Category: Politics

Separatism, Spain, Catalonia, Russia, the Alt-Right & Chaos-Fascism

I’m naturally sceptical of separatist movements and naturally sympathetic towards them. The English speaking world’s perspective on such movements is shaped on the one hand by America’s Civil War legacy and a separatist South whose objective (the continuation of chattel slavery) was undeniably evil. On the other hand, it is also shaped by British history in terms of de-colonialism, Irish independence and the ongoing issue of Scottish independence. On the latter issue, the British left remains caught in a paradox of Scottish independence as a progressive cause and the electoral imbalance that would occur if Scotland was not part of the UK – without Scotland, the UK parliament would skew further right.

Europe has no shortage of potential divisions. The arbitrary and often perverse borders that European powers imposed on other parts of the world (e.g. Iraq) occur in the political map of Europe (e.g. Belgium) often with the intent of creating countries with systemic ethnic conflicts. These conflicts were to some extent subsumed by the horror of World War 2, the subsequent peace and then relative economic and political stability. However, they never went away and some continued as active conflicts (notably the Basque region and Northern Ireland). Northern Ireland itself demonstrated the fractal nature of such conflicts.

With the end of the Soviet Union, a new wave of separation occurred as national entities subsumed by the USSR asserted their independence. And here lies an added twist to the situation of Europe heading towards 2020. Russia is currently ruled by an ultra-nationalist with a grudge against the role the US and Western Europe played in what Putin still sees as Russia’s Pan-Slavic area of influence. The grudge encompasses the loss of the Baltic States and Ukraine but also the intervention in the Yugoslavian civil wars and the again fractal nature of independence movements.

Meanwhile, conservatism in the west has come under the increasing sway of its own brand of extreme nationalism. Now such nationalism has its own inbuilt contradictions when it comes to separatism – for example, English nationalism is pro-Brexit and anti-Scottish Independence (or at times takes a stance of ‘good riddance’ to Scotland). Specific nationalism comes with their own sense of what does and doesn’t constitute to the nation.

But on the further extremes, we have a kind of unholy alliance across mutually incompatible nationalism. That alliance, which may be substantially less than an active cooperation or conspiracy, is one that recognises that supra-national cooperation is inimical to the regressive policies of the right and far-right forms of nationalism. It is a belief that finds common cause between the anti-UN sentiment among the US right and the anti-NATO sentiment of Putin’s Russian nationalism and the anti-EU sentiment of the Britain’s UKIP/Daily Mail/Brexiteers. The capacity for that alliance (such that it is and I suspect it requires very little active coordination) to act directly is limited but its chief weapon is obvious: cause division and chaos in ways that undermine the legitimacy of democratic government.

For want of a better word, I’ll call it chaos-fascism – that aspect of fascism that attacks the state and civil society so as to legitimise the use of military force against citizens.

It is perfectly possible to want more national entities band together and for states that compromise multiple countries or quasi-national entities to stay together, *AND* recognise the legitimacy of such entities separating. I can both prefer that Scotland stay part of the UK (for many reasons) and support its capacity for independence. Indeed, making secession relatively easy for sub-parts of a state is something I feel is important for democracy because it creates lawful, procedural and accountable routes for something that otherwise can only be achieved by civil conflict. The civil conflicts that can arise tend not only to be immediately damaging but have generational consequences – they also rarely end in unity (with some obvious counter-examples).

Eight paragraphs in and I haven’t mentioned Catalonia.

I don’t know what Putin’s perspective is on Catalonia but I can guess by looking at more accessible proxy mouthpieces. Our least favourite science fiction publisher, Vox Day, is very much against the Spanish government’s actions and supportive of the Catalonian government. Likewise Julian Assange. The Alt-Right, in general, are treating events in Catalonia and the Spanish government’s heavy hand suppression of the voting as vague proof of something – it isn’t clear what they think it proves but their choosing of sides is clear: Madrid bad, Barcelona good. For once they aren’t on the side of militarised police beating the crap out of ordinary people. Why not? After all, in many ways, the current Spanish government is also nationalist and its application of force to quash dissent would, under other circumstances be cheered by the Alt-Right as strong government protecting national identity.

The answer is that there is always at least 50-50 chance which side of a cross-nationalist conflict they will pick but they will tend to pick the side that creates the biggest headache for trans-national cooperation. Putin wants Western Europe divided, both as payback and strategically and the alt-right follows suit. Everybody loses except chaos-fascism.

