Ad-Hominems & the Post-premodern Right

This is a tangent from the last post that would have made it wander too far off topic.

Firstly, I referred to Tommy Robinson as both a football hooligan and a fraudster. Both claims are easily substantiated but a fair question to ask is whether they are ad-hominem arguments.

Yes, yes they are.

However, the first (football hooligan) is mentioned not primarily to discredit Robinson but to establish a key point about the nature of the UK right – it’s long connection with football and football violence. But it is also a bit of an ad-hominem in the fallacious sense but I’ll come back to that.

The second “fraudster” is also an ad hominem argument (or at least a fragment of one). However, it is not a fallacious one. When claims or a narrative are being made by a person, their established record of veracity is relevant. If an argument rests on the trustworthiness of an individual, it is valid to ask whether that person is trustworthy. In the case of Wright and others, they are promoting a version of events based on Tommy Robinson’s spin on what occurred. His past convictions are relevant.

One common feature of most of the rightwing figures I write about is their gullibility. Even the ones with a habit of dishonesty or disingenuous claims, also have a habit of believing almost anything some people tell them. I’ve talked about how this can be quite taxing on my vocabulary because there is an urge to use language that is both ableist and incorrect (e.g. ‘stupid’, ‘crazy’, ‘morons’ etc). Given their careers, the assorted Puppies and others that I write about are not people of below average intelligence, nor are they people suffering from some kind of psychological problem in a medical sense (or if they are, then it isn’t relevant and it isn’t a feature common to them as a group). Using such language is unfair both to them and also reinforces harmful stigmas.

Yet, despite this habitual gullibility, it isn’t the case that they will believe anything. So what is the best way of looking at this? The relevant term is trust. Now we all (as in everybody) use interpersonal trust as the basis for evaluating the truth of claims. We are less sceptical of claims made by people we trust. As social creatures trust is the paramount basis for considering truth in human society.

However, modernity has two impacts on that fabric of truth-as-trust. Firstly, both urban living and capitalism undermine the social fabric of trust. If you live in a modern society you encounter many people each day about whom you know nothing directly. You also buy food and services in a more abstract way – often from impersonal organisations (even more so online). Secondly, since humanity started living in urban settings, we’ve also developed more abstract concepts of truth and at assessing truth. Looked at together, there’s an inevitability there – cities require us to think more abstractly, more sceptically and more critically. The earliest cities also contain the earliest examples of written abstract mathematics for example but also the earliest examples of people shifting trust from neighbours and family to more abstract things (religions, states) or people they don’t actually know (prophets, kings).

The term “post-modernism” has been applied to so many things and described in so many ways that the term has become close to meaningless. However, we can use it to describe the broader social impact of modern, industrialised societies losing trust in those more abstract sources of truth.

One way (and as always, take this as me thinking out loud and subject to me changing my mind) to think about the modern right is as people who place greater value on the personal trust model of truth, less value on the abstract reasoning model of truth BUT who are experiencing the same broad post-modern condition of deteriorating trust in institutions. Hence the term I used in the title ‘Post-premodernism’.

Repeatedly, the pattern of argument I see in the Puppy-sphere rest on firstly identifying somebody as in-group or not and then (largely) accepting what they say uncritically as truth to the extent that it can be adopted as a shared belief. Before you say it – yes, everybody does that to some extent everywhere because it is the fundamental trust model of truth that we all have as humans. However, the difference is there is almost no critical filter at all. When a position needs to be discredited, it is done by discrediting the person. Again, yes, that is something that can happen in any community but again, in this case, that is almost the only way it occurs.

I’ve been watching Vox Day attempt to persuade others that Jordan Peterson is talking rubbish. Of course, Peterson himself has his own weird relationship with post-modernism which I don’t want to get into here. Vox himself is somebody I’m not sure fits the template above – he talks nonsense and believes wrongheaded (and evil) things but I’m not sure he is ‘gullible’ in the sense I mean. His followers though…Anyway, with Peterson Vox has tried to point out issues with his claims and tried to point out the incoherence of Peterson’s writing but the tactic he keeps returning to is that Peterson is not a Christian and not of the right. Vox’s motive and argument is to push Peterson from being seen as in-group (and hence trusted implicitly) to out-group, at which point he will be seen as talking nonsense*.

So back to Tommy Robinson. He has had numerous run ins with the law including scuffles with the police. So here’s the thing. If Robinson has hit a police officer in the past that wouldn’t actually be pertinent to the current claims or the ethics of his current behaviour. However, in terms of making people like Wright et al not BELIVE Robinson, it is highly pertinent. So there is the ethical dilemma. What is the wright kind of argument to use? the actual facts (used in the last post) or truthfully describing him as a hooligan?

*[Obviously he is actually talking nonsense]

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30 comments

  1. Jessica

    If describing him as a hooligan rests on his actual, documented behaviour, then it’s relevant to the discussion. He’s a hooligan because he did these verifiable things at these verifiable times; they’re a matter of public record. Because he did those things in the past, he is likely to do them in the future, so he remains a hooligan.

