So how are people reacting to impeachment?

Last week I looked primarily at how the least pro-Trump of the pro-Trump trio of groups were reacting to some Democrat electoral victories (short version: badly) but I didn’t talk much about the other two groups. There are weird and interesting things going on there as well. I’m not going to be posting many links for reasons that will become obvious.

Reluctant Converts

The group I call reluctant converts are conservatives/libertarians who were initially distrustful of Trump and apprehensive about him during the GOP Presidential nomination process but who pledged support for him by the time of the election or since. In terms of the milieu of right wing authors discussed here that would be people like Sarah Hoyt or John C Wright.

Their main political issue currently is the name of the whistle-blower who raised concerns about Trump’s Ukraine phone call. The case for anonymity for the whistle-blower is simple, they went through the right channels, we all should want some protection for public servants holding elected officials accountable and there is genuine reason to think they might come to some harm. In terms of the veracity of the complaint, the whistle-blower’s claims have since all been verified. There does not seem to be any key points of fact that rely on the integrity of the whistle-blower as a witness. To use an analogy with more conventional crime, they are the person who rang the cops rather than a key witness.

However, naming the whistle-blower has become a big thing among right-wing media. Fox News has been dancing around it. Former Superman actor and now right-wing personality Dean Cain, apparently named the wrong person. Supposed libertarian Rand Paul has been naming them and among the group I call the Reluctant Converts it has become a point of honour to circulate a name on social media.

Facebook and Twitter, mindful for once of the danger of internet mobs (which if you recall the Reluctant Converts are very much against if said mob is three or four people and left-wing) have adopt a no-tolerance policy to spreading names of potential whistle-blowers. With a mighty cry of “you’re not the boss of me” some of the Reluctant Converts have taken to posting multiple times one of the names. As a consequence they have ended up with Facebooks bans. Sarah Hoyt in particular has been busy disrupting her own social media presence to circulate a name, which essentially means nothing, as if it was a major revelation. Spoiler: the whistle-blower was somebody you have never heard of.

It’s both odd and predictable. The ad-hominem argument is central to the mode of debate as is a concept of contamination. If the whistle-blower can be shown to be a Democrat then, the argument goes, Trump is innocent even though the facts revealed by the whistle-blower have been confirmed by the White House.

The Ironic Cheerleaders

This is were things are a lot more strange. The Alt-Right is currently in one of its phases of shifting grifters. The good news is that there is currently lots of metaphorical back stabbing and infighting and the bad news is that whoever comes out on top will still be a racist arse spreading hate.

The current landscape can be summed up with three oddly-similar looking boyish fascists (links are to Rational Wiki). Off on the alt-lite/intellectual dark web side is the irritating Ben Shapiro who is nominally anti-Trump but mainly promotes similar ideas. More overtly supporting Trump is Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA. Currently seeking leadership of the 8-Channers and other odious internet denizens is Nick Fuentes of America First (which is as fascist as it sounds). Fuentes is actively disrupting Turning Point USA events presumably as a way of gaining status and also to give his followers something edgy to do (see ) In short Kirk hates Fuentes and Fuentes hates Kirk and everybody hates Ben Shapiro. It would be funny but Fuentes main objective is to push more overt anti-Semitism.

Confused yet? OK, remember Richard Spencer, the crypto-Nazi involved in the murderous Unite the Right Rally? Milo Yianopoulus (another name fading into obscurity) released audio of Spencer having a very emotional and very-Hitleresque rant in the wake of the disaster of the Unite the Right Rally. The release of the audio by Yianopoulus was clearly intended to discredit Spencer, presumably on the grounds of being too obviously a nazi. Why would he do that? The answer is that Spencer has been critical of Fuentes – I assume because everybody involved are an ugly mass of egos and bigotry. There’s a point where close examination just finds more gross toxic sludge.

Quite where Vox Day sits in that mess of backbiting shitholes I don’t know but I believe that Day’s friend, the flat-earth former actor Owen Benjamin is also feuding with Fuentes.

Relatively not grounded in reality

It would be hard to describe the ‘Sceptical Advocates’ reaction I discussed in an earlier post as either measured or rational (it ended with calls for mass executions of political opponents) but at least it was a comprehensible (if appalling) position. Heading into the other groups, things become even less grounded and bizarre.

