Positivity and Gibberish Ideology

Way back in 2018, I talked about I called “the thing” in the context of the nonsense that Jordan Peterson was putting out. I still don’t have a better name for it. What I said at the time was:

“To perceive yourself as inadequate or weak-willed or to see unhappy circumstance as your own fault for being weak-willed is not good but what is extraordinarily toxic is to regard OTHERS in that way. In other words to see people who have problems of one kind or another (from being overweight to being bullied or to being poor or being abused) and thinking the blame lies with that person because they are weak-willed is the common thread that joins the pieces of this ‘thing’ together. It’s how Ayn Rand ties into modern Fascism and why Nietzche is peppered through Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/reading-peterson-3-n-things-of-for-y/

It’s one of those tricky conceptual itches that is hard to scratch because this thing I’m tying to describe often looks like a side-hustle of online grifters who are also pushing right-wing ideas or it looks like innocuous advice for people just trying to cope with the stresses of modern life. Partly it is about a method for making money and recruiting men struggling to cope with modern life (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/some-links-relevant-to-the-thing/ ) but it is also a common ideological thread.

I’ve also discussed before how Vox Day doesn’t like Jordan Peterson but the difference in their underlying ways of thinking is small. The objection Day has to Peterson is one of a rival in a similar space (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/ye-olde-skull-lobster-reading-vox-day-so-you-dont-have-to-part-n1/ ) and different ways of trying to employ a pseudo-psychology of positivity that is both pseudo-scientific and theological.

Why I am rehashing all this again? Just that Day has been saying weird things in this space again:

“Then keep in mind that the effect works both ways. Over time, you’ll begin to observe that luck, like confidence, builds on its own success. I don’t merely hope to be fortunate and I don’t just know I’m fortunate, I fully expect to be fortunate. Remember, the ancients’ idea that Fortuna personally favored some individuals and disfavored others wasn’t an invention ex nihilo, it was an observation.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210711181738/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/07/always-watch-your-tongue.html

At one end, Day is saying to his followers “happy music can cheer you up” and that negative comments can get you down — both of which is true. At the other end, he really thinks this is SUPERNATURAL in nature.

The additionally odd thing is that Day is critical of two similar versions of what he is endorsing:

“This is also why the Prosperity Gospel, also known as “name it, claim it” theology, is fundamentally wicked. It’s literally practicing psychological magic in order to obtain material wealth. Scott Adams, for example, is a very successful practitioner of this sort of psychological magic.”

For those of you following the Debarkle, a lot of the oddly boastful claims Day makes about his numerous failed or under-delivered projects become clearer. These claims are akin to magic for Day. I assume the distinction he makes between his version of essentially trying to wish things into reality is that he is trying to make a project work rather than just make money. Who knows? I don’t know how to untangle the ethics of using magical powers that you don’t have but sincerely believe you do have.

Theological anti-Semitism

Sorry folks but this is a Vox Day post.

Vox Day likes to dance around his anti-Semitism partly because he really likes the more militant ethno-nationalistic side of Israeli politics but also because of the standard fake philo-Semitism of the US Evangelic Christian tradition that regards Israel’s existences as a necessary pre-condition for the second coming. Anyway, a recent post piqued my interest because it touches on a number of aspects of Day’s beliefs. https://web.archive.org/web/20210521091419/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/05/by-their-fruits-ye-shall-know-them.html

So the first weird idea out of the gate is Day’s belief that there are multiple Andrew Anglins. If you don’t know who that is, Anglin is the neo-Nazi behind the chan-like Daily Stormer https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/andrew-anglin Not a nice person by any measure.

Day doesn’t like Anglin because Anglin is more openly neo-Nazi than Day and Day thinks that doing that gives the game away. They feuded in 2017 after the disaster of the ‘Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally Anyway, for reasons, Day is convinced that there are multiple Andrew Anglins writing on the internet. However, Anglin has written an essay complaining that American Christians aren’t anti-Semitic, which Day approves of even if he doesn’t like Anglin.

