It's interesting who else has a troll problem

As Vox Day has been increasingly distancing himself from the world of science fiction and dedicating more of his time to tilting at the windmills of large tech-platforms, I’ve been taking less of an interest in his antics. However, as I was writing about trolls yesterday it is appropriate to write about a different troll problem today.

It seems Vox is beset by a troll problem. Having spent a bit of mind-numbing time looking at various Reddit threads and some incoherent You Tube videos, it is fair to use the term ‘troll’. We aren’t talking about argued responses to Vox Day’s behaviour but rather people clearly trying to wind the guy up. Politically the stuff is coming from the same cess-pit of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories as Vox’s base. However, the dank-meme subculture was a ready recruiting ground for Vox Day’s brand of extreme white nationalism for years, so attacks from this direction are interesting politically.

The substantive complaint is around Day’s “Unauthorised TV”: a subscription video service that is part of his alternative tech platform plan. The scenario is a familiar one to readers here: Day announced a big bold plan that will a numerous features (like the buttons of the Open-Office Mouse) and will end up as a rival to mainstream equivalents (just as Castalia House was supposed to surpass Tor). There is a flurry of activity and recruitment and money raising (again, think of Voxopedia). An actual, tangible minimum viable product genuinely is delivered (again, Voxopedia) but it is substantially less than the original vision. Don’t worry! All those other features are on the way, the true believers are told and maybe there is more money raised. The amazing features never eventuate and again, consider Voxopedia remains jut a clumsy, vandalised copy of Wikipedia that a tiny number of editors struggle to stop drifting further out of date — none of the amazing capabilities (such as different versions of articles based on you political position) have ever eventuated and they never will.

The same seems to be true of Unauthorised TV. I say ‘seems’ because obviously I’m not subscribing and also I didn’t track what was originally promised. Defenders of Vox Day can correctly point out that the basic promise is delivered (e.g. Castalia House genuinely did publish actual books, with covers and a modicum of copy-editing) and detractors can point out the gulf between the reality and the fever-dream ambitions. [Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to that comic book movie…]

The broader context is the deeper divisions within the alt-right. In particular the current strength around the so called “groypers”, the latest iteration of extreme nationalists with a cartoon frog obsession who are associated with the latest white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Nick_Fuentes ). The other element is Vox Day’s alliance with the increasingly unstable Owen Benjamin (see here for earlier coverage https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/10/25/vox-day-sort-of-denies-he-is-a-flat-earther/ ).

Alt-right figures follow what I call a dark-wizards rule. Being territorial and ideologically anti-social (not the same as personally anti-social) and dogmatically committed to clear social hierarchies, you can’t have two of them in the same general space unless it is in a lord-vassal* (or if you prefer, master-apprentice) arrangement. Where somebody like Vox Day maintains patterns of allies it is where those allies have their own environmental niches and where they can offer each other things transactionally (e.g. Milo Yiannopolous, Mike Cernovich or Stephan Molyneaux) and where they may even ostensibly have marginally less similar politics.

So Fuentes rise in popularity was going to lead to a feud with Vox Day, which is what happened but slowly and with an intermediate feud between Owen Benjamin and Fuentes first. The details of the feuding don’t really matter as they weren’t questions of substance and Owen Benjamin is incoherent even by the standards of a whole subculture of incoherence.

Skipping forward in time. Reddit (particularly sections dedicated to Owen Benjamin) and various YouTube channels (the people concerned hop around accounts a LOT because of repeated bans and rule violations) have got it in for Vox Day big time. I’ve seen nothing new here** (these aren’t people doing original research) and there’s no deep ideological difference, it is just a mish-mash of stuff (I even saw a screen-gab of a page from here included) and stupid nicknames and homophobic insults (and random anti-Semitism). In short: trolls…but trolls aiming their trolling at a guy who tried to weaponise trolling.

On Friday matters must have come to a head for Vox Day and he announced an ultimatum:

“I’m giving Davey Crocko, RealOwenBenjamin, ultrafuzzyforeigner, and the rest of the Unauthorized-hating gamma trolls on Reddit and YouTube 24 hours to come clean, declare their real identities, admit their actions, and thereby avoid having the wrath of the VFM and the Legal Legion of Evil crash down upon their heads.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/12/24-hours-trolls.html [link for reference – not recommended to follow it]

Whether that is an idle threat or has some substance I don’t know but the reaction from the trolls was derisive. Day is also claiming that there have been some sort of cyber attacks on some of the tech services. I’ve no way of ascertaining whether there is any truth in those claims and there are zero people involved in this fuss who could be regarded as a reliable source.