Things are only going to get even stranger.

So how are people reacting to recent electoral results in the US?

Several weeks ago I discussed a way of classifying different styles of Trump support that I encounter online – mainly in ex-Puppy circles. [see ] I have been watching to see how different political events generate reactions from these groups and what that might presage about Trump’s overall support.

With the impeachment proceedings it would be simplest to say that there’s no obvious change in any of the groups. They see the Democrats as bad and the impeachment as partisan as per the GOP line. The same essentially pro-Trump message is seen in all three groups including the group I called ‘Sceptical Advocates’ who claim not to be actually supporters of Trump per-se.

I was wondering how these groups are reacting to recent Democrat electoral victories [ ] and it is probably too early to say. The main reaction appears to be ignoring but among the ironic cheerleaders there are dark mutterings about defeatism. More generally there is the usual fact-free conspiracy theories about election fraud.

The other continuing marker (particularly among the ‘Sceptical Advocates’) is the objection to urban voters. Simply put, they portray the idea of people in towns having more people and hence out-voting people who live in more sparsely populated areas. It’s such an entrenched idea that it often doesn’t need to be overtly argued. However, it carries with it a whole bunch of related poorly thought through concepts particularly around immigration and the idea that towns and cities have big populations because of illegal immigration. That last idea is what creates a straight line between the Sceptical Advocates who portray themselves as moderate libertarians and the Ironic Cheerleaders who are more overtly white nationalists.

And if I’m going to talk about poorly thought through ideas from a person who sees themselves as a moderate libertarian than who better than our old pal Brad Torgersen [archive link to Facebook]

Remember this is while the Republicans still control the federal Senate and the Presidency. The point being that Trump’s support will continue to be backed by people who actively dislike him but who regard not only the left, but moderate Democrats and indeed anybody who lives in more densely populated areas as politically illegitimate.

[ETA post script: Woah…in the comments to his post Brad goes somewhere even I’m surprised by:

>image removed<

Good grief.]
[Update 2: So apparently Brad T must have thought better about that comment and it’s now gone. As this isn’t the ‘Document every appalling thing Brad ever said’ blog (I can’t afford the storage upgrade) I’ll take that image away.]

[Update 3: …so…Brad T has since put up a Facebook post complaining about Facebook taking something of his down for breaching Community Standards ” I don’t know what FB’s bots are tripping on, and it’s not explained what specific item(s) are “against community standards” which has become such a laughably absurd concept this past year I almost have tears in my eyes. Suffice to say this is what happens when we let the software do the thinking. Perhaps I ought to be reassured? Skynet and The Borg aren’t super-genius evil. They are in fact drooling-moron stupid, and incapable of parsing fundamental human interactivity. ” From this I infer that Brad didn’t take his comment down, Facebook did and according to Brad he can’t work out what they took down.]

Vox Day sort of denies he is a flat earther

I say “sort of” because he really doesn’t believe the Earth is more or less spherical. One of Day’s recruits to his video streaming thing has been the comedian Owen Benjamin Benjamin had the beginnings of a Hollywood career including co-starring with Christina Ricci in an obscure film in 2009. However, his career got derailed by his increasingly extreme views. These days Benjamin pushes extreme anti-Semitic conspiracy theories which amount to a kind of unified theory in which her thinks everybody is trying to make you believe lies about the moon landing etcetera as part of a Satanic plot. It’s the usual nexus of anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia with epistemic paranoia. The central theory is that people are lying about everything to make you believe lies in general.

What’s interesting here is that Day appears to be following Benjamin down the same path. Not that Day also doesn’t push the same kind of fallen-world anti-Semitic nonsense but that he’s being more open about how out there some of his beliefs about the world are — including flat earthism.

The specific pretext is this 2012 interview with a NASA data visualisation person: The interview explains how he helped create an image of one hemisphere of the Earth as seen from space by stitching together multiple higher resolution images of Earth. Aha! Say the flat Earthers, Manipulation! Lies! etc etc.

It’s something you see a lot from falt-earth to vaccine denial to global warming denial: a rejection of any data, images, graphs etc that relies on any kind of inference or data cleaning etc. The demand is for evidence that is an unfiltered capture of external reality — which is impossible. Heck, not only is it impossible but which we know is myth at least since the time of Plato. What you see out of your own eyes is stitched together and processed and inferred.