The second weird idea is that Day thinks Muslims and Jews (and probably Mormons) worship different gods than Christians. I looked at this in 2016 https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/is-martin-freeman-lucy-liu-and-other-theological-questions/ and here https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/more-voices-of-god/ It is at one level a curious theological conundrum but also (and more relevantly) a technique intended to marginalise people of other religions. So for Day, Judaism is a religion dedicated to a different god than the one he worships (or at least now it – I’ve no idea how he imagines Judaism worked when Jesus was alive).

Which takes us to the third weird idea and one of Day’s most overt statements of his anti-Semitism.

“Unless and until you understand that the religious Jews worship the god of this world, not God the Father of Jesus Christ”

The full quote gets worse but is just text-book anti-Semitic conspiracy theory stuff. The point I wanted to focus of is “the god of this world”. This is a long-standing element of Day’s theology, although not always using this exact term. It’s interesting to me because it is one of Day’s longest and most consistent public beliefs. Here he is describing it in 2002:

“Many religious worldviews postulate the existence of intelligent, supernatural beings whose actions affect the physical world. The Christian view, in particular, puts forth the notion that our world is ruled by an evil supernatural being, one who long ago usurped humanity’s God-given sovereignty. This being, Satan, is not only self-aware, but has been intelligent enough to fool the mind of man from the very start, beginning with the first temptation in the Garden of Eden.”

https://www.wnd.com/2002/02/12907/

I don’t know enough about US evangelical Christianity to say this is a common belief but I’m under the impression it is and a brief search shows a lot of people quoting 2 Corinthians 4:4 which is a Bible verse that uses the term “god of this world”. To me, it has an almost gnostic element to it and more than a hint of Manicheaist dualism (warring gods of good and evil). Well, people can believe what they like about gods but as we can see here, Day is employing this to basically claim that Jews (and probably Muslims and Mormons and maybe even Unitarians or liberal-minded Catholics) worship Satan.

This takes me to the last point. Day’s extremism is overt, for example in the post I’m quoting he goes straight into basic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Jewish people are plotting the destruction of Russia. Now Day is also claiming that religious Jews worship Satan (they obviously don’t) but rather than outright say that he still cloaks this claim in a bit of terminology. There’s nothing unambiguous about his belief here but for anybody not familiar with the term “god of this world” and what Day means by it, the claim looks marginally less nuts than Day talking about devil-worshippers. Semantically, based on Day’s belief and usage, that’s exactly what he is saying but for his apologists, you get this sliver of deniability.

This is a common feature to a lot of the more shocking quotes from Day about his extremist views on race. People characterise them as evidence that Day-said/believes-X but decontextualised, he doesn’t exactly say X, so the characterisation of the quote looks misleading but when you examine the quote in context and factor in his other beliefs and what he means by particular terms etc then you go all the way back to Day-said/believes-X. He has these little verbal mazes that are transparent to most people but are just tricksy enough to fool people who don’t agree with him but want him as an ally or as a business partner. Interestingly, his misogyny is the least cloaked in this regard, whereas his support of white supremacy is surrounded by various attempts at misdirection i.e. he separates into different posts or paragraphs his belief that Western Civilisation is superior to every other culture, from his belief in IQ genetic determinism, from his belief that the US constitution was intended for & can only work for people of Anglo-descent, from his belief for ethnic-separatist states. The whole package points in one direction but he rarely connects all the dots directly for his readers. This takes us back to his feud with Anglin, his disputes with neo-Nazis always revolve around messaging and appearance rather than core beliefs.

No, that really is what they meant by “Augusto”

A content warning: this post covers some disturbing comments by people on the right of US politics including threats of violence.

I cited a comment yesterday in the Debarkle introduction and a reasonable question was asked about it in the comments. I want to stress that the question really was a reasonable one and I do want and expect a degree of fact checking on the the Debarkle posts. So this post is not intended as a rebuke to the question – push back and alternative readings are welcome. However, the flip side of that is side-posts like this one where I’m going to check the receipts so to speak or…write a mea-culpa and fix a mistake where I goofed.

The downside is that this post platforms some nasty stuff. So if you want to skip it then that is a smart idea. More below the fold.

Continue reading “No, that really is what they meant by “Augusto””

Debarkle: Draft outline

Coming this month (and probably for most of the year) is “Debarkle”, a history of the Puppy Kerfuffle of 2015, the events that preceded it, the political context and how it presaged events in US politics that followed it.

