Category: Reason Hell

The Surprisingly Inevitable Al-Right Rehabilitation of Stalin

It is still early days and I don’t expect the alt-right to start waving flags with Stalin’s image on in it any day soon but the man who was once the top villain in the right’s roster of the evils of socialism is getting a new image.

For those of us on the left this is both unexpected and predictable. As the right has increasingly ditched a facade of libertarianism and increasingly become open in its authoritarianism, the attraction of the ultimate ‘strongman’ politician is obvious. Stalin has a lot of innate appeal for the alt-right: unlike Hitler, Stalin was not a loser; Stalin was a nationalist and Stalin enacted extreme ethnic policies including forced relocations of populations. An ideology that is intent on valourising the powerful man who exerts his will on the world around him may be ideologically closer to the Nazis but by their own standards Stalin better resembled their ideal. Looking for a superman, they start to eye the self-styled man of steel.

In my sample of one, crypto-fascist Vox Day has of late been making some steps in this direction:

“One thing that you really come away with is a tremendous respect for the evil intelligence of Stalin, he was much, much brighter than Hitler.” http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/06/darkstream-wrong-about-hitler.html

A minor comment but remember this is from somebody who values IQ and military prowess as core aspects of a man’s worth (“man” used there not in a gender-neutral sense).

This rehabilitation is wider and deeper than Stalin’s own shift towards fascism. The pro-Trump right necessarily has to admire Vladimir Putin — by casting Putin as an ally, any collusion between Trump and Putin becomes a matter of Trump pre-emptively working with an ally rather than obvious treason. Putin himself, as an authoritarian, anti-progressive nationalist is an attractive figure to the pro-Trump right. Putin’s public statements on Stalin are mixed, condemning Stalin’s more obvious evil acts while praising his WorldWar 2 leadership, nationalism and industrialisation. The extent to which Putin’s government is itself funding or promoting the alt-right is not known.

The deeper aspect is the weird mythology being embraced by the alt-right. This mythology is hard to describe as it is often contradictory or so absurd as to be unclear whether it is genuinely believed. The mythology embraces such things as the bizarre ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory, the related ‘Storm’ conspiracy theory (fabricated from an offhand comment by Trump regarding the ‘calm before the storm’),existing anti-semitic/anti-masonic conspiracy tropes from the nineteenth century refurbished for modern times and to top it all Christian apocalyptic millennialism.

In Vox Day’s version of this mythology at least, Trump and Putin are heroic figures saving the world from a globalist conspiracy (or “Neo-Babylonian Death cult” aka “The Cabal”) that would have otherwise led to a US/Russian nuclear war, in the aftermath of which the conspirators would have taken over the world (or what was left of it). I’m afraid this requires a lengthy quote from Vox, as it is one of those Jordan Peterson-like flights of association that make very little sense in their full context but even less sense as small quotes:

“Now what is the architectural statement that is being made by the EU Parliament in Strasbourg? What they are very clearly stating in a language that anyone who speaks architecture can understand is that they represent Babel. They are the new Babel, and so the connection that a lot of people don’t make, the connection that a lot of people don’t realize is that these are the same people who in the U.S. are called neocons. They’re the same people who in the old Soviet Union were called communists, Bolshevik,  and eventually, Trotskyites. The difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism in the 1930s was that Trotsky stood for world revolution.

Stalin on the other hand picked up the idea of communism in one country. Now obviously the Soviet Union was not a good place, it was not anywhere you’d like to live, it was a economic contradiction in terms, it was bound to fail. Alexander Solzhenitsyn did a good job of chronicling the evils of Stalinist communism, but the fact is was that once communism ceased to be Trotskyite, it ceased to be the primary vehicle for world revolution. And because of the growing power of the United States, because of the fact that in the United States you had the only surviving industrial economy, you know you had the only global power that had not been destroyed during World War II, that became the center of the world revolution. They don’t call it Trotskyism, they called it neoconservatism, but if you read Irving Krystol – he’s the father of Bill Kristol, the fake conservative and Never Trumper – the neoconservatives were the heirs of Leon Trotsky, they’re the heirs of global revolution, and that’s why the neocons are constantly pressing for war with everyone, but they’re particularly pressing for war with Russia because Russia has escaped their grasp. They began to lose their grasp on it thanks to Stalin.” http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/07/darkstream-trump-putin-and-religious-war.html

I leave the anti-semitic subtext as an exercise for the reader.