In a substantial dose of even more unwitting irony, Day himself is now bemoaning the quality of online discourse these days:

“In what is a crushing refutation of libertarian theory, the Internet and the devolution of what were once civilized anonymous discussion spaces on bulletin boards and CompuServe have clearly demonstrated that Man cannot handle the freedom of a perceived lack of accountability.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-troll-wars.html

He’s also concerned about how there’s no way forward other than legalistic means:

“No matter how we react – and notice that we did ignore it for months until events yesterday rendered that impossible – there has never been anything to it. By this bizarrely twisted illogic, people only react to true accusations, against which stands the entire history of written and case law dealing with defamation, slander, and libel.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/12/an-interesting-perspective.html

Which takes me back to a point I have made before. The SFWA and later the WSFS membership absolutely did the right thing in the end by taking an uncompromising response to Vox Day’s antics. Following his OWN advice on how to handle those whose only aim is to act in bad-faith and disrupt an organisation and the discourse within an organisation, is to not attempt to reason or become further embroiled in a bad-faith discussion.

tl;dr obnoxious people are shouting at each other.

*[See also the distinct pecking order within the Sad Puppies]

**[Aside from one point: there is a claim that the video service Day is promoting is actually using Vimeo’s infrastructure. Which is a bit ‘so what?’ However, the argument is that this disproves that Day is spending the money on a tech platform independent of the mainstream tech platforms.]

It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier. https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/12/no-american-man.html

Sadly nothing new. Some Scalzi bashing and some Tor bashing but let’s go through.

“To recap, author Larry Correia started the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness when he smelled something rotten among the oldpub clique that hands out the Hugo Awards. He set out to prove that winning a Hugo has less to do with literary merit and almost everything to do with scratching the right backs while having the right politics.”

Nope. Larry’s initial campaign was overtly against the idea of nominating on the basis of literary merit. His imagined enemy where the ‘literati’ and ‘snob reviewers’. The campaign was an attempt to win himself a Hugo Award (which we know because he said so).

It is true that at every stage of the various Sad Puppy campaigns they have been presented as some sort of Manichean struggle of good-guys versus bad-guys but the nature of the split was repeatedly revised in a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” way. The conflict has variously been characterised by Sad Puppy supporters as:

  • Pulp authors versus the literati and snob reviewers
  • Marginalised conservative authors versus SJW entryists
  • Newcomers to Worldcon versus SMOFs
  • Outsiders versus the SFWA
  • ‘blue’ sci-fi versus ‘pink’ sci-fi
  • Traditional science fiction versus modern science fiction
  • Tor books versus Baen books
  • Indie publishing versus trad publishing

Of course, the reality is also multi-faceted, with multiple kinds of people becoming involved in a conflict with no single cause. However, the purpose of the reductionist group A versus group B framing is to create a clear just cause for group A.

“After three years, Larry decided he’d proved his point and retired from the Sad Puppies. “

Technically after two years. Sad Puppies 2 was the last Correia led campaign.

“When you have one publisher winning more than twice as many Hugos as the next most award-winning house, and when SFWA officers constitute an oversized chunk of Best Novel winners since 1986, you’d have to be terminally naive not to see a cool kids’ clique trading participation trophies.”

The ‘twice as many Hugos’ line is a reference to the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel won by Tor. Niemeier adopts the anti-Tor line fairly consistently from here on in his history re-write. Of course, the full-on Tor hatred did become a feature of the 2015 campaign but even I find it hard to remember that the anti-Tor aspect of Sad Puppies was a minor aspect until quite late in the history. It is true that Tor versus Baen was always an undercurrent, specifically around the Best Editor Long From award and (from a Rabid Puppies perspective) due to Vox day’s specific animosity toward Nielsen Hayden’s.

However, the idea of the conflict being defined as a war against Tor did not fully crystallise until Vox Day manipulated a boycott of Tor books in June 2015. Prior to that Sad Puppies 3 had nominated one Tor published book for Best Novel (Kevin J Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars), prominent puppy John C Wright (and multiple Sad & Rabid puppy nominee) still promoted himself as a Tor published author and the eventual winner of Best Novel in 2015, The Three Body Problem was voted for by many Puppy supporters.

