Mental Health & Political Position

Apologies for a rambling post that doesn’t reach any firm conclusions.

The other day Ye, aka Kanye West, appeared on InfoWars, the show of the malicious conspiracy monger Alex Jones. With Ye was Nick Fuentes, who, along with Milo Yianpolous, has been accompanying Ye in recent weeks. A few days earlier Ye had appeared on the youtube show of far-right bore Tim Pool. In both cases, Ye’s statements were not just politically extreme (anti-semitic conspiracy theories and praising Hitler) they were visibly shocking even by the appalling standards of Alex Jones or Tim Pool.

Ye’s spiral into political extremism has not been sudden and has taken place very publicly over several years. Even so, many people have speculated that recent events point to some kind of mental breakdown. There are two obvious issues with such speculation:

  • Diagnosing mental illness based on media coverage of somebody you don’t know personally is unlikely to be correct, even if you were a qualified psychiatrist.
  • Advocates for the rights of people with mental illness quite reasonably object to the idea of associating Ye praising Hitler with mental illness. Mentally ill people have to deal with enough blame and stigma already without adding “potential Nazi sympathiser” to the list.

Yet, it really is hard to watch that Alex Jones interview without being struck by the qualitative difference between Ye on the one hand and Jones and Fuentes on the other. Alex Jones is a guy with a lot of past issues: political extremism, malicious bullying of victims of violence, purple-faced rants to the camera and some apparently self-destructive courtroom shenanigans. If you are in a room with Alex Jones and by comparison, he looks more in touch with reality and social norms than you, then you clearly have some kind of problem.

Maybe our perception is skewed. Perhaps we have become so habituated to racist youtube guys that we now only see how frightening it is when the person being politically extreme departs from our stereotype of what a racist looks like? Maybe, but I don’t think that is all there is to it.

A more reasonable comparison has been made with the contemporaneous behaviour of billionaire Elon Musk. As with Ye, I actually have no idea what Musk’s mental state is. He might be very happy and very much in control. However, publicly he appears to be burning through money and undermining his own reputation just to work out his frustrations with social media. In Musk’s case, the situation feels simpler. We have a very wealthy middle-aged man who has built up a fog of lies around his own reputation that cast him as a brilliant engineer and financial wizard when he is, in fact, a man who inherited a lot of money, was very lucky with a failed start-up that was bought out by Pay-Pal and has since spent his time using his money to prop up his image. That is a flawed personality but it isn’t a mental illness. Being rich and in the public eye and being surrounded by sycophants may give you a very misguided sense of how others perceive you. Ye is also very rich and surrounded by sycophants but unlike Musk he was a man of genuine talent.

Is it then the crisis of the creative genius who has lost his spark? The music industry has no shortage of talented people who have a long phase of critical acclaim and then simply seem to run out of ideas. Much of that is an illusion. I don’t mean that they weren’t creative geniuses just that there is still a degree of luck in that creative genius also hitting the public and critical mood in the right way at the right time. Even so, for the artist it must feel like suddenly they lost their magic power. There’s a middle path of stoic acceptance to the nature of popular culture but there are unhealthy directions that can lead to either debilitating self-doubt or conspiracy theories. In the latter case, the artist (not unreasonably) assumes they are still the creative genius that they were but then concludes that somebody is acting against them.

And sometimes that is true! Many women (and some men) in the creative arts have found their careers stymied because they spoke up about sexual harassment and abuse in the industry. However, in Ye’s case the conspiracies he is pointing to are the more vague, paranoid and toxic variety — the kind that in our culture inevitably spiral into antisemitism and far-right politics.

Creative brain-worms do seem to be a thing. I say “brain-worms” a lot here because of this tension between not wanting to diagnose a mental illness beyond my capacity to do so (and not wanting to stigmatise actual mental health conditions) with the very overt and public self-destructive or toxic behaviour of some creative people. Among writers I can think of a number of people we’ve encountered who:

  • enjoyed some early initial validating success (an award, a mentorship, recognition in some high profile way in the community)
  • which was followed by a return to the lowly status of the aspiring author who is struggling to get noticed

That particular combination would inevitably mess with your head. Wow! I’ve made it and so early! Ooops, no I’m with all these other loser writer wannabes. I can see how that might make somebody believe that the game must have been rigged against them. It is the Scylla of thinking that you must be a talentless loser versus the Charybdis of thinking that a cabal in publishing is out to get you.

I’m stuck with “brain worms” as a silly term for a vague but apparent health issue.

Is not just political extremism? Maybe? I mean, I don’t think, say Larry Correia is an example of the brain worms I’m discussing. That’s just who Correia is and while he is both publicly obnoxious online and politically extreme, it isn’t self-sabotaging or uncalculated nor has it shifted a great deal over time.

Yet a descent in extremism is part of the picture. Consider sit-com writer Graham Linehan, famous for his work on Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd. Linehan’s political journey into transphobia has not only undermined his career and reputation but (according to him) destroyed his marriage. That journey has also made him more politically extreme in general and made his more receptive to a conspiratorial ideation:

“No one knows! We don’t know! I don’t even know, I’m not even sure I’m 100 per cent on climate change anymore because I’ve been lied to so conclusively by all the people I used to trust.”

https://www.thepinknews.com/2022/10/01/graham-linehan-covid-transphobia-climate-change/

In that example, Linehan was linking his growing anti-COVID vaccination stance to his growing disbelief in global warming. He’s maybe still a couple of anti-George Soros memes away from praising Hitler on InfoWars but the trajectory appears to be confirmed. I guess Linehan must have done quite well financially out of his sit-com success but he surely wasn’t at the level of J.K.Rowling. It wasn’t a bubble of massive wealth that set Linehan on that path.

