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Nostalgia November Day 15 — X-Factor Annual #4

Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s X-Factor annual #4.

The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.

xfactorannual04X-Factor annual #4 by John Byrne and Walter Simonson focuses on the idea of Jean Grey being a bride of Set, while also continuing a cool idea of creating a twisted version of the Namor/Susan Richards relationship with Jean and Attuma. But, like with yesterday’s Amazing Spider-Man annual, I begin with the back-up features.

There’s the standard “Saga of the Serpent Crown” chapter (part ten I believe) that I skipped. There’s a two-page X-Factor pin-up by Jon Bogdanove. Then there are two stories, one an “Inferno” epilogue that’s not that clever and, the other, a Dr. Doom/Magneto story that makes me hate shared universe corporate comics, so expect a rant in… oh, now…

Dr. Doom summons Magneto to find out why he’s given up trying to conquer the world and is content teaching at Xavier’s school. Really, the story is just an excuse to retell both characters’ origin stories, but, at one point, we learn that Magento had a helmet made that alllowed him to control and alter the minds of others. I assume this happened elsewhere and he used it to eliminate bigotry and prejudice from some people’s minds… and then stopped. Why? Because that was wrong or something? Really? Am I to believe that a member of a group that is hunted and persecuted as much as mutants, given the chance to eliminate all prejudice and racism (not just for mutants either) from the minds of humanity decided that that was wrong? Because someone is that fucking stupid… “But it’s wrong to use superpowers to alter people’s minds!” Fuck you, no it’s not. I’m sorry, but when you have the ability to eliminate something like racism from humanity and you don’t do it, you are an evil monster. You just are. Screw free will, screw whatever sense of morality precludes you from doing it, in this case, it’s the 100% right thing to do. Is it an invasion of their privacy and rights? Yes, absolutely it is, but that does not matter. This is something I argued when discussing Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men run where, again, the demands of not ending the story precludes anyone doing this — so why raise the idea? So the person who says they won’t do it looks like the dumbest, worst person to ever live? I’m not discussing the idea in ‘comic book’ terms, but in real world terms: it is wrong and immoral not to do it. (I’ve been making bold statements like that a lot lately… odd…) If ever there was a comic that proved Magento is evil, whichever one first introduced this idea is it. He had a chance to end all prejudice and bigotry, decided not to, he’s an evil motherfucker.

The “Inferno” epilogue isn’t all that great. It features two FBI agents drawn like and meant to evoke the Blues Brothers, except that that doesn’t actually lead to any comedy or funny moments. Then why do it? They really just run around New York trying to figure out what happened the night before as people describe all of the weird shit that went down during “Inferno.” In the end, X-Factor tell them it was terrorist using a hypno ray or something and the whole thing is proclaimed a hoax. The story ends with a demon picking up a newspaper to read about the hoax.

The main story is a a decent read. Jean Grey has been summoned to be a bride of Set — so the story begins, literally, with her flying through the air, unconcious (eyes open though), and the Beast is hanging onto her leg. He eventually thinks hard enough to get through to her, so she uses her telekinesis to disrupt the tractor beam… and they fall into the ocean. Jean is still unconscious and when the Beast tries to get her to the surface, they encounter Attuma and his cronies sabotaging a water treatment plant. Attuma mistakes Jean for Phoenix and remembers the time when Phoenix rejected him — and he’s having none of that, so he kidnaps Jeans, while his cronies go to kill Beast. He’s saved by Andromeda, Attuma’s daughter and total warrior woman. Meanwhile, Ghaur is pissed off, because they need Jean to be one of Set’s brides or Set won’t be happy or show up or something… am I the only one who’s amused by the idea that they’re luring a god to Earth with the promise of a harem of superpowered women?

Anyway…

Beast and Andromeda go after Jean… who has been dressed in a seashell bikini and place in an air-filled love den, while Attuma watches her sleep from his water-filled study… and wearing nothing but boxers. When she wakes up, he goes to her room and basically says to her that rejecting him made him hurt… emotionally… and, now, he’s going to get his ‘retribution.’ As he puts it, “A PITY THERE WILL BE NO PLEASURE IN THIS FOR YOU… AS THERE MOST CERTAINLY WILL BE FOR ME [...]” This guy is scummy… he doesn’t just want to rape her, he wants her to know he’s raping her… because he’s attracted to her… and she rejected him… christ…

Jean uses her powers to toss him about, so he breaks the air-filled room’s walls in order to drown her and, then, I presume, have sex with her corpse? He seems like the type from what we’ve seen… (make up your own joke about the pink flesh being a turn-off so he wants something a bit more blue-tinged…) Thankfully, Andromeda and Beast show up where Beast takes Jean away and Andromeda challenges her father to a fight to the death via some Atlantean cultural thing normally reserved for first-born males… but she’s a warrior and fuck tradition. Sadly, she can’t really hack it against her dad, but, before he can kill her, Ghaur kidnaps her to be a bride of Set.

He also manages to get Jean since she was underwater too long and the only way to save her from dying is to allow Ghaur to take her since he has the ability to rescue her. The scene where Beast decides what to do is done rather well: let her did or let her be a Serpent god’s bride? (Though, he doesn’t know the second part in that much detail.) I’d say he makes the right decision… deal with the problem at hand and deal with the consequences as they arise.

This is an odd story and I find the Attuma/Jean stuff somewhat disturbing/intriguing. After years of the somewhat playful/friendly/harmless Namor/Susan Richards stories, it’s interesting to see a darker twist on this using one of Namor’s chief rivals. I don’t think it would work beyond a one-off instance like this, though. I’m kind of surprised at how dark it goes in that scene… it’s not THAT explicit, but it’s explicit enough that any adult would get the meaning quite clearly. I guess it’s done with enough care that it falls into that category of things adults get that kids don’t… since I never got the entire meaning of what Attuma was going to do.

The art is done by John Byrne with Walter Simonson doing ‘embellishment,’ so it’s an odd hybrid of the two men’s visual styles. It’s got thicker lines and more liberal uses of blacks thanks to Simonson, but is still clearly Byrne’s art. But, the two men’s work fits well here together. The comic itself provides a comparison for readers since the Doom/Magento story was also drawn by Byrne (inking himself), so you can compare and contrast. Simonson really takes a lot of the small details out of the art (or Byrne didn’t add them initially since he wasn’t doing the full art) and I think it’s stronger. The art is less cluttered and more bold in the main story.

Again, lots of bang for your two bucks, though a few things that kind of overwhelm everything else… at least for me.

87 Comments

Why is it wrong and immoral to not take away someone’s free will?

I don’t think I was buying a single Marvel comic series on a regular basis in 1989 because this type of book was par for the course. DC at that time had Sandman starting up, Animal Man was just awesome, Giffen and DeMatteis on the Justice League books, Rick Veitch on Swamp Thing, Legion’s “Five Years Later” storyline, and then finally the start of the Morrison reboot of Doom Patrol.

Yeah, I really can’t recall following any Marvel series that year. I probably picked up some random issues here and there.

Regardless of whether or not Magneto should have used powers to eliminate racism, the fact that it’s even brought up is pretty ridiculous/stupid. It’s not like there is some thing called ‘racism’ that we can find in someone’s head. To ‘eliminate prejudice’ would require reducing someone to a comatose state–you would have to eliminate all capability for perceiving difference.

It’s like when Morrison depicted cavemen with villages, huts, clothing, etc. BEFORE ‘discovering’ fire–I hate convenient story tropes that completely defy logic and a rudimentary understanding of the world.

Great book – Atlantis Attacks was the first multi-book story I ever collected. Brings back great memories, even if some chapter were lackluster compared to others. These were Marvel’s “event” books back in the day before they had them every damn month.

Are you saying that any person who could erase prejudice from human beings should do so and would act immoral otherwise or that Magneto should do it because he would kill people because of their prejudice that he didn’t erase even though he could?

In Magnetos case it makes sense, but for other people I think altering even one person’s mind even if it’s supposedly doing good, never seems like a good idea to me. You’re always taking something away from people and if even if it’s something like prejudice which is quite obviously a bad thing there’s always the question: where do you stop?

