What Was the Nerd?
November 16, 2016 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Today’s American fascist youth is neither the strapping Aryan jock-patriot nor the skinheaded, jackbooted punk: The fascist millennial is a pasty nerd watching shitty meme videos on YouTube, listening to EDM, and harassing black women on Twitter. Self-styled “nerds” are the core youth vanguard of crypto-populist fascist movements. And they are the ones most likely to seize the opportunities presented by the Trump presidency.
Willie Osterweil identifies how "The myth of the bullied white outcast loner is helping fuel a fascist resurgence."
posted by SansPoint (214 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
 


I really, really wish we could not allow this particularly noxious strain of entitled (mostly) white (mostly) male asshats to sully the concept of being a "nerd."

I'm confident that I'm not the only one who feels that way.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:15 AM on November 16, 2016 [74 favorites]


Hmmmmmmm....his characterizations are fascinating, but I wonder how he knows this? From his perch in brooklyn has he spent time amongst the pasty faced white nerds or is this just a gross a characterization made up from an angry fantasy.
In no way am i acting as apologist for the alt-right, the are deplorable, but i wonder if they are as easy to sketch as he makes them out to be? and if they are not, perhaps only a deeper look will help to root them out and expose them to the daylight.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:20 AM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


sparklemotion: As a white nerd, that's a big part of why I posted this to the blue. The image of nerddom as a white male thing is absolute bullshit.
posted by SansPoint at 8:21 AM on November 16, 2016 [21 favorites]


Some interesting association with bullied white nerds marching to the beat of the guy who would have bullied them in high school.
posted by INFJ at 8:21 AM on November 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


"Straight, able-bodied white boys may also have been bullied for their perceived nerdiness — although the epithets thrown often reveal a perceived lack of masculinity or heterosexuality — but the statistics on bullying do not report “nerdiness” as a common factor in bullying incidents. Nevertheless, the myth of nerd oppression and its associated jock/nerd dichotomy let every slightly socially awkward white boy who likes sci-fi explain away his privilege and lay his ressentiment at the feet of the nearest women and people of color."

This is where the author loses me. "Yeah, you might have been hassled and punched at school, but that's just your white privilege talking." The author lives in an imaginary universe where people who suffer are forced to get in line and figuratively compare poker hands to see whose suffering quantifies as important and whose quantifies as unimportant.

"The myth of the bullied nerd begins...."

Jesus Christ.

And he goes into long paragraphs about Revenge of the Nerds, a movie that just about anyone recognizes as very problematic to say the least. "Therefore, nerds did not have it really bad, QED."

As Samuel Johnson said, "I refute him thusly." (Kicks rock.)
posted by Roentgen at 8:23 AM on November 16, 2016 [45 favorites]


Why exactly do we have to reduce complicated issues to high school clique war stereotypes?
posted by jonmc at 8:23 AM on November 16, 2016 [83 favorites]


That's such a Claire thing to say.
posted by Etrigan at 8:26 AM on November 16, 2016 [54 favorites]


The nerdy kids are the kids getting bullied by these alt-right jerks and are too shy to speak up about it.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:27 AM on November 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


As someone who was a kid in the eighties, I find the reflections on eighties nerds-on-film really spot on.

There's a difference between the category of "nerd" and "people who are good at math/like anime/etc". I feel like this essay is saying "the idea of 'being a nerd' gels in the eighties as a specifically reactionary thing, under the guise of being about the experiences of bullied kids, smart kids, etc." That's why the movies that have "positive" messages about nerdery are mostly so gross and rapey - the movies really aren't interested in the experiences of bullied kids or smart kids at all; they're interested in rape, patriarchy, racism, hierarchy - they're interested in how certain previously excluded white boys can get a piece of the pie.

That's why Welcome To the Dollhouse has a girl protagonist and a miserable ending - because it's actually about nerd-dom.

I was a bullied kid - I was, in fact, one of those really outcast, everyone-can-pick-on-you kids all through school. I went for a number of years with literally zero friends. Nerd movies, none the less, were a really uneasy space for me - I remember how gross Weird Science made me feel. I also remember knowing that I was still excluded from nerd boy spaces in real life, and that my status as a nerdy fat poor kid was much lower than theirs.

I think historicizing the figure of the nerd is really smart and this is an excellent essay.
posted by Frowner at 8:28 AM on November 16, 2016 [141 favorites]


jonmc, as soon as you start flinging people into categories based on age, gender, and race you inevitably end up with stereotypes. The answer would be to not categorize people - but good luck on that happening.
posted by INFJ at 8:29 AM on November 16, 2016


*shrugs, eats sushi.*
posted by jonmc at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


OHenryPacey: I have lived among the pasty faced white nerds, for I am of them. I remember the anger, and wanting something to reach out to that would explain, make me feel better, and give me power. I never found it.

If I had access to 4chan as a socially isolated, angry, teen boy, I could easily see myself becoming like the angry nerd fascists, in much the same way as I could have seen me "pulling a Columbine" as my peers put it, if I had access to guns.
posted by SansPoint at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


I spend a lot—a lot—of time thinking about how toxic the nerd1 self-mythologizing I came of age with has become.

I was raised essentially from birth to be that guy. My father was a classic nerd: bad skin, glasses, pocket protector, engineering degree from Stanford. And he bore a bizarre panoply grudges because of this—a distrust of the kids of the migrant workers that he'd grown up around, a hatred of "jocks," and a strange resentment of anyone with athletic ability , particularly if they were over about six feet tall. I wish I were joking.

There was hatred in his heart, because the midcentury narratives of masculinity had failed him, and they would continue to fail the nerds. The (edited-for-TV) version of Revenge of the Nerds was gospel in my house. It was only a couple years ago I was vaguely thinking about the movie and realized that holy shit, the nerd "hero" straight-up RAPED that girl.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know how I avoided becoming what this article describes. I was certainly set up for it. I think I got lucky with my friends, who were very patient as I unpacked and unlearned a lot of shit.

But the central irony to me of nerd problem is this: The tools for dismantling the patriarchal framework that served those first nerds so poorly are found only within feminism, and making the leap to understanding that feminism is also good for men is hard. So in rejecting feminism out of hand they lose access to only ideology that offers anything like freedom from the forces they're lashing out against.

I don't know how to solve this problem and it absolutely breaks my heart.

1To be clear, I'm using "nerd" here as shorthand for "white middle-class dude who likes computers and/or comic book shit or whtaever". Obviously the population of actual humans who care about computers and comic book shit is way bigger and more diverse than this tiny definition, which is another reason why this notional nerd identity is such a problem.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2016 [126 favorites]


Basically, the nerds/dorks/geeks of my youth were surprised as anyone else when their precious fandoms became popular and icky girls and minorities loved them too, without ever having the fucking brains to realize that we always loved those things. "Prove you really like X or you're a faker" is the slightest of their sins.
posted by Kitteh at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2016 [26 favorites]


Is the author's assumption even correct?

The Trump voter wasn't a white disaffected educated twenty-year-old. The Trump voter was white and male yes, but mostly had no college and were older than 50. That's Trump's core. Generally, I wouldn't think many of those would be described as nerds.

It's convenient and fun to cast blame like this, but analysis should be firmly based in good information, not supposition.
posted by bonehead at 8:32 AM on November 16, 2016 [33 favorites]


So basically, what he's saying is "the concept of 'nerd' was never really about excluded people; it was about reaction, which is why the identity 'nerd' is now so useful to reactionaries".

There are real excluded people, there are real excluded identities, there are real experiences of exclusion due to culture/wealth/anti-intellectualism/racism/sexual identity/etc. But the figure of the nerd is not really about those people; the figure of the nerd is about making sure that some white straight boys get correctly recognized as the best and most important, with absolute entitlement to women's bodies.

We who were/are excluded may have grouped ourselves around this 'nerd' identity - god knows I did - because it was the representation available in popular culture that sort of, somewhat, halfway spoke to us. But it was never really intended for us, and it sure isn't now.
posted by Frowner at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2016 [47 favorites]


Education was really important this time:

In the 2016 election, a wide gap in presidential preferences emerged between those with and without a college degree. College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52%-44%. This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980. For example, in 2012, there was hardly any difference between the two groups: College graduates backed Obama over Romney by 50%-48%, and those without a college degree also supported Obama 51%-47%.

From the Pew link above.
posted by bonehead at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


bonehead: It's not about Trump voters, it's about Trump's online fandom, and the larger world of nerds using violence and intimation tactics against anyone who isn't a straight white male. See also: GamerGate.
posted by SansPoint at 8:34 AM on November 16, 2016 [48 favorites]


The most likely Trump voter is a high income, lower education rural white male. I don't know how often assistant retail managers, senior people in skilled trades and small business owners play video games obsessively and shit though.

Anyway, I'm glad pop culture affectations are no longer confused with virtue, but it just comes around again to suggest the less than revolutionary claim that men who perform heteronormative masculinity poorly are contemptible.

Revenge of the Nerds is a vile movie, sure.
posted by mobunited at 8:34 AM on November 16, 2016


I dunno, this whole school-as-the-center-of-the-the-universe idea is a fairly recent phenomenon. Looking back from the vantage point of being 45, it's amazing how unimportant all that bullshit seems to me now.
posted by jonmc at 8:34 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is mostly because the serious improvements in computer usability has lowered the bar for nerdhood. Sorting out IRQ conflicts was humbling. Touching a tablet that just works can be done by 18 month olds. The majority of these current asshole nerds would not have been able to qualify as nerds in the good old days. They would have just been known as creeps.
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 AM on November 16, 2016 [45 favorites]


Eh, this sounds like he's equated Trump supporters with 4chan and r/The_Donald.

Mind you, I recognize that I just equated Trump supporters with facists, so there you go.
posted by Mooski at 8:35 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I always hated Revenge of the Nerds and never really saw it as made for my kind.

Real Genius, now, that was different. Or War Games maybe.
posted by Foosnark at 8:36 AM on November 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


If the stereotypical pasty-faced living-in-Mom's-basement "nerds" are the face of fascism in America today, there's not much to worry about. Unfortunately, there are many tens of millions of Americans (a lot of them Trump supporters, it should go without saying) who scare me more than bitter misogynistic internet trolls.
posted by kozad at 8:36 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Can we just go back to calling Trump supporters "deplorables" and get on with it?
posted by signal at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


So basically, what he's saying is "the concept of 'nerd' was never really about excluded people; it was about reaction, which is why the identity 'nerd' is now so useful to reactionaries".

just re-citing this because it seems a lot of people aren't picking it out as the core of the article. Having an argument about 'true' nerds, or whether nerds-of-yore were better because coding was hard or whatever, doesn't really address the core issue which was about the ways in which toxic masculinity were not just represented, but actively heroised and celebrated without being recognised as toxic at all.
posted by AFII at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2016 [54 favorites]


It's not about Trump voters, it's about Trump's online fandom,

The problem with this is that "fandom" was and is so transparently constructed by provocateurs and false agents. Stormfront and the alt-right media was found to be distorting and brigading conversations, and still are, I might add. Is it a real thing or a phantom? The poll data suggest that there's not a lot of there there.

It's odious, yes, but it's not illustrative of how a lot of younger people think, in fact.
posted by bonehead at 8:40 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


In the 2016 election, a wide gap in presidential preferences emerged between those with and without a college degree. College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52%-44%. This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980. For example, in 2012, there was hardly any difference between the two groups: College graduates backed Obama over Romney by 50%-48%, and those without a college degree also supported Obama 51%-47%.

College Educated men went for Trump.
White college graduates went for Trump.

The aggregate data was driven by women and POC being heavily for Clinton.
posted by srboisvert at 8:41 AM on November 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


On the other hand, Gamergate. All the Chan and Reddit shit. They're the leading edge of new fascism. But I wonder how connected these things are to "pasty-faced Nerddom." The alt-right is obsessed with weightlifting, alpha male mythology and all the things that were associated with jock culture. I'm pretty sure these assholes lift and go on dates and shit. But I think, in our heart of hearts, we kind of wish they didn't because then, our political contempt could match our contempt for certain kinds of bodies.
posted by mobunited at 8:41 AM on November 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


The fascist millennial is a pasty nerd watching shitty meme videos on YouTube, listening to EDM, and harassing black women on Twitter.

Hmm. 63% of white men voted for Trump. 53% of white women voted for Trump. If restricted to non-college-graduates, the numbers rise to 72% of white men and 62% of white women. (Source: 538)

Let's not blame EDM for what the majority of white men and women are doing.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


Why exactly do we have to reduce complicated issues to high school clique war stereotypes?

On Wednesdays we wear brownshirts
posted by beerperson at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


bonehead The problem with this is that "fandom" was and is so transparently constructed by provocateurs and false agents. Stormfront and the alt-right media was found to be distorting and brigading conversations, and still are, I might add. Is it a real thing or a phantom?

While it's true what they lack in population they make up for in volume, I worry about their propaganda suckering in more angry, white, young nerds who want an easy answer about why they're not getting laid, or why all their niche interests are "suddenly" full of people demanding they be more inclusive. ("Suddenly" in quotes, because inclusiveness in nerd interests has always been a problem.)
posted by SansPoint at 8:45 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


On the other hand, Gamergate. All the Chan and Reddit shit. They're the leading edge of new fascism. But I wonder how connected these things are to "pasty-faced Nerddom." The alt-right is obsessed with weightlifting, alpha male mythology and all the things that were associated with jock culture. I'm pretty sure these assholes lift and go on dates and shit. But I think, in our heart of hearts, we kind of wish they didn't because then, our political contempt could match our contempt for certain kinds of bodies.

But you see, this is why the essay talks about a figure/image/symbol. The figure of the nerd is used to justify things - "see, I'm a foreveralone and you don't like me because I'm not a jock, so I can send you rape threats" - that are totally detached from the actual bodies and lives in question.

The figure of the nerd is used to organize resentment.

Consider Trump supporters who are not nerds for a parallel - people who are doing fairly well, actually, but who resent women/POC/immigrants/queers like fuck. The figure of the sad oppressed white person is used to hide the actual "decent household income, not actually poor, just hates immigrants" white person.

Similarly, the figure of the nerd is used to hide the reality. Like, obviously, the Gamergaters go on dates, lift, etc; you have only to look at pictures from such social settings. It's the image of the nerd that is used as a rallying point, a way to pretend to victimization.
posted by Frowner at 8:45 AM on November 16, 2016 [120 favorites]


The Trump voter wasn't a white disaffected educated twenty-year-old.

