The Right would rather men died than admit any flaws in masculinity

I shouldn’t read Quillette. For those unfamiliar with the Australian/International online magazine, it is part of that genre of modern political thought that could be called anti-left contrarianism, that covers various soughs from Steven Pinker to Jordan Peterson. Its stock style of article is shallowness dressed up as depth, utilizing the same style of misrepresentation of issues as the tabloid press but with longer sentences and a broader vocabulary.

Over the past few days it has published a couple of pieces on the American Psychological Associations Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Men and Boys. Now you would think that the stalwart defenders of innate gender differences would be happy that an influential body like the APA would be overtly recognising that men and boys have distinct psychological needs that require special advice for practitioners. After all, is this not the ‘moderate’ criticism of the rise of feminism? That somehow, men’s needs and men’s issues have been sidelined? Ha, ha, who am I kidding 🙂 The APA guidelines were characterised by MRAs, conservatives and the so-called “Intellectual dark web” as a direct attack on masculinity.

Here is one particularly stupid piece at Quillette that reflects the harrumphing style of response: The writer (a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University) either haven’t read the guidelines or is actively misrepresenting them.

However, a second piece is what actually caught my attention. It’s better written but also is attacking a strawman version of the guidelines:

The writer describes how his stocial attitude helped him through a diagnosis & treatment for brain cancer and uses that to lambast the APA’s (apparent) criticism of stoicism in its guidelines. I, perhaps foolishly, left a comment on the piece. What follows is an edited version of my comment.

The piece is basically a strawman argument. It misrepresents what the APA guidelines say to imply that the guidelines have blanket disapproval for people acting stoically. e.g. Take the APA’s own article on the guidelines:

“It’s also important to encourage pro-social aspects of masculinity, says McDermott. In certain circumstances, traits like stoicism and self-sacrifice can be absolutely crucial, he says”

In the guidelines themselves, the word “stoicism” appears only twice and in neither case is a blanket condemnation of it. Once is in relation to difficulties SOME men have forming emotional bonds with other men:

“Psychologists can discuss with boys and men the messages they have received about withholding affection from other males to help them understand how components of traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance, and competitiveness might deter them from forming close relationships with male peers”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

And the other connects with a broader health issue of men not seeking care that they may need:

“Psychologists also strive to reduce mental health stigma for men by acknowledging and challenging socialized messages related to men’s mental health stigma (e.g., male stoicism, self-reliance). “

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

Neither example relates to be being stoical in the face of medical diagnosis but rather social pressures that mean some men (no, not ALL men) don’t seek care that they need (including for physical ailments) because of a misguided belief that they have to battle through by themselves.

The writer’s example is NOT an example of the case the APA guidelines were addressing. The writer sought out medical care, received a diagnosis and stuck with treatment. The writer self-described actions are the OPPOSITE of what the guidelines are discussing — they show a man taking their health seriously and SEEKING HELP. That’s good and healthy but many men aren’t doing that and as a consequence are dying of treatable diseases

As guideline 8 points out:

“For most leading causes of death in the United States and in every age group, males have higher death rates than females”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

At least some of this is due men not seeking out healthcare they need:

“Between 2011 and 2013, men’s mortality rates for colorectal cancer, a generally preventable disease with regular screenings, were significantly higher than women’s, suggesting that many men do not engage in preventative care (American Cancer Society, 2015).”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

A stoical attitude need not be toxic but when misapplied/misunderstood or adopted out of a feeling of social obligation, it can take on a harmful form of thinking that you shouldn’t seek out help. I’m glad the writer’s stoicism was of the positive kind but the writer should perhaps also take greater care in researching what the APA guidelines had actually said.

To put not too fine a point on it: toxic aspects of masculinity kills men. There is nothing pro-man about it. Nobody is actually sticking up for men by pushing back against the APA guidelines.

An actual case of [voter] election* fraud in the US?