“Imagine if one movie studio won more than twice as many Best Picture Oscars than its closest competitor in a similar span of time. What if a preponderance of Best Picture winners had also been directed by current and former high-ranking officers of the Directors Guild? Anyone who’s not a total NPC would at least entertain suspicions of some shady backroom  deals.”

Honestly I’m surprised Best Picture is evenly distributed and I find an even distribution more implausible than what we see in the Hugo’s. For added “this framing doesn’t add up” Tor winning a minority of Best Novel Hugo’s in that time period is also due to five wins (half of Tor’s total wins up to 2019) from Orson Scott Card and Vernor Vinge. Card, in particular, was used as the paradigm by many Sad Puppies of the kind of author who used to win Hugo Awards but no longer did. Vinge is an author less championed by Sad Puppies but was overtly cited as an example of a ‘good’ Hugo winner from the past by Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen: “We’ve fallen a long way since Vernor Vinge won for A Fire Upon The Deep.

Nor does the Tor-narrative fit the other narratives. If the Hugos had recently become more leftwing and Tor was somehow to blame, then Tor would be winning more Best Novel awards in recent years. Of course, the other name that connects Tor, the SFWA and Puppy angst is John Scalzi and the particular and very personal animosity both Puppy campaigns have for him. That man himself is a very agreeable person who repeatedly tried to find compromise and understanding only seems to have added fuel to the fire.

“For its first three yeas, Sad Puppies performed the vital public service of wising normies up to the convergence of legacy sci fi publishing. In a way, it prefigured what #GamerGate did in the video game scene. But like pretty much every dissident online movement since, SP quickly devolved into petty territorial bickering. When its original founder was replaced by people who still want a pat on the head from oldpub, SP became just another bogeyman in the Left’s morality play.”

GamerGate is a kind of Schrödinger’s cat in Puppy rhetoric. The essential rule is this: Puppy supporter can imply that the two campaigns are connected but if critics of the Puppy campaigns do so then it is a terrible slander. Brian Niemeier is very much in favour of the misogynist Gamergate campaign, which given his overt support for male-only cultural spaces is not a surprise.

The digs in the paragraph above look like they are aimed at both Brad Torgersen and Sarah Hoyt but I assume the thrust of it is aimed at Hoyt. Quite how we can sort Correia, Torgersen and Hoyt into more or less connected to “oldpub” is unclear. Hoyt has been published traditionally and independently. Of the three she is closer to the post-traditional publishing model.

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/sad-popcorn/ ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

“As mentioned above, Dragon Con now hosts the Dragon Awards. The Dragons boast far larger and much more open participation than the Hugos, and after rebuffing an SJW takeover attempt, they’ve largely settled into an antipodal role as readers’ choice awards for fans of a certain SFF publisher.”

The Dragon’s create a bit of a conundrum for Brian. Their headline categories are more dominated by Baen than the Hugo Best Novel is by Tor — which if Brian was remotely consistent would according to his prior arguments demonstrate that the Dragon’s are rigged. However, Brian won a Dragon Award in its first year and so more or less has to be pro-Dragon award.

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire.”

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/08/conservative-play.html

Suffice to say, Brian didn’t win another Dragon and instead Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey won instead. By his own weird standards then I guess that means the SJWs won or something? Who knows. With narratives that shift as easily as goal posts made of clouds, who can say.

More alt-right crowdfunding shenanigans

About a month ago I came across a very odd thing. It was odd enough that I thought the interesting thing to do is to just watch if anything happens. Nothing did happen and so now seems about the right to time to write about it. For context you need to go back to these posts:

Yes! It is our old pal Vox Day engaged in yet another winning gambit in a game of one-dimensional chess. The ‘odd thing’ is this neon-green thing https://www.patreon.com/castalia [no archive link, patreon pages don’t archive well]. It is a Patreon account for Vox Day’s vanity publishing house Castalia and the account is ostensibly there to promote his recent book (see my review above).

However, the public verbiage around the site is a parody of left-leaning language, as if it was attempt to hide the actual politics of Castalia, even down to the bearded guy in the logo.

Unless I missed it (which is possible) there was no big announcement of this Patreon account either at Vox Day’s blog or the Castalia House blog. It’s been sitting there since late October and after a very sudden flurry of subscribers has stayed stuck at around 16 hundred patrons.