This seems like a deraily straw-man. The author doesn't make the claim that Trump was elected because of American neo-fascists. The author's actual claim:
Self-styled “nerds” are the core youth vanguard of crypto-populist fascist movements. And they are the ones most likely to seize the opportunities presented by the Trump presidency.
They are not important because they elected Donald Trump. They are important because they have seized on Trump as a candidate to popularize and normalize their views.
posted by muddgirl at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2016 [32 favorites]


The problem with this is that "fandom" was and is so transparently constructed by provocateurs and false agents.

As far as provocateurs, yes, that's really standard operating procedure for fascism. A bunch of clownish-seeming trolls loudly and violently spouting off horrendous shit they may or may not believe in until it is normalized and the average citizen starts taking part. That's where the momentum for fascism comes from.

As far as "false agents," what does that even mean in this context?
posted by griphus at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


And the point of the essay is not to say "4chan explains Trump"; it's to say that there exists this idea about what it means to be a nerd that is a reactionary idea, and that explains part of the growth of the young alt-right. Saying that organizing resentment through the image of the nerd is one of the ways that racist white people operate does not let white people generally off the hook.

How precisely are we supposed to understand how white racism works if we can't get our heads around the idea that it works in multiple ways?
posted by Frowner at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2016 [40 favorites]


I don't know, I am acquainted with some of these characters. Skinny white guys, heavily into memes but no actual IT skills, really angry about feminism and "political correctness" but trying to wrap that in strident, mocking criticism that passes for humor among their kind. I don't think they're so much for Trump - most of them seem to be natural libertarians: fake rugged individualist tough guys. But what they are definitely for is politics that knock things down and kick people when they're on the floor. Trump was really their natural choice.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2016 [44 favorites]


griphus: As far as provocateurs, yes, that's really standard operating procedure for fascism. A bunch of clownish-seeming trolls loudly and violently spouting off horrendous shit they may or may not believe in until it is normalized and the average citizen starts taking part. That's where the momentum for fascism comes from.

Yup. How many channers had no opinion about Antisemitism until they saw endless reuse of "le happy merchant" memes and jokes trivializing the Holocaust? And how many of those had their opinion form as being in favor of it? I suspect it's more than we'd like to think.
posted by SansPoint at 8:53 AM on November 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Is the author's assumption even correct?

The Trump voter wasn't a white disaffected educated twenty-year-old.


Yeah, this article isn't based on any facts at all. It's reactionary bullshit taking a swing at the current crop of "elites", which right now means Silicon Valley and as such "nerds". (This is getting to be very common on Metafilter, as this comment section will no doubt make clear.) Dude spent five minutes thinking about things he'd heard about 4chan, called it "research", and started writing. I'm extremely confident, as a severely bullied white male nerd with many severely bullied white male nerd friends who has spent a lot of time in severely bullied white male nerd online spaces over the course of my life, that if you were able to poll all the white male nerds as a group, people who were actually bullied and everything, they would trend liberal on social issues significantly more than other white males. (White males as a total group aren't going to compare favorably to any other group, of course, which is something I feel terrible about literally every single second lately.)

We all went to 4chan. We all watched anime. We all played Shadowrun and D&D and Vampire. We all read too much sci-fi. We all got beat up, constantly verbally assaulted, and made to feel like we were not allowed to belong. Some of us attempted suicide. We're all die-hard lefties. Nobody likes Revenge of the Nerds. This shit doesn't make you into a fascist. It makes you into what would now, ridiculously enough, be called a "cuck".

Best of the web indeed.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:54 AM on November 16, 2016 [35 favorites]


Similarly, the figure of the nerd is used to hide the reality. Like, obviously, the Gamergaters go on dates, lift, etc; you have only to look at pictures from such social settings. It's the image of the nerd that is used as a rallying point, a way to pretend to victimization.

Absolutely. But I think that suggests the question of why we choose to believe this particular propaganda from that group? I mean as propaganda, it then becomes quite clever, because fascists have developed a propagandistic image that even their enemies accept. So they project it to make themselves look oppressed, we accept it because it has plenty of hooks to make fun of. So in a sense, getting obsessed with the toxic nerd is coming to an agreement with the enemy about what the conflict is.

Instead, just call 'em fucking fascists.

I mean I freely admit I have a vested interest as a fat-ish guy who plays Dungeons and Dragons. I don't want to be left with a population of shitheels with common interests.
posted by mobunited at 8:57 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm extremely confident, as a severely bullied white male nerd with many severely bullied white male nerd friends who has spent a lot of time in severely bullied white male nerd online spaces over the course of my life, that if you were able to poll all the white male nerds as a group, people who were actually bullied and everything, they would trend liberal on social issues significantly more than other white males.

Wait, you do know about Gamergate, right?
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on November 16, 2016 [64 favorites]


I mean I'm just not sure how your assertion is any more or less based on facts than the article you are decrying for not being based on facts.
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on November 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


What Frowner said, and has been saying.

To add on, I still make the distinction between geek and nerd based on the still-relevant 2004 post by Steve Gilliard (RIP). There's really little distance between "nerds want to be worshipped" and the resentment ethos, after all.
posted by stannate at 8:58 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


I know a trans gamergator. People make no f'in sense.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait, you do know about Gamergate, right?

Are you asserting that the majority of white male nerds are Gamergaters or support Gamergate or even pretend that it's just "about ethics in gaming journalism"?

Because if so, you're working from a different definition of "nerd" than I think most people do.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:02 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


As far as "false agents," what does that even mean in this context?

Con artists like Milo Yiannopoulos who is mostly in it to scam an audience. Their reasons for participating in the sham is more monetary than genuine belief. It's a useful distinction only in that a true believer will have a more predictable set of reactions, coherent with some core biases, while the false agents will do whatever, including complete disavowal, simply to follow audience and money.
posted by bonehead at 9:03 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


This was a good article on a lot of fronts, but particularly in its breakdown of the narrative and its subtexts in Stranger Things. Thank you for posting this, SansPoint!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:04 AM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


sparklemotion: They don't need to be a majority, they only need to be a vocal enough minority that they can wield their vocalization as a cudgel. And Gamergate sure as hell does that. Ask any video game journalist if they're willing to shake the GamerGate tree, and I bet most would say no, if only so they don't have to spend a month deleting comments and blocking people on Twitter.

This goes double for female games journalists.
posted by SansPoint at 9:04 AM on November 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


Are you asserting that the majority of white male nerds are Gamergaters or support Gamergate or even pretend that it's just "about ethics in gaming journalism"?

Other way around; the majority of Gamergaters were white male nerds.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on November 16, 2016 [22 favorites]


Con artists like Milo Yiannopoulos who is mostly in it to scam an audience.

OK, doesn't the posted article address why some in the 4chan audience may have been susceptible to the scam, then?
posted by muddgirl at 9:07 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree that using "nerd" in this context is lazy shorthand.

I think that when you look at the alt-right (or the new digital fascism), especially those elements that have links to particular reddits and the chans, there could be more interesting analysis done around the intersection of sexual and gender anxiety within these groups as a source of much of the anger and toxicity that fuels much of their discourse, and the strongly racialized rhetoric into which it is projected. Osterweil alludes to this but then goes on to address some of the broad stereotypes of nerds in popular culture without really returning to it.

That people involved in coding, gaming, and certain fandoms are heavily represented within this group is not news. The question is why has this structure emerged.

Also:

Trump’s most vocal young advocates — and the youthful base of American fascist movements going forward — are not the anti-intellectual culture warriors or megachurch moralists of the flyover states. Though the old cultural right still makes up much of Trump’s voting base, the intelligence-fetishizing “rationalists” of the new far right, keyboard warriors who love pedantic argument and rhetorical fallacies are the shock troops of the new fascism.

This is a bit of an oversimplification. Many of the people involved in these groups adopt an ideology of rationalization, but only within very limited spheres. In many ways (understanding of things like the social sciences, history, the arts), they are shockingly anti-intellectual.

Not to mention that we certainly should not ignore "the anti-intellectual culture warriors or megachurch moralists of the flyover states". Four out of five self-described white Evangelicals voted for Trump.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:07 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


They don't need to be a majority, they only need to be a vocal enough minority that they can wield their vocalization as a cudgel.

IAmUnaware said: I'm extremely confident, as a severely bullied white male nerd with many severely bullied white male nerd friends who has spent a lot of time in severely bullied white male nerd online spaces over the course of my life, that if you were able to poll all the white male nerds as a group, people who were actually bullied and everything, they would trend liberal on social issues significantly more than other white males.

The reply was: Wait, you do know about Gamergate, right?

I read that as Gamergate being used as evidence to disprove the notion that "if you were able to poll all the white male nerds as a group ... they would trend liberal on social issues significantly more than other white males. "

Which only works if you think that the Gamergate types make up the majority of white male nerds. They might be the most vocal, dangerous, and repugnate minority of the white male nerds, but they aren't the majority.

Which makes it all the more frustrating for the non-white, non-male nerds who end up having part of our identities smeared by the minority of asshats, and articles like this.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:09 AM on November 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think it is undeniable that nerds were asleep at the wheel and entertained the notion of a apolitical field of cultural activity for too long and in implicitly suggesting that, this article works.

On the other hand, the article itself is part of a tradition of criticism that post-Trump, I wonder about because the US election demonstrated a failure to communicate even the most basic messages about social justice to a great many people.
posted by mobunited at 9:10 AM on November 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


The figure of the sad oppressed white person is used to hide the actual "decent household income, not actually poor, just hates immigrants" white person.

If you know this, then why should this stereotype become an unquestioned shorthand in leftist analysis? Is that not just blindly accepting what the alt-right propagandists' messages wholesale? Isn't this just a repetition of the the failure that predicted a democrat win?
posted by bonehead at 9:11 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think people are conflating their own experiences of being a nerd and a marginalized person with the current definition that basically means "wears a Big Bang Theory tshirt once a week". The use in this article and when talking about things like 4chan points to something important, but just like the media use of "working class" it erases people of color and others from the narrative. Not all "nerds" are shitty toxic antisocial middle class nerdy white kids, but I'll bet a lot of the shitheads I meet on Twitter are. On preview: what griphus said.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Let's not blame EDM for what the majority of white men and women are doing.


Yes- there's plenty of other things to blame EDM for.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2016 [21 favorites]


I read that as Gamergate being used as evidence to disprove the notion that "if you were able to poll all the white male nerds as a group ... they would trend liberal on social issues significantly more than other white males. "

Used as evidence that there's a huge amount of (mostly) white male nerds who lean toward fascism/etc.; enough to spur an actual hate movement with forward momentum that destroyed lives and careers. I'm not sure why the assertion that most nerds are liberal based on someone's friend group is any more or less valid than the assertion that a very significant number of them are not, based on the evidence provided by Gamergate.
posted by griphus at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


Guys, we can't vilify nerds. How will I feel unique for liking Star Wars?
posted by beerperson at 9:15 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


sparklemotion Which only works if you think that the Gamergate types make up the majority of white male nerds. They might be the most vocal, dangerous, and repugnate minority of the white male nerds, but they aren't the majority.

Bare minimum, if you poll all the white male nerds that IAmUnaware knows, maybe they would trend liberal. Overall, I'm sure white male nerds split roughly 50/50.

The problem isn't white male nerds, but a specific minority segment of white male nerds that have a loud, powerful voice, are using it to hurt and destroy people, and by brushing it off as "Oh #NotAllWhiteNerdMen" the problem continues to fester.
posted by SansPoint at 9:16 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think this article fails in that it assumes social media, and especially twitter, are actually real life.
posted by Reyturner at 9:16 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Reyturner: Social media and Twitter are indeed real life, and can have real life consequences. Here's Exhibit A.
posted by SansPoint at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2016 [23 favorites]


I think this article fails in that it assumes social media, and especially twitter, are actually real life.

Would you make that same assertion regarding people who are doxxed, harassed, SWATed, etc. because of what they have said online? The barrier between "real life" and "online" are as eroded now as they ever were when someone who doesn't like a tweet can pull up the tweeter's address, send it over to one of the numerous doxxing/harassment boards and then send actual real life police to their actual real life house.
posted by griphus at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


I think this article fails in that it assumes social media, and especially twitter, are actually real life.

thread's only been up for an hour but i'm calling it now, worst comment in the thread
posted by Greg Nog at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2016 [44 favorites]



I think this article fails in that it assumes social media, and especially twitter, are actually real life.


They get pretty fucking real when someone threatens to to terrible things to you over it.
posted by mobunited at 9:19 AM on November 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


EDM killed my puppy.
posted by 7segment at 9:20 AM on November 16, 2016


There's a straight fucking line from 4/8chan to Gamergate to Trump, with Breitbart (SCOTT BANNON AS WHITE HOUSE STRATEGIST, HELLO) as the nexus connecting everything.

The core of Trump's appeal lies in white grievances. Most of those grievances fit into the traditional "immigrants took our jobs", "all Muslims are scary terrorists" molds, but the cooption of white nerd grievances into a force for fascism is a thing that happened and also a thing that must be named out loud.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:20 AM on November 16, 2016 [70 favorites]


I have exhausted my interest in being told what this and that consists of and what it explains. If the Trump triumph has taught me anything, it is to ignore the wisdom of those who know as little as I do.
posted by Postroad at 9:20 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure why the assertion that most nerds are liberal based on someone's friend group is any more or less valid than the assertion that a very significant number of them are not, based on the evidence provided by Gamergate.

I hope that we can agree that both things can be true: Most nerds are liberal, a very significant number are not.

With the various caveats regarding sample size, confirmation bias, etc. I do think that the actual lived experience of people who know white male nerds shouldn't be dismissed in light of assumptions based on what is admittedly a very vocal group.

But on the whole, it doesn't matter -- the fact that Gamergate is a thing, and the fact that the channers and some influential nerd types support Trump at all are the problems. This article is flawed in that it thinks that the rise of the alt-right can be explained in terms of the bullied-nerds-rising-up-against-oppressive-jocks trope. The existence of bullied nerds that aren't fascists AND the significant portion of the alt-right that isn't part of (what are generally seen as) standard bullying target demographics seem to belie that premise.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


This reminds me a lot about the way the mainstream in the 70s and 80s saw both punks and skinheads as the same.
posted by bonehead at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


bonehead: The difference was that some of the punks pushed back against the skinheads.
posted by SansPoint at 9:26 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think this article fails in that it assumes social media, and especially twitter, are actually real life.

Or restricts its analysis to certain kinds of social media. Had the comments sections of news stories been considered, I think a different conclusion would have been reached.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:27 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


cotton dress sock: I can't speak for all news sites, but I have to agree with a friend who described the philly.com comments sections as "Stormfront's training grounds"
posted by SansPoint at 9:28 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think this article fails in that it assumes social media, and especially twitter, are actually real life.

It's a communication medium. Saying it is not like real life is like saying communication written and shared and consumed on paper is not real. Or that messages posted in the town square for all to read are not real.

