25 Sep 2014

Two Stories on “Rape Culture”

All Posts 55 Comments

This is another of those posts that I’ll surely regret, but…

==> A few weeks ago the story broke of students who had invented a nail polish that changes colors when exposed to common “date rape” drugs. (The idea is that a woman can stir her drink with her finger and see if her nail changes color.) Feminist groups were critical of the idea, saying that it blames the victim and that instead of teaching women how to avoid getting raped, instead society should be teaching men that rape is unacceptable.

As you can imagine, the people in my social media circles absolutely flipped out about this feminist response.


==> Now this story is circulating, about a police officer who gave women the advice that if they want to avoid being raped by police officers at traffic stops, then one tip is to not break traffic laws and get pulled over in the first place.

As you can imagine, the people in my social media circles absolutely flipped out about this police response, saying it blamed the victims and that the real solution here is for cops to stop raping women at traffic stops.


==> I am really not being snarky here or even implicitly accusing anyone of hypocrisy. I understand, and agree with, BOTH reactions above (from my social media circles). But I’m not exactly sure why I think the situations are different.

55 Responses to “Two Stories on “Rape Culture””

  1. Dan says:

    It might be more analogous if the nail polish creators had employees that were drugging women and raping them, and in response they said “If the women really don’t want to be raped by our employees, then they should just buy our product.”

    • Brent says:

      Agreed. It is a difference only because the initial trigger event is voluntary in the case of getting a drink, while the police officer may be forcing the initial event upon an unwilling participant. Both “second” acts are wrong and to be scorned, but the police incident is at least marginally worse due to how the interaction began.

  2. Nick Rowe says:

    Bob: if you want to see stories about a *real* rape culture, and the almost total lack of feminist response to that story (until the manosphere and conservatives shamed a couple of belated responses out of them), just Google “Rotherham”, past month. (Rotherham is a small town in England.)

    • MG says:

      +1 I only caught up with this story last week — and not through the MSM, but a long article in NR (I think) recounting months of action (and non coverage), The intellectual dishonesty there, though, covers all constituencies of cultura progressivism, not only feminists.

      • Anonymous says:

        Years of inaction, actually. As much as we may criticize the diminishment of freedom of speech here, this never could have happened in a US city/town.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      I read about Rotherham in these Peter Frost articles on Unz.com


      Thanks to “progressive” teaching and control, it is a crime to criticize barbaric third world cultures and customs, but it’s ok to bomb and slaughter those people [over there], kill their children and turn their countries into Mad Max zones. And by all means, set up a social democracy in their countries where the government controls everything (to prevent market failure) and the largest ethnic group of voters owns the government.

      I know I try to soft-pedal it, but my views on “progressives” must come through a tiny bit on occasion.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Peter Frost also has some articles about empathy. I think libertarians “suffer” from an excess of empathy, which makes the accusations about wanting a world of barbed wire even more preposterous and pathetic.


  3. K.P. says:

    If society needs to teach cops that rape is unacceptable, then I can’t do much more than welcome it’s collapse.

  4. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, this reminds me of an earlier post you wrote on a related issue:

    Is your point in both these posts that libertarians ought to consider how their arguments against the governement might also be relevant in other spheres of life?

  5. Carl says:

    Hmmm why are different things different?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Carl you can leave wise*ss comments if you want, but people on this very thread are disagreeing with each other about why the two cases are different. So no, it’s not obvious.

      • Carl says:

        Sorry Bob.

        • Carl says:

          Funny thing is, I disagree with my initial dumb remark.

          In the first set-up, a drug detecting method is proposed to protect against rape. In the second, a traffic behaviour method is proposed to protect against rape. They’re not all that different after all.

          These methods might just prevent a bunch of horrible crimes. Let’s hope so.

  6. Impatient says:

    I agree that it is different and hard to pin down exactly why.
    The cop’s advice does focus on something you did wrong so feels like saying you asked for it. In the drugged drink case you did nothing wrong so it does not feel like saying you asked for it.

  7. Matt G says:

    The key difference is not one of principle but one of context. In our current society, date rape is much more pervasive than rape by police officers. It makes sense for women to take preventative measures to avoid rape, even if in an ideal world they would not have to bother.