The Catalonian government clearly escalated the issue but the region’s aspiration for greater independence from Madrid aren’t new and have some merit on multiple dimensions of economics, language and culture. However, there are strong reasons to see the current referendum bid as a cynical and divisive move by a regional government that has its own issues. This Guardian article has some excellent background: https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/30/red-belt-catalonia-labour-movement-referendum

The Spanish government’s response has been to continue the brinkmanship until they forgot the objective of brinkmanship is to not actually go over the brink. Brutal, violent suppression targeted at VOTERS is appalling even if the referendum was not legal. It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of legality in the state i.e. a notion that all that is not legal can be violently oppressed by the state – a division of citizens versus outlaws that can then sanction violence against ordinary people. The net effect a kind of fascist ratchet that permits further violence, undermines democracy and alienates people from government. The net effect can only be further conflict – unless action is taken to de-escalate. That in itself should be a clear indication of when a bad decision has been made – Spain will gain no unity from such a move. Prior to recent events, there was a good chance that Catalonians would vote against further independence.

In both Barcelona and Madrid, minority nationalist blocs have manipulated (and at times ignored when convenient) legal process to create a confrontation in which everybody manages to lose. (More background here https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/01/catalonia-and-spain-need-a-compromise-but-who-can-deliver-one ) Yet to declare a plague on both their houses helps no one. Should the EU intervene? Probably, although that has its own risks. The Putin/neo-nationalist objectives would see both non-intervention and intervention by the EU as a win either way – the first undermines the EU’s legitimacy and second embroils the EU in a conflict in which it would be wary to set a precedent that other large EU countries would find alarming.

But there is also a clear moral response here: police beating up ordinary people trying to vote (regardless of whether the referendum was legitimate or not) is bad and should be condemned. It is ludicrous to think that was the Spanish government’s only recourse or that is tactically or politically wise.

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I’ve found the most brain numb argument against marriage equality yet

IMG_0150

First a quick recap on the current state of marriage equality in Australian. While there appears to be a majority of MPs in favour of marriage equality in federal parliament, the number in favour within the ruling coalition is a minority. This could be solved by having a ‘conscience’ vote but the ruling party had a manifesto commitment to a referendum. The referendum is basically a way of avoiding a split between the centre-right and conservative wings of the Liberal Party – the confusingly named main right-leaning Australian party. Unable to get their plans for a referendum through the Senate, the government settled on having a non-binding, postal “survey”. The survey has a simple Yes – No format with “Yes” being the marriage equality option.

The postal survey/vote is now well underway.

On my wanderings through rightwing SF/F arenas I came across this post on Facebook:

Jason Rennie is the Australian-based SF writer/editor associated with Superversive, and formerly the editor of ‘Sci-Phi Journal’.

The argument essentially boils down to saying that if libertarians support marriage equality (i.e. giving a section of society the freedom to do a thing that most other people can do) then they’ll be taking away the freedom of the people who don’t support marriage equality to not recognise some marriages. In other words, if libertarians support freedom for group X then that infringes the rights of those who don’t want group X to have that freedom.

I think he may have just killed libertarianism – and it was already looking unwell.

He’s worried about the “massive expansion of state force” that will arise when…the state protects the rights of its citizens against those who think they shouldn’t have those rights? Which, correct me all if I’m wrong, used to be the one function of the state that libertarians at least claimed in theory to support.

He doesn’t take the logical step into the obvious corollary of his argument: that therefore banning even more groups from getting married would somehow make everybody freer. I would if we would volunteer a group with which he identifies to be a starting point of this bizarre root to greater freedom?

I suspect we’ll never find out. Anyway, if you are Australian and haven’t voted yet then don’t forget to do so!

More on Troll v Troll

Apparently, Gab (the Twitter for Trolls) has now been given five days by its domain registrar to transfer its domain due to it violating the registrar’s terms of service. Whether that is Google related or Vox related or just the CEO making a sufficient noise about themselves that somebody went and had a look at how much racial vilification there is on the site, it’s hard to say [ETA it may have been directly connected to a particular vicious anti-Semitic post].  The registrar is based in Melbourne and hence Australian law applies – in particular, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination act (see http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-01/what-is-section-18c-and-why-do-some-politicians-want-it-changed/7806240 )

The bad news is that this probably means more Nazi trolls heading back to Twitter.

