Quantifying the incidence of gratuitous snarl and fear/pity language on Butterflies & Wheels
Dr. Franc Hoggle
Department of Gyno-Podiatry, Universidad El Toro Caca Grande
La Habana Vieja, Cuba 10100
-= ABSTRACT =-
Westernised professional wailing (唱板板, or “singing the banban”1) as a career and lifestyle choice is one of the most challenging, yet least known, branches of the classical performing arts. It distinguishes itself from its eastern roots – that of professional mourners hired for funerals as public showing of the social status of the deceased – by being far more entrepre’neurial and a business model in its own right. It is a complex, multidisciplinary form of expression that distills the finer subtleties from Munchausen Syndrome and certain aspects of HPD into its own unique brand psychodramatic theatre. Notable laureates of this school have been Glenn Beck, Anita Bryant, Joseph McCarthy, Jenny McCarthy (no relation), Catharine MacKinnon and Fred Phelps – those that have taken the mundane, the nonsensical and the nonexistant and, through applied hyperbole, hysteria and robotic repetition of fear-mongering and artificial “us and them” division, have escalated non-problems to the status of cancers that threaten to undermine society itself, thus ensnaring and captivating an audience of the feeble and the powerless that are incapable of articulating their bottled up angst unassisted. As with all styles of thespian expression, language is the primary tool and here the language of demonisation and persecution is the key to establishing a stage presence and an unforgettable persona in the eyes of the target audience. Yet this language is too seldom analysed, let alone quantified. This paper attempts to enumerate the frequency with which the language of demonisation and persecution occurs in one particular contemporary ideological ghetto – that of the collective that has formed around freefromthoughtblogs, Skepchick and it’s mutant offspring Atheism+.
© 2112 UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
-= INTRODUCTION =-
“Ah well now that really is blunt. Thank you. Now we know where we are. If you “can’t handle” being called a fucking cunt, then stop writing.
“Those are our choices. Be called a fucking cunt, and ugly, old, fat; be photoshopped; be misrepresented and lied about; be relentlessly harassed via Twitter and trolling; or stop writing.”2
“Yes Malala may be doing better, but gurlz still must not be allowed to go to school in Pakistan. Everyone knows the whorey little sluts only want to go to school so that they can fuck all the boys there. Bitches.”3
The above examples can be taken as typical professional wailer polemic and clearly highlight the binary extremes of the passive/aggressive nature of the theatre. They exhibit both of the most common modes of operation –
- The passive component (example one) focuses largely on appeal to pity and appeal to fear in order to frame the wailer as the undeserving victim held under siege by faceless antagonists who’s motives are generalised and who’s attacks are “unwarranted”.
- The aggressive component (example two) focuses largely on the demonisation of these antagonists (or the other) in order to frame their “unwarranted” attacks as indicative of personality types that are maniacal, evil and somewhat less than human. This is achieved primarily by the wailer hypothetically placing words in their mouths and asserting that these words are consistently what the antagonists use to persecute the wailer.
As stated in the abstract, language is the primary tool in professional wailer theater, yet to date no actual formal studies of language use have been conducted beyond a brief examination of usage of the word cunt which indicated that professional wailers propensity for usage of the word far exceeded the actual use of the word by those targeted as antagonists and accused of using the term in allegedly abusive ways4. This preliminary study utilised Google and search operators limiting the search to a specific site5. While useful for getting an estimate of relevant document count this method does not provide any accurate way to enumerate actual language incidence, so an altogether different approach was required.
The present study has attempted enumerate professional wailer language using far more systematic and accurate procedures. The new approach entailed capturing a complete snapshot of the site selected for the study and then subjecting the captured data to intensive search using proven regular expression pattern matching utilities. For the purposes of this study, professional wailer theatrical language shall be classified into two groups – fear/pity words (for the passive components) and snarl words (for the aggressive components).
As this was a prototype study of it’s kind, the scope was limited by time and resource constraints. While it would have been desirable to focus the study on the collected babblings of Rebecca Watson and Skepchick, these limitations proved such a study unfeasible. A smaller target was instead selected using the following criteria –
- prolific output of unique articles
- relative brevity of produced articles
- visibly high levels fear/pity/snarl language use
- maximum polarity between passive/aggressive phases
- complete artistic license and contempt for conventional reality
- having a mouth like an eastern European immigrant meat packer
After extensive community consultation, an ideal candidate that matched these criteria was agreed to be the Butterflies & Wheels blog by serial award winning professional wailer Ophelia Benson.