There is an explanation from Vox Day himself but it is the form of two of his rambling videos.

I’ve seen elsewhere Vox say he wouldn’t watch his own videos and on that one point, he is absolutely right. I don’t know who has the patience to watch this stuff but people do and Vox’s fans watch even longer and less coherent stuff from Owen Benjamin. However, mid November I sat through most of those.

The gist of the explanation is this. Day has launched a ‘replatforming’ campaign, to take back the presence of the alt-right on online platforms. Of course, the extent to which the right have been pushed off online platforms is actually minimal (and largely through unforced errors by given individuals) but put that aside for a moment. Day is claiming the right has been forced off platforms and he will valiantly fight back. The bridgehead of his fightback being the Patreon account above.

I’m watching these videos with my head cocked to one side, a bleary confused expression on my face and saying ‘huh?’ to myself. Yet we must persevere to understand what today’s Xanatos gambit is:

  1. Hidden SJWs in Patreon will be outraged by the existence of the Castalia account and ban it. At this point Day launches legal action as do the 16 hundred loyal followers. The resulting legal victory defeats no-platforming. [No, I don’t get how that works but I’ll come back to it]
  2. The hidden SJWs in Patreon will still be outraged by he existence of the Castalia account but discover that they cannot do anything about the account legally and reluctantly let it continue. Having conceded victory to Day, no-platforming is defeated. [Again, No, I don’t get how that works but I’ll come back to it]

I’ll come to the gaping flaw in the reasoning in a moment but the initial issues that struck me were these:

  • If the plan is to provoke a banning, then why the weird stealth aspect of the Patreon? Pretending (even sarcastically) to be a left anti-capitalism group rather than a white nationalist group and then NOT getting banned hardly sets a new precedent for the alt-right to make use of mainstream crowd-funding. Likewise pretending to be a left group and THEN getting banned would undermine the right-wing narrative that only the right gets banned.
  • The whole ‘replatforming’ idea runs exactly counter to Vox Day’s avowed strategy that the alt-right needs to be building its own tech infrastructure.
  • Day wanted lots of subscribers with low level pledges so that many people would have standing in a potential law suit. I’m not a lawyer but I’m not sure that makes much difference. Is losing a court case of one person for $1000 any better than losing a court case of 1000 people for $1? Maybe it is?

In the following weeks here is what happened: nothing.

I guess by clause 2 of the Xanatos gambit that means Day won but a survey of the world around us shows that the status-quo from before October 28 is pretty much the same.

What Day has actually done is disproved his own narrative.

Day’s version of events (and it is one that extends beyond alt-right circles and is common among conservatives as well) is this:

  • a right-leaning person is on some online platform
  • leftists within the business running the platform hate free speech
  • the innocent right-leaning person is then cruelly censored for some minor infraction by the leftist underling…
  • and/or the right-leaning person is driven off by biased rules enacted against conservatives by the anti-free speech tech-giant
  • and/or a leftwing mob attempts to ‘cancel’ the right leaning person and eventually the tech-giant caves under the pressure of the howling mob etc

A survey of both high and low profile actual examples shows a quite different story.

  • a right-leaning person is on some online platform
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • nothing happens
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • nothing happens
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • nothing happens
  • they violate the terms of service of the platform
  • something finally happens and they get a slap on the wrist
  • histrionics break out all over the place

The more substantial examples, were alternative platforms such as Gab or Freestartr lose access to key commercial infrastructure, are also when they themselves create significant business risks for other businesses. This may include dodgy financial processes but may also include connections to potentially criminal activity (e.g. enticement to violence that is closely connected to actual cases of violence).

What isn’t happening is a mass, concerted campaign by the technology companies to censor the right JUST for being right-wing. The myth of the SJW influence over social media and crowd funding platforms is exactly that: a myth. Yes, people on the left would like Nazis not to have a platform on Twitter or Facebook but these companies aren’t quick to remove people without repeated and overt violations of the rules users had agreed to.

Circling back. Castalia house set up a quiet Patreon that is playing strictly by the rules (I assume) so that when/if they get banned they have the best legal case they can. However, by sticking closely to the rules they are unlikely to get banned…which everybody with half-a-gram of common sense already knew.

