Young Angry White Men
February 12, 2018 9:59 AM   Subscribe

“But the dark engine of the movement is reactionary white male resentment. Alt-right propaganda is designed to nourish the precise grievances recited by the disillusioned and indignant young men that dominate its ranks. It provides a coherent—but malicious—worldview. For a recruit, the alt-right helps explain why they don’t have the jobs or the sexual partners or the overall societal and cultural respect that they believe (and are told) to be rightfully theirs. This appeal is resonating at a moment in the United States when economic inequality is worsening and a majority-minority United States is forecasted for 2044—developments exploited by racist propagandists.” The Alt-Right Is Killing People, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s in-depth investigation into the causes, crimes, and online growth of the racist reactionary movement in the US. (CW for all links, hate speech, Nazi ideology, murder.) posted by The Whelk (298 comments total) 109 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's no doubt whatsoever that the Internet has totally changed the game by making it as fast and easy for these guys to spread their idealogy to millions as it once was to share it with one buddy over a beer. But the idealogy itself has been around since at least the 1960's, when my father and his fellow disaffected young hicks were forming their worldview.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:23 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


They + their buds at MRA and gamergate consider the internet their home grounds, regardless of the physical location of the PoC and WoC they choose to target with their juvenile bile.
posted by infini at 10:28 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


My employer advised staff and students that access to our place of employment/education would be restricted in order to allow such reactionaries to speak. In spite of the fact that prior events with this very group on campus nearly killed a man on that very spot. Events held by such groups as Young, Gifted, and Black were cancelled to provide space for hate speech. Counterprotestors outnumbered the Patriot Prayer assholes substantially, and violence was thankfully limited, but it's clear our institutions will not protect us.

However we can, we must fight this hate, but it appears that our current political system and liberalism generally is ill-suited to the task.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:36 AM on February 12 [72 favorites]


I highly recommend the TAL episode about the Proud Boys, also about these so-called disaffected young men who spiral into white supremacy. Very illuminating, strange and troubling.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:37 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


There's no doubt whatsoever that the Internet has totally changed the game by making it as fast and easy for these guys to spread their idealogy to millions as it once was to share it with one buddy over a beer.

Not only that, but the people sharing it are often not actually people. I have developed a bad habit of following Twitter shitposters back to their homes and then clicking on their various followers and retweets and it's basically just rolling around in impotent rage because you get this (literally just me cntrl-v-ing, since I just texted this gem to my husband to lolsob over not five minutes ago):

"@Rocker69085350 Texan to the bone.Christian Love Buddha too!& BBQ,Family, Conservative all 6, Multi Venture enture capitalist,All Good Things hings Start With "B" Come Visit Me"

and there's no way to report this glaringly obvious propaganda bot to Twitter because @jack is totes ok with propaganda bots. It's just sitting there, pushing racist islamophobic alt-right conspiracy theories 24/7, day in and day out. Increasing engagements for the algorithms to use to push more of the same to the top.

I'm basically just at the "despair now" point. I don't know how we stop this.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:39 AM on February 12 [80 favorites]


So I just, 10 minutes ago, walked over to the Walgreens on the corner to buy a sandwich for lunch. I was waiting in line to pay, and behind me was a middle-aged white guy talking on his phone.

"Look at all these Democrats in line," he said. "This country would be better off if there were only Republicans."

This is not normal. This country is not okay.
posted by tivalasvegas at 10:41 AM on February 12 [137 favorites]


It should be noted that this was in a deep-blue Chicago neighborhood.
posted by tivalasvegas at 10:42 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Oh God, that “I married a Nazi” link is horrifying.
posted by corb at 10:45 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


> "Look at all these Democrats in line," he said.

I'll bite. How did he know they were Democrats?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:48 AM on February 12 [14 favorites]


> I'll bite. How did he know they were Democrats?

Brie instead of American gives it away every time
posted by scelerat at 10:52 AM on February 12 [38 favorites]


Arugula and dijon?
posted by peeedro at 10:54 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


My employer advised staff and students that access to our place of employment/education would be restricted in order to allow such reactionaries to speak.

This is the result of free speech absolutism - the belief that the right to speak is more important than anything else. And as you pointed out, the end result is that actual free speech is diminished, as the marginalized are pushed out - both figuratively and literally - of the public square.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:56 AM on February 12 [62 favorites]


> I'll bite. How did he know they were Democrats?

I have a few guesses about the visual signifiers he was basing his judgments on, and none of them involve large blue buttons with the word "DEMOCRAT."
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:57 AM on February 12 [77 favorites]


I'll bite. How did he know they were Democrats?

One of the most important lessons I've had in life is this: people don't believe things because they are true, but because they are useful in some fashion. That often coincides with the truth because blatant lies lack predictive value or make us look foolish - 'the Earth is flat' is counterproductive to modern logistics and will generally get a person laughed out of the room, and so on.

But 'useful' and 'true' don't have to match up, and we shouldn't take for granted that they do, either in ourselves or others.

A statement like the one tivalasvega overheard is about reinforcing the speaker's inner emotional preferences: he's psyching himself to feel outnumbered and persecuted with an eye toward rationalizing support for violence because it makes him feel better. It's like the chants at a pep rally, except with an eye toward mass shootings instead of winning at sportsball.

(I'm bringing this up because projection isn't limited to the right: a lot of people on our side expect these fucks to think like we do, and I believe the situation is more complicated and less tractable than that.)
posted by mordax at 11:00 AM on February 12 [106 favorites]


"look at all these people who aren't middle aged white men who think they are my equals" presumably.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:00 AM on February 12 [91 favorites]


I'm South Asian. I think there was an East Asian clerk and two black clerks. There were a couple other white people in line?

I mean, it's a pretty typical Chicago Walgreens. I guess that means we're all socialist untermenschen
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:03 AM on February 12 [43 favorites]


Fascists have spent at least thirty years worming their way into the US military and law enforcement. This is not unintentional - a quick look back at the last generation of white supremacists reveals a pattern of exhorting their followers to drop the skinhead look, hide the Nazi tattoos, and seek out roles that will allow their ideology to obtain leverage. That groundwork is paying off, boosted by the internet and the tacit approval of the GOP, who have been focused on “the ground game” of local politics for decades.

The United States is infected, top to bottom, with fascists and their water-carriers. No one listened when socialist and left-wing punks screamed about this coming avalanche in the 80s, no one listened after the Oklahoma City bombing, no one listened after Columbine showed the darkness at the center of disaffected white teens’ souls, and few are listening now, when we have actually factually put a white supremacist in the highest office in the land and surrounded him with fascist bullyboys and a GOP of corporatist quislings.

I hope we see a backlash, and I hope it happens at the ballot box and not in the streets. Because if it happens in the streets, a lot of people are going to be shocked to find out which side the cops and National Guard are really on.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:04 AM on February 12 [193 favorites]


I took it as "people who are inconveniencing me slightly", entirely regardless of even visual signifiers. I'm entirely curious to hear tivalasvegas's answer now.

(Abusing the edit window to note that the answer is "ok, not that bad but jesus christ anyway".)
posted by Quindar Beep at 11:04 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I hope we see a backlash, and I hope it happens at the ballot box and not in the streets. Because if it happens in the streets, a lot of people are going to be shocked to find out which side the cops and National Guard are really on.

I agree with every part of what you said except the last - I believe the surprise you expect will mostly be confined to white folks, should things come to that. A lot of us know not to trust those particular institutions already. :(
posted by mordax at 11:09 AM on February 12 [40 favorites]


Yeah, I've known more than one exemplar of *a certain type* of Republican who believes, "All Democrats annoy me, so all people who annoy me must be Democrats."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:10 AM on February 12 [32 favorites]


The other night I watched a nice five minute analysis of A Serious Man on youtube. I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments and the top one said that actually the movie is about the lies of rabbis and how Judaism is a false religion. This wasn’t the highest rated comment, it didn’t have the most replies, but for some reason that was the one youtube decided I should see. Why? Why is this happening?
posted by theodolite at 11:14 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


because that's the comment that will get the most page views
posted by poffin boffin at 11:17 AM on February 12 [30 favorites]


Because comments like that maximize your "engagement." They still don't believe they're responsible for the content they distribute, and believe that they're blameless, non-ideological "platforms." Which belief is of course an ideological choice.
posted by Lyme Drop at 11:18 AM on February 12 [52 favorites]


Why? Why is this happening?

Outside of the fact that the tech giants wish to do as little as possible about the problem until actually forced to, I almost feel as though the current reactionary movement has a lot in common with antivaxxers. Yearning for some secret knowledge that would explain away their alienation under capitalism, susceptible to myths about their own personal greatness/specialness/worth being undermined by some indistinct other, predilection towards conspiracy theories and suspicion of authority. Along with good old garden variety shithead racism, old as the hills.

The old adage you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into applies.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:20 AM on February 12 [37 favorites]


As I tried to retrace my ex-husband’s descent into madness, my very Jewish computer became an alt-right conspiracy theorist [...] online advertisements included everything right of the aisle, from saving unwed mothers to praying for the heart of America, to religious church tours of the Holy Land, promotional sales for Mylar bags (in what appeared to be a far-sighted effort to prep for the inevitable reign of the Anti-Christ), guns, guns, NRA ads and, yet again, more guns, collector’s coins, how-to advice on hoarding gold and book reviews for authors who re-envisioned history “as it truly happened,” along with white-power graphic tees that made the unabashed claim, “Hitler Was Right.”
on the one hand, I really can't wait for old, white Baby Boomers to just be gone as a voting demo. on the other hand, they at least denounced Nazis even while they were underhandedly perpetuating white supremacist legislation (like redlining or voter ID laws, and etc etc etc). white extremists are a regression to a 19th century worldview and their presence all thanks to the casual, hyper-privilege of white Silicon Valley techbros
posted by runt at 11:21 AM on February 12 [11 favorites]


Because comments like that maximize your "engagement." They still don't believe they're responsible for the content they distribute, and believe that they're blameless, non-ideological "platforms." Which belief is of course an ideological choice.

There's a longstanding tendency of techies to not consider the moral ramifications of their creations. Or if they do, it's in a very privileged manner that highlights what their worldview considers important - and what it doesn't.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:25 AM on February 12 [15 favorites]


"Many are 'wound collectors,' a term coined by former FBI agent Joe Navarro to describe, 'individuals who go out of their way to collect social slights, historical grievances, injustices, unfair or disparate treatment or wrongs— whether real or imagined.'

'They wallow in the actual or often perceived transgressions of others and they allow sentiments of animosity and vengeance to percolate and froth at the surface by their constant and attentive nurturing of those perceived wounds,' Navarro explains. 'As you can imagine, in an imperfect world where there are real injustices, where people make mistakes, and stupid things are said and done, the wound collector never has to go far to feel victimized.'"

Yep. And Jesus. What kind of rehabilitation would it take to get someone to give up such a self-reinforcing feedback loop of addictive anger? Society has to do a much better job of instilling emotional intelligence and/or breaking these self-serving delusions.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:27 AM on February 12 [62 favorites]


"I’ve spent hours trying to understand why he married me, a Jew, only to become a Nazi apologist."

Why are we still surprised that white men can marry us, raise us, work with us, have sex with us, be brothers or uncles or grandfathers to us and still not recognize us as human? That's like, patriarchy's whole jam.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:37 AM on February 12 [146 favorites]


for some reason that was the one youtube decided I should see. Why? Why is this happening?

"Google likes nazis" seems like the Occam's-razor hypothesis.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:38 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


The SV techbros have a lot to answer for. They're the kudzu vines.
posted by infini at 11:48 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


What kind of rehabilitation would it take to get someone to give up such a self-reinforcing feedback loop of addictive anger?

therapy, probably the kind that deals with personality disorders best (DBT)

on a serious note, it's irritating to know that while white supremacists are out working their asses off organizing, spreading memes, pulling young people into their causes, their white, middle-class, ostensibly liberal cousins, friends, neighbors, community members will acknowledge their presence, express a mild, forgettable consternation, and proceed to do absolutely nothing. they just sit on their disposable time as if it were a golden egg that they laid themselves and not something that was stolen, generation to generation, from PoC by means of systemic racism

Dr. King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail won't ever be irrelevant -
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
if you're white and you aren't actively organizing and practicing anti-racism then that has never not been white supremacy
posted by runt at 11:51 AM on February 12 [69 favorites]


And yet idiots like Sullivan, Friedersdorf, Brooks, Douthat, and even left-of-center useful idiots like Jonathan Chait get paid millions of dollars to demonstrate that they absolutely can not restrain themselves from vomiting up handwringing, hot-take thinkpieces every couple of weeks about how horrible and mean and anti-freedom all those protesters (especially college students) are. It's appalling that people are being fucking murdered by white supremacists, including a good number of college campuses, but they still exhibit an almost monomaniacal focus on some mythical wave of oppression against conservatives. There are thinktanks and non-profits like Heritage and and Cato and FIRE spending millions of dollars to send white supremacists, instigators of violence, and modern-day phrenologists to speak at public venues and then defend them when people understandably get upset. And then when marginalized people rightfully stand up to say "no more" and fight back, these some assholes allege that conservatives supposedly no longer have the right to free speech, while their targets get treated as if they're ready to put College Republicans into cattle cars.

It also doesn't help that there's a lot of people who consider themselves liberal, many of whom are white dudes, that spend a lot of time ignorantly prattling on about how the best disinfectant is sunlight in these cases. Try telling these dumb motherfuckers that it's giving them a megaphone, and you'll get accused of hating freedom and free speech. Never mind that all the evidence so far points out that there has been astronomically high increases of violence across the board against PoC, women, LGBTQ people, Jews and Muslims, and every other group not playing on Life's Default Settings; both on-campus and off. It's not as if conservatives don't still dominate most positions of power in higher education, or that the US' primary school system still basically has to cater to the wingnuts that the Texas State School Board. I still don't understand that anyone with half a brain can look at the US government and education system, from federal all the way down to local, and claim that the real victims are conservatives...but here we are.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:52 AM on February 12 [51 favorites]


<vent>
We need to:

1. Ditch the pernicious doctrine of corporate personhood that generalizes civil rights (such as freedom of speech) to companies

... so that ...