    Rape by police, on the contrary, is rare enough that when we do hear about it we recoil at how terrible it is.

    If my point is not clear, imagine that we lived in a world in which rape is virtually nonexistent. If you heard about someone getting raped in such a world, it would be abhorrent to suggest that they could have been wearing more clothing, not walking alone at night, etc.

    Executive summary: date rape is normal, police rape is not. I think this what is meant by the phrase “rape culture”: the fact that in some ways, rape and the threat thereof is an widely accepted part of life.

    Now, I think the feminists who go so far as to frown upon clever new ways of preventing rape are resisting the current unfortunate state of reality to a ludicrous extent. Arguably like those libertarians who said that we shouldn’t vote for Ron Paul because that would be giving our tacit approval to the state.

    • Darien says:

      I disagree; the key difference is that between a precaution and a threat. In case 1, we have a phenomenon that, while no doubt far less prevalent than governmentia want us to believe, nonetheless does exist, and people who’ve created a simple, inexpensive method for reducing the risk associated with it. The parallel here is with “safety orange” vests for woodsy folk — sure, it’s all well and good to say that telling people to wear safety orange is just “blaming the victim” and that what really needs to happen is “we” need to convince hunters that shooting other people is bad, but that’s pretty obviously silly.

      In case 2, on the other hand, we have basically the mugger’s deal: if you don’t want to get hurt, then don’t make me hurt you. It’s the implied threat that makes it appalling. Nobody sincerely believes that, when somebody puts a knife to your throat and says “give me your wallet and you won’t get hurt,” he’s really providing advice on how not to get hurt. So too here, with the thugscrum telling you that if you don’t want to get raped, you need to play by their rules.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        OK, how would you react if, say, a news anchor gave that advice, rather than a police officer himself? Would you still react to it differently than you would in the first case?

        • Darien says:

          Yes, I would still consider them very different, in exactly the same way that, should a newscaster tell me “there’s been a rash of muggings lately; if you are mugged, it’s best to give your wallet to the mugger and not attempt to resist,” I would definitely consider that very different from the mugger himself telling me the same thing.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            No, I was asking you, how would you react to a newscaster giving advice about the nail polish, vs the newscaster giving advice about avoiding being pulled over?

            • Scott D says:

              “Today we have correspondent Julie Meyer with tips on how to avoid getting raped by the police. Julie?”

              “Thanks, Dan. I really only have one piece of advice for women out there for avoiding rape by the police. That is this: don’t break any laws. Just don’t do it. When you break the law, you open the door for this kind of tragic occurrence. Most women don’t realize this, but the risks of getting raped by the police go up a whopping 50% if you have committed even a minor infraction such as going over the speed limit. We really need everyone out there helping to get the word out and keep our girls safe from these unfortunate occurrences.”

              “Thanks, Julie. Coming up, is it possible that you might reduce your chances of being the victim of police brutality by changing your skin color? We’ll have the answer for you next.”

      • Matt G says:

        That was my first take as well, Darien. The bearer of the message is indeed a difference. I don’t think it’s the most significant difference.

        Let’s eliminate that factor. Say police rapes were more pervasive, and in response a company that produces radar detectors decides to market their product: “Don’t get raped! Buy our radar detector and avoid speed traps!”

        That doesn’t sound quite right to me. Not so much that people shouldn’t take precautions, but that we have tacitly accepted that police rape is a part of life and just try to work around it.

        • Darien says:

          I’d contend that it manifestly *is* a part of life, and that taking reasonable steps to avoid it is only sensible.

          Do I consider it ridiculous that this is a part of life in modern America? Of course. But am I shocked by it? Absolutely not. Perhaps that’s the problem here.

      • Harold says:

        Darien, I am interested in why you are sure the prevalence is far less than the Government wants us to believe?

        • Darien says:

          It’s fairly well-known that the government’s hysterical “one in five women have been raped” nonsense is made up out of whole cloth. Here’s the first link on the subject I could find: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bill-to-address-fake-campus-rape-epidemic-goes-too-far-2014-08-01?siteid=rss

          • John says:

            I don’t think this is actually well-known. The CDC and others have compiled an awful lot of survey evidence showing the prevalence of sexual assault against women, and the article linked to takes issue with the construction of the CDC survey on bases that don’t strike me as particularly grounded in either standard market research methods or common sense.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      Matt G, I don’t you intended it, but you just made the argument that when “a man” rapes a woman, our concerns about a woman being raped, that is, the extent to which we “recoil” at it, should be determined by the group to which the rapist can ve regarded as “belonging”, rather than, or at least more so, than the pain and suffering of the individual victim of rape.