If Linehan’s journey into alienating his own audience (and hence own livelihood and critical acclaim) resembles anybody then it is Dave Sim, the comic book author famous for his subversion of heroic fantasy trope in the phone-book-sized volumes of Cerebus the Aardvark. Over time but particularly from the 1990s onward, Sim used his independently published comic to express his own misogynistic theories that often echoed the developing Men’s Rights Activist internet subculture. Sim though, was probably a misogynist well before that though and (to complicate matters further) had genuine mental health issues. While his actual mental health problems were not the cause of his misogyny, it is hard to imagine that they didn’t impact his expression of his views or how they impacted his other life choices. From being a critical success in the 1990s by 2018 he was involved in Comicsgate and, in a further humiliation, was sacked as a writer by Comicsgate supremo Ethan Van Sciver after allegations of child grooming came to light [see here for an account https://web.archive.org/web/20200425042716/https://bleedingcool.com/comics/a-new-years-ballad-of-dave-sim-and-ethan-van-sciver/ ]

I warned you that I don’t have a conclusion. We can’t remote-diagnose people in the public eye, we shouldn’t blame misbehaviour or toxic views on mental illness but I think we can recognise that among people in artistic professions there is a cycle of self-sabotaging behaviour which has a tendency to externalise the inherent self-soubt of such professions onto broader demographic groups, typically groups that are either historically oppressed but which might be vaguer (e.g. the “left” or “cancel culture”) but to which the person impacted ascribes an outsized degree of power over their career. In so far as actual diagnosable mental illnesses are involved, they are not a direct cause of misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia or political extremism. However, stressful life events themselves do impact both physical and mental health [with physical health not always negatively https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/ ] A cycle of high profile media coverage because of very public expressions of surprising extremism will be stressful and career damaging perhaps leading to more extreme behaviour? (e.g. Ye’s journey into extremism isn’t new but it is still surprising in a way that Alex Jones is not because Jones is only famous BECAUSE of that extremism). I don’t know.

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88 responses to “Mental Health & Political Position”

  1. I think it’s a common assumption in American culture that you can just spot someone’s depression, ADHD, etc. just by looking at them. No need for fancy diagnoses! Much as I enjoy Robert Parker’s Spencer novels, Spencer’s girlfriend Susan’s ability to diagnose people simply by hearing him describe them is .. handwavy.
    Some years back, a book on ADD pointed out that the diagnosis requires six of eight conditions, not just “oh, he’s easily distracted” — and that in practice it’s even trickier (a patient can have only four but all four indicators are way into the red zone, or seven that barely rise above normal).

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  2. No, this isn’t a mental illness. It’s bog-standard thwarted entitlement, the foot-stomping tantrums of children who want sweets and aren’t being given them. It’s more common in identified-male persons than identified-female ones, but there are identified-female cases out there as well (Joanne Rowling, for example – her descent into TERF ideology is a direct consequence of her not wanting to admit to herself she’s the equivalent of a literary lottery winner rather than a literary genius). In many cases what’s happened is early on in the person’s career (or life) there’s been a misidentification of luck – for example, being born into a wealthy family; getting published; getting spotted by a talent scout – as talent, and nobody has bothered to attempt to correct this error at any point. Eventually, the luck runs out, and their actual talent isn’t sufficient to supply them with the ego fodder they feel they need. At which point, the feelings of aggrieved entitlement start to accumulate, and they go looking for a reason.

    When someone who feels entitled to success (and more accurately, to a particular type of success) doesn’t receive it, and doesn’t know how to cope with the conflict between their feelings of entitlement and the reality they’re dealing with, we see a lot of different manifestations. We can see one rather extreme form of it in the “mass shooter” personality (where the conflict between what they feel they’re entitled to, and what they actually have, leads to rage they can only work out by killing other people); we can see another form of it in the classic “mid-life crisis” where a balding suburban dad goes out and buys a sports car, viagra and hair plugs in an effort to recapture his fading “youth” and the success with women he feels he ought to have. But at the core of it is the sense of entitlement – the belief the person is owed the success they want, and if they don’t get it, their resulting grievance with the universe is legitimate and should be recognised by others as such.

    It’s this last bit – the need to have their grievance against the universe recognised as legitimate – which drives them off into the wilds of conspiracy fantasy, because conspiracy offers an “explanation” for why they’re not being treated in the way they feel they should be. The explanation is never “your expectations were unrealistic in the first place”, but rather they’re offered explanations which say “other people betrayed you, other people lied to you, other people conspired against you” – all of which support their core belief they’re entitled to the success they want. Instead of being a person with unrealistic expectations about what they’re going to get out of life, they become a persecuted martyr – which means they get to turn their lack-of-success into a different form of success in their own mind. Look how good they are – they need all these powerful forces assembled against them in order to keep them down!

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  3. When Alex Jones, the guy who lost many lawsuits thanks to saying murdered children don’t exist is visibly shocked, you ought to know you’ve gone too far.

    I suspect that Ye *does* have a real mental illness or three. He admitted to being diagnosed as bipolar.

    However, of all the mentally ill people I’ve known in my life (treated or untreated, various types), NONE of them has ever praised Hitler. They could be ill enough to lock them up in a Hannibal Lecter outfit, and they’re still not gonna say they like Hitler.

    What we need is a term that doesn’t slander people with mental illness, but only applies to people who have talked themselves into/been meme’d into a loss of touch with consensus reality.

    Other than MAGA, because not all of them are American. “Brain-worms” is pretty good.

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    • “What we need is a term that doesn’t slander people with mental illness, but only applies to people who have talked themselves into/been meme’d into a loss of touch with consensus reality.”

      “People for whom the Human Centipede has gone Ouroboros”

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    • The way I look at it is that what people say in the course of a manic state is often like what they say when they’re drunk. You want to know who somebody is, look at the shit they say when all the inhibitions are off.

      I mean, I have Bipolar and ADHD, but fuck, I’m never going to say that a certain German madman was right, ever. He presided over one of history’s worst genocides and while I can understand the forces that shaped him, in the end, you are your choices — point blank, end of story.

      And none of this all we need is love we must love everybody including that German madman. Eff that noise. You don’t have to love everybody. You can understand where somebody came from and even be sad that their life choices placed them in such an evil place — but for God’s sake, you don’t have to *love* them.

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  4. Ahhh, Dave Sim. I used to shop at a comic book shop which would often get Cerebus issues early because it was in Kitchener and Sim would show up there in person to bring in some issues before the official distribution run.

    The really annoying part about him is that back before he seriously went off the deep end he was one of the big support poles of small press comics publishing. (And, really, even after he went off the deep end but before it became so obvious that people couldn’t ignore it.) There are a lot of books, including Bone, which at the very least would not have got anywhere near as much press as they did to start with if Sim hadn’t helped promote them. The first I’d head of Bone was a few sample pages in the back of a Cerebus issue.

