Hey, Phantom’s back!

Happy news for one and all! He’s got his knickers in a twist about my post on Sarah Hoyt jumping full on to the Trump train and endorsing his attack on four US politicians: https://accordingtohoyt.com/2019/07/17/homicidal-charity/#comment-609077

“For a camel who prides himself on logic, he consistently fails to make logical distinctions between things like legitimate immigrants and ILLEGAL migrants.”

Hmmm. Yeah about that. The confused Canadian appears to have forgotten that Trump was attacking four *US CITIZENS* not ‘illegal immigrants’. Of the four ONLY ONE was not born in the USA (Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia, emigrated legally and is now not just a US citizen but an elected representative of the US people). Of course “it’s just illegals we object to” was always a lie but it’s become automatic so that even when right wing extremists are demanding citizens be deported they still chant it like a mantra.

While I’m on that point, let’s circle back to the post that Hoyt originally put up on her blog (written by Thomas Kendall):

“And Ocasio-Cortez is the daughter of a Puerto Rican [Sure, it’s a “territory” so she was technically born American. Have you ever been there? Looked at how people live there? Look at what she IDENTIFIES with? Yeah.] She is, in fact, a second-generation immigrant [Very Latin. Much minority. What she never identifies as is… one of us]. “

I always fail to estimate how supposed patriotic Americans are about their own country. Puerto Ricans ARE AMERICAN CITIZENS. A person born is Puerto Rico is American by law. It is part of America. Good grief, do some basic reading or you know, just learn something about the country you claim to love so much:

All persons born in Puerto Rico on or after April 11, 1899, and prior to January 13, 1941, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, residing on January 13, 1941, in Puerto Rico or other territory over which the United States exercises rights of sovereignty and not citizens of the United States under any other Act, are declared to be citizens of the United States as of January 13, 1941. All persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, are citizens of the United States at birth. (June 27, 1952, ch. 477, title III, ch. 1, § 302, 66 Stat. 236.)

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1402

Puerto Ricans don’t have to give up being “Very Latin” to be American.

Libertarian Embraces the Authoritarianism (again…)

Which in principle should be shocking news but we are up to who knows how many entries now in documented cases of supposed libertarians embracing the ideas and principles of the authoritarian right.

This time we have Donald Trump using the rhetoric of the overt racist https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/15/donald-trump-congresswomen-republicans-ocasio-cortez-tlaib-pressley-omar demanding that “If you’re not happy here, then you can leave” and “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime[-]infested places from which they came”.

This shouldn’t be a tricky one and it should be a simple matter to see that whatever your political views are (short of overt racism and ethnic nationalism) that a president that demands ideological tests of who gets to live in America is very, very bad news. In this case, attacking undisputedly American citizens as somehow being un-genuine, demonstrates exactly how the rhetoric against “illegals” is the thin of a wedge of political oppression. First strip “foreigners” of their rights and then decide by fiat who is and isn’t a “foreigner”. You shouldn’t even have to like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, or Ilhan Omar or agree with their views to see that this is a very, very dangerous turn for US politics.

If you are a regular reader then you will probably already have guessed which science-fiction writer has jumped in feet first to support Trump’s statement: Sarah Hoyt. Hoyt is an American and an immigrant to America, however she feels her bona-fides are stronger than the above four women because she thinks the right thoughts. She finishes her opening thoughts with “Fit in or Fck off. I’ll help you pack your bags. – SAH

Yup, the message of supposed libertarians and free-speech absolutists in the era of Trump is think-the-right-thoughts-or-leave. Short of literally using the term “thought crime” is couldn’t be a clearer endorsement of authoritarianism.

To be clear, this streak within libertarianism has always been there. The idea that effectively left wing politics should be forbidden from government has always been implied but in the past, they danced around the implications of how they would stop people electing left wing governments. What has been less obvious from the rhetoric but manifest in their practice, is how the sanctity of free speech was something that is used very selectively for the far right. Yes, it is turkeys voting for Christmas but it always has been.

Jordan Peterson’s new version of Gab will have all the same problems as Gab

I’m not sure I have to write a post to accompany the headline as I’ve encapsulated the main point in the headline.