I’m black and I would think forcibly removing racism is a totally scummy thing to do, so I suppose that makes me an evil monster according to your article. And like the previous commenter said, once you set that precedent, where do you stop? Start forcing people to recycle? Start forcing people to vote liberal or conservative based on whatever your political orientation is since the other side is “obviously” evil? And so on and so on…

T., have you ever read the Squadron Supreme 12-issue limited series from the 80′s? That is exactly what the entire thing is ultimately about. The Marvel version of the Justice League takes over their alternate Earth counterpart with the intentions of eliminating crime and evil. They develop a device that wipes all those types of thoughts out of a person and so they pretty much end up brainwashing people. Needless to say, the entire ends up pretty badly.

Honestly… why wouldn’t you? Seriously. If you had the power, why wouldn’t you use it to alter the world to fit your ideas of how it should be? Why WOULD you allow people to do things that you consider wrong? What benefit is there beyond an abstract concept of free will that allows for bad things to happen? Wouldn’t you put practicality above the abstract?

Also, altering or eliminating something that has been such a force for pain and suffering over the centuries is a bit different than other things… why not stop there? Why not stop at something so big and bad that it stands apart from everything else? We do that already with certain crimes and how they’re punished or even prosecuted. Why not allow for something other than absolutes?

As for free will… I’ve long been of the opinion that free will existing in an objective sense is less important than free will existing in a subjective sense. If a person believes they have free will, does it matter if they do or don’t?

Tsk, tsk, tsk…Chad….don’t take this the wrong way, but you are very young and have a lot to learn about life.

Fair enough… also, I don’t necessarily believe in everything I raised there (raising some points to stimulate discussion) — nor do I necessarily fault anyone who comes to the opposite reaction. But I am increasingly hating the simplicity of the either/or, black-and-white, all or nothing morality of superhero comics that doesn’t allow for degrees or middles or shades of grey. Like I said with regards to superheroes and killing, I really just want the ideas and issues explored with more depth and intelligence than simply raising them and then casting them aside with broad statements about how it’s wrong or immoral… especially since a lot of our morality comes from what we can and cannot do, something that would change profoundly in a world where you COULD change things in such big ways… superhumans would have a different sort of morality by definition of what they could do and the demands that would place on what they should do.

As a member of M.E.A.T., I find your invective against Lord Magnus to be insulting. Also, I’m trying to diffuse the situation with a bad joke.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

November 15, 2009 at 10:47 am

Why WOULD you allow people to do things that you consider wrong?

Because what I consider wrong may not, in fact, be wrong. Racists may consider interracial marriage “wrong,” but I’d disagree vehemently. At the same time, those racists are utterly blind to the possibility that they might be in the wrong on that score. Given that it is possible for a person to be so blinkered, how do I know that I am not similarly misguided?

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t get to believe what I think is right,or even that I can’t express it or try to persuade others. It does mean that no one can claim the kind of moral certainty that would permit them to make a unilateral decision on everyone else’s behalf, or a decision that they can violently enforce their notion of “right” on everyone else.

Take the Magneto example: Magneto is erasing “racism” from everyone’s minds, yes, but how does a character like Magneto define “racism” and what, exactly, is a megalomaniac who’s threatened whole populations with murder likely to consider appropriate mental alterations in this vein? You’ll notice he’s not using that helmet to remove any possible prejudice from his own brain before he gleefully runs around judging and forcibly altering others. Magneto’s not a racist, and has no history of prejudice or supremacism? Shyeah, right.

Frankly, anyone so self-certain of their morality — however good it sounds on paper, or in the abstract, as you put it — that they permit themselves to force their moral judgements onto others is EXACTLY the person who should never have the power to enforce their will in such a manner. The utter solipsism and egotism necessary to recommend such coercion is very strong evidence that the solipsist or egotist is very morally blindered.

As for free will… I’ve long been of the opinion that free will existing in an objective sense is less important than free will existing in a subjective sense. If a person believes they have free will, does it matter if they do or don’t?

This would mean that a wide variety of well-understood mental illnesses and situational breakdowns — think of Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages believe they love and respect their captors — are perfectly alright. Sure, the paranoid schizophrenic thinks the devil lives in his underpants, but we can’t medicate because he believes he believes that of his own free will and not because of a neurochemical imbalance.

The problem you seem to be having — and it’s a problem a lot of historical figures have had, too — is in assuming that there is no way to regulate action without regulating will. One can allow people to think and will whatever they want, as long as mechanisms are in place to shield others from the negative consequences of an immoral will.

There’s another problem, this one on the side of the torturer or brainwasher or what have you: that person knows that his or her victims’ free will is merely an illusion, and will behave with that knowledge in hand. That is, they reserve “real” free will to themselves and deny it to others, willfully creating a state of absolute inequality.

Someone in the system you propose would need to be able to distinguish true and false free will n order to make and impose the absolute judgments on the morality of others’ wills that you propose. You’d need, in a word, a tyrant. Considering your revulsion at racism, I’d think any system that produces such inequality would pose a serious moral problem for you.

More to the point, is a rape victim or battered wife who convinces herself she “deserved it” after the fact — as often does happen — entirely OK because they believe they freely willed what happened? Does it mean the rape or battery is not a crme, since the victim now believes they freely consented? Or on the flipside, is anyone in a BDSM relationship “really” an abuser or abuse victim even though they have freely chosent he situation? Apply the “no distinction rule” to real-world applications of free will like sexual consent and the dangers of the indistinction should become clear.

I find the imposition of one’s beliefs on another to be wrong. I think that anyone is entitled to feel the way they do, no matter how depraved. To think that one should be allowed, by whatever circumstance, to dictate what others should be thinking is questionable thinking, indeed. I think you may have a future as a politician. Or, better yet, political pundit.

For the record, I’m fairly certain that the mind control device Magneto used to have is the one from Avengers vs X-Men #4 (the final issue of the miniseries).

And no, there is in fact no moral basis to defend such brainwashing. Not because “free will” should be respected – in fact, I don’t think there is such a thing as true free will – but because forcing one’s viewpoint on someone else is a direct disrespect of them as people. It amounts to deciding that they don’t deserve to choose their moral values, which ought to be a basic civil right for anyone.

However, people force their views on others all of the time — laws, for example, force one conception of what is right and what is wrong upon everyone, including those who don’t agree with said laws. Political systems and governments by nature are exercises in imposing certain beliefs on others — even if that belief is that everyone is entitled to have their own beliefs. That there hasn’t been largescale implementation of actually forcing people to change their beliefs in the way that they think is simply because there isn’t a practical manner of doing so… but, if we could make everyone believe that, say, killing is wrong, if there a difference between that and enacting a law that makes killing illegal, except that the former actually prevents the crime from happening? Why would changing viewpoints and perspectives be wrong? Using Omar’s examples, why is okay to use medications to change what people think but using telepathy would be wrong?

Or, to go back to an earlier point, lines of acceptable behaviour and actions are drawn all of the time — merely interacting with the world is a series of limits being placed (whether by society or one’s self). So, again, why is this line so bad to cross when we come close to it already or, depending on how you view things like medicating people, we’ve crossed them already?

Is it that society as a whole has decided what is acceptable? But, even then, didn’t that idea of what’s acceptable begin with one person’s perspective on what is right/wrong?

Neither Laws nor political systems (both are strongly linked, btw) actually define what is “right” or “wrong”, although I will readily grant that quite a few seems to believe they do.

In reality, they simply state what they find worth doing (or avoiding) and what consequences are to be expected from there. Worthy for what they are, but belief-changing tools they aren’t. Unless, of course, one allows oneself to be convinced, which is fair enough.

There is clearly a world of difference between being lawful and being morally sound. It becomes more obvious with some distancing by time, but it is just as true in the present day. That’s why, for one thing, the underground railways were once illegal.

Psychoactive medication is NOT automatically acceptable, exactly because it has such a strong effect on one’s beliefs and behavior. That is why its use is heavily controlled. It is sometimes necessary, of course, and quite possibly overused as things are, but it is a serious and controversial thing to use – and that is how it should be.

Honestly… why wouldn’t you? Seriously. If you had the power, why wouldn’t you use it to alter the world to fit your ideas of how it should be? Why WOULD you allow people to do things that you consider wrong?

I was raised by comic books and have the morality of a superhero. So no, I would not use the Anti-Life Equation to bend the Earth to my will.

If a person believes they have free will, does it matter if they do or don’t?

Yes, it matters. You Calvinist.

@Why Magneto doesn’t ‘erase the hate’:

“X-Men vs. Avengers” #4 (of 4) will answer your question.