    For a while Aardvark-Vanaheim was publishing quite a number of other comics as well, including superhero parody normalman. Then, well, Sim split up with his wife, Deni Loubert in 1984. She was a co-founder of Aardvark-Vanaheim, and had pretty much all the business sense of the pair, so after the split when she went off to found Renegade Press all the non-Cerebus comics went with her.

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    • “after he went off the deep end but before it became so obvious that people couldn’t ignore it” — Oh man, I remember those years, and the gradually dawning horror. I think it was my first experience of feeling conflicted about separating the Art from the Artist.

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    • Sim’s support for indie work is the only thing that impresses me about him. When I finally read some of Cerberus a few years ago, I couldn’t finish — it didn’t seem to have any point or humor or depth beyond “Look, Conan’s an aardvark ROFL!” Though obviously a lot of people love his work, politics aside

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      • Sim’s work suffers from “Learning on the job”. The beginning of Cerebus is juvenalia that sadly remains the first impression for many. And for the first several issues, there really is nothing there besides mildy amusing parody. Opinions differ widely on where someone “should” start with Cerebus, but “at the beginning” is a definite minority position.

        As time goes on, Sim starts to rapidly improve, becoming a master of the form, and continually innovating. In particular, his expressive lettering in the latter half of Cerebus has never been equalled, and rarely even approached.

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      • I got into Cerebus during the “High Society” arc, which had already advanced well past “Conan is an Aardvark” (although that was the origin and it was very clear in the first few issues). I haven’t thrown out all the issues I had, but I don’t feel any need to get the rest.

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          • More accurately, the later stuff gets better, then really good, then gets terrible again. but in a different way, as the misogyny takes over.

            I still have a hard time saying Keith and not Keef, at least when referring to the Rolling Stones.

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        • The ones I loved at the time, I still love. They’re amazing, really, and I started at #4 after Cathy started getting it. I don’t feel like revisiting ones that were painful to me at the time, but the craftsmanship in them is still solid. The early phone books are indispensable, and the later ones are optional, as far as how I feel about going through those (sometimes literally) narratives again.

          But “Like-a-Looks,” where Lord Julius (wearing a dress, never alluded to) runs into Lord Julius, and they fence warily like neither really believes himself to be genuine, deep down. At one point they are at an impasse, and the one in the dress says “Tell you what. We’ll go to my office, and whichever one Bascomb kisses up to is the Real Lord Julius!” This stuff is Art, my friends.

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      • Indeed, right across the street from you at the time.

        (Yes, we knew each other, though it has been many years, and you wouldn’t know me by this name because I didn’t start using it online until after I’d moved out of KW in 1992.)

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        • “There are only 5.000 real people in the world.
          All the rest are special effects.”

          That’s a button that used to be popular at cons; it was sometimes revised upward, like at LA Con 1984, with the massive attendance. (Great con)

          But we meant it as a joke; the RWNJ’s really think everyone but the people they know personally and/or worship are NPCs. Cf. Puppies thinking they were the majority.

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          • Yeah. It’s easier to believe that if you keep going to the same sorts of events; I used to joke that at Ad Astra here in Toronto I had a ‘mean free path’ of about five meters, that being the average distance I could walk down a hallway before running into someone I knew and wanted to talk to. But Ad Astra is several hundred people with a lot of the same ones showing up every year…

            That said, Dunbar’s Number is at least sort of a thing, if a flexible one that can almost certainly be shifted by training. There are only so many active social relationships you really have the time or focus to maintain, and people off that list can start falling into the NPC category if you’re not careful.

            (And, of course, in this particular case, the fact that I’d mentioned the city and that Sim used to go to this comic shop really limited the list of likely places I was talking about to one for anybody who knew the city in question.)

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            • I mean, I don’t know the places, but KW can’t be that giant, and even GTA is limited, so I figured you and James had to have at least a nodding acquaintance.

              On party floors at our local con, I’ve got a minimum free distance of way less than 5 meters. Back when I went to Worldcon every year if it was in the US, it was pretty low even out at the con. At Reno 2011 on one party night, I was wearing the Baltimore 1983 shirt by Steve Stiles, and we clogged up the hallway so he could sign it for me right there. Had a good laugh about the years’ difference. So I treasure that now that he’s gone — my Worldcon shirts have always been handwash cold, hang dry.

              Baltimore 1983 was memorable not only for losing a ton of money, but for the fact they still had banquets back then before the Hugos. And of course, in Baltimore, that meant crabs. So the entire Hugo ceremony (same room) was permeated by the smell of warm seafood.

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  5. I’m not sure Ye’s theories are that vague: they are clearly rooted in the Black Hebrew Israelite tradition and it’s ilk*(which has long had antisemitic tendencies). This may be unfamiliar to many people, and seem strange and incomprehensible, but I don’t think there is anything to qualitively separate it from the thought of Jones, who was, after all, the Sandy Hook denier.

    Some of this aura of strangeness is down just to unfamiliarity, but there is more to it than that. The central claim of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement is that African Americans are a direct descendents of biblical Hebrews and thus needs to be understood as something that is almost entirely directed to a black audience** and can only be really understood with reference to that perspective. It part of, albeit on the extreme edge of a particular, wider tradition of Black thought that attempta to respond to, and make sense of African American experience, from within it’s own perspective. It could be seen as close kin to the likes of the Moorish Science Temple but also can be seen as coming out of the same millieu that gave rise to Black Nationalism, in the US, in general.

    A big influence on this in the early days, was Macus Garvey, a proponent of the Back to Africa movement, which originally arose as a white (and racist) answer to what was to happen to Black folk in the US. It’s early failure gave impulse to abolitionism as well as influencing Black nationalist thought and, a course, becoming a central tenet of racists eveywhere.

    In the case of Black Hebrew Israelites the intellectual history is even more tangled. I don’t what the direct connections are (if any) but the claim to be descendants of the original Israelites was not new or original. The roots of the idea go back at least as far as the 16th century, but claim it, not for the Black population in the US, but for Europeans, in particular as British Israelism, the even more mindboggling claim that the British are the descendants of the Lost tribes of Israel (and God’s chosen people,natch, the whole movement functioning as a belief system to justify imperialism).