2. We can criminalize categories of behaviour currently classified as the exercise of free speech by these fictitious persons such as algorithms that privilege corporate advertising revenue over the civil rights of third parties

... in other words ...

3. Make it a serious criminal offense for social media to deploy any ranking algorithm that promotes hostility to any category of human on the basis of distinguishable traits

</vent>

(When I say "serious" I mean "penalty will include imprisonment of board members for a period of years, statutory regulation of the corporation to prevent re-offense, a fine in excess of 10% of gross revenue, and in extremis a corporate death penalty and a legislated ban on the offender's entire class of business model so that nobody gets to do this shit ever again.")
posted by cstross at 11:55 AM on February 12 [120 favorites]


(Sorry about the venting; this stuff makes me angry. Mods, please delete if you think it's inappropriate/derailing.)
posted by cstross at 11:55 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Wow as an old White Baby Boomer who is an activist, marcher, voter, and contributor to some pretty radical causes, I keep running into people who like to wish whole demographics "gone" because certain elements of a population are taken to represent the whole population. Aside from the potential for hate, it's just bad statistical thinking.

it is certainly not statistically wrong
Boomers have turned more conservative. In both 2015 and 2016, about three-in-ten Boomers (30% in 2015, 31% in 2016) identified as conservative Republicans – the highest percentages dating back to 2000. In both years, conservative Republicans made up the largest single partisan and ideological group among Boomers.
which isn't to say there aren't amazing Boomers who have been organizing for years and whose practices inform a lot of what we do today - apologies for the harshness of my langauge
posted by runt at 11:56 AM on February 12 [12 favorites]


There's a longstanding tendency of techies to not consider the moral ramifications of their creations. Or if they do, it's in a very privileged manner that highlights what their worldview considers important - and what it doesn't.

Let me share this terrifying article.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:56 AM on February 12 [11 favorites]


On a broader note:

The sort of petty, vindictive, stupid tribalism embraced by fascism is appealing to people on some very primal levels:

- It's simple. Us over here? We debate and discuss and study endlessly to figure things out. That's tiring, and it's hard for a lot of people who are either less equipped or less willing to do the work. It's always easier to point the finger and say 'we should just get rid of [x] group.' Plus, it's a 'solution' that never runs out of steam: if they run out of one kind of person to hate, they can always turn on another.

- It feels good. This seems counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but anger is a very appealing emotion. It gives a person oomph and spurs activity and... full disclosure, I've been trying to figure out what to do with my own never-ending supply of star-hot wrath for my entire life, and the truth is that it's a very effective tool when properly directed and applied. I have spoken in favor of going ahead and being mad on this site any number of times because it can really help. Unfortunately, any sharp tool can be misused.

This isn't something we can talk our way out of, or wait out as demographics come and go. It isn't even about techbros, although we need to deal with them too. This is a vulnerability that comes from who and what we all are, and I do think any real solution needs to address this as something other than a temporary accident of history. When I see things that paint these people as exceptions or something we can age out of, I'm very frustrated.
posted by mordax at 12:03 PM on February 12 [21 favorites]


> I'll bite. How did he know they were Democrats?

Brie instead of American gives it away every time


/halts her bite of unpasteurized camembert
merde
posted by fraula at 12:04 PM on February 12 [27 favorites]


Months after the divorce, I was still mystified how my smart, SoCal ex had stumbled into Nazism.

Part of the problem is that intelligence is no protection from insane ideas. In fact, I sometimes think that it’s a contributing factor. When an intelligent person goes off the rails the very qualities of their intelligence help grab ahold of whatever disparate information soothes their grievances and knits it into an apparently coherent whole. Intelligence, weirdly, can really get the way of critical thinking.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:05 PM on February 12 [43 favorites]


"For a recruit, the alt-right helps explain why they don’t have the jobs or the sexual partners or the overall societal and cultural respect that they believe (and are told) to be rightfully theirs."

It's funny how white supremacists never seem to be the most supreme white people.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:06 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


There seem to be so many parallels to modern islamist terror organizations recruiting via Youtube (even lots of overlap, eg foundational misogyny); I would be interested in reading a deeper analysis comparing both and effective ways to prevent recruitment/‘self-radicalization’?

(Not having an administration and large parts of the populace openly complicit with their cause might help but let’s not get ahead of ourselves)
posted by The Toad at 12:07 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


My employer advised staff and students that access to our place of employment/education would be restricted in order to allow such reactionaries to speak

Honestly, the UW situation kind of exemplifies the kind of a thing that I'm sure is ultimately going to need to go back to the Supreme Court again, and I'm not sure I have a good answer for it. Because:

1) If you legislate free speech based on whether or not there is likely to be violence at the event, rather than the free speech itself calling for violence, then you create the heckler's veto, where any event likely to have a lot of assholes who hate the idea is going to be able to be shut down. Which means that if you have shitty locales, even reasonable protests will be forbidden because they're likely to inspire shitty opposition: see, minority rights, immigrant rights, etc.

2) If you make laws essentially saying "don't be an asshole with shitty horrible ideas", you then wind up having events like the IWW Free Speech incident in Spokane, where cities get to say "Labor rights are terrible horrible destructive ideas", because societies are really good at self protective stuff preserving status quo.

3) If you do nothing at all about people with shitty horrible ideas, then other people are going to do something about it, which means both violence and return violence, which is an unsafe atmosphere for anyone looking not to get caught up in the battle. Like, I don't blame anyone for thinking that Proud Boys/Cascade Legion vs the ISO/GDC is not really a thing you want children present at, because even though the latter forces outnumbered the former, you still had punching and pepper spray.

Stuff that works really well for local communities - Metafilter's kind of loose "punch up, not down" thing, for example - doesn't really work well when codified into law, where not everyone agrees on who is up and who is down even if there is one totally correct answer.
posted by corb at 12:11 PM on February 12 [39 favorites]


To wit, crap like this : "BS is the ascendant "culture of offense" that shuts down the open exchange of ideas and mutual accountability to reason and argument. It is university leaders’ confused and fearful capitulation to that secular neo-fundamentalist speech-policing," and "BS is the grossly lopsided political ideology of the faculty of many disciplines, especially in the humanities and social sciences, creating a homogeneity of worldview to which those faculties are themselves oblivious, despite claiming to champion difference, diversity, and tolerance" gets spouted by Very Smart Centrists who don't have an ounce of skin in the game and would rather show off how much smarter and morally superior they are to the people who are being directly threatened by violent misogynist/nationalist movements.

These ostensibly liberal jerks are why we have Richard Spencer, stunt-events on college campuses, and total bullshit artists like Jordan Peterson. And the cultural acceptance of these milktoast libs makes it easy as pie for tech bros and other average college-educated "good" people like that poor woman's crapstain husband to proliferate.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:14 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


I think one thing to beware of, Toad, is simple answers. This shit is complicated, and it's tempting to go "ah, well, there's one simple trick to understanding--"

No. There's not. It's complicated. It's entitlement and frustrated entitlement and fear and exhaustion and rage and people who slide into echo chambers and people who are so desperate to avoid echo chambers that they provide fertile ground for evil to grow. It's the economy and our culture and change and the earth quaking under our feet and people desperately looking for a solution and not finding it. There is no soothing shorthand I can give you that will let you avoid falling into these kinds of traps and enabling things like this.

Trust your sense of empathy, and weigh your horrors. Walk the best path you can, and forgive yourself for the crooks and eddies you slip into along the way. Allow yourself to be wrong, and take care to envision other people as human at all times. Speak out when someone else misses that, god help me. Study complex situations and pull as much data as you can together, and then make an informed opinion about what to do about it. Listen, and decide which arguments aren't worth hearing again, or ever.

I don't have answers. The desire for simple answers is a trap. Any fence away from one might lead you down another path to tar pits and evil, but if you stand frozen in the center, you let the tar monster creep slowly up the hill towards you where it might consume you instead of taking action to fight it. There is no winning. There is only doing the best you can, admitting when you make mistakes, and trying to learn from them.
posted by sciatrix at 12:15 PM on February 12 [61 favorites]


More on the University of Washington situation touched on in the link from @IBJIYONGI in Existential Dread's comment:
Welp, friends, I have an update on the [University of Washington) fascism crisis, 2018 edition[...]Per an email we received this morning, President Cauce’s administration has been working with the campus GOP for a month to plan an event that is considered to be unsafe for Black students to be near. As a result, a #BlackHistoryMonth event for Washington state Black students, Young, Gifted and Black, has been cancelled. To ensure the GOP event can go on.

This is not a free speech protection issue. Let me tell you why: The campus GOP had an event last year WHERE SOMEONE WAS SHOT. After, they put out a statement suggesting that if people didn’t want to be shot, they shouldn’t oppose the GOP. IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES THEIR SPEECH IS IN TENSION W/ PUBLIC SAFETY. @UW SHOULD HAVE SAID NO TO THE EVENT. And let the GOP sue. And maybe they would lose. Let me be clear, @UW: BLACK LIVES ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR, EVEN IF YOU LOSE. hope @KUOW and @seattletimes will ask Ana Marie Cauce tough questions about how she expects Black students and staff to feel safe on a campus that folds to the agenda of white supremacists every time they say “boo”. Cauce’s email this morning was a devastating reminder to me that they really don’t care what the climate is like for me as a Black staffer[...]It’s a longwinded way of saying “we will always let the conservatives do this to Black students, Black students you’re safer if you don’t go to your school where you are supposed to have equal access.”

Dear @UW: telling Black students to stay home is NOT WHAT EQUAL OPPORTUNITY LOOKS LIKE. BLACK LIVES MATTER MEANS BLACK LIVES ARW WORTH FIGHTING FOR, EVERY TIME. What message does @uw expect those Black high school students to take from this? What they are getting is an early lesson that they can’t have opportunities that white people don't want them to have. Fucking terrible. Who does this to Black children? WHO? You cruel people. They are children. Black children are getting the message that their home state’s premier public university is not safe for them. That’s one hell of a message, @uw[...]There has been no email, by the way, about resources available to students and staff who may be feeling upset about this series of events. And nothing about how they think they were making a stand by charging the white supremacists a $17K security fee and “weathering” a law suit over it. If they were going to be sued, why not over stopping the event?
posted by zombieflanders at 12:16 PM on February 12 [66 favorites]




where not everyone agrees on who is up and who is down even if there is one totally correct answer.

the answer in theory is to not care about the hurt feelings of people whose "strongly held beliefs" include which races should be allowed to live, because allowing them to freely promote these ideas in public fora is direct violence towards other races, but people with no skin in the game get excited about nazis having their civil rights violated.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:19 PM on February 12 [38 favorites]


The Toad: There seem to be so many parallels to modern islamist terror organizations recruiting via Youtube (even lots of overlap, eg foundational misogyny); I would be interested in reading a deeper analysis comparing both and effective ways to prevent recruitment/‘self-radicalization’?

There was a study a while back indicating that engineering students were more likely to join terrorist groups, and it's telling that so many young white supremacists are also tech-savvy.

In that previous link, it notes that part of why Islamic engineers are more likely to join terrorist groups is the lack of employment opportunities in many parts of the Middle-East. A terrorist organization gives an unemployed/underemployed guy a mission, a goal, and someone they can blame their situation on.

It's the same way with white nationalism. If you poke around on 4chan, you can see the radicalization pipeline happen there. A young man, struggling to find a job, a girlfriend, a purpose in life, comes to 4chan to post and get advice. They get suckered into a worldview where being a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and can't get laid is the fault of immigrants who take their jobs, feminists who want to subjugate men, and all kinds of other insidious nonsense.
posted by SansPoint at 12:20 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]


Someone brought up social media above. Just last night someone I used to work with shared a fake anti Islamic meme on Facebook. I called it out, then looked up the page "Islam out of Australia" or something equally repellent.

I reported the page for discrimination to Facebook and - like every single time I've reported blatantly racist pages - two days later I got a note back from fb saying that it didn't violate community standards. This page was not subtle.

Zuckerberg makes a great show of hand wringing about fascism; his website is arguably its biggest enabler.
posted by smoke at 12:21 PM on February 12 [54 favorites]


And yet idiots like Sullivan, Friedersdorf, Brooks, Douthat, and even left-of-center useful idiots like Jonathan Chait get paid millions of dollars to demonstrate that they absolutely can not restrain themselves from vomiting up handwringing, hot-take thinkpieces every couple of weeks about how horrible and mean and anti-freedom all those protesters (especially college students) are. It's appalling that people are being fucking murdered by white supremacists, including a good number of college campuses, but they still exhibit an almost monomaniacal focus on some mythical wave of oppression against conservatives. There are thinktanks and non-profits like Heritage and and Cato and FIRE spending millions of dollars to send white supremacists, instigators of violence, and modern-day phrenologists to speak at public venues and then defend them when people understandably get upset. And then when marginalized people rightfully stand up to say "no more" and fight back, these some assholes allege that conservatives supposedly no longer have the right to free speech, while their targets get treated as if they're ready to put College Republicans into cattle cars.

This is a function of two things:

One, we've deified free speech in the US. People here are routinely taught "free speech good!" as if free speech is the end, rather than a way we achieve ends. As such, when confronted with the actual complexity of free speech and how it can be used as a weapon against the dispossessed, we don't have the tools to actually discuss the issue.