Chad, you’re just wrong, here. Sickeningly wrong. You arguably have more poorly-developed ethics than a Marvel supervillain.

You have also ruined November Nostalgia.

Chad, your heart is in the right place, but if I ever hear about you planning to bend the minds of humanity to your own conception of right and wrong, I’ll be raising an army to stop you.

The single greatest thing that comic books have contributed to society is this:

“You can’t do that, Hero-Guy! Because if you do then you will be just like Villain-Man! And he wins!”

Mutt, I wouldn’t do that… mostly because I do agree with 90% of what’s being said here — I just enjoy fun discussions (and, yes, this IS fun).

Though, I really can’t stand that “You can’t do that, Hero-Guy! Because if you do then you will be just like Villain-Man! And he wins!” argument. If only because motives do matter and impact the action.

Its wrong to dominate someone else’s existence for any reason, good or bad. Going into their mind and erasing part of a person so they act like you want them to is no better than beating them until they obey. That’s Xavier’s whole plight.

Daniel O' Dreams

November 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm

We have laws that prohibit actions not thoughts or beliefs (not YET anyway). I think even Magneto can see the difference between thought and action. He’s killed people for their (and sometimes their leader’s) actions but tampering with people thoughts is going to far. Nazis kill people for their beliefs. I think that was the gist of the story, of course I tend to rewrite these things in my memories when they’re bad.

Also wasn’t it revealed that Xavier had mentally neutered Magneto at this point, making him softer and cuddlier? Does that make Magneto more moral than Chuck? Hmmm…

To throw some gas on the fire,
“If a person believes they have free will, does it matter if they do or don’t?”

Is that not a basic argument that G-d has a plan for you? That you follow G-d’s will and all of that?

Did G-d plan for you to go to Burger King, or did you decided to…either way, you’re eating a quarter pounder with cheese.

Well, that’s one of my problems with Xavier: he’s shown a willingness to use his powers in that fashion and allows the continued persecution of his people. Looking at what he’s done and what he’s shown his personal morality to be, there’s no reason for him not to ‘solve’ the mutant/human conflict…

No matter how noble the end, it does not justify evil means – to argue otherwise is to be on the side of the worst tyrants and oppressors in human history. Consider the awful totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century: they all had utopian ends in mind – the fact that millions died in horror was not enough to convince them that their actions were in fact evil.

Part of becoming an adult is coming to terms with the limited means which are available to the honest and ethical person – we cannot reshape the entire world in our image, and the best we can do is lead a good life and encourage others to do the same.

Yes, but this isn’t physical force or dominance… this is altering the way someone thinks without them knowing that anything has changed. The practicality of it is much different.

(Again, not suggesting that I would do it, merely pointing out that the means by which things could be changed are different from what currently exist and require more/different consideration than current means of control/ruling/influence.)

As some people have pointed out, and Omar explained in detail, laws only limit what you can and can’t do, not what you can and can’t believe. You’re free to think that certain laws are wrong and to want them changed. If you’re lucky, you even live in a place where you’re allowed to express that. And if you get enough people with you, sometimes those laws do change.

It is by this system that a healthy government’s policies are under constant review, and it starts with the basic assumption that people are imperfect and probably don’t, in fact, know what’s best for themselves or others. But if you make a mistake, this system allows you to fix it. Altering people’s wills would take away that process. Who can point out the mistakes if you’ve made everyone mentally incapable of spotting them?

With psychoactive drugs, people are generally volunteering to take them. I see leprechauns; I no longer wish to see leprechauns; give me some drugs to make this stop. Me asking you to change my thought process is quite a bit different than you deciding to do it without my consent.

I agree, in fact, that in cases where the subject is forced to take mind-altering drugs, we’re on morally shaky ground. If you can prove that someone is neurologically ill, that’s one thing, but the definition of “ill” and “abnormal” is ultimately pretty subjective. Everyone’s brain is different, some are just more different than others. People who are cured in that manner generally say they’re happier and continue to take the drugs, but you’ve altered their mental state enough to make anything they say suspect.

All of this, of course, presumes that we actually have free will to start with, which is by no means a given. And I agree that there should be more moral complexity in comics.

stop posting shite

kisskissbangbang

November 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Never mind Magneto for the moment; let’s talk Doom. Isn’t there a Mantlo-written issue of Super-Villain Team-up in which Doom demonstrates to Magneto that he long ago filled the atmosphere with a will-destroying chemical that makes him Master Of The World, but he decided not to take advantage of it, because it made things just too easy? (I’m asking; I’m pretty sure I read it, but I only collected the Englehart issues.) This is so jaw-dropping that it makes Magneto’s failure to use _his_ device seem a slight oversight by comparison.

It absolutely is dominance.

Sorry, I miswrote that: it’s not physical dominance. It’s a different sort that perhaps requires a different response/different thinking about it.

I don’t think it is different. I don’t see how removing physicality changes the situation at all. Tricking someone is still dominating them. Its someone consciously taking their view of reality, and applying it intimately and without consent, to someone else’s view of reality. If you’re gonna remove hatred and prejudice, why stop there? Why not make everyone a vegan so that no more animals are harmed by human ignorance? Why not mind control people into not generating any more pollution? And if you’re willing to influence people into becoming, more or less, variations of you, why not cut to the chase, get them to jump into the ocean, and clone some new people to think like you so you don’t have to spend so much time and energy influencing people? And then what’s the point of even being alive with people? Why not just forget the clones so that its just you and your worldview? If you (and I mean the hypothetical “you” ) so believe that your version of reality is vital enough that it should actually be superimposed over every other version of reality, what point does it have to get to before you start to question the arrogance of that premise. And why is it any different than beating someone into a state of amnesia, or lobotomizing them, so they don’t remember that they hate black people or whatever?

Did you actually read the Magneto/Dr. Doom story. I will be reviewing it now but I thought that Magneto did use the helmet, was stopped/helmet destroyed thought lost, then recreated by Dr. Doom. So really the X-Men(and judging by earlier comments The Avengers) made the choice to not recreated reality. Also I always thought the idea of this story was to start the turning of Magneto back to villian. Somebody can correct me if I’ve got my chronology all messed up.

I like where you took that, Buzz. Some very good points there.

Was just discussing this with the girlfriend and came up with a question for people: you have the telepathic ability to stop everyone in the world from raping anyone or anything… do you stick to your sense of morality and not do it because it is wrong to dominate someone’s mind like that or do you use your powers to stop rape from ever occurring?

mrjayberry — The story here has Magneto saying he used the helmet on some people before deciding that continuing would be wrong — a form of conquering, which is an activity he’d given up.

The suggestion that it is somehow “moral” to alter peoples’ minds against their will, as long as you’re doing it for “good” is at its root, no different than the justification dictators throughout history have used to try and force anyone who disagrees with them to bend to their will. Hitler believed he was right, too. The idea that it’s somehow morally “different” or “better” because there’s no physical force is, at best, wildly naive. At it’s worst, is fundamentally more evil and depraved than any charge that could be level at Magneto in a fictional context.

If you drug a woman and have sex with her without her knowledge or consent but without the application of physical force, it’s still rape. The lack of “physical dominance” doesn’t make it okay.

The suggestion that it is somehow “moral” to alter peoples’ minds against their will, as long as you’re doing it for “good” is at its root, no different than the justification dictators throughout history have used to try and force anyone who disagrees with them to bend to their will. Hitler believed he was right, too. The idea that it’s somehow morally “different” or “better” because there’s no physical force is, at best, wildly naive. At it’s worst, is fundamentally more evil and depraved than any charge that could be level at Magneto in a fictional context.

If you drug a woman and have sex with her without her knowledge or consent but without the application of physical force, it’s still rape. The lack of “physical dominance” doesn’t make it okay.

There seems to be large, amd a rather arrogant, assumption here, and that is that our minds haven’t already been controlled. I can see no real difference between telepathy and the sum of experience and circumstance that leads us to make the decisions that we made. People forced racists to be racist in the first place, no one can choose the circumstance they are born into, nor can they the laws of physics which cause their brain to be wired one way and not another. Given that, what’s the big deal with someone else forcing them not to be racist. I mean, what’s the difference between telepathy and convincing someone with argument, whether an argument succeeds is going to be based on the circumstances that person has already lived through. It will either succeed or it won’t, they won’t have any choice about it.