Alt-right Internecine Petty Name Calling Popcorn

I was going to call this post “Two skinheads fighting over a comb” but:

  • Neither of the participants is a skinhead.
  • The ‘skinhead’ identity is far more complex than the thuggish neo-nazi stereotype and it would be unfair to skinheads to associate them with the participants.

Anyhoo, the feuding between Andrew Torba owner of the safe-haven for far-right trolls known as “Gab” continues his feud with Vox Day a man famous for being a far-right troll.

To recap briefly: Gab was set up as rival Twitter service for people who found Twitter was too strict on the right (which given how permissive Twitter is of neo-Nazis says a lot), Vox flounce over to Gab last year, Vox has since been feuding with other Alt-righters who have been too open with the whole actually being Nazis thing, Vox got called bad things on Gab, Gab wouldn’t delete the posts unless Vox could prove the posts were libellous, Vox then started some sort of court action against Gab. Meanwhile, Gab is suing Google because Google won’t let the Gab app on their app-store because Gab’s moderation policies are too weak, which coincidentally is what Vox Day is also saying which, though he denies it, sort of puts Vox on the side of Google. As probably none of these court cases will go anywhere, it is possible that this is all just kerfuffle-based marketing and/or adult men with the souls of demonic toddlers shouting “pay attention to ME!”. Like the fool I am, I’m paying attention.

Anyway, over at Gab we have this from Torba:

torbavvox

Basically, Torba doing the deniably inciting people thing i.e. pointing out that Vox Day lives in Italy (or maybe Switzerland) and hence there will be all sorts of nasty anti-hate speech laws. The draconian hate speech laws, rather like Twitter’s censorship policies are of mythical status among the right, whereas in reality, they are hard to apply and limited in scope. Additionally, I’m fairly confident that plenty of people would have reported Vox Day’s blog before – if European hate speech laws were going to close his blog then that would have occurred already.

The other element is that Gab is apparently now based in Philidelphia rather than Austin. I don’t know if that matters.

Meanwhile, over at Vox Day’s blog, Vox is now complaining about doxxing. Yeah, I know. Irony is dead – it died last year of overconsumption.

After Vox re-flounced back to Twitter, Vox’s wife known online as “Spacebunny” continued to post on Gab and has been the target of much nastiness (and the source of much nastiness as well). I won’t quote the comments because they are ugly but here is a link http://web.archive.org/web/20170916235757/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/09/gab-wants-war.html

Vox response is:

“Gab wants war

And now Andrew Torba has publicly endorsed people attempting to doxx and SWAT his users despite the way in which doing so would clearly violate’s Gab’s Terms of Service. At this point, given the unprofessionalism and obvious lack of self-control being demonstrated by Andrew, I think it is safe to conclude that Gab is dead. It simply hasn’t stopped moving yet.”

Now I don’t know. I still think this has an air of two kids at the back of a classroom staging a fight just to annoy the teacher but maybe it is two kids at the back of a classroom staging a fight just to annoy the teacher who then get super mad at each other and start fighting for real.

 

That Vox v Gab think Explained as Best I Can

Q: They are both suing each other?

A: I don’t know. According to Vox Day, his Legalevilofleagelleagues has filed “filed the petition in Travis County and the county clerk has approved the filing”. That would be Travis County Texas I assume as Gab’s HQ is in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, on Gab itself, the CEO posted a screenshot saying “GAB.AI, INC., Plaintiff, vs.” which didn’t say who they were suing. As they have existing gripes against Apple and probably Google and Facebook etc that might not mean a counter-suit against Vox Day.

Q: But you hope they are suing each other?

A: Sure. I mean, this kind of internecine feuding isn’t going to solve America’s & the Internet’s problem with online far right harassment and genocidal propaganda BUT it does mean money and energy are being wasted by the far right on squabbles.

Q: So what is Vox suing for?

A: Vox basically wants the personal details of some individuals who called him a ‘pedophile’ so that he can take action against those individuals.

Q: I can’t work out if that is a good thing or not?

A: Yeah…On the one hand, people shouldn’t be defaming others online. On the other hand, these particular trolls were using a harassment technique that Vox himself has advocated. On yet another hand (or tentacle) Vox is trying to force Gab to doxx some people he dislikes i.e. force a private company to hand over personal details to a man who has openly praised terrorist mass-murderers. On yet another, another hand the people concerned appear to be extreme right trolls.