It annoys me so much when people treat the internet like it's a dimension or alternate world when it's just a communication path that exists in the world.
posted by OwlBoy at 9:29 AM on November 16, 2016 [32 favorites]


Most nerds are liberal, a very significant number are not.

The second part of that, sure, but I have no idea how any of us would prove the first, and I think assuming that it is true is part of how we ended up not taking any of this stuff seriously until fascism was at our doorsteps.
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on November 16, 2016 [27 favorites]


The difference was that some of the punks pushed back against the skinheads.

Thank-you for repeating my point.

"Some." Fuck that.
posted by bonehead at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2016


> Which only works if you think that the Gamergate types make up the majority of white male nerds. They might be the most vocal, dangerous, and repugnate minority of the white male nerds, but they aren't the majority.

They make up enough of a presence to get a guy in the White House who wants an actual, no-shit white supremacist as his right hand. Whether they themselves are actual, no-shit white supremacists, fascists, and/or misogynist homophobes, the rhetoric they engaged in or allowed to pass unchallenged or dismissed as "just" trolling created space for and normalized this horror we're in now. It doesn't have to be #allwhitemalenerds. It has to be enough, in the right places and ways, and it was.
posted by rtha at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


as a severely bullied white male nerd with many severely bullied white male nerd friends who has spent a lot of time in severely bullied white male nerd online spaces over the course of my life,

So, here's a question for you. You clearly associate nerd identity with things like reading SF, playing D&D, watching anime. These are things that girls and POC do, too, have always done. (So, too, with having the experience of being severely bullied!) And online spaces allow people to sort themselves out and join affinity groups of the like-minded across gender and race.

Why, then, were your nerd online spaces "white male" spaces? Massive coincidence? The girls and POC just "chose" not to participate? Or...was it something more? Starting with the concept of staking out reading SF, etc., as a "white male" activity?

(Relatedly, did you feel even a twinge of uncertainty when identifying frequenting 4chan as a mere neutral "nerd" activity like reading SF?)
posted by praemunire at 9:39 AM on November 16, 2016 [71 favorites]


the rhetoric they engaged in or allowed to pass unchallenged or dismissed as "just" trolling created space for and normalized this horror we're in now


Yes- GamerGate was a warm-up for this.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:40 AM on November 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


The white male 4Chan crowd rejecting liberalism is pretty easy to understand. If you are spending a lot of time on 4Chan, you do not, on average, have a good life. The narrative from the left is that white people are, at best, playing life on easy mode, and at worst, actively benefiting from and complicit in vast systemic racist oppression. I'm not going to dispute that. Still, if you are an white guy who's life sucks, it's a bitter pill to swallow that hey, your life is shit, and that proves you, personally, are doubly shit because you couldn't even hack it on easy mode.

I don't know what to do about the dynamic. Certainly the left has no obligation to stop speaking the truth because some people don't like it. Ah well. Welcome to the new normal.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:45 AM on November 16, 2016 [28 favorites]


> Most nerds are liberal, a very significant number are not.

The second part of that, sure, but I have no idea how any of us would prove the first, and I think assuming that it is true is part of how we ended up not taking any of this stuff seriously until fascism was at our doorsteps.


I think that over generalizations like Nerds are the New Fascists are a good way to fail at having our concerns taken seriously by potential allies.

Most nerd spaces in the western world are overwhelmingly white and male. Some of them allow (4chan, parts of reddit) fascism to fester. Some of them (present company included) actively fight against it . I'm sure that, demographically, the latter group is more diverse (while still being overwhelmingly white and male), but it's a chicken-and-egg problem.

For me, it seems like we have been living in a world where lots of white men have fascist tendencies. Some of those white men populate "nerd" spaces. Some of those white men populate union halls and coffee shops. Pointing to the "nerds" as the problem doesn't seem to add value, solution-wise.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


For me, it seems like we have been living in a world where lots of white men have fascist tendencies. Some of those white men populate "nerd" spaces. Some of those white men populate union halls and coffee shops. Pointing to the "nerds" as the problem doesn't seem to add value, solution-wise.

It seems to me like you've rewritten Osterweil's final paragraph in different words:
Though sports culture continues to be a domain of intense patriarchal production and violence — rape jokes are just locker room talk, after all — these days jocks in the news are just as likely to be taking a knee against American racism in the image of Colin Kaepernick. The nerds, on the other hand, are shit-posting for a new American Reich. The nerd/jock distinction has always been a myth designed to hide social conflict and culturally re-center white male subjectivity.
posted by muddgirl at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


sparklemotion The thing is that nerds have power now. Nerds run the big tech companies that enable hate-speech and abuse to spread, they make and buy billions of dollars in media. And what have they done with that power? Well, enabled hate-speech and abuse, and not much else. Like I said upthread, there's a reason so many nerd-catering publications haven't done a damn thing to report on GamerGate and the like: because they're afraid of the consequences. Even this vocal minority is still enough to get a SWAT team banging down your door if you piss them off enough. But until white male nerds (like me) start shutting these assholes down, en masse, we're going to be stuck with it.
posted by SansPoint at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2016 [22 favorites]


The problem is that "the nerds" aren't "shit-posting for a new American Reich." Some nerds are.

And "the jocks" are not exactly 100% aligned in their views on Colin Kaepernick. Of course, some jocks support him.

The defining factor isn't being a "nerd" or being a "jock." It's being privileged (read: usually white & male) and being blind to it.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: your life is shit, and that proves you, personally, are doubly shit because you couldn't even hack it on easy mode.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:03 AM on November 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


these days jocks in the news are just as likely to be taking a knee against American racism in the image of Colin Kaepernick.

Who couldn't be bothered to vote, so fuck that guy.
posted by fixedgear at 10:04 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


The problem is that "the nerds" aren't "shit-posting for a new American Reich."

That doesn't seem like a problem. Quite the opposite
posted by beerperson at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2016


The problem is that "the nerds" aren't "shit-posting for a new American Reich." Some nerds are.

I thought we established here on Metafilter, a long time ago, that when we are talking about the harms and abuses perpetrated by a powerful and privileged group of people, we don't have to clarify, "OF COURSE NOT ALL X!"

Of course not all nerds are fascists. No one claimed that they are. Osterweil wrote a whole essay clarifying exactly who he is referring to in the final paragraph.
posted by muddgirl at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


If you are spending a lot of time on 4Chan, you do not, on average, have a good life.

Even if we were to grant this, cause or effect? The people I've known who read 4chan are, generally, quite privileged -- if anything, they have too much time on their hands. And it's generally not made them a better person. Sympathy is misguided.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is another case in point for why we need intersectionality; otherwise we're stuck making one-dimensional distinctions like “nerds are the victims of jock bullies/ostracisers” “no, nerds are alt-right griefers, therefore the jock bullies must be the good guys”

Next up: hipsters vs. bros, or are hipsters and bros the same thing?
posted by acb at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


sparklemotion Much like #NotAllMen, going #NotAllNerds is saying "I'm not part of the problem, therefore I don't need to help solve the problem."
posted by SansPoint at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


therefore the jock bullies must be the good guys

Who said this???????

(Sometimes "jocks" are the ones that are bullied! Sometimes "nerds" are bullies! That's part of what this essay is talking about! How media depictions of jocks and bullies are very inaccurate, and contribute to feelings of persecution and oppression by some people who self-identify as nerds! Even though they are now adults and live pretty good lives, some of them still seek revenge against what they see as the "cool kids" who are really just regular people living their lives!)
posted by muddgirl at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Still, if you are an white guy who's life sucks, it's a bitter pill to swallow that hey, your life is shit, and that proves you, personally, are doubly shit because you couldn't even hack it on easy mode.

This makes a whole helluva lot of sense to me. Especially when that guy judges that his life "sucks" compared to...what? Bombastic visions of fast cars and shiny titties everywhere in pop culture, the Alphas who brag about having it in real life, and probably some untreated mental illness compounding these thoughts and entertaining intrusive thoughts about self-pity and loneliness.

IMHO, some of the darkest, saddest corners of the entire internet, even including the Alt-Right internet, are the incel/trucel subreddits. They're involuntarily celebate, natch, and it's feminism's fault. So they indulge in rape fantasies, suicidal fantasies (what's the point of living if you aren't getting laid?!), and all manner of crazy nonsense blaming others for their problems. Clearly, it's about more than their celibacy status.

And big-big picture, it's about a severely fucked-up value system that's allowed to live in echo chambers. As with so much, it's intersectionality in childrearing, and why/how self-worth is taught to kids.
posted by witchen at 10:13 AM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Honestly the main thing I have an issue with here is the identification of the online alt-right crowd as central to current reactionary movements. And I'm not saying I rule out their importance entirely but my intuition is that they may be just the tip of the iceberg? I guess "vanguard" may not necessarily contradict that but I mean I'm not really sure they are the motive force of the Trump movement etc.

Also there are many things to be identified as wrong with Silicon Valley-type "nerds" and their ideology but with a few visible exceptions (you know who) that ideology is not Trumpism.
posted by atoxyl at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Intersectionality is still largely internalizes the view that identity politics are primary definers for who people are, what they believe and how they behave.

I strongly believe that until Manicheanisms are utterly rejected in critical analysis as the attractive fallacies they are, us dogs will continue to run around trees barking at the targets others have painted on our own tails, and activist agendas will continue to miss the mark.
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


See, the problem is, nerds are people who have fundamentally misunderstood why they suffered. I don’t doubt that many of them did suffer. Not in the slightest. I know many nerds/geeks/whatever suffered terrible social humiliation, and I’m very sorry for it. No, the problem is that they think they were made fun of because of what they liked. That’s not why they got made fun of. They weren’t bullied because they loved Star Wars. Star Wars movies are the most popular ever made. The bullies loved Star Wars too, they had the lunch boxes and the toy lightsabers and the T-shirts too. Star Wars may have been the object of their derision, what they focused on, but it wasn’t the cause of the bullying and the harassment. Neither was Dr. Who or Dungeons & Dragons or action figures or whatever else you want to pick.

No, the reason they made fun of you was because they thought you were weak. That’s why they made fun of you. They may have fixated on your C-3P0 lunchbox, but perfectly popular kids had the same lunchbox. If you didn’t have it, they’d have fixated on your hair, or your weight, or your skin, or your accent, or whatever else they could find. They bullied you because they thought you were weak, not because of the stuff that you liked. That is the one and only reason anyone ever makes fun of anybody else, because they think the other person is weak and that they can get away with it. But because nerds and geeks have misinterpreted a symptom for the disease, they refuse to acknowledge the reality that no aspect of popular culture is more popular or celebrated than geek culture. They say to themselves, “I still feel the way I feel, I still feel vulnerable and hurt, and that came from people making fun of the books and movies and games I liked, so therefore those things must be hated the way I feel hated.” But it was never about what you liked, and as long as they let their feelings dictate their perception of the world, they’ll always be operating under a delusion. And they’ll always misidentify why they’re unhappy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:18 AM on November 16, 2016 [46 favorites]


Also there are many things to be identified as wrong with Silicon Valley-type "nerds" and their ideology but with a few visible exceptions (you know who) that ideology is not Trumpism.

It may not be Trumpism, but their apathy in the face of Trumpism is just as bad. CF: Mark Zuckerberg denying that the widespread prevalence of fake right-wing and anti-Clinton news on Facebook "influenced the election in any way".
posted by muddgirl at 10:18 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Skipping ahead here to note

the US election demonstrated a failure to communicate even the most basic messages about social justice to a great many people.

Gamergate totally Atwatered "social justice". It's a dirty word (well, term) now just like "liberal".
posted by one weird trick at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2016 [39 favorites]


Intersectionality is still largely internalizes the view that identity politics are primary definers for who people are, what they believe and how they behave.

But they are the primary definers for how other people treat them, and how that shapes their life experiences. Whether that should/not be the case is irrelevant--at the end of the day, the inner life of a white lesbian is still going to be pretty different from that of a disabled black man from that of a straight evangelical. Intersectionality shouldn't be hard or overwhelming, and there's no reason "identity politics" should be a bad thing. It just means respecting each of our different experiences.
posted by witchen at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


one weird trick: That is officially the most begrudging favorite I've ever given on MeFi. *sigh*
posted by SansPoint at 10:22 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


All signs seem to point to Trumpists feeling left out of the economy and public life, dismissed, rejected, etc., on the basis of their identity, and targeting scapegoats because they differ (in identity).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:28 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Who couldn't be bothered to vote, so fuck that guy.

Yeah, that guy who donates a huge amount of time, money and effort and was willing to sacrifice his career for social justice didn't vote in a state that wasn't even slightly contested and therefor deserves your ire. Get over yourself
posted by cyphill at 10:29 AM on November 16, 2016 [30 favorites]


And with the echo chamber that these spaces provide. Honestly, if these sites crashed for just a MINUTE, it could be great. This is a little "get off my lawn"-y, and I never thought I'd feel this way, but like--Christ, get these guys into a woodworking shop or teach them some art stuff! Did nobody send them the message that volunteering is good for you, or that fresh air is nice? Does anyone have hobbies anymore?
posted by witchen at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have hobbies anymore?

While I can't reveal my source for this assertion, I have reliable information pointing to the fact that yelling on the internet and then being told you are Cool and Good for yelling is an extremely engrossing hobby, unfortunately.
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on November 16, 2016 [41 favorites]


But they are the primary definers for how other people treat them, and how that shapes their life experiences.

That leads to problems like stereotyping all rural folks as a "problematic" block, while not admitting that conservative gay men, for example, are a thing either. Intersectionality doesn't help explain why a portion of an identity group might think one thing while part may believe something opposed, while yet another part of the "group" thinks something else entirely.
posted by bonehead at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


sparklemotion Much like #NotAllMen, going #NotAllNerds is saying "I'm not part of the problem, therefore I don't need to help solve the problem."

What Osterweil is saying is "Nerds are the problem, therefore I am not part of the problem, therefore I don't need to help solve the problem." What some people in this thread (to be clear, not Sanspoint) seem to be saying is "Nerds are channers/GGers, therefore I am not a nerd, therefore I don't need to help solve the problem of these nerds."

I'm trying (and apparently failing) to push back at both of these views. Pointing at the gross aspects of nerd culture and saying "well, their nerdiness made them that way" isn't a solution to the problem. Pointing at the gross aspects of nerd culture and saying: "this is fucking gross, stop it" is. That call needs to come from inside the (nerd) (frat) house so defining "nerd" to include only the worst nerds does nothing to get the good nerds on our side.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:39 AM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well as a white male nerd, I suppose it is my duty to speak up against gamergaters and the alt right, so here goes:

You sold out your country for some CGI titties. Grats dude. Totally "alpha".
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:43 AM on November 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


It may not be Trumpism, but their apathy in the face of Trumpism is just as bad. CF: Mark Zuckerberg denying that the widespread prevalence of fake right-wing and anti-Clinton news on Facebook "influenced the election in any way".