      Do you honestly believe that I should react with less or more “recoiling” at someone being raped by one of your family members after a century of no rape in your family, versus that same someone being raped instead by a habitual rapist who has not been stopped yet?

      Rape is rape is rape, Matt G.

      And your point about Ron Paul is absurd. By using that analogy, it would imply that those who support this date rape drug detecting nail polish, are also in some way supportive of some “minarchist” rape taking place. For that IS what voting for Ron Paul would have consisted of. There would have been a minimum rape frequency that we must positivelupy support. That we would rather have infrequent rape, than no rape at all. No, we anarchista are NOT responsible for the actions of others. If my not voting for Ron Paul, indeed not voting “for” anyone at all, is followed by more violence than what might have taken place had Paul been elected, that is NOT my fault. You can’t pin what others do on me. Blaming me for not voting is SANCTIONING the violence of the people who did choose more violence and are responsible for why violence occurred, to the extent it did occur.

      You have a deep seeded love affair with the state, I can tell. You want some form of statism, and that is why you recoil MORE at a person being raped by a cop than you are with private individuals. I bet you felt relieved and want to make sure that everyone thinks that “cops” and “rape culture” are distinct.

      I have news for you. Rape culture is IN the “cop” sphere as well. Guess what? I have raped fewer people (namely zero) than the fraction “rapes made per cop”. Zero is less than ” 0.0..4″ or whatever it ends up being.

      As far as I am concerned, there is a “rape culture” in the police force. More rapes take place there than in my household, and my place of work. There is a rape culture in many other areas as well. But to draw a line right at cops and say we should be more aghast at that over any other rape, is rather offputting.

      • Matt G says:

        “you just made the argument that … our concerns about a woman being raped … should be determined by the group to which the rapist can ve regarded as “belonging””

        No I didn’t. There was no “should” or “ought” in my argument (other than the premise that rape is bad). My point is that in the reality in which we live, people generally DO accept rape more in some contexts than in others. I agree with you that this should not be the case, and I find it troubling. But my argument is that this is the only nontrivial difference between the two situations that Bob presented.

        I don’t think you would deny that most people in our culture have a “degree of shock” spectrum when it comes to rape that ranges from prison rape on one end (“ha ha”), through the drunk slut at the party (“she shouldn’t have been raped, that’s terrible, but what did she expect?”), to the police officer at a traffic stop at the other end (“that’s terrible and should never happen; police should be better than that”).

        • Major.Freedom says:

          There sure was an ought in your post. More than one actually. They’re between the lines. Common neocon tactic.

          One ought you elicited is that libertarians who did not vote for Ron Paul, ought to have voted for Ron Paul. You suggested people ought to refrain from being against the state, and that they ought to support some statism.

      • Matt G says:

        My point with the Ron Paul analogy was that both anarchists and feminists need to find a balance between constructively dealing with the imperfect world in which we live while at the same time working to remedy its injustices.

        I’m not claiming that you have a moral obligation to vote. I am claiming that advocating against voting as a general principle is just as silly as being critical of date rape prevention technology as a general principle.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          “I am claiming that advocating against voting as a general principle is just as silly as being critical of date rape prevention technology as a general principle.”

          No it isn’t. You’re comparing apples and oranges. To advocate for the date rape prevention technology is not advocating for a minarchist rape frequency. But advocating against NOT voting (still with me?) IS advocating for a minarchist coercion frequency.

          What you call “finding a balance” in the context you did that is nothing more and nothing less than a positive advocacy for exactly what anarchists are against, and a positive advocacy for what statists are for.

          Are you suggesting that rape victims should “find a balance with”, or “compromise with” rapists, or anyone who supports “minarchist” rape? Of course not right? But we live in a world where rape takes place.

          You are just trying to sound all reasonable and practical, but your views are extremist. You are against not voting as a general principle, and therefore you are for voting as some non-general principle.