I’ve made several post now about how the evidence for wide scale voter fraud of any serious impact is rare. However, there does seem to be a serious case in North Carolina:

‘Enough confusion has clouded a North Carolina congressional race that the state’s board of elections has announced a delay in certifying that Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th District because of “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities.”‘

“In October, during the final stretch of the congressional election in North Carolina’s Ninth District—one of the most tightly contested House races in the nation—Datesha Montgomery opened her door, in Bladen County, to find a young woman who explained that she was collecting absentee ballots. “I filled out two names on the ballot—Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education,” Montgomery wrote in an affidavit. Under North Carolina law, only voters themselves are allowed to handle or turn in their ballots, but the woman at Montgomery’s door “stated the [other races] were not important.” Montgomery added, “I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time.” are apparently numerous anecdotes like that surrounding the Republican (surprise, surprise) candidate. However, as well as this anecdotal evidence there are numerical inconsistencies:

“In Bladen and Robeson Counties, Bitzer found that Harris won an unusually high share of mail-in absentee-ballot votes. Bladen was the only county where the Republican prevailed in the mail-in absentee vote, winning sixty-one per cent of the votes from mail-in ballots—despite registered Republicans accounting for only nineteen per cent of the county’s returned absentee ballots. To achieve that margin, Harris would have needed to win not only all of the Republican ballots, but almost every single mail-in vote from Independents, as well as a significant number of votes from crossover Democrats.”

(as above)
It looks like the Republican Primary earlier in the year may have been tainted as well.

There’s an analysis of some of the numbers here that is well worth looking at:

Noticeably, the many right-leaning sources of panic about voter fraud are oddly quite about this North Carolina case even though it would appear to be one of the few credible instances of large scale fraud having a significant impact on a result.

*title changed

Grift all the way down

A recurring theme when looking at the media-right (and so much of the modern right is about its interaction or control of entertainment and news media) is the layers of grift, scams, self-promotion and get-rich-quick schemes.

The money fueling the right has long derived from rich donors such as the Koch brothers and the Mercer family. Added to this have been relatively wealthy children who fuel their media careers off inherited wealth — both models depend on the deep income inequalities in modern Western society and the concentration of wealth.

The third element is the attempt to pull in money from more distributed sources. YouTube advertising revenues are an obvious source but I’d add book sales and more general website advertising as well. What is not clear is how much the alt-right is fueled from above and how much from below.

With the specific focus on science-fiction media, the question has been the extent to which an outfit like Castalia House is a hobby funded out of Vox Day’s pocket versus it being a going concern pulling in cash from Vox Day’s followers. Clearly there are elements of both but at the end of the day, does one source exceed another?

I doubt we’ll know the answer to such questions anytime soon but here’s an interesting data point. Milo Yiannopolous has suffered multiple setbacks of late:

  • He was ostracised by conservatives because of his stated views on under-age sex
  • His book was cancelled by a major publisher (Simon & Schuster) and he had to self-publish it
  • Robert Mercer family stopped funding him
  • His own attempt at a Milo-branded media website flopped
  • He attempted to sue Simon & Schuster because of the book cancellation and then had to drop the lawsuit
  • His speaking tour of Australia got cancelled due to lack of interest leading to further legal woes
  • He was banned from PayPal after using the service to send anti-semitic content to a Jewish journalist

In relation to that Australian tour, a series of Tweets appeared today purporting to have court documents about Milo’s finances. Now, the authenticity of these documents haven’t been verified but they appear to be genuine.

(see also here: )

The ‘running debt’ spreadsheet has some familiar names on it:

Milo running debt spreadsheet entries

The debts all appear to be money owed from columns on Milo’s “” website (e.g. John senior wrote about four columns and Jon junior wrote some columns and some news articles) It’s small sums of money that most of these names are owed but collectively it looks like Milo has lots of debts and very little income.

Although this sheds some light on the inner finances of one “alt-lite” media figure, the core questions remain. What has hit Milo hardest? The loss of patronage from the Mercers or the loss of the more distributed income due to PayPal closing access?

For the time being, we can all appreciate that somebody who set out to ruin many people’s lives is having a hard time paying their bills.

Ye Olde Skull & Lobster: Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: Part N+1

When P.Z. Myers is cited positively and unironically by Vox Day, you know there’s something amiss with the universe. There’s heresy in the air and right-on-right attacks going down.

