Reading Molyneux So You Don’t Have To: Truth and Truthiness

What is truth? Well we certainly won’t find out today, as I dive into one man’s quest to loudly proclaim what Truth is watch him get hoplessly confused without ever realising it.

hilosophy is the study of truth, which is a definition that raises almost as many questions as it answers. What is truth? How is truth differentiated from falsehood? Why is truth even preferable to falsehood? Truth is the accurate identification of facts and principles in objective reality.

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 273-278). Kindle Edition.

That’s an odd definition of philosophy but not one worth arguing about. Certainly philosophy isn’t about trying to be wrong. What makes it limiting is Molyneux then defining truth:

Truth is the accurate identification of facts and principles in objective reality.

Molyneux is going to define truth several times, which would be a reasonable thing to do in a work on philosophy if he acknowledged what he was doing but he doesn’t. He asserts what truth is and asserts different concepts of truth as he goes along without ever interrogating them. That this first definition is oddly circular (what can “accurate” or “facts” mean without reference to truth?) passes him by. Truth will be important for Molyneux but he has two problems:

  1. he doesn’t know what he means by truth
  2. he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know what he means by truth.

Philosophy is supposed to be a thing you do, not just a body of knowledge about past philosophers. Molyneux’s book avoids both. He asserts rather than examines and asserts without looking critically at what he asserts.

Why, you may ask, “objective reality”? Is Molyneux saying philosophy can’t consider issues in subjective domains or things which aren’t real? Can philosophy not discuss fiction for example?

‘“Truth” describes verifiable and objective principles and experiences. If I say that I had a headache last summer while camping alone, there is no way to verify my statement. But if I say that the sun is 8.3 light minutes away from the earth, there are ways to verify my statement. Subjective experiences do not fall in the realm of philosophy, any more than nightly dreams fall in the realm of physics. Saying that something “feels true” makes about as much sense as saying that “imagination proves scientific hypotheses.” The conflation of subjective experience with objective truth is one of the great curses of human history.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 403-410). Kindle Edition.

I don’t think Molyneux knows that he’s offering a different definition of what truth is now. Truth now needs to be verifiable whereas before it simply had to match “objective reality”. He’s apparently offering a much more radical theory of truth. Has he simply mistyped? Experience with Molyneux shows he is often very credulous about certain things, so maybe he just has a very generous concept of verified?

I assume he’s simply got confused between “truth” and “knowledge”. Yet, he commits initially to this restricted view of truth with an example. His headache example puts anything you can’t check beyond the realm of truth. Note not whether we can know whether something is true or not but whether the truth even applies to such things.

Does he really believe that? No, of course not. This is not a model of truth he’ll be able to sustain. It’s simpler to assume that sometimes when he says “truth” he means “knowledge” and sometimes he means “truth” but he doesn’t know the difference. Yes, this is a book on philosophy that is unaware of epistemology.

He does mention knowledge:

“If you have a hypothesis that cannot possibly be disproved, then you have added nothing whatsoever to the sum total of knowledge, truth, understanding or perception – or to anything, for that matter.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 600-601). Kindle Edition.

But is unclear about the distinction between knowledge and truth.

Truth, he asserts is empirical:

“The reason is that a truth proposition must be compared to something in order to find out whether it is true or not. Truth cannot be entirely self-referential. Otherwise, it cannot be the truth at all. Truth is a standard that we apply to propositions that reference something other than their own principles or arguments.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 616-618). Kindle Edition.

So that’s analytical truths down the drain then. He just accidentally killed mathematics. Don’t worry, he’ll forget that he said this later.

He also knows the word “epistemology” but maybe is unclear as to what it is?

“Naturally, a central question of epistemology – the study of knowledge – is whether the information we receive from our senses is valid. Now “valid” is just another word for “accurate” or “true,” which brings us back to the basic question – what is truth? As discussed before, “truth” is a statement about objective reality that conforms with the nature and principles of objective reality. If I say that there is a cloud overhead, my statement is true if there is in fact a cloud overhead.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 780-785). Kindle Edition.

He’s butchering the word “valid” now and wandering back to a correspondence with “objective reality” as the definition of truth. His earlier definition would mean it would only be true that there was a cloud overhead IF he had checked and verified there was. Maybe it is obvious in that context that he would have checked or maybe he just forgot.

