Category: Conservative Crisis

Today’s History Lesson: Nope, pulling statues down is not ‘Stalinist’

In the continuing exercise of those adjacent to the Alt-Right trying to simply not see what the Alt-Right are, may I present Sarah Hoyt, titular leader of Sad Puppies 5

There is far too much there that is wrong and wrong-headed and just plain enabling of authoritarianism to document. However, I’ll pick on one snippet:

“This idiotic changing of names, removing of statues and erasing people from history is NOT the work of a free society. It is wholly Stalinist and is letting the rest of the world know you by your fruits as it were. “


An addiction to shallow thinking leads one into absurdities. In this case Hoyt’s truism implies that opposing Stalinism is Stalinism.

The photo is from this site: and was taken in 1956 during the short lived Hungarian October Revolution.

No, tearing down monuments is not ‘Stalinist’ in itself – that is an absurd claim. What Hoyt is trying to grasp at is Stalin’s frequent attempts to rewrite hsitory. The people campaigning to pull down Confederate monuments do not want to erase the Confederacy *from history* quite the opposite – they want people to remember the US Civil War and who fought in it AND WHY. Precisely because HISTORY matters and understanding the fault lines and ingrained inequalities in the US is impossible without knowing about the history of slavery and racism in America – a history that is particular to America in its details but not unique to America in its impact.

Parallels between minor SF kerfuffles & real world politics are both trite & true

In various less-friendly spaces of the internet, I spent time watching right-wing SF fans trying to negotiate their own narrative around the Dragon Awards. There was often a plaintive cry from somebody trying to be the voice of reason as to why things can’t just be about the books. The notable thing was that in the case of the Dragons, they meant that the left had somehow introduced “politics” to it. This despite the case that there had been almost zero campaigning for Dragon Award nominations outside of a narrow area of SF fandom revolving around Superversive, Pulp Revolution and the groups I call the Rabids and the Scrappy Doos. Even the former Sad Puppy leadership had been relatively quiet.

My interest here was not the Brian Niemeiers of the groups but others, less inclined to create an SJW conspiracy out of nothing. In several cases, you could see them correctly reasoning that if they want the Dragon Awards to have any status then they would need authors like John Scalzi and N.K.Jemisin involved. However, they would always return to the idea that it was up to people like John Scalzi to, therefore, fix the problem by participating. Commenting here, author David Van Dyke took a similar tack – the Dragons need broad based participation, therefore can authors that the SF right calls “SJWs” (whether they are or not) please participate. This despite the fact that the reasons WHY authors didn’t want to participate were clear and unambiguous – they didn’t want to get caught up in the culture war that other on the SF right want the Dragons to be.

What is particularly interesting is this. When the right that is adjacent to the more belligerent alt-right NEED somebody to be reasonable, to compromise in WHICH direction do they turn? Note how it is the LEFT? This is more than just the modern conservative dictum of not-shooting-right/no-enemies-on-the-right but a tacit acknowledgement that they themselves have no capacity to control their allies.

The alt-right want the Dragons Awards to be a culture-war shitstorm because culture-war shitstorms help them recruit small numbers of extremists via radicalization and the comradery of a conflict. It’s a tactic anybody on the left will recognise from many micro-Trotskyist groups in the past, whose expectation of a conflict (e.g. a labour dispute) was that making hyper-strong demands (not necessarily EXTREME demands but essentially shitty negotiating positions) would not lead to a successful outcome but would lead to a better struggle and new recruits.

This dynamic among the more moderate right with respect to their terrorist allies is an abrogation of their duty to take on extremism. Instead, they hope that the left and centre will do it for them, while they hope to retain the votes of terrorist sympathisers.

In 2016 the strongest GOP counter-reaction to Trump was the ‘Never Trump’ group but even they expected the Democrats to do their dirty work for them. They expected Hillary Clinton to win and then when she didn’t, they stuck to complaining about the left rather than making any real concerted attempt to take back their party. All the time sort of hoping that the left will sort out their problem with an overtly violent & authoritarian movement in their ranks. Fear and cynicism.

Back when Trump won the GOP nomination, Larry Correia had this to say:

“This is an amoral statist authoritarian liberal, who got to where he was by being a huckster con appealing to anger and fear. He is a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He is an insult to the founders, a disgrace to our people, and in the unlikely event he wins, will probably go down in history as the man who ended any hope of small government or individual liberty in America.”

Of course, Larry expected Trump’s nomination to mean victory for Clinton and when that didn’t happen and Trump’s presidency really did prove to be amoral, statist, and authoritarian, Larry has focused on the ‘but not actually liberal’ and has either avoided politics or stuck to left-bashing.

This mix of short term opportunism and unwillingness to tackle extremism is resulting in relatively moderate conservatives finding themselves unwilling to confront terrorism. In the UK this was exemplified during the Brexit campaign when a radicalised terrorist murdered Labour MP Jo Cox  At the time pro-Brexit voices like Louise Mensch (who has since rebranded as a never-Trumper pushing unfeasible conspiracy theories) turned her rhetorical attacks on the left – condemning anybody who was naturally outraged by the use of murder as a political act. The demand was absurd and simple – that in the face of political extremism on the far right, to the point of overt terrorism & murder, that the left needed to be less vocal rather than the right needing to be less prone to murder.