    Arising in the 19th century, it quickly spread to the US where it had an influence on Mormon thought as well as Pentacostalism. There also grew a distinctly antisemitic strand which became…Christian Identity.

    This is all a rather large diversion, but something like necessary background if we want to understand the particular situation with Ye. We need at least some understanding of how he might of got there but also the interplay of racism and particular reaction to it, how that’s played out and it’s intellectual history.

    In response to this wider strand of thought I think we need a sympathetic understanding of the impulses behind at the same time as recognizing it’s internal contradictions, in a particular the centrality of the idea of race, and how they can lead to some very dark things. But its not just antisemitism, in extremis, there can be all sorts of seemingly odd spiritual beliefs, for instance.

    We need to recognize that this does not mean they are incoherent, and they have often been a deliberate choice part of the effort to create a distinct, separate identity wholy directed to it’s own audience, not that of the dominant (white) culture. So part of makes Ye seem further out from social norms is lacking the understanding of this background and where it placed itself in relation to the dominant culture. Nick Fuentes is hardly going to be less of an antisemite but he likely stands in a different place.

    If we do want to start looking for some possible ideas there is something useful in psychology but its not mental illness. Theres an idea common to many therapists of ‘Mistaken Thinking’ as something separate from, and not, mental illness. The idea that people sometimes have mistaken ideas about something, which however small, become embedded, even central to thier thinking. The negative ramifications of this spiral out in their effects and the central misconception compounds itself as it immovably meets a world that does not conform to its precepts.

    This can arise from trauma, life experience or personality flaw, but these are neither necessary or sufficient. It is always possible to be simply mistaken.

    The gap between the attention someone might come to believe the world comes to owe them, and it gives, might be a good example of this. I don’t think this is special to artists and I’m very sceptical of all claims that treat them as somehow a special class. We are just more likely to hear of them. They are, along with politicians, billionares etc, in the buisness of using attention as power, but these tend to be central facts of social life, albeit on a different scale.

    The usefulness of the idea comes from it not being mental illness, but something more like everyday thinking gone awry. As such there in no necessary incoherence to it, however mistaken. After all many ideas are dangerous because they are internally coherent but based on false premise. Therapeutically the focus tends to be on individual relations. But it seems clear to me that this plays out on many levels and feeds into mistaken ideas that operate in a wider context.

    One of the most naked examples of misogyny I ever encountered came in the form on a bizarre rant of how women sucked spiritual energy out of men, that errupted out of nowhere into a conversation. It seemed obvious that some idea of how men and women should relate, that was some how off had taken hold in the bloke. How this had played out in his life had evolved into a whole cosmology of spiritual misogyny. Utterly bonkers, surely, but also coherent. Dangerous too for not being a state of exception, or illness, but the basis of his every day life.

    * I don’t what his relations to the movement are, nor of any direct connections, but the intellectual linkage is clear.

    **There are different groups within the movement, not all of which are antisemitic, and some extend that claim to the Lantinx and Native American populations).

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    • //Theres an idea common to many therapists of ‘Mistaken Thinking’ as something separate from, and not, mental illness. The idea that people sometimes have mistaken ideas about something, which however small, become embedded, even central to thier thinking. //

      A bug in their thinking

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    • “One of the most naked examples of misogyny I ever encountered came in the form on a bizarre rant of how women sucked spiritual energy out of men, that errupted out of nowhere into a conversation.” — If he used the term Void in reference to women, my bet is he got it from Dave Sim (see above).

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    • There is of course the classic xkcd strip Conspiracy Theories. But yes, this is something that happens to people, even smart people (sometimes especially smart people because they’re often better at figuring out ways to twist the facts to support their theory) and in general it’s so much a part of the human condition that it can’t really be called any sort of ‘mental illness’. Everybody does it.

      Part of the problem, of course, comes with the fact that there are a large number of people who personally profit from others having all sorts of mistaken ideas, and from making sure that those ideas become part of their identity so that they’re easier to manipulate.

      And then you get ‘crank magnetism’… once someone is already convinced that the experts and reality are lying to them, and pulls the brakes off of that sort of motivated reasoning, it’s rare that people stop at one contrafactual theory. Because most of the big conspiracy theories aren’t really about believing anything, they’re about disbelieving the ‘official’ story.

      And that eventually leads to the old Voltaire line: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

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    • Of course standard Mormon doctrine to this day says the Native Americans are all descended from Jews. But somehow the steel, cows, and Jesus all got lost.

      Are the BHI out there praising Hitler? I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised at this point but maybe they still realize Hitler hated them for the color of their skin too.

      I hope the ghost of Jesse Owens rises up and smacks Kanye upside the head. Maybe knock some sense into him or reset his brain or something.

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  6. In this particular case, people aren’t diagnosing Ye with mental illness from afar as a guess. He is confirmed to have bi-polar disorder as well as substance abuse issues, and his going off his meds for bi-polar disorder are part of the reason his wife Kim Kardashian divorced him. The death of his mother, who helped manage his early career, was the first big blow that led Ye to some erratic behavior. His more recent divorce from Kardashian led to several public meltdowns and violent threats and stalking behavior toward Kardashian. So basically people have been watching Ye have pretty public mental health and substance abuse issues for years, such as when he took the stage to denounce Taylor Swift accepting her music award and was apparently drunk by his own admission when he did so.

    They’ve also been watching him go from the Jay Z’s protege rapper who famously declared, correctly, that Prez W. Bush didn’t care about black people during the Hurricane Katrina debacle to a black entertainer hanging out with white supremacists, denouncing black people as lazy, running as a Republican politician and then with what seemed like suddenness be anti-Semitic in a bizarre way. So the speculation about him being off his mental health medications and/or on drugs as part of an explanation for his behavior isn’t just pulled out of thin air.

    That being said, being bi polar doesn’t make you anti-Semitic or white supremacist. Nor does substance abuse. Those factors don’t excuse all of his behavior and choices, though they may exacerbate the extremism of them and make people wonder if they are part of what’s going on with him. He is quite clearly, given his behavior towards Kardashian, misogynistic. And there is sadly a strain of anti-Semitism among some black people and that is a belief Ye may have held for some time and now is publicly sounding off on, when in the past it only happened in private.