The key sentence is this: “They began to lose their grasp on it thanks to Stalin.” In the mythology Stalin’s struggles with Trotsky where the struggle of a nationalist versus an agent of the globalist conspiracy which by the distorted reasoning of the mythology puts Stalin on the side of the Christians against “the Cabal”.

I suspect we’ll see more favourable or nuanced takes on Stalin from multiple far-right sources in the future.

[Links included for reference. I’m not doing archived links currently as it felt like I was archiving obnoxious stuff as free labour.

Additional link: http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/07/qanon-users-guide.html ]

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Review: The Incredibles 2

There is a lot of nostalgia around the original Incredibles film and not without reason. The film managed to capture a sense of superhero stories with a story that understood the history of the genre without feeling the need to treat it with reverence. Arguably it demonstrated that the best approach for a superhero film was to create its own cast of heroes (a theory refuted by the MCU). Yet it was also very much a Pixar film which meant clever artful animation telling character and emotion driven stories with an appeal across ages.

At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely. Starting almost at the same point as the last film ends. The Parr family are still juggling the demands of a young family (work, baby, school) with the pressure to use their powers for good in a world where superheroes are still illegal. The good news is that there is popular (and financial) pressure to decriminalise superheroes and Elastigirl is exactly the hero who could be the public face of a move to win people over.

As with the original film there is a right-leaning individualism that suits the superhero genre well. Some of the stay-at-home-dad jokes feel like they are from an older decade but they serve to point out how physical and psychologically exhausting childcare is (although more so when your baby can move through additional dimensions).

The underlying super villain plot is genuinely exciting (although not hard to work out the twist). As other have pointed out, there is a reliance on some strong flashing light sequences that while artfully done, probably should have had a warning.

Clever and warm and character driven, The Incredibles 2 still manages to be one of the best superhero films in what is now a crowded category. At the same time it is a family driven drama full of compassion and humanity. I really loved it. I’m going to watch many times 🙂

Freddy Nietzsche – The Fastest Draw in the West

A True Story – In Places.

Due to sundry events to which I am merely a spectator, I found myself on the online encyclopedia known as ‘Wikipedia’ the other day. Now due to a slip of the cursor, I clicked on the wrong link and found myself on the biography of one Johnny Ringo, a gentleman of the nineteenth-century persuasion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Ringo

420px-johnny_ringoNow my first thought was, I should imagine, much the same as any student of the romantic world of America’s wild west: “Wait, isn’t that a photograph of Friederich Nietzsche, well know nineteenth-century philosopher and author of Thus Spoke Zarathustra?”

I mean it does look an awful lot like him.

I mean it looks EXACTLY like him, more or less.

440px-nietzsche187aPut another way, this picture of the man who coined the term Übermensch (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche) is clearly the same person. Yes, yes, the haircut is slightly different but that’s the same expression, eyes, nose, huge moustache and THE SAME COLLAR AND TIE. It’s basically the same guy but photographed at a different angle and with better quality film.

‘No, wait!’ I hear you cry, ‘that’s nuts and you’ve been reading too many wacky internet theories and your critical powers have turned to mush you silly, silly man. Everybody in Victorian times looked like that even in countries not actually ruled by Queen Victoria.”

Now, I will concede that nineteenth-century photography and male grooming habits may disguise important different facial features because of fixed expressions, evolving technology and huge amounts of facial hair but I did a test. You can do it yourself. Look up pictures of Johnny Ringo’s contemporaries such as Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday or others involved in the Gunfight at the OK Corral and check to see if any of them:

  • Also look Nietzsche (answer: no they don’t)
  • Also look like any other contemporaneous notable philosophers (answer: no they don’t)

‘Yes, but it is still a superficial…’ let me stop you right there dear reader. Look at this image below. This is the two images above superimposed. I swear to the ghost of William of Ockham that I’ve only done the following to them: flipped the Johnny R image left-right, resized it uniformly and change the opacity of the layer so you can see Freddy N underneath.

ringonietz

The ears don’t quite match up and Freddy’s moustache is a bit wilder, but otherwise? That, people, is a match.

No, no, it is no use holding your palm to your face and shaking your head like that and mumbling ‘I remember when this blog used to make sense’. We have to face facts. Friedrich Nietzsche and Johnny Ringo were the same dodgy desperado! One, the scourge of Tomb Stone Arizona and the other the scourge of German philosophy!

‘OK, despite you demanding we all practise non-cynical scepticism and examine outrageous ideas critically, you have convinced me that these two people who led public lives on two different continents are the same person but how is that possible?’ – Good question!