I was going further with this. You know what nerds (of a certain kind) love, is neoliberalism. And the real reason "nerd oppression" is a myth in the grand scheme is that this kind of nerd - experts, technocrats, quants, Zuckerbergs - runs peoples lives in a lot of ways, and those people know it. So Trump represents in many ways a revenge against the nerds - but with reactionary character of course - with the /pol types along for the ride because they feel like they missed out on their rightful place in the ruling class the first time.

(I was playing around when I started this but I'm a little serious now)
posted by atoxyl at 10:45 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: yelling on the internet and then being told you are Cool and Good for yelling
posted by Mayor West at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


sparklemotion: I don't think Osterweil is saying their nerdiness made them this way. I think he's saying their nerdiness made them more susceptible to narratives that make them feel powerful and could therefore be co-opted into the seeds of fascism. Lord knows I was susceptible, because I latched on to some of those same Nerd Empowerment narratives that Osterweil discusses. I just didn't have a space that could turn it into a (more) toxic, misogynistic, racist sort of thing. (Thank fuck.)
posted by SansPoint at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


The analysis of pop culture nerdiness's white-male-centrism is fascinating, but the author isn't quite as good at acknowledging the role of disability as he seems to think. He nods to the figure of the nerd being "slightly socially awkward" but doesn't broach the subject of non-neurotypicality; when I was in school, much of what got people singled out for "nerd" bullying was undiagnosed autism. And while nerd-dom in Stranger Things is definitely portrayed as male, Dustin is also pretty clearly bullied for his cleidocranial dysplasia.
posted by thetortoise at 10:57 AM on November 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


I guess "nerd" is a word that means whatever you want it to mean, just like "liberal". As a white male child of the 70s and 80s who was given that label, people can have it frankly. If it now means privileged sexists who love to work out and attack people, so be it. But to me it was about not fitting in with cultural expectations, and being more about curiosity and study and less about gladhanding and being popular. Comic books, Rubik's Cubes, math, sci-fi, awkwardness. Inward focus. Getting beat up or threatened for no reason by poor black kids and rich white kids. Solving a Rubik's Cube on the bus and having someone from the seat behind put you in a headlock. Not knowing fashion was important and having people make fun of your jeans for being too short. Not going to the prom even with another misfit. Liking Atari and Pac-Man and being revolted and turned off when bullshit like Doom and Mortal Kombat entered my world, and realizing I was a sub-segment of a sub-segment of a sub-segment. I graduated college without ever having to use email, and I missed the whole BBS thing so banding together with a bunch of other nerds for good or ill was hard to accomplish. But I did get to go to a nerd high school for a couple of years and it was not just about white male nerds; it was nerds from many backgrounds and cultures. I was awkward around girls and did my best to incorporate them into my social world and I don't remember trying to other them or resenting them, beyond mystification that guys who harassed me seemed to be surrounded by girls. To the extent my nerd friends had up swimsuit posters and stuff it was because we were told that would keep people from making fun of us. Later I discovered music and music nerds but that came much later - in high school I thought Pink Floyd was some weird evil underground band and late in college didn't really know who the Cure were.

I know I had some inherent privilege due to my gender and ethnicity, but I sure didn't know how to make any use of it. My version of nerd strongly implies being an outsider who gets dumped on through tribalism and being punched down at. So people who are mad about feminist criticism of their stupid bro video games, or who are tech zillionaires, or even who have a strong self-awareness of belonging to any real group = not "nerds" like I mean it. But that doesn't matter anymore - I'm in my late 40s and although I have some scars, it's water under the bridge.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


As a white male child of the 70s and 80s who was given that label, people can have it frankly.

I think whether a (white male) nerd was actually a hard thing to be depends a lot on when and where you grew up. For me in a college town in the 90s and 00s it sure wasn't - I think my group of friends was seen as a little weird but smart and that was respected. A couple of "punk" kids tried to bully me in middle school P.E. I guess but that's just funny to me because in a couple years I probably would have been talking about music with them. I think for older folks or kids now in different sorts of places it may have been something else though.
posted by atoxyl at 11:30 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


The analysis of pop culture nerdiness's white-male-centrism is fascinating, but the author isn't quite as good at acknowledging the role of disability as he seems to think.

Also traditionally there's an intersection with GSM I think.
posted by atoxyl at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


atoxyl Also traditionally there's an intersection with GSM I think.

What's GSM?
posted by SansPoint at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2016


Gender/Sexual Minorities
posted by atoxyl at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


atoxyl: Thanks! I do wonder if any of my bullying was related to some perceived effeminacy or non hetero-normative behavior that I didn't realize I had at the time. I only realized I was bisexual very late into my 20s. (I'm 32 now.)
posted by SansPoint at 11:39 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some aspects of the article, that the abused mindset of the male nerd is susceptible to fascist recruitment, I completely agree with.

But on the other hand, it's so interesting to learn that the decades of physical and emotional abuse that I received were 'mythical'. Brandon and his gang stuffing me in a garbage can and rolling me off the side of a hill in the 4th grade wasn't real prosecution. Good to know.

The identity of nerd is wrapped up within various spectrum disorders- ADD, ADHD, Autism (the now-removed Asperger's Syndrome). Bullying and a culture of abuse is real- and it creates fertile ground for right-wing recruitment.

What I find objectionable about this is the notion that privilege transcends abuse. I may be a CIS white guy from a suburb, but bullying was abuse. It was vicitimization, of the antisocial, or the newcomer. People can always find a way to 'other', even in a homogenous environment, and nerds was the other in such context.

I think this article demonstrates the polarized thinking that is fueling the defeat of progressivism and liberalism. Give someone a label and ignore them. Don't bother to understand the pathology that makes a fascist. Shut them out, shut them down. The rurals are racist- ignore them; the whites are racist- ignore them; men are misogynist; they should not be considered; nerds aren't real victims- they should shut up and go away.
Exclude and exclude and exclude, and then complain about why nobody turns out to vote for your candidates.

I keep trying to keep progressivism going in rural California. But attitudes such as these make a lot of you bay area progressives extremely poor allies. /rant over.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


It's just so interesting that this essay, which is talking about an image that exists in culture, the history of that image and how that image is used politically, gets read as "you personally experienced zero bad things and you are also a bad person for feeling bad".

This essay really isn't a referendum on "did some white people get called nerds and bullied in the eighties and nineties or is that all total lies by self-interested lying liars". I strongly, strongly suggest that you take a look at it through a "history of pop culture" lens, rather than a "does this describe my personal childhood" lens.
posted by Frowner at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2016 [43 favorites]


The rurals are racist- ignore them; the whites are racist- ignore them; men are misogynist; they should not be considered; nerds aren't real victims- they should shut up and go away.
Exclude and exclude and exclude, and then complain about why nobody turns out to vote for your candidates.


I'm just not sure it's always possible to give legitimacy to the complaints people say they have. Because those complaints are often rooted in misattribution. If you try to address what I guess more people agree should be thought of as the actual causes of people's alienation, you're met with resistance. "Feminists are to blame for men's suffering", etc., is the sort of rationale you come up against. You can't exactly take that at face value (without undermining women, for example). And if you don't, you're excluding them (men in that instance).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:27 PM on November 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Not saying this is an incorrect take, but this framing, oy, not looking forward to genuinely bullied, outcast left-wing nerds I know having to hear that being a learning-disabled and mistreated runt was a "myth" or that kids trying to drown them at the park in July 1992 was a "myth"
posted by johngoren at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


cotton dress sock Agreed. I was, and am, a nerd, and I was bullied. I certainly don't see the piece as trying to take that away from me. How much of my bullying was due to my According to Hoyle nerd-ness, and how much was due to being an uncoordinated, unathletic fat kid, regardless of any nerdly qualities, I cannot say.

I also think the nerd experience for people a decade younger than me is quite different. Schools are more proactive about bullying prevention. Nerdy interests like games and comics are mainstream. But there's still something that makes these young nerdy types angry, disaffected, and happy to sign on to fascist ideas. I wonder if it's the same instinct that makes engineers more likely to join terrorist groups.
posted by SansPoint at 12:36 PM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't know, SansPoint, the article does seem to suggest that this kind of bullying and abuse (of "weirdo"s) was limited to movie screens in the 80s and 90s, and I know as a victim of it that's simply not true. Perhaps the "myth" in the subtitle is referring to an origin story rather than a misperception, but it does seem very ungenerous to those of us who did suffer at the time.
posted by rikschell at 1:00 PM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just want to share something, and I think it's relevant here. I am a nerdy white kid, and I remember exactly the day when I lost any chance of being seduced by this alt-right thinking.

I was in Boy Scouts, I was always the shy one, the chubby one, the antisocial one, least connected to people, always picked last when we needed a partner for things. But then we got a new kid from the city. He was prickly and combative and quite fat... and he was teased endlessly for it.

At first I was relieved. With someone else to bully, a new kid, I was more part of the team. And I mean, he wasn't that friendly, in fact, he seemed kinda dumb and argumentative, and was always getting pissed off at things. It was easy to go along with the bullying. It seemed like he kinda deserved it.

But then one night I was sitting in a camper with him and the scoutmaster's wife. They were talking and talking and I was just listening, and eventually the subject turned to black holes and sciency things that I was into. Suddenly he seemed like a totally and completely different person. He seemed smart, friendly, not the dumb and irritable jerk I had supposed him to be.

And then it hit me.

He was only unlikable because all of his peers, all of us, were being terrible people.

And in that moment I was furious with myself. It's not like I hadn't been the target of the same sort of thing. It wasn't like I hadn't gotten angry and acted out because of it. I had no excuse to be that utterly and completely blind when the target was somebody else.

I realized that if I was going take any abuse I had been given and just pass it on, I was accepting my place in that awful hierarchy. I realized that when I did that, I was telling every single person who thought I was some worthless loser wallowing near the bottom of the pecking order that they were right.

If I wanted to keep my moral authority, my righteous outrage at being a picked on outcast, I had to reject that whole ladder of social status entirely. I had to smash it. If shit was going to get kicked downhill to me, I couldn't kick it on, I had to say "this stops here." If there was going to be a social hierarchy, I wasn't going to claw my way to the top, but race down to the bottom of it and declare I was darn proud to be the weird and outcast and all the shy and unloved types down there with me deserved to be proud and loved and stood up for, too.
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:06 PM on November 16, 2016 [52 favorites]


I've seen way too many of these little weiners on Facebook. It's astonishing to me how toxic they are without worrying about alienating any of their friends (who haven't already unfollowed them, that is). Racists used to know better!
posted by Burhanistan at 1:11 PM on November 16, 2016


He nods to the figure of the nerd being "slightly socially awkward" but doesn't broach the subject of non-neurotypicality; when I was in school, much of what got people singled out for "nerd" bullying was undiagnosed autism.

Oh yes, but this happened to girls and POC and queer kids also! The article is about how we are being erased from the nerd narrative very intentionally by white men, who can now use the narrative to their advantage to punch down. I think that's why Revenge of the Nerds is still a relevant story to this article even though it's been discussed to death, because it perfectly encapsulates the big question of [insert Philosoraptor meme here] "How come if the conflict is supposed to be jocks vs. nerds, the actual losers always seem to be women/LGBT folks/POC? So weird???"
posted by capricorn at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2016 [66 favorites]


I come from a place of being outside looking in. I'm now in my late 40s and came here as a small child. My parents didn't grow up with American attitudes on raising children or the pop culture attributes of gender normalization. I was brown, a girl, a foreigner, a smart-ass. Someone whose parents dressed weird and ate weird food. We belonged to a religion that even today, most Americans who only a passing acquaintance with. My dad is a gigantic sci-fi geek and I took to it in my prepubescent years, so yeah, there were multiple attempts to bully me--based on all of the above and then some and any approaches to guys I knew who might share some of the same likes/interests were met with hostility, denigration or at best indifference.

Although I am not physically impressive in stature, I make up for a lot of that by being a pretty assertive loudmouth so the bullying was mostly futile even when it crossed into physical confrontations. I guess what I am trying to say is that I never got around to seeing any one high-school clique as being representative of those who attempted to bully me but I can say that most of them were white males. I still have my interests and it's been awesome since college when I realized that I wasn't some weird freak like I'd been told since I was a nine year old who liked sci-fi and comic books. The fellow enthusiasts I found were mostly minorities or women in fandom.

I know this brings up bad memories and scars that might not have completely healed. A lot of us were harassed but some of us were bullied for everything different about us. I didn't come out of that time fixating on jocks or the glee club or whatever--only on the individuals that bullied me and the others who stood idly by. Ask me how many times I've been told by a friend/acquaintance that his friend's vile, racist, sexist comments are jokes or that he really doesn't mean them. That's what this article seems to points to.

Nerdom is full of white males and too many of these horrific attitudes proliferate in online echo chambers and the opposing voices are either complacent or too few. There are no real repercussions in that world for being a bigoted, misogynistic ass-hat. Will that change? I hope so. I love video games but won't play online because dealing with the sheer volume of ugliness is beyond my tolerance.
posted by nikitabot at 1:30 PM on November 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


the article does seem to suggest that this kind of bullying and abuse (of "weirdo"s) was limited to movie screens in the 80s and 90s, and I know as a victim of it that's simply not true. Perhaps the "myth" in the subtitle is referring to an origin story rather than a misperception

To me, the myth is that White Male Nerds were exclusively, or even mostly, the people being bullied. You don't have to look very far into the Reddit/4chan demographic to see this belief, and of course the 80s/90s films have this, because they were largely being made by white straight men. This is, of course, one of the reasons that Mean Girls is such a fucking great film.
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2016 [34 favorites]


See also: Nerdism in the 1980s and 90s requiring a certain level of economic privilege. Whether it being able to afford Sky TV for the sci-fi (like cable in America idk?) or a computer or comic books or console systems.
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Having grown up a poor/working class nerd, I wouldn't say it required it, just that we to hustle a lot harder to get our hands on nerd shit.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


(Although I def. get your point about Being A Nerd before the internet being inextricably tied in with disposable income.)
posted by griphus at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


SansPoint: I have lived among the pasty faced white nerds, for I am of them. I remember the anger, and wanting something to reach out to that would explain, make me feel better, and give me power. I never found it.

I found an explanation in queer theory, I'm still not certain if it makes me feel better.