    In that, he is certainly being helped and displayed by Fuentes, Milo (and that means Steve Bannon and possibly the Mercers) and other happy RW grifters like Pool. They are using Ye the same way they’re partly using Herschel Walker — to represent the bigoted stereotypes of black people being inferior and foolish. It’s also pretty clear that Candace Owens and her husband tried to get Ye to take the dying Parler website off their hands, a deal that fell apart when Ye started spouting more open anti-Semitism and losing endorsement deals. While initially it’s the same anti-Semitism and Soros-style conspiracy mongering that the conservatives have been doing themselves, Ye being a black celebrity means they can parade him and normalize their own white folk anti-Semitism as less extreme. But even so, that doesn’t excuse Ye from the choices he’s making, or conspiratorial thinking he may have towards criticism of his behavior and speech.

    As for Musk, I don’t think people believe for the most part that he has a mental illness. But it is generally agreed that he’s a narcissist and having a classic middle-aged crisis after his younger partner left him and took up with a famous trans woman and his daughter came forward as trans and is estranged from him. And his companies have had a lot of problems over the last few years, leading to a lot of showman stunts and tapdancing, while sucking up government money. But how much of what we see is Musk having personal problems and how much is general incompetence, attempted political ops with Thiel, financial schemes or business distraction tactics, nobody knows. We do know that Musk and his South African family are apartheid racists, that his companies act in a racist manner complete with lawsuits and that he doesn’t seem to be particularly a feminist or supporter of queer/trans rights. Certainly he’s not for worker rights.

    We do know that a willingness towards conspiratorial thinking can occur with some forms of mental illness — they’ve studied the connection. And that a high percentage of the QAnon believers suffer from mental illnesses such as bi polar, schizophrenia and substance abuse/addiction. But again, having mental illnesses may mean you have hallucinations or are more prone to paranoia, but they don’t make you a bigot. That usually comes from the person’s background and socialization, regardless of a person’s mental health, and those beliefs may start to become more extreme when a person encounters a horrible setback or loss, or is in an environment and time period of uncertainty and insecurity where they feel threatened. Like say a pandemic.

    Ye’s divorce from Kardashian took place during the pandemic. Ye also had covid early in the pandemic and is an anti-vaxxer. He decided to run for president in 2020 and it hurt him financially and he was widely mocked for it. So those events, regardless of his bi polar disorder or substance abuse, may have brought views he kept more under wraps out into the open. But because he is known to have bi polar disorder, and all the ableism concerning mental health, it’s pretty hard to keep people from speculating how much impact the illness may be having on his behavior, especially when it’s in direct contrast to some of his behavior in the past.

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    • This whole situation is the only time people have felt sorry for Kim K. I hope she keeps on top of her children’s mental health, since some of it can be genetic.

      Ye may have lost what little filter he had — which wasn’t much, as we saw with him embarrassing himself, Taylor Swift, and Beyonce simultaneously. And that was 13 years ago. We have no idea what substances he may or may not have abused, but someone who’s been fabulously wealthy and famous for decades probably has.

      When things go wrong with your brain, more bad stuff that was always there comes out. My grandmother had a terrible temper as a kid, but learned to hold it in check. But when the Alzheimer’s hit, she went full-out scary. She didn’t suddenly become temperamental, she went back to her default state.

      Musk is simply a racist, sexist trust fund baby blowhard with over-entitlement. But people are starting to see the man behind the curtain. And even HE thought Ye went too far and banned him from Twitter!

      Which reminds me, I need to check on my new Mastodon account and figure that out better. I had a Twitter account several years ago strictly for the purpose of entering contests, but I don’t even remember the screen name. I only look at it for Jorts the Cat, Wholesome Memes, Cats Being Weird Little Guys, and We Rate Dogs. And mostly just Jorts, because I love him and his person and Jean.

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    • having mental illnesses may mean you have hallucinations or are more prone to paranoia, but they don’t make you a bigot. That usually comes from the person’s background and socialization, regardless of a person’s mental health

      This isn’t untrue, but… I have to say, if I ever went persistently manic or psychotic (two things I’ve been spared during a lifetime of mental illness), I think it’s a good bet that a lot of the things that I decided to say or write would be vile. They would be things no one would think were characteristic of me, and they’d be contrary to how I was raised, but to some degree we’ve all been soaking in that stuff and it’s available to us. Diving into something that you think of as a very bad thing, as a kind of self-immolation or to test your imaginary invulnerability, is a thing some people do in extreme states. Others behave with grace and stay true to who they’d like to be, but I’m far from certain that I would be that lucky.

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      • Which is why I have some sympathy for Ye fans who are trying to understand his behavior and see it as the result of his mental illness. Many serious mental illnesses do impact behavior and perception and can cause hallucinations. Even neurological conditions like Tourette’s can cause people to say things that they wouldn’t if they were fully in control. It’s entirely possible that some of Ye’s actions are things he doesn’t even remember doing. It’s entirely possible that he has additional health issues that are further affecting his behavior.

        But while many things may be excused and accommodated because of mental illness issues — and should be if we want to help people — there are still consequences, repairs and reparations that have to be made when that behavior damages others and when conscious choice does seem to be involved. Especially when the person involved has a platform and/or positions of power, or is seeking political power like Ye. So it’s a complicated situation in this case that mostly makes people sad, but also greatly endangers marginalized groups because of his celebrity, platform and who he’s hanging with. That his background may also have taught him anti-Semitic and sexist prejudices makes it doubly sad and complicated, but doesn’t change that he’s causing harm and advocating for bigot myths and the loss of others’ rights.

        But in any case, I see Musk and Ye as two very different cases. Musk is an open hypocrite, for instance. I’m not sure whether Ye has that awareness. But Ye has gotten into business with some very dangerous, very autocratic white supremacists. And I don’t think it can be claimed that this decision is due to his mental illness, though some are giving it a go.

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    • “That being said, being bi polar doesn’t make you anti-Semitic or white supremacist. ”
      Similarly a guy I used to work with was incredibly, deliberately obnoxious when he was on the higher end of his bipolar cycle. His choice to express his obnoxiousness with rape threats, however …

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    • Didn’t know Kanye had Covid. That can mess up your brain even further. Probably particularly when you’re already bipolar.