This whole idea of free will strikes me as completely absurd – either action is random, and therefore it isn’t free, or action is determined, and therefore it isn’t free. This absolute insistance that we have free will comes of as narcissism to me, the idea that not being free would mean that you aren’t actually eprfect in ever way. And it seems like it’s this narcissism which stops people from asking why they have the opinions they have, who it is that is already controlling their minds. Before you decide that you have complete power over cause and effect, perhaps you should get over yourself.

I agree that we don’t know why we think the things we think, or what social and biological events have taken place to give us our brains, or even what thoughts ARE, or what ANYTHING is, really. But, unless you’re getting into God or higher forms of consciousness, the question isn’t “who” is controlling your mind. I think the difference is that the sum of experience and circumstance, whether that’s a system of individual realities bouncing off one another, or an intricate clock-work destiny, puts us all on more or less the same plane. Telepathy, on the other hand, puts you on a plane above those that you’ve brainwashed. Their sum of experience and circumstance is dammed because you don’t want them to have certain reactions to certain experiences and circumstances. If a black guy steals their purse, that might normally affect their opinion of black people as a whole, but it doesn’t, not because they’re aware enough to rationalize that out, but because you whispered “don’t think that”. It isn’t really any different than the indoctrination that caused racism in the first place. But that was a bad thing, and so is this. The values don’t change it. Either everyone’s playing the same game, or there’s no game.

As far as the anti-rape question, I wouldn’t use the power, although I imagine I would be constantly tempted to use it (which I think is the crux of Xavier’s character). If it could be used on an individual basis, I admit I would probably use it. Like, if I saw a rape occurring, I’d probably have to stop it (and I also admit that even this decision has a slippery-slope effect). But, I wouldn’t use it on a mass scale. The reason is that if I used the power, I would be stepping into a different reality. Anything that would lead up to, or result from, a rape would now no longer be possible. So, I’ll have saved some people from being raped, but I’ll be preventing any events that relate to those rapes. The second coming of Jesus could be the child of a rape, for all I know. Or a rape or attempted rape could lead to a killer being caught before he has the chance to kill a hundred people. I don’t really put a lot of emphasis on fate or destiny, but I do believe that there is rhythm and syncopation to existence. To use that power would be like walking in on a jazz session and telling the drummer to quit hitting the high hat. They wouldn’t be playing the same song anymore.

In X-Men vs The Avengers, Magneto used the helmet on a World Court magistrate, then Captain America tried to stop him from using it again, on the principle that mind-control is always wrong and that all people are entitled to their own beliefs. So Magneto used the helmet to remove all anti-Mutant prejudice from Captain America. He was then so shocked to discover that Cap’s opinion hadn’t changed that he suddenly felt a great shame over his actions and he ripped the mind-control device from the helmet and destroyed it.

I thought the whole ending of the story felt simplistic and forced (and not just the part about the helmet). It really wasn’t a very good story to begin with. There was also no way I could find to fit it into X-Men continuity of the time. (Havok was already part of the team, but they hadn’t been ‘killed’ in the Fall Of The Mutants’ yet. But I never could find any gap in the storyline of X-Men after Havok joined in which this story could’ve taken place. I blame Claremont. He’d apparently told other writers to use Havok in their X-Men guest appearances several months before [he was also visible in Spider-Man vs Wolverine some months earlier], but after taking half a year or more until finally bringing Havok into the team, he then didn’t leave any gaps although he must’ve known other stories had been written with the characters. I know this doesn’t sound so bad compared to all the contradictions found in Marvel books nowadays, but during Shooter’s administration throughout the ’80s, crossovers were almost never done without figuring out precisely where they would fit within their respective series.)

If you drug a woman and have sex with her without her knowledge or consent but without the application of physical force, it’s still rape.

But that isn’t really the same as what would be happening here. The question here is whether it would be rape if you altered the woman’s desires so that she wanted to have sex with you. And I don’t see that it would. Once the desires were altered, then she would give consent. You might say that she didn’t consent to have her mind altered, but no-one consents have the desires they do. All desires are forced on people, I don’t see this as any different. You might argue that she wouldn’t be exercising her free will, but as I already stated free will is an absurd concept and no-one has it in the first place. Once the woman’s mind is changed, then the experience will be perfectly pleasant. So I fail to see the harm.

puts us all on more or less the same plane.

Well, I would disagree. Already certain people can have huge amounts of power over the beliefs of others. The power of (certain) parents and guardians over the beliefs of their children is so great that it essentially amounts to mind control. Someone in a position of status is able to effect the beliefs of those that respect that authority to a much greater amount than the other way around. Someone said earlier that we can’t legislate opinions but, to some degree, we can. If there is an activity, and it is outlawed, that is going to effect people opinions regarding that activity, given that people with status have said that it is bad. If we say that no-one should have the power over other people’s opinions, then I say they already have.

Of course, telepathy may give you greater powers over the human mind than any person now may have. But, if this telepathy was unlimited in power, then you could make everyone happy forever. If you had the power to eliminate all pain from the world, and you decided not to use that power, then you would be responsible for all the pain in the world. And that would make you evil in my book.

I don’t really put a lot of emphasis on fate or destiny, but I do believe that there is rhythm and syncopation to existence.

But how would you know that it wasn’t destiny for you to change the world?

I said “More or Less” because obviously some people are more influential, for better or worse. But we all have the same channels of information, no matter how subtle or devious we choose to be with them. And the idea of parental indoctrination is no less so, but those parents are only able to indoctrinate whatever unfortunate kids happen to be in their care. And even then, there’s a good possibility of rebellion on the part of the children. The person in social authority only has “control” over the people blind enough to believe authority is always justified, and even then, some will rebel if the concept is taken too far. But in any of these possibilities, there is always the option of a change of heart or mind, because we all exist within our own corners of the universe, no matter what portals of information we choose or have forced upon us. With telepathy, that corner of the universe is no longer yours.

“If you had the power to eliminate all pain from the world, and you decided not to use that power, then you would be responsible for all the pain in the world. And that would make you evil in my book.”

I don’t buy this premise. An expert cop that decides to go into painting isn’t responsible for the killers that go uncaught in his city. The killers are. You’ve taken two steps into the concept before you can decide that the cop is responsible. We don’t know the nature of “evil”, so how could you assume that ending it in a completely black-and-white way would be a good thing? It could make things worse? Doesn’t the knowledge of pain play some part in the knowledge of pleasure and vice versa?

“But how would you know that it wasn’t destiny for you to change the world?”

I wouldn’t. But, if it is, then it doesn’t matter whether I choose to use the power or not, I will change the world. But, since by all appearances its up to me, I choose not to use it.

“If you had the power to eliminate all pain from the world, and you decided not to use that power, then you would be responsible for all the pain in the world. And that would make you evil in my book.”

But the problem with arguing that there’s NO free will (and I actually think there’s probably a lot less than most people do), is that the above argument is then full of inconsistencies. You don’t “decide” to do anything. You inevitably do whatever the forces that control you dictate. You’re not “responsible” in the sense you seem to be using it; the forces that made you not do that are responsible. You’re not “evil” any more than the wind is for causing hurricanes or the earth is for quaking. Anything you do, bad or good, is out of your hands. Logically, then, we should never get angry at anyone or hold them responsible for anything.

As to the specifics of your argument, trying to influence someone’s opinion is different than outright controlling it. Assuming the level of free will implicit in some of your statements, people still get to decide whether what you said makes sense, and they get to choose whether to accept your arguments or not. Getting new information is not mind-control. It may change your mind, but you still have the choice of whether or not to let it.

You don’t “decide” to do anything.

There’s a difference, at least in the senses that I use the terms, between a ‘decision’ and a ‘choice’. When you ask a computer whether 3 is greater than 5, that computer must make a decision, either yes or no. Hence we use the term ‘decision procedure’. However, the computer has no choice in that matter, it is always going to say no. Once must respond to the dictates of the universe before one can act, and that will be a decision, but one will always respond in same way (given the same circumstances).

I was wrong to use the term ‘responsible’. Perhaps a better term would be ’cause’. If one can act to end all the pain in the world and fails to do so then one is the cause of all the pain in the world. Of course, that decision will be caused by other factors, inevitably leading back to the Big Bang. Perhaps we should say that the act will be evil, the person being incapable of acting otherwise.

Logically, then, we should never get angry at anyone or hold them responsible for anything.