The longer version is this. Jordan Peterson has announced his own social media platform “Thinkspot”

He described that freedom as the “central” aspect saying, “once you’re on our platform we won’t take you down unless we’re ordered to by a US court of law.” That will be a profound contrast to platforms that ban users for “misgendering” people who identify as trans, or for tweeting “learn to code” at fired journalists. The only other major rule on comments he mentioned was that they need to be thoughtful. Rather than suggesting that some opinions are “off limits,” Peterson said they will have a minimum required length so one has to put thought into what they write. “If minimum comment length is 50 words, you’re gonna have to put a little thought into it,” Peterson said. “Even if you’re being a troll, you’ll be a quasi-witty troll.” All comments on the website will have a voting feature “and if your ratio of upvotes to downvotes falls below 50/50 then your comments will be hidden, people will still be able to see them, if they click, but you’ll disappear.”

These are mainly features and claims offered by Gab or seen in other platforms. Gab, of course, descended so rapidly into nothing but Nazis, dodgy-porn, and dodgy pornographic Nazis that Vox Day found himself harassed off the platform by obnoxious Nazi trolls as if trying to embody the concept of “unintended irony”.

Peterson’s platform will have the added advantage over Gab in that there’s no shortage of Nazi-trolls who actively hate Peterson, so they’ll have an added incentive to destroy the platform intentionally in the same way the destroyed Gab unintentionally.

The only unusual feature mentioned is a minimum comment length. That will be very hard to beat I’m sure!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Peterson’s own pitch implies that they won’t ban users for harassment. This pretty much guarantees that people who don’t want to be harassed won’t use it (at least not for long) and the people who want to harass will.

On the Right & Civilisations

This is a rewrite of a Tweet thread that started here:

However, Tweets aren’t a great medium for the point I was trying to make, so I’m making it more essay-like here.

“Western Civilisation” or “Judeo-Christian civilisation” are almost content-free markers in right wing discourse these days. In both cases, there is a fundamental incoherence that arises from deep problems with how people like Shapiro think about the world.

‘Civilisation’ implies an ongoing exchange of ideas between people. A civilisation will manifest in many ways (politics, architecture, art) but the idea that these multifold things all connect together comes from people swapping ideas and concepts. However, the right wing rhetorical use of the term ‘civilisation’ implies the opposite: that somehow ideas cannot cross between ‘civilisations’ even though the very examples they use of the wonders of Western Civilisation are prime examples of a very fluid exchange of ideas way beyond the boundaries of the West.

Shapiro concedes grudgingly some maths from India, while ignoring the influence of that same maths in other parts of Asia, or its transmission to the west. There’s no sensible way of considering the cultural and philosophical history of Europe without considering its connection to the Middle East, central Asia and the Indian sub-continent, through migration, trade, war and general proximity. Shapiro cites Aristotle (who was neither Christian nor Jewish) and simultaneously ignores the role of Islamic Aristotelian scholarship on European thought in the middle-ages.

Obviously, the term “Western Civilisation” isn’t wholly meaningless as an idea in general but the alt-right uses it in a way that is little more than a marker for their racism. “Judeo-Christian” is used by sections of the right in a similar way to mask their hatred of Islam. It’s even more absurd as a term, generally only applied to Western European ideas (and often specifically Anglophone ones) while ignoring other cultures with a Christian background (partly out of habit of seeing Eastern Europe as a non-Christian ‘other’) and at the same time partly-ignoring non-Christian influences on European culture (pre-Christian Northern Europe, classical Greece and Rome) while co-opting those classic parts that have been Christianised (see Aristotle above). The “Judeo” part is strictly tokenistic: Maimondes is as likely to be ignored as Averroes.

That Western European thought was influenced by multiple cultures both as an internal dynamic (the many cultures within Europe) or an external dynamic (the many cultures Europe has interacted with by trade, war, invasion, migration, exploration, colonisation etc) is not something that can be admitted to because then any endorsement of the wonders of “Western Civilisation” would by implication be seen an endorsement of multi-culturalism.

Both terms as used by the right are bad history and in Shapiro’s example a bad understanding of how science developed. He actively obscures why Issac Newton did his work where and when he does, turning him into just some sort of brief expression of a kind of miasma of “Judeo-Christian” civilisation. The path that leads to the particular sweet spot that Shapiro seems to be pointing towards, where abstract philosophy meets empirical practicality isn’t something that just pops up if you believe in god in just the right way. If it where then we’d have far more Issac Newtons in Christian and Jewish history. Consequently Shapiro’s analysis (if that’s not too generous a term for it) makes it both harder to understand what was going on in 17th century England and also undermines what actually WAS special about it AND also undermines how Newton’s insights connect with his religious beliefs.