Q: So why were the trolls mad at Vox Day? SHouldn’t far right trolls love each other in trollish camaraderie?

A: Vox has been feuding with Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daily_Stormer ) Basically Vox Day thinks they’ve been too overt in their Naziness and hence he is unhappy that they are giving the game away by saying all sorts of racist/anti-Semitic things.

Q: But…

A: Yeah.

Q: But I guess it proves Gab does believe in free speech?

A: Not really. The purpose of this particular name calling tactic is to try and harass people off a given platform and/or chill their speech. Nobody is going to want that kind of accusation being made about them and so letting people use that kind of tactic online is antithetical to free speech. Basically, it just creates an environment were only the nastiest most nihilistic bullies get to speak freely.

Q: So why would Gab support such behaviour?

A: How can they not? “An environment where only the nastiest most nihilistic bullies get to speak freely” describes the Gab business model. Its role is to tap into the discontentment of right-wing trolls who find themselves shut out (slowly and inconsistently) from more mainstream social media services.

Q: You make Gab sound dystopian.

A: As a social experiment it sort of is. I don’t believe freedom from top-down rules necessarily leads to some sort of Lord of the Flies brutalising dystopia BUT if you set up a “free” community whose main customers are people with a nasty view of human nature and who are heavily invested in a distorted view of masculinity then well…that’s what you get. Essentially direct proof of how shitty the toxic milk shake of racism-misogyny-libertarianism-and-fascism is – which has always been obvious to everybody else.

Q: So who do you want to win?

A: Lawyers I guess? Hopefully, it is a long and expensive process for all parties.

Some links for future reference:

http://web.archive.org/web/20170913201752/http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/legal-legion-update.html

 

schadenfreude popcorn

Inter-fascist feuding continues off in the damp and sticky corners of the internet.

To recap on particulars after yesterday’s post aimed at the more abstract elements:

  • wallaby-03

    Not technically a small kangaroo but frankly I can’t spot the difference and I’ve met both in the wild.

    Vox Day is a self-proclaimed “alt-right” pundit with an extremist nationalism that is anti-free trade and which is based on a pseudo-scientific racist theory and which makes use of white supremacist slogans, talking points & antisemitic propaganda and which hails mass murderers/terrorists as heroes. Some people might look at that combination of beliefs and say “that’s a Nazi surely” but in a fit of pointless pedantry, I prefer “not technically a Nazi”. Vox isn’t a Nazi, like, for example, a large wallaby isn’t a small kangaroo.

  • In the wake of Donald Trump being nominated by the GOP, the various disparate groups calling themselves “alt-right” (from ex-Gamergaters to rebranded Nazis – and assume an intersection in the Venn diagram) became more publically assertive. This led to various more overt factions developing including the “alt-lite” (e.g. Milo Yianopolous) as well as more overtly Nazi groups (e.g. around figures like Richard Spencer). Notably, Vox Day gets less attention on press coverage of these groups and he is still mostly known as the-guy-who-got-beaten-by-the-SF-nerds.
  • Vox has an ongoing spat with the section of the alt-right that more overtly uses Nazi symbolism. Important to note that this is the PRIMARY point of difference – there’s a section of the alt-right that will use swastikas and Nazi salutes etc which merges seamlessly with neo-Nazi groups with more traditional ways of organising. The pro-authoritarian propaganda, the attacks on immigrants & immigration, the misogyny, the (shallow) critique of capitalism, anti-media, the pseudo-scientific racial theory and the general hatred of anyone and everyone on the left is largely indistinguishable from one group to the next. The primary point of difference is that Vox is mad at what he calls “the alt-reich” because they keep giving the game away: i.e. they make it hard for people like Vox to deny that they are actual Nazis because they go around saying the same things as Vox but do so while chanting “blood and soil” and waving swastikas.
  • Vox has been engaging in various feuds as is his MO but aimed at other al-right fractions – mainly because they’ve been getting more attention but also because of they haven’t been pretending not to be Nazis hard enough. This feuding has resulted in him spending more time doing the why-nazis-are-really-leftists nonsense.
  • This has spilt over into “Gab” a Twitter alternative for right wing trolls which advocates freedom of trolling speech. Because this is primarily an argument between people who think “cuck” is the high point of rhetoric, inevitably this has led to people on Gab calling Vox a ‘pedophile’. I should note that I’ve no reason to assume that Vox is a paedophile and calling him one is a shitty thing to do. While it is hypocritical of Vox to complain about it and I’ve zero sympathy for him, the fact remains that child sexual abuse is a serious topic that shouldn’t be used to score political points – which was also true when Vox was the one doing that.
  •  Vox is now saying that he isn’t suing Gab and he is also threatening them with legal action: http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/legal-update.html No, that doesn’t make sense. Hair splitting is important to Vox. Meanwhile, he is also saying that he isn’t threatening to destroy 4Chan’s /pol/ – the infamous troll resevoir. http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/pol-is-always-right.html 
  • Vox also has a new book out “SJWs always something something” – so maybe this is all just controversy marketing.
  • tl dr: I think the distinction between a large wallaby and a small kangaroo is the shape of the ears or something.