He’s dead keen on objective reality though. Truth is not something he thinks should be applied to subjective views.

“This requirement for objective reality as a standard of truth can be challenging for some who believe that their own internal states have a truth or falsehood about them. It is true, for example, that I felt sad yesterday; it is true that I feel happy today. It is true that I love my wife, that I study the truth, and that I hate evil.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 785-789). Kindle Edition.

Yes, his example directly contradicts everything he just said including the point he just tried to illustrate. Molyneux is a sort of materialist. I need to be cautious here because honestly I don’t know to what extent Molyneux can be said to believe something – his ideas are not self-consistent. Yet he appears to believe minds are functions of brains and so emotions and mental states are grounded in physical effects – which would make them part of “objective reality”. I’ll return to this later when I try to untangle what he means by “objective reality” in another post.

Not knowing exactly what truth is (or what “objective reality” is) should not be considered a flaw in a book on philosophy. They are hard topics to grasp without descending into circular definitions and they are topics on which many great minds have struggled. However, not knowing that you DON’T KNOW is whatever the opposite of philosophy is. Philosophy does not require its practitioners all to be radical sceptics but if you aren’t questioning your own ideas then whatever it is you are doing, it isn’t philosophy.

“Saying that something looks wet to me, if it really does, is an honest statement. Saying that something is wet, just because it looks wet to me, is a hypothesis. If I see water drops on my window, and I say that I see water drops on my window, I am telling the truth.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 879-882). Kindle Edition.

For Molyneux his own internal states have a truth or falsehood about them. He said earlier that it was challenging for people that they don’t and here I can’t fault him in so far as he failed his own challenge after a few pages. We can speculate that what Molyneux wants is to be able to dismiss the claims others might make about their feelings or opinions without questioning his own.

But what if truth itself is an internal state?

“A tree cannot be incorrect, sunlight cannot be erroneous, water cannot take a wrong turn, and fungus cannot be immoral. Truth and falsehood exist as distinct states in only one entity in the universe that we know of: the human mind.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 917-919). Kindle Edition.

Is it even possible to discuss Molyneux’s beliefs about truth? Truth is a state of mind? Again, he might be trying to say knowledge rather truth. I’m not sure. His ideas have become so jumbled here that untangling them requires active re-writing of what he wrote. I’d pity his editor but I’m assuming he doesn’t have one, not even his cat.

Literally the next paragraph he zigs one way:

“Truth is a state that results when a concept matches an entity or a hypothesis matches the facts of reality.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 919-920). Kindle Edition.

A state of what? A state of mind? That’s a reasonable reading as he was just talking about truth as a state within a mind but I’m not sure. That seems far too a subjective view of truth for Molyneux. Perhaps he means an abstract state? I should be grateful he’s not attempting metaphysics but his lazy materialism raises too many problems.

He then zags another way:

“Truth always refers to concepts or language and the degree to which they match what exists and occurs in objective reality. If I point at a mug and say it is a telephone, we cannot fix my statement by replacing the mug with a telephone. If I call the mug a “telephone,” I am incorrect, because my word does not match what I’m pointing at.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 920-923). Kindle Edition.

Truth is about language and concepts? I mean, OK, that’s not terrible. Truth as something propositions have – a perspective of truth as value takes us into a domain of logic.

“The standard of truth refers not only to the relationship between concepts and objects, but also to concepts about the relationships between objects, such as gravity or magnetism. If I say that “gravity repels,” then I am incorrect; my language does not match the true relationship between mass and gravity. If I say that “magnetism can pull down a tree,” then I am equally incorrect.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 923-928). Kindle Edition.

I’ll just point at that paragraph. Each one of these follows on from each other. I think he’s trying to get at “belief” but he avoids the word, just like he avoids “knowledge”. Yes, these words are technical terms within philosophy and he’s obviously trying to avoid referencing other philosophers or other philosophical texts but you can see how clouded his thinking is here. Failing to make conceptual distinction leads him to confusing belief, truth and knowledge while he also tries to explore the relationship between them.

The final zig-zag in these sequential paragraphs is:

“The relationship between concepts in the mind and matter or energy in the world is the relationship we refer to as “truth.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 928-929). Kindle Edition.