So Freddy was born in 1844, Johnny was (ostensibly) born 1850 – an age difference easily obscured. Indeed, Freddy would have spent much of his life under the gentle and damp weather conditions of Prussia and hence probably would have looked young for his age among the rowdy cowboys of Cochise County, their skin prematurely aged by the harsh sun and dry dusty conditions.

Now up to about 1876, Freddy’s life is very public and well documented. Over that same period, an outlaw known as Johnny Ringo was active in Texas and was involved in the so-called Mason County War. Clearly, those two people are different.

In 1876 Freddy becomes disillusioned with Wagner and possibly is suffering from his experiences as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Now the “official” history of Nietzsche has him becoming an ‘independent’ philosopher – essentially breaking formal ties to institutions by 1879 and living off a pension and travelling with friends.

In reality* this was all a cover – an elaborate facade constructed with the aid of friends, relatives and accomplices. In truth, Freddy had left to become a cowboy outlaw in the Wild West. Entranced by lurid tales of gunslingers and adventures and a world where men were men and nobody could spell ‘nihilism’, Freddy had found the perfect antidote to his pessimism and disenchantment. Instead of watching Wagner play-acting as Seigfried, Freddy could make his way to a world where epic heroes still walked the earth and had their deeds written as sagas.

Somehow, Freddy managed to be both exactly right and exactly wrong about that.

In truth, the era of the Wild West was already in its final stages. Railroads now crossed the continent and law and order was being systematically (often brutally) established.

The one place that was still the epitome of the Wild West was Tombstone Arizona — a bustling but often lawless town, still growing off the back of mining boom. The miners were mainly immigrants – including many from Germany. It was there Freddy headed, taking up the identity of an outlaw who had died in Texas and the first thing he did was to join an outlaw gang of cowboys known as the Cochise County Cowboys.

“Johnny” first turns up in Tombstone in 1879 around the time Nietzsche ‘officially’ had resigned as professor of philology at the University of Basel. No more lecturing bored Swiss students! Now he’d be rustling cattle and raising mayhem!

The events in Tombstone over the next four years have become legendary. Nietzsche himself didn’t participate in the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral (despite what the movies say) but he tussled with Doc Holliday and pursued Wyatt Earp as part of a rival posse established by the county sheriff. Meanwhile, in Europe, Freddy’s friends staged elaborate ways of establishing that Nietzsche was still in Europe.

Officially, “Johnny” died in 1882 due to a gunshot to the head – which may have been self-inflicted or may have been an execution. In truth** we will never know whose body that really was but what we do know is that after an appropriate amount of time for Nietzsche to make his way back to Europe, he turns up in Leipzig looking for an academic position, having ‘split’ from his ‘friends’ Lou Salomé and Paul Rée (in truth*** he didn’t know them – they had been hired to maintain the cover story).

From there the official narrative starts up again. Nietzsche’s sister, inspired by Freddy’s wild west adventure decides in 1886 to start a new life in Paraguay with her antisemitic husband. “Been there, done that.”**** says Freddy, treating the ‘Americas’ as a single entity and not meaning that he literally had been to Paraguay.

And there you have it. The strange, fabricated forgotten history of Friedrich Nietzsche Outlaw Cowboy and how he nearly (but not quite) fought at the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

True story.*****

*[for some values of reality]

**[for some values of truth]

***[‘truth’ as in ‘make this story work’]

****[In German but it is from Nietzsche that we get this phrase]

*****[in some reality or other surely?]

 

 

Must we? Apparently.

Prominent former leaders of the Sad Puppies campaign have completely moved on from that whole business. So much so that it seems like a week can’t go by without one of them offering a new revised history of events.

This week it’s Sarah Hoyt.

Now I’m a lazy but forward thinking man and over two years ago I decided to save future me sometime. https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/the-potted-responses-of-camestros-felapton/

But there are a few points in Hoyt’s post I didn’t cover there but most I’ve covered in later posts. So in order, here is a reply to Hoyt’s post:

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/the-potted-responses-of-camestros-felapton/#5

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/the-potted-responses-of-camestros-felapton/#27

Sarah Hoyt promised that Sad Puppies 5 would be a way of recommending books – it never eventuated. Running a divisive campaign to try and make others reshape the Hugos into something Hoyt wanted but couldn’t be bothered to do herself is not a great endorsement of the Sad Puppy campaign -even assuming Hoyt is being honest here.