So the same performance happens fractally across different levels of debate. Conservatives want the left to:

  • Defeat the terrorist aligned section of the right but…
  • without making a fuss and…
  • the conservatives will call the left names while they do that because…
  • the conservatives still want the support of the alt-nazis.

[ETA: speaking of which, here is Brad Torgersen desperately trying to find somebody to be angry with OTHER THAN the actual terrorist in the wake of a terrorist attack tl;dr its the media fault apparently.]



The Weird Not-a-referendum in Australia on Marriage Equality

particlfunkThe Australian government has found itself in an absurd situation on marriage equality. As things currently stand a majority of the Australian population wants marriage equality, a majority of MPs in the lower house of parliament want marriage equality and a majority of senators in the upper house want marriage equality. So politically this is a really simple call: pass a bill for marriage equality.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. While there is technically a majority in favour, the majority of MPs in the ruling coalition don’t support it. A minority of centre-right MPs in the ruling Liberal-National coalition strongly support marriage equality but the conservative right are unwilling to allow a straight vote on the issue.

During the last general election, the Liberals had campaigned on the basis of a referendum on the issue. The referendum was a stop-gap measure to avoid an internal party split. As the vote couldn’t be binding on parliament as it wasn’t a change to the constitution it would be called a ‘plebiscite’. If this sounds a lot like the reasoning behind the Brexit referendum then you’d be right – the idea was primarily about maintaining party unity.

This plebiscite, would have had no binding impact on MPs who would still have to vote on legislation. So people quite reasonably asked what the point would be. Given the inevitable homophobic propaganda that would accompany the campaign, i would cause real distress to families at significant financial cost and have no actual legal impact.

The outcome of the general election last year was ambiguous. Malcom Turnbull’s Liberal-National coallition scraped in by the skin of their teeth in the lower house but the Senate was left with the balance of power lying with smaller parties and independents.

When the government proposed the plebiscite, the Senate blocked the legislation. So the government was stuck. The conservative wing of the Liberal party insisted that no other legislation on marriage equality could go forward without the plebiscite. As time progressed, the Labor Party continued to press the government on the issue – embarrising the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who is on the liberal-wing of the Liberal Party and in favour of marriage-equality.

Ironically, the debate was in danger of causing an end to the political marriage of the Liberal Party. That in turn would have led to the government collapsing, which would probably have led to the Labor Party winning and passing marriage-equality.

So…the Liberal-National MPs put their heads together to come up with a way to give the conservative MPs a plebiscite without asking the Senate’s permission. The only way to do this would be to have something that was not technically a VOTE. Now as the plebiscite was never going to be binding anyway…the plebiscite could be legally a ‘survey’ IF instead of being run by the Australian Election Commision it was run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (who run the census – but not very well).

Anyway, this is why Australia is going to have a “postal plebiscite” on marriage-equality. Which is nuts, and of course will be exploited by the nastiest sections of society to attack LGBTI families, will cost a fortune, won’t be very representative and won’t be binding on MPs anyway.

Why? Because conservatives are petulant children.

The Post-Ockham Age: Sometimes we have to multiply motives

The US Attorney General and living cliche Jeff Sessions has ramped up the failed and counter-productive war on drugs:

There have been many reactions to this but part of the left-leaning reaction has been a competition between two perspectives:

  1.  That this move is Sessions trying to distract from Trump’s and his own entanglement with Russia and the recent sacking of the head of the FBI.
  2. That point 1. is missing the point that this is something Sessions has been wanting to do his whole career and is an example of his overall nastiness and, given the skewed way in which the War on Drugs falls on different communities in the US, his overall racism.

Sure both could be true at the same time without creating a logical contradiction but we really should aim for parsimonious explanations of events. Yet this kind of duplication of interpretations of the Trump regime’s acts makes simple motives hard to pin down. Is policy X because Trump is evil/incompetent/corrupt or is X simply a ‘distraction’ from some previous thing?

Whether by intent or happenstance, the Trump electoral campaign often succeeded in pushing past scandals by simply moving on to some new kind of outrage. As a kind of denial-of-service attack on normal news media processes, Trump could shift the news cycle onto a new topic (I assume often inadvertently) by saying or doing something else that would capture the headlines. So it is reasonable to see such things as Sessions’s new drug enforcement policy as fitting that model: something intended to outrage those who oppose Trump so we’ll be talking about that rather than the growing constitutional crisis.

Unfortunately for parsimony, we have to accept that it is both a distraction and an evil thing in itself. I’ve no doubt that Session will try to get away with as many regressive, racist and authoritarian policies as he can regardless of how it may aid the regime’s management of the news cycle. However, Sessions isn’t an idiot and he (and others in the regime) will continue to use other scandals as cover and as distractions to push their agenda. This is why generic obstruction is a wise tactic: the various people under Trump pushing their own nasty agendas aim to do as much harm as they can as quickly as they can while they still can. Put another way: Sessions always intended to try this move but he can’t be oblivious to the fact that the Comey-sacking scandal is a distraction from his actions and that his actions serve as a distraction to the Comey-sacking scandal.