Two, many of those pushing free speech absolutism wind up not being the target of weaponized speech in a real, threatening manner. This results in them taking a more academic look at things, because they don't understand the actual harm that is done. Even worse, they argue that the dispossessed taking action to protect themselves by leaving the forum as a lack of integrity rather than the choice of self-preservation.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:23 PM on February 12 [22 favorites]


Where is this idea of "legislating" free speech coming from? If someone is denied a platform at a college campus, they can set up shop somewhere else. Free speech in the United States is not a right to have access to any platform in order to speak to any audience at any time.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:24 PM on February 12 [49 favorites]


Sciatrix, I agree with everything you write; I genuinely don’t understand how my looking for deeper analysis could be construed as a ‘desire for simple answers’. I know we haven’t ‘won’ the fight against ISIS (and that there’s no ‘winning’ it), still, there might be intelligent scholarship on what can be done and what can’t in the realm of prevention.
posted by The Toad at 12:28 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


If you do nothing at all about people with shitty horrible ideas, then other people are going to do something about it, which means both violence and return violence, which is an unsafe atmosphere for anyone looking not to get caught up in the battle.

further on this, we've reached the point (and it's extremely not a new point but is in fact a founding notion of the nation) where the parts of the state which hold the monopoly on the legitimate use of force are also overwhelmingly comprised of the people who hold these shitty horrible ideas, so protests against those ideas are going to be seen as (and enthusiastically promoted as) acts deliberately made to challenge that use of force, whether or not (almost always not) they are direct action
posted by poffin boffin at 12:28 PM on February 12 [21 favorites]


This wasn’t the highest rated comment, it didn’t have the most replies, but for some reason that was the one youtube decided I should see. Why? Why is this happening?

I've certainly heard the argument that it's inherent to these platforms or the way they're run, but I still find myself asking - obviously the platforms are tremendously exploitable. But why is the far right so far ahead in knowing how to exploit them?
posted by atoxyl at 12:29 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Where is this idea of "legislating" free speech coming from? If someone is denied a platform at a college campus, they can set up shop somewhere else.

Chemerinsky (who, hilariously, wrote my Con Law textbook) talks in Vox about why this is not legally considered the case, and how law would have to change for colleges to deny platforms to hate speech. He points out that when public colleges try to deny access to hate speech, they 'get sued and lose', and often wind up having to pay damages and attorney's fees to the originators of the hate speech.

He points out that colleges can and should moderate the specific forums they give to this - he suggests auditoriums, where the audience can be contained - but under current law, public colleges are not allowed to say 'you can't speak these terrible ideas on campus'.

Currently, the Nazis seem to be trying to fork the campus administrators - if the campus allows them to speak, they bring a horrific public and sometimes millions of dollars in security fees. If the campus does not allow them to speak, they sue and frequently win, still engaging in the speech but now with money and publicity to hand. It's a lose-lose game under current law.
posted by corb at 12:35 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]


Finally the brave, oppressed conservative minority is making headway against the enormous anti-freedom leftist hegemony in education: The Education Department Officially Says It Will Reject Transgender Student Bathroom Complaints
posted by zombieflanders at 12:35 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


corb: I'd be okay with colleges letting neo-Nazis speak, as long as they gave equal time to people against neo-Nazis. Maybe at the same time in a different location on campus. Let the students decide who they want to hear.
posted by SansPoint at 12:37 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I've certainly heard the argument that it's inherent to these platforms or the way they're run, but I still find myself asking - obviously the platforms are tremendously exploitable. But why is the far right so far ahead in knowing how to exploit them?

That's not to let the people who run the platforms off the hook for being so oblivious to this. But I feel like it would be a smart investment of energy for the left to learn to play it as it lies a bit more?
posted by atoxyl at 12:40 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


> I'll bite. How did he know they were Democrats?

Brie instead of American gives it away every time
posted by scelerat at 12:52 PM on February 12 [11 favorites +] [!]


Arugula and dijon?
posted by peeedro at 12:54 PM on February 12 [1 favorite +] [!]


For the record, I got a turkey and cheddar sandwich. The mango orange-flavored sparkling water is probably what gave my partisan leanings away
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:40 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


@The Toad

there are exit programs for white supremacists like the one headed by Christian Picciolini

alternatively, you could heed the call-to-action of the subjects of white supremacy and organize assuming they know what they need at this moment and it isn't what you've self-selected as the most just/practical/easy/etc cause
posted by runt at 12:42 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Where is this idea of "legislating" free speech coming from? If someone is denied a platform at a college campus, they can set up shop somewhere else. Free speech in the United States is not a right to have access to any platform in order to speak to any audience at any time.

I think the complicating factor here is that UW is a public university, receiving some (ever-shrinking) portion of funding from the state. Patriot Prayer were invited by a student group. It wouldn't surprise me that there were more complicated issues to denying the permit than would arise at a private university or other institution.

If you legislate free speech based on whether or not there is likely to be violence at the event, rather than the free speech itself calling for violence, then you create the heckler's veto, where any event likely to have a lot of assholes who hate the idea is going to be able to be shut down.

The problem is that the heckler's veto was exercised on Saturday. Patriot Prayer and the UW Republicans directly caused the cancellation of at least one event aimed at students of color, based on the threat of violence that the Proud Boys/Patriot Prayer folks directly express, and the possibility of antifa counterviolence. Free speech from these fuckers is already privileged. Forcing them off-campus is a reasonable course of action, but I'm guessing Ana Mari Cauce and her team decided that the university would be better protected from lawsuits by allowing Patriot Prayer to have their event, as Young, Gifted, and Black are less likely to sue. Or better yet (from the legal perspective of the university), they 'voluntarily' postponed their event to avoid the white supremacist rally.

Free speech in this day and age serves to protect the oppressor class, rarely the oppressed.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:42 PM on February 12 [30 favorites]


But why is the far right so far ahead in knowing how to exploit them?

The Chans, et al. have a long history of brigading and other behavior.

Slashdot used to have polls of various subjects, and at the bottom was a disclaimer: "results are completely unscientific. If you use these results for anything, you are a moron".

And yet, you can manipulate Twitter, FB, and Google News "trending" results the same way you can any other internet poll - and it really doesn't take very much to have a substantial effect, since it's designed to snowball.

That's because these systems weren't designed to be robust. They were designed to basically function well enough to drive "engagement" - and they do. The propaganda effect wasn't taken seriously enough before. It might be now, but the Nazi York Times still fluffs nazis, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:43 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


If you do nothing at all about people with shitty horrible ideas, then other people are going to do something about it, which means both violence and return violence, which is an unsafe atmosphere for anyone looking not to get caught up in the battle.

And that's why orders to permit free speech may be accompanied by orders to provide adequate security. That's the only remedy the government has; as you note, they can't ban speech because others may oppose that speech. So, for example, when organizers of an MLK Day parade in 1970s Chicago sued for a permit to march, they requested - and won - an order directing the city to provide security. Similarly, the order granting Richard Spencer's motion to speak at Auburn U. was also accompanied by an order to provide adequate security.
posted by jpe at 12:44 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


/halts her bite of unpasteurized camembert
merde


Yeah especially if you eat too much of that stuff, ask me how I know
posted by orrnyereg at 12:45 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I'd be okay with colleges letting neo-Nazis speak, as long as they gave equal time to people against neo-Nazis

They'd have to do that for every speaker; otherwise it's unconstitutional content (or viewpoint) regulation.
posted by jpe at 12:46 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Organizers of MLK Day parades don't advocate for ethnic cleansing and other incitements to violence, but nice false equivalence.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:46 PM on February 12 [36 favorites]


But why is the far right so far ahead in knowing how to exploit them?

Because their beliefs and structure require them to be. It's a survival mechanism for them, to rules lawyer and look for weak points, because they can't win in a direct conflict.

Chemerinsky (who, hilariously, wrote my Con Law textbook) talks in Vox about why this is not legally considered the case, and how law would have to change for colleges to deny platforms to hate speech.

His framing illustrates the problem. Note how he routinely conflates hate speech with offense, as if he refuses to acknowledge the actual harm that hate speech causes. This is part of the deification of free speech, as we cannot discuss its flaws and issues. Hell, he outright accuses modern students of being hostile to free speech, not once grasping that "free speech" that silences minorities in favor of hate isn't free speech.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:47 PM on February 12 [28 favorites]


Organizers of MLK Day parades don't advocate for ethnic cleansing and other incitement to violence, but nice false equivalence.

when nonwhite people organize, it's terrorism. when white people organize, it's being a patriotic american.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:49 PM on February 12 [54 favorites]


never fucking forget that the us government demonized and criminalized giving out free breakfasts to children.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:50 PM on February 12 [75 favorites]


Also, people like Milo Yiannopoulis regularly made the threat of attacks on LGBTQ people and undocumented immigrants the highlights of their speeches, so comparing them or Spencer or anyone else explicitly advocating violence to people supporting social justice from this wannabe-detached "but the law!" POV comes off as, well, rules-lawyering. Indeed, it supports strengthening the laws around actionable threats far more anything about "equal time" for both Nazis and your average leftist protest.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:52 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


the far right is ahead in organizing because they are looking after the interests of the already empowered elite. there are rich, racist billionaires who fund subversive and sometimes overt programs that promote eugenics policies (for ex, the foundations that fund the anti-vaccine movement in black populations or abstinence-only education in Ghana/Uganda/etc)

if you were an idle, trust-fund millionaire who has an angel backer like Richard Spencer or a savvy businessman who has connections to other billionaires like Brietbart and Bannon then you can build anything and make it happen

between the Kochs and the Mercers, overt white supremacist causes will be funded into the far, far future

if the PoC-led organizations I know had a smidge of the money and power these white nationalist groups had then we'd be living a much more intersectional life than we do now
posted by runt at 12:55 PM on February 12 [15 favorites]


The breakfast program poffin boffin referred to above
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:58 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


corb: I'd be okay with colleges letting neo-Nazis speak, as long as they gave equal time to people against neo-Nazis. Maybe at the same time in a different location on campus. Let the students decide who they want to hear.

The thing is, this maybe isn't a terrible thing if you are enclosing everyone in a private lecture room suspended in a vacuum, but that just isn't what's happening now, which is the problem.

Like, this may just be my military outlook, but what is happening now seems much more like an active low-grade war. Especially given the links The Whelk gave above. The Nazis are murdering people. More Nazis mean more murders. When Nazis are unopposed, they beat counterprotesters. If you yield the ground to the Nazis and don't show up, then it emboldens more Nazis to come out next time.
posted by corb at 12:59 PM on February 12 [29 favorites]


> He points out that when public colleges try to deny access to hate speech, they 'get sued and lose', and often wind up having to pay damages and attorney's fees to the originators of the hate speech.

Here's the full quote:
Finally, I spoke up. “Be clear that if Chancellor Christ were to exclude speakers based on their viewpoint, she would get sued and lose,” I said. “The speakers would get an injunction and be allowed to speak. They would recover attorneys’ fees and maybe money damages. They would be portrayed as victims. And since they would get to speak anyway, nothing would be gained.”
Emphasis mine. The subjunctive mood expressed by Chemerinsky indicates that he is not drawing on a history of such lawsuits, but on his (albeit very informed) speculation about what would happen. You change the meaning of his quote enormously by removing this context.

There have of course been free speech cases against colleges decided in favor of the plaintiffs, but the idea that all such cases would be slam-dunk winners is without merit. Schools are able to make their arguments with regards to why they chose to deny a platform, and judges are within their rights to find that those schools did what they are capable of doing to protect the free speech rights of the plaintiffs.

The boundaries of reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions are always being tested, and always evolving. It's simply false to suggest that any restriction by colleges is ipso-facto unconstitutional.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:59 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


It's pretty clear from the email the Office of the President sent out on Friday that the threat of violence alluded to was from counterprotests. Pertinent excerpt (emphasis mine):
You may have seen news reports about an event scheduled this Saturday on Red Square featuring the group Patriot Prayer. Campus leadership and the UW Police Department have worked with the sponsoring club for the past month to maintain a safe environment for this event, which has the potential to draw as many as 1,000 people.

This week, UWPD obtained credible information that groups from outside the UW community are planning to join the event with the intent to instigate violence. For the safety of campus visitors and others not associated with the events, several organizations have cancelled or postponed their campus events that day and access to Red Square will be limited. Your safety is important to us and we are taking precautions to ensure the Patriot Prayer event unfolds as peacefully as possible. However, I encourage you to avoid Red Square, and the surrounding area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday to ensure your own personal safety.
The message clearly separates Patriot Prayer from the "outside groups planning to instigate violence." This is a major problem.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:00 PM on February 12 [17 favorites]


[..] a lot of people are going to be shocked to find out which side the cops and National Guard are really on.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:04 PM on February 12


Oh, they already know. There was this little thing in 2016 at Standing Rock...perhaps you remember the mental, physical and sexual assault of Native Americans by law enforcement, which went on for weeks? Which, by the way, Barack Obama didn’t see fit to put a stop to.

They know. They don’t care.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:02 PM on February 12 [31 favorites]


Living in the US, it is easy to forget (and/or never learn) that it is an outlier among Western, industrialized countries in a number of ways: death penalty, easy access to handguns, its entire fucked-up healthcare system, etc... In particular, the US is almost alone among, say, OECD countries, in not having hate speech laws (I think Turkey still doesn't and Japan does have those laws but as far as I know they're not really enforced). So, when Americans say that hate speech laws are unworkable or are the slippery slope to tyranny or whatever, I would ask, what about the UK? Or France? Or Germany? Or Australia? Or Canada? Or Denmark? Or etc... Indeed, the exact specification and enforcement of these various hate speech laws varies widely between countries. But, it only seems impossible to reconcile hate speech laws with the principle of freedom of speech if you ignore what many, many other countries have already done.
posted by mhum at 1:06 PM on February 12 [27 favorites]


They know. They don’t care.

i mean. to acknowledge 500+ years of organized violence against indigenous americans requires white americans to admit, accept, understand how this wholly delegitimizes their overt or covert beliefs in american exceptionalism and the whole bootstrapping ones way to success fantasy the nation was built on. most people are not capable of that and don't see any reason to try.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:13 PM on February 12 [42 favorites]


So, when Americans say that hate speech laws are unworkable or are the slippery slope to tyranny or whatever, I would ask, what about the UK? Or France? Or Germany? Or Australia? Or Canada? Or Denmark? Or etc...

