More words: Fail (and win), Protectionism, Humanism

Let’s talk about some words that have come up lately. Normally I write a piece every so often about a new word that comes into the public consciousness or is part of that series of tubes (that in itself is a reference that only a select number will get) known as the internet. I shall address three words today. Fail, an internet term that has gained so much notoreity it has become very difficult for me to understand. Antoher word is one that has come up in the news, I pinpoint the date roughly around the first day after it was announced that some Italian workers were being employed for a building project, and sparked a national discussion about foreign workers (the word foreign itself should have an article on it, I note).

The final word is an old word that has new meaning for people, some old European customs have been forgotten in such a way that the people who rediscover it think its new, like atheism.

Fail/win, the epic new words of the day

Internet culture has its fashions, and this one is going to be around for a little while (unlike the Christian Bale tirade). The concept of fail, I think, unifies internet phenomena into a single and possibly user-friendly concept. Some older internet citizens may remember the phenomenon of Engrish, which involves laughing at horribly translated English by (usually) Japanese translators on public signs and posts etc. The notion of the fail builds on the singular phenomenon of Engrish and also combines it with embarrassing videos of the kind you might see on ebaumsworld, bizarre news stories, and recently, user-submitted footage used to explicitly exploit or embarrass (often for righteous causes) others. Let me give three examples of a fail:

Exhibit 1: Product placement

This is a piece that shows very poor product placement, to suggest very strongly that this is the worst possible name for a product that you could give. Another example of this is a fish bone remover which involved the product name of boner.

Exhibit 2: Humiliation

This involves a slightly sinister (excuse the pun) enjoyment of someone’s misfortune, often this involves physical pranks, trying to impress people but ending up (usually) head first in the concrete (toboggan fail for instance).

Exhibit 3: Win

This is where the concept of a fail comes to confuse me. A win, I suppose is the opposite of a fail, but there are so many ways that a win is realised, a win can involve pointing out a fail, pre-empting failed product placement, or is actually simultaneous win and fail. There ones are generally funnier and rarer than a fail, it is, if you will, a superfail, (or you might say, epic win).

Now on to the other terms at hand.


I hate ‘isms’ people throw them about in such a way that they don’t know what it involves (relativism and postmodernism especially) such that it ruined the original meaning of the word, which, whether you agree with it or not, actually had something important to discuss. In the example I noted, they are even seen as simultaneous.

Protectionism is, one of those words, that seem to me made up to just be an ism, and not a doctrine; for instance, relativism is a philosophical doctrine, perfectionism is an ism. There are notably ambiguous cases of -isms; stocism in the normal non-philosophical usage, scientism and rationalism are terms which are often abused. In some respects the putative term of rationalism is so redundant it is more a normative epistemic imperative than a doctrine concerning reason. Reason again is another word that is abused. But it is not so clear that protectionism is a wood cooked up by journalists and fed into the meat grinder (ie. newspaper press). It sounds as if it’s a genuine doctrine and term, although if anyone is an economist let me know if there is a literature on this issue.

What is protectionism? I suppose the two big factors about defining it are:

1. There is a major economic recession and oncoming national unemployment (okay, so three factors)
2. It has the word ‘protect’ on it.

National fears of unemployment + the word ‘protect’ = Protectionism. It seems to be the notion that there is a desiderative imbued in the employer’s preference set to recruit people who are in the local area (oh, and are skilled and competitive, people forget to mention or acknowledge that part).

There are some legitimate issues about the discussion of this ‘protectionism’. One thing is that it is polarising and polemicising the issue of unemployment to look like an issue about foreigners taking local people’s jobs away. Dress it up as you may, but this is a foil for racism and xenophobia. On the other hand it is, and I gasp as I say this, a serious issue that major political parties aren’t fully addressing. The serious issue is that economic deprivation leads to wider social problems.


This is a word that, during the early to mid naughties, I heard many people say that Humanism was a post-war phenomenon and since the late seventies it became as empty as Church of England masses (I’ve also heard from the same person that Anglican was a synonym for being an atheist). This same person, who has many coinable phrases, also used to say that humanism was atheism+ churchgoing.

I’ve found that lately with the mobilisation of the New Atheists, and the increased records of student grassroots initiatives for secularist causes; we find that it’s not a bad time to come out as an atheist. The notion of freedom of speech had been discussed over the past two weeks with the whole Geert Wilders insident, and the anniversary of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. It would be nice to cite lovely enlightenment period quotes but you have heard enough of that from Michael.

Although I am discerning about the reduncancy of the label Atheist (especially when it seems to imply that you have to have a PhD in a science/engineering subject and or philosophy to be part of it), and the fact that so many people are just default atheists without feeling any need to identify with anything). Humanism seems to be a thing I welcome, especially for Michael and Sinistre* as they mentioned that there is a new ‘non-religious’ ‘thought for the day’ podcast by the Scottish Humanist society and they can hear their favourite philosophers Anthony Grayling and Julian Baggini [!].