Probably, but since when has anger had anything to do with logic?

choose whether to accept your arguments or not

Yes but ON WHAT BASIS would one accept or not accept an argument. If it is on the basis of some other circumstance, then you have no free will, your action is dicated by that circumstance. If it is not on the basis of anything, then you still have no free will, as your actions are random.

I would not use the helmet to remove racism and prejudice from everyone’s minds, but I would use it to remove it from my own mind, and then I’d offer to use it on anyone who agrees to. “Want to have your racism and prejudice removed? Come and visit me. And later we can all get together and start our prejudice-free enclave.” That would be a way to put the helmet to good use without forcing it on anyone.

there is always the option of a change of heart or mind, because we all exist within our own corners of the universe, no matter what portals of information we choose or have forced upon us.

Well, I disagree that there is always the option of a change of heart. I’d agree that telepathy would take away our free will, but as already stated, I don’t think we have free will to begin with.

Doesn’t the knowledge of pain play some part in the knowledge of pleasure and vice versa?

Perhaps, I don’t know. Presumably a telepath with that sort of power would. However, I would say that we could get rid of a lot of pain, for the knowledge of pain still to exist. Certainly we could get rid of racism.

An expert cop that decides to go into painting isn’t responsible for the killers that go uncaught in his city.

That just sounds like passing the buck to me. If that cop didn’t stop a robbery that was right in front of him we’d say he had done something wrong. Yet, we’re going to let him off just because that robbery was on the other side of town, when he knew that if he stayed home that crimes would be committed. It is a terrible duty to be a good person, certainly not a duty I fulfil, but I don’t see why we should excuse ourself just because we are lazy.

Also, why is removing racism against mutants necessarily a good thing? People SHOULD have a healthy fear of mutants, because honestly they are very dangerous to be around and reckless as hell. And that includes the X-Men. Fans and creators pretend that the X-Men, face of mutantkind, are just goodhearted people minding their business and people hate them unfairly and for absolutely no reason except the fact they’re different. But in actuality, they SHOULD be hated. They often deserve it.

Racism based on unfair and inaccurate stereotypes is horrible, sure. But racism based on the fact said race is a repeatedly proven threat to the world and civilians? That’s just a necessary survival instinct. Here is the case I’ve put forth against the X-Men in the past:

http://johnnytriangles.blogspot.com/2005/08/x-men-are-terrible-civil-rights.html

People SHOULD have a healthy fear of mutants, because honestly they are very dangerous to be around and reckless as hell.

SOME of the mutants are very dangerous to be around and reckless. The definition of prejudice is to judge someone before you have the facts. Some mutants are dangerous, but many aren’t particularly dangerous. It does NOT make sense to fear a mutant merely because they have some mutation. To do that would be fear the unknown just because they are unknown, and that is the origin of all racism.

They often deserve it.

But they don’t ALWAYS deserve it.

Racism based on unfair and inaccurate stereotypes is horrible, sure.

No, racism based on ALL stereotypes is horrible, because all stereotypes are unfair and inaccurate.

But racism based on the fact said race is a repeatedly proven threat to the world and civilians? That’s just a necessary survival instinct.

You know what other race has repeatedly proven a threat to the world and civilians: WHITE PEOPLE. Case in point: 19th Century Slavery, case in point: Nazi Germany, case in point: Cold War bringing us to the brink of nuclear annihilation. I could go on. Many white people are “very dangerous to be around and reckless as hell”. Many white people are “often deserve” to be hated. So, is hating white people “just a necessary survival instinct”?

Sometimes you make sense T, and sometimes you seem to not get it at all.

“The question here is whether it would be rape if you altered the woman’s desires so that she wanted to have sex with you. And I don’t see that it would. Once the desires were altered, then she would give consent.

Complete and utter nonsense. Someone who has been artificially brainwashed to do your bidding against their will and their own natural inclinations is incapable of giving “consent” to anything. To suggest otherwise is patently absurd. To actually believe that to be true suggests a near complete lack of any kind of viable moral compass.

I had that issue, it was cool!

To make some one do something ‘against their will’, we normally say that they made to do something they don’t want to do. Something they don’t WANT to do. If you change what a person WANTS, then surely you change what they consent to.

Someone who has been artificially brainwashed to do your bidding against their will and their own natural inclinations is incapable of giving “consent” to anything.

I have already addressed free will. On the other point, what is a ‘natural’ inclination? Seriously, what the hell is a ‘natural’ inclination? Is it only inclinations you get from your genes, which seems fairly restrictive? Does early childhood conditioning count? If so, how is it natural? Does cultural influence count? How is it natural?

Now take me, for example. I have a very conventional picture of beauty. The fact that my ideas are so close to what is presented in the media and in culture indicates, to me at least, that my views on beauty have been dictated by culture. And I’m hardly alone in that. Now, obviously what I see as beautiful is going to affected who I have sex with. Basically put, the brainwashing of media and culture had lead me to whatever sexual decisions I might make. Does that mean I can’t give consent? Perhaps, but then next to no-one can.

My point is this. There is no such thing as a ‘natural inclination’. Everything you, and everyone else, have ever believed, desired, hated, feared is ALL down to ‘artificially brainwashing’. By your system, no-one’s ever consented to anything in their lives.

@Ted

In my experience, the term “evil” always presupposes some level of free will. Again, we don’t call earthquakes or hurricanes “evil” acts precisely because the wind and earth lacked the ability to make a conscious choice. But I suspect that’s mostly a semantic argument.

What if your decisions are based on internal reasoning? Most pre-science philosophy is based heavily on thought experiments. Smart guys with access to the same pool of data managed to draw vastly different conclusions based on the same circumstances. I agree that most decisions are BASED on circumstances, but those circumstances require analysis and interpretation before they can be meaningfully transformed into actions.

Or, to put it another way, imagine two people, one a cold day, the both say a little prayer and start their cars. Person #1 concludes that his car probably started because it’s a high-quality, recent model, and person #2 concludes that his (same model) car started because god willed it. There’s the same amount of evidence for both positions in both cases, but they came to different conclusions. Both could argue that they came to their respective positions “based on the circumstances” and both would be right. Clearly, though, there is an additional factor at play there.

@T:
Okay, but the “race” hasn’t repeatedly been a threat to the world. Individual mutants have. Sometimes whole mutant groups have. You could argue that even the X-men have. But ascribing the qualities of one or a group of individuals to that individual’s entire racial/ethnic/genetic group is the beginning of racism. It’s like looking at the Bloods or Crips and concluding that black people pose a real threat to the social order, and that, for the sake of survival, you’re going to adopt a healthy fear of them.

The problem is, the X-Men aren’t a fringe group or a gang like the Bloods and the Crips. They are the mainstream spokespeople for mutantdom. We’ve repeatedly seen that other mutants look up to them even.

There are plenty of black people who speak out against gangbangers like the Bloods and the Crips, especially in the black middle and upper classes. Everything I’ve seen in depictions of how the everyday mutants views the X-Men though is as heroes, role models and spokespeople. I guess my problem with X-Men is I get so sick of them whining about how they’re hated “just because” they’re mutants, even though they’ve genuinely fucked up so many times by harboring dangerous people who have gone on to massacre humans.

Clearly, though, there is an additional factor at play there.

I think you are looking at circumstances too narrowly. Person #1 and #2 wouldn’t have the same history, they would have had difference influences up until that point. Both of them prayed, so both of them have some degree of religious belief, or at least habit or superstition. However, I would say that there must be something in their histories that made Person #2 believe in divine intervention and Person #1 not. I would say that, no matter how many times you replayed it, Person #1 on that day never would have believed, and Person #2 always would have, based on some previous (perhaps very previous) factor.

The problem is, the X-Men aren’t a fringe group or a gang like the Bloods and the Crips.

Well, that’s a more reasonable argument, but still problematic. There are plenty of people in the Islamic world who look up to groups like Hamas (there are plenty that don’t as well). Is it then acceptable to fear all Muslims. There are plenty of people that think that way, but I’d hope that you don’t.

If your point is that there are many good reasons to hate the X-Men, other than just that they are mutants, then I would agree.

I think assuming that any one group are “the spokespeople for mutantdom” is inherently reductionist. There was no election. There are mutants who have opted out of the X-men for all sorts of reasons, including a commitment to nonviolence, without becoming villains. Sure, there aren’t a lot of them in Marvel comics, but that’s because the name of the book is “X-Men” not “a variety of perspectives from the world’s mutant community.” It’s unfair to assume that all mutants feel the same way about the X-men/violence, just like it’s unfair to assume that all Mexicans love tacos just because that’s the image we encounter most often.