Maybe Day knows this as well and this was just the simplest way of getting $6,000 a month from his marks/loyal followers? Maybe, I don’t know. As often with such activities, I’m not sure whether it wise to even write about it. We’ll see. At some point Day will declare checkmate and we will be none the wiser.

Reading Vox Day so you don’t have to part…I’ve lost count

I had wondered if extreme nationalist Vox Day had given up writing political pamphlets but yet another popped up the other day. It was sort of out of the blue, so either he’s been promoting things less or I’ve been paying less attention and probably the latter.

Entitled Corporate Cancer: How to Work Miracles and Save Millions by Curing Your Company it is primarily a rehash of his tow earlier “SJW” books. It’s the same thesis (vaguely defined social justice warriors are somehow out to get you) structured in a similar way but using mainly examples from businesses rather than church groups or publishing.

It purports to demonstrate that social justice will cost a company lots of money but you won’t be surprised to discover that the criteria for ‘social justice’ is very flexible as is the harm done to the companies. He leads with the latest Star Wars films (which he hasn’t watched and which he only has a second hand grasp of) and the fact that they didn’t make as huge a profit for the hugely profitable Disney company as Disney wanted. It is just a rehash of the tired grievance from past years and poor example for his thesis. The claim is that Disney s ‘converged’ a fatal stage of commitment to social justice that destroys a company (or perhaps turns it into a company dependent on government grants or something – the goalposts shift). Day manages to be wrong about both things: Disney is a cynical money grabbing corporation whose commitment to any kind of progressive values is superficial and also it manifestly isn’t going bankrupt any time soon.

Later “examples” are similarly dis-attached. Google is given as an example but again it manifestly isn’t collapsing financial. Apple’s lack of direction post Steve Jobs is also given but here Day neither shows in what way Apple has become more social-justicey recently nor how that connects to Day’s gripe about dongles.

The villain of Day’s previous polemic was nice ladies who help out at church groups. In this one he focuses on HR departments, which are also a recurring bête-noir for Day. Note that as far as I’m aware Day’s multiple career choices have not included a job in a moderate sized corporation with a HR department but he projects a deep grudge against a stereotypical HR team. That HR-phobia becomes easier to understand when you recall that Day’s target audience is disaffected men who feel they have low social status. The thrust is to persuade some confused, somewhat lost person that their troubles at work are due to a vast “SJW” enemy that bizarrely appears in the form of modern corporate capitalism. So if the reader is feeling picked on because of lateness or poor work performance or poor relations with colleagues or bad personal hygiene etc they can rationalise the involvement of HR as political persecution.

Cults, crank self-help groups and crypto-fascist organisations (in so far as those three things are different) have always preyed on the disaffected and the lost. The disdain Day frequently shows to “gammas” is part of that strategy: fuelling insecurity by citing issues that people can see within themselves and then violently reject. Self-hatred is both a powerful drug and a sinister recruitment sergeant.

When looking at the chapter headings I was close to deciding not to bother reviewing the book. The main motive was for completeness having trudged through the previous related volumes. Not to bother probably would have been the right decision: there is nothing new here and I would imagine even Day’s fans would find this book repetitive.

However, what tipped the balance was a something that I was curious about and the chapter headings implied that Day had some revelations to make about a story I’d been following. I’ll spoil the surprise and reveal in advance that he doesn’t but let me explain the background.

About a year ago Day had a crowd-funding campaign suspended in an unusual manner. I covered it here and and File 770 covered it here http://file770.com/after-bleeding-cool-interviews-vox-day-indiegogo-axes-latest-alt-hero-comic-campaign/ and Day cites the File 770 article as background (i.e. he accepts it as being factually correct). As a whole bunch of things were going on at the same time (a NPR podcast, a Bleeding Cool interview, a crowdfunding campaign finalising), Day claims these were all connected. However, we have little background on the circumstances of Indiegogo suspending Day’s crowdfunding campaign other than from Day himself. Day is far from being the most blatantly dishonest person in Puppydom but he is not a reliable narrator either.

We do know that Day threatened Indiegogo with legal action but I’ve seen many examples before of Day doing so but without any public conclusion – which could, of course mean anything. Day had suggested on his blog the matter had come to some sort of end but of what kind was unclear.

However, in a recent twist, Day’s publishing company had started a new crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in the last few weeks. Did that mean everything was resolved between Day and the crowdfunding platform? Maybe or not quite. The new campaign (which I believe has just ended or is about to end) was to reprint 1910 ‘junior classics’ in what appears to be an attempt by Day to capture the money of far-right Baby Boomer grandparents.