It's one part American deification of free speech, one part American exceptionalism. Again, Americans are taught (and I say this first hand, being one) that free speech is good, that allowing neo-Nazis to commit an act of terror and intimidation was an upholding of the integrity of free speech.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:16 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


There's a longstanding tendency of techies to not consider the moral ramifications of their creations. Or if they do, it's in a very privileged manner that highlights what their worldview considers important - and what it doesn't.

I would argue that for many, it's the latter; for instance, there is a complete tirefire of a discussion going on in the erlang listserv because a bunch of non-poc developers are worried about restrictions to their vocabulary because someone pointed out that a new package manager they're releasing has a name that's pretty much used as a slur.
posted by anem0ne at 1:21 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


it is also the wholesale theft of minority social justice language and ideals by fascists such that nonfascist people are honestly worrying about nazis having "minority viewpoints" that are being "silenced"! but actually not everyone's viewpoint is important! not everyone needs to have their say! telling a nazi to shut up doesn't violate their freedom of speech unless you are a lawful government entity! anyway the future is terrible.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on February 12 [47 favorites]


New Tool To Track Online Nazis’ Real World Locations (Vice)

This normalization of doxxing concerns me. Not only the practice itself but also the reasoning behind it, which could be (and is) given by anyone launching doxxing projects.

Simon insists that the purpose of the mapping tool isn’t to inspire violence against neo-Nazis. Instead, he says, the goal is to raise awareness of the neo-Nazis in communities, and to disrupt their online ecosystem and recruitment process. He also acknowledges there’s no proof that everyone hanging out in the Daily Stormer chat room is a neo-Nazi.

(...)

On the other hand, they are making their views known in a public space, the internet. “You’re going into today’s modern town square, the internet,” said Levin. “When people make pronouncements under that oak tree in the town square, their anonymity rights are limited.”


This boilerplate is used by the alt-right and many other groups just the same, to normalize doxxing. Obviously this isn't going to end anytime soon because there aren't any easy solutions.
posted by hexaflexagon at 1:25 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I believe the problem isn't half as much as where the lien for free speech is drawn so much as enforcement agencies giving way more of a pass to right wing terror organizations than left wing ones.

It does not seem like hate speech laws have much preventative effect on stopping the rise of violent, right wing nationalism in Europe.

What's necessary is finding where to put the power and pressure to make sure laws against incitement to violence are vigorously enforced against these groups.
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:30 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


The Onion: White Nationalist Movement: Myth Vs. Fact
MYTH: White nationalist beliefs are mainstream now.

FACT: Noticing white nationalist beliefs is mainstream now.
posted by runt at 1:46 PM on February 12 [35 favorites]


I would like to know how much of this recent spike in white supremacist organization is part of the "traditionalist" political movement of people like Putin
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:00 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


re tech companies enabling the alt-right: Hit them where it hurts. They don't care about people, but they sure care about money.
posted by Stonkle at 2:11 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


The risk in debating free speech is conceptualizing it in a way that already accepts some assumptions of hateful and oppressive value systems. First, free speech ideology is not just a cause, but also a symptom of prejudice—resulting in blinkered metacognitive reasoning about free speech and what a free-speech world could be like. Second is the problematic that limiting free speech is itself a manifestation of paternalistic values (social control by prohibition). These problems make "free speech" hard to discuss.

I want the cake and to eat it. To reclaim (e.g., detoxify) ideas about free speech, which includes recognizing its potential to foster "authenticity, genius, creativity, individuality and human flourishing". Or that it empowers members of any vulnerable group, including myself and many others on here. Those are pointers toward finding a well-grounded comprehension of free speech. These properties are not incompatible with a democratic, egalitarian society.
posted by polymodus at 2:11 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


re tech companies enabling the alt-right: Hit them where it hurts. They don't care about people, but they sure care about money.

Ah ha ha...oh man, if people started calling the claims of advertisers fake news, undercutting all of the marketing and advertising hard work that Unilever et al have done over decades, that my friends will be a shitshow. I love this idea.
posted by rhizome at 2:14 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Recently I’ve been thinking back to a particular warning sign that came across my field of view but which I didn’t act on, because I lacked the tools to recognize it as anything but ultra-bizarre, when in fact it was a sign of an insane group of man children that would, mere years later, usher in a fully fascist attack on our government.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but, hear me out:

Back in the pirate scene of 2002ish, you could download packs of ROM files for games (so-named because of their original source being a read-only-media cartridge) like the Super Nintendo. You could get these packages from pirate sites that typically delivered stuff via private FTP or early iterations of BitTorrent-type programs. Lots of these “communities” operated on a kind of social contract whereby individuals gained respect by providing high quality packages, where quality is determined by organized naming conventions, amount of software available, completeness of collections, and other such metrics.

Anyway, point is, you wouldn’t go searching for just, like “Super Mario Brothers NES” but rather “All NES ROMS” and you’d get a file with everything. This was just easier because of how small the individual files were. It literally made more sense to download everything ever made for the system than individual games.

Now. In these packages alongside the games you’d expect, you’d have things that were lewd or juvenile in some manner, like “Super Dick Brothers” whereby someone’s opened up the ROM and replaced the image of Mario with the image of a penis. You get the idea.

But, more puzzling to me at the time (see above re: my lack of social tools to understand what the fuck was going on), you’d have astoundingly anti-Semitic, misogynist or homophobic derivatives that were just packed with all kinds of horrific things.

Two things strike me about this: 1. This is exclusively the work of white men, without exception, and usually younger white men. 2. The inclusion of these horrifically disturbing things elicited no negative social impact within the communities sharing these files (e.g., there was no penalty for sharing a “complete NES ROMs” package that included this shit).

This pirate community has a direct link to what then evolved into the “gamergate” groups of harassers and abusers, and it’s a real short jump to the state of our politics today. I continue to be stunned by this.
posted by odinsdream at 2:15 PM on February 12 [38 favorites]


odinsdream: Part of what made 4chan so susceptible to becoming a hotbed of racist radicalization is that, from its earliest days, it embraced a jokey sort of casual racism. (See also the Habbo Hotel raids, where trolls invaded with identical avatars of, essentially, a gollywog in a suit, and formed Swastikas in public spaces.) It wasn't funny, but it was shocking and taboo, which is as close enough to humor as many young white men ever get.

And the normalization of this casual racism on 4chan made it all the easier for the hardcore racists from Stormfront to push it to the next level once they showed up in the wake of Project Chanology.
posted by SansPoint at 2:23 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


The rough timeline of how 4chan became the breeding ground for young white nationalism goes a bit like this:

1. Pre-existing culture of casual, joke racism.
2. Project Chanology increases the prominence of 4chan in the public sphere
3. Legit white nationalists infiltrate 4chan, finding a receptive culture they can radicalize.
4. Operation Lollipop, where 4channers infiltrated Black Twitter by posing as activists happens, demonstrating the same tactics that would later be used in GamerGate
5. GamerGate, of course, and all the subsequent follow-up.
posted by SansPoint at 2:26 PM on February 12 [29 favorites]


I’ll just note that “ironic racism” is... in fact, just plain old racism, with the thinnest of veneers that the racist thinks absolve them of some kind of culpability.
posted by odinsdream at 2:28 PM on February 12 [44 favorites]


odinsdream: I’ll just note that “ironic racism” is... in fact, just plain old racism, with the thinnest of veneers that the racist thinks absolve them of some kind of culpability.

True that.
posted by SansPoint at 2:28 PM on February 12


I would argue that for many, it's the latter; for instance, there is a complete tirefire of a discussion going on in the erlang listserv because a bunch of non-poc developers are worried about restrictions to their vocabulary because someone pointed out that a new package manager they're releasing has a name that's pretty much used as a slur.

i went and read the thread. the package manager was developed by a non-native English speaker, and a couple people politely pointed out that the name was a slur, which they may not have intended. nobody like, denounced anybody.

then a bunch of people dove in very angrily and started complaining about free speech. some of them were European, based on their names, and actually made themselves out to somehow be the victims, of American ethnocentrism.

a lot of white people desperately want to be victims and they'll cling to any kind of perceived grievance like a piece of treasure.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:52 PM on February 12 [13 favorites]


Free speech was enshrined at a time when speech was a thing performed by people and shared in a "marketplace of ideas" where intellectual competition would theoretically cause only the best ideas to rise to the top. For about a year now, I have been making the argument that there is no marketplace of ideas when much of the contested speech is automatically performed and propagated by robots on platforms whose sole purpose is commercial. The marketplace of ideas has been further polluted by a lack of civics education and the transformation of the American public school system into a factory of future employees. No longer dedicated to the ideal producing an informed citizenry that participates in society and government, educational outcomes are now primarily evaluated in terms of financial futures.

I don't know how you can adhere to the spirit of free speech as it originated in the modern world.
posted by xyzzy at 3:10 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


Speaking of 4chan: what's Moot up to these days, anyway?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:10 PM on February 12


Some things that capitalism is disastrous for: healthcare, prisons, and free speech.
posted by adept256 at 3:14 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I would like to know how much of this recent spike in white supremacist organization is part of the "traditionalist" political movement of people like Putin

Putin's government funds and brings together fash and related filth all over the world, which is part of why I get really upset at leftists characterizing liberals yelling about Russia as participating in Red Scare politics. Combine that with the Republican love for Putin and his combination of extractive kleptocracy and violent social conservatism (for the exact same reason the fash love him) and really I can think of few people anybody on the left should hate more in this world than Vladimir Putin.

I’ll just note that “ironic racism” is... in fact, just plain old racism, with the thinnest of veneers that the racist thinks absolve them of some kind of culpability.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: scratch an ironic racist and mostly you'll just scratch away the irony.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 PM on February 12 [19 favorites]


Some things that capitalism is disastrous for: healthcare, prisons, and free speech.

More things: individual humans, most classes of humans, animals, plants, the biosphere, life on Earth....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:19 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


evidenceofabsence: He's working for Google.

React to this as you will.
posted by SansPoint at 3:23 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Sorry, normally I'd read all the comments but I am really tired tonight, and I feel I have something to contribute. My ex-husband whom I met in 1983 was an angry white young man as we understand it today. Everything we see and hear now he expressed then, but back then it was so absurd, I literally thought it was a joke. I wish I knew what his sources and references were then, but since I thought it was a joke, I didn't question anything. Within a few months, he became abusive, first more in a psychological sense and then physical violence. He set in with full force after we married, similar to the Porter guy.
When I first read about the whole PUA thing, I felt this was exactly what my ex was about, and that there must have been some sort of communication way before the internet. I just have no idea how it worked.
My ex always, always talked about how white men were being marginalized, which was specially absurd in this country where the trust in equality is so strong that we are actually failing at equality. Most women and minorities here are against measures that could encourage greater equality. At the time when we were together, it was unthinkable that a woman could make a career within our field. Significantly, our divorce came when our planned immigration to the US was verified. In retrospect I think he realized that he couldn't get around the fact that his competencies were limited any longer. (He would come along as my spouse).
posted by mumimor at 3:26 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


mumimor: None of this stuff is new, least of all pick-up "artistry". It's just gotten a lot easier to spread this kind of nonsense. It's not for nothing that a lot of the alt-right figureheads like Roosh V and Mike Cernovich got their start not as political commentators, but as bro-y self-help gurus and pick-up artists.
posted by SansPoint at 3:29 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Free speech was enshrined at a time when speech was a thing performed by people and shared in a "marketplace of ideas" where intellectual competition would theoretically cause only the best ideas to rise to the top.

Eh, it was still full of bullshit even then. There's always been an unspoken codicil with the "marketplace of ideas" that one shouldn't look too hard or complain too much about any bigotry, and a downplaying of what hate speech is - hence why you always hear it described as 'controversial' or 'offensive'.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:33 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Also, I think it was a point for my ex that my heritage was Jewish. It was his idea that our daughter was given a Jewish name. Again in retrospect, it gave his racism and misogyny legitimacy. He couldn't be Nazi if he was married to a Jew.
But every single day of our life there were racist slurs. Even some I didn't notice till later, since I really don't identify as Jewish. My parents and grandparents are atheists, and even as we treasure Jewish traditions, we don't identify with them.
posted by mumimor at 3:41 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


The Chans, et al. have a long history of brigading and other behavior.

Because their beliefs and structure require them to be. It's a survival mechanism for them, to rules lawyer and look for weak points, because they can't win in a direct conflict.

Maybe I should make the real thrust of my question more explicit. Why are they so much better at it than we are?

Or if the right can't win a "direct conflict," are we currently doing enough to bring that direct conflict to them?

I actually think there is something to be said for not getting distracted by online shit to the extent of losing sight of all the myriad ways to do politics directly in the real world - one certainly easily gains the upper hand on the the /pol crowd at most any game that involve going outside - but I don't really see any reason, say, YouTube should be all right-wing dudes except that they made a concerted effort to do it and did it first. (Again, a different issue from whether YouTube could do more about it.)
posted by atoxyl at 3:42 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Some things that capitalism is disastrous for: healthcare, prisons, and free speech.

More things: individual humans, most classes of humans, animals, plants, the biosphere, life on Earth


"If we just end capitalism everything will be peachy" is simplistic to the point of uselessness.

Racism, sexism, poverty, famine, disease, terrorism, nationalism, and state-committed murder have all thrived in non-capitalist as well as capitalist regimes.

You wanna see systems that were even more horrific than the US today for free speech, individual humans, prisons, plants, the biosphere and life on Earth look at Russia under Stalin or China under Mao --- no capitalism required.

Meanwhile, by realistic human earth standards, Scandinavia seems to be about as decent a society as humans have produced so far (though still plenty racist and sexist) but it's certainly still a capitalist system -- they just have better labor protections, a stronger welfare state, and better regulations than capitalism elsewhere.

My point here is not to defend capitalism per se. If someone waved a wand and gave us automated gay luxury communism tomorrow I'd be delighted.