But, oh, I don't have the attention span to dive deep into an article that largely extrapolates from GamerGate and John Hughes movies to sweeping stereotype. In my college IT call center, about a third of the staff were queer, another third were not U.S. citizens. (Conversely, you couldn't swing a stick in LGBTQ circles without hitting someone in IT once upon a time.)

GamerGate dominated twitter because twitter has no structural barrier to it, and reddit because high-level admins didn't care. Both platforms monetize drama to different degrees. Other nerd platforms skew a bit to the left. The people who don't put up with that shit end up gravitating to other places.

But anyway, the so-called "nerd rage" of the alt right is a relic of a class-based sexual politics that go back well into the 19th century, and likely came to existence with a technical labor class of the industrial revolution. I suspect some men have always believed they're being unfairly "cucked" across class lines, either by lower-class "bad boys" or upper-class lotharios. Putting it distinctly into 80s culture ignores that extended history.

griphus: (Although I def. get your point about Being A Nerd before the internet being inextricably tied in with disposable income.)

A fair number of us built our hobbies around public libraries, found junk, broadcast TV, hand-me-down gear, and sharing the cool.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:16 PM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Frankly, no one can afford ALL the nerd shit. The richest kid on my street was the only one who owned a Castle Grayskull. At various points circa 1982, every kid in the neighborhood tried to be friends with him because Castle Grayskull. Unfortunately, there was a reason why none of us were friends with him. That's because he was a giant asshole. Anyhow, I'm sure he voted for Trump.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:17 PM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think I grew up during the change in nerdage. Late 1980s, 1990s, everyone became aware that computers were going to change the world. STEM jobs became a thing. The people who were going to become successful were the smart ones, the ones who had sat down at their computers for hour and poked at code. Being into nerdy things then was a whatever. I was picked on when I was in elementary school because I was a weird kid and I cried easily. By the time high school rolled along, I actually had a good time. College was better, but I have fond memories of high school. Being into computers and science and weird cultural things was ok. I wasn't a jock, but there were nerdy girls and we found each other. I made one of my best friends by lending her the Sandman comics.

I'm 34. The current group of "nerds" are not the bullied youngsters of the 70's and 80's, the ones who got shoved into lockers for not being into sports. They're not the early millenials who saw the first dot com bubble burst and the second one show up. They're the ones who grew up on both our stories and our victories. The nerds won. Pop culture is now nerd culture. But they also grew up on the stories of the bullied nerd, something that hasn't happened in years. They internalized these stories and incorporated them into their identities. They aren't bullied in real life. So when people stand up to them, tell them to check their privilege, tell them that something they said was bigoted or generally shitty, they see this as their bullying. In their mind they're only fighting back against the PC bullies. After all, everyone knows nerds get bullied. And due to the way they've been presented in media, everyone know that nerds are white males with the very occasional white female in there who has proven herself and knows all the right things to say.

I don't know how to change this. There's a narrative of the oppressed nerd, one which, despite the 90s and later being called the rise or the nerds or the decade of the nerds or whatever, people still hold on to. It's part of a deeply rooted identity and the idea that they themselves are actually the bullies is horrific. They haven't had their "are we the baddies?" moment and I think they're terrified of it.
posted by Hactar at 2:33 PM on November 16, 2016 [23 favorites]


I was such a nerd in high school that I voluntarily undertook projects to determine why I felt so superior to those around me. Turns out, it was because I knew where Rwanda was and what Nato was up to at the time.

I didn't know any Nerds who didn't care about the greater world, then again I never heard of Ayn Rand until I was an adult.

But I'm a white nerd, and I swear by the action figures still in their packaging on my wall and my collection of milestone comics that we're not all in on it and some of us are aware of the people who are social malcontents who claim the robes.

I'm sorry.
posted by NiteMayr at 2:33 PM on November 16, 2016


> GamerGate dominated twitter because twitter has no structural barrier to it, and reddit because high-level admins didn't care.

There was no structural barrier at Twitter because their high-level board and staff didn't care either. They had one woman at the senior staff level right before they went public and no women on the board, and nearly no people of color on either.
posted by rtha at 2:41 PM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am not sure of his point.

Is he saying that nerdy white boys were never bullied?

Is he saying that nerdy white boys ought to just take it, as their diluted measure of the nastiness that non-nerdy white boys supposedly hand out to women and minorities?

Is saying that nerdy white boys can resent having been bullied, but ought not develop any political worldview from that resentment?

Or maybe he thinks that ANY self-interested political grouping of white men is inherently invidious, "nerds" just being the latest group of people who aren't supposed to act collectively alongside of "country club members," "southern Evangelicals" etc.
posted by MattD at 2:42 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


A basic problem with using social and mass media for cheap Sociology is the combined effects of Zipf's law and convergence. This creates a very real bias preventing generalization beyond the convenience sample.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:48 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is he saying that nerdy white boys ought to just take it, as their diluted measure of the nastiness that non-nerdy white boys supposedly hand out to women and minorities?


I might be reading this wrong, but are you suggesting that nerdy white boys aren't nasty to women and minorities? Because that just isn't true, IME.
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Most nerd spaces in the western world are overwhelmingly white and male.

Why?

Why is it that nerd spaces are overwhelmingly white and male? What was the process that led them to being that way, especially being so male dominated?

(Note: If you come out with the two usual responses which are a) It just happened that way, and b) there are fewer woman nerds, I will simply laugh at you.)

There has always been a strong presence of women in the pre-nerd fandom spaces, and by all rights it should have continued. But the composition of nerd spaces is the result of deliberate, long term action.

Basically, you can't just say nerds are the product of exposure to those online male sources, without looking at the continuing processes that made those spaces male.
posted by happyroach at 2:52 PM on November 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


MattD: I think Frowner's comments in this thread, taken together, mostly answer your points, particularly: This essay really isn't a referendum on "did some white people get called nerds and bullied in the eighties and nineties or is that all total lies by self-interested lying liars". I strongly, strongly suggest that you take a look at it through a "history of pop culture" lens, rather than a "does this describe my personal childhood" lens.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:56 PM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


The aggregate data was driven by women and POC being heavily for Clinton.

(well POC and especially POC women, but not white women overall)

seems race might have something to do with the 2016 election!

the racial gap between Democrats and Republicans is well established though, while this

In the 2016 election, a wide gap in presidential preferences emerged between those with and without a college degree. College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52%-44%. This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980. For example, in 2012, there was hardly any difference between the two groups: College graduates backed Obama over Romney by 50%-48%, and those without a college degree also supported Obama 51%-47%.

feeds right into my attempt to write an inverse analysis. I mean seriously, who would you say ran a "nerdier" campaign - Trump or Clinton?
posted by atoxyl at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2016


I am not sure of his point.

If you read the article, it is plain that what he is saying is that there was once an "it" to take but that at this point in human history it's nerds who are in fact giving "it," despite a Gibraltar-sized chip on their shoulder that would imply the contrary
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:04 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


The discussion of RoTN reminds me of this article from Slate from a few years ago. Basically about 80s "outsider" comedies not being as progressive as they seem. If you want to know what the "alt-right" thinks of these movies, Google "Caddyshack Edmund Connelly" (not sure what the policy here is about linking to that kind of stuff directly). I'm pretty skeptical about the alt-right identifying with nerds, the nerds-vs-jock fratboys trope is more likely to be seen as Jews-vs-WASPs, with analogy to Jews being excluded from WASP country clubs.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 3:08 PM on November 16, 2016


The article is about how we are being erased from the nerd narrative very intentionally by white men, who can now use the narrative to their advantage to punch down.

Totally. It reminds me a lot of the Scott Aaronson firestorm and Laurie Penny's response -- that thread had some great comments.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:31 PM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's probably better to rephrase this more as "nerd culture" rather than just "nerds". Yes, #NotAllNerds espouse or act on the misguided beliefs that have fueled the rise of Trump, but nerd culture as a whole (at least in its current form, today) played a role in encouraging and reinforcing the "victimized"/resentful white male narrative that seems to underscore a lot of Trump's appeal.
You can say "not all nerds", "not all gamers"... but that general white male nerd narrative is still a thing, and gamergate is still a thing. (When I go for gaming events, I enjoy having the public female restroom largely to myself while there are long lines snaking out of public male restrooms. At the same events, I hear casual real-life conversations that exclude or disparage people that don't fit that white male nerd narrative. Often they don't even mean any deliberate or malicious harm - it's so much part of the culture and vocabulary that it's just how people in that nerd culture operate - it's their norm. This isn't just on Twitter or social media - if anything, Twitter and social media statements/interactions just reflect mindsets and trends that are part of nerd culture today, that have real-life implications.)

Not sure how old most of you are, but nerd culture among 20-somethings today does have a lot of inherent white male privilege/biases and assumptions, along with racism sexism, etc - and I can see how there's a lot of overlap with the values and ideas that Trump and his supporters champion. In some sense I would say there isn't really a clear dichotomy between "nerds" and "jocks" nowadays, it's almost as if the nerds have taken on certain "jock" values and behavior. Like the gaming "bro" culture that's full of affected jock-like, competitive machismo. Maybe you have fond memories of growing up in the 80s as a nerd that liked 80s nerd-things purely for personal enjoyment - but nerd culture and nerd community has evolved. Like Hactar's suggested, the old high school nerd has become today's tech bro or gamer dude.
posted by aielen at 3:34 PM on November 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Google "Caddyshack Edmund Connelly"

"...a gentile setting is defiled by Jewish flatulence."

Oh thank god I finally have a motto for the coat of arms.
posted by griphus at 3:36 PM on November 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


Nerd + Jock = brogrammer. Wasn't a thing when I was growing up, is a thing now. Sadness.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


There are good points here, but the article drowns itself by how much it despises what it describes. Like this:
People often lament how these sorts of films gave way to the miserable schlock output of the 1980s. This transformation tends to be traced in film-history, not unreasonably, to the rise of the blockbuster — the historic profitability of Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) pivoted studio attention toward big-budget spectacles with lowest-common-denominator subject matter.
Yeah, anyone saying there are categorically no good films made in the 80s would be laughed out of the room both by nerds, jocks, "regular people", and, yes, film studies majors. The 80s was an exceptionally productive period in film history, both studio films and independent cinema multiplied enormously, mostly on the back of the changes wrought in the 70s by "New Hollywood" movies that the author seems to be so fond of.

Also, this:
The films celebrated as 1980s camp colluded in the Reaganite project: Hollywood worked hard to project a stable white suburban America whose travails were largely due to bureaucratic interference
Seriously, has this guy ever seen any cinema from the 80s, beyond, say, the blockbusters he hates? Because this sure as hell doesn't sound like "Aliens" or "They Live" or "Withnail & I" or "Brazil" or "Repo Man" or "Sex, Lies and Videotape" or "Blue Velvet" or "Full Metal Jacket" or "Das Boot" or "The World According to Garp" or "Kiss of the Spider Woman" or "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" or "Come and See" or "Dead Ringers" or "Mala Noche" "The Hotel New Hampshire" or "Videodrome". Note that a bunch of these movies are beloved by "nerds", by the way.

It's like this guy watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Ghostbusters", and "Revenge of the Nerds" and called it a day. When you're this ignorant about something, you can probably make it support any point you like.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:04 PM on November 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


#NotAll80sMovies, yes
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:08 PM on November 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


You know, I lived through and watched movies in the eighties, and I never even heard of Withnail and I until about five years ago. I saw Brazil and Kiss of the Spider Woman on videotape in the early nineties in my late teens, because by that point I'd heard of them and had enough autonomy to rent my own movies. The Cook, the Thief His Wife and Her Lover was not accessible in the suburbs or to teens. Mala Noche and Videodrome likewise. "If you lived in a city as a teen and had a great deal of autonomy in the eighties you could have seen some good independent cinema" doesn't really refute the hypothesis.
posted by Frowner at 4:13 PM on November 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


the nerds-vs-jock fratboys trope is more likely to be seen as Jews-vs-WASPs, with analogy to Jews being excluded from WASP country clubs.

Ding ding ding! People upthread have touched on the neuroatypical angle and the less manly/heteronormativity angle, but any attempt to unpack the history of 'nerd culture' and media that doesn't touch on the Jew-coding of nerds in early media has a giant blind spot, and one that makes analysis of nerd culture feeding the rise of the alt-right get very complicated, very fast.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:13 PM on November 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


You know, sometimes it's OK to point out poorly thought-out over-generalizations. It doesn't necessarily make you one of those #notall people.
posted by Crane Shot at 4:14 PM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


The point is, you don't get to imply "The 70s produced only great film, and in the 80s it was all lowest common denominator Reaganite conservative shit", because neither of those is true. The 70s produced a huge amount of crap (and lots of politically conservative crap, "Death Wish" and "Dirty Harry", anyone?), the 80s a huge amount of great, left-leaning, anti-Establishment films. You have to be hugely ignorant of film history to claim otherwise.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:21 PM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, the one of the few works I've read on the subject that isn't worth discarding immediately says that nerd girls exist and had their own spaces. Of course, this was a sociolinguistic study that actually looked at how social networks among women actually existed in a Southern California high school.

Attempting to reframe this as a "history of pop culture" is really strained because people who do history of pop culture don't particularly write screeds like:
Before their emergence as goose-stepping shit-posting scum, however, nerds — those “losers” into video games and comics and coding — had already been increasingly attached to a stereotypical set of political and philosophical beliefs. The nerd probably read Ayn Rand or, at the very least, bought into pseudo-meritocracy and libertarianist “freedom.” From his vantage, social problems are technical ones, merely one “disruption” away from being solved. The sea-steading, millennial-blood-drinking, corporate-sovereignty-advocating tech magnates are their heroes — the quintessential nerd overlords.
Which has no less than six unsupported and uncited claims of fact. A few paragraphs down we have the appearance of "fuckboy." After the "fuckboy paragraph we have a no true scotsman:
Surely, those communities of marginalized gamers have just as much claim to the subject position of the “nerd,” as do queer shippers and comic-book geeks, to say nothing of people who identify as a nerd to indicate their enthusiasm for an esoteric subject (e.g. “policy nerds”). But the reason a tech-enabled swarm of fascists have emerged in the nerd’s image today and claimed it as territory necessary to defend is because of the archetype’s specific cultural origin in the late 20th century, and the political purpose for which it was consolidated.
Then, we go beyond pop culture to another no-true-scotsman about real-world cultural dynamics:
Of course, there are outcasts who really are intimidated, silenced, and oppressed. They tend to be nonwhite, queer, fat, or disabled — the four groups that are the most consistently and widely bullied in American schools. In other words, the “nerds” who are bullied are being bullied for other things than being a nerd.
My question is "why not all of the above?" The Bucholtz study I described above treated High School cultures as intersectional with larger class and cultural issues. In the 80s, nerds were coded queer, bashed as queer, and often were queer (possibly also fat or disabled as well.) It's one of those things that Stranger Things actually seems to get.