-= METHODS AND MATERIALS =-
The study parameters, methodology and tools were as follows –
Language to be enumerated –
For this study, the professional wailer argot to be analysed was delimited as follows –
Snarl words – cunt, slut, bitch, whore
Fear/pity words – abuse, harass, misogyny, MRA(see notes), oppress, patriarchy, privilege, rape, sexism, violence
All common variants of the terms were included, e.g. rape included rapist, raping; harass included harassing, harrassment etc. However, the study did not take into account any functional illiteracy, endemic to the B&W commentariat, which could potentially increase results in some categories substantially due to spell-check free keyboard slapping6.
Site imaging –
Site data was captured using WebHTTrack –
Individual monthly archives were captured from September 2011 (the first complete month of B&W at freefromthought blogs) to October 2012. The archive capture was modified for efficiency to exclude file attachments, 3rd party links and omission of files in the interface as follows –
-*.png -*.gif -*.jpg -*.css -*.js -ad.doubleclick.net/*
Data enumeration –
The captured archives were then enumerated using the stone age Unix grep utility –
grep -o -i -r 'search term' /directorypath/ | wc -l
to return only a word count of targeted terms7.
Data scrubbing –
Manual examination of returned data indicated a high probability of duplicate search hits poisoning the results. This in fact proved to be the case on inspection of the directory contents of the B&W site image. Even with the filtered image capture in place, some 40,000 files were pulled down of which 90%+ proved to be irrelevant data; tracking information, RSS data, copies of revision histories and a plethora of internal WordPress plugin and management files. The following content was purged prior to repeating the enumeration process –
- /feed/ – RSS feed files
- /http__/ – WordPress internal and plugin components
- /trackback/ – external links and pingbacks
- files less than 2 kilobytes in size – miscellaneous junk
- index####.html – uniquely numbered copies of post revisions
Removal of these files reduced the file count to more closely match total post number.
Data analysis –
Grep output was collated and categorised as follows –
- Individual term count per month
- All term total count per month
- Individual term count per day
- All term total count per day
- Individual term count per post
- All term total count per post
- Rudimentary linear regressions of cumulative totals
-= RESULTS =-
As mentioned previously, typographical errors and general B&W reader illiteracy were beyond the scope of this study. In some instances, these factors can inflate results by 5% and beyond6. Results as reported are based on accepted dictionary spelling of terms only.
The summary of the enumerated data captured from Butterflies & Wheels for the period ranging from September 2012 to October 2012 is as follows –
Results in detail –
Enumeration of snarl word frequency
Results of word counts on a per month basis for the snarl word terms cunt, slut, bitch, whore –
Enumeration of fear/pity word frequency
Results of word counts on a per month basis for the snarl word terms abuse, harass, misogyny, MRA, oppress, patriarchy, privilege, rape, sexism, violence –
Interpolation of word frequency growth trends
Calculating a simple linear regression from total snarl word incidence per day and per post –
Calculating a simple linear regression from total fear/pity word incidence per day and per post –
Itemised monthly word count graphs can be viewed on this supplemental page –
-= DISCUSSION =-
One of the most common of professional wailer pity plays is the assertion that critics unfairly malign them as being barking mad, howling at the moon catastrophist hysterics misrepresenting banal, puritanical minutiae and inflating them to the point of global calamity. That they deliberately exaggerate and fear-monger that which exists only in their imagination with intentionally sinister language to maximise anxiety and dread in an uncritical, fearful and superstitious target demographic. This study has done nothing to dispel these “outsider” preconceptions that the professional wailers claim to be unjustified. This study has in fact indicated that these “outsider” preconceptions may be understated.
Let us begin with the that most transcendant of professional wailer snarl words, that ultimate taboo word of pudgy, pink, middle class north American pseudo-liberals, cunt8. This term is a perennial favourite amongst the professional wailer classes of freefromthoughtblogs, Skepchick and Atheism+, and the extremes to which they will go to concoct and exploit outrage can be seen in these examples –
- Cunt kick – also known as Ophelia’s Calvary. Never once linked to primary sources or quoted accurately in its entirety, it nevertheless has achieved internet meme status through gratuitous repetition, managing to cross-infect even supposedly rational and objective observers such as Jean Kazez who have also mindlessly repeated it without making any kind of effort to cite its original form nor investigate its origins – and who really should know better than to naively parrot chinese whispers as tacit truths.