I just think it's counterproductive to misidentify root causes of problems. All power is subject to abuse whether by rich people and corporations under capitalist systems or authoritarian parties under communist systems. Figuring out how to curb that depends on not oversimplifying the problem.
posted by mrmurbles at 3:47 PM on February 12 [42 favorites]


Maybe I should make the real thrust of my question more explicit. Why are they so much better at it than we are?

Two reasons. One, it's an outright survival mechanism for them, so they naturally have an impetus to get better at it. Two, they don't care about the rules, so they're willing to go further than we might.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:48 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Free speech was enshrined at a time when speech was a thing performed by people and shared in a "marketplace of ideas" where intellectual competition would theoretically cause only the best ideas to rise to the top.

This framing has never really made any sense anyway. What makes ideas "the best," except, tautologically, that they are the most popular? Surely the real core argument (or one of them) against restriction of speech is, in fact, just this - that one can't know objectively which ideas are the "good" ones or "bad" ones. Which I'd have a hard time disagreeing with in the abstract. In reality, though, the limits of what is speakable (and what is hearable) have never really been outside the bounds of politics, and that's what what a lot of people seem to have trouble understanding.
posted by atoxyl at 4:03 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


"If we just end capitalism everything will be peachy" is simplistic to the point of uselessness.

You miss the point. Capitalism is a toxic system, developed in a time when the true cost of resources could be "offshored." We live in a world where that is increasingly not true, yet Capitalism won't recognize this. Capitalism can function (as in the Scandinavian system), if tightly bound by regulation, but it's the nature of Capitalism to undermine those regulations, because it requires endless growth to exist. Similarly, Capitalism requires othering and social conservationism to distract people from the realization that it's essentially a pyramid scheme along the lines of Feudalism, but with slightly different rules.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


What makes ideas "the best," except, tautologically, that they are the most popular?
I have a hard time imagining abolitionists, suffragettes, the labor rights movement, civil rights activists, etc. etc. getting much traction in a society that doesn't have some protection for free speech.
posted by xyzzy at 4:17 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining abolitionists, suffragettes, the labor rights movement, civil rights activists, etc. etc. getting much traction in a society that doesn't have some protection for free speech.

Which doesn't justify the deification of free speech we see in the US. The problem is that we don't just protect free speech, but put it on a pedestal and refuse to examine it critically - which is how you can get someone to argue that they have to work with bigots and terrorists because of free speech, and people will actually take the argument seriously.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:28 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


> atoxyl,

I think that democracy at it's best is basically a popularity contest, only with the added sheen of civic duty to make people hopefully take things more seriously.

So best case, government enforcement is ultimately decided by a popularity contest only with the actual enforcement being done by people who are more authoritarian than the average populace - as police forces tend to be.

And honestly I think where the US law nominally draws it's limits, the Brandenberg test is in a reasonable place. The problem is that right wing groups that by any impartial definition are terrorist organizations: use lethal violence against civilians to advance their political ends... they're getting a free pass from law enforcement because the aforementioned authoritatrian leanings.

I have little doubt that at least some of these people complaining about "Free Speech" have been intentionally making demands to imminent lawless action which is likely to occur. In the case of that Yiannopolis fellow, he's not even an American citizen and thus US University students who believe him a danger are perfectly reasonable to petition the government to remove him from the country. Merely asking him to not be allowed to be given a podium when he is likely to use it for calls to imminent, lawless action is a very moderate request.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:31 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Organizers of MLK Day parades don't advocate for ethnic cleansing and other incitements to violence, but nice false equivalence.

This may startle you, but incitement isn't just hateful speech. In Brandenburg v Ohio, the Supreme Court was faced with a communist that was prosecuted for advocating for illegal, violent activity. The Supreme Court held that mere advocacy of illegal activity - even violence! - was constitutional. Incitement of illegal action that was directed at producing, and was likely to produce, imminent lawless activity, could be criminalized, but anything short of that is protected speech.

In a subsequent decision regarding an NAACP member that called for violence, the Court held that speech must actually result in violence for the speech to be criminalized.

I'm glad we could have that teaching moment.
posted by jpe at 4:38 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


You miss the point. Capitalism is a toxic system, developed

maybe it's just word choice, but capitalism has never particularly concerned me; in fact, it's generally seemed like an efficient and effective way to do a lot of things. What's fundamentally wrong is unregulated free enterprise. What's fundamentally wrong is adhering to capitalist principals as if they're religious tenets, as if to do otherwise is to choose Satan. This seems to be where so many arch conservatives get it so wrong, particularly in the US of A -- this unwillingness to see any bugs in their own system, any features in any system that leans remotely left.

Or as mrmurbles just put it, there are nations who've done a good job of mixing and matching their systems, with excellent results in terms of everyday quality-of-life.
posted by philip-random at 4:39 PM on February 12 [13 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining abolitionists, suffragettes, the labor rights movement, civil rights activists, etc. etc. getting much traction in a society that doesn't have some protection for free speech.

And yet the crushing power of the state was brought to bear, hard, against these people. Civil rights activists faced attack dogs, firehoses, violent mobs; labor activists faced machine guns and fought Pinkertons and the National guard; suffragettes were imprisoned and force-fed. Free speech laws certainly granted them some rights, but equally the state served to suppress their movements violently when necessary. They succeeded in spite of the state, not because of it.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:51 PM on February 12 [47 favorites]


And yet the crushing power of the state was brought to bear, hard, against these people.
And we know about all of it because writers and photographers wrote stories and took pictures, and eventually public opinion turned against the state. How could the public have had their minds changed if all media and publishing was state controlled?
posted by xyzzy at 4:59 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Later-stage market capitalism is the system in which most of the world is operating. "Blame capitalism" is kinda hand-wavey. There are all these other interrelated problems of the idea of the nation state/national identity, internal colonialism, etc. that make things way more complicated.

More importantly, is the punching them helping?
posted by aspersioncast at 5:00 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Which doesn't justify the deification of free speech we see in the US.

it's not as bad as deification of the government to the point where they can decide what we can say and what we can't

this is not a power i want to give any government, especially one run by donald trump and his republican buddies

(can we drop the deification? it's a factfree and contentfree rhetorical trick that says nothing)
posted by pyramid termite at 5:02 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


In Brandenburg v Ohio, the Supreme Court was faced with a communist that was prosecuted for advocating for illegal, violent activity.

Um, no. The court was faced with a Klansman being prosecuted for advocating for illegal, violent activity. Given that we're talking about the Klan, you can probably guess who the target was. The Court (which up till this time had been perfectly fine with these laws) suddenly were shocked that they would be used against white supremacy, and as a result gave us a standard that has made it near impossible for the government to prosecute the advocacy of violence against the dispossessed.

If you're going to lecture people about history, you should at least be accurate.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:07 PM on February 12 [36 favorites]


Maybe I should make the real thrust of my question more explicit. Why are they so much better at it than we are?

They are selling anger and resentment in a package that explains away all of your failures, and allows you to cast yourself as a victimized hero.

We are selling communal responsibility and mutual and respect for people who are different than you, all of which require emotional labor on an ongoing basis.

They are selling drugs. We are selling...I don’t know, co-operative kale.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:11 PM on February 12 [51 favorites]


it's not as bad as deification of the government to the point where they can decide what we can say and what we can't

Good thing nobody is advocating for that, then. Or as was pointed out earlier, most Western nations have hate speech laws - you want to argue that they are not free societies?

(can we drop the deification? it's a factfree and contentfree rhetorical trick that says nothing)

If it really was, you wouldn't be complaining. If you have a problem with the point being made, argue against it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:14 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


The alt right are recruiting like mad, especially among target groups online.. just the other day I was DM'd on Discord with an invitation to join a white supremacist discussion group. A bot messaged me and
who knows how many others... These conversions are taking place outside of the public sphere so they are not being debated or countered, they are growing in darkness.
posted by subdee at 5:14 PM on February 12 [15 favorites]


Good thing nobody is advocating for that, then.

not openly - but hate speech laws aren't going to be enforced by ice cream trucks, are they?

no, you require a government to define and enforce them - and in the current situation, that government is led by our political enemies

i wonder what they would define as "hate speech"?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:19 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


> I have a hard time imagining abolitionists, suffragettes, the labor rights movement, civil rights activists, etc. etc. getting much traction in a society that doesn't have some protection for free speech

anti-apartheid activism in South Africa was not, to my knowledge, particularly benefited by free speech protections.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:21 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


>>In less-happy This American Life coverage: last week's TAL episode was largely a story about how online harassment from leftists has hurt Laci Green, a sex ed vlogger who has gotten downright cozy with TERFs, transphobes and the alt-right.

Here's how TAL describes Green's boyfriend, the anti-feminist-vlogger Chris Ray Gun: It should be said that it's kind of strange to describe Chris Ray Gun as a white supremacist or a member of the alt-right. He's more like a sarcastic Puerto Rican guy from the Bronx who loves video games and thinks the social justice movement is ridiculous.

it's true, who could ever think there's any overlap between social justice-mocking gamers and misogynist alt-right Nazis, what a silly idea
posted by nicebookrack at 5:53 PM on February 12 [20 favorites]


it's not as bad as deification of the government to the point where they can decide what we can say and what we can't

I'm the government.

In a democracy, I'm the government.

This is something that many libertarians fails to understand, when they treat the "government" as an entity separate from the people who give it legitimacy. Saying that 'the government' should not have the ability to silence people but it's okay for any individuals to do it is a contradiction in terms. (And sometimes those individuals are way more powerful than the government. Sam Walton is a very effective censor.)

Which leads to the problem that the thread seems to be grappling with: sometimes The People are fucking assholes. It's difficult to create laws to defend against that, because those laws can always be subverted, but that's no excuse to not try.
posted by Merus at 6:02 PM on February 12 [31 favorites]


Or as was pointed out earlier, most Western nations have hate speech laws - you want to argue that they are not free societies?

Let's not get into this trap. Like, I could argue - with lots of supporting evidence - that a lot of other "Western nations" engage in a lot of suppression of dissidents and people they find threatening, because governments are fuckers and tend to use power against people they perceive to be their enemies. You don't even have to look that hard to see evidence of discrimination in a lot of the so-called "free societies". There are good things and bad about countries and how they organize their laws. England has more robust protections about hate speech, but also stronger definitions of 'libel' and you are less free to take down public figures. France punishes discrimination, but also enforces rigorously against religious attire in schools and against certain kinds of swimming attire on beaches.

Rather than argue about "what constitutes a free society", we could argue about "what forms a world we want to see, with protections for dissent, without letting Nazis fucking take over?"
posted by corb at 6:08 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


> I really can't wait for old, white Baby Boomers to just be gone as a voting demo...

There's so much going on in the US propaganda war right now that it's hard to even choose one thing to look at, but some version of the thought above has been coming up on my radar a lot ever since The Election. For some reason, blaming old people, specifically, for Trump, or Republicanism, is the new common sense.

This is terrifying to me, and not because I'm approaching old-personhood myself, but because when I think of the worst of the right-wing idiots I've encountered in real life, most came from college-jock, fraternity date-rapist, Wall Street and/or Silicon Valley bro cultures, and they were all young, painfully young. So I don't think there is any shortage of young nazis out there ready to replace the old guard.

But that's not really what's nagging at me. It's that I have seen this logic come up again and again and again, all over the Internet, in the past year, and it's starting to look more and more like a calculated wedge designed to pit old Americans against young ones, with increasingly violent rhetoric. And then, like, you know... who benefits and all that?
posted by rokusan at 6:19 PM on February 12 [24 favorites]


"For some reason, blaming old people, specifically, for Trump, or Republicanism, is the new common sense."

It's not just "the new common sense," it's a statistical fact. We know from exit polling the demographics of Clinton voters vs. Trump voters. The age difference is stark.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:30 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Not to me - my sense is the divide is mostly regional: cosmopolitan city people vs the rural & ignorant suburban. I see no stark age graph in your link. IMO most boomers lean left; it's their silent-majority parents who make up the elderly conservative voting bloc.
posted by Rash at 6:41 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


"IMO most boomers lean left; it's their silent-majority parents who make up the elderly conservative voting bloc."

The majority of voters over 40 voted for Trump. That includes Gen X, Boomers, and Silent.

This isn't an "IMO" situation. It's a fact.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:55 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


The part that's questionable I think is blaming Boomers generationally, as if it weren't previously common for people to get conservative with age.

Or I mean was it always common? I guess past a certain point I don't really know. I think the Boomers are particularly targeted by the reactionary paranoia machine - but that's more unique circumstance than unique fault.
posted by atoxyl at 7:08 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Surely we can move past this Boomer derail sometime soon.
posted by XtinaS at 7:13 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining abolitionists, suffragettes, the labor rights movement, civil rights activists, etc. etc. getting much traction in a society that doesn't have some protection for free speech.

That's... not the history of the labor movement in the US as I understand it. Back when unions were illegal, when many resource extraction industries ran company towns, the last time "nativism" flourished and immigrants were demonized in political discourse, and Blacks were most definitely still second-class citizens - you know, the early 1900s - the labor movement won concessions through direct actions that had an economic impact on employers, and through hard, slow, on-the-ground organizing. Big massacres (industrial accidents, assassinations of more visible union leaders, or massacres by hired security firms) made the news and generated sympathy when significant numbers of workers died. Which happened disturbingly frequently. But there was also a lot of direct suppression (legal or extra-legal) of the union and left-wing presses and other communication efforts - they hardly had free speech in any form approaching what we understand it to be today. From what I've read, most of the gains in free speech rights were won as a result of the labor and other movements gaining more power, not as a precursor enabling those movements to gain power. (Rather, expanded free speech protections were considered important for maintaining the gains the movements had made, so they could avoid having to make the same sacrifices in each subsequent generation.)
posted by eviemath at 7:13 PM on February 12 [31 favorites]


I have seen this logic come up again and again and again, all over the Internet, in the past year, and it's starting to look more and more like a calculated wedge designed to pit

it's the calculated wedges that concern me, period. Or have we learned nothing from the gaming of the last election, whether it was Kremlin bots, time traveling aliens or whatever ...?
posted by philip-random at 7:13 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Surely we can move past this Boomer derail sometime soon.