I’ll concede that there’s some content there. Those series of paragraphs are confused but not vacuous and they might be even thought provoking. I am sure somebody defending him could extract a reasonable position out of what he is saying. I am not sure that two people would extract the same position. Rather like Jordan Peterson, the confusion of ideas is a feature not a bug.

More vacuous are statements such as:

“Philosophical arguments, which establish truth regarding objective and rational reality, must themselves be objective and rational.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 970-972). Kindle Edition.

But let’s get back to “valid”. Remember that earlier he’d said that “valid” is just another word for “accurate” or “true,”? Well, he wants valid to be something more specific now:

“In relation to truth, there are three categories of concepts – valid, potentially valid, and invalid. A valid and true concept is one that has been verified and established, both by its internal rational consistency, and by its consistency with empirical observations. The idea that the earth is a sphere, rather than flat, is not internally self-contradictory. No one is saying that the earth is both a sphere and flat at the same time. And its roundness has been consistently verified through empirical observations, both on the surface of the earth and in space.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 973-980). Kindle Edition.

I mean, it’s great that he’s using another word but his definition of “valid” is almost the same as his previous definition of ‘truth’. He’s improved upon it though by adding “internal rational consistency”. I think he wants “valid” to mean true but he wants two different concepts for things that aren’t valid but only wants one concept for things that aren’t true.

“Potentially valid concepts are those for which there is no empirical evidence, but no internal self-contradiction either. For instance, the idea that silicone, rather than carbon, could be used as the basis for a living organism is not internally self-contradictory, but there is no evidence as yet of a silicone-based life form. The position that intelligent life could exist on other planets is not internally self-contradictory, but no evidence as yet exists to prove this hypothesis.

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 986-990). Kindle Edition.

You know what? That’s OK. Yes, it is deeply at odds with his headache example from earlier in the book (which surely is “potentially valid” in this scheme). ‘Prove” we’ll skip over – it’s asking too much expect him to look at that word. ‘Silicone’? Sure, why not.

“Invalid concepts are those that are self-contradictory, and thus can never accurately describe atomic consistency. One example of a self-contradictory concept is the “square circle,” which cannot exist because the characteristics of squares and those of circles contradict each other.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 990-992). Kindle Edition.

Again, not so terrible. We are a quarter of the way into the book and either the process is leading him to think a bit better or he’s explaining himself better. I was confident this book wouldn’t get good, it’s too laden with contradictions and confused concepts, but at this point perhaps it might provide some insights. Then he follows up with another example:

‘Another example of a self-contradictory entity is the concept of “consciousness without matter.”’

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 992-994). Kindle Edition.

He goes onto say why but its not a great argument (and I say that even though I agree that consciousness requires matter). He basically just begs the question, asserting in different ways that consciousness depends on matter. Fair enough except he’s supposed to be showing that the idea is self-contradictory, instead he just asserts in different ways that it’s not true.

I was wondering at this stage whether it was just that Molyneux wanted a radically materialist and empirical view of truth and knowledge. That wouldn’t solve all the confusion in his book but maybe that’s what he was going for. Perhaps his view of mathematics, for example, was that it was only true when it is applied empirically. That would be interesting but no, that’s not what he thinks either:

“When we ask a child to accept that two and two make four, we are not asking the child to believe this truth for any particular instance, but rather for all instances of that equation. It’s not just that these two coconuts and two coconuts make four coconuts, but rather that two and two of anything make four. When we ask a child to write the number “4” on an answer sheet, we are asking the child to compare his proposed action – writing a number – with the ideal standard of writing the correct number.

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 1337-1343). Kindle Edition.

Do we need more layers of confusion here? Apparently we do. Molyneux not unreasonably ties ethics in with truth. He, like most people, sees there a moral aspect to preferring truth to falsehood.

‘Truth is infinitely preferable to error. Truth requires rational consistency and empirical evidence.’

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 1099-1101). Kindle Edition.

I suspect he means ‘the pursuit of truth’ or something similar. He uses the word ‘truth’ without qualifiers to mean different aspects of truth or things related to truth or to which truth can be applied (as we’ve seen with ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’). This is not just a quirk of bad writing or sloppy thinking though. He keeps equating truth as a thing with different but related ideas. For example he then goes on to say that determinism destroys truth (his views on ‘free will’ I’ll need to save for another time).