Then you go down the page past the absurdity of an apolitical Animal House, some reasonable pot-shots at John Hughes, a number of examples thrown at the reader without any attempt at deep reading or analysis.
Now, of course, these films are subjects of much high-profile nostalgia. Netflix’s retro miniseries Stranger Things, for instance, looks back wistfully to the ’80s, re-enchanting the image of nerds as winning underdogs (rather than tyrannical bigots).
You mean, the television show where the "nerd" group includes a person of color, a person with a visible disability, and a person who is described multiple times as gay or queer? The Byers brothers who are the target of gendered bullying by their father? Barb, who's marginalized because she's not pretty or agreeable? All of which actually happens? The story where the bullying is painfully (to me) homophobic? And this is the apologia for heterocentric masculinity?

When we get to the bottom of a mess of hot takes, unsupported claims, and shallow reads (except for Revenge of the Nerds the only work to merit more than a couple of paragraphs, and even that is barely more than a synopsis) we have what he's really saying:
The nerd/jock distinction has always been a myth designed to hide social conflict and culturally re-center white male subjectivity. Now that the nerds have fully arrived, their revenge looks uglier than anything the jocks ever dreamed.
Which is an entirely polemic statement about political reality that can't be supported by dumping a list of movies on the page. Nerd culture in the 80s was strongly intersectional with gender, sexuality, disability, race, and class. There's a fair bit of research about how public school cultures form, and the conflicts among them. Consensus features such as literary and clothing fashion, linguistic markers, and ideological relationships with the public school system follow from that intersectionality.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


The point is, you don't get to imply "The 70s produced only great film, and in the 80s it was all lowest common denominator Reaganite conservative shit", because neither of those is true. The 70s produced a huge amount of crap (and lots of politically conservative crap, "Death Wish" and "Dirty Harry", anyone?), the 80s a huge amount of great, left-leaning, anti-Establishment films. You have to be hugely ignorant of film history to claim otherwise.

I completely agree with you, also this is totally beside the point
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Has anyone suggested doing the appointment process as a reality show yet? A mash-up of The X-Factor and The West Wing. They could call it The X-Wing, giving you synergy with the renewed interest in Star Wars. There's your millennial engagement.

Congratulations. You have now entered stage 2: the slapstick comedy period.
posted by Grangousier at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


(That was supposed to go in the Election thread in the other tab, but to be honest it wouldn't really be helpful, would it? I'm getting really bad at the internet. sigh)
posted by Grangousier at 4:45 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


lookit this nerd posted in the wrong thread! let's get him
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:47 PM on November 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Oh it was no myth. I was bullied, alone and sad from Second grade on. But hey whatever gets the clicks I guess.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


i'm beginning to think there's two kinds of people in the world

those who have someone, a stereotype of certain someones, to blame whatever they think is wrong with the world (and are increasingly vocal and obnoxious about it, especially on line)

and those who would rather fix problems but can't be heard because of all the noise and confusion of the first type

our culture, political and otherwise, is taking a screwball turn into total violent stupidity and this nerds debate is just one more example of that (now that the so called white working class and the midwesterners have been put in their places)

#notallhumans
posted by pyramid termite at 5:59 PM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


This thread on twitter by Siyanda Mohutsiwaya on the online radicalization of young white men (and not the article Abi Wilkinson plagiarized from her and published in the Guardian) is the best clarification of the above article I've seen.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


This thread on twitter by Siyanda Mohutsiwaya on the online radicalization of young white men (and not the article Abi Wilkinson plagiarized from her and published in the Guardian) is the best clarification of the above article I've seen.

Pardon, you'll have to connect the dots for me, where does Mohutsiwaya make the claim that the homophobic, ableist, and fatphobic class structure of American schools in the 1980s "has always been a myth designed to hide social conflict and culturally re-center white male subjectivity." That's what the article is about in its own words.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


CBrachyrhynchos, but I think that line you're quoting is referring to "nerd" as "movie trope" and not "nerd" as "actual lived experience" (which was a lot more heterogeneous). The author isn't saying that IRL nerd-dom was a myth, I don't think, he's saying that the way the idea of the "nerd" was used in media was essentially to reinforce patriarchy, misogyny, racism, etc. by giving the audience "underdog" straight white men to root for (as in ROTN).
posted by en forme de poire at 6:51 PM on November 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


There is a hell of a lot of denial about nerd culture going on in the form of nitpicking the article.

I mean look, the whole "oppresed superior race" aspect of nerd culture is not a new thing. Consider the "Fans are Slans" meme dates back to 1941, and The Iron Dream was a satire of that attitude. In a very real sense, a large chunk of nerrd-dom has simply been waiting for decades for the chance to go fascist, and with the advent of social media they now have their chance to oppress other people.

Believe me, there is a huge toxic authoritarian element in nerd culture, and picking apart this article won't change that.
posted by happyroach at 6:53 PM on November 16, 2016 [26 favorites]


As Samuel Johnson said, "I refute him thusly." (Kicks rock.)


THIS.

The only "myth" about the nerd outcast is the idea that the outcast is a suffering saint. Victims of bullying are as human as the rest of us, and just as capable of being jerks (case in point, ocschwar) or falling into mindsets like the misogyny of the 1980's movies.

It does not take that much intelligence to reconcile being opposed to anti-intellectualism, being opposed to bullying, and also being horrified by the emergence of the alt-right and the other monstrosities that emerge from under the proverbial rocks of the Internet.
posted by ocschwar at 6:54 PM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


...and The Iron Dream was a satire of that attitude...

Holy shit I never considered it from that perspective but damn it works
posted by griphus at 7:04 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]



The most likely Trump voter is a high income, lower education rural white male. I don't know how often assistant retail managers, senior people in skilled trades and small business owners play video games obsessively and shit though.


As my wife pointed out, on our local TV channels, the only ads for computer games are during football games. A glance at my Facebook friends list shows that tabletop d20 games are more of a thing than Halo or Call of Duty. Come to think of it, the last time I even saw any of my friends look at a computer game, it was because of Red Vs. Blue.

Computer gaming has become so consumerized that it's not really much of a nerd thing anymore.
posted by ocschwar at 7:10 PM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've never heard of the Jew-coding of nerds, or nerds-vs-jocks = Jews-vs-WASPs. Can somebody explain?
posted by gucci mane at 7:20 PM on November 16, 2016


Believe me, there is a huge toxic authoritarian element in nerd culture, and picking apart this article won't change that.

I think this is a real thing. It is true that nerd culture, broadly considered and to the extent that it is a thing we can talk about as some kind of whole, has a bunch of bad stuff in it, and it makes me angry all the time. A friend once made me a cross-stitch which says "shut up, nerd" in large letters, and it sits on my desk next to all my other professional nerd shit, and at least once a week it helps me to feel calm and centered.

And yet: After overthinking it all afternoon, and feeling conflicted about the discussion here, I've still decided that this is a shitty article that doesn't really merit the level of engagement a bunch of smart people are giving it.
posted by brennen at 7:55 PM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


For the past 6 years or so, I've been very involved in a hobby that draws a lot of women nerds (knitting), and in the last year or so, I've gotten back into tabletop role-playing games (very male). Both of these groups are open to both sexes, but one is very dominant. In fact, when I first got into knitting, I wondered how it seemed to attracted nerd-culture fans, despite not having direct links to what I recognized as nerddom. It was only after I was exposed to the rampant harassment and sexism within more traditional male-nerd spaces that I realized (dummy that I am), that knitting spaces were safe spaces for women, and that nerd women absolutely needed those safe spaces.

I haven't gotten much into cons and the sort of spaces you find a lot of that toxicity, but I'm trying to do what I can to help make my Friendly Local Game Shop more welcoming to people of all backgrounds. I did find some good ideas in this article, and I am constantly bewildered by the current incarnation of billion-dollar "nerd culture" that feels very different in so many ways from what I experienced in the 1980s. But after reading a biography of Gary Gygax (creator of D&D), I started realizing that it's always been a multi-million (or multi-billion) dollar industry, we've always been being sold stuff, and the bullying I experienced was a weird side effect that had an outsized influence on how the culture ended up getting shaped.

So I've always liked nerdy stuff, but I've always had very mixed feelings about identifying as a nerd.
posted by rikschell at 7:58 PM on November 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


I mean look, the whole "oppresed superior race" aspect of nerd culture is not a new thing. Consider the "Fans are Slans" meme dates back to 1941, and The Iron Dream was a satire of that attitude.

Not to introduce too much false equivalency, but this happens a lot in oppressed groups: A minority contingent takes the "we should be proud of who we are" thing too far, and you end up with pseudo-fascist or straight up fascist shit like the Atlah Worldwide Church, Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, Gay Fascists (and hi, Milo Yiannopoulos), Lesbian separatists, and yeah, 4chan nerd alt-right racists.

Not all of these things are the same, but the rise of fascism within a subgroup of nerds is in no way an indicator nerds are not really an oppressed group, it might even be a sign of the opposite.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:40 PM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


en forme de poire: CBrachyrhynchos, but I think that line you're quoting is referring to "nerd" as "movie trope" and not "nerd" as "actual lived experience" (which was a lot more heterogeneous). The author isn't saying that IRL nerd-dom was a myth, I don't think, he's saying that the way the idea of the "nerd" was used in media was essentially to reinforce patriarchy, misogyny, racism, etc. by giving the audience "underdog" straight white men to root for (as in ROTN).

I think that's a very strained and convoluted reading of what the article actually says. Note that the conclusion just restates a thesis described earlier. The concept of "nerd" is presented as completely irrelevant to issues of race, class, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. "In other words, the “nerds” who are bullied are being bullied for other things than being a nerd."

I'll point out that none of that is based on any actual history or study of the social structure of American schools. There's a handwave at research so vague and removed from context that it's useless.

"Nerd" was not invented by National Lampoon or Hughes to create an underdog. It existed as a social category within many American public schools in the 1980s, the boundaries of which were partly defined by classism, gender-conformity, homophobia, ableism, and fatphobia. Mass media may have appropriated and sanitized this for their own ends, but they do that with just about everything, which is why we shouldn't be looking to mass media for history. "Nerd" was an expression of those prejudices, just as much as f** was an expression of homophobia.

The article assumes a revisionist view that erases all of that. "In the 1980s and ’90s, an obsession with comics, games, and anime might have made this suburban “nerd” a bit of a weirdo." Well no, I was a nerd because I crossed my legs the wrong way, because I wore my pants wrong, because I was naive about sexuality, and because I was a scrawny nearsighted wisp of an allergy-prone boy who cried too much. I became "obsessed" with SFF because it was one of the few coping strategies I had available to me. I was a queer nerd before I knew I was queer, and it's not a surprise that most of my social circle ended up coming out as adults.

Now, it might be the case that the alt right is appropriating that for their own sense of feeling aggrieved. Or it might be the case that cishet male nerds get targeted for homophobic or sexist harassment but don't see it as such. Either way, "nerd" as it existed in the 80s absolutely cannot be divorced from the homophobic and sexist harassment that was used to define social networks in American schools.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:06 PM on November 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


To use an analogy, it's kind of like saying that "queer" has no cultural history because it's been adopted by kinky liberal straight people. Well, sure there may be kinky liberal straight people making "queer" their brand today, but that says nothing about the cultural history of queerness as I experienced it as an adolescent.

My admittedly egocentric perspective is that I don't think you can create a credible theory of "nerd" as it existed in the 1980s American public school without feminist or queer theory to look at how teens engage in sexism and heterosexism through harassment.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:45 PM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whatever the faults of the article, it does make me look at the fact that, as a pretty solidly bullied, ostracized white male, I'm haunted (like, seriously, it pops up on a regular basis whenever I involuntarily think about something from my childhood) about how similar my background and the background of a red pill/gamergate/4~8chan person is. I, too, thought I was a nice guy, that it was because I was a nice guy that girls didn't notice how awesome I (thought) I was. Fuck, I had speeches that I had polished over time about how it was because I was a nice guy, girls didn't want to date me. The more I think about it, the more upsetting and revolting it is to me now. Back then it clearly, in my mind, didn't have anything to do with me, yet there I was, all alone. If I was going through this as a teen now, would I be complaining about being friendzoned? I struggle with who I was and how I approached the world as a teen because I see so many people who had very similar experiences, but have arrived at a very different end point.

I mean, if I'd still been in high school after Columbine, teachers would've been keeping a closer eye on me. And yeah, I strongly felt that somehow people just hadn't realized I was the best thing in the world. It terrifies me, because I was that kid, I was the kid that so many people were and they grew up into assholes posting racist memes, harassing people on twitter, orchestrating fucking campaigns to convince people to kill themselves for the fun of it. If 4chan had been around when I was a kid, if I'd been exposed to this stuff, to an echo chamber telling me it's not my fault, it's clearly these bad people who are responsible for your misery? How would I have turned out? How did I manage not to turn out like that? It scares the shit out of me.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:23 PM on November 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


Ghidorah, you're allowed to be awkward and fucked up and not know shit when you're a teenager. The important thing is to grow out of it. Teenagers are (often) dicks. You shouldn't worry about how you're from a similar background to people who are assholes, you should be content you didn't turn out that way. It's entirely possible that you didn't turn out that way because you, like most people, grew out of adolescent feelings of entitlement.

In short, the old adage "I used to know some objectivists. Then they turned 16" applies to alt-right assholes too. It's just that a few don't grow out of it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:27 PM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


This discussion is relevant to a theory I came up with a while ago, after first witnessing the evils unleashed by Gamergate/4chan/the alt-right. Something I started thinking about when Sam Biddle had his life turned upside-down for tweeting about how Gamergate proves nerds need to be shamed and bullied into submission.

The conflict between geeks/nerds and the popular/athletic/etc is traditionally depicted as some kind of extension of the natural primate order; the human incarnation of how "alphas" assert dominance across the entire realm of social mammals. But, I wonder if that kind of bullying is actually a uniquely human evolutionary mechanism, which developed as a way to police males who were intelligent and organized/collaborative but lacked empathy.

Although I realize it's controversial, I'm a strong believer in Simon Baron-Cohen's "systemizers vs mentalizers" theory of the autism spectrum. The basic idea is that androgens promote the development of compartmentalized brains, which are oriented toward processing patterns and mechanical systems (eg, the workings of the outside world). On the other hand, estrogens promote the development of more distributed brains, wherein all the various parts can work together to emulate another person's mind (eg, the workings of our inner worlds).

In that view of the spectrum, being geeky/nerdy is essentially an extremely mild form of autism...in that it's describing someone who has an above-average aptitude for certain types of logic and systems, but has difficulty reading and understanding the minds of others in a social context. As a logical extension of that, autism is diagnosed when someone's brain is so pattern/system-oriented that they are truly unable to understand and process other people's minds (at least, not without specialized training and interventions).