Day sums up his position:

“Notice that ALL of the hemisphere photography we think we’ve seen has turned out to be nonexistent. It’s becoming clear that from the evolution fairy tale to the Blue Marble fraud to the dinosaur fraud and the satellite myth, the world is very, very different than we have been told it is. What is the point? To deceive you into serving Satan rather than God.”

Interestingly he gets a lot more pushback in his comments than he normally does. I guess even Day’s followers aren’t keen to adopt a flat-earth although structurally it’s no different than the anti-vaxx and anti-evolution stuff Day peddles.

In the comments Day responds with a weak equivocation:

“VD October 24, 2019 12:20 PM Jesus… The earth is not flat. What part of “fraud is being committed concerning X” leads you to immediately conclude that this means “Therefore Y”? I don’t believe the Earth is flat. But I don’t believe the mainstream narrative concerning the nature of the Earth either, because it contains too many lies. Binary thinking is usually a serious mistake.”

The “mainstream narrative” here being that the world is more-or-less spherical.

Unfortunately Day really does need to engage in some binary thinking here. Just by visiting different places in the world we can quickly observe that whatever curvature the Earth has it’s pretty much the same everywhere. Sure big mountains are pointy and oceans are flat but in both places you can observe that whatever is going on it’s pretty much the same everywhere. That is seriously limiting to the range of possibilities for the curvature of the Earth. A flat or curved disc with an inaccessible underneath would have edges with a radically different curvature. Any shape that you could circumnavigate, if it wasn’t basically a sphere, would have some spots with extreme curvature that frankly everybody would have noticed i.e. the Earth really isn’t a cube.

A sphere isn’t just one option among many for the shape of a thing. It’s a particularly special shape. If you want a uniform (more or less) curvature and no edges, then let’s just say your options are limited. Or…maybe the devil is making me say that…

A bad survey about the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’

This is an edited version of three Twitter rants from yesterday. It started as an off-cuff reaction but I was too far into it before I thought that it should be a blog-post rather than Tweets.

Stephen Pinker tweeted out a very weird bit of science theatre created by Michael Shermer.

Pinker has enough critical thinking skills that he should look at it with hefty scepticism…but obviously isn’t. It’s pretend science, using play-acting at science to refute what is obvious and ignores the core issues.

The “survey” by Michael Shermer (which should be a red flag in itself) was sent to 34 notable people associated with the label “Intellectual Dark Web” and asked where they stand on a number of issues. The survey was anonymous, so the views identified in the survey can’t be matched to the individuals asked.

Each and every one of the people surveyed is a public figure who have made multiple public statements about politics and social issues. I don’t need an anonymous survey to find out what Andy Ngo or Sam Harris thinks, I can go and read what they say. And it is what they SAY that matters and what defines the IDW term not what they might privately think. If Sam Harris thinks he has warm & fuzzy liberal beliefs that’s nice but the whole point of the “dark web” label was the contrarian issues he promotes. Maybe Ben Shapiro secretly believes Global Warming is real and climate change is caused by humans. I don’t know but what matters is he propagandises the opposite. If an anonymous survey of the 34 “Intelectual Dark” Webbers reveals that their underlying views are more centrist and mainstream then that is not evidence that the public perception of their public positions is wrong. Rather it confirms a key point about the IDW.

The fundamental issues with the disparate group lumped together as the Intellectual Dark Web is that they are DISINGENUOUS about their politics. It’s not news that Jordan Peterson thinks of himself as moderate and reasonable. We knew that already. It doesn’t change that he (and Harris & Shapiro & Ngo & Quillette) frame and enable a perspective that bolsters the far right. The whole “we are the reasonable ones” is part of the schtick of the IDW. That they’ll boost that in an anonymous survey is, frankly, wank.

Let’s be sceptical as I’m sure Dr Pinker and Shermer would want us to be. Let’s take one conclusion Pinker raises from the survey: The members of the IDW are “concerned w climate” Let’s look at the survey: The survey agrees: “67% strongly agreed that global warming is caused by human actions (no one strongly disagreed)” So their you go! Hoorah! No, no let us be sceptical first. If this was GENUINELY true would it not be easily observed?