          If it is wrong for me to be against voting as a general principle, then according to that logic, it would be wrong to be against rape as a general principle.

          You’re not fooling me Matt. You may have fooled yourself, but I know better than what you are convinced is best.

          • Matt G says:

            Well, apples and oranges are both fruits, but the similarity does end at some point. You certainly can push the analogy past the point where it holds up.

            Advocating for the nail polish IS compromising with rapists. It’s in effect saying “we accept that rape happens and should take measures to mitigate the risk of rape that don’t involve attacking the root problem.”

            Are you saying that even if you knew for a fact that your act of voting would significantly reduce the power of the state, you would still not vote?

            Do you consider it wrong for a U.S. citizen to pay his or her taxes?

  8. skylien says:

    As if a police officer willing to rape women would wait for them to break traffic laws before they pull them over. “Damn it is middle of the night, no one else around, and that beauty in her car there just doesn’t break any traffic law.. life is so unfair if you are a duty bound raping police officer”.


  9. Tel says:

    The most important thing that jumps out at me is that in order for a police force to operate at all, the cops need to be selected to be more trustworthy than average. If the cops don’t obey the law then no one else will either and it rapidly ends up with just entrenched bribery and corruption.

    Thus, you would hope that rape by the cops is vastly lower than rape in general.

    People who believe that a good education will prevent anyone breaking the law are fools. If they even understood the first concept of evolution it would be that when there is an opportunity, someone, somewhere always takes that opportunity. This, anyone not looking for ways to prevent opportunities, is not really interested in stopping rape either.

  10. Harold says:

    I assume everybody here agrees that in an ideal world, there would be no rape, so no need for either indicating nail polish or warnings from police. A utopian thus would be consistent and criticise both initiatives. Yet it seems to me that the indicating nail polish is more acceptable than the cop’s advice. Why?

    A more realistic person would approach it from a practical perspective. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need locks on our doors either. Saying we should lock our houses to prevent burglary is blaming the victim when we should be convincing burglars not to steal. Often, if someone does not lock their door they are blamed for the burglary – what did they expect if they left the door open?

    We are all used taking reasonable precautions to prevent what should not happen. Perhaps the difference is in the actual effects. Does the initiative result in less of the undesirable activity at proportionate cost?

    For locks it is probably yes -although not for certain. If nobody had locks we may not have more burglaries. Localities that do not have locks tend to have low burglary rates, but of course that may be cause not effect.

    The indicating nail polish would, if it worked, be likely to achieve the desired effect. For the individual, they could avoid spiked drinks, and the existence of the technology would deter some from even trying it, thus protecting even those who did not use it. Assuming the cost was modest, it would be as worth it as locks on the doors. It would have a similar psychological effect as locks on the door – people adopt a more suspicious nature and are effectively focus on everyone they drink with being a potential rapist. I believe this is a negative effect. The extent of the negativity is proportional to the number of their drink buddies who actually are rapists. Since use of these drugs is apparently pretty common, it seems a reasonable precaution – the benefits outweigh the harms.

    The advice from the cop is less certain. It may not be effective, as a cop can always pull you for some imagined transgression(1). People already do not want to get pulled by the cops, so they are trying to avoid that anyway. By focusing extra hard on avoiding getting pulled they are treating every cop as a potential rapist with negative psychological effects. Since most cops are not rapists in this situation (who knows what they get up to when they are out drinking -but that is a different matter) and the precaution is not likely to be successful, the harms outweigh the benefits.

    What about other effects? In the date rape case the message is “This is a bad situation, but we can’t do much about it, so take this precaution anyway”. Actually, that is the same message for the police rape advice. The difference is that in the date rape case it is closer to the truth – like burglary, at the moment there is not that much we can do to stop it. For raping police, we feel there should be more we can do about it through more training, supervision or better investigation.

    The existence of a remedy the victim can use reduces the necessity to try to do more about it be that prosecuting date rapists or police.

    (1)”Some women were stopped as they were walking. In one case, the victim told police that Holtzclaw broke into her home in March, kicked out her boyfriend and then forced her to perform sexual acts.” The advice is not much use here.