The halting steps towards the modern sense of scientific thinking, in which broad abstract principles are examined with an eye towards experimentation and empirical testing, was a long road full of missteps. It is one in which Aristotle’s work (as he keeps coming up) was both an aid and a hindrance and where contact (both good and bad) with other cultures and beliefs was vital. Religion is not irrelevant here and had positive and negative influences just as a figure like Aristotle had positive and negative influences.

Shapiro needs to set up the relationship as purely one way: that specific religious beliefs begat science because he also needs to hide the opposite effect: that religious beliefs changed because of scientific & philosophical ideas (as well as economy & politics & exploration & colonialism & empire etc) And also, that Islam, Judaism and Christianity kept changing each other over time and still do so. This is hard to accept if your view of religion is one where they are repositories of universal truths (or lies) rather than human attempts to grapple with those truths and as subject to human foibles and historical forces as any other human endeavour.

Instead Shapiro imagines religion as a kind of operating system for civilisation-machines rather than as ongoing dialogues people have with each other. Hence him tying himself up in knots in a manner that leaves him in a position where he cannot defend his analysis from the alt-right. His intellectual incoherence on this topic has multiple roots but one in particular is revealed in this particular topic of “civilisations”.

The wider discourse in the right for decades now has been one that can be characterised as scepticism about the existence of, or influences of SOCIETY. Exemplified most starkly by Margaret Thatcher but present across the board. Now, fair enough, sociology is not the most robust of disciplines but imagine trying to discuss sociological events, dynamics etc while being hostile to the very concept of society. It would be like trying to do macroeconomics while actively avoiding the concept of “an economy”

Racists are mainly racists for petty & cynical reasons but in addition, a discourse about sociological phenomenon without a concept of society is one in which racism or some other partisan essentialism is inevitable. Why are their broad, epiphenomenal effects in a collection of atomic individuals? How do such things exist if you can’t think in terms of “society”? The alternatives are conspiracies, religious allegiance, race or supernatural intervention & right wing discourse is full of all four.

Without a concept of society, it is inevitable that shifts in taste or widespread behaviour become blamed on conspiracies or hidden intentional forces. That and racism will only get you so far though. Any attempt to present a historical account of the world that at least has a patina of intellectual respectability is to find a proxy for society that can fill the conceptual gap. “Civilisation” is another way for right wing pseudo-intellectuals to try to talk about society & culture without conceding that either are powerful factors in our lives. Of course a concept of civilisation without sociological ideas is a vacuum.

Did fandom cause the collapse of civilisation or vice versa? Let’s Assume Neither :)

It’s been a long time since I linked to a post by the improbable 2016 Campbell Award Finalist and Inaugural Dragon Award Winner for Best Horror Novel That Was Actually A Space Opera, Brian Niemeier but a posy at his blog caught my eye [direct link, archive link].

Brian’s politics mixes standard alt-right nationalism and misogyny with a particularly reactionary form of Catholicism. People may recall Brian’s concern that literal demons are controlling the left (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/demons-and-witches-and-the-left/ ), so not exactly a Pope Francis or Vatican II fan.

Anyway, Brian has a hypothesis about religion and fandom:

“Kicking Christianity out of public life didn’t usher in a bright, sexy chrome utopia. Instead of directing their pious energies into scientific pursuits, America did what everyone does absent Christianity: They turned pagan.”

‘X-thing is a religion’ is a bit of a cliche but I don’t think that analysis is wholly wrong. Rather, I don’t think religion is really a single social phenomenon at all but a whole bunch of things — which is why cultures don’t follow one of Christianity/Islam/Judaism have quite different boundaries as to what is and isn’t religious and how religion plays a role in wider society*. So, sure, I can believe there’s some commonality between fandoms and religion.

Indeed, I’d go further and say that I think how we engage with fiction and products of the imagination has a close connection with spirituality and how religion has become a part of human culture. Brian is making a different argument though:

“Human beings are wired for worship. If social pressure discourages worshiping God, those with less fortitude will worship trees, rocks, or even plastic figurines.


Religious identity was the engine that built the West, and it’s still a major motivating force elsewhere in the world. What has happened in the American Empire is that Christian identity has shattered, and the pieces have been scattered throughout various hobbies.


Which was precisely what the main players in the Enlightenment wanted–to reduce religion to a hobby indulged in the home with no effect on public life.”