Or, to put it another way, you’ve mentioned that you’re black and conservative. The NAACP is on T.V. a lot, gets consulted in virtually all matters that the media deems “black issues,” and seems to enjoy a lot of support from the black community.

Is it fair for me to assume that they speak for you?

Your criticism of the X-men in particular may be valid, but it doesn’t hold for the whole group. And, it should be noted, that most of the people the X-Men complain about are clearly the crazy racist type, and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four imperil the Earth at least as often but never seem subject to the same criticisms.

“I would say that, no matter how many times you replayed it, Person #1 on that day never would have believed, and Person #2 always would have, based on some previous (perhaps very previous) factor.”

But that argument is itself not based on circumstances, because nobody has ever replayed the exacted circumstances of anything. You’re making a leap of logic necessary to your argument, and it’s a fair one, but it’s ultimately coming from something than just your experiences. You need to apply that extra level of critical thinking and analysis in order to draw a final conclusion.

You need to apply that extra level of critical thinking and analysis in order to draw a final conclusion.

OK, I know a challenge when I see one, so I’ll give it a go.

I agree that the argument isn’t based on empirical evidence. Events can only occur once, and as such we can’t really empirically test whether or not there exists a possibility that they mightn’t occur. Given that, we will have to make a leap of faith, either events are causally determined, or they aren’t, or some of them are and some aren’t. I don’t think that anyone would be willing to deny that any event is determined so, if one has already accepted that, then on what basis would you say that some events are determined and some aren’t? It seems capricious to me. Rather, it seems that most people who posit free will tend to say that it is something in between determined and random, something neither completely determined nor completely random, and I would argue that such a thing cannot exist.

But, if you do find a flaw in my reasoning, I would like to hear it.

According to quantum physics, many events are neither completely determined nor completely random, at least at the subatomic level. Since subatomic quantum events do have effects on the macroscopic world (eg if a specific high-energy photon strikes a carbon atom in a DNA molecule, thus causing a mutation), over time more and more random factors make their way into events, even though the macroscopic events may be completely deterministic, so that an increasing number of possibilities can occur as time progresses.

Of course, randomness can also be defined in relative terms. If not all causative agents are known, then many events can be described as random, even though they may be completely determined, simply because they cannot be predicted accurately.

Also, the choice between completely determined and completely random is a false one. Something can be random, but still be partly determined, in that certain outcomes are more likely than others. For instance, if you have a kilo of uranium, it is possible that every atom in it might decay at once, but that is so unlikely it is nearly indistinguishable from impossible. If you have two atoms of uranium, the chances of them both decaying at the same time isn’t so outlandish. It’s probably happened countless times. But the determining factors are the same in both cases.

I don’t know if those are the sort of flaws in your reasoning you were asking about.

the Avengers and the Fantastic Four imperil the Earth at least as often but never seem subject to the same criticisms.

Honestly, I can’t remember the FF and Avengers:

1) Kidnapping international homicidal terrorists from their trials in order to harbor them and give them a fake identity and shield them from prosecution (Magneto)
2) Take in another terrorist who attempted to kill a well known Avenger without ever turning them over to face justice (Rogue, although for once that turned out good)
3) Taking in the Juggernaut and shielding him from the authorities secretly, even though he is guilty of attempting assassinations (Madame Web) and committing acts of terror (he held hostage and destroyed the Twin Towers in the 90s), then fought the authorities when they actually tried to take Juggie in to face justice
4) Taking in supermurderous Sabretooth and deciding to hold him prisoner themselves instead of turning him over to the real authorities, deciding he was no longer dangerous and allowing him to roam the mansion free, only to have him break free and go on yet another killing spree
5) Doing that great vetting job on Xorn before smuggling him into the country, which turned out great once he turned Manhattan into a concentration camp where humans were tortured and killed
6) Taking in Mystique after she led a group of terrorist mutants who attempted to assassinate Robert Kelly…shielded her from authorities and let her stay in the mansion, only to have her later recruit a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which included people like Sabretooth, the other murderer they harbored in the past. And what does she do? She attempts to murder Kelly again, and Moira McTaggart ends up dying as a result. Surely she’s out of second chances, right? No, Professor X immediately makes her his new special secret agent to do espionage missions for him (her Brian K. Vaughn series).
7) Marrow, mutant terrorist and leader of Gene Nation, slaughters a discotech full of innocent humans just for being human. The X-Men not only do not turn her over to the authorities, they offer her full-fledged membership.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on and on. They are elitist separatists who seem to believe they are above the sovereign laws of America. Now they’ve organized an black ops assassination squad X-Force, US murder laws be damned.

And you seriously want to tell me the FF and Avengers are equally bad when it comes to civilian collateral damage as the X-Men are? I’ll give you the Avengers Hank Pym creating Ultron, but there’s not much else there on par with X-Men’s actions.

Or, to put it another way, you’ve mentioned that you’re black and conservative. The NAACP is on T.V. a lot, gets consulted in virtually all matters that the media deems “black issues,” and seems to enjoy a lot of support from the black community.

Is it fair for me to assume that they speak for you?

I think a better way to put it is my views make me an anomaly and out of step with the black community. Using me as an example isn’t proof that NAACP aren’t spokespeople for Black America, but evidence that people like ME don’t speak for a majority of the black community. NAACP is way more indicative of cultural norms in the black community than a black conservative like me is.

I’m kind of surprised there’s not more outrage over the attempted rape of Jean Grey. Wasn’t this back when comics were still marketed to kids?

In the case of the X-Men, sure the X-Men don’t represent all of mutantdom. But when I read Grant Morrison’s X-Men era and some recent Brubaker and Fraction stuff taking place in San Francisco where they deal with the mayor, the X-Men seem to put themselves out there as the public face of mutantdom, and the impression given is that the average mutant-on-the-street is supportive of the X-Men. So if these secretive separatist militants who chronically hide and harbor terrorists who later commit acts of terrorism against humans are the only public face of mutantdom are the most prominent and POSITIVE advocacy group for a race, with the second most prominent being the Al Qaeda of mutantdom, Magneto and the Brotherhood, then at that point the problem isn’t eradicating the racism of humans against mutants. The problem is mutants getting together, getting political and working on their PR. The X-Men have to work to clean up their act and redeem themselves in the eyes of the larger populace and earn their trust by their deeds.

Or if the X-Men and Xavier are a fringe vocal minority and truly don’t represent and speak for the average mutant on the street, these mutants have to organize their own groups and get political and active to let people know that no, there’s more to mutant population than a Black Panther option (because let’s get real, the X-Men are more Black Panther personal militia than a peace-loving MLK) and an Al Qaeda option and a greedy criminal option.

Hm, I don’t think that’s the proper time and place for me to say that I would rather prefer that megacrossovers would still be like that, on annuals and special editions instead of regular series, is it?

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

According to quantum physics, many events are neither completely determined nor completely random

I don’t claim to be an expert on quantum physics, but what I do know is that it is more complicated than that. Yes, that is what the Copenhagen Interpretation says, but other interpretation have very different views of what waveform collapse represents.

Even with the Copenhagen Interpretation, it depends what you mean by completely random. If you mean by completely random that any result could be possible, then no event is completely random. What I mean by random is that the final result is based on no external factors, and as such the final result is impossible to predict. Even if there are only two determined possible quantum possibilities, the event is still completely random if there is no factor which determines the event. As such, any event, be it microscopic or macroscopic, which has more than one quantum possibility is completely random.

If not all causative agents are known, then many events can be described as random

I wouldn’t describe that as random, I would describe that as chaotic. They are two very different things.

Something can be random, but still be partly determined, in that certain outcomes are more likely than others.

I would still describe that as completely random.

Ultimately though, if we go back to free will, the kind of event I was talking about was an event which has multiple possible determined possibilities and, from those possibilities, one will be decided upon on not dependant on external factors but not independent from them either. That is the kind of event that can’t occur.

Bernard the Poet

November 16, 2009 at 5:08 am

Juat wanted to say that I really enjoyed this discussion. Well done, Chad for putting the cat among the pigeons.

T., I’m not sure how a “racism-removel mind control device” would work exactly. But it seems to me that removing racism against mutants isn’t the same as removing the capability to fear and comdemn certain mutants for their actions when it’s justifiable to do so.