There were some oddities about the campaign though. It was clear that Indiegogo were aware it was one of Day’s companies running the campaign but rather than “Castalia” or “Arkhaven”, the group listed was “Redacted Press” based in “San Francisco, United States”. A second oddity was that the campaign was only accessible via a direct link. A search for the campaign on Indiegogo’s platform for either ‘Junior Classics’ or ‘Redacted Press’ do not lead to the campaign. The only way to get to it was via a link provided by Day. Why? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Day has two chapters on the issue in the book and curiosity got the better of me. The first of the two (Chapter 8) gave the background and the story that I already knew up to the start of an arbitration process. The next chapter, entitled Chapter 9: Indiegogo Case Study: The Arbitration Process and Outcome offered the missing section. However the contents of the chapter read:

“[REDACTED UNTIL OCTOBER 11, 2021] The parties to the arbitrations have come to a resolution on the matter. The arbitrations have been terminated. We will not be making any further statement about it. Please do not ask questions or probe for details about the resolution of the matter.”

Well, I guess the joke is on me and I must concede that I got played.

In the end even the new bit in the book was nothing new.

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 https://www.diggitmagazine.com/column/charlie-kirk-culture-war-groyper-trolls ) 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.

Vox Day objects to a two-year old post

Well this is very odd. Infamous nationalist Vox Day has a new post [http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/10/mailvox-spotting-quality.html ] dedicated to little old me but oddly it is about this post from two years ago: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/spotting-fakery/

“One of the more inept File 770ers – which is saying something – is Camestros Fappletron. His Gamma backside is still burning from the spanking he received here in 2016 after he tried to pose as a Master of Rhetoric and only succeeded in demonstrating that he simply did not understand Aristotle’s distinction between rhetoric and dialectic.
So, it’s more than a little amusing to note that he’s been trying to retroactively rectify the situation for years, as Samuel Collingwood Smith noted.
Earlier today, a leftist left a negative comment on a review I did in 2016 of Vox Day’s “A Throne of Bones”. They ended by linking to a hatepost claiming the positive Amazon reviews were deceptive based on an analysis by a site called Fakepost.com from 2017. Because, of course, the accuracy of a self-appointed analysis site using an unpublished algorithm is beyond question..
I had no idea what he was talking about, because of course I pay absolutely no attention to Camestros or his incessant anklebiting. But apparently, back in 2017, File 770’s Master of Rhetoric decided to prove that many of the 332 reviews of A Throne of Bones, which average 4.5 stars, are fake.”

Sadly Vox’s reading comprehension is still less than stellar or maybe his grasp of logic — oh what the heck, probably both. Vox’s tome was what I was using to examine at Fakespot not vice-versa. My conclusion wasn’t that his reviews were fake but that Fakespot would struggle to spot the difference between fake and sycophantic. Here’s me:

Ouch…but to some extent, we already know that the comment section of Vox’s blog is full of willing volunteers ready to do sycophanting stuff and/or trolling/griefing at Vox’s request. Arguably those are genuine reviews, just that they are hard to distinguish between click-farm fakery. Think of it as a kind of Turing Test, which his right-wing minions repeatedly fail by acting like…well, minions.

Meanwhile back to Vox. He also complains that:

“Sadly for the ever-inept Fappletron, he didn’t bother checking Fakepost to confirm that its initial analysis still held true, as Mr. Smith informs us.”

I’m not sure what he means here. Does he think I should be regularly updating that post from 2017 with the current fake-ness rating of his reviews? That would be just weird. As for checking AT THE TIME whether the ratings changed? Yup, did that and made a point of it:

[A note of caution: the site doesn’t re-analyse automatically so the analysis you get may be out of date. The initial ratings for those two books were different but changed when I clicked the option to re-analyse]

So returning to the point. Don’t know about whoever left a comment on a blog I hadn’t heard of but no, I was not saying Vox Day’s review comments were fake just that at the time Fakespot would have a hard time spotting the difference between his minions’ reviews and fake ones.

Anyway, the good news for any regular at File 770, as I am officially now one of the most inept that makes most of your LESS inept according to Vox and you may style yourselves accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Earth keeps spinning…

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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/about/people/RSimmon.html 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…