Fandom therefore being the eventual warped expression of people’s instinct towards religion suppressed by the machinations of Enlightenment philosophers. I think we can safely assume that this is not the case. However, the next paragraph is what really caught my eye:

“To see how people’s identities have gotten mixed up in their hobbies, take a quick glance at the ‘gate controversies popping up among various fandoms on a more or less daily basis. #GamerGate was the big one, but it failed due to infiltration by controlled opposition and exploitation by online grifters. It’s telling that every subsequent fandom revolt has enjoyed a brief honeymoon period before skipping straight to the “milked by grifters” stage. “If a man loses faith in God, he doesn’t believe nothing, he’ll believe anything,” is illustrative here.”

It can be hard to tell with the alt-right what is a bad-faith nonsense and what is sincere nonsense. Occasional you get paragraphs like this that are so lacking in self-awareness that they can only be a sincere expression of some very confused beliefs.

As a reminder: Brian was not a major figure in the high points of the Sad Puppy campaigns (a relevant example of one of the right wing uprisings in fandom) but leveraged those campaigns to get his books promoted by the Rabid Puppy slates into a Campbell nomination and a Dragon Award. Brian was also the charmer who tried to stir up a second Dragon Award nomination into another culture war battlefront in a bid to get more votes for his book. (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ) There may be better example of the ‘milked by grifters’ stage of the Sad Puppy Campaigns but only because it was never not a grift but Brian is a good example of late stage band wagon jumping.

“Few now can imagine–by design–a time when popular culture wasn’t partitioned into myriad fractured fandoms. Sure, people had different tastes, but there were cultural touchstones everybody shared, and more of them. Everybody tuned in to The Shadow. Everybody read Edgar Rice Burroughs. Everybody saw Gone with the Wind. But a people with a shared culture and a strong identity is hard to conquer, so universal popular culture had to go. Fandom was the murder weapon used to kill Western culture.”

Again a reminder: Brian writes anime-inspired right wing science fiction about people fighting in space-robot suits. He’s not exactly aiming for the mainstream. It’s that lack of awareness of his own micro-niche writing that makes me think he genuinely believes that’s what happened — that rather than technology and population growth making it economically easier for people to find stories that appealed to more finely delineated niches, that this was an actual plot to divide society.

Does he really think he would be happier if the only books or films available where the most mainstream ones? Also, if he believed that then shouldn’t he be doing his utmost to just consume the most modally consumed media? But it is like the person who wants religion to be mandatory who doesn’t get that it wouldn’t necessarily be their religion that would be enforced

He finishes his essay thus:

“Fortunately, there are creators laboring to forge new culture in the tradition of our ancestors. For a refreshing take on the mecha genre that clears away all the stale cliche cobwebs, check out my new martial thriller Combat Frame XSeed.”

Irony is dead, a knock-off Kindle Unlimited far right combat mecha killed it.

*[Not that Christianity, Islam or Judaism follow the same template either, but the similarities are what tend to shape what Western culture regards as the things a religion has: a god, a priest, a temple, a holy book, quasi-laws, exclusivity]

A quick voyage around the puppy seas to look at the Mueller report

I haven’t written much about the Mueller report prior to this post (indeed pretty much nothing https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/?s=Mueller ) and I liked Alexandra Erin’s analysis of all such investigation and thoughts about impeachment: the best option for getting rid of Trump is the next election and always has been. That doesn’t mean investigations or even possible impeachment proceedings shouldn’t occur — they are a key part of the checks and balances in America’s system of government and they slowdown and interrupt the full scope of the harm the current administration might cause.

The reaction from the Whitehouse to the as yet unreleased report has been one of claiming that it vindicates or exonerates Trump. You don’t need to be particularly anti-Trump or even particularly anti-conservative to regard that analysis with some scepticism. The investigation already result in action against key figures in Trump’s campaign that anybody, regardless of their politics, should find concerning. Politician’s spin.

So it is fascinating to see Larry Correia’s and Brad Torgersen’s reaction to the report — which note, they haven’t read or seen. Brad and Larry are of particular interest as they were ostensibly anti-Trump at the time of the nomination and were far more reluctant to be seen as endorsing him, presenting their positions as more anti-left or anti-Hillary Clinton than pro-Trump. So. swallowing a politician’s narrative hook, line and sinker is an interesting shift for both of them. Here’s Brad on Facebook:

“Hate Trump for being a loud, uncouth, ill-prepared, boastful, otherwise un-Presidential oaf. Fine. But he was never in Russia’s pocket. In fact, the big red arrows kept aiming back at Clinton, Inc. and also Obama, Inc.”