We might just have to wait for it to die off in time.
posted by eviemath at 7:14 PM on February 12 [15 favorites]


Jacqueline, look at it this way: a majority of white women also voted for Trump... but nobody would consider it a sane position to vilify and "wait for them to die off", right? That would be crazy, unhealthy, illogical, and most of all, self-destructive.

The point is that this ageist thing is yet another wedge that is being used to divide us, when the previous wedges haven't even worn off yet.
posted by rokusan at 7:19 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


[One deleted; Jacqueline, you've made your point, and moreover we've rehearsed these Boomers-bad, Millennials-bad, etc circular fights to the point of nausea in the last few years.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:26 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Free speech was enshrined at a time when speech

I don't think "free speech" was ever enshrined. All the First Amendment says is we Constitutionally don't trust the majority to fairly regulate the speech and religion of the minority.

I think it's wishful thinking to assume that expanding laws in the USA against hate speech would end up hurting Nazis more than it hurts people of color.
posted by straight at 7:26 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


The "deification" of free speech in the United States has a very recent history, and almost all of it has been built on work to protect radical progressive movements from attack. The first amendment was essentially a dead letter law until after the first world war, when it was realised that attacks by the pro-war establishment left *and* right on anti-war activists had effectively silenced some of the strongest, and most, in retrospect, correct voices fighting against American involvement in a distant, unnecessary war. As eviepath says, some of those fights were also labor fights (and sexual education fights), mostly secured after the event.

The post- (second world war) period led to a boom in free expression, including its inclusion in one of its strongest forms in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it was seen as a bulwark against repressive forces and a way to differentiate the "free world' from places where political censorship was wielded most visibly.

We've spent the years since then in Europe and the United States essentially arguing about its outer edges -- do we silence actual Nazis? Do we do state-mandated content-labelling? What about nudity? -- because free expression continues to be seen as part of the recipe for an open society. The extent that the United States deifies "free speech" is largely as a minor outlier on the historically vast free expression outlier that is modern society.

By far more transformative than post-Sixties U.S. law or norms, or any kind of historical or regional absolutism, is the effect of the Internet: which turned the theoretical freedom of the press, into a freedom everyone might deploy. That we managed to rhetorically drape that — incredibly threatening — aspect as Americana was as much because the biggest early threats to it responded to that kind of language.

Just as with surveillance, there is an alternative mode to the aspirational model of an uncensorable, privacy-protective Internet. The Net's either strongly encrypted, or trivially surveillable. It's either censorship-free, or can be re-engineered to be a fantastically untraceable filtering-and-redacting memory hole.

With centralised forms of social media, you *can* (and we are) making Mark Zuckerberg and others the censors general of the world. If we want to censor, we can do it there. Alternatively, we can nationalise the process, as the Chinese have done, and apply a state-run censorship overlay on the entirety of the Net. Or arrive at some neoliberal happy medium, where censorship is outsourced to private actors, large enough to be easily alterable by large state actors.

In this environment, when you choose to silence people (and we'll be silencing people this time, not just publishers and writers), you have to assume that the rules will work in favor of the "right kind of speech", and that we can build systems that judge that accurately, and at scale. And this isn't something that the U.S. has got wrong, and the rest of the world has got right.

Nobody knows quite what to do, because we're wandering in every direction from the post war consensus I described. The European Union is dipping their feet into censorship (with shadow regulation, and with laws like Germany's NetzDG) , and the American social media platforms have always been gung-ho for it, as long as it's passes under the radar -- filtering and gardening is part of what Facebook and Twitter *do*, for spam and for porn, and for dozens of other ToS violations.

We can build that system — we *are* building that system, just not fast enough for many people. There's a huge, bi-partisan support for filtering and blocking. I spend my time listening politely to lawmakers in Europe and the U.S. describe to me how disgusting the Internet is (they really don't differentiate), and how something needs to be done.

Free speech "absolutists" are relatively common, unsurprisingly, among people who write or speak for a living; but vanishingly rare among people with hard power.

I've sat with visitors from the Whitehouse — the Obama Whitehouse, mind — on task forces to get the companies to crack down. I've eaten chinese food with EU Commissioners who can, I swear to God, barely contain their anger at what the Internet is getting away with. I sat with a whole European Parliamentary committee, trying to, once again, explain how "getting rid of all the pirates" online would not be a trivial task, and would have substantial civil liberties consequences. We may be arguing the pros and cons here on Metafilter, but elsewhere, the debate has moved on.

If there's a reason why free speech advocates often seem to place an unreasonable belief in the power of argument and rhetoric to prevent Bad Things, it's because that's pretty much, as a group, all the power they have. Do you think that the right, who argues so vociferously in favour of free speech now, will be its guardians? Those on the left who fought for the free speech platform so we could even have a discussion about race, class and gender, are fading away, while we all take the availability of that platform for granted.

And, ultimately, right now, if you are wavering in your support for free expression, ask yourself: are there any beliefs that you imagine might be taken off the table now, that will turn out, to be, "in retrospect, correct"? Of course not. No reasonable supporter of limits on speech, in times of polarisation, would ever think that. Just as in 1914, it's inconceivable. With our enemies so vivid, and the truth of our own words so clear, we cannot envisage our error.

I'm sorry if this is a derail, but it seemed to follow on from the flow of the rest of the thread. In the day job, we wrote a little about techniques other than simple private censorship that might try and address some of the challenges the OP describes.
posted by ntk at 7:27 PM on February 12 [29 favorites]


"but nobody would consider it a sane position to vilify and 'wait for them to die off', right?"

I prefer the Bullworth program. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 7:33 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Here's how TAL describes Green's boyfriend, the anti-feminist-vlogger Chris Ray Gun: It should be said that it's kind of strange to describe Chris Ray Gun as a white supremacist or a member of the alt-right. He's more like a sarcastic Puerto Rican guy from the Bronx who loves video games and thinks the social justice movement is ridiculous hates women.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:49 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


The bit of white supremacist "logic" I never understood is why they are so afraid of living in a multiethnic society? If whites are actually as inherently superior as they believe, then we should have no problem competing and rising to the top on our own merits, right?

I'm white and the erosion of white privilege doesn't scare me because I have more going for me than the color of my skin. Meanwhile, I'm excited about fewer people being held back by superficial characteristics because more people being able to live up to their full potential means more cool inventions and art and stuff for everyone to enjoy.

If you look at the actual policy proposals of white supremacists, they seem a lot more like white inferiorists. They think we need special protections to save us from going extinct.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:02 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


If whites are actually as inherently superior as they believe, then we should have no problem competing and rising to the top on our own merits, right?
That's not what they see happening. They see people of color and women and other minorities getting special entitlements and privileges that will allow them to leapfrog over their "accomplishments."
posted by xyzzy at 8:08 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


And, ultimately, right now, if you are wavering in your support for free expression, ask yourself: are there any beliefs that you imagine might be taken off the table now, that will turn out, to be, "in retrospect, correct"? Of course not. No reasonable supporter of limits on speech, in times of polarisation, would ever think that. Just as in 1914, it's inconceivable. With our enemies so vivid, and the truth of our own words so clear, we cannot envisage our error

I support free expression and always will. What is at question here is this American idea of 'free expression' in an absolute sense that ends up with people being a-ok with people freely expressing hate, dehuminization, bigotry and the suppression and in many cases anihilation of not insignificant portions of humanity. In doing this 'expressing' they are not only suppressing many other people 'free expression' but working hard to make the US into a country where there are literally no physical mouths of people who they don't want to do any sort of expressing.

As a Canadian I've have been told by Americans my whole life how we don't have free speech up here and blah blah, USA is to be emulated because 'freedom'.

And yet which country is now a threat to I dunno, pretty much the entire world because of how much freedom people have and now there are Nazi type in the actual WH and the presidents base and the only people he thinks are worth courting are various forms of white supremist idiots.

So yes free but from the outside it looks sure looks like some tweaking is needed because it is in a serious failure mode right now.
posted by Jalliah at 8:10 PM on February 12 [26 favorites]


Saying that the alt-right doesn't have jobs or sexual partners is a rational explanation to explain their irrational views. It wants a good reason to make sense of it all. But, the alt-right could also be brainwashed by their handlers, perhaps because they easily buy into fantasy arguments that elevate less intelligent people for race reasons. They could be experiencing cognitive dissonance, due to the fact they once truly believed, so they now must now double-down with personal intensity and recruitment to convince themselves it wasn't wrong. They might have all been bullied, so they voted for Trump because he was a bully, so they feel like someone like dad or coach or big brother is pushing them around again, giving them a perverse comfort in adulthood. They might just want needed attention and respect from mainstream white people, which is just an immature way of thinking that success and respect are the same somehow. They might also have a lot of media-induced fear from street gangs in movies and games, not being able to separate reality from alt-reality. They might also experience common loneliness or homoerotic tendencies, which reinforces the need to retreat and bond over a bizarre fantasy futurism. Whatever it may be, they pose an organized danger to others by promoting hate and discrimination. But it also brings bad public relations and condemnation from the mainstream, which doesn't make a lot of political sense. So we are left to conclude that these people are either desperate or insane.
posted by Brian B. at 8:30 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


"They see people of color and women and other minorities getting special entitlements and privileges that will allow them to leapfrog over their 'accomplishments.'"

Again, if whites are so inherently superior, why would that be a problem? So-called "reverse racism" is a relatively minor hurdle to overcome compared to the challenge of colonizing half the world. If whites achieved the latter due to some inherent racial superiority and not historical accident then succeeding in a system that's "rigged" slightly in other groups' favor should still be pretty easy.

Like seriously how does one simultaneously hold the viewpoints "the white race is obviously superior because it achieved all these great things" and "legalized miscegenation and affirmative action is leading to the extinction of the white race"????
posted by Jacqueline at 8:33 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


The question of why the alt-right believe what they believe usually ends up discussing how they came to believe on what they believe, which is far less helpful than what do they continue to believe it, and how can we make them stop. They come to believe if for a myriad of reasons, and honestly I don't know if it matters, because it's not why they flirt with evil that matters but why they never let it go. They continue to believe it because of one reason alone, that being that the indoctrination forces them to discount evidence to the contrary as being from Jews/SJW plants/etc.

Getting them to stop is the trick.

And, ultimately, right now, if you are wavering in your support for free expression, ask yourself: are there any beliefs that you imagine might be taken off the table now, that will turn out, to be, "in retrospect, correct"?

Yes, this belief: speech can hurt people who have very little protection as it is. It's no coincidence that the left started abandoning free speech as a principle when it became common to hear from the marginalised who had to debate their right to exist.
posted by Merus at 8:42 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Jalliah, I think you have to unpick that chain of thought a little. When those people said there was a big difference between Canadian and U.S. levels of protection for speech, did you think it was true? Or are there other factors that may have affected the more rapid propagation of nativism in the United States compared to Canada.

I pretty much live in the minutiae of free expression policies between countries, and I'd be okay to concede that Canada and America aren't that far apart on free speech compared to other nations.

I think part of the challenge here is the flipside of American exceptionalism: the rise of this kind of right-wing popularism is happening in many different parts of the globe. The United States is not the first, not even in the 21st century, and not among Western countries. The level of free expression in the countries roiling with this kind of polarisation -- from the US, to Brazil, to Russia, to Hungary -- vary wildly in their levels of free speech protections, and Internet censorship. So it doesn't seem right to select something that's seen as a uniquely USian attribute and then decide that's what causing this problem. (A good counterargument to this is to see it as an *Internet* free speech issue, in that the Net has free speech wired in, and that's what's causing this rise. If so, why hasn't it hit Canada?)

Merus, I believe marginalised have always had to fight for their right to exist. Why do you think it's been more common for the more comfortable left to hear that now, in this time of lowered gatekeepers for expression?

(I realise I'm threadsitting! I'll bow out now!)
posted by ntk at 8:51 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


But it also brings bad public relations and condemnation from the mainstream, which doesn't make a lot of political sense. So we are left to conclude that these people are either desperate or insane.

Not if we remain educated about their playbook. The sort of talk fascists engage in has a couple of basic purposes:

- Self-reinforcement. Ever been to a pep rally? Talk doesn't just have to be a dry discussion of facts, backed by research. Talk can also be a fiery call to action, more about reinforcing an emotional framework than anything else.

- Lying works. Your assertion about the reaction to the mainstream to their talk is not born out by history, either recent or dim. The Nazis codified the Big Lie. It works.

It's important to remember that fascists do not operate in good faith. If you really deeply want to understand them, I've already talked about it above: they want a simple solution to their problems that they can solve while foaming at the mouth with rage. Talking about how this is irrational or inconsistent or simply false misses the point.

Getting them to stop is the trick.

We know one way, but it doesn't scale. There's a large segment of the population that I'm not sure is salvageable - long term, I think the best strategy may be to figure out better ways to stop the damage from spreading instead of worrying about reclaiming anybody.
posted by mordax at 8:54 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


Like seriously how does one simultaneously hold the viewpoints "the white race is obviously superior because it achieved all these great things" and "legalized miscegenation and affirmative action is leading to the extinction of the white race"???

That crowd is great at double think.

Immigrants are lazy and draining taxpayer money. Immigrants are taking all our jobs.

Mass immigration is horrible and must be stopped. Get over colonization, losers.

Women are unintelligent prudes. Women are conniving succubi trying to trap men into child support payments.
posted by Stonkle at 8:58 PM on February 12 [24 favorites]


Merus, I believe marginalised have always had to fight for their right to exist. Why do you think it's been more common for the more comfortable left to hear that now, in this time of lowered gatekeepers for expression?