‘If you are a determinist, there can be no preferred states in your world view. Determinism is not the establishment of truth, but the destruction of the very concept of truth. Truth is a preferred state – preferable to falsehood – however, if everyone and everything is a machine, there can be no preferred states, since no alternative possibilities can exist. A rock lands where a rock lands – the rock has no preferred state. Everything is the inevitable clockwork unrolling of mere physics – there is no right and wrong, no truth and falsehood, no good and evil – these are all primitive superstitions, akin to a belief not in the geological reality of a volcano, but the imaginary superstition of a volcano god.’

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 1810-1816). Kindle Edition.

And later:

‘Integrity is fidelity to moral truth. In the deterministic universe, there is no truth; therefore, there can be no morality and, therefore, there can be no integrity.

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 1857-1859). Kindle Edition.

In a deterministic universe there would still be concepts which could either correspond with or not correspond with objective reality, hence by at least one of his standards of truth, there would still be truth. Yet, now he’s added a moral dimension to truth by confusing “truth” with “the pursuit of truth”.

Molyneux is very much in the region of ‘not even wrong’ and whatever he is doing is not philosophy. It is essentially the opposite of philosophy: a process by which ideas are obscured and go unexamined. Instead of questioning Molneux asserts, instead of examining he declares. He is untroubled by his confusing and conflicting uses of the word truth because he is , laying claim to the word “truth”. Molneux both literally and figuratively wants to own truth. He has a radical notion of intellectual property:

“An argument is just as much a product of your body as a house, a song – or a murder, for that matter. If you say to someone you are debating with, “You are wrong!” you are saying they have created an argument that is false – that they own the argument, and they own the “wrongness” as well. If you say to someone, “You are a fool,” then you are saying they have done something that earns them the label of foolishness. Arguing against property rights requires accepting property rights; it is a fool’s position.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 2550-2556). Kindle Edition.

Viewed through the lens of Molyneux’s conception of property, then his claims on truth become more comprehensible — at least in terms of motive rather than content. He wants to own capital-T Truth like Cadbury chocolates owning purple. This is a land grab but a poorly executed one.

More nonsense next time.


Reading Molyneux So You Don’t Have To: Part 1

I wandered into the rabbit hole that is alt-right cultist Stefan Molyneux the other day. I’ve covered Molyneux only tangentially in the past, mainly because he’s pals with Vox Day. Molyneux mainly does his thing via YouTube and podcasts and I find those media tiresome to analyse. It’s very hard to double-back and check what people said earlier and I think they disguise confused thinking better than text.

Anyway, Molyneux also does free books. That is a lovely pairing of words, “free books”, but let me just say that the book I got was overpriced. It’s called “Essential Philosophy: How to know what on Earth is going on”.

I’m not quite ready to go through it in detail, mainly because it is less than coherent. There’s a core ethical problem because I think Molyneux believes that he believes things that he doesn’t actually believe. To assert that somebody misunderstands their own beliefs doesn’t sit well with me, even if it is somebody of dubious morals such as Molyneux. I don’t mean just that he misrepresents his own beliefs or that he lies about his beliefs (probably both of those are true as well) but that he asserts ideas that he understands well enough to express but which are at odds with what he later claims.

If you are thinking “that sounds like Jordan Peterson”, well yes it does. Molyneux has a lot in common (aside from being Canadian) with Peterson and has a similar cultish aspect to him. The Rational Wiki entry is well worth a read

However, Molyneux is much, much less entertainingly incoherent than Peterson. Peterson is tiresome to read if you try and follow a chain of ideas but if you just give up trying to make sense of Peterson, you do get a weird hallucinatory trip into the mind of a troubled man desperately trying to externalize his inner demons by pretending his own character flaws are actually problems with the world.

Molyneux on the other hand is a dull writer with equally confused ideas but none of the wacky diversions into lobsters and flying over pyramids.

In the meantime, I got distracted. I went to Molyneux’s Twitter feed to check something and ended up writing an essay about an IQ question.

