Captain Marvel versus the Trolls

Multiple news sources are covering that the new (and as yet unseen) Captain Marvel movie is being review-bombed by right wing trolls. The amount of coverage of this has itself increased just in the past few hours but this link seems to be one of the first articles on it:

I’d actually thought about writing about how the alt-right campaign against the film had started to warm up the other day after seeing our old-pal Vox Day jump on the bandwagon (archive link)…but didn’t because I’m lazy and/or got distracted. What I can offer instead of an amazingly insightful prediction that obnoxious misogynists are about to be misogynistic obnoxiously is some graphs!

I grabbed the review data from Rotten Tomatoes so that I can show graphically the influx of reviews. Unfortunately, I would have liked to show another film for comparison but it’s hard to get a like for like. The nearest equivalent with a similar release date and no pre-screening reviews yet is Disney’s live action version of Dumbo. That has only one page of user reviews/comments so far, as opposed to Captain Marvel’s six pages but I don’t think it is a like-for-like in terms of organic interest.

Here’s the first graph for Captain Marvel. It’s a running total of comments over time. It’s a longgggg time axis because the first comment is from 2015! Rotten Tomatoes (and similar sites) create entries for movies that have been announced even before production begins.

Interest (mainly positive but some negative) starts picking up from last July and subsequent trailers lead to more comments (again some positive and some negative). Some of the coverage of this troll attack is focused on the absurdity of people rating films that haven’t been seen yet but at this point, it is technically Rotten Tomatoes allowing people to say whether they are “Not interested” or “Want to see it”. Some of the comments are literally spam and some of the earlier comments are anti-Disney etc.

The next graph zooms in to the last few months:

There’s a spike of comments in February. Obviously some of that is an inevitable increase as the release date gets closer but the more overt hate comments really ramp up. The worst include comments about the lead actress (Brie Larson) being hit by a bus. The length of the comments also increase in the form of what are best called rants:

“Why Marvel decided to cast a very vocal racist and sexist aimed at white males, I’ll never know. If Robert Downey Jr. started saying that he didn’t care about the opinions of 40 year old white chicks and he doesn’t want to be interviewed by a white woman as its not inclusive enough, people would lose their minds. His career would be over, branded a racist and sexist, attacked in the media and his legacy tarnished. As a white male, I will not be supporting this or any other movie that stars Brie Larson. They say that Captain Marvel will be the new face of the MCU? As the villain because she certainly isn’t a her-o. “

How many is it though? Well, one comment anticipating somebody dying in a bus accident is one too many but for a sense of scale it’s about 14 comments over the past 10 days that are of the ‘arrghh SJWs! Feminazi!’ style crap. It’s not a huge number and the spike shown above is inflated by other people querying why there are so many anti comments for a film nobody has seen yet.

It’s a reasonable assumption that this is just the start though.

Gab is the walking dead now

Speaking of far-right social media alternatives, Gab the ‘free-speech’ alt-twitter that became so toxic even toxic-trolls stopped using it, is somehow still in existence. However, Gab’s own web host is questioning the number of users it has. A Southern Poverty Law Center report on Friday reveals a huge discrepancy between the number of users Gab claims to have and the number it probably has:

‘In a series of interviews, emails and text messages, Lilac Kapul said Gab’s claims in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings on Dec. 19 and Jan. 28 of more than 835,000 users greatly exceeds the internet infrastructure capacity that London-based Sibyl is providing to Gab. Kapul, a resident of Brisbane, Australia, also said Gab’s user data indicates that most of the active users on the site signed up soon after it was launched in August 2016, raising questions about Gab’s claims of rapid growth. “Based on what they are getting through us services-wise there is no way they have 800,000 users, or it would be very odd if they did,” Kapul told Hatewatch. “I would say they probably have a few thousand or a few tens of thousands. That sounds a lot more believable.”

Perhaps the more interesting story in the SPLC piece is not Gab but the shadowy web-hosting service they use called “Sibyl”. Based in London but run apparently by people in their late-teens scattered in different countries, the company also is a web host for a “incel” forum and has even dodgier connections than that.

A short update on the failed alt-right social media thing

I did you all a favour and listened to a video by Vox Day about why he pulled the plug on his social media thing. It wasn’t the GDPR issue, which I’d assumed became too complex to allow the thing to function but rather another dispute with a different organisation. The platform was set up using a service from a group called Fediway — a sort of evangelical Christian version of the social-media service Mastodon i.e. a platform that’s intended to work as a network of connected hubs. I’d say more about Fediway but literally their “About Us” text is Lorem Ipsum stuff. They also run their own distinct Twitter-clone called “OneWay” that has its own cryptocurrency in an attempt to combine nuttery.

According to VD (i.e. take this with a pinch of salt) Fediway had offered their service and servers for free but then later asked for money. Also they had issues with how VD was promoting the service. I’ve no particular reason to doubt this story other than the source’s (Vox Day) habit of misrepresentation.

A new record in grandiose alt-right plans collapsing

Vox Day’s alternative to Twitter has died unmourned having not even lasted long enough for me to write a post about it or give it a silly name.