On the one hand, we have Jordan Peterson: transphobic right-wing purveyor of semi-coherent self-help books for people frightened by women going to university. On the other hand, we have Vox Day: a man who regards the terrorist child-murder Anders Brevik as a hero and who pushes a violent nationalism based on pseudo-scientific race theories. While we could see Peterson as at least being more moderate than Day, we can’t ignore that Peterson is a kind of gateway drug into the morass of confused thinking based on male resentment at a changing society. What Vox has in toxicity, Peterson has twice as much in reach.

Who is the more appalling of the two? Perhaps we need another candidate…

[more appalling people after the fold]

Continue reading “Ye Olde Skull & Lobster: Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: Part N+1”

A Shared Mythology

I’ve semi-seriously discussed quasi–pseudo-academic debate of monopuppyist versus duopuppyists i.e. was science fictions attempted right-wing coup in 2015 one movement (with internal differences) or two movements (with some shared features). One reason I keep looking at those events (and those distinctions) is the way they were a microcosm of broader ideological movements among the right.

Taking stock of those broader movements, similar issues arise. How are things different and how are things the same? There is scope for error in lumping diverse beliefs together and in becoming too focused on points of difference to see the commonalities. I spend a lot of time reading rightwing websites and comment sections (not just former Sad Puppy related ones) and two things stand out as commonalities:

  • Unmoored anti-leftism. ‘Unmoored’ because while the anti-leftism is common the rationalisations offered are not. For example, left opposition to the Bush Jr. Iraq war remains a sore point for many on the right (who ignore Democrat support for the war) but is ignored by the section of the right who also opposed the war (who don’t ignore Democrat support for the war but do ignore left opposition to it).
  • Common mythology. By this, I mean a set of beliefs about the world that are quasi-factual in nature.

The common mythology is a social glue and also a medium of cultural exchange. These are beliefs about how the world is that are:

  • Very specific, i.e. more specific than economic or social models that may be more ideological in nature.
  • By their nature beliefs that can be examined critically against facts but…
  • …which are either NOT examined critically against facts or more often run counter to established facts.

That such mythological-like beliefs exist among the right isn’t a new observation. However, many which we might associate with the right lack this common currency aspect. For example, many people in this broader right I’m discussing are not creationists (although most creationists are of the right), likewise Holocaust denial is still regarded as objectionable by many on the right. Anti-vaxxer beliefs are drifting more rightwards but still cross ideological boundaries. However, a broad habit of believing things that just aren’t so has become entrenched on the right.

I’d like to suggest the following as a core-common shared set of mythologies that act as a means of group identity. These ideas are shared uncritically in diverse parts of the US/Anglosphere right and questioning them too much leads to social ostracisation.

  • Global warming data and theories have been corrupted by politically active scientists. Note this isn’t quite the same as denial of global warming but obviously works very closely with it. The belief that temperature records and other aspects of global warming have been meddled with allows discussion of the reality of global warming to be avoided.
  • Universities and colleges routinely indoctrinate students with Marxist social theories. This belief over-extrapolates the existence of actual courses (perhaps a course somewhere on queer theory) and asserts that this is the norm for all students. The belief has a bedrock of fears by evangelical Christians about their children becoming less religious at college or exposed to things like evolution but in the form, I am describing is more general and less tied to religion.
  • The Democratic Party routinely engages in mass voter fraud at a highly organised level. The belief is very pertinent today given the headlines but the work on this idea is constant and on-going. US conservatives are primed to believe this idea against any facts to the contrary.
  • Mass illegal immigration is an intentional policy of leftists and foreign governments. This deeply disturbing myth and surrounding rhetoric about ‘invasion’ is widely believed and extends beyond the alt-right & more overtly ideologically racist parts of the right.
  • Europe is on the verge of (or already is) being controlled by or dominated by Islam. There’s a vagueness here as to what the actual proposition is. Partly this is due to the age of the claims. 10 years ago, claims about an imminent Islamic take over of Europe were very common on the right and 10 years later the claims are similar. In the face of ridicule of some claims (e.g. ‘no-go’ zones in places that aren’t ‘no go’ zones), the broader beliefs have become vaguer and less open to immediate refutation.
  • Cities are places of rising violent crime. At some point, of course, this idea gets to be true. Crime stats go up and down but what is remembered is the ‘ups’ and what is ignored is the ‘downs’ as well as general trends. What marks this belief as mythology is that it remains unchanged over decades: violent crime is always rising but somehow the point where violent crime was low shifts around.
  • Home invasions and violent attacks on middle-class suburbs or rural areas are common and imminent. These two form a pair and of course relate closely to gun ownership and NRA propaganda.