To the empircism-mobile! Here’s the output of the Quillete Climate tag zoiks! A hefty TWO article, one concern trolling Greta Thunberg and the other saying people shouldn’t be mean to capitalism. Yes, Quillette is just one source but it is one that connects Steven Pinker on the one hand (who we can observe genuinely does advocate for action on Global Warming) with Andy Ngo on the other hand (who genuinely does have connections with the alt-right and violent far right groups) via Claire Lehmann (Quillette’s founder, fan of Pinker and one time boss of Ngo).

Yes, Steven Pinker himself has a better record on the of global warming but the issue he raised was to look collectively at the IDW and their media-organs. Broadly this is not a group trying to do very much about helping with the issue. And wow, think of the actually good the IDW could achieve given their actual audience. Whatever they may think of themselves, collectively they do have the ear of many on the right – exactly where climate change denial and bad science on the topic is endemic. You’d think these out spoken people might be busy being outspoken on a potential planet wide disaster.

It gets worse. The actual sample was only 18 not 34 people. Nearly half of the 34 didn’t answer. So when the survey says “67%” (the percentage favouring gun control and which believes global warming is real) actually means “12 people” That’s actually both more plausible and more wretched. Even if we accept that 12 of those IDWs think climate change is real, it says almost nothing about the group. Any one member of the original 34 people is a hefty 3% of the population being sampled and hence missing any one of them can have a large impact on the results. This is particularly true given that we already know that the label of “Intellectual Dark Web” is being attached to a group with a very broad range of views on many topics.

Shermer is assuming non-response to the survey is random across the traits being surveyed (i.e the 18 is a random sample of the 34). There is no reason to believe that and really anybody who is wants to seriously call themselves a sceptic should dismiss any general conclusion from the survey without substantial additional supporting evidence.

Indeed there’s good reason to assume that the 18 who responded is not a good random sample of the 34, just on the nature of the numbers. It is very hard with small numbers in a survey for the sample to be representative because one person makes a big difference. Shermer hides that by quoting percentages rather than raw totals but with small number percentages hide how few people he’s talking about. It’s not invalid to look at proportions with small sample sizes, sometimes that is all you have but there’s a point where 12 out of 18 is more informative than 67%.

We can illustrate the issue with the women who were surveyed. Of the 34 named people in survey associated with the “Intellectual Dark Web” 8 (24%) are women. In the survey 3 (17%) are women. So are the IDW 17% women (generalising from survey) or 24%? Obviously 24% is the correct figure but 17% is the equivalent of the the kind of survey conclusions Shermer presents. In fact any one woman listed is 13% of the IDW women, so one more woman answering makes a huge different to sub-sample of women. Any one person is 6% of the whole sample of 18 people!

Circling back to 67% claim. Again assuming everybody who responded is being honest (which I doubt) the survey actually found that 12 people of the 34 who were asked believed in gun control and the same number believed that global warming was real (which I’ll add isn’t saying much, some prominent sceptics will say global warming is real, just as many anti-vaccination campaigners will say they support vaccinations – it is the ‘but’ that follows where the issues lie). That might mean 67% or there about of 34 believe in gun control but a safer conclusion is no less than 35% do (12/34) and no more than 82% (28/34). Given how granular this data is, hoping the estimate is in the middle isn’t supported.

This is why I call it theatre. It is the wrong methodology applied badly. It illustrates methodological snobbery. Synthesising the complex views of a small group of people is exactly where qualitative methods work better. It is a domain where you need to put on your humanities hat and apply those humanities skills. Shermer is using sciencey film-flam by presenting a pointlessly anonymous survey and presenting the results as percentages as if there were proportions of the whole group.

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely LOVE applying basic quantitive methods to things and place where they don’t always make sense. It’s very much my hobby but even on this less than 100% serious blog I’d throw more caveats at better numbers than Shermer is using.