    By contrast, the Puppy way of doing things would be to describe him as a hooligan because they don’t like what he said about them. That’s where the ad-hominem attack comes in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • camestrosfelapton

      As I wasn’t present I’m not going to magically make a judgement as to whether Robinson’s behaviour was or was not a breach of the peace. The police certainly thought so and you usually defend police decisions or do you only defend police decisions when they are killing people? “Summary judgement” – yeah that’s how contempt of court works, in the UK, in the US, in Canada, in Australia and has for a very, very long time. Suddenly deciding you hate the police and you hate the English style legal of system because a fraudster told you to be angry about it is…well let’s just say “odd” and maybe “inconsistent” or “so badly thought through that basically you just repeat what you are told to think”.

      More amazingly, indeed gobsmackingly amazing is that YOU are apparently totally cool with this same fraudster trying to disrupt court proceedings in a way that could have led to a mistrial and the release of the defendants. Why would you want the defendants in this trial get free on a technicality? Why would John C Wright want these defendants to go free? Given the enormity of the crimes they are accused of (apparently) it frankly boggles me that you would be cheering on a man WHO NEARLY ENSURED that they wouldn’t be tried properly.

      Liked by 5 people

    • KasaObake

      Phantom: Seems pretty straightforward to me. Breach of the peace can be anything that could incite violence (you know, like broadcasting the identities of defendants in a sensitive trial with court reporting restrictions). Contempt of court is for things like breaching court reporting restrictions. Being arrested for one does not preclude being charged for the other, so a summary judgement for being in contempt of court isn’t particularly far-fetched.

      I’m excited to see what load of gibberish you come up with next!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Cora

      If he used a camera phone to take photos or make a recording inside a courtroom during a trial where this is forbidden (and taking photos or making recordings during any trial is forbidden in Germany) and didn’t stop when told to, then yes, this is breach of the peace and contempt of court.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jessica

      You conveniently forgot to include the fact that THE COURT ORDERED HIM NOT TO DO THAT but he went ahead and did it anyway. Ignoring a court order is a crime. This is not rocket science.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Jessica

        Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon aka Paul Harris aka Stephen Lennon but better known as Tommy Robinson has also demonstrated on many occasions exactly how much of a rocket scientist he is not.

        I suspect that he wants to become some kind of martyr for frea speach. Or something.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lurkertype

        That is contempt of court in any jurisdiction I’ve ever heard of. In civilized countries, you get thrown in jail/gaol; in others, it’s not so nice. Freeze peach doesn’t enter into it.

        It’s doubly stupid when you’re already on probation/suspended sentence, when you’re specifically told that committing even a minor offense will get you tossed into the graybar hotel.

        I wonder if he suffered too many concussions in his soccer hooligan days. I was going to say I was surprised he had the brain power to be a fraudster, but then I remember he got caught, so he’s not much of one.

        And potentially causing a mistrial in a case regarding child molestation and rape is utterly… gah, I don’t have the words. Reprehensible is a start.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Aaron

        Wait until Phantom finds out about how you can’t use a video recorder (including one on a phone) at all in many courtrooms in the U.S., even without a prior court ruling ordering you not to do it. In many courthouses in the U.S., you can’t even take your phone with you into the building.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Lurkertype

        I suppose Puppies think courtroom sketch artists are just in it for funsies, not as the only visual record of the trial.

        Canada doesn’t allow it in criminal trials, esp. high-profile ones. British Columbia doesn’t allow it unless you’re a news organisation and you get permission in advance. Ontario says nope.

        Liked by 1 person

      • kiptw

        At the last art class I took, the teacher was saying something about how nutcases aren’t just in cities, and she had come to the city to get away from Wisconsin, so I mentioned Ed Gein. Her eyes lit up.

        When she was still taking art classes in Wisconsin, Gein had had a parole hearing, and since they didn’t let cameras into courtrooms, they needed a sketch artist, and she got the gig. “Well, of course he didn’t get parole. At the end of the trial, he thanked me for doing a good job, and he shook my hand.”

        “Can I shake your hand?” I said, and she was fine with that, so I shook the hand that shook the hand of Ed Gein. (With the same hand Buzz Aldrin shook, so Buzz is only two away from Ed.)

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Johan P

    My impression of both puppy and alt-right narratives is that the problem is not a lack of logic, but a lack of re-checking the basic facts. The stories then to sort of make sense if you just accept a couple of false propositions in the beginning, or overlook a few important facts. And these folks are not in the habit of going back and checking.

    The Robinson case is fairly typical: A crucial part of the alt-right story is that the restrictions on reporting is something the Establishment does to avoid attention to the crimes of minorities. If you accept that part, then the narrative about Robertson as a free speech martyr makes sense. In reality the restrictions on reporting are there to protect the integrity of the court, and they’re the same regardless of the defendant’s ethnicity, and then Robinson suddenly doesn’t look so good anymore.