“I’m sorry to have to inform everyone that SocialGalactic 1.0 has gone down for the count. By which I mean that we are permanently pulling the plug on this particular form of it.”

A swift merciful death when compared to Voxopedia which continues to corner the market in trasnphobia, conspiracy theories and surprisingly comprehensive Englbert Humpedinck discography.

Looks like we’ve got incoming from Vox Day

So I looked at Vox Day’s public LinkedIn page yesterday and today Vox has a post complaining that I did (archive link). Which is weird. More weird is most of the post is devoted to Greg Hullender’s informative comment about Amazon’s approach to removing books from sale – with a link to Greg’s LinkedIn page! Apparently, Vox took that as a threat or an instruction guide or something — ignoring that he claims SJWs are already delisting his books so presumably would know how to do it already.

Anyway, just so you know: DO NOT GAZE UPON THE LINKEDIN OF VOX for it is not for mere mortal souls.

Amazon crackdown?

Has Amazon taken down books from the far-right Castalia House publishing outfit aka Vox Day’s vanity publisher? Vox Day is claiming that they have:

“You may have noticed that you can’t find any Castalia House ebooks on Amazon right now. That’s because Amazon shut down our KDP account on the basis of a wildly spurious claim of publishing material to which we do not have the necessary rights. “

[archive link]

The work that seems to have caught Amazon’s attention is Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1) which Day published (and probably wrote) as a kind of spoiler for the release of John Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire (which I read here).

The book in question already had a checkered history. Back in March 2017 Mike Glyer covered the various ins-and-outs of its availability:

Checking Amazon right now, I can see a variety of Castalia House books being listed. I can also see the audio-book version of Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)  but not the ebook. It’s possible that Amazon had a more sweeping in its takedown of Castalia House earlier but we only have Day’s word for it and he’s not a reliable source.

Day is, of course, presenting this as some kind of authoritarian crackdown etc. etc. but the whole “joke” of his book was that it was meant to have a cover and title and author name intended to look like a more popular book. The rationale given was that it was a parody but the book itself isn’t a parody of John Scalzi’s book aside from its cover.

In short, the self-own keeps owning. A poorly thought-out attempt by Vox Day to strike another blow in his long-running “gamma” grievance against John Scalzi continues to disrupt his own business and its main source of income. A borderline case of deceptive marketing will continue to be a borderline case of deceptive marketing and will keep on biting him on his metaphorical bottom. The master strategist strikes again…

[eta: and apparently Castalia has been re-instated ]

Reading Molyneux So You Don’t Have to: Ethics

Molyneux not only doesn’t have a distinct philosophy of truth or metaphysics or theology but he doesn’t have a sufficient grasp of the these topics to see that he doesn’t have one. I’m not sure his grasp of ethics is much better but he does have his own brand of ethics. It has a name “universally preferable behaviour” which at least nominally points towards Kant as an inspiration.

Molyneux has written about his theory of ethics on multiple occasions. He wrote a long treatment of it in 2007 that’s available as a free PDF from his website (UPB: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics – archive link). It’s an interesting read only if you want to chart Molyneux’s capacity to write philosophically — which appears to be declining over time. I don’t want to imply that this earlier work is good or intelligible, it isn’t, but it at least feels like he’s exploring ideas. He is also clearer back in 2007 that his ideas connect with other philosophers:

“As Hume famously pointed out, it is impossible to derive an “ought” from an “is.” What he meant by that was that preference in no way can be axiomatically derived from existence. It is true that a man who never exercises and eats poorly will be unhealthy. Does that mean that he “ought” to exercise and eat well? No. The “ought” is conditional upon the preference. If he wants to be healthy, he ought to exercise and eat well. It is true that if a man does not eat, he will die – we cannot logically derive from that fact a binding principle that he ought to eat. If he wants to live, then he must eat. However, his choice to live or not remains his own. “

Molyneux, Stefan. UPB: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, 2007, (page 30)

David Hume, the is/ought distinction or the general term “Humean” don’t appear in the later work. However, the same tendency to vagueness while asserting clarity is apparent in the 2007 work. Also, Molyneux is already attempting to win arguments in advance with appeals to a kind of weaponised begging-the-question:

“In general, any theory that contradicts itself in the utterance cannot be valid. It does not require external disproof, since it disproves itself. We do not need to examine every nook and cranny in the universe to determine that a “square circle” does not exist. The very concept is self-contradictory, and thus disproves itself in the utterance. “

Molyneux, Stefan. UPB: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, 2007, (page 31)

Eleven years later he is using a modified form of this:

“Testing the hypothesis of an argument against the methodology of communicating the argument is a powerful method for rejecting irrational arguments.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 1087-1088). Kindle Edition.

He aims to appeal to the basic principle of non-contradiction but this is mainly a rhetorical move on his part. It is a revision of a technique used by followers of Ayn Rand who would defiantly assert that “A is A” as their deep logical insight and therefore that they cannot be wrong because [here they insert a convoluted and tendentious argument] they are really just asserting that a thing is what it is. Molyneux’s strategy is an improvement on that but not by much. He aims to appeal to the principle that it cannot be the case that A is not-A and that when you say that he is wrong, you are asserting that he is right.