A typology of some online Trump supporters

A non-exhaustive typology of online Trump supporters

Back when Donald Trump was first nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate and then went on to win the Presidency, I realised I had an unusual group to examine. Having spent time following the travails of a right wing insurgent group within science fiction fandom, I had already researched a kind of ersatz focus group to see how the winds of political fortune might shift or remain steady over the following years. A set of individuals with marginally different ideologies, different levels of commitment to Donald Trump but also with a prolictivity to state their opinion of the day at great length (if not always with great clarity).

The problem with using the notable Sad and Rabid Puppies as political weather gauges is that there will be groups not represented within their numbers. For example, I don’t think there is any one who is a basic core Trump supporter — i.e. somebody who without hint of irony, just found Trump appealing from the get go. I assume such people exist based on polls and other studies but I don’t think they have a clear representation in the group I’m looking at.

At this stage, I just want to introduce a terminology rather than to cite examples. The key factors are antipathy to the left, antipathy to the Republican Party establishment, self-perception of being a libertarian and emotional commitment to Trump. I’ve ranked them from the most publicly supportive of Trump to the least.

One: Ironic Cheerleaders
This group are most likely to share Trump memes, refer to him as God-Emperor and ideologically are Alt-Right. They typically have extreme views on immigration and embrace misogyny and/or white nationalism. The support of Trump is loud but rarely with substance. They like it when Trump is vulgar and they like it when he upsets the conservative establishment. They really have very little interest in any policies other than hard line anti-immigration policies and withdrawal of US forces from extended conflicts in the Middle-East. They may actually be supportive of some left policies such as student loan forgiveness. They may be former libertarians but are no longer committed to libertarian policies and rhetoric or identify as libertarian. They are more inclined to tie their religion to their politics.

However, their support for Trump is based very much on Trump winning and doing wild shit. For them he is the Commander-in-Chief of internet trolling. Whatever their real emotional commitment to Trump may be, their public commitment has typically been framed with irony and an implication that they are joking. Ironically the irony is itself ironic and the nature of the discourse they have established with each other means they themselves are often unclear as to which ideas they are deeply committed to and which ones were just meant as a joke. If/when Trump falls out of power, the range of reaction from this group will be multifold, from a shrug of the shoulders that it had all been a giant prank to potentially violent denial. So far the only really upsetting thing Trump has done in their eyes is to suggest video-games may have a role in gun violence.

Two: Reluctant converts
This group were opposed to Trump during the Republican nomination process. They may have preferred Ted Cruz or Rand Paul as nominees. They are more likely to still identify as libertarian and would vehemently oppose a policy like student loan forgiveness. After Trump was nominated they shifted position to supporting him. Since then Trump has not revealed himself to be a secret Democrat mole and they feel a lot more comfortable in publicly supporting him. That commitment has become more sincere over time and it would take a lot to shake it. They have not been concerned by Trump’s tariff policy or trade war rhetoric. They actively applaud the tough line on immigration but still frame issues in terms of “legal v illegal”. They strongly believe that voter fraud is a major issue and that Democrats have much less support than opinion polls and elections suggest.

Their support for Trump would be very hard to shake. Major tax increases, student loan reform or gun control might shift their position. They are vehemently anti-left and anti-liberal. They feel besieged and that Trump is beleaguered by the same conspiratorial forces that are beleaguering them. If/when Trump falls out of power, they will be discombobulated. They will fall back to their original opinion of him (and they still preface their support with a token expression of his faults) but they will also maintain a strong stab-in-the-back mythology about Trump i.e. he was betrayed by the deep state etc. They aren’t QAnon cultists per-se (that’s more the first group) but they are fertile ground for believing conspiracy theories. If Trump was ousted they would be happy with Mike Pence.

Three: Sceptical advocates
Woe betide you if you ever suggest one of these is a Trump supporter! They will proudly state that they didn’t vote for him or if they did that it was only to save America from Hillary Clinton. This group is anti-anti-Trump rather than pro-Trump even though they are rarely if ever critical of him. Their main policy beliefs are gun rights and military funding. They are ambiguous about support for US military intervention overseas but supportive of an expanded military. They are anti-PC, anti-SJW. If they are religious it is not that central to their public beliefs. Despite nominally being not for Trump, they will make a show of attacking those attacking Trump and sometimes praise Trump for something but add the word “grudgingly” near the start.