  11. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Ya, the “blame the victim” talk has always bugged me. The sad thing is there’s genuine victim blaming out there, and telling women to be careful is not it. Calling that “blame the victim” presupposes that it’s the only thing people think should happen. People who call it “blaming the victim” also aren’t thinking realistically about living in a world where the ideal solution isn’t going to happen overnight (or perhaps ever).

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      “The sad thing is there’s genuine victim blaming out there, and telling women to be careful is not it.” I think the feminist argument is that woman already take precautions without having to be told by society, and that when society sends messages of “take precautions”, what such statements really mean is “If you took precautions, you wouldn’t become a victim. So those women who are victims must not have taken adequate precautions, so they shouldn’t be surprised at what the result was.”

  12. Mike M says:

    “Feminist groups were critical of the idea, saying that it blames the victim and that instead of teaching women how to avoid getting raped, instead society should be teaching men that rape is unacceptable.”

    In a related news story, research now indicates that Americans can no longer walk and chew gum at the same time.

    • Scott D says:

      I agree, but I think that the idea they are trying to put across is that the one action undermines the other. Like saying, “Well, there’s this nail polish out there that lets women test their drink for drugs, so if they choose not to use it, it’s their own fault and they deserve what they get.”

      To borrow from Harold’s analogy above, if your home was burglarized because you didn’t lock the doors, someone might say that you had it coming because you didn’t take precautions. I think that any reasonable person can appreciate that this line of reasoning is wrong. Indeed, you could as easily say, “It’s your own fault for not installing a security system,” or “You should have hired a security team to patrol your property.”

      Do we really think that a good strategy to prevent burglary is to eschew locks and security systems so that the public is properly focused on getting the word out that stealing is wrong? You could drive a bus through the gap of that non-sequitur. The feminists’ frustration at having to combat bad arguments should not lead them to oppose technology that might actually prevent rape from occurring.

      • Mike M says:

        Scott, you are spot on, and sadly, it illustrates what passes for critical thinking respects public policy discussion.

    • Francesco Shiel says:

      Violence, “sexual” or not, and its acceptance as a legitimate action is the root problem. Self-defense should be encouraged, if for no other reason than to discourage preemptive violence.

      These offended people should be encouraging personal safety.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        Everyone here agrees that there is nothing wrong with promoting personal safety. Further, how many people actually support raping drunk college girls and women drivers?

  13. Bob Roddis says:

    1. The solution is to have Facebook friends who aren’t all completely crazy.

    2. I fearlessly cut through this corner of Detroit all the time to go between suburbs and people say I’m crazy and I’ll deserve what I get. Until April, I told everyone there was nothing to be afraid of. Is telling folks to not take the short-cut the same as these two examples above?


  14. Andrew_FL says:

    I imagine you agree with the reaction to the second because you don’t think there should be traffic laws and she shouldn’t be told how she can and can’t drive.

    How hard was that?

    And for what it’s worth, having just had a substantial amount of money basically stolen from me over a damn speed limit, I’m inclined to agree.

  15. John P says:

    Not sure I see the problem. Yes, men shouldn’t rape women. But surely it’s wise and sensible for women to take whatever precaution necessary.

    Yes, policemen shouldn’t rape women but it’s sensible for women to take any advice that particular policeman has to offer.

    The problem for libertarians is the monopoly on law enforcement the police possess which allows them to get away with such things.

  16. Greg Morin says:

    I’d say they’re different in terms of where the goal posts are located.

    In both situations the “blame the victim” technique for avoiding rape is the simplistic “don’t do that” i.e. to avoid date rape, don’t rape – to avoid arrest rape, don’t do stuff that might get you arrested. Each presupposes that the negative outcome is an obvious consequence of the former action, so duh, don’t do that. That presupposition is of course entirely fallacious but those making such unhelpful suggestions do it anyway, thinking they are clever, as though rape is as an obvious outcome of dating as a broken leg is from jumping off the roof of your house.