And really, your charges against the X-Men can be made against many other superheroes who routinely battle murderous opponents who are too commercialy successful to be disposed of. Take Batman for instance, it bothers me how Batman tolerates the Joker mass murdering monthly (and killing and crippling several people close to Batman) and then just being return to that nice revolving door spa they call Arkham.

Okay, Batman never offered Joker a room in the Batcave to “rehabilitate” him, but I daresay a room in the Batcave could be harder to escape than Arkham Hotel.

And really, your charges against the X-Men can be made against many other superheroes who routinely battle murderous opponents who are too commercialy successful to be disposed of. Take Batman for instance, it bothers me how Batman tolerates the Joker mass murdering monthly (and killing and crippling several people close to Batman) and then just being return to that nice revolving door spa they call Arkham.

The charges against the X-Men cannot be made against most other superheroes, just a select few. And I agree, Batman is one of them, and in fact may be the absolute worst offender of being more of a problem than a help to the community. But to me modern DC superheroes are a lost cause anyway, I don’t even count them. I was talking strictly other Marvel heroes.

Honestly… why wouldn’t you? Seriously. If you had the power, why wouldn’t you use it to alter the world to fit your ideas of how it should be? Why WOULD you allow people to do things that you consider wrong? What benefit is there beyond an abstract concept of free will that allows for bad things to happen? Wouldn’t you put practicality above the abstract?

Isn’t this what Identity Crisis critics call “mind rape”?

You know, if my ex-best friend could control and alter people’s minds WITHOUT a special helmet, I’d probably would be a little more wary of using a special helmet to do the same thing. Sure, this was years before Xavier shut Magneto’s mind off in “Fatal Attractions,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if deep down, Magnus has always found something unnerving about Xavier’s telepathic abilities. I’m sure one of the things that crossed Magneto’s mind back when he used the mind-control helmet was, “what if Charles were to do the same thing to me?”

>> do you stick to your sense of morality and not do it because it is wrong to dominate someone’s mind like that or do you use your powers to stop rape from ever occurring? <<

You monitor all the people who are thinking about committing rape and brain-blast the ones who act on their thoughts and begin raping someone. I.e., you intervene when a crime is occurring, same as the police. But not before the crime has occurred.

Sorry if this is less efficient than mind-wiping people in advance. I imagine Orwell's "1984," "V for Vendetta's" England, and Hitler's Third Reich were most efficient at preventing rapes. We choose not to live in such societies for obvious reasons.

As someone said, read the original SQUADRON SUPREME maxi-series for more ethical arguments. Also see the movie "Minority Report."

So you’re going to remove racism and prejudice from everyone’s mind, eh? For starters, I guess that means 100% approval of gay marriage from now on. That’s an easy issue compared to some others.

I guess that also means the elimination of national borders. Because nationalism is a form of prejudice for your nation’s people against other nation’s people. We can expect Canada, the US, and Mexico to form one big happy family, with many Mexicans moving across the now-open borders to find jobs.

With the elimination of religious prejudice, will everyone join one unified religion? Or will they abandon religion? How can religious differences persist when no one is prejudiced against anyone else’s beliefs? Discuss.

Finally we get to the toughest moral issues such as capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia. Are differences on these issues based on rational thought or irrational prejudice? For instance, is a conservative who opposes abortion prejudiced against women’s rights or liberal interpretations of the Bible? Tell us, Chad: What position will a prejudice-free person take on abortion?

Gotta say I agree with a lot of what Chad is saying. Many here seem to assume that mind control is an all-or-nothing scenario, and I see a ton of use of the slippery slope logical fallacy. I don’t see why a moral person couldn’t legitimately come to the conclusion that prejudice is an inherently bad thing, it serves no useful purpose in humanity, and that person could decide to remove it and it alone, leaving the rest of the person’s free will alone. Would they think long and hard about it? Sure, I would hope so. Its certainly not a small thing to do, and its not a black and white issue. But in the end, I’d say the moral person would HAVE TO do it. With great power comes great responsibility – and to do otherwise would be abrogating that responsibility.

ALso, I tend to see this process as not mind control so much as….enlightenment I guess? The people affected would still have a full range of choices and actions, you have merely removed one of the input filters that blur their perception of reality. The people you affect would see things more clearly than before, and be able to act accordingly of their own free will.

Rob Scmidt asks what are the other consequences of removing prejudice? Looking at his list of potential outcomes, I don’t see anything bad in there. I really do think people will make a better decision sans prejudice, on every subject. The world may not end up looking like it does now, but that is very unlikely to be worse that what were have currently.

So yeah, I definitely fall on the side of not doing something to fix this planet when you have the power do do so as being EVIL.

Rob — Nationalism IS a bad thing and based entirely on the randomness of where you’re born. As for abortion, I don’t think your conception of prejudice is the same as what we were discussing.

Snare — Thanks. It is a matter of degrees, which is part of my argument, but you stated it better than I have to this point.

Prejudice, in a general sense, is a natural side-effect of how the human mind works. It is impossible for anyone to have all pertinent information before making most decisions, so it is normal for a person to jump to conclusions– pre-judge. Also, sticking to decisions and opinions once made, even after new contradictory information comes in, is also human nature. And it is also instinctive to divide people into ‘us and them’, probably because humans lived in small bands throughout most of history.
So if one had a mind-control device to remove prejudices, it wouldn’t have a permanant effect on society. Once the old prejudices were gone, new ones would continue to arise. They may or may not match old ethnic or tribal divisions– there are a lot of potential ways to divide up society. But the important fact is that unless you used the mind-control device over and over, prejudice would never remain gone for long.
You may not like that, but that’s the way it is.

I was WONDERING why this post had 70-odd comments.

The ol’ ethics-of-mind-control discussion-starter, eh? Nevett, you diabolical.

I just wish the telepaths would take some freaking ethics courses. It works for business, right? Right?

Ted,

“I can see no real difference between telepathy and the sum of experience and circumstance that leads us to make the decisions that we made….what’s the difference between telepathy and convincing someone with argument, whether an argument succeeds is going to be based on the circumstances that person has already lived through. It will either succeed or it won’t, they won’t have any choice about it.”

With telepathy, someone makes another person think a certain way. For example, the telepath makes someone now rob a bank, something they never would have considered before. Otherwise, one hears an argument, makes a judgement about its merits, and comes up with an answer based on one’s opinions and experiences. Without a telepath telling me to rob a bank, I can judge risk vs. reward, figure out the morality of taking money one did not earn, and decide how to proceed. I can say “yes” or “no,” instead of having to say “yes.” Even if you don’t believe in the concept of free will, surely you can see that telepathy eliminates the possibility of decision-making.

“This whole idea of free will strikes me as completely absurd – either action is random, and therefore it isn’t free, or action is determined, and therefore it isn’t free. This absolute insistance that we have free will comes of as narcissism to me, the idea that not being free would mean that you aren’t actually eprfect in ever way. And it seems like it’s this narcissism which stops people from asking why they have the opinions they have, who it is that is already controlling their minds. Before you decide that you have complete power over cause and effect, perhaps you should get over yourself.”

Well, I know I’m far from perfect, and I would never say I have complete control over cause and effect. Hell, sometimes I feel like I don’t have complete control over my reactions to certain situations. I’ll grant you that we don’t have much control over cause.

We can, however, change or alter the effect. (I dont believe in predestination, and I don’t consider the influence of life experience to be the same thing) I have to eat, so I can go to work and earn money for food or I can steal or I can beg or I can do nothing. Sure, my previous experience would say working is the best option, but the choice remains. I can listen to an argument about the merits of, say, universal health care, and decide how I feel about it. New data might come into my awareness that alters my view, but I can decide how much credence I give said data. I know I feel differently about the issue than my parents. I know I feel differently about the issue than some columnists or politicians. While there are influences to the way I make decisions, my ability to decide is not controlled by others. Telepthy would be control, not influence.

I read Squadron Supreme years ago… found the ideas good, the execution horrible.

And the movie Minority Report has nothing on the short story, which is much harsher and direct in its idea that the system and greater good trumps an individual’s sense of morality in some cases.

This was really hard to read because of the horrible immoral rant that began it.

If you honestly think that forcing people to behave in a way you, personally, find to be “better” is a good thing to do, then you are, at heart, a horrible and evil person. No two ways about it.