So, what if we're actually witnessing the re-emergence of a phenomenon that has occurred throughout human history? Perhaps there has always been a tendency for certain types of intelligent but un-empathetic males to band together around their shared fixations, and harass others without any regard for their feelings. And as such, humans evolved a natural tendency to shame and subjugate those types of males, in order to prevent their lack of compassion from becoming a toxic element in their societies.

I realize it's unlikely and a bit, well, "out-there," but I don't think it's entirely implausible. However, I would be the first to admit that I tend to be biased in favor of biological/genetic determinism, and believing it explains more about the human condition than nurturing or our environment.
posted by prosopagnosia at 10:40 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


What I'm hearing is that I finally* have a chance at kicking some Fascists' asses.


*Previous versions were frankly too scary and tough. Hard men and the like. Nerds I can handle.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:28 PM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mass media may have appropriated and sanitized this for their own ends, but

But isn't this an article mostly about mass media? I mean, it's lit crit, not sociology; it's mostly an analysis of 80s teen film that tries to place those films in the broader historical currents of the time. I honestly don't think you're disagreeing with the author much, either. These two paragraphs seem to basically agree with everything you wrote:
Surely, those communities of marginalized gamers have just as much claim to the subject position of the “nerd,” as do queer shippers and comic-book geeks, to say nothing of people who identify as a nerd to indicate their enthusiasm for an esoteric subject (e.g. “policy nerds”). But the reason a tech-enabled swarm of fascists have emerged in the nerd’s image today and claimed it as territory necessary to defend is because of the archetype’s specific cultural origin in the late 20th century, and the political purpose for which it was consolidated.

The nerd appeared in pop culture in the form of a smart but awkward, always well-meaning white boy irrationally persecuted by his implacable jock antagonists in order to subsume and mystify true social conflict — the ones around race, gender, class, and sexuality that shook the country in the 1960s and ’70s — into a spectacle of white male suffering. This was an effective strategy to sell tickets to white-flight middle-class suburbanites, as it described and mirrored their mostly white communities. With the hollowing out of urban centers, and the drastic poverty in nonwhite communities of the ’80s and ’90s, these suburban whites were virtually the only consumers with enough consistent spending money to garner Hollywood attention.
My interpretation of this is that "nerd" as 80s/90s pop-cultural archetype became a heterosexual white boy, even though real "nerds" were/are a pretty heterogeneous category that included women, people of color, non-neurotypical people, people from the "wrong" socioeconomic or cultural background, and people who were failing to perform conventional masculinity or femininity. The difference is that those people didn't get to be featured in pop media as scrappy underdogs! If anything, they were further denigrated in mass media. I think the author's argument is that teen lit/media instead focused on this much more palatable idea that the story of the nerd was about one class of straight white boys who liked drinking and sports, beating up on another class of straight white boys who liked comic books and computers, who then get their revenge on the first class in the third act. The author is arguing that this pop-culture trope perpetuated a harmful myth, weaponized by GG/voat/dorkrevolution elements, that nerdy straight white boys who liked comic books and computers therefore deserved and would inherit a place at the top of white patriarchy.

I totally agree with you that a lot of nerd-bashing is actually disguised queer-bashing (as another now-queer scrawny, nearsighted kid who crossed his legs wrong and cried a lot), or reflecting bias on some other axis, and I also totally agree that all of those causes intersect to produce the IRL category of "nerd" in a given school. I don't think this article is really contesting that -- though I can see how you might argue it overplays the "no such thing as a nerd, just different oppressed people" argument a bit; I think the author probably is being a little glib there. Instead I think the article is mostly talking about a specific coding of "nerd," propagated by teen media, that's about straight white guys feeling aggrieved because they're not getting the sex/money/social respect they think they're owed.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:54 AM on November 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


These two paragraphs seem to basically agree with everything you wrote:

No, because the first paragraph uses a no-true-scotsman to dismiss queerness as irrelevant to the "archetype’s specific cultural origin in the late 20th century" then the next paragraph goes on to describe that origin as a pop cultural attempt to "mystify true social conflict — the ones around race, gender, class, and sexuality."

And again, "nerd" wasn't an attempt to mystify that social conflict. It was that social conflict as organized by student cultures within American educational systems. As I said, you can't have a credible account of "nerd" without feminism and queer theory to look at the issues of harassment on the basis of gender and sexuality that were involved in creating "nerd" as a class.

To use an analogy, you can't build an credible account of American suburbia without addressing racism. Now, you won't see racism explicitly discussed in hundreds of stories about suburbia produced by pop-culture. But that doesn't mean that suburbia wasn't racist in practice. Suburbia was, in part, racism as enacted through economics and geography. And nerd was, in part, heterosexism as enacted through the social networks and social capital of teens.

I think the author's argument is that teen lit/media instead focused on this much more palatable idea that the story of the nerd was about one class of straight white boys who liked drinking and sports, beating up on another class of straight white boys who liked comic books and computers, who then get their revenge on the first class in the third act.

A problem here is that this narrative completely misunderstands the relationships between social groupings and in-group signifiers. It's nonsense that can't be taken at face value, much less built into a movement, or an article criticizing that movement.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:46 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


You mean, the television show where the "nerd" group includes a person of color, a person with a visible disability, and a person who is described multiple times as gay or queer? The Byers brothers who are the target of gendered bullying by their father? Barb, who's marginalized because she's not pretty or agreeable?
You know, there has been a ton of discussion and critique of the way the show handles Barb. Barb is marginalized by the show's creators, who seem to have been totally taken by surprise that female viewers related to her and were upset that neither the narrative nor the fictional town seemed to think that her disappearance was worthy of notice. She's not anyone's mother, girlfriend, or potential love interest: why would anyone think of her as anything but a plot device or a sly reference to '80s archetypes? I enjoyed Stranger Things quite a bit, but the show is not so good on recognizing the existence of female subjectivity. To me, an uncomfortable part of the throwback experience was having to come up with subversive readings of the text in order to create a world where people like me mattered. That's a skill I got really good at as a nerdy girl growing up in the '80s, but it's not nearly as necessary now, and I don't miss the days when the only way for people like me to be represented in pop culture was to elevate neglected secondary characters.

I also think that this is not entirely about bullying. When you challenge nerdy white guys on their status as an oppressed minority, they talk about bullying. But at other times, that doesn't actually seem to be the heart of their resentment. What drives their resentment is that they didn't/ don't have the unlimited access to beautiful women's bodies to which they think they are entitled. That's why nerdy girls are totally invisible in these discussions, as they are in pop culture like Stranger Things. Nerdy boys don't want to fuck nerdy women, and women exist only as objects to be fucked. And although I understand (believe me: I understand) how painful it is to be awkward and unattractive in high school, the popular girls were not oppressing you when they preferred to date guys who were better looking and had better social skills.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:26 AM on November 17, 2016 [19 favorites]


You know, there has been a ton of discussion and critique of the way the show handles Barb.

Note that I said Stranger Things wasn't perfect, and those criticisms are spot on. However a show in which the explicit homophobia of the 1980s was made explicit multiple times on the screen as something the protagonists dealt with is not an apologia for GamerGate.

And although I understand (believe me: I understand) how painful it is to be awkward and unattractive in high school, the popular girls were not oppressing you when they preferred to date guys who were better looking and had better social skills.

Pardon, is this addressed to me personally? Because when I talk about nerd culture and heterosexism in the 1980s, I talk about being sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped at different points in my public school career. I talk about struggling to find a peer group of minimal risk. I have a friend from that time in hiding this week because of trauma from then. I honestly believe that the pervasive fatphobia experienced by my sister in public schools was one of many factors that contributed to her death.

I agree that this is a large part of the alt right's misogyny. The alt right is also involved in erasing queerness, gender, race, and disability from nerd history. I refuse to let them have that narrative.

As a side note, one of the ways that early "nerd cinema" whitewashed the cultural conflicts that existed in 80s public schools is by showing bullying on the level of a comic pratfall.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:54 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


However a show in which the explicit homophobia of the 1980s was made explicit multiple times on the screen as something the protagonists dealt with is not an apologia for GamerGate.

Intersectionality is a hell of a drug.
posted by Etrigan at 6:57 AM on November 17, 2016


I've never heard of the Jew-coding of nerds, or nerds-vs-jocks = Jews-vs-WASPs. Can somebody explain?

I can take a stab at this. You should, however, add "snobs vs. slobs" to the list of x-vs-y as the coding is also in there and sometimes a little more obvious.

Guys like Harold Ramis would be where to look to figure this out. He was a secular Jew who came of age in the 60s and pretty clearly experienced anti-Semitism. This was at a time where it was much more prevalent than the 80s, when his movies were coming out, and it was also a time when any sort of ethnic minority (Italians, Irish) was much more looked down on by WASPs, who ran the country clubs and other locations of status that one would (ostensibly) aspire to even if they weren't wanted there.

And you can see it in movies like Animal House and Caddyshack (or, hell, even Stripes, to an extent, considering the arc of Ramis' character in that movie.) The snobs/WASPs/jocks in these movies are pretty easy to figure out, they're the very white, very exclusive gatekeepers. And then you have the nerds/slobs/ethnics: gentiles (e.g. Belushi, Murray, etc.) were frequently cast as 'slobs,' while the Jews became the nerds. It wasn't 100% that way, for instance Al Czervik from Caddyshack clearly fits the 'slob' model better than the 'nerd'.

But this sort of coding remains even as those kind of madcap movies went out of style, and certain ethnicities became whiter and whiter to the extent that you can't really sort out the WASPs from the Jews from the lower-tier ethnic minorities who read as white. I just rewatched 10 Things I Hate About You ('99) and you've got David Krumholtz, very geeky and very Jewish, who has recently been ousted from the (mostly-)WASP club for some fashion-based misdemeanor.

It's one of those things where once you see it, you can't unsee it, but seeing it takes some practice if you're not great at picking up signals that coded characters as "Jewish" in the 80s.
posted by griphus at 7:00 AM on November 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


(Just to be clear, I'm pretty sure plenty of country club WASPs still look down on Jews, Italians, Irish, etc. It's just that we've "lost" this trope as the writers of contemporary films like these grow up experiencing much less anti-Semitism than guys like Landis and Ramis.)
posted by griphus at 7:01 AM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


the popular girls were not oppressing you when they preferred to date guys who were better looking and had better social skills

The use of the term "oppression" as applied to the travails of youth's navigation of the social hierarchy should probably be retired since it frames the discussion in a terrible way that invites both grandstanding on a false equivalence and pithy dismissal.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:51 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Intersectionality is a hell of a drug.

I'm not holding Stranger Days as some ideal, but Osterweil can't really get away with saying that "nerd" erases race, class, disability, sexuality, and fat, and then use a story where nerds are explicitly black, poor, disabled, fat, and possibly gay and targeted for anti-gay abuse on screen. That's not perfect, but it's one of only a few dozen TV shows in the last year to address homophobia at all. As far as I know, it's the only show to address homophobia in the 80s.

A lot of this discussion is starting to feel a lot like gaslighting, and I'm really running out of patience, time, and spoons. "Nerd" was a violent slur used by violent people in support of a violent system built around sexism, heterosexism, and ableism. Discussion of revisionist pop-culture work needs to be grounded in the experiences of survivors. Discussion of revisionist alt right narratives also needs to be grounded in the experiences of survivors. Discussion of the dynamics of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in schools has not a fucking thing to do with sexual resentment.

I'm really struggling to see why the revisionist narratives of Hollywood and the alt right are so much more important than survivors in this discussion.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:14 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, there actually was another Netflix period series this year on my waiting list focused on the development of hip hop and electronic music that included LGBTQ culture in the 80s.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2016


What I'm hearing you say, CBrachyrhynchos, is that no one can look at how the concept of "nerd" gelled in the eighties or how the concept functioned because doing so is an insult to people who were bullied - maybe that looking at any kind of history of the popular culture image of "nerd" actually rises, in fact, to gaslighting.

I grew up in the eighties. I was horribly bullied because I was fat, poor, queer, badly socialized and lived in a really right-wing town. My entire life was shaped by being bullied pretty much non-stop from when I was seven or so to when I left for college. Adults were complicit and sometimes actively worked with the bullies to a degree that astonishes me today. I had no friends for much of my adolescence - literally no friends. There is no aspect of my life today, from my friendships to my employment to my physical health, that was not substantially determined by being aggressively bullied for a decade.

I find it unsettling that we're not supposed to consider anything except a lived experience of bullying when we talk about how the concept of "nerd" works in popular culture. In fact, it's precisely because my experience of being bullied - of being bullied as a nerd, but also not-as-a-nerd because nerds were boys, officially speaking - maps so poorly onto pop culture depictions of nerds that I want to consider them further.

To me the commonality between eighties depictions of nerds, nineties punk scene valorization of "nerdiness" and Stranger Things is the desire to commodify victimization in the service of power. In the eighties, it served power well to create this narrative of outsider male nerds; in the nineties punk scene, asserting your "nerdiness" was a way for the popular and beautiful to assert their lack of privilege; and now cute lil' nerd boys on Stranger Things are the heroes. We all just know that they are the good guys and the forces of reaction are bad, and we're just so sure that if we'd been kids in the eighties, we would never have been terrible, awful bullies.

But of course, you couldn't make a show about a group of girl nerds who befriend another girl, and Eleven would never be played by a homely, awkward or fat actress. Once again, images of the excluded are created for the delectation of and use by the mainstream. These images are created in part to mask the actual experience of the excluded and have very little to do with it - we can depict "nerds" getting "bullied" in the "eighties" in a sorta-realistic mode now because it's not the eighties any more, but we'll all make Mogadishu Minnesota over the protests of today's excluded people. And no doubt in thirty years - should the planet survive so long - there will be a sentimental, heavily nostalgic television show about growing up Somali in Minnesota in the 2010s, and everyone will assure themselves that they would never have hated or bullied Somalis had they been on the scene. The excluded of yesterday are everyone's heroes; the excluded of today are everyone's victims.

If we're centering survivors, here, I too am a survivor.
posted by Frowner at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2016 [26 favorites]


" But, I wonder if that kind of bullying is actually a uniquely human evolutionary mechanism, which developed as a way to police males who were intelligent and organized/collaborative but lacked empathy."