Because people are finally listening to them. And they are pointing out that when you allow people to attack them out of a misguided notion of "free speech", they feel that they aren't safe in the public forum, and they ultimately leave, bcause it turns out that dealing with an atmosphere of hate directed at them is really draining. As I keep on saying over and over, if you want a principle to be respected, you cannot let it become a shield for abuse - because when it does, the abused will have no reason to see it as legitimate.

And yes, I read that EFF piece, and it's illustrative of why the EFF has been horrible with dealing with online harassment. The section titled "Empower Users With Better Platform Tools" completely misses the point - as we've discussed with regards with Reddit, making it so people don't have to see the toxic waste pooling in the backyard doesn't solve the problem that there is toxic waste pooling in the backyard!
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:07 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Jalliah, I think you have to unpick that chain of thought a little. When those people said there was a big difference between Canadian and U.S. levels of protection for speech, did you think it was true? Or are there other factors that may have affected the more rapid propagation of nativism in the United States compared to Canada.

I don't have to unpick it. I've had years to think about it. Of course there are other factors at play but I do think that how the idea of free speech as expressed by to me by numerous Americans over the years is a big factor. There is a some sort of psycho-cultural aspect to it that plays into how people see themselves as part of a larger society.

No for the most part it what Americans have told me my country is like is not true. Free speech, guns and health care are apparently things that we know nothing about it. I have been told on numerous occasions that I am oppressed because we have laws against free speech and that we're just too stupid to understand why, obviously. I mean it's mostly funny and you have to laugh but it happens so much that we have jokes about it.

If I was to drill down to what the differences are is that in Canada we have set a line. It can and should be difficult to determine what exactly crosses that line (as it should be) but there is a line. Essentially what our laws say is, say what you want but if you are a super duper hateful shit there are consequences. Responsibility for speech is codified. Yes you are an individual but you also are part of a community. You aren't an island.

I see this as fairly big cultural difference though it is hard to pin down. In my experience I just haven't had the same sort of conversations with Canadians about free speech as I have with many Americans where ideas around responsibility and consequences just aren't addressed in the same way and in many cases not at all. There is a sense that responsibility and consequence are anti-freedom in way that doesn't exist in the same way here in Canada.
posted by Jalliah at 9:37 PM on February 12 [14 favorites]


(Cashing in a thread-sitting token for a direct reply)

People are listening, because others finally have voices loud enough to be heard -- and even more importantly, an ability to create a permanent, non-erasable record of their own. And that's because instead of one central public forum, carefully tone-policed and gatekept by the great and the good, we have had an explosion of places which are universally visible, but created by the marginalised. Or do you think the "people" you speak of just decided this one time to listen out of the kindness of their liberal hearts? (I say this as I watch the crackdown on #metoo in China proceed apace with the machinery of censorship operating there.)

I'm happy to discuss the devalidating of "free speech" as an unalloyed positive value in the last few years, but my feeling is that that decline came far less from an active move by marginalised groups, and far more because it was picked up as a rallying cry by the right, which led to many (understandably) associate it with the toxic right.

I think I've been dealing with the consequences of the far right raising the free speech banner since ... maybe the early 2000s? The elaboration and popularisation of a more -- I don't want to say ideological, because that sounds judgemental, but perhaps *principled*? -- anti-free-expression line is relatively new, and firmly based in academia rather than from the radical communities I work with (who do also express it, but more in a beleaguered way). Take that as you will: trust me, understanding the sources of irritation with freez peach is something I think about a lot.

You're absolutely right that most people's ideas of platform tools don't cover the *existence of "toxic waste"*, but that's not actually the problem that section is attempting to solve. Much of the concern right now is how those ideas propagate and are magnified by social media platform algorithms; so providing user insight into that allows us to see the problem more transparently.

That's very different from potential solutions to online harassment — but that doesn't mean better social media and third-party tools don't help here too. For instance, there, it's about creating reporting mechanisms that aren't just about feeding data into the maw of social media companies, never to be seen again.

For instance, EFF has lobbied to make taking screenshots that can be used to collect and preserve abusive content easier for individual users, so that they (or their delegates) can create a track record of abuse that works when presenting to third parties like law enforcement. Note that almost everyone, within a rounding error, who faces abuse doesn't know how to take screenshots or collect evidence, and companies' motivation is to immediately delete content, removing that evidence trail.

A counterpoint to this was Facebook's recent attempt to stop revenge porn on their systems, which involved victims sending the imagery, via Facebook messenger, to their moderators. Pushing back against these kinds of centralized platform tools which deny individuals agency, and instead pushing for tools that are created by and for the actual people facing this harassment, is what we've argued for.
posted by ntk at 9:39 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


In the horrifying story about the woman whose husband became a Nazi, he had a job and a sex partner (his wife) and love and a community and all that shit. I don't think we can be so reductive as to blame it on loserhood. At most, a stance of being a victim might have something to do with it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:03 PM on February 12 [11 favorites]


For instance, EFF has lobbied to make taking screenshots that can be used to collect and preserve abusive content easier for individual users, so that they (or their delegates) can create a track record of abuse that works when presenting to third parties like law enforcement. Note that almost everyone, within a rounding error, who faces abuse doesn't know how to take screenshots or collect evidence, and companies' motivation is to immediately delete content, removing that evidence trail.

A counterpoint to this was Facebook's recent attempt to stop revenge porn on their systems, which involved victims sending the imagery, via Facebook messenger, to their moderators. Pushing back against these kinds of centralized platform tools which deny individuals agency, and instead pushing for tools that are created by and for the actual people facing this harassment, is what we've argued for.


So, in other words, the solution you're pushing is for the victims and the dispossessed to be the ones to fix the problem. Do you not see the problem with this? Not to mention that making evidence of abuse easier to collect does little if the people you're sending it to don't act on it. (Case in point - people had been reporting white supremacist Paul Nehlen to Twitter with clear evidence of his hateful posts, and had been getting back responses of "no, his posting of an enemy list comprised mostly of Jewish people doesn't violate Twitter's standards." It took him attacking someone high profile - in this case, Meghan Markle - before Twitter took the reports seriously.)

The simple reality is that environments where hate is considered to be okay push the targets of that hate out. If you say that you're going to let hate speech flourish, you are going to silence the voices of the dispossessed because they're not going to feel safe. The two cannot coexist, because hate speech and its proponents categorically reject coexistence.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:16 PM on February 12 [11 favorites]


My problem with discussing Canadian law as well as questions about academic political correctness is that the Canadian legal justification of hate speech law--there's a Saskatchewan court document I have in mind--is that it all looks so derivative of existing strains of American academic social, political, and legal philosophies. There's no "new physics" there, so to speak. It's just the context and application that're different. So any comparison between the two that doesn't work through this hidden relationship, in addition to the more obvious historical/geographic/demographic contextualization, is bound to contain giant gap in understanding. This is like, open research problem territory.
posted by polymodus at 10:38 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Surely the real core argument (or one of them) against restriction of speech is, in fact, just this - that one can't know objectively which ideas are the "good" ones or "bad" ones.

no, surely not. what a horrifying suggestion. The idea that we must allow free speech only because it isn't realistically possible to selectively allow only good speech is like the idea that we must abolish the death penalty only because we can't be certain of only executing guilty people, or that prison abuses must be curtailed only because they sometimes affect those unjustly imprisoned. i.e. not a defensible ethical position. though true, that is not the reason. that is not even one of the reasons.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:52 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


NoxAeternum -- no, making this the target's problem really is not what it's about (for instance, one of the repeated errors of the companies is to try to force reporting and action into individual complaints, rather than allowing and recognising collective action and the targeting of communities: by isolating individuals in this way, you really do end up putting the burden on them. But collective action, outside of the companies, allows the differing needs and effects of harassment to be distributed). Highlighting the fact that law enforcement doesn't actually act on this, and there involvement, as guided by the companies rather than led by the targets of harassment, is problematic is another point we've repeatedly made. We've also been pointing out that celebrity-driven enforcement doesn't work for years.

I really really am going to bow out of this, but I'd be happy to continue this on MeFi Mail or somewhere else --- though you'll probably get more from reading my colleague Jillian York and the Online Censorship team more than me. I honestly I think you'd be pleasantly surprised about how much we would agree on what is useful, and what is a problem: at heart, you and I both agree harassment is something that chills free speech, not something that is excused by it.

But, apart from me wanting to go to bed now, this is a thread about right wing radicalisation, not harassment, so let's give the floor to that topic.
posted by ntk at 10:53 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


We know one way, but it doesn't scale. There's a large segment of the population that I'm not sure is salvageable - long term, I think the best strategy may be to figure out better ways to stop the damage from spreading instead of worrying about reclaiming anybody.

I've come to think fewer people are strongly ideologically committed - to anything than those of us who are pretty ideological tend to imagine. At least as far as explicit, rather than implicit ideology goes. I honestly do believe that a lot of the rise of the far right has to do with people feeling like late neoliberal (yeah I said it, sorry) society is a raw deal. And yeah that does mean to a significant extent people who, being white, know consciously or unconsciously that their parents and grandparents used to get a bigger cut of the ill-gotten gains and want get back to those days - but I think the ordinary version of this person is not so wedded to this that one can't offer them other material or psychic rewards instead. Socialism or Barbarism, that's kind of what it's about. Anyway, if I'm at all right about that the upside is that thankfully it's not about convincing the guys who are going around with Nazi frog meme banners.

Though also, incidentally, a lot of the the alt-right types seem like the kind of person who shifts from one ideological extreme to another at the drop of a hat. But I find people like that kind of scary.
posted by atoxyl at 11:13 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


and stupid things are said and done, the wound collector never has to go far to feel victimized.'"


Stupid things get weaponized as memes and passed around in broadly common spaces like imgur.

Every community has a couple of twits, and white supremacists/homophobes/misogynists will then cherrypick a stupid or contemptuous statement by said twit, turn it into an image file, and tack it up on imgur to portray an entire community as being stupid or hateful, and then bask in self-righteous contempt. And also radicalize other people.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:39 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I've come to think fewer people are strongly ideologically committed - to anything than those of us who are pretty ideological tend to imagine. At least as far as explicit, rather than implicit ideology goes. I honestly do believe that a lot of the rise of the far right has to do with people feeling like late neoliberal (yeah I said it, sorry) society is a raw deal.

More broadly, people react to perceived insults and threats to their status and identity.

Often with contempt for the suffering of others. So sure, part of it's the economy (and the GOP blocking stuff like socialized medicine, fair wages, regulation of banks, etc.). But it's also Fox News and the broader right-wing media and social media stuff ginning up lots and lots of insults and threats to their status and identity. So on one end is packs of boys and young men mis-socializing other boys and young men online. And on the other end 24/7 Fox News in your parents' living room.

I agree that a feeling of unfairness makes people act worse.

But the white supremacists/homophobes/misogynists will harass and attack people even when the economy is bubbling along happily and folk have good jobs. Because they were socialized to feel contempt for human suffering, and see equality as a threat to their status and identity. Apartheid, the attack on the Stonewall Inn, the firebombing of Black Wall Street, harassment of women in public pre-(and post)-department stores, etc.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:12 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]




no, surely not. what a horrifying suggestion. The idea that we must allow free speech only because it isn't realistically possible to selectively allow only good speech is like the idea that we must abolish the death penalty only because we can't be certain of only executing guilty people, or that prison abuses must be curtailed only because they sometimes affect those unjustly imprisoned. i.e. not a defensible ethical position. though true, that is not the reason. that is not even one of the reasons.

You got me, that was overreaching. I think what I was really getting at is just that I find that a more convincing angle than the other sorta epistemological argument about the "marketplace of ideas." Not that it's really the main reason in practice or historically.

But I'm not completely sure what you mean by the criminal justice analogies - that even if it were possible to objectively determine and only allow only good speech that it would be fundamentally wrong? Or just that I'm focusing on the wrong thing and missing the point?
posted by atoxyl at 1:30 AM on February 13


I'm the government.

In a democracy, I'm the government.


we live in a republic, not a democracy - the majority voted for clinton and the democrats but they did not get their views across

tell BLM or other marginalized groups they're the government

your viewpoint is naive, dangerous, and wrong
posted by pyramid termite at 2:11 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


If I may (not wanting to speak for queenofbithynia, but fleshing out what I understood; I favorited her comment), it's not about "right versus wrong" but about ethics. Granted, some see ethics as right versus wrong; good versus evil. That view goes by many names, one of them Manichaeism, or the better-known, yet less cohesive term "black and white thinking".

When you talk about ethics, you talk more about what sciatrix was getting at: the very core of what it is to be human, which is and always will be a question. Anyone who thinks it's not a question has not done much soul-searching, and while I realize it can be seen as a simplistic rhetorical trick, I firmly believe that a lack of soul-searching is also a root of the problem of angry young white men. As a rhetorical trick it's simplistic, but if you take it seriously, that's humanity. Figuring out what the hell are we; who the hell am I as part of this we, as part of which we, as part of what I since I too am always changing. Angry white men have been handed simplicity and egotism as a quick win soul definition. Unquestioning supremacy. They have bought into a worldview that tells them they reign, no questions asked; no soul-searching needed.

That is why seeing free speech only because we can't selectively allow good speech is bowing to the same simplicity. The same Manichaeism. We allow free speech because we allow that we are human. We can then say some speech is not allowed as speech that denies humanity, and it does not contradict. Likewise, we don't do the death penalty because it annihilates a human. That's what queenofbithynia was getting at.

Because if you really boil it down, viewing other humans as less than, means that one is fundamentally blind to humanity.
posted by fraula at 2:45 AM on February 13 [21 favorites]


that does mean to a significant extent people who, being white, know consciously or unconsciously that their parents and grandparents used to get a bigger cut of the ill-gotten gains and want get back to those days -

It's about this, but it's not just about this, as sebastienbailard alludes to. It's about social hierarchy - essentially, about status rather than money or wellbeing. And as you shift away from a status system heavily influenced by wealth and race and family and marriage to a status system based on knowledge and adherence to an ideology - a largely reputational rather than positional status system - you shift from a status system that can be inherited to one that can't.