The Alt-Right View of ‘Free Speech’ isn’t Even Simplistic

The slow coalescence of various species of online misogyny and trolling into the modern crypto-fascist ‘Alt-Right’ has been entangled with a more general appeal for ‘free speech’ in odd circumstances. These kinds of appeals were often directed at internet comments sections and forums as arguments against community guidelines or in defence of those arguing for active discrimination or even violence against various groups. As appeals went, their purpose was primarily aimed at trying to fool liberals and conservatives into not taking action against people who were actively trying to disrupt online communities, harass vulnerable people or shout down opposing views – indeed actions that themselves were inimical to free speech.

It is why I call this view of ‘not even simplistic’ – it had no real coherent argument behind it or any sustainable principles that could be rationally applied to online communities or even IRrationally applied to online communities. For those who watched the Sad Puppy kerfuffle from 2015 or prior, you may have noted that initially many Sad Puppy websites would even pride themselves on their ‘free speech’ credentials and proudly declare how they never ban comments except in dire circumstances. By 2016 such policies were pretty much dead and gone – once Sad Puppy websites found they had people commenting who had contrary arguments, their tolerance for dissenting views rapidly diminished.

Of course just because ‘freeze peach’ was not, in general, a genuine appeal to the principles of others does not mean that many in the wider cloud of those adjacent to the Alt Right didn’t attempt to implement some kind of internet corporate-space notion of ‘free speech’ no matter how incoherent the notion was. And this is where our story starts in truth with Gab.

For those of you who don’t know, Gab is a kind of alternate Twitter, established for the express purpose of providing an alternative service for those (such as Milo Yianopoulos) banned by Twitter for breach of community guidelines. Pretty much immediately Gab discovered that ‘free speech’ is an almost empty phrase and enacted guidelines that necessarily restrict what people can say:

“Gab’s mission is to put people and free speech first. We believe that the only valid form of censorship is an individual’s own choice to opt-out. Gab empowers users to filter and remove unwanted followers, words, phrases, and topics they do not want to see in their feeds. However, we do take steps to protect ourselves and our users from illegal activity, spam, and abuse.” https://gab.ai/about/guidelines

So, yes, Gab has rules (just like everybody else) that allows them to remove comments and ban users because of what they say. ‘Free speech’ here really means that they will tolerate *some* kinds of abusive comments or behaviour regardless of whether that impacts on how freely others feel they can speak.

It is an approach that can best be described as a bad idea. Communities of people naturally set up rules of behaviour and interaction – sometimes informal ones and sometimes formal ones. Gab is trying to keep those rules to a minimum and inevitable that means tears before bedtime because sooner or later…http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/the-three-types-of-free-speech.html

Well, because sooner or later, letting people say what they like means that the big old mean bullies find themselves on the receiving end of nasty, defamatory, harassing comments that appear to be an attempt to silence them. In this case, our old ‘friend’ Vox Day is rightfully (if hypocritically) upset because of a trolling campaign against him by different factions of the alt-right calling him a ‘pedophile’.

Well, I doubt any of the readers of this blog feel much sympathy for Vox being hoist on his own petard but the enemy of your enemy is not actually your friend when it comes to inter-factional in-fighting. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t all enjoy moments like this when Vox Day himself ends up saying:

“As a Gab supporter, I certainly don’t wish to harm Gab in any way; this sort of situation is precisely why I previously advised Andrew to adopt a ban-on-sight policy towards known trolls and troublemakers.”

I can’t think of any more clear an unambiguous endorsement of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s decision to expel Vox Day from their membership. Ban-on-sight known trolls and troublemakers – I’m a bit (but not a lot) more tolerant of trolls than that but then that’s because I actually care about people’s freedom to be able to express their views.