Facebook Post

And a similar sentiment from Larry Correia:

“Oh well. That’s what you get for pinning all your hopes and dreams on something that was obviously a crock of shit to anybody who gave it a few seconds of critical thinking. There’s plenty of legitimate reasons to hate any politician without straw grasping for silly made up ones.”

Facebook Post

Both Brad and Larry talk a lot about narratives when it comes to politics but in that special projection/reversal of position way where they say their opponents are doing the thing that they are trying very hard to do. In this case attempting to frame a conclusion about the report before they have any idea what the actual content of the report is. It’s interesting because in both cases they are committing strongly to a pro-Trump framing i.e. accepting the uncritically the spin from the Whitehouse without engaging any critical gears at all. Heck even waiting a few days might have been a bit smarter given they still don’t know what is actually in the report.

It’s weird because I’m now a bit more interested in what the report says. Again, it was unlikely to ever have a smoking gun of, say, live video of Vladimir Putin handing wads of money to a pre-election Trump and Trump saying “Gee thanks for the money Vlad, I’ll spend this on doing all the crimes.” However, given there has already been, what, seven (?) prosecutions and four guilty pleas as a consequence of the investigation, it’s an already established fact that the Trump campaign was mired in criminal behaviour.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out. Both Larry and Brad adopt a stance of being different from the more overtly nationalist and pro-Trump right but often repeat and advance talking points and propaganda from the nationalist right uncritically. I’ll be interested to see to what extent they’ll back pedal on this topic as the story shifts.

And today’s Puppy target is…amateur authors!

Bless Dave Freer of the Mad Genius Club, he’s taken off from a comment here and woven a delicate confection of post spun from the purest hot air. https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/03/11/financial-exclusion/

“Just the profession of writing.That’s what the purpose of the site always has been. That’s what we’ve paid forward thousands of hours of our time to. It’s something which is personally very important to me. It’s a site I wish I could have found when I was starting into this profession. I love reading, particularly sf and fantasy, but reading in general. I want others to be able to enjoy it, and my unborn descendants to still enjoy it. Without professional writers… that will go the way of the music of the Lur. Once common, now Word says it is a spelling mistake.  There are of course still hobbyists who play a Lur. But that’s about it.”

[archive link]

Of course, by that standard the various diversions at Mad Genius into quixotic campaigns against awards, attempts to have people sacked from their jobs for not saying nice things about said quixotic campaigns, homophobic attacks on families and the general conspiracy theory mongering would all be distinctly off purpose. Perhaps Freer would rather have people believe each of those was about making money as a writer…

However, it’s the later part of Freer’s post that interests me more:

“If you can’t generate income from your writing, you’re a hobbyist. I wish you all the joy of your hobby, but unless you plan at least to try and try and generate an income, if you’re putting you novels on the market, I wish you in purgatory. We have enough dilettantes using writing for all sorts of other purposes which they care about, frankly damaging reading (because there is no selective pressure in needing to please readers to generate an income. It puts people off.) and certainly making life a lot harder for authors trying to make this a profession they can earn a living at.
Honestly, macramé is great for all those other things you care about. And if you could play the Lur as a hobby, it would bring a great deal more awareness to whatever issue you cared about without screwing up our profession.”

[archive link]

Well, lots of working people can’t generate income from their writing because of the time constraints involved. They might want to and they might hope that they will in the future but they can’t. Further, writing for its own sake brings people joy. If you are one of those people, well I guess you can enjoy having the trad-pub author Dave Freer sneer at you as he wishes you to purgatory.

Those two paragraphs are one of the neatest encapsulation of a core aspect of what I call the conservative crisis. Couple a firm belief in capitalism (although not a well informed one) with a belief that all you need to do to make money in a capitalist society is work hard with the harsh reality that you are struggling to make ends meet and what do you get? If your ideology tells you that the poor are poor because they are lazy and that the homeless are homeless because they choose to be and that millionaires are self-made and the rich deserve their wealth because of hard work, then NOT being an amazing success (particularly in middle-age) is an existential challenge to your self-worth. The only answer that can hold these contradictions together is that somebody, somewhere has cheated you of the success that your ideology and your self-perception say you deserve. The ‘them’ who you believe have cheated you will be legion. For Dave its those terrible New York elites and liberals and SJWs and now, amateur authors flooding the market with books!

In reality, hard work helps but it is no guarantee of success, talent helps and is also no guarantee. There will be lazy, talentless people who succeed because of their background or in some cases just luck. Understanding that is actually important for your own mental well-being.