- “Women who don’t amuse Penn Jillette are cunts”9 – an extraordinary leap of faith from another professional wailer virtuoso, Jen “BlagHag” McCreight, who took a couple of off-the-cuff comments from Penn Jillette about a specific comedienne and journalist and generalised it to imply Jillette was referring to all women that don’t satisfy his minimum requirements (including, presumably, herself) and spawned 100’s of monkey-see-monkey-do “let’s lynch Penn” blog posts and and accompanying twitter storm.
These examples are notable not for their selective, creationist like, quote-mining abuse, context stripping and misrepresentation (which after all are accepted tools of the professional wailer’s trade), but for the manner in which they were obtained. The former was fished out of a 5000 long comment thread on the original Slimepit10; the latter from a private conversation Jillette had with a friend on his own “friend only” visible Facebook comment wall. These are the desperate lengths that the professional wailers will resort to to provide fresh fuel for the eternally burning fear and outrage pyres.
Returning to the study conducted here on Butterflies & Wheels – what was determined after sifting through the content of the data was that Ophelia Benson and her readership average 2 “cunt” out bursts per day. What needs to be borne in mind is that this is a sustained average over a period of 14 months – each and every day, no weekends or holidays – with occasional peaks where up to 60 outbursts were made on a given day.
Tallying the combined snarl word (cunt, slut, bitch, whore) output over the same period we find 2329 instances – or 166 instances per month and 5.5 per day average (table 4). This snarl language really has little purpose – it is gratuitous as opposed to complementary or relevant to any points being raised, if any are raised at all – and exists only to be placed hypothetically in, usually unspecified, critics mouths by B&W for no other purpose than demonisation and personal threat inflation.
What is also evident is that if any time is spent perusing the writing of the various implied targets of the demonisation, none can come even close to the gratuitous snarl word levels exhibited by B&W. The snarl language is sparser and usually has relevance to the actual discussion. There is little similarity to the hypothetical “quotes” B&W accuse the authors of. Further, this author has been unable to find any instances of slut and whore snarl words being used by critics in the context implied by B&W – that of degrading a female by implying sexual “immorality” and lasciviousness – but only in the gender neutral context of the amorality of those that compromise their personal principles expediently for petty, short-term personal gains. The latter definition is in fact entirely appropriate in describing much of the membership of FfTB, skepchick and Atheism+.
A final note on the use of snarl language. Whilst it is almost exclusively used as the language of the 3rd person (implying that target X is actually stating victim Y is a “cunt, slut, bitch, whore”), it virtually never cites complete quotes with unmodified context nor link directly to source material. This practice is a deliberate one – it plants the seed for a chinese whisper which is then encouraged to propagate in order to engineer a tacit truth out of unsubstantiated hearsay.
The second category of terms, the fear/pity word group, was only included as an afterthought with study “scope creep” – that considering the effort expended in obtaining the data set, the opportunity for further investigation was justied. The results were, in a word, staggering – easily overshadowing those found for snarl words by well over an order of magnitude – a phenomenal 47,561 unique instances over the same period; a factor of around 20:1 (table 1).
The fear/pity words selected for study (abuse, sexism, MRA, misogyny, patriarchy, rape, harass, violence, privilege, oppression) contrast the aggressive, accusatory snarl words by being essentially passive and submissive – focused entirely on internalised feelings of helplessness, persecution, victimhood, paranoia, self-pity, unfairness, cruelty and, most importantly, fear.
Whilst it was anticipated that fear/pity language use would far exceed snarl language use – purely on the basis of there being only so many permutations of snarl word use in the vulgar, abusive form favoured by B&W – it was never anticipated that it would exceed it by a factor of 20. This observation is quite enlightening – most casual readers perusing B&W casually are immediately struck by the incidence of snarl word usage and the hostility with which it is hurled at critics, questioners and anyone considered “not of the faith” in general, so much so that while they do notice the high incidence of fear/pity language, the latter is relegated to a lesser consideration than that of snarl language.
This premise, as can be seen from the data, is overwhelmingly false. Whilst these coprolalia like out outbursts from Benson and her readership are predominantly what they are known for, and are a source of great mirth for the greater community, they distract from the conclusion presented by the data – that B&W exists primarily as a sealed and gated community where professional wailers and their proteges can indulge in gratuitous displays of self-pity and self-terrorisation by means of largely imagined and hyperbolised external evils that justify the excesses of the self-pity.
It is quite disorientating trying to digest these figures. Not a day passes without on average 110 new instances of fear/pity language being presented on B&W (table 3) – with around 11 mentions of rape; 20 of abuse; 17 of both sexism and mis0gyny (table 5) and more. A further series of terms was also briefly scrutinised, though not in the same monthly detail (table 6), and the daily average blows out10 to over 200.