You think it's those who are being bullied that lack empathy? Do you think that bullies are just bursting with empathy?
posted by I-baLL at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's likely that bullies are VERY empathic, otherwise how would they be so adept and finding the things that their targets are sensitive about? Some of them could zero in on that one thing about you and just exploit it.
posted by NiteMayr at 9:03 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, one of the nastiest bullies I ever dealt with was a genius at reading people emotionally. Empathy without sympathy.
posted by LindsayIrene at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's likely that bullies are VERY empathic, otherwise how would they be so adept and finding the things that their targets are sensitive about? Some of them could zero in on that one thing about you and just exploit it.

That sounds a lot like psychopath behaviour – i.e. the opposite of empathy.
posted by Crane Shot at 9:10 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]



Yeah, one of the nastiest bullies I ever dealt with was a genius at reading people emotionally. Empathy without sympathy.

It's weaponized empathy.
posted by Jalliah at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Like Crane Shot said, it's psychopathy, not empathy.
posted by I-baLL at 9:13 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that's the weak point of the proposition that biotruths mean it's good and natural to torment the spectrumy, lest their robot brains endanger those with a theory of mind.
posted by The Gaffer at 9:13 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wonder if that kind of bullying is actually a uniquely human evolutionary mechanism, which developed as a way to police males who were intelligent and organized/collaborative but lacked empathy

Bullying is not some mysterious evolutionary force. It is powerful people picking on less powerful people. It happens for a variety of reasons, but "maintaining a healthy social norm" is not one of them.

Also being socially awkward during youth != being on the spectrum.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Biological" just-so stories usually do a lot more to hurt than help.
posted by bonehead at 9:30 AM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]



Bullying is not some mysterious evolutionary force.


There is nothing mysterious about it, but it is an evolutionary force.

People form hierarchies. Sometimes they do it for no reason other than it saves time.

How many times in your career did you get put into a team for a project, and within minutes in the meeting one member stepped forward and started dominating the discussions while the task list got subdivided and assembled? How many times did you let that person keep at it simply because he was 1. not a jerk, 2. leading things the right way, and 3. about evenly qualified for this with you, so no point challenging him?

With young people, age is the basis of the hierarchy. Get kids of mixed ages together, and the older ones will take charge. Get kids of the same age together, and suddenly the hierarchy has to be set by other means, none of them pleasant.
posted by ocschwar at 10:00 AM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]




The article talks about 'nerds as heroes' and 'nerds becoming heroes' but I think there is more meta level cultural mythology at play. I probably won't word this right but I'll try.
America as part of it's baseline cultural mythos is embedded with different versions of the American hero, America as savior, American superiority and exceptionalism. Hero worship, striving to be a hero, the superhero, is everywhere. It's leans hard masculine and it's very patriarchal in nature.

There is a very strong 'hero' narrative underlying much of alt-right rhetoric, discussion and thought. These folks very strongly believe that they are the super heroes that are saving America and the rest of the world from the forces of darkness. This is barely even hyperbole. They entice people to join in with 'be a hero man' type talk. It's a black and white war between good and evil. Be the superhero!

I think that looking at how various disaffected groups possible psychology can explain it is important. I just don't think it's close to the whole picture as so many examples could be found of people who participate who do not fall into these categories and demographics. 'Be hero', and in this case a very (toxic) masculine form of hero can have broad appeal that isn't relegated to one group or another. It's a shared cultural foundation.
posted by Jalliah at 10:01 AM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


If bullying is some evolutionary force that's essential because of hierarchy, etc, then why do different environments have different degrees of bullying? My hippie friends' kids who go to hippie school just don't have the same experience of bullying as I did, and my one hippie friend whose kid goes to a mainstream school has a very different experience from her hippie friend kids peers.

My parents' experience of being bullied (also fat weirdos) was much, much milder than mine, to the point where they didn't recognize what was happening to me.

When I taught in China, my students really did not recognize the bullying narrative that is standard in the US - not because no one in China ever bullies, but because Chinese school systems were set up differently enough that they did not encourage US-style hierarchy.

Bullying is only "evolutionary" in the way that "having some kind of loosely-defined family structure for raising kids" is "evolutionary, or "romantic relationships" are evolutionary, or "having evening meals" is evolutionary - that is, something you can loosely define as bullying is present to some degree in most but not all human societies but varies so in prevalence over time and between societies as to render universalizing pretty weak sauce.
posted by Frowner at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2016 [13 favorites]



If bullying is some evolutionary force that's essential because of hierarchy, etc, then why do different environments have different degrees of bullying?


Different environments steering our innate tendencies in different directions resulting in different outcomes? I wonder how that can be.

Consider that your hippie friends, for just one example, put their kids in a much less age-segregated environment, by inclination and by necessity. When older children pull rank, they don't need to assert themselves at all, so they're less likely to bully.
posted by ocschwar at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2016


Frowner: The function of the concept in the 1980s was to reinforce systems of oppression within American public schools. It was a slur, similar to "queer." The linked paper and a large chunk of this discussion has gone to great lengths to treat that lived, experiential, cultural reality as marginal or irrelevant. Another chunk of this discussion has been devoted to arguing that a clearly stated thesis of the paper is not, in fact, a clearly stated thesis but is actually about something completely different.

And a chunk of this discussion is that the essay about "history of pop culture" without meeting any of the minimal standards for that kind of work. It's a polemic editorial.

You need to reread and respond to what I actually wrote: "Discussion of revisionist pop-culture work needs to be grounded in the experiences of survivors." And this, I think, is a no-brainer. You use history to inform your interpretation of art. It's not always a good idea to get your history from the interpretation of art. Osterweil's argument is:

1. "nerd" was never connected to systems of sexism, heterosexism, racism, and ableism
2. Revenge of the Nerds
3. therefore, "nerd" was never connected to systems of sexism, heterosexism, racism and ableism.

And if you're going to make claims about systems of oppression, you need to talk to people who actually experienced that oppression, and not make a vague and uncited handwave to statistics. This isn't remotely controversial when we talk about the commodification of Stonewall as an example. I tend to see things through a queer theory lens, so the irrelevance of homophobia (both from nerds and anti-nerds) in Osterweil's argument and the relative invisibility of trans and POC in Stonewall are big problems.

I don't see how my objections are less pertinent if we're going to talk about the "nerd" in popular culture. To what degree did "nerd cinema" erase the realities of anti-queer violence in schools? To what degree was that trivialized as slapstick humor? Why do these discussions never address queer nerd fiction? I don't disagree that "nerd cinema" tends to support alt right narratives, but it does so by trivializing real-world violence and harassment and sanitizing the survivors. Osterweil's claim that it's a complete fiction is rather like the truther claim that vaccination is a public health hoax.

All of the criticisms of Stranger Things here are pretty good, as I've said no less than three times here. You won't find much of any of them within Osterweil's work, which misreads Stranger Things in a ridiculous way. Here's the argument:

1. the concept of "nerd" is all about straight, white, and able-bodied men
2. Stranger Things

That's a head-scratcher because Stranger Things has a black man, a disabled man, and a man who's labeled queer as protagonists. Is Stranger Things really the best example available of media that celebrates straight, white, and able-bodied men? Osterweil's use of that example just doesn't make sense in this argument.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:54 AM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


bonehead...there are a bunch of us 50 plus nerds. we were analog first but evolved digitally, naturally. I'll take credit for spanning the valley between millennials and my parents introducing both to the matrix.
posted by judson at 12:00 PM on November 17, 2016


Hey I know. I'm six months shy of being one myself. When I started playing D&D, AD&D was just brand new, and console games mostly meant Pong or Adventure.
posted by bonehead at 1:39 PM on November 17, 2016


Also, the "Fans are Slans" refers "Slan", whose narrative is basically the same as the X-Men, including the autocratic leader who wants to exterminate the mutants secretly being a mutant himself.

So, you know, yes, they see themselves as superhuman, or better than the regular people who want to kill them, but, you know, those regular people actually want to kill them. That narrative is also about as applicable to, say, Jewish nerds as it is to socially awkward pseudo-fascists.

(Yes, A.E. van Vogt had some unpleasant ideas, bordering on fascist at times, but those don't seem to have been totally expressed as early in his career as that, and he honestly careened through a bunch of philosophical, religious and political weirdness, including Scientology, throughout his life.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:05 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about the new face of GOPism characterized by the alt-right, the disintigration of any moral high-ground or family values, and the increasingly blatant disrespect for democracy since the Tea Party House of Reps, and more recently with the stripping of the Voting Rights Act and Citizens United.

I think there is an interesting parallel between all of this with an aspect of nerddom as represented in reddit, 4chan, fake news, trolling, and especially /r/the_donald.

I was wondering why /the_donald ALWAYS has the top story when you go to reddit's sitewide /all aggregator page. Turns out there are plenty of explanations for how they game the system. But what's more interesting to me is WHY game the system? I think its telling that the alt-righters are the ones who would bother doing this, because nerds with a broader more liberal intellectual outlook would understand that gaming the system makes the system itself less valuable to all users. It undermines the ability of the aggregator to reflect which content is actually trending.

Which leads me to the theory that alt-right represents one type of nerd-dom, which is a deep curiosity about the workings of a singular system. And a sense of competition which fuels this curiosity towards exploiting the system, or at least maximizing your own returns from it. While many nerds may expand their focused curiosities to a broader liberal intellectual framework, the alt-right nerds are content to just keep "winning" their little corner of the nerdiverse and reaping the rewards at the expense of others.

Maybe another parallel would be the gaming nerd who figures out a magic unstoppable combo in a 2P fighter and just keeps kicking ass despite the fact that everyone around them can no longer see the fun in the game once that player sidesteps competition in favor of a loophole. They're too focused on perfecting their winning strategy to notice that the game itself is now tainted.

I don't know how any of this fits in with the racist and misogynistic aspects, but I imagine those are just part of the subconscious excuses to justify gaming the system through some sense of victimization.
posted by p3t3 at 10:10 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I taught in China, my students really did not recognize the bullying narrative that is standard in the US - not because no one in China ever bullies, but because Chinese school systems were set up differently enough that they did not encourage US-style hierarchy.

I'm very curious as to how the set-up of the schools is different, and how that manifests in social order among the kids, if you feel like typing more about this!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:17 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm very curious as to how the set-up of the schools is different, and how that manifests in social order among the kids, if you feel like typing more about this!

This is based on conversations with Chinese students from rural and urban areas, but all either privileged enough or academically successful enough or both to have gotten into second-tier colleges on the coast. Also, it was fifteen years ago now. Also, I'm not saying "haha there is no bullying in Chinese schools". Also - mefites who actually grew up in China would have the real authoritative version here!

What my students told me was that there was much more emphasis placed on class unity, partly because things operated on a more grade-school-like system - you had the same group of people in all your classes and did not split up for science, literature, etc as we do here starting in junior high. (This was one of the main things my students pointed to, actually, even though it may not seem as big a deal as the other stuff.) So, per my students, bonds between students were stronger. Also, much more value was traditionally placed on learning and intellectualism than in the US - wanting to be a good student wasn't a thing only weirdo outcasts did. Teachers were more respected and had more power; classroom rules were much more strictly enforced, so there simply wasn't as much scope for bullying. Some students also held elected/appointed roles as class leaders and there was a certain expectation about behavior - "class" here being the small group you went to all your classes with.

Also, in HS and college classes did a lot of stuff together (I can't speak to younger kids; this is only what I witnessed.) Like, the whole class would go on an excursion as a group, but this was for fun, not a field trip. Most of the time, people socialized with their particular friends, but there were "friendly" things that everyone did together.

As a foreign teacher, I was very much an outsider and everyone was on their best behavior around me, but I had a number of interactions with students that were surprising even so - basically, there was a discernable social hierarchy but it was not as exclusion-oriented and there were categories that didn't exist in the US - a lot more space for smart kids, a lot more space for kids who were not conventionally attractive.

There were obvious down sides to this system - educational resources were scarce, so it was very hard for kids who weren't well off or naturally very gifted to get ahead; teachers were so very respected, in fact, that some were able to beat their students; there was this whole tie-in with the Communist Party; there were all these social rules about dating, especially through the nineties, where you were not really supposed to have romantic relationships until your mid-twenties; and a bunch of other stuff.

In retrospect, I wonder whether school bullying in the US doesn't partially derive its strength from a contradiction - kids are expected to be in school all day, learning, but we as a society don't respect learning or education or teachers. So kids are in this system where if they go along with the educational project they are doing something that is totally culturally despised, and submitting to being bossed around by low-paid, despised functionaries. Whereas in China - not that it's a paradise of intellectualism where there's no careerism or cynicism or intellectual dishonesty - at least if you're in school you're doing something that is not despised and you're being taught by someone who is not despised.
posted by Frowner at 7:04 AM on November 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


In retrospect, I wonder whether school bullying in the US doesn't partially derive its strength from a contradiction - kids are expected to be in school all day, learning, but we as a society don't respect learning or education or teachers. So kids are in this system where if they go along with the educational project they are doing something that is totally culturally despised, and submitting to being bossed around by low-paid, despised functionaries. Whereas in China - not that it's a paradise of intellectualism where there's no careerism or cynicism or intellectual dishonesty - at least if you're in school you're doing something that is not despised and you're being taught by someone who is not despised.

There's a lot of Marxist research in education that proposes that the American school system is designed to recreate the same kinds of class conflicts that existed in industrial America. If I remember right, Bucholtz's identification of nerd girls as a linguistic community of practice was, in part, based on social class and social capital. Many nerd girls lacked the independent SES to build "varsity" social capital, but chose not to disengage from the educational system entirely as did "dropouts." This maps pretty well to the Marxist hypothesis that schools recreate the same kinds of relationships to labor as capitalism.

But a Marxist analysis starts with the hypothesis that youth cultures and youth communities of practice are fundamentally economic in origin.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:43 PM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


tangential: even when I was a kid, I had a problem with the bounce house rape scene in ROTN. How were people ever okay with that?
posted by ostranenie at 3:07 AM on November 19, 2016


"It isn't rape if she enjoys it" is a longstanding trope/belief, sadly.
posted by Etrigan at 6:22 AM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


As an overweight, sports-hating, book reading, good grade getting, computer programming kid in '80s Chile, I wasn't bullied half as much as I should have been. There was some bullying, but it wasn't as systematic or institutional the way it seems to be in places like the US.
It might have been the fact that my school was small and we all took almost every class together. But I've never heard about serious bullying from my friends with a similar background in different schools, either.
There's the obligatory social network bullying nowadays, but that seems to work differently.
posted by signal at 7:36 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's about the silliest thing I've read in a long time. I wonder if this writer has spent any time at all understanding what fascism -- the real thing -- was in those countries where it came to governmental power. No, I don't really.
Might be a good idea. Those who cry 'fascism' at the first whiff of whatever aren't going to be much use when the genuine article arises. As it will.
A good start:
The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany and related titles.
posted by LonnieK at 11:22 AM on November 27, 2016


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