What follows is the draft section and chapter order. Naturally, what will actually happen is something different from this but this is the outline I’m working to.

Roughly it is in chronological order but with various chapters flashing forward or flashing backwards to keep themes together. External politics events are also a key part of this story, some of which will get their own chapters but in other cases they will be referenced in more fannish chapters to give context and establish time periods. Sadly, a lot of those external political events are violent ones but they are ones relevant to the times and also the discussions and the political atmosphere.

There are some special recurring chapters:

  • Dramatis Personae: these chapters look at backstories to some recurring names or groups in the story. I’ve tried to keep these to a minimum but if I find that I’m writing longer paragraphs about the background to given person, I may split that off into an extra one of these. Generally, they’ll cover the ‘story so far’ up to that point. So, John Scalzi and Vox Day (and maybe the Nielsen Hayden’s) get early chapters before the opening act of this http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html. So these chapters don’t all end up in section 1, many people will appear in the main narrative before they get one of these chapters but with a briefer introduction.
  • Meanwhile: these chapters cover things away from the main Puppy story but which, again, would otherwise become long intruding paragraphs of context. An obvious example is RaceFail 2009, which involved no puppies but did involve notable people in fandom. Likewise, a discussion of the 2015 Hugo awards can’t avoid discussion of RequiresHate and the Mixon report. You can skip these if you want to stick to the main plot. Part 6, covering 2020, is all Meanwhile.
  • Some book reviews: With the Hugosauriad I was pleased with how the two chapters looking at If You Were a Dinosaur My Love and the right-wing reaction to it worked out. The Debarkle is about many things but one of those things is stories. Currently these reviews will include Monster Hunter International, Redshirts, Ancillary Justice and the Broken Earth Trilogy, as well as some selected shorter fiction.

Speaking of the Hugosauriad, because that project contains chapters on Rachel Swirsky’s story and on Chuck Tingle, neither will get their own chapter in Debarkle. Obviously, both will get discussed but the longer coverage is in the Hugosauriad.

Currently, the plan is 6 sections.

  1. Beginnings 1880 to 2010. All the background and setting the scene.
  2. 2011 to 2014. This covers the SFWA conflicts and the first two Sad Puppy campaigns but also looks at Gamergate.
  3. 2015. This section is the most chronological and most chapters cover events in a given month up to the smoky skies of Sasquan. “Phew!” we all say in August, “Looks like we defeated fascism for good this time!” and Donald Trump enters stage right.
  4. 2016-2017. Two parallel stories – the political story with the alt-right and Donald Trump and also the story of how the Puppy campaigns fizzled out. SP4, the non-event of SP5, the Dragon Awards and how Larry finally gets his participation prize.
  5. 2018-2019. Follows the political story with some delves back into fandom. Specifically this is the politics of Sad and Rabid versions of the right in the age of Trump. The crappiest gate aka ‘Comicsgate’ will get a look in, as will the 2019 Nebulas, as ‘compare and contrast’ with the Puppy campaigns.
  6. Meanwhile 2020: Aside from an initial dive into the RWA’s meltdown, this section looks at the hell year in terms of the perspectives of the Puppy Protagonists. Dominating it are three major elements of the year, Qanon (particularly with Vox Day), Covid (Sarah Hoyt) and ‘Stop the Steal’ (Larry Correia but also Day and Hoyt).

Section 3 (i.e. the actual plot) is likely to blow-out. Three sections of aftermath may look like a lot but as the main thesis of the project is that the themes and cognitive style of the “crazy” behaviour of the US right in 2020 were already overt and apparent in 2015, just at a different scale and context. Note, the thesis isn’t that the Puppies caused later events (they are all minor bit players in bigger story, if that) but rather that the same underlying cultures and attitudes on the right that erupted as the Puppies in fandom, later erupted at a bigger scale (and at greater human cost) in US politics. Sections won’t be of equal length.

As always, suggestions, comments etc are welcome but it will also end up being whatever gets written at the time!