Some navel-gazing about god(s)

I was prompted into contemplating my belly-button by reading the usual crypto-fascist Vox Day. So apologies for that. I’m not going to bother linking to the piece (its dated December 7 if anybody wants to look), it’s neither terrible nor insightful. However, the issue at hand is god and logic and that’s a topic that always sets me off but before I continue let me say something:

You can’t prove using logic that god (in general) doesn’t exist.

Also, I’m not attempting to prove that god doesn’t exist (I mean god doesn’t exist but that’s not what I’m going on about).

The piece in question is looking at Richard Dawkins offering some of the classic issues of the standard conception of god. Specifically that god is both omniscient and omnipotent. Both have issues logically and together they have even more issues. Dawkins is quoted as saying:

Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.

Which is fair enough, as far as it goes. Day calls the argument ‘silly and superficial’ but then goes off on a full-on theological retreat in the face of the argument, essentially backpedaling on both qualities. He argues that maybe the bible doesn’t claim either thing and maybe these are just potentialities of god i.e. god has the capacity to know everything but only if he chooses to etc. That’s all fine, you can believe in whatever god you want and your god can have whatever limitations you think appropriate. I’m not the faith policeman.

It is still missing the point though. Put aside the word ‘god’ (or ‘God’) for that matter. Let’s talk about the Ultimate Being instead. The Ultimate Being is a Platonic god i.e. at the end of a chain of abstraction of what is and what is good. It is also a philosophical god, the end point of Thomas Aquinas’s chains of causality and existence.

The supposedly trite question of whether a god (say Zeus) can make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it is not trite when we consider such an Ultimate Being. Saying that such a being would never choose to do such a thing is not an answer because it avoids the question. The question really is: can such an Ultimate Being do something that is logically contradictory? There are exactly two answers to that question:

  • Yes
  • No

“Yes” is a reasonable answer but it comes with a price. The price is that you then can’t reason logically about an ultimate being beyond this. If such a being not only transcends time and space but also logic, then such a being is beyond reason and reasonable inquiry.

“No” is not a reasonable answer. It looks reasonable because it affirms reasonableness but it implies that your Ultimate Being is less than ultimate. It implies that rules exist that limit this ultimate being and raises the questions of where those rules come from and who enforces them. If the answer to that is the rules don’t come from anywhere and nobody has to enforce them, they just are then…why are you bothering with an ultimate being for everything else?

“Are you an agnostic then?”, is something I am asked from time to time. No, except in a much broader sense of believing that knowledge is fallible and absolute certainty about anything is impossible. I don’t have faith in god(s)/God, other people do. I’m cool with that 🙂 Tell me though, that there’s a proof or a logical reason for believing in god then sorry, but no there isn’t.

[see also:]

Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher

This book positively sparkles with snappy dialogue as if it were a 1940s romantic comedy…but with swords, talking badger people and a possibly demonic bird.

We are back to the world of the Clockwork Boys, a few years on since the end of the Clocktaur wars. There are no shared characters but the shared fantasy setting relieves the story from having to spend time on additional world building. There are hints of broader trouble brewing but unlike the Clockwork Boys this is a less conventional fantasy quest.

Halla is a middle-aged woman whose troubles begin when she inherits a large amount of money — an event that leads her to being imprisoned by her relatives as they plot to marry her off or kill her. Enter a magic sword and the ancient swordsman trapped within: Sarkis of the Weeping Lands. The story takes Halla on a quest to get legal aid but with no shortage of encounters with religious fanatics, roadside brigands and semi-transparent jelly monsters.

Not unlike later Terry Pratchett works, the book is a very funny fantasy story but not a parody of fantasy stories. It knows and owns the fantasy tropes it uses and mines them for their funny and incongruous elements without being dismissive of them. The interplay of the two central characters is wonderful with delightful banter and sexual/romantic tension.

There are clever additions to the setting, in particular, the Order of the White Rat — a religious order that is basically a citizen’s advice bureau and pro bono lawyers. Sort of paladins or Templars but whose battlefield is court rooms and legal briefs. It is both a clever subversion (particularly given the previous book was focused on a demon hunting paladin) and makes perfect sense given the existing parameters of  the setting.

There are darker elements, particularly as more of Sarkis’s past is revealed and the themes of coercion, gas-lighting and imprisonment of Halla by her relatives are an on-going sense of menace.