They will be critical of Trump if he says something that sounds too anti-business or anti-gun. Their major fear when Trump was nominated was that he would help Hillary Clinton win. The same issue still exists: if it looks like Trump’s behaviour advantages the Democrats they will want him gone. They don’t really understand how Trump won in the first place and that currently makes them a little fearful of being too anti-Trump. If they didn’t vote for Trump they feel a bit embarrassed by that. Once Trump looks politically wounded, they’ll want him gone as quickly as possible. If Trump was ousted they also would be happy with Mike Pence.

Roughly speaking, there is an overlap in age and backgrounds but I believe that group one is on average younger than the others and group two is older.

How individuals will react if Trump is pushed out or impeached & prosecuted will vary. For some, both in the alt-right and more traditionally libertarian, they may be very loud about the situation but more quietly happy to be in opposition. Like some people on the left, it can be emotionally and cognitively simpler to be out of power, particularly as if you prefer the aesthetics of being the rebel-alliance rather than the empire. Others will be more deeply discombobulated and I don’t think it will be easy to guess who will be which.

If Trump blusters his way through impeachment, he will get support from all three groups at the next election but group three will cast their support as not-really-supporting-Trump-just-that-Democrats-are-worse. Functionally this anti-Democrat position rather than pro-Trump position won’t be substantially different in the details.

Cat psychology

A reader asks me:

“Hi Cam,
You are lucky that your cat can talk and is so ready to share his views. I never know what my cat is thinking. Can you share some of your experience with Timothy and give us all some insights into the inner lives of our cats?”

I’m always happy to help and I’ve compiled this chart to help you match your cat’s facial expression to their thought process. Obviously this is based on Timothy and your own cat maybe different.

Using My Time Machine to Fix Right Wing Views on Climate

Ha! Tricked you all! This is a post about Larry Correia again! Larry has suddenly decided that he is really into more literary science-fiction and is making an assertive defence of Dan Simmons.

Simmons (an author whose books I do actively seek out) went off an a bit of anti-Greta Thunberg thung on Facebook. Many people objected. There was a post at File 770 about it:

Larry, who has made a point of stating how he nor very few other people read File 770 apparently read the post and was unhappy with people being unhappy with Simmons and discovered that he is a big fan of Simmons. Is it their mutual love of John Keats or the their shared interest in Proust? Larry doesn’t say. He does claim that File 770’s post critical of Simmons led to Simmon’s novel Hyperion being “number one” on Amazon.

However, I want to focus on a particular criticism of Greta Thunberg that I’ve seen from Simmons, Correia, and other right wing science fiction writers:

“Oh yeah, and it’s the ultimate Motte and Bailey play, because they can put an uneducated teenager with no scientific creds at all in front of one of the biggest government bodies in the world to demand socialism now or else, and when you go LOL WUT they switch to We Just Want A Clean Environment Why Do You Hate Children. It’s total bullshit.”

OK, there’s a germ of a point there – after all Greta Thunberg isn’t a climate scientist. How about instead of a school kid they got the most relevant and credentialed scientists up there instead! [Yes, we will ignore that Thunberg was speaking at a youth conference with multiple amazing young people trying to make their world a better place ]

OK but I can fix that with my time machine. Clearly what these authors need to see is not kids but scientists. Show them authoritative people, who know their stuff and the whole “no scientific creds” issue is dealt with. Yet, it’s no good doing it now when the warming is already substantial. I need to CHANGE THE PAST! Instead of scolding these guys they want hard science and reason and they need it years ago!

OK – to my time machine! I’ll be right back!

[weird groaning noises as if a Tardis is dematerialising and then rematerialising which are then revealed to be a fat cat snoring…]

Phew! Fixed it! I’ve changed the timeline! I went all the way back to 1988! Hopefully enough time to change everybody’s mind! Instead of scolding people I changed the past so the UN got together an international panel on climate change with experts from around the world! If you check Wikipedia you can now see in our new timeline an entry on the IPCC:

What’s that you say? My new amazing timeline with the UN promoting highly credentialed scientists to explain the detailed science of climate change for the past 30 odd years is EXACTLY the same? But, but, that’s not possible! For that to be true it would almost have to be that these conservatives never gave two shits about the science and where just moaning about credentials because Greta Thunberg was actually making a difference and got climate change and global warming back into the headlines!