    Where these differ is that the “don’t get arrested” suggestion stops there. The “don’t date” suggestion is obviously stupid so the goal post is moved a bit further so that one can still engage in the action one was told “not to do” yet still avoid the potential negative outcome. Instead of suggesting inaction to the victim, the suggestion is one of action, i.e. defensive action. How can I prophylactically identify someone whose intentions are to rape me? This defense is simply removing the blinders and allowing them to see. If someone invented glasses that could let you see if someone was infected with Ebola and that helped you avoid infected people would we tell them “well that’s stupid, you should teach people not to go in public if they are infected with Ebola… these glasses are just enabling bad behavior of infected people”. No, nobody would say that (at least I hope not). The date rape test is no different…it’s just a smoke alarm… I wonder if the feminists that objected to it would object to smoke alarms and say that we teach people to be more safe with fire instead?

    Empowering the individual to act in order to avoid potential future danger is not equivalent to telling the individual they should simply cease all action. This prescription (“don’t do that/anything’) can apply to all negative events and is always the same, i.e. “don’t do X”: you got in a car accident, then don’t drive… you got fat, then don’t eat…you failed a test, then don’t go to school,… someone laughed at your appearance, then never interact with another human being… and so on.

    The defense suggestion varies depending on the negative outcome: got in a car accident, then taking a defensive driving course, you got fat… then learn how to eat more healthy/less/exercise… you failed a test, study this way next time…some laughed at you, then give as ye got… or you don’t want to get raped on a date, use a test that will tell you who is looking to do so.

    It comes down to a suggestion of inaction/decreased options vs action/increased options. Anyway, that’s how I would say they are different 😉

    • Strat says:

      Yeah, I spent about 20 minutes on this one as well, the coupling of action/increased options is the critical factor.


      Action/Increased Option
      Use [Method] and you can [Option]

      • Strat says:

        The coupling of action w/ increased options is the critical factor.
        Irrelivant whether or not its a police officer.

        Action that leads to more options:
        e.g. Use a radar detector and you can speed with less chance of getting raped.
        e.g. Use our nailposh and you can drink with less chance of getting raped.

        Inaction (whether or not it leads to more options):
        e.g. Dont speed and you can reduce your chance of getting raped.
        e.g. Dont use our nailposh and you wont reduce your chance of getting raped.

  17. Ben B says:

    I wonder how that same cop would have responded to, “If you don’t want people to shoot you, then you should probably refrain from arresting them.”

  18. Rick Hull says:

    This one seems pretty clear to me. For the nail polish, this is a detection tool that alerts potential victims to predators. There is no aspect of victim blaming, and the other argument presented against is the tiredest opportunity cost cliche imaginable, where we must refrain from bathing until every child in Africa never feels thirsty. Am I wrong about any of this, or did I leave anything out?

    The second case is significantly different in that the representative of a group characterized by predators says that the potential victims must not behave such that they are ever subject to predation. There are several important facets relative to the first case:

    1. The statement is by a cop, from within the circle of potential predators, concerning what can be done to prevent predatory abuse. This difference would be milder if the statement were from outside the circle of potential predators. It’s one thing if an impartial observer “blames the victim” versus when the perpetrator (or his representative) does so.

    2. The second case, aside from considering merely perps and victims, revolves around power relationships. It’s about abuse of authority, and the messenger represents the authority and doesn’t seem concerned about the fact of abuse.

    • Impatient says:

      Point 2 is really good. The nail polish people are trying to help, the cop is trying to minimize. The attitudes are poles apart.

      • John Dougan says:

        I think Rick nails it. The difference in the second case is authority, particularly since the authority in question is the police authority that is supposed to “protect and defend” against the crimes in question.

        Change the crimes in question to “poison in drink” and “unjustified killings by cop” (sadly relevant) and you get the same answers.

        • Strat says:

          Garbage man:
          “If women want to reduce there chance of rape, they shouldn’t speed”

          Garbage man:
          “If women want to reduce there chance of rape, they shouldnt take there bins out on a public holdiay”

          Both of these seem bad and have nothing to do with authority.

    • John P says:

      But how do you know he isn’t concerned?

  19. Silas Barta says:

    You don’t see the difference?

    If a bargoer wants to rape you, then checking your drink for drugs can indeed reduce your vulnerability.

    But if a policeman wants to rape you, then driving better won’t help, because you can get pulled over even if you drive perfectly.

    Furthermore, the policeman’s advice is wrong. If you’re worried about a traffic stop being a pretense for rape, the solution is to make sure you pull over into a well lit place with witness.

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