People who pass laws to force others to follow their religion have nothing on a person who seriously thinks that it would be stupid not to use magic or super-science or mutant powers to force other people’s behaviour to conform to their personal preference.

I’ve been enjoying your nostalgia. I do hope that you’ll keep your political views (as in, “I know best and it would be stupid to not force you to also do what I know is best”) to yourself in the rest of the articles.

Theno

And the movie Minority Report has nothing on the short story, which is much harsher and direct in its idea that the system and greater good trumps an individual’s sense of morality in some cases.

You do realize that forcing your personal value system on the whole world is actually an illustration of an invididual’s sense of morality trumping the system and the greater good, not the other way around, right?

Even if you don’t believe in the concept of free will, surely you can see that telepathy eliminates the possibility of decision-making.

It depends on the kind of telepathy. If you force someone’s actions, make them into a puppet, then you take away decision-making. However, if you instead change “one’s opinions”, then that person can make a decision based on there new opinions.

While there are influences to the way I make decisions, my ability to decide is not controlled by others. Telepathy would be control, not influence.

Any one experience is only going to influence your decisions. However, for the sum of all your experiences (and circumstances) to not come to a point of control there must be something else that influences decisions. My problem is that I can’t see what that thing could possibly be. It can’t just be another circumstance, yet at the same time if it is purely random, that’s not really free will either.

If you honestly think that forcing people to behave in a way you, personally, find to be “better” is a good thing to do, then you are, at heart, a horrible and evil person.

The problem wasn’t forcing people to do things, it was forcing people to think things. Every law ever made forces people to do things. Let’s say someone is about to stab someone else, so I grab their arm. I have forced them to act in a way they didn’t want to. What a horrible person I must be! Perhaps it would be better just to force everyone to act in ways that you find evil.

People who pass laws to force others to follow their religion

What do you mean by religion? “Thou shalt not kill” is part of a religion – are laws against murder also bad. Scratch that, of course they are, they force people to act in a way they wouldn’t. God, I wouldn’t want to get murdered near you, as you decide whether it would be acceptable to call the police, and force your preference against murder on the murderer. We must always treat people as ends and not means, mustn’t we Kant.

I just trying to imagine how evil you think it was for the Allies to invade Germany, and force the Nazis to behave in a way different to how they saw best. If evil happens when good men do nothing, then I guess you’re king of the do-nothings.

Here’s a question, if you had the complete power of telepathy, and I had the complete power of telepathy, and I was about to do the act of ultimate evil, and create world peace and tolerance, would you use telepathy on me to stop me? Because if you would, then your as bad as me, and if you wouldn’t then your still as bad as me. My morality may be ultimate evil, but at least it’s consistent.

forcing your personal value system on the whole world is actually an illustration of an invididual’s sense of morality trumping the system and the greater good

Only if that person’s “personal value system” is not itself the morality of the system and the morality of the greater good. Moralities can be shared, and if the forcer’s morality is that of the system and the greater good, then that person will merely be a tool of the system. By saying that we have to allow an individual to have a morality against the greater good just because that’s the morality they happen to have, then that individual’s sense of morality will trump the system and the greater good.

I’ve been searching for the Anti-Life equation for years, when I find it all you people are so screwed, just sayin.

Maybe this is being looked at a little one-dimensionally? Why would telepathy have to be used to in a carte-blanche manner, “deleting” what isn’t good in everyone’s minds?
I remember reading a What If? where Spider-Man ended up retaining the powers of Captain Universe. At the end of the story Spidey threw all his power into briefly uniting the minds of everyone on the planet.
So, my question is, would using telepathy to sway people’s opinions (possibly through showing them that the people they hate aren’t what they fear them to be) a viable option?
Or is this too tangential to the argument since it’s not a guaranteed end to racism (or other various world evils)?

Rob Schmidt:

So you’re going to remove racism and prejudice from everyone’s mind, eh? For starters, I guess that means 100% approval of gay marriage from now on. That’s an easy issue compared to some others.

Eh, same-sex marriage rights ARE a very trivial issue to begin with. :)

I guess that also means the elimination of national borders.

Yes, it pretty much does.

Because nationalism is a form of prejudice for your nation’s people against other nation’s people. We can expect Canada, the US, and Mexico to form one big happy family, with many Mexicans moving across the now-open borders to find jobs.

Actually, it goes MUCH further than that. Involving, among other things, crossing the borders towards Mexico in order to find ways of making it more autonomous. It is indeed a form of duty that overrules national borders, and has always been so.

That our societies and governments are too immature to fulfill it does not make it any less of a duty.

With the elimination of religious prejudice, will everyone join one unified religion? Or will they abandon religion? How can religious differences persist when no one is prejudiced against anyone else’s beliefs? Discuss.

Eh. Religion is a very individual matter, despite very significant, legitimate and real demands to make it a global one at the same time. Worrying about how to preserve religious differences is in fact very much pointless, akin to worrying about how to keep water wet. There is CERTAINLY no need to “keep” prejudices in order to “preserve” religious differences or even religious variety; individual thought and interpretations are plenty enough (and more healthy) for that.

Of course, I don’t know that it is even a bad thing to unify (or even abandon) religion either. Religion is and has always been a placeholder of sorts for humanistic philosophy, after all.

Finally we get to the toughest moral issues such as capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia. Are differences on these issues based on rational thought or irrational prejudice?

They have real, significant issues at their cores, but they are usually treated on a very irrational way, particularly abortion and euthanasia.

Again, there is simply no basis for claims that prejudice has a role to fulfill in keeping things healthy here. Much on the contrary, really.

For instance, is a conservative who opposes abortion prejudiced against women’s rights or liberal interpretations of the Bible?

In a typical stance, he is blind to the causes of abortion, which are social in nature and make any attempts to forbid (or even to allow) it quite besides the point. The true level for discussing abortion is that which involves making _less necessary_, not _less (or more) allowed_. There is no moral reason to respect people’s wish to make abortions, because _people don’t want to make abortions_.

Tell us, Chad: What position will a prejudice-free person take on abortion?

Surely that of addressing social issues such as lack of adequate sex education, revaluating the roles of parents in society, and discussion of alternate family models such as larger, more community-oriented familial cores. Discussing if it should be “allowed” is quite futile; abortions _happen_ regardless of whatever the law says about them.

Slare:

Gotta say I agree with a lot of what Chad is saying. Many here seem to assume that mind control is an all-or-nothing scenario, and I see a ton of use of the slippery slope logical fallacy.

Funny. I don’t think there is a slope at all, myself. This is in fact unusually close to a matter of pure principle, all things considered.

I don’t see why a moral person couldn’t legitimately come to the conclusion that prejudice is an inherently bad thing, it serves no useful purpose in humanity, and that person could decide to remove it and it alone, leaving the rest of the person’s free will alone.

For one thing, because prejudice is a natural and probably needed part of the development of a sense of identity. The blame lies in sticking with it instead of overcoming it, not in having it in the first place.

For another thing, are you even sure there is such a thing as free will?

Would they think long and hard about it? Sure, I would hope so. Its certainly not a small thing to do, and its not a black and white issue. But in the end, I’d say the moral person would HAVE TO do it. With great power comes great responsibility – and to do otherwise would be abrogating that responsibility.

Sure, that goes without saying and is already true for everyone.

ALso, I tend to see this process as not mind control so much as….enlightenment I guess? The people affected would still have a full range of choices and actions, you have merely removed one of the input filters that blur their perception of reality. The people you affect would see things more clearly than before, and be able to act accordingly of their own free will.

Forgive me for the language, but that is an unbelievable load of bull. “Enlightment” my arse.

Rob Scmidt asks what are the other consequences of removing prejudice? Looking at his list of potential outcomes, I don’t see anything bad in there. I really do think people will make a better decision sans prejudice, on every subject. The world may not end up looking like it does now, but that is very unlikely to be worse that what were have currently.

From what I know of psychology and sociology, prejudice is a natural and needed (if dangerous) subproduct of the paths that create personalities and identities. “Forbidding” it is in effect blocking the moral and emotional development of a person (or society). If prejudice is basically a betrayal against society, than disallowing it is very much an even worse betrayal, for it locks people at an even more immature stage.

So yeah, I definitely fall on the side of not doing something to fix this planet when you have the power do do so as being EVIL.

To each its own, I guess. But that sure is disturbing.

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