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/the-potted-responses-of-camestros-felapton/#47

The Wikipedia article in Sad Puppies doesn’t even use the word ‘supremacist’ and doesn’t call Sad Puppies “white supremacists” or propagate any lies about them: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Puppies

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/the-potted-responses-of-camestros-felapton/#52

“Then how did we think we could achieve our goals?” That’s not even a clever strawman.

“It starts with their being enormous racists.” [sigh] a few sentences ago, Hoyt was arguing that the Sad Puppies couldn’t be racist because some of the leading figures were members of ethnic minority groups. Many noted opponents of Sad Puppies were members of ethnic minority groups therefore one of both of Hoyt’s claims is false (hint: its both).

“They think they’re helping “minorities” and “the oppressed” by telling minorities and the oppressed how to think and feel, ” now I can’t say I’ve ever had much success telling people how to think and definitely not how to feel. Hoyt blithely assumes “minorities” are like easily led children and then lectures everybody else about racism…

“They assume that people of color (any color, even my spun-gold) can’t compete with standard white people.  They assume that women can’t compete with men.  They assume that gay people are fragile flowers who’ll be destroyed by the wrong word.” – I know that isn’t true about most of the so called “SJWs” than I know. However, I do know Brad Torgersen thinks PoC and women writers who have won a Hugo could only do so via ‘affirmative action’ https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/youve-probably-forgotten-about-brad-torgersen-by-now-so-apologies-for-reminding-you/

“Academic jobs” – https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/hugos-for-academics/

“If you follow all those assumptions and you have some experience in Academia, you know that the left insists on giving awards on the basis of race, sex, etc, because that helps with university jobs.  (To be fair most of them also work in academia.)” – a special Hoyt combo move! Nope – firstly Hugo winners are generally not academics (I can think of two in recent years), a Hugo award wouldn’t help them much, the person who thinks women and PoC can’t compete is Sad Pup Brad Torgersen who keeps calling such wins “affirmative action” and denies that they are wins on merit.

“Ignored in all this is indie, of course, because you know, it doesn’t fit in the academic career plan.” – The Hugos rewards independent publishers and authors: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/awards-and-independents/

“So, you know, you can’t keep anyone from writing.  And with indie you can’t keep anyone from publishing.” True and yet notable Sad Pups have claimed that people with even less power over what gets published (including little old me) have been trying to sabotage careers. https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/was-antonelli-set-up/

“Ignored in all this too is the fact that writers write.” Then WRITE! Literally nobody on the left hand side of things is stopping or can stop Sarah Hoyt from writing.

Les Moulins de Mon Cœur

So the original French title of the song “Windmills of Your Mind” translates as “Windmills of My Heart”. Somebody with more talent than I could probably spin that factlet out into a lengthy essay on the difference between the Continental and Analytic strands of philosophy in the Twentieth Century.

Instead it behooves me to bow to the inevitable wheel within a wheel and present to you like a tunnel within a tunnel, like a turd within a loo, Vox Day reviewing Jordan Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life. Regular Link and Archive Link.

Fairs fair, I’ll concede to agree with a lot of what Vox Day writes about Peterson here. Elsewhere, Vox is going further off the rails trying to dismantle Peterson’s theory of truth. Of course, Peterson doesn’t actually have a theory of truth, he’s just spouting the first thing that comes into his head and then covering up the mess with argle-bargle. Vox’s main concern is that Peterson is offering a heretical alternative to Vox’s more extreme position on the question of ‘how pro-fascism can we be without admitting it’. Peterson I’ll grant is somebody who really doesn’t want to be a fascist but for reasons best known to him has accepted a whole pile of premises which makes him susceptible to right wing authoritarianism. Is ‘fascist ideation’ a concept? I feel uneasy just making up a term by adding ‘ideation’ to it.

“However, the more sophisticated reader cannot help but notice that Peterson does not follow his own rules, particularly the three which relate to speaking precisely, telling the truth, and getting one’s own house in order before trying to fix the world.”

Correct and I think this is the most obvious and negating of Peterson’s book. He fails on all three fronts in the book itself and even more broadly when you look at his wider statements, videos etc.

This next paragraph by Vox Day also is hard to disagree with:

“Peterson is an engaging and accessible writer when he is simply recounting events of the past or relating experiences from his own life. He is a sympathetic author, and he effectively communicates the way in which the tragedy and suffering he has experienced throughout his life have made a deep impression on his psyche. It is when he tries to wax profound and articulate his underlying philosophy that his writing invariably wades into a swamp of nonsensical name-dropping that is less Jungian than Joycean, a meandering waking stream of consciousness that not only fails to substantially support the nominal premise, but often bears no relationship to it whatsoever.”