  • Intro: Jan 6 2021
  • Part 1: Beginnings 1880 to 2010
    A short history of the Hugo Awards 1953 to 2000
    Dramatis Personae 1: John Scalzi
    Dramatis Personae 2: Theodore Beale
    Tor, Baen and Amazon 1990 -2011
    Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America 1965 to 2010
    March 1, 2005: Electrolyte
    Dramatis Personae 3: Larry Correia
    2007: Monster Hunter International
    Meanwhile: Barack Obama
    Meanwhile: Racefail 2009
    2010 Hugos and the SFWA
  • Part 2: 2011 to 2014
    2011: Larry Goes to Worldcon
    2012-13: The Day-Scalzi Feud
    Meanwhile: Mitt Romney
    2013 “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo”
    2013: Redshirts
    Dramatis Personae 4: N.K.Jemisin
    2013: Trouble at the SFWA
    Dramatis Personae 5: Sarah Hoyt and the Mad Geniuses
    Opera Vita Aeterna
    2014: Sad Puppies 2
    2014: Ancillary Justice
    2014: Vox Gets the Boot
    Dramatis Personae 6: John C wright and the Evil League of Evil
    Dramatis Personae 7: George R R Martin
    2014: The Hugos go to London
    Meanwhile: Requires Hate
    Meanwhile: GamerGate
    Dramatis Personae 8: Brad Torgersen
  • Part 3: 2015
    January: Announcing SAD PUPPIES 3!
    February: Rabid Puppies 2015
    March: Warnings
    April Part 1: TSHTF
    April Part 2: Hugos Hit the News
    Dramatis Personae 9: Mike Glyer and File 770
    May: Planning Ahead
    E Pluribus Hugo
    June Part 1: The Tor Boycott
    Totaled
    June Part 2: The Human Toll
    July: Crescendo
    August: Sasquan
    September-December: Taking Stock
    Meanwhile: Donald Trump
  • Part 4: Fall of the Puppies 2016-2017
    The Broken Earth Trilogy
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 1: Sad Puppies 4
    Quarter 1 2016 Part 2: Rabid Puppies
    Meanwhile: The Rise of the Alt Right
    Dramatis Personae 10: Jon Del Arroz
    Enter the Dragon
    Quarter 2: Reactions
    Meanwhile: GOP goes Trump
    August: Midamericon
    September: Dragon Awards 2016
    Meanwhile: Me Too
    Meanwhile: President Donald Trump
    The Sad Demise of SP5
    Rabid Puppies 2017
    Worldcon 75 – Finland
  • Part 5: The Trump Years 2018-2019
    Overview
    Comicsgate
    Meanwhile: Qanon
    Changing fortunes at the Dragon Awards
    Meanwhile: Black Lives Matter
    Gender at the Hugo Awards
    Meanwhile: 20booksto50 and the Nebulas
    Dramatis Personae: Mixed Fortunes
    The Hugos and the Campbell Legacy
  • Part 6: Meanwhile 2020
    Trouble in Romance
    Covid 19
    Black Lives Matter
    US Presidential Election
    “Stop the Steal”
  • Conclusion: Reality and the Imagination

Bonus! Here is a Rabid version of the cover art.

Gamestop etc and the Alt-Right

The term “Alt-Right” has gone out of fashion largely because there is increasingly little differentiation between the US right in general and the section that promotes extreme & far-fetched ideas via internet communities and social media. I still find it a handy term though, partly because for everybody else when we think of “conservative” we think “pro-business and pro-capitalism”. Whereas, the modern right’s relationship with those ideas are more akin to the stance of some right wing political movements in the first half of the twentieth century i.e. often critical of established interest while being overtly hostile to left-wing movements and reform of capitalism. The question as to why the modern right’s stance on capitalism resembles that of, say, 1930s fascist movements is an exercise I’ll leave to the reader*.

Meanwhile, people of all kinds of politics have been paying attention to the Reddit-led antics on the stockmarket, where a kind of internet-rebellion has done some severe damage to dodgy hedge funds. There are numerous explainers out there but will go with Cory Doctorow’s:

Although the morals and motivations of both parties may be complex, it really isn’t hard to pick sides here. People (rightly) are cheering on the Reddit-rebels and enjoying the misfortune of the hedge funds.

When the app that many of the people where using to trade the stock clamped down on the sale of Gamestop stock, there was a political pushback from both major political parties.

Ted Cruz in turn said he supported AOC’s tweet, which led to a different back-and-forth when she pointed out his complicity in the death threats against her.