Yes, yes, I know most of the people who read this blog have probably bought this and read it already but you won’t be disappointed if you haven’t. 🙂

An actual case of [voter] election* fraud in the US?

I’ve made several post now about how the evidence for wide scale voter fraud of any serious impact is rare. However, there does seem to be a serious case in North Carolina:

‘Enough confusion has clouded a North Carolina congressional race that the state’s board of elections has announced a delay in certifying that Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th District because of “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities.”‘

“In October, during the final stretch of the congressional election in North Carolina’s Ninth District—one of the most tightly contested House races in the nation—Datesha Montgomery opened her door, in Bladen County, to find a young woman who explained that she was collecting absentee ballots. “I filled out two names on the ballot—Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education,” Montgomery wrote in an affidavit. Under North Carolina law, only voters themselves are allowed to handle or turn in their ballots, but the woman at Montgomery’s door “stated the [other races] were not important.” Montgomery added, “I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time.” are apparently numerous anecdotes like that surrounding the Republican (surprise, surprise) candidate. However, as well as this anecdotal evidence there are numerical inconsistencies:

“In Bladen and Robeson Counties, Bitzer found that Harris won an unusually high share of mail-in absentee-ballot votes. Bladen was the only county where the Republican prevailed in the mail-in absentee vote, winning sixty-one per cent of the votes from mail-in ballots—despite registered Republicans accounting for only nineteen per cent of the county’s returned absentee ballots. To achieve that margin, Harris would have needed to win not only all of the Republican ballots, but almost every single mail-in vote from Independents, as well as a significant number of votes from crossover Democrats.”

(as above)
It looks like the Republican Primary earlier in the year may have been tainted as well.

There’s an analysis of some of the numbers here that is well worth looking at:

Noticeably, the many right-leaning sources of panic about voter fraud are oddly quite about this North Carolina case even though it would appear to be one of the few credible instances of large scale fraud having a significant impact on a result.

*title changed

Grift all the way down

A recurring theme when looking at the media-right (and so much of the modern right is about its interaction or control of entertainment and news media) is the layers of grift, scams, self-promotion and get-rich-quick schemes.

The money fueling the right has long derived from rich donors such as the Koch brothers and the Mercer family. Added to this have been relatively wealthy children who fuel their media careers off inherited wealth — both models depend on the deep income inequalities in modern Western society and the concentration of wealth.

The third element is the attempt to pull in money from more distributed sources. YouTube advertising revenues are an obvious source but I’d add book sales and more general website advertising as well. What is not clear is how much the alt-right is fueled from above and how much from below.

With the specific focus on science-fiction media, the question has been the extent to which an outfit like Castalia House is a hobby funded out of Vox Day’s pocket versus it being a going concern pulling in cash from Vox Day’s followers. Clearly there are elements of both but at the end of the day, does one source exceed another?

I doubt we’ll know the answer to such questions anytime soon but here’s an interesting data point. Milo Yiannopolous has suffered multiple setbacks of late:

  • He was ostracised by conservatives because of his stated views on under-age sex
  • His book was cancelled by a major publisher (Simon & Schuster) and he had to self-publish it
  • Robert Mercer family stopped funding him
  • His own attempt at a Milo-branded media website flopped
  • He attempted to sue Simon & Schuster because of the book cancellation and then had to drop the lawsuit
  • His speaking tour of Australia got cancelled due to lack of interest leading to further legal woes
  • He was banned from PayPal after using the service to send anti-semitic content to a Jewish journalist

In relation to that Australian tour, a series of Tweets appeared today purporting to have court documents about Milo’s finances. Now, the authenticity of these documents haven’t been verified but they appear to be genuine.

(see also here: )

The ‘running debt’ spreadsheet has some familiar names on it:

Milo running debt spreadsheet entries

The debts all appear to be money owed from columns on Milo’s “” website (e.g. John senior wrote about four columns and Jon junior wrote some columns and some news articles) It’s small sums of money that most of these names are owed but collectively it looks like Milo has lots of debts and very little income.

Although this sheds some light on the inner finances of one “alt-lite” media figure, the core questions remain. What has hit Milo hardest? The loss of patronage from the Mercers or the loss of the more distributed income due to PayPal closing access?

For the time being, we can all appreciate that somebody who set out to ruin many people’s lives is having a hard time paying their bills.