To get to this point with ethics, Molyneux asserts a principle of infinite preference.

“If I point at Africa on a map and refer to it as the Arctic, and you correct me, it might not be much of a debate, but clearly you are correcting me with reference to the true name of that continent, which is Africa. You are not saying you have a made-up name for the continent, personal to you, and that you would like me to indulge you by referring to the continent by that name – you are in essence saying two things:

1. The correct name for the continent is “Africa.”

2. Using the correct name is infinitely preferable to using the incorrect name.

I use the phrase “infinitely preferable” because some preferences are relative, and some preferences are absolute.”

Molyneux, Stefan. Essential Philosophy: How to know what on earth is going on (Kindle Locations 2257-2263). Kindle Edition.

I won’t belabour the flaws in the example (which are many) as I assume if given long enough he could come up with a better example less dependent on contextual language. The key point is Molyneux’s claim that if a person corrects another person then they are implying an infinite preference for the truth. In 2007 he makes his point clearer by avoiding a confused example:


If you correct me on an error that I have made, you are implicitly accepting the fact that it would be better for me to correct my error. Your preference for me to correct my error is not subjective, but objective, and universal. You don’t say to me: “You should change your opinion to mine because I would prefer it,” but rather: “You should correct your opinion because it is objectively incorrect.” My error does not arise from merely disagreeing with you, but as a result of my deviance from an objective standard of truth. Your argument that I should correct my false opinion rests on the objective value of truth – i.e. that truth is universally preferable to error, and that truth is universally objective.

Molyneux, Stefan. UPB: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, 2007, (page 35)

It’s a better argument. Not a great one but it at least attempts to get at the idea that preferring to be right is a kind of ethical choice. That it is universally or infinitely preferable though is simply asserting what needs to be demonstrated. The is/ought distinction is still there and if somebody consistently chooses to be wrong there isn’t a 100% watertight reason why being factually/logically right should be chosen above being wrong in all circumstances. We essentially appeal to the virtue of correctness.

It is a virtue that I try to hold myself to and believe in. I can point to many practical circumstances as to why it is better in general, to be right rather than wrong but in a fallible universe where knowledge is imperfect, we have access only to what is apparently factually/logically correct. So aiming to be correct is actually playing the odds. The person stubbornly ignoring reason and evidence in some particular circumstance will sometimes be right.

In 2007 Molyneux pulls this together in this way

“if I argue against the proposition that universally preferable behaviour is valid, I have already shown my preference for truth over falsehood – as well as a preference for correcting those who speak falsely. Saying that there is no such thing as universally preferable behaviour is like shouting in someone’s ear that sound does not exist – it is innately self-contradictory. In other words, if there is no such thing as universally preferable behaviour, then one should oppose anyone who claims that there is such a thing as universally preferable behaviour. However, if one “should” do something, then one has just created universally preferable behaviour. Thus universally preferable behaviour – or moral rules –must be valid. Syllogistically, this is:
1.The proposition is: the concept “universally preferable behaviour” must be valid.
2.Arguing against the validity of universally preferable behaviour demonstrates universally preferable behaviour.
3.Therefore no argument against the validity of universally preferable behaviour can be valid. “

Molyneux, Stefan. UPB: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, 2007, (page 40)

The trick should be now more apparent. Molyneux’s argument is circular. He assumes the concept of infinite preference lies at the heart of any assertion of truth and then declares the argument won because any argument against it is an appeal to truth which he has asserted is one of infinite preference.

Oh and for f_ck’s sake whatever that set of three points is at the end is, it is NOT a syllogism. And NO, by pointing that out I’m not proving Molyneux’s point about infinite preference. I’m just pointing out that he hasn’t a clue what he is talking about.

Back in 2007 I start to feel like he’s trolling me…

“Thus it is impossible that anyone can logically argue against universally preferable behaviour, since if he is alive to argue, he must have followed universally preferred behaviours such as breathing, eating and drinking. Syllogistically, this is:
1. All organisms require universally preferred behaviour to live.
2. Man is a living organism.
3. Therefore all living men are alive due to the practice of universally preferred behaviour.
4. Therefore any argument against universally preferable behaviour requires an acceptance and practice of universally preferred behaviour.
5. Therefore no argument against the existence of universally preferable behaviour can be valid. “

Molyneux, Stefan. UPB: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, 2007, (page 41)

You should have noticed several things by now:

  • I’m quoting from the 2007 book more than the 2018 one.
  • Molyneux doesn’t seem to be grappling with any actual ethical issues.
  • That ‘if you argue with me then I must be right’ trick is very annoying.
  • Molyneux has zero idea what a syllogism is.

This goes nowhere. The point isn’t to illuminate ethical principles but to set up a set of confusing fallacies so that Molyneux can assert that he is right. From there he can assert whatever he decides is right in some circumstance as being right.