There are other beliefs that I could list but which I feel are more clearly ideological. For example beliefs around public healthcare relate to specific policy positions overtly advanced by conservatives for decades. Similarly, beliefs around affirmative action or even ‘PC culture’ have a closer connection with ideology. There is a common thread of seeking to avoid facts or to examine these ideas critically that gives them a similar quality of belief that would only be true in a parallel universe.

A relevant question is whether these beliefs are sincere. Salon writer Amanda Marcotte had a recent Twitter thread where she examined some of the anti-factual claims of the right and argues that they are insincere i.e. overtly lies:

Her argument is a strong one and there’s a longer analysis in this 2016 piece she wrote:

Clearly, some of these viral claims are trolling. The argument that ‘birtherism’ was insincere holds water. However, I think the ones above are held with sincerity of a kind. There is a lot of advocation of beliefs that don’t stand up to critical scrutiny going on that CAN’T be primarily about trolling people on the left. I can be confident of that because these are often beliefs that people on the right do not wish to discuss with the left or raise with the left. To point out factual or logical errors in particular beliefs is seen as trolling BY the left rather than the left being trolled. Readers familiar with the Sad Puppy debarkle will have many ready examples to hand.

Marcotte also raises the group identity aspect as part of the issue i.e. that asserting false or dubious beliefs ties people together, as they act as a marker of loyalty. However, in addition, the soup of false beliefs fostered by creationism on one hand and corporate propaganda on issues such as pesticides, smoking, guns and global warming has entrenched confused thinking as a habit among the right. These poor cognitive habits encourage the ‘grift’ culture I’ve talked about before within the right, that often makes them prone to both perpetuate and be victims of scams and dubious money-making schemes. Marcotte points out Trumps willingness to say what he is thinking is often mistaken for honesty and forthrightness by his supporters. This kind of uncalculated, unhedged speech without weasel words can be refreshing in a world where many people try to avoid being caught in a literal lie. Meanwhile, the new acting Attorney General of the USA was himself part of a company that deliberately targetted military veterans in a scam

What’s trolling, what’s an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of public misbelief, what’s a scam and what’s people being scammed and what is just the inevitable confused belief of poor thinking habits is hard to disentangle. What the shared mythology has in common is that I think these are largely internally believed and which act as defence mechanisms for other beliefs or expressions of fears. In particular fears about race and social change among conservatives who see themselves as ‘libertarian’ and ‘not-racist’ require hoop jumping rationalisations that they can express by changing classifications (racial fears changed to fears about violent people in cities or rule-breaking immigrants). The ‘scam’ part here is that more openly racist parts of the right (i.e. the parts that are more willing to own the label ‘racist’) can control those fears via propaganda.


Looks like cess-pool social media site Gab is finished

Gab was established as an alternative social media site to Twitter in 2016 but really only took off last year when it opened registrations. While it now has a reputation primarily as a safe-haven for overt neo-Nazis, many conservatives joined optimistically because of Gab’s claims to support ‘free-speech’. The term ‘free-speech’ here meaning something like ‘unmoderated comments on an internet platform’: there were rules and limitations but they were thin and difficult to enforce.

The consequences were predictable. The loudest, nastiest voices crowded out the less loud, less nasty. The idea that being able to mute comments or give-as-good-as-you-get would make a social network self-policing was already obviously nonsense but the right had convinced itself with misapplied rhetoric about ‘free-speech’ that somehow it would despite years of evidence from other internet forums, comment sections etc that it wouldn’t. Rapidly Gab became a haven for the most overtly extreme.

The mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh by a far-right antisemite brought added attention to Gab when it was revealed that the alleged shooter had essentially announced their intent on the platform. However, the site had been banned by both the Apple Store and Google play some time ago and was forced to remove two anti-semitic messages in August when Microsoft threatened to cut its services. Now GoDaddy has told Gad to seek a different domain registrar on the grounds that Gab had broken GoDaddy’s terms of service This isn’t the first time Gab has lost its domain registrar: in September last year Asia Registry dumped the network because of anti-Semitic comments promoting genocide: However, this time this is just one of multiple pressures on Gab including payment options and webhosting services withdrawing cooperation

Regulars will remember that I covered Gab last September when there was a spectacular falling out between Gab and alt-right publisher Vox Day As far as I can tell the threats of legal action went nowhere but the fallout is instructive. Less than five months after opening publicly for business, the culture at Gab had become so toxic that it was too unpleasant for even Vox Day.

With had at least a decade (arguably multiple decades) of an apparently sincere argument from conservatives that being moderated in chat rooms, forums, comment sections or social media platforms is an attack on free-speech. In that time the right has been unable to put forward a workable alternative. Experiments in unmoderated platforms have followed the same spiral into obnoxious-extremity without even a civil veneer over the hate and actual speech, with even conservative ideas being rapidly crowded out. Gab’s ‘free-speech’ model didn’t create a pleasant sanctuary from ‘political correctness’ but instead just let the very worst people shout down everybody else (even other anti-Semites and cryptofascists!).

I hope this is the end for Gab but I suspect the spiral down the plug hole will drag on for awhile yet.

Mobs and the divine right of GOPs

I lost the link to the piece that sent me off on this post but it was some pundit on the right pointing out that the founders of the USA were sceptical about majority government. The observation in isolation is true but it is also worth noting that whatever doubts they may have had about democracy, they actively fought a war and risked their lives against the notion of monarchy.

There are (among many other things) different protections against majority rule in how the USA was set up:

  1. Individual natural rights being recognised as foundational and offered at least nominal protection.
  2. Regional autonomy and influence being protected by reserving some powers to states and loading one chamber of their version of a parliament with state representation.
  3. A wider impact of the separation of powers, non-proportional chambers, and no direct elections of the executive to limit the scope of a small majority of the population to impose its will on a large minority.

This approach was manifestly flawed. Most obviously by the limited perspective of who they regarded as being politically relevant people (essentially just men who owned property and hence white men who owned property where ‘property’ might include other people). As a scheme, it couldn’t last and led to a bloody civil war because a large minority with regional power (the slave-owning states) wanted to continue violating the rights of individuals. If a political disagreement within a country can only be settled by a war then manifestly the constitutional arrangements had failed.

It is still worth considering though what principle was implied by the US constitution given that monarchy was overtly rejected and democracy was treated with grave suspicion. Looking at actual beliefs of the time can be informative but there are multiple answers, all the variations on political analysis from Britain and the European Enlightenment and classical thinkers. However, it’s possible to peg a broad consensus around the concept that the legitimacy of government arises from the consent of the governed either overtly or implicitly. It’s this concept that informs the rationale of the earlier Declaration of Independence.

It is a weak but broad premise for the legitimacy of government. By itself, it doesn’t negate the legitimacy of a given monarch or dictator at a particular time but it does imply a standard by which systems of government can be judged. A monarchy might enjoy broad popular legitimacy for a specific king but monarchy can’t protect a nation from tyranny. The principle implies voting and elections but without implying that the people are capable or competent of choosing the right government or policies. To take that additional step and endorse *democracy* conceptually (as President Lincoln begins to take only rhetorically in the Gettysburg Address) highlights that democracy is a radical and egalitarian idea.

