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

From: Chris Russo (
Date: Fri Feb 09 2001 - 08:50:08 MST

At 12:25 +0000 2/9/01, Charlie Stross wrote:
>In what way is a flan in the face comparable to rape?

They're both forms of physically attacking someone. The impact upon
the individual is a subjective issue that you have no right to
discount one way or the other.

> > You just don't get it. When someone does something physically to you
>> against your will, it's a violation of your person.
>You are taking an absolutist position: that *any* physical act is morally
>and practically equivalent to the most serious conceivable physical act.

No, I'm not.

Keep in mind that we're talking about physical acts that don't cause
physical damage.

My argument is that you have no right to judge the effects of
violating my physical person. Just because you think a pie in the
face is no big deal doesn't give you the right to pie me. I'm sure
that many fist fighters who are used to taking a punch would think
that a slap in the face is no big deal, but I personally don't agree
with that.

So, it's not that they're all equivalent - it's that you (as a
private citizen, not in the act of self defense) have no right to
cross the line of physical attack and dictate what is and isn't
"going too far".

>I do not buy that position. It is self-evidently wrong. (*Why* it appears
>self-evidently wrong to me is an interesting issue that I need to go
>and think about.)

Probably because you think a pie in the face is no big deal to you -
so you extend that valuation of the event to others.

What I'm saying is that not everyone else feels the way you do. We
all have different idiosyncrasies about how, when, and where we don't
wish to be touched - particularly in forced physical situations.

While you may not mind a pie in the face, I really would. While you
may not mind being doused in urine, I really would. While I may not
mind being groped by strange women, my wife would most certainly mind
being groped by strange men.

One of the clear places where we can (and do) draw a clear line
between acceptable and unacceptable interaction is at the point of
physically attacking someone.

> > By your logic, if someone is mocking me and I don't like it, I should
>> be able to have my bodyguards go shove a pie in his face or do
>> something else equally assaulting and degrading. Might makes right,
>> huh?
>Nope. Go shove the pie in his face yourself. Don't be surprised if they
>shove one right back at you, too.

Why should I get my hands dirty? In protest groups aimed at pieing,
it comes down to just one person actually performing the act. How do
they choose? I choose by paying some big guy to humiliate the person
mocking me.

Why are you dictating terms regarding how I can have a pie shoved in
someone's face? I think we're getting a little closer to the true
point of our disagreement. My impression is that you think that it's
okay for some protest group to attack someone like Bill Gates with a
pie in the face, but if Bill Gates' organization did likewise to some
poor sap that he didn't like, you'd have a problem with it.
Personally, I don't like that kind of arbitrary dehumanizing

Besides, what is this, some Three Stooges episode where everyone is
armed with pies? Bill Gates is supposed to walk through the airport
with an armful of pies so that he can stoop to the level of his

>Look, think of it as one point on a continuum:
>* You don't object to someone mocking you verbally.

No forced physical contact; annoying, but acceptable.

>* Suppose someone dresses up as a mime and follows you around, apeing
> your movements and taking the piss. Is *that* harmful?

I'm not familiar with the expression "taking the piss", but other
than that, you're once again not talking about physical contact; very
annoying but acceptable.

>* (cream pie goes here)

Here we've crossed the abundantly clear line into physical contact
and assault. The attacker has left his legal rights behind and
violated my person. I may not mind a pie in the face, I may really
mind it.

[other physically assaulting examples snipped]

>This continuum runs from forms of criticism that are harmless to forms of
>criticism that are lethal.

The problem with your argument is that the situations you described
don't form a continuum. There's a huge discontinuity at the point of
physical assault.

>Now, as far as I can tell, your position is that there should be no
>difference in response to being groped v.s. a serious rape attack: they're
>both bad and evil. By extension, there should be no difference in response
>to a pie in the face, or a hand grenade.
>(Is that an accurate characterisation of your view?)


>My point of view is simply that the response should be proportional to
>any perceived threat, and that treating a cream pie in the face the
>same way as a pistol (or a plateful of turds) is silly.

My point is that human interaction is an enormously complex and
subjective issue. We try to draw lines between acceptable and
unacceptable interactions in order to facilitate peaceful
coexistence. One line that is clear, both societally and legally, is
physical assault. You have no right to physically take control of my
person in order to subject me to your will - whether it's to shove a
pie in my face, or to punch me, or even to give me a big sloppy kiss.

When you cross that line, expect the punishment that you receive to
include a punitive element to account for my own subjective view of
the damage that you did.


Chris Russo

"If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought 
or deed, I will gladly change.  I seek the truth, which never yet 
hurt anybody.  It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance 
which does harm."
              -- Marcus Aurelius, MEDITATIONS, VI, 21

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