      Still. Hitler. I’ve had brain fog since the 80s, depression, and have a case of long Covid now, and I never have become racist.

      I have hallucinated a couple of times, but one was when I hadn’t slept for days and one was when I had a really bad flu with a temperature into the “yikes, that’s bad” range when I finally saw a doctor. I don’t think those count. Still wasn’t ranting about Jews. Indeed, my Jewish boss told me to stay home until I was completely well (and suggested chicken soup, as did my Christian mother. They were right.)

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  7. I think a meaningful difference between Linehan and Sim is that Sim was much more on his own. I mean, he had a loyal following of readers and other cartoonists, but they were not on board with his weird ideological journey; I’m sure some creepy dudes did write him some misogynist fan mail, but everyone visible went out of their way to make it clear that their respect for him was in spite of all that.

    Linehan fell in with an ideological tendency that (especially in the UK, it seems to me) had been well established among writers and performers and public intellectuals for quite a while. If you started saying TERF things in a tone that was half “I’m un-PC” and half “I’m one of the real feminists and LGB allies”, a lot of people would decide you’re an asshole, but quite a few of your successful peers, people you already liked and knew socially, would give you positive reinforcement and welcome you into the fold of self-styled brave common-sense-tellers.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Of course, the difference with Kanye is that he has an actual diagnosis — bipolar with suicidal ideations. Bipolar is often accompanied by paranoia when off their meds. And Kanye has been off his meds for a while.

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  9. Regarding extreme politics as a response to a thwarted sense of entitlement, plenty of media will feed that sense. There’s a woman in Los Angeles who recently killed two kids driving 80 miles an hour through a residential neighborhood (other details, such as whether she tried to leave the scene, are in dispute). The LA Magazine article on the case starts out by saying how she’s married to one of the city’s wealthiest plastic surgeons and this is “not the life she thought she’d be living” because her neighbors now treat her as a pariah. OMG, it’s so hard for her!
    Earlier this year, New York Magazine ran an article about a teenager CANCELED in his senior year — popular, charming, and handsome but since he showed his girlfriend’s naked pictures to friends at a party without her consent, nobody wants to be around him (I am pleasantly surprised he’s the one being shunned and not her). As several bloggers pointed out, lots of people get socially canceled in high school, but it’s the cool, handsome guy who’s supposedly entitled to popularity who gets the attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly in that case, the girlfriend was shunned and harassed by many and the boy didn’t actually get cancelled. His girlfriend rejected him and her friends and some of his friends. But other teens — and sadly many adults — supported him and harassed the girlfriend for giving him nude photos. He got invited to multiple proms and got to party it up because he put what they see as a girl — his ex-girlfriend — in her place as impure and inferior while he’s still the cool guy who should be able to do what he wants without other teens being able to reject him. He’s not facing any real legal charges or damage to his academic situation.

      The writer who did the piece for NY Magazine deliberately left out information and in one or two spots outright lied about what happened in order to do a “cancel culture” piece that favored the boy teen and minimized the harassment of his ex-girlfriend. It also minimized the issue of social misogyny surrounding boys being taught to pressure girls for nudes, circulate and publicize them for kicks or revenge and being taught by adults that they should be excused for it (rape culture.) We have not come very far on this issue, I’m afraid.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Given the time and place (the UK, the late 80’s) I suspect its more a common root. I’ve never wanted to wallow in muck long enough to really figure it out, and religious justifications for misogyny are as old as religion, but presumably its the influence of Vitalism.

    This has a couple of roots. The first is Eastern Religion and its ideas of Chi/Qi and Prana filtered through Western esotericism. (It was around this I was casually flipping through a Daoist text and came across a warning against masturbation among the young on the grounds it was wasting Chi, barely a dribble away from biblical prohibitions against Onanism).

    The other ultimately derives from Mesmirism, via Theosophy (which has a lot to answer for). In particular the influence of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (who had his wife locked up in an asylum) and his novel Vril: The Power of the Coming Race which gave us Bovril, Hollow Earth theory, Esoteric neo-Nazism and links to early SF.

    Bovril for anyone unfamiliar with it, is a nasty tasting substance, that bears a resemblance to Vegemite*, but made of concentrated meat. It was named for it’s supposed life-energy giving properties. Presumably if we tug on this particular thread out will pop Jordan Peterson and his all meat diet. This is kind of funny when we consider the reputations of the literary stylings of both Peterson and Bulwer-Lytton, perhaps most widely known today as the writer of the opening ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ (He also gave us The Great Unwashed and thecpen is mightier than the sword).

    I’m going to stop here. The trouble with this kind of intellectual history game is that it comes to resemble the kind of red string and pins on a wall conspiracy theorism it purports to uncover unless you are very careful.

    But yes the *cough* eternal return of certain combinations of mistaken thinking and wierd ideas, and the psychic horrors they drag up from the depths.

    *I’m tempted to use the phrase ‘Marmite for Nazis’, which does have a catchy ring to it, no?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Interesting that at least three of the guys we’re talking about here went off the rails after their wives left them. I wonder if the wives leaving was an early symptom of impending derailment, or a triggering shock to the sense of entitlement that many have noted above.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I actually thought of making a comment along those lines when talking about Deni Loubert above; specifically about how he went obviously off the rails well after they separated and later divorced, but I have no idea which direction (or neither, or even both) the causality ran. Really I don’t even know whether he or she was the one pushing for the separation. The fact that the two events both happened suggests a connection, but anybody not directly involved is unlikely to know, and I suspect both of them would give different answers if asked.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, people can hide the brain-worms out in public for a while, but they don’t bother in private. So the spouse gets it all and eventually gets fed up. Then the one with the worms has no one to temper their cray-cray and keep them in touch with reality.

        With no daily support and entitled aggrievement, down they go, like Kanye and Sim.

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    • They’ve actually studied some of this and it is not unusual at all for a cishet man to turn latent sexism into active, vocal and sometimes aggressive sexism after breaking up with a long term woman partner. The bad break-up messes with their identity and sense of status, and from that bitterness and personal sexism, they can often trip down the garden path to racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc., either stuff that was already there a bit from their background or new ideas they adopt to support their sense of grievance and loss of power.