More widely on the internet, the right wing voices I keep an eye on generally take the same position of cheering on the Reddit-led stock-trading rebels. This isn’t surprising because events share some (but not all) of the features of the kind of internet based actions that the alt-right have either fostered, attached themselves to or taken over in the past:

  • It features individual action coordinated within internet communities
  • It exploits vulnerabilities in existing systems that assume that individuals (rather than institutions) will only participate as discrete individuals (i.e. not act in a coordinated way for other motives)
  • It can be cast in terms of ordinary people versus shadowy elites
  • It doesn’t and cannot lead to any kind of positive systemic reform
  • It does not seek to aid or improve the lot of marginalised people

It is those latter points that prevent the conflict from being to inherently left-wing in a way that would lead right-wing voices to flip the other way and start denouncing the Redditors as terrorists or cultural Marxists etc. Similarly, the final dot-point is what distinguishes this from an ACTUAL right wing internet insurgency. While Gamergate and the Puppy campaigns share many of the points above, those campaigns actively sought to make the lives of marginalised people worse and were overtly anti-left in nature (although they attempted to portray themselves as having a more neutral agenda e.g. “ethics in journalism”.)

Put another way, the r/wallstreetbets actions are NOT “Gamergate but with stocks” but do share enough similarities that the Gamergate-right are not just supportive of it but positively excited about it and regard it as a thing which is “theirs”. Like watching a necker-cube, a small shift of perspective allows us to see the same events as something that people on the left can support. There’s not a paradox there nor is it a case of left and alt-right finding common ground or the beginning of a kind of red-brown alliance. Left and right are looking at different things here.

What’s the difference? For the left the premise that “Wall Street sucks” is not news. The stock market is just one of the more obvious ways in which we live in a system with entrenched power for the wealthy and laws that help support that. The means with how that has come about are known and people have been documenting them for a couple of hundred years at least. It is a systemic problem and hence the system needs either mild-reform (liberalism), substantial reform (social-democracy) or needs to be torn down and utterly replaced (revolutionary communism). It’s not a conspiracy, it’s not a surprise, and nor is it even the worst part of the current economic status-quo.

For the alt-right none of the above is viewed as correct. They see the initial events as capitalism working as it should and then the “elites” stepping in and rigging the game. The literal term “elites” has wide currency and is a free floating concept. For the more openly neo-Nazi groups they equate the term with Jewish people. For the overlapping Qanon cultists, it is the shadowy groups trafficking children and engaging in cannibalistic anti-ageing rituals. Across the board on the right, the “elites” are blamed for all social change that the right reacts against. So everything from science fiction books not having enough rockets on the cover, to Star Wars having to many women in it, to trans-rights, Black Lives Matter or fossil-fuel reduction targets. So, when the government takes action to stop the stock market tanking, then for the right that is the same “elites” (as in they think it is quite literally the same people) who are rolling out Covid vaccines or are using “they/them” pronouns on their Twitter profiles.

For an example, here is Brian “Dragon Award Winner” Niemeier:

“Taken together, those breadcrumbs form a trail leading to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The GameStop squeeze threatens big donors and the Treasury Secretary, so Biden Intervened.”

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2021/01/biden-intervened.html

(Also, note the grift element at the end!)

Again, note – yes, the Biden administration almost certainly is intervening or is going to intervene but again, the core reason being that the stockmarket is systemically bad. A government can’t not intervene because wobbling the table can’t be allowed when the whole economy depends on a very expensive house of cards. The Trump administration would have intervened as well — the difference is that the alt-right would have characterised that as the “swamp” or the “deep state” acting against Trump’s wishes. The characters would have shifted but the narrative would have been the same.

The right-hand side of politics can’t adopt the answer of “systemic inequalities lead to dysfunctional societies” and hence when things aren’t working out the answer becomes “evil people are making the good system work badly”. They take as axiomatic that there must be hierarchy with better people at the top who are rightly rich and powerful, so when facts show the people at the top are just flawed people muddling through and acting in petty or short-sighted ways, they conclude that their must be a conspiracy. For a given individual, the “conspiracy” may not start as an anti-Semitic one but they trend that way. In short Nazis will be looking to exploit these events to recruit.