After that Vox’s review becomes less insightful. His agenda here is to try and negate the influence of Peterson on people within Vox Day’s target audience – the ideologically adrift anti-left seeking order. His capacity to critique Peterson is limited by his inability to address many of Peterson’s more silly ideas because Vox shares many of them (e.g. IQ essentialism, dominance hierarchies as the main tool for analysing society etc.)

Vox correctly points out that Peterson is not a conventional Christian but then neither is Vox Day. He also says that Peterson is not of the right but fails to explain how he is of either the centre or the left. Vox is closer to understanding Peterson when he focuses on his essential incoherence but pushes on as if the contradictions Peterson pushes don’t matter and a single message can be divined within the details.

Who is worse? Vox is a clearer writer when it comes to non-fiction but then he says much worse things than Peterson does but then again Peterson seems to be a more prevelant gateway drug for this nonsense. It’s just a layers of appaling really…it’s like…it’s like…

Like a fascist reviewing fascists,
Like a heel reviewing heels,
Like some nonsense written clearly,
Like some similie on wheels,
Like some appalling human being
With a mega-selling book,
Like a wannabe sci-fi author,
With a podgy skin-head look,
Like a tunnel in a tunnel with a tunnel underneath,
Like a really boring lecture on the nature of belief,
Like a song with too many lyrics,
Like Canadian academe,
Like you really hate this party,
But you don’t want to make a scene,
Like the windmills that you start,
In the Netherlands of your heart.

 

No, that doesn’t settle it.

A Washington Post article about a research paper claims to have settled the question of whether to put one space or two spaces after a full-stop (or as Americans like to say a ‘period’*).

The research neatly encapsulates some of the elements of questions of objectivity and meaning that I keep returning to.

The research had two components. The first was about usage and is interesting but not consequential. The second is of more note. Using eye-tracking, the researchers measured how a number of people followed sentences they were reading. Using that data, they could compare the relative reading ease of texts that used a single space after a full-stop and texts that used two spaces.

The results showed a small advantage for two spaces. By ‘small’ I mean:

  • ‘comprehension was not affected by punctuation spacing’ i.e. there was no measurable difference in how well subjects understood the texts they were reading.
  • there was some evidence that ‘initial processing of the text was facilitated when periods were followed by two spaces’.

So practically, two-spaces was not obviously better but MAYBE it required a smaller effort to read, perhaps. Note this second conclusion requires its own chain of inference that’s not well established i.e. it assumes that the processing of the text was facilitated but that was not measured directly.

But the bigger issue (mentioned in the WP article but not in the abstract of the paper) was that the text used was…

 ...in a monospaced font.

That does not make any of the findings in the report invalid. It doesn’t undermine the quality of the methodology used. It doesn’t make the findings less objective BUT it does entirely miss the point of the underlying argument.

The two-space versus one-space debate pertains to the transition from typewriters to modern wordprocessing. Classic typewriters had to use common widths between letters due to the mechanics of a typewriter, including a degree of error as to exactly where a letter might be placed. Modern word-processing uses typefaces where letters and the spacing around them are customised for not just individual letters but also for punctuation. The two-space versus one-space argument is one about the transition from classic typing to modern word-processing.

There is a parallel with drug trials here. For example a new drug or treatment might be compared with a placebo. That’s a scientifically legitimate approach to collecting data and looking at efficacy. However, its often not the relevant question. More pertinent is how the new drug compares with existing treatment rather than a placebo.

The point being – what is the underlying issue or what is the question being asked? These are more vague, more wooly aspects of scientific inquiry but also deeply important. The more clarity on those aspects help us judge whether empirical evidence is relevant to the question being asked.

However, my point above does not mean the research was wasted. It does demonstrate a couple of things:

  • The typing habit of using two spaces after a full stop had some merit.
  • The possible advantage of using two spaces is very small.

I don’t think either conclusion helps out the two-spacers much. The first implies social habits and vague aesthetics of people who type can be trusted – and that would tend towards favouring the one-spacer’s attitude to modern texts with modern fonts. The second implies that the cost-benefit of using two spaces is a best marginal and at worst a waste of time. Although, I’m clearly showing my one-spaced prejudices here.

*(As we are engaged in trivial quibbles of no actual consequence, let me just say that ‘period’ should be retired as a name for the full-stop. It should then be re-allocated to the n-dash whose role is often to indicate a period of time, such as when it joins two dates together. I also have opinions about hyphens and dashes that I will reserve for another post – I feel the controversy would just be WAY too much for you all.)