      It’s part of the documented process of radicalism. When they look into the background of mass shooters, including those doing it for race war reasons, and white guys in armed militias, etc., they will usually find an earlier history of violence against and harassment of women and of misogynistic speech and views.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. At one point, Eric and I considered fostering a young bipolar teen, and I read up on how to care for a person with that condition. About half of bipolar people suffer from delusions/hallucinations, and about half of those have the “anosognosia” variant, which means that instead of recognizing they have an illness, they believe all their problems come from a conspiracy by everyone else. Worse, the disease is progressive; every psychotic episode makes it a little bit worse, so starting medication early and being consistent with it is very important.

    We ended up not fostering him (for reasons unrelated to his condition, which, for foster parents, anyway, isn’t worse than caring for a diabetic child), but what struck me was how much the symptoms sounded like the behavior of any conspiracy-theory believer. I wondered for a while what would happen if you gave anti-psychotic drugs to Trump supporters. 🙂

    I find myself thinking that there’s a defect in the structure of our brains–something that lets us essentially think ourselves into a psychosis. Diseases like bipolar and schizophrenic disorders probably trigger it, but I think it was always there–in all of us.

    Perhaps if we understood it better we could teach children about it so they could avoid falling into it. Even better if there were some therapy to treat it. Hard to give therapy to people who don’t think anything’s wrong with them, of course.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In psychiatry culturally acceptable symptoms or beliefs that would be considered psychotic by other cultures are not necessarily considered symptoms of illness…like if hearing a voice or having a belief is considered a normal religious or otherwise supernatural event in the culture of the person hearing the voice or believing the thing, that symptom or belief alone is not diagnostic of mental illness.

      I’d guess that the extreme right wing thought bubble, with its constant reinforcement of conspiracy theories by a common circle of people as a normal and proven view of collective reality, counts as a separate culture by now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have a friend who is both schizophrenic and bipolar, and fairly open about it. He’s doing a lot better now with the medication he’s on, and knows his cycles so he knows exactly when to take his medication when going out with other people so he’ll be mid-cycle when talking to others.

      He comments from time to time on when he has to consciously remind himself that such and such an event that hurt him years ago was almost certainly not deliberate on the part of the other person, just an off-hand comment that he took as something else because he was probably bothering them by being a little too ‘high’ on his cycle. He still tends to not talk to certain people after that sort of thing happens, because even if consciously he knows he’s probably overreacting, that doesn’t make the emotional tint to the memories go away.

      As you say, a lot of it is really things that exist in everyday human psychology, just with the brakes removed so that they can run out of control more easily.

      In general I think what we need to teach people is mostly self-reflection and introspection. (After many years of therapy and varying mental states through medication, this friend is one of the most actively introspective people I know.) Teach people that they can be wrong, and that’s not by itself a bad thing. Sadly, that idea is likely to run right smack into ‘macho’ culture and get beaten to a pulp.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Gotta file a bug report with God, like the xkcd cartoon says.

      Anyway, I hope he found someone good, and it all led up to Travis, so it’s excellent for your little family of 3. It’s been a joy to “see” him blossom, and I hope you tell him often that Dad’s online friends love him too.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There’s a Quaker take on this. Particularly early Quakers were interested in setting ourselves up as separate from parts of the world (“Be not conformed to the patterns of this world” is a biblical quote, and “The Lamb’s War” was a term often used). So Quaker places of worship were Meetinghouses, Anglican Churches were steeplehouses, and to this day my Meeting records that our most recent set of Minutes were made on Second Firstday, 11th Month, 2022.
    Spend that much time trying to set yourself apart from the world, and specifically naming the ways that accepted wisdom about how society is supposed to work are wrong, and you’re going to be tempted to make some really big claims. The poster boy for Quakers is James Nayler who declared himself the 2nd coming of Christ and staged a big entry on a donkey(horse) into Bristol. This got him locked up for heresy or something, and was a black eye for the broader movement.
    The lesson that Quakers took from this is that you do actually have to be accountable to your own community. And in fact for a long time (and it still happens a bit now), if you were going to be a prominent Quaker out publicly being a Minister, you were expected to have a letter from your Meeting vouching that there was a community behind you who had discerned that you felt/feel the spirit of God, that you had elders or companions who would travel with you, and in fact your community wanted to get letters back from others about your ministry.
    Some didn’t like this idea and split off and became known as the Ranters, and you’ll still get Quaker books and things noting the ways our practices are intended to avoid the anarchy of the Ranters.
    But the problem that charismatic or prominent people who start to notice that the world doesn’t actually have to be exactly the way it is right now (or even just that periodically saying that can get them a lot of attention whether or not they believe it), can very easily start saying and doing some very dangerous things has at least centuries of exemplars, and the solution that you’ve gotta find someone you can be accountable to isnt’ really complicated. It’s just not one that many of our current crop are interested in pursuing

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    • I see the Nayler story a little differently. It wasn’t exactly that the Quakers “learned a lesson” after Nayler had taken their ideas to an extreme; Fox and others had already been very worried about Nayler’s behavior from early on, and had been trying to rein him in, but he was by all accounts an incredibly charismatic person and had a following. And this was a time for that, in general– England at the time of the early Quakers was full of religious and social experimentation, because even though the Puritans were a relatively dull and dogmatic lot, the whole idea that the King was gone and that some kind of Christian utopia might develop was giving fuel to everyone who had their own ideas about what Christianity was or what utopia was. Any group like the Quakers was inevitably going to attract a wide range of oddballs who liked that group better than other groups but were also on their own trip. (I am tempted to read Nayler as maybe being clinically manic; that can sometimes be seen by others as a special kind of charisma. Fox had his own magnetism but in a more depressive style.)

      “Ranters” were not really a splinter group from Quakers, they developed in parallel, and arguably weren’t a group at all but more of a general tendency that was labelled as a group by people who were freaked out by them (not unlike “Antifa” now). Any kind of alternative religious or social movement that wanted to minimize persecution by authorities, and avoid being accused of being some kind of drunken free-live Satanists, had to constantly announce that they were not like those Ranters.

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      • Also, “locked up for heresy or something” is a pretty mild way to put what happened to Nayler. Convicted of blasphemy– potentially a capital offense– he was pilloried, tortured, and then imprisoned for two years at hard labor, which half killed him, before being finished off by a beating after he was released.