“Hey”, I hear you say, “You haven’t mentioned Vox Day yet.” Good point. He’s obviously saying much of what I summarised above i.e. a right-wing extremist trying to put a Gamergate spin on it. However, for readers who have been trying to follow the confusing Patreon litigation, he has also been pointing to the Robinhood app’s arbitration clause. The “swamp a company with arbitration claims” tactic is another aspect that is something that has been used for progressive causes but which is also being adopted as a right wing tactic. The lawyer involed in the Patreon case (Marc Randazza see this earlier post https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/meanwhile-in-law-virulent-nationalism/ ) is promoting the idea:

Note that losing these kinds of mass actions is not necessarily a failure for the wider objective of the right. As was seen with Gamergate, some people get dragged into the initial enthusiasm and then drop out when everything fizzles out. For others, losing helps feed the radicalism. It’s the same coping mechanism we all watched with the recent election. A person takes in all the propaganda of inevitable victory to the point that they are absolutely certain of the outcome. The outcome then doesn’t happen. Response? Somebody must have cheated! Reality intruding into the confabulated ideas leads to some people holding onto those ideas more strongly. This is particularly true when those ideas already contain a narrative of shadowy nefarious people working against the individual personally.

TL:DR The Gamestop story is not “Gamergate but with stocks” but the far right will attempt to exploit it to recruit and radicalise.


*Hint: it’s because they are just an updated version of those same movements.

Lawfare…with a whimper

I had missed this among the various histrionics among the right post Biden’s inauguration. The legal dispute between Owen ‘Flat Earth’ Benjamin and Patreon appears to be over. Patreon asked for the case they had lodged to be dismissed. Court documents for case CGC20584586 PATREON, INC. VS. PAUL MICHAEL AYURE ET AL show that the case was taken off calendar on January 20 after Patreon had asked for it to be dismissed.

Vox “I have never been a neo-Nazi” Day did make a short post about it and was obviously pleased but there are no surrounding details.

Previous posts can be found here https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/11/14/lawfare-developments/

Starting February: Debarkle

I’ve been mulling over for some time (years tbh) writing a history of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy attempt to hijack the Hugo Awards. A few things have put me off doing so. Two of the obstacles is any account needs at least some treatment of RaceFail and of the Requires Hate story and they are rabbit holes of controversy (but there are ways through that I think). However, one issue is an end point. In terms of Larry Correia’s frustration at not getting an award, the 2016 Dragon Award ceremony, which also saw Vox Day’s Castalia House getting its participation trophies, is an obvious place to stop. You can finish a story there and say “and the puppies went away and had their own awards”. It is unsatisfying and misleading though.

The appeal with finishing the story there is the main action of the Puppy Debarkle ends there with things petering out with the collapse of Sad Puppies 5 and the process reforms blunting the impact of Rabid Puppies 3 the following year. However, the point of writing about the Debarkle is the wider context. Fandom has had its fair share of squabbles, kerfuffles and scandals but what makes the Debarkle interesting in particular is the connection with wider events. The Sad Puppies presented their unexpected fannish-insurrection as primarily a question of aesthetics, as Larry Correia stated in his first attempt to hijack the Hugo Awards, this was an attempt to frustrate the “literati”. Contrariwise, the opposition to the Puppies contended that they were a politically reactionary movement.

It is this second issue that frames any discussion. It’s not a difficult proposition to demonstrate, that the Puppies were a politically reactionary movement motivated by a dislike of the left in general and the advocacy for women and people of colour and LGBQTI people more specifically. By late 2016 the Puppies of all stripes were barely pretending otherwise and, of course, Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies never pretended otherwise. But a more open question is whether the process of the Debarkle radicalised the Puppies or whether a growing social rift in America (and beyond) was radicalising them regardless?

I don’t know the answer to that question but it is the kind of question I could get a better answer to if I attempt this. Of course, placing the Puppies in the context of the politics also gives a point in time to look back from and say “how did we get here?” That point looks very much like January 6 2021.