Freethoughtblogs, the host of Benson and B&W, promotes itself as a portal devoted to secularism and reason. If only that were true. Benson also advertises her product12 as –
Butterflies and Wheels was established in 2002 and has (not surprisingly) evolved since then. At the beginning it focused mainly on various kinds of pseudoscience and epistemic relativism, aka postmodernism. The latter prompted an increasing focus on moral or cultural relativism and a defense of universalism and human rights. This in turn led to concern with the chief opponent of universalism and human rights, which is religion. This then led to interest in the backlash against overt atheism.
Again, if only that were true. The overwhelming impression one gets reviewing the data is that one has stumbled into some doomsday cult’s cloister – a Heaven’s Gate, or the People’s Temple, or the Branch Davidians – complete with a preacher demagogues and a fearful, straw clutching, unquestioningly believing flock. They rail against the evils that lie beyond the gates of their sanctum sanctorum that will surely devour them all should they ever lapse in their vigilance. And the best way to maintain eternal vigilance is a steady diet of fear coupled with rigid suppression of any contradictory teachings. There is a list of prohibited sites that may cause faith to waver, much like the Catholic Synod’s list of prohibited books, and conversely, there is also a list of that which is blessed13 . There is no reason to be found here, nor any constructive secular activism or education. Atheism? Apart from token lip service and contempt for those that refuse to inject it with “social justice”, very little. There isn’t any time for any of this – not if one is to satisfy the fear and loathing quotas.
If only B&W was a parody site. But it’s not. And Ophelia is just a dumb, numb, hysterical cunt. End of dissertation.
-= NOTES =-
On MRAs – most people’s first two experiences on first attempting to engage the professional wailer hordes that are the subject of this study (assuming they do not simply roll over in submission and begin mindlessly reciting approved dogma) is –
- getting accused of being an MRA, and
- wondering what the hell an “MRA” is
The odd reality is that nobody ever seems to know what an “MRA” is until they are accused of being one, and then it is not always easy to find out. “MRA” stands for Mens’ Rights Activist or Advocate (no one seems to be sure). It is also apparently the worst insult on earth, and claiming that men have rights too is in the same ballpark of disgustingness as child molestation (as any professional wailer will not hesitate to inform you).
Methods and procedures – presented in an overly detailed and dumbed down manner. This is deliberate – it’s so anyone can replicate this study, or better yet, use the same approach to dissect the gibberings of their own favourite FfTB/Skepchick or Atheism+ loons.
Raw data – all data in this study, comprehensive listings of imaged files and full URL lists can be downloaded here:
Seriousness – regular readers may be disappointed at the austerity and seriousness of this presentation. They are encouraged to click around the numerous links to get their regular gutter humour fix.
-= CITATIONS =-
1 – The phenomenon of the original professional wailers was largely obliterated by the ascent of Chinese communism under Mao. It has since had a revival as modern China has opened most of its doors to the world and embraced the basic concepts of “free markets”.
3 – There is something quaint in Ophelia assuming Malala also suffers from the first world problem of snarl words –
There are countless millions of girls in Malala’s situation. First, they have to manage to make it to age 9 without having their cunts mutilated, at which point they can start to be worried about whether they’ll be forced to marry some 70 year old tribesman that just happens to own the most goats in the village. If that is avoided, then there’s only acid attacks, stoning for incomprehensible faux pas, getting raped and having to marry your rapist, or just being trapped in a conventional marriage from which there is no escape and the constant possibility of being beaten to death for refusing sex or burning the dinner. Somehow, despite Benson’s all knowing social justice sense, I doubt girls like Malala have snarl words on their lists of “concerns to be noted”.
6 – A good example is the misspelling of “harass” as “harrass” – including the misspelled version in this study increased the word count by 5.7%. Misspellings were not included in figures cited in this study due to the difficulty in predicting the endless possibilities.
7 – command line parameters modify grep output as as follows:
-o, only matching; -i, case insensitive; -r, recurse through all directory contents; wc, word count total; -l, suppress normal output; single quotes if more than one term used or a space is used
8 – Overview of American cultural imperialism regarding the word and the shocking revelation that many feminists also share the view that the moral panic surrounding the word is unhealthy and needs to be addressed:
9 – Original and supplementary articles:
10 – Original Slimepit archives:
11 – And this is not taking into consideration data for frequency of the family of terms ending in -ist and -ism, contributing further to the total by 40864 and 93989 respectively (or ~2900 and 6700 items per month, 95 and 220 per day).
12 – from the “about” section at the original B&W –
13 – The atheism+ list of officially approved sites