The difference here from a normal executive is that Trump’s regime is not scandal-averse in a normal way. Any normal government would seek to minimise scandals (often unsuccessfully) in terms of number, length and intensity. Trump now sits at the top of a kind of scandal Ponzi scheme – a pyramid selling model of scandal but with more sustainability due to a substantial supply of neo-Nazis, unreformed Confederates and omnifallacious right-wing policies that have been floating around pseudo-think tanks since the 1990s.

So yes, it’s both and you can’t let it distract from the Russian scandal nor can you let the Russian scandal distract from the genuine harm Sessions will inflict on many, many people and communities with this policy.

OK, that’s a depressing conclusion, particularly for US readers. Sorry. The positive side? Every shitty, nasty move pushes somebody, somewhere from unsure-about-Trump to opposed-to-Trump. Moves like this don’t expand Trump’s base but only inspire the narrow core of his support. I know that is small comfort to the families that will bear the brunt of these policies.

What is a Tyrant?

This arose out of writing up Volume 2 of Notes Ignota (i.e. notes on Seven Surrenders – coming soon) but it seemed so apt to recent events that it is worth quoting in a more lengthy manner.

Those who have read Too Like the Lightning will have already come across the notable Enlightenment writer Denis Diderot (or those who haven’t and just know lots of stuff). He and Jean le Rond d’Alembert were key figures in the writing/compilation of the Encyclopédie – the Wikipedia of the Enlightenment.

Via the University of Michigan here is a translation of how Diderot described the nature of a tyrant (empahis mine).

Of all of the plagues that afflict humanity, there is none more fatal than that of a tyrant ; occupied solely with the objective of satisfying his passions, and those of the unworthy ministers of his power, he regards his subjects only as vile slaves, as beings of an inferior species, destined only to satisfy his caprices, and toward whom anything seems to him permissible; when pride and flattery have filled him with these ideas, the only laws he knows are those which he imposes; these absurd laws dictated by his interest and his fantasies, are unjust and vary according to his changes of heart. Because of the impossibility of exercising his tyranny on his own, and in order to force the people to submit to the yoke of his dissolute desires, he is forced to consort with corrupt ministers; his choice falls only upon wicked men who know justice only to violate it, virtue to transgress it, and laws to evade them…

…The suspicions, the guilt, and the terror besiege him from all directions; he knows no one worthy of his confidence, he has only accomplices, he has no friends. The people, exhausted, degraded, and demeaned by the tyrant , are insensitive to changes in him, the laws he has violated cannot help him; in vain he again appeals to the fatherland, but is there one where a tyrant reigns?

“Tyrant.” The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Thomas Zemanek. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2009. Web. [fill in today’s date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <;. Trans. of “Tyran,” Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 16. Paris, 1765.

Seems suddenly very familiar.

Some responses to that Nazi piece

Chris Chupik mentions this piece in the comment section at Sarah Hoyt’s blog.

Coyote Gravity by Christopher M. Chupik

Oddly he says this:

Christopher M. Chupik March 26, 2017 at 12:09 pm
If you believe the commenters, I’m an American Christian Conservative Trump-supporter.

News to me.

Except…well nobody (i.e. zero people) call him either an American, Christian or a Trump supporter. I expect non-sequiturs and claims of persecution but I’m actually a bit baffled by this. Naturally, he doesn’t quote anybody but wow, talk about people running in mid-air with no ground below them.

Hoyt also adds, counterfactually:

 accordingtohoyt | March 26, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Reply

Oh, we all are. In fact I was going to do a post on this. They don’t understand quite a number of us are not Christian, not straight, not cis anything. They divide by conformist group, so the only reason we don’t belong to them must be our unacceptably characteristics and being members of the establishment they imagine (which hasn’t existed for at least 100 years.) The scientific name for them is “Asshats.”

Huh? Is it the quip about modern conservatives thinking demons are real and nazis are imaginary that annoyed them? Because Hoyt just appended her comment to a piece that complains about witches and which disputes the existence of Nazis. The comment relates not to what I think conservatives ARE but as to how conservatives PORTRAY themselves, as amply documented by fellow pups in recent weeks.

Are conservatives all kinds of people? I assume so, because I’ve never met a group of people that wasn’t diverse at least on some dimensions. Do modern right wing conservatives/libertarians let straight Christian men call the shots and control the debate? Hmmm, yup. Indeed we all saw how that dynamic played out in the Puppy-debacles.

Ho hum.

Weird Internet ideas: Are modern nazis imaginary? (spoiler: no, they’re real)

We’ve been busy watching Rabid shenanigans with books covers, but meanwhile over in Sad Puppy domains, Chris Chupik has decided that modern Nazis are largely imaginary. Chupik, for those who don’t know, is notable mainly as a regular commenter on Puppy blogs but sometimes he guest-posts at According to Hoyt.

[This get’s long so more below the fold…also ‘Spencer‘ is usually an external link but each time to a different article rather than peppering this piece with quotes]

Continue reading