Take, for example, this artefact of current right wing discourse in the wake of the attempted putsch in America’s capitol:

“Apparently Sarah Hoyt is the only non-cuck at Instapundit.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/01/give-girl-her-props.html

Or, looking in a different direction, imagine being a future historian and trying to explain all the context to this tweet:

Neither GamerGate nor the Debarkle by themselves explain events and both were shaped by social forces that were hard to see. Yet, rather like the tracks made by invisible particles in a bubble chamber, the revealed shifts in attitudes and changing political coalitions that were also leading up to changes on a bigger scale. Within a short time, political upsets in the US and UK (Trump becoming the Republican Party POTUS nominee and the Brexit referendum) saw right-wing, populist, anti-rational positions taking hold of national policy. Where they motivated by the same thing as the Puppy movements? We can debate that but the Puppies generally thought so (Brexit more than Trump oddly).

Five years after peak-Puppy, in the hell year that was 2020 notable figures in the Debarkle were pushing firstly covid-19 conspiracies, followed by attempts to mobilise anti-lockdown protests, followed by anti-mask wearing propaganda, followed by anti-vaccine propaganda. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election defeat, chief Sad Puppy Larry Correia was a notable booster of “steal” conspiracy theories and his posts on the topic were widely shared in conservative circles. Meanwhile, since late 2017, Vox Day was an early adopter and promoter of “QANON” the free-floating anti-rational meta-conspiracy theory and also an early advocate in 2020 of the need for Trump to seize power by force to ensure a second term.

The Debarkle (in particular peak Debarkle in 2015) presaged events in a microcosm but also later events clarify questions. At the time, it was an open question as to how politically extreme many of the Sad Puppy leaders where, there even people who attempted apparently good-faith arguments that Vox Day somehow wasn’t that extreme. Supporters of the Sad Puppies would often point to Sarah Hoyt (a woman and an immigrant to the US from a non-anglophone country) as clear evidence that the Sad Puppies were neither sexist or racist. I believe that even at the time the evidence demonstrated that their argument was flawed but with 2020 hindsight, the manner in which Hoyt refers to the VP-elect of the USA Kamala Harris is a much simpler refutation of the idea that she somehow is immune to sexism and racism.

Nor would it be sensible to write about the 2015 side-plot of the infamous Tor Boycott without pointing to Mad Genius blogger and one-time Castalia House author Peter Grant stating in the wake of yesterday’s attempt to overthrow the US constitution that: “If I were in D.C. today, I’d be in the Capitol along with the protesters.” If you’ve overtly placed yourself to the right of the leaders of the Republican Party (and for that matter the very right wing current Vice President of the US) and are contemplating civil war because you’ve fully bought into a stab-in-the-back mythology of stolen victory…well…”“extreme right wing to neo-nazi, respectively” was always a very apt description. How much time did we spend dissecting the various political positions that notable Puppies might have in an attempt to tease out the nuance of their politics? It’s a lot easier to sum up as “I’m not sure what they thought in 2015 but within five years they’ll be demanding the violent overthrow of the government in a far-right putsch.”

I’ll post more about the structure and the schedule of Debarkle as a blog series. Obviously, and as always, comments and corrections will be more than welcome, indeed expected — particularly as most of you were there at the time and many of you were actively involved in countering the Puppies for years before I stuck my oar in.

Lawfare Developments

No, no, not Trump’s bizarre legal cases. I’m talking about a different right winger with a distorted view of reality. Yes, we are back on the Patreon versus Fans of Owen ‘Flat Earth’ Benjamin. For previous episodes of this saga please see:

So the next episode in this Quixotic tale was scheduled for December when a case management conference was due. However, there has been a further development.

Back in June Patreon filed that the case should be designated as complex litigation [1]. That motion has now been agreed[2] and that means a new court and a new judge and I guess all sorts of things I don’t understand.

Bad news or good news for Benajmin and Vox Day? Probably bad news. This was what Patreon asked for and Day isn’t boasting about it. The case management conference has moved to January 5.