    The puppy world is filled with the same kind of basic “truths” which aren’t truths after all, but which are keystones of the puppy grievances. Correia was robbed at that first Worldcon. A cabal controls the Hugos. Gallo called all the puppy Nazis. Etc. Camestros wrote a post a while back about “Faking shared history” which goes close to this: A puppy leader paraphrases some criticism, and then suddenly that paraphrase is the True Story of what the critic said.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jessica

      Still trying to rewrite history? No problem; we don’t play your games. Enjoy the echo chamber and the groupthink.

      Liked by 2 people

    • camestrosfelapton

      If you want to even more vehemently defend sabotaging a trial so the defendants go free due to a mistrial, SOMEWHERE ELSE then I’m really not going to make any effort to stop you 🙂 Have fun arguing that alleged rapists should be released on technicalities.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Kat Goodwin

    Oh they’re not that gullible. They don’t believe most of the stuff they say; it’s just useful as is the myth that there are brown Muslim “rape gangs” in Europe. This appears to be a simple use of factionalism. The Tories control the U.K. government and they’re right-wing, but mildly so, mainly beggaring the country for rich white Brits and their corporations, who do have some racial animus but not necessarily as a main focus. So they are the establishment that parties like the EDL have to look like they are taking on and are being persecuted by them since racial and ethnic animus is their brand and their claim is that they are the more rightful, righteous rulers.

    So it’s good for this guy to go to jail as long as he’s claiming a cover-up from the Tories in the court case procedures. It moves him up his political ladder. And some far right folk in the States denounce the Tories as being oppressive and not right-wing in their court system because it’s good for them to talk about how Europe is being taken over by the sneaky, villainous “Left,” including the Tories themselves, etc. It doesn’t matter if the defendant’s case goes through successfully or is derailed by this guy. It certainly doesn’t matter to them if the victims — kids apparently? — get harmed in the process. And they don’t really care what happens to Robinson either, but it’s seen as useful to complain about it as “evidence” of the horrors of British socialism and “Muslim” infiltration etc.

    This is why I don’t agree with the view of Trump followers as like a religious cult. Before they were Trumpers, they were Tea Partiers, and before they were that, they were the Moral Majority, etc. They get into frenzies defending Trump now just because they think it’s useful to them or because it’s reassuring to them that their group has power — because that’s his use, not out of real loyalty to him. But they’ll backtrack if that seems to not be working enough. Then they’ll come back to it just to keep the myths going that they think make them look good with those they think are on their side or useful to them. It’s a continual gish gallop.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jenora Feuer

      Oh they’re not that gullible. They don’t believe most of the stuff they say; it’s just useful as is the myth that there are brown Muslim “rape gangs” in Europe. This appears to be a simple use of factionalism.

      There’s a reason Fred Clark of Slacktivist has been referring to ‘role-playing’ for years (at least since 2011) when it comes to the sort of shared talking/screaming points of groups like that, though his beat is mostly American Evangelicals. A whole lot of it seems to come down to inviting people to role-play in a world where everybody really is out to get them, thus reinforcing how important they personally are.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2015/02/09/when-fantasy-role-playing-replaces-faith-you-still-need-a-decent-dm/

      Liked by 3 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        Reinforcing their righteous right to rule in an unequal, discriminatory hierarchy (with possible money and power therein.) It’s not so much being important personally as being part of the important group, the winning, ruling group that is by that very point, magnanimous, astute, rational, more moral and more fitting to run the culture and the laws (and own the property, etc.)

        But within that, there can be factions and uneasy, pragmatic alliances. The alliance of the U.S. right factions and the European ones is one of using globalization to enhance their positions while bashing governments over globalism. Again, they really, really want to go back to feudalism and serfdom, which is why they reference it so often: https://www.rawstory.com/2018/05/meet-economist-behind-one-percents-stealth-takeover-america/

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Lurkertype

    “Gullibility” isn’t an ableist term, at least. It implicitly refers to neurotypical people of normal intelligence, who ought to know better. Yet they fall for stuff that just ain’t true and don’t examine the situation logically. They fail to ask the question “Really?”

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  7. Regular Commenter

    Today in Onion/ Not Onion………

    “Unfortunately, Torba appeared to have jumped gun the previous evening, sharing a post that accused the liberal media site Shareblue of supporting fake Gab accounts.

    “Shareblue has invested a lot of money into this subversion operation and I cannot for the life of me understand their end game,” the post read.

    “We’ve never heard of Gab, and so I don’t have anything to add here,” Shareblue Chief Operations Officer Will Lippincott told The Daily Beast.

    Well, okay, the infiltration campaign isn’t a fact-fact, Sanduja clarified.

    “I’m not going to say to you that I have proof, I’m not going to say to you that this is a factual statement point-blank,” he said, “but this is really rooted in speculation, circumstantial evidence, hearsay based on a lot of reports we get from our community.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/conspiracy-theories-are-eating-this-alt-right-friendly-site-from-the-inside

    Liked by 1 person

      • Regular Commenter

        I find these people very scary. They are so angry and paranoid and violent in their reactions to everything, including each other. I have to imagine that is an exhausting way to live.

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