What ‘consent of the governed’ lacks in progressive force it gains in at least providing a principle that many ideological stances could potentially support. It is a pragmatic principle in so far as there are practical reasons for endorsing it. A political system that aims to ensure the consent of the governed is one that should avoid being overthrown by its populace. The regressive impulse is to limit the concept to the consent of only some section of the population but this is a road that leads to internal social conflict. Practically there’s an incentive for a broader franchise, although that is a tension among those with wealth – capitalism wants stability but stability implies adjusting to social change which threatens those with established wealth.

During and post-WW2, the US rhetorically embraced the language of democracy more. This was often done hypocritically while actively supporting tyrants but even then you can see in some of the rationales offered for given regimes appeals to the kinds of exemptions ‘consent of the governed’ can give. Pretend that General Whoever is popular and loved by his people and you provide a kind of legitimacy argument for them. The authoritarianism of ostensibly Communist regimes and West’s embrace of the rhetoric (if not the practice) of democracy denatured the meaning of the term. Democracy as a word was presented as a broad ‘liberal’ value on which both left and right of western nations were supposed to agree.

Of course the right never really did. I don’t mean every conservative who ever praised democracy was lying, just that the institutions and process and other ideals that even the nicest and most good-faith conservative was arguing for or defending where never entirely consistent with the idea that government should be chosen or controlled by the people, even if only indirectly. Rather, at best, those views were consistent only with the weaker premise that a government only needed to seek the consent of the people for its legitimacy and (to go beyond just the government) the broader system of a nation does not need the active support of the people but only the absence of opposition to it.

In this framework, democracy is seen as a vice among the right and as such the rhetoric of the ‘mob’ comes to the fore. However, the deeper problem is that right is also abandoning the concept of the consent of the governed (or perhaps has forgotten or repressed it). That concept, weak that it is, has helped people fight for an extended franchise because it points toward social and political stability. Instead, conservatives, mainly in the US but to varying degrees elsewhere, are actively trying to narrow the franchise and reduce the number of people eligible to vote.

Their reasons for doing so are a mix of cynicism and a rejection of democracy. While they may make an appeal to the fact the founders of the US constitution feared majority rule imposing their will on a minority of voters they fail to see that the converse must be worse (a minority rule imposing their will on the majority of voters). It was once understood that a government that lacks wider popular support would need to tread carefully — not out of principle but to maintain the nation.

Having never truly believed in democracy and having forgotten the consent of the governed, what paths are left for conservatism?

I can think of three alternate views on the source of government legitimacy (not all of which are mutually exclusive:

  1. “Philosopher Kings” – rule by the wisest, the smartest. The person who knows best should rule and they deserve to rule because they know best.
  2. Might makes right. The person who has the power to rule, rules because you can’t stop them.
  3. The divine right of kings. The person in charge is in charge because God wills them to be in charge and therefore are acting on God’s behalf.

In the past, you could see elements of the Platonic model among libertarians. The government would be based on rights (in particular property rights) and would follow the constitution from which the government would always be able to infer what is right. However, overall this concept of the rule of the expert is not one seriously embraced by the right except rhetorically (i.e. claiming that whoever they like is the best at everything regardless of the evidence). Despite their sycophancy, even the GOP struggles to pretend that Donald Trump is a philosopher king.

Might makes right isn’t going away any time soon in the Republican Party and US mainstream politics (including Democrat leaders) has had a long and problematic history with admiring military strongmen and rationalising US military action as being just because it was something that the US military could do.

However, it is the divine right of kings whose comeback is the most ironic for a party that calls itself “Republican”. It is not hard to find claims that Donald Trump is somehow the agent of God on Earth. Partly this is a way for rightwing evangelical Christian voters in the US rationalising their support for a man who violates most of their ethical norms. It is also weirdly self-reinforcing: after all the fact that Trump is in office and remains popular with the religious right and defied expectations of winning on multiple occasions is hard to explain. Things that are hard to explain or which defy common sense, appeal to supernatural explanations. Trump is either the work of God or the work of the devil in this model because how else can he make sense? The religious right aren’t going to believe he is the work of the devil which leads to the only conclusion that somehow trump is God’s plan. The more absurd Trump is, the more that hypothesis is confirmed and hence the more he should be supported.

Divinity can justify anything but it is not a solid foundation for anything other than a religion.