show her how to put Garage Band on it so she could do the things he did.

As you have probably guessed, if you know anything about computers yourself, the machine she’d picked up at the yard sale was a really, really old PC. Probably not even one capable of running Windows. This thing was a brand I haven’t seen in decades. It probably was manufactured in 1989 or 1990, I don’t know if it would actually turn on (I didn’t let her get me past the stage where she was pointing to it through the window where it was piled up on a table).

I told her that any computer that old was either dead, or nearly so. That it would be nearly impossible to find software that would run on it. That GarageBand runs on Macs and iPads, only. It doesn’t run on Windows, and it certainly won’t run on DOS.

“But he told me I didn’t need a fancy computer…”

I tried to explain that she could pick up inexpensive used iMacs at several places that would run GarageBand. “But it needs to be a computer no more than five or six years old.”

She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t go into her house to look at the computer she had “just to be sure.” It didn’t have to be GarageBand, she could probably find some other music software, she said.

I tried to explain again that electronics that old fail, and because they’re so old, no one makes the parts any more. Also, none of the inputs will match any modern microphones or other accessories she would need for recording her music. And most importantly, the only software it could run (if all its parts were still working) was very old stuff that would have been sold, back in the day, on floppy disks. “Twenty-five year old floppy disks don’t work. The magnetic particles flake off. The plastic disk part loses its flexibility and even cracks and breaks.”

“I don’t mind a few cracks…”

I thought I was going to scream.

And it’s not just people buying really old (ancient) computers.

My husband works at a place that refurbishes and resells oldish computers. He frequently tells stories of people that buy a computer, then bring it back (sometimes months after the warranty period) complaining about problems that are always user error. Or trying to install something that it isn’t intended to run.

My friend, Mark, told the story of a co-worker who kept complaining about her iPod, that it wouldn’t take music from the Apple store, it couldn’t sync with iTunes, and it wouldn’t work with any iPod accessories she picked up. When he got tired of hearing her complain and offered to take a look, the first thing he said was, “That’s not an iPod.”

It was some very cheap, no-name music player. And no matter how he tried to explain it, she didn’t understand how he could claim it wasn’t an iPod. And when she was willing to admit that maybe it wasn’t an actual Apple-manufactured iPod, she still didn’t understand why it wouldn’t work with iPod things.

I suggested he should have told her that it was like this: a horse and buggy can get you from place to place on public roads not unlike a car, but if you try to pour gasoline down the horse’s throat, you’re going to regret it.

I don’t know if he ever got to use that analogy.

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