        The basis of the heresy charge was that he had claimed to be Christ, but by most accounts he didn’t literally do that; some of his followers, on a trip of their own, decided to say it for him. To some degree I think he was an accidental cult leader – very interesting guy, very sad story.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I was going off memory so had some bits a bit off. Thank you for the clarification.
          It’s also the case that at various Meetings for Business and other process discussions with my current Quaker Meeting, I’ve heard the reminders about “the anarchy of the Ranters” and the Meeting supporting individuals as a kind of mutual accountability specifically citing Nayler as a danger to be avoided. So regardless of the actual history, the basic point about the lessons that Quakers specifically have learned still sems valid and applicable.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “The Secret History of the Jersey Devil” goes into detail on 1700s feuds among Quakers … although that section of the book is padding as it has no connection to the Jersey Devil.

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    • Interesting. Nowadays we think of Quakers as non-controversial, quiet people, except for their vociferous pacifism. I’ve only been to one wedding at a meeting house, but it certainly felt more communal and Christian than a lot of services.

      But the early days of a religion are always tumultuous, as Jesus and the boys could attest, plus Luther, Calvin etc.

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        • So was Herbert Hoover. Since he was from Ohio, I’m assuming he came out of a “sit in silence, conserve the old tradition” Meeting, but my understanding is that Nixon’s Quaker congregation is easier to recognize as an evangelical Christian congregation of it’s era than the “sit around quietly” group that’s the most common image people come up with.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Who’s the “we” here? I’m part of a few different Quaker communities both online and offline, and some but not all of them match that description. I tend to think of Quakers as embodying a lot more differences than most outsiders give us credit for. But tumult is available even in these waning days of Babylon.

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  14. I think people are missing out the possibility of provocation for provications sake here. When punks like Sid Vicious started wearing swaztikas, it wasn’t because they were nazis. It was because they knew it was the most provocative thing they could do against the earlier generation.

    West is a conservative and a bigot, but it is impossible to know if he says things because he means them or as a giant “fuck off”. One possibility is that his Hitler-comments are both a “fuck off” to media, former sponsors, but also against Musk and others that he might having felt used by.

    So before we discuss mental illness, we will also have to discuss how much is real beliefs and how much is just angry lashing out or provocation using words he knew would give most effect at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The difference between Sincere and Being Outrageous is irrelevant to me in the context of Ye’s behavior. I’ve seen too many people make some offensive remark and explain they were Just Joking or Being Provocative. It’s not an excuse.

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      • It is irrelevant with regards to effect. But it is not irrelevant when discussing mental health or reasons for the comments.

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    • The thing with this type of provocation (or being reactionary or contrarian, etc., as it’s sometimes called) is that it’s never just for provocation’s sake, it’s never just to say “fuck you” as a stunt, it’s never just hyperbole. It’s a dominance strategy that gives the person a sense of power, control, status and meaning, in the general culture and/or a sub-culture. It’s saying, “you don’t control me, I control you and I will take over and become the victor.”

      We saw a lot of this type of thinking expressed by the Puppies, most spectacularly with Larry bringing Beale on board to be “provocative” to the people he was trashing, to show his dominance and power in the SFF culture — that the rest of us couldn’t stop him and would be upset. Did Larry agree with Beale’s views about violence towards women, theocracy, racism, etc.? Maybe, maybe not, but what he definitely agreed with is that they should dominate over those they saw as inferior, uppity and challenging the status of Larry and those like him in SFF.

      Likewise, punks who wore swastikas weren’t just trying to upset their parents. They were making a statement of how they dominated and would not be controlled by society — and making that statement in part to other parts of the punk movement that did not like the swastikas and expressions of white supremacy either. There were massive brawls over what the ethos of punk was supposed to be and who it could include. That included queer people and queer allies in punk and those in punk who were queerphobic and didn’t want them there.

      It’s not really a surprise that many of those who do bigoted or autocratic domination gestures to be provocative tend to be from dominant groups swaggering at marginalized ones — they are asserting power, often in a changing culture that they feel doesn’t favor them enough or shouldn’t be able to criticize their status. The fun of provocation is a really easy way to radicalize people, and it’s arguably how Trump got elected president.

      In Ye’s case, the urge to be provocative is similar to other celebrity hole-digging situations we’ve seen, including with celebrities who are marginalized in some ways and have had to fend off a lot of bigoted attacks, and so regard criticism when they go after other marginalized people as illegitimate. His status is challenged, he doesn’t find that challenge reasonable, he provokes what he sees as oppressors further. But it’s not just for provocation’s sake. It’s to re-establish his dominance and status, that he can’t be controlled. And he’s got a bunch of right wing friends he’s had since around 2017, telling him that he’s doing just that.

      A lot of people build up their identities around the idea that those they see as inferiors have no right to challenge, criticize, condemn them or have what they have or feel they should have — that they are the good, righteous people and so forth. They might not even realize they hold those views until those they see as naturally inferior aren’t deferential and accommodating but instead critical and demanding social change. And that’s especially the case with the toxic masculinity we still pour into little boys’ ears, sadly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe Loomer at least can recognize the terriblest PR when she sees it. Even a lot of RWNJ were put off by the Ye/Milo/Hispanic White Supremacist debacle.

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        • Apparently not as he went on another RW show, with the mask hood and was worse. I think at this point, they are trying to use Ye as a distraction from the Georgia election. It will be a key point to see if any of them have him on after the totaling up of the vote from today.

          Again, white Repubs have been saying anti-Semitic stuff openly for years now, as well as the whole Soros conspiracy angle, without any real consequences. But Ye is a black celebrity and not as well armored in our society.

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          • You could have set up a betting pool for how long it took to throw him under the bus once he’d served his purpose. It always happens to “the good ones”. Some food and beverages take longer to finish than they gave him.

            It’s another deplorable thing the RWNJ do — exploiting mentally ill people.

            I realize that locking people up in snake pits is terrible, but when someone goes this bad in public, you just want to put him in a nice, bright room and at least get him back on his meds. He’s definitely paranoid; he thinks Jay-Z (who made his career) is out to kill him. Have him on the meds for a while and see if he comes back to reality.

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