[1]https://webapps.sftc.org/ci/CaseInfo.dll?SessionID=D5B9811257FDC357307B9DA30DF4EFC50BA266F1&URL=https%3A%2F%2Fimgquery.sftc.org%2FSha1_newApp%2Fmainpage.aspx%3FWeb_Server%3Dimgquery.sftc.org%26MINDS_Server%3Dhoj-imx-01%26Category%3DC%26DocID%3D07261579%26Timestamp%3D20201114001753%3D10e5d5dff125503cd3613a55aa3403d0b42cefee

[2] https://webapps.sftc.org/ci/CaseInfo.dll?SessionID=D5B9811257FDC357307B9DA30DF4EFC50BA266F1&URL=https%3A%2F%2Fimgquery.sftc.org%2FSha1_newApp%2Fmainpage.aspx%3FWeb_Server%3Dimgquery.sftc.org%26MINDS_Server%3Dhoj-imx-01%26Category%3DC%26DocID%3D07437293%26Timestamp%3D20201114001753%3Dbc86955a0f06a22fef469e5d59bd00a573392cc1

And more right wingers talking nonsense about Benford’s Law update

It seems I was too kind to Larry Correia in my first post about the pro-Trumpist misleading claims about Benford’s Law. He actually is still pushing it as supposed evidence of election fraud.

“Basically, when numbers are aggregated normally, they follow a distribution curve. When numbers are fabricated, they don’t. When human beings create what they think of as “random” numbers, they’re not. This is an auditing tool for things like looking for fabricated invoices. It also applies to elections. A normal election follows the expected curve. If you look at a 3rd world dictatorship’s election numbers, it looks like a spike or a saw.

There’s a bunch of different people out there running the numbers for themselves and posting the results so you can check their math. It appears that checking various places around the country Donald Trump’s votes follow the curve. The 3rd party candidates follow the curve. Down ballot races follow the curve. Hell, even Joe Biden’s votes follow the curve for MOST of the country. But then when you look at places like Pittsburgh the graph looks like something that would have made Hugo Chavez blush.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/11/09/election-2020-the-more-fuckery-update/

On Twitter I noted that far-right extremist Nick Fuentes is also pushing not just the misleading claims about Benford’s Law but a false claim that Wikipedia “added” criticism of its use in elections to discredit the claims being made about the 2020 general election. As I pointed out in this post, the rider that Benford’s Law use with electoral data was limited had been their for years. Rather than pro-Biden supporters adding it, Trump supporters removed the sentence and references in a bid to hide the fact that their analysis was flawed. You can read a 2013 version of the page here https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Benford%27s_law&oldid=534279795#Election_data

Since then, the section on Benford’s Law in election has expanded into a mini-essay about its use and limitations.

I don’t have a source for 2020 data at the precinct level that some of these graphs are using. I’m certain that there will be both Benford and non-Benford like distributions for Trump and Biden in various places. I do have county level data for 2020 to 2016 from here https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/VOQCHQ

The analysis is trivial to do on a spreadsheet. Grab the first character and then tabulate it with a pivot table. You can explore various candidates from Bush to Biden on a Google sheets I made here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LPEKnoPtOE4VtYaM9z69B-a0XkRx5tyt_vPak8TknlY/edit?usp=sharing

Here, for example is Donald Trump in Alaska in 2016:

When you look at the district sizes in Alaska and consider Trump’s proportion of the vote, it becomes obvious very quickly that it would be absurd for this data to follow Benford’s Law. Here are the first four (of 40) districts.

DistrictTrump VotesTotal VotesPercentage
District 13180663847.91%
District 23188549258.05%
District 35403761370.97%
District 44070952142.75%
Trump’s vote in four Alaskan districts in 2016

We have leading digits of 3,5 and 4 and no 1s. Why? Because to get leading digits of 1s Trump’s votes would need to be proportionately much smaller! For example if he’d only got 20% of the vote in District 1 then that would result in some 1s. In some of the examples being passed around the Trumpist circles, that is one of the reasons for Benford-like graphs — they’ve picked places where Trump’s vote was proportionately low pushing into a ranges where 1s were common as a leading digit.

The mechanics of the deception here are fascinating. There’s an initial plausibility (Benford’s Law is a real thing and is actually used to detect fraud and has been applied to elections), a lack of any critical thinking (the examples being circulated are very limited, there’s no comparison with past elections to see what is normal) but then active deception (long standing academic critiques of applying Benford’s Law to election data being actively deleted from online wikis). On that latter part, we know the more extreme white nationalist right (Fuentes, Vox Day) are active in attempting to suppress information on how to apply Benford’s Law to election data. Providing the usual smoke screen an aura of legitimacy are the usual convenient idiots for neo-Nazis such as Larry Correia, who repeat the propaganda as ‘just asking questions’.