Re: Pies in the face (was Re: PDAs are searchable was Re: blah blah blah)

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Thu Feb 08 2001 - 05:02:53 MST

On Wed, Feb 07, 2001 at 08:09:46AM -0600, Chris Russo wrote:
> > ... About the worst damage that can be done by a cream
> >pie is the cost of a new set of clothing, plus a public apology for
> >the indignity.
> The fines should really hurt


> and if the group has a lot of money, I
> guess it takes a large fine to make them hurt. The same legal
> principle is applied against big businesses all the time. There's no
> excuse in our society to let pie terrorist groups perpetuate assaults
> upon people whom they don't like.
Being hit with a cream pie is no more terrorism than copying software
without permission is piracy. You're misusing the language, applying
hyperbolic terminology to trivia. What's next -- calling non-teetotalers
junkies and charging everyone who throws a punch in a bar when drunk with
attempted murder?

> Throwing a pie is no better than slapping a person.

It is considerably better than slapping someone. (I take it you've never
been on the receiving end of a cream pie. Speaking as someone who has,
I think you're taking yourself way too seriously.) The cream pie in the
face is basically a message: that the person delivering it thinks that
the person receiving it takes themselves *way* too seriously. Furthermore,
the cream pie in the face is almost never required when dealing with people
who enter into genuine dialogue. Look at the list of targets of the Belgian
tarteurs and you'll find po-faced self-important politicians, religious
leaders of the most bigoted stripe (whose statements are deemed to have
total authority, and brook no debate), and businessmen whose shady tactics
and unwillingness to engage in open debate are notorious.

None of these characteristics are capital offenses, but they *do* deserve
a wake-up call, and if these guys aren't willing to put their reputation
on the line in even a symbolic manner, they should damn well stay out of
the public arena.

> How can you
> construe such actions of attack as "defusing"? They're clearly
> intended to strike out physically, which only leads to escalations -
> and with a pie, there's the added insult of having a damned pie
> hanging off your face.
They are not, repeat not, a physical attack: they're an attack on the
dignity of the victim. Which is the whole point.

(Incidentally, seeing how a public person responds to being flanned by
surprise gives us more insight into their character than any number of
staged sound-bites. Prominent people aren't normally exposed to random
public stimuli of a non-life-threatening but dignity-infringing variety
on camera.)

> Sure, if every homicidal loon substituted pies for their weapons, I'd
> be with you. That would represent a reversing trend of violence in
> the world.

No it wouldn't.

Believe it or not, the world is becoming a *less* violent place over
time. There are exceptions, but just about anywhere in the developed
world -- yes, including gun-ridden and jail-crowded America -- you're
less likely to be assaulted or murdered than you would have been fifty
or a hundred years ago.

Part of our problem is that TV and news audiences like bad news -- it's
the same syndrome as the traffic jam crawling past the pile-up. People
like to rubberneck. So the news media have responded by going forth
and feeding us a diet of mayhem, and this makes us *feel* endangered,
even though our actual circumstances are anything but hazardous. It's
not aided by the war on drugs, which adds a lot of high-value commodities
and encourages violent and socially marginal types to engage in gang
warfare over them. (Subtract the WoD and the high level of violence it
generates, and in most of the EU newspaper editors would be tearing
their hair out looking for something to write about.)

My general point, however, is that you are *safe*. The chances of an
army marching through your town, raping the women and stealing the cattle
and burning a few houses for fun, are about zip. The same goes for me,
too. Again: go back to the 1830's and English upper-class types went
armed in public because there was a very real probability of violence
if they didn't. The fact that the British government *can* ban handguns
is a pointer to the level of social change, and the marginalization of
violence in private life.

> However, the little groups doing these pieings weren't
> assassins anyway. They were just doing standard protest stuff
> before,

"Standard protest stuff" generally involves a bit more than
demonstrations. It also covers trespassing, destruction of property,
assault, people chaining themselves to railings and throwing paint over
equipment owned by organisations they disapprove of, and a whole host
of other things. Compared to which, cream pies are actually a very
precisely targeted and relatively gentle hint.

Believe me, the flan-in-the-face is trivial. If you want something to
worry about, go for the suicide bombers with a speed-boat full of
explosives and a warm welcome awaiting them in paradise. Now, *they* are

-- Charlie

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