And that's a problem in many ways - there's an inherent instability there. It frankly shakes the core of a lot of things, which is why I think you're seeing this rise of angry young white men. If there's no status based on what you earn - if people will come along trying to equalize wealth and neighborhoods and property - then why earn? Why participate in a work system that functionally treats them like cogs, if they're not even going to get the reward of status out of it? As atoxyl says, they feel like late neoliberal society is a raw deal, in that case.

And more specifically - if they don't gain any benefits that can be transmitted through participating in society as they have grown up understanding it, why participate in society and play by its rules? And this is the dangerous part, where they decide that there's no difference between being punished by the society they live in for their culture, and being punished by society for Nazi-marching in the street. I do think we can absolutely offer them other rewards, but frankly I don't know what those rewards are or would be, and I think the idea of offering generational rewards conflicts with a lot of the current zeitgeist, so I'm not sure how you accomplish it. In the meantime, I think we have to focus on the social punishment for being a Nazi being far greater than the social punishment for being, say, a generic Trump supporter, and right now I'm not really sure that it's the case.
posted by corb at 4:09 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


I hope we see a backlash, and I hope it happens at the ballot box and not in the streets. Because if it happens in the streets, a lot of people are going to be shocked to find out which side the cops and National Guard are really on.

Then they might be shocked to learn about the shootings at Kent State.
posted by Gelatin at 4:50 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


Look, I'm a big fan of free speech. But I think there's a huge, **VAST**, region between the government declaring that certain speech is illegal, and the government mandating that colleges provide a platform to the scum of the universe. Free speech does not include the right to a captive audience, nor does it include the right to speak in absolutely any venue regardless of what the owners of that venue want.

I'd also argue that while a public university gets money from the government, speaking there is inherently different from (for example) speaking in front of city hall. The university is government funded, but it isn't really part of the government, demanding that since it takes public money it must open its doors to any and all speakers (regardless of the threat those speakers represent) is absurd.

There's definitely a good case to make that Nazis must be permitted to speak in front of city hall, or on other actual, no shit, government property. Furthermore, letting them speak there wouldn't involve anywhere near the sort of security and threat nightmare that forcing colleges to accept their speakers does.

The idea of a heckler's veto has been mentioned, but I think people are overlooking what might be termed the Nazi security veto.

On UW we saw that basically the university shut down the center of their campus for 8 solid hours to accommodate the Nazis, and moreover canceled other, non- or anti- Nazi events specifically to try and deal with the security nightmare having Nazis on campus produces. The free speech of the non-Nazis was curtailed to make room for Nazis, yet the supposed free speech absolutists seem strangely silent on that topic.

Worse, I can see Nazis taking advantage of their now privileged status to try and bankrupt universities. If it shuts down a university for a day and costs millions in security to host the Nazis, then why shouldn't the Nazis demand the "right" to speak daily on campus and thereby shut down the university forever while diverting all university funds into security?

Saying "Nazis and other people causing violence on campus and requiring massive security expenditures are unwelcome on this campus" is not saying "Nazis are banned from speaking".

I will agree that Nazis should not be silenced by the government. Any law trying to do so could, during Republican times in power, be turned against others. But that doesn't mean that universities must give the Nazis platforms. Even with free speech as an absolute there's enough wiggle room to keep Nazis from holding rallies on university campuses. Let them speak in front of city hall, or hire their own hall.
posted by sotonohito at 6:21 AM on February 13 [19 favorites]


punished by the society they live in for their culture

Wait, hang on, what? Are young white men being punished for watching Big Bang Theory or playing Call of Duty or something?
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:27 AM on February 13 [19 favorites]


punished by the society they live in for their culture

Wait, hang on, what? Are young white men being punished for watching Big Bang Theory or playing Call of Duty or something?


Well, sort of. It's (naturally) more complicated than that. I'm going to explain it using the patriarchy, though other racist/classist axis stuff comes into it as well, because I just had a long conversation with my daughter about basically this yesterday and it's far more thought out than the other stuff would be.

So, essentially, patriarchy isn't a simple binary thing, where any average dude either is a part of the patriarchy or he isn't, and that's all you need to know. Patriarchy - and these other things - are more like a spectrum.

So maybe on a scale of, say, 5 to 100, because I don't think it's possible for a man to exist in modern society and not be touched in some way by the patriarchy, let's say you have, I don't know, progressive dudes who are really interested in fighting the patriarchy and try to do 50% of the chores at home and respect their wives' contributions and careers and don't mind if she keeps her own name, but still the wife winds up doing 70% of childcare duties while he does 30%, and those guys are maybe a 10 on the patriarchy scale, and then you have MRA fucking horrible types that abuse their wives if they dare have other opinions and who leverage every social point of control they possibly can to keep her in line, and those guys are at 95 on the patriarchy scale, right? And we can cheerfully and easily say 'fuck those guys'.

But for women who justifiably have a lot of anger about having to live in a patriarchal system, it's hard to think about that spectrum, that maybe a lot of guys are at a 40 or 50 on the patriarchy scale, not because they're Inherently Bad Dudes, but maybe because cultural forces are keeping them there or because they get tangible benefit or because their family is all there and that's what they're seeing. And it's really easy, if you're angry, to lump them all in the same boat - the dudes at 45P and the dudes at 95P - and say 'fuck those guys' and maybe sometimes you feel like they deserve it.

But the problem with giving the same social stigma to the dudes at 40P and the dudes at 95P is that while patriarchy on the whole is dangerous and has real problems and should be ultimately probably eliminated, right now we have to deal with the dudes at 95P because they are a way greater threat, and we need to fucking exile them from the body politic, and isolate them, and it's way harder when they are taking cover and concealment and pretending to the dudes at 45P that they're only at maybe 70P and they're being unfairly targeted - and there's a strong risk that if the dudes at 45P are getting the same social stigma as the dudes at 95P, that they won't see any social risk to creeping over to a 70P themselves.
posted by corb at 7:11 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


we live in a republic, not a democracy

We live in a democratic republic. Representative democracy is a form of democracy. I think we can agree that our Republic is not an ideal democracy, and I am of the opinion that aspects of it are, in fact, a failed democracy (the last election, as an example, as well as Bush's win against Gore). But the essential structure is fundamentally that of a democracy, and it fails in its implementation.

In implementation, especially on the national level, we are somewhere between an oligarchy and a kleptocracy, but it's not because we are a Republic. It's because we are shit at being a Republic.
posted by maxsparber at 7:18 AM on February 13 [12 favorites]


we live in a republic, not a democracy

your viewpoint is naive, dangerous, and wrong


Who are you calling 'we'? The Democrats don't run candidates in my country.

America is not the only country grappling with an internet-driven resurgence of white supremacy, but most other countries are handling it somewhat better. It's pretty rich to complain about how badly it's affected American governance, while spending most of the thread rejecting the perspective of foreigners on why America is particularly badly affected. Especially with such a hoary old cliche, I mean seriously you can't come up with an original dismissal?
posted by Merus at 7:24 AM on February 13 [10 favorites]


corb, I don't think you can rank ideology but you can rank effect size - in the number of followers, the number of incidents of doxxing/violence inspired directly by their appeals, in whether or not they actually inspired someone to think about shooting up a pizza joint. there are tons of people who are at least as extreme and subversive as Richard Spencer - but there's only one guy with hundreds of thousands of followers, millions in a fund to spread his beliefs, and coverage by mass media

even a milquetoast liberal who supports policies that covertly result in white supremacy (like market deregulation or blind focus on Dreamers instead of all undocumented immigrants) is dangerous because of the size of their influence - that's why there's a dire need to call-in the likes of Brooks and Slaughter and that whole circle of neoliberals. whether we like it or not, those folks have influence - and while we might not respect the individuals, their thoughts have resonance in the way they're distilled through society

in my eyes, the most dangerous man in the room isn't the most ideologically extreme white supremacist - it's Murdoch for normalizing what we used to think of as right wing extremism, who made so much room for overt white supremacists to blossom by pulling our entire society rightward
posted by runt at 7:35 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


I honestly I think you'd be pleasantly surprised about how much we would agree on what is useful, and what is a problem: at heart, you and I both agree harassment is something that chills free speech, not something that is excused by it.

The problem is that the point of disagreement is pretty serious. I don't think we can have absolute free speech, because the speech of the dispossessed and hate speech are inherently in tension - that is, if you allow hate speech to flourish, it necessarily chills the speech of the dispossessed. Conversely, protecting their speech entails rejecting hate speech and its proponents. You can't reach a compromise, because proponents of hate speech categorically reject co-existence. Which means that you have to ultimately choose who you back. This comes back to the concept of tolerance as peace treaty - the tolerant should not only not be obligated to tolerate intolerance, but should view it as the breaking of an agreement.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:44 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


I don't really disagree, corb, but I still don't see how the 40P guys are being punished "by society" in any meaningful way.

It's like when SpikeTV first came on the scene and advertised itself as "the first network for men!" and anyone with even an iota of woke was like, "Uhhhhhh."
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:48 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


If you really deeply want to understand them, I've already talked about it above: they want a simple solution to their problems that they can solve while foaming at the mouth with rage. Talking about how this is irrational or inconsistent or simply false misses the point.

"Foaming at the mouth with rage" is pointing to some deep anger issues, if not many other disturbing emotions. Why then dismiss or ignore them? Knowing they have certain triggers for a potential social disorder is job one.
posted by Brian B. at 7:56 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. It means that we accept that people may be different from us, in their customs, in their behavior, in their dress, in their sex lives, and that if this doesn’t directly affect our lives, it is none of our business. But the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.
Yonatan Zunger

Nazis & white supremacists are not willing to live in peace, not willing to extend the protection of the peace treaty to others.

We have no moral obligation to extend to them the courtesies and liberties of civil society, because they will then use those vey tools to disassemble civil
society.

Like they did in Germany.

If you advocate genocide, ethnic cleansing, and racism against your fellow citizens, we are not obligated to tolerate you and treat you as just another voice in the marketplace of ideas.

Some issues are off the table. If you bring them to the table, we drive you away from the table with baseball bats.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:56 AM on February 13 [53 favorites]


It's so weird that the marketplace idea is not considered to be like any other marketplace. What marketplace allows somebody to repeatedly poison its customers?

Our marketplace of ideas seems to me right now to be nothing but hot dogs filled with arsenic.
posted by maxsparber at 8:14 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]


But the problem with giving the same social stigma to the dudes at 40P and the dudes at 95P is that while patriarchy on the whole is dangerous and has real problems and should be ultimately probably eliminated, right now we have to deal with the dudes at 95P because they are a way greater threat, and we need to fucking exile them from the body politic, and isolate them, and it's way harder when they are taking cover and concealment and pretending to the dudes at 45P that they're only at maybe 70P and they're being unfairly targeted - and there's a strong risk that if the dudes at 45P are getting the same social stigma as the dudes at 95P, that they won't see any social risk to creeping over to a 70P themselves.

I think this is a useful framework in the context of, say, discussions of call out culture. But I've noticed that we (as a society) have made a heck of a lot more progress on sexual violence since focusing on rape culture over the outlier, most abusive and horrible rapists. There are add-on effects to opposing the 50P viewpoints that also help reduce the effects of the 95P guys' actions. Meanwhile, if we focus primarily on opposing the 95P actors without also addressing the 50P issues, then we end up playing whack-a-mole rather than making actual social progress.

In other words, we need to also address the not-quite-so-extreme racism and other bigotry in the Republican party, not just because it is bad in and of itself, but also because that will shift the Overton Window back from the extreme right, which will have add-on effects in opposing Actual Nazis.
posted by eviemath at 8:20 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


I don't think we can have absolute free speech, because the speech of the dispossessed and hate speech are inherently in tension

We do no have "absolute free speech," and nobody is trying to implement it.

You are not allowed to yell "OH SHIT HE HAS A GUN" at a crowded concert and not be held accountable for the ensuing panic and injuries.

You are not allowed to wear a cop outfit, fake a warrant, and go to a stranger's house and say, "I'm a cop; this is a warrant; let me in to search for drugs," and case the place for your intended later robbery--or even just to see what kind of stereo people in this neighborhood use.

You are not allowed to wear a labcoat and take the name "Doctor You" to persuade people to accept your medical advice unless you have the appropriate license.

You are not allowed to tell your local newspaper, "My ex-boss molests children so you should not vote for him for Mayor," presuming that this is not true.

There is no discussion among anyone rational about whether we should have "absolute free speech." Charles Manson died in prison for talking to people, not for committing acts of violence. The discussion we're having, is about whether some kinds of speech advocating discrimination are in the same illegal categories as fraud, libel, incitement, and so on.

Most of us agree that what we're calling "hate speech" is, or should be, illegal by the same principles as other restricted speech: it's done with intent to cause identifiable harm, and it doesn't promote any public good. But we're having a hard time articulating guidelines for identifying it without also restricting the speech of the oppressed.

On the other side, there are people claiming such speech does not cause harm - it's either "just a joke," or it's "re-establishing the truth."

Before we can get on with the not-simple job of persuading the undecided that no, that was not "just a joke," we have to stop with the "are we or aren't we a nation of free speech?" We are not; we never have been. We have very solid laws against restricting speech without a valid reason, but there are endless lists of valid reasons that are firmly set in both case law and actual regulations.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:42 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


If you advocate genocide, ethnic cleansing, and racism against your fellow citizens, we are not obligated to tolerate you and treat you as just another voice in the marketplace of ideas.

well, that's the tricky thing about the alt-right. they recognize this and so they advocate not for violent, Neo-Nazi style white supremacy (they actually disdain this) but for a more aristocratic version that celebrates and epitomizes European culture, that says 'hey if y'all minorities wanna live in minority places, we won't stop you - we just want white spaces', where 'it's okay to be white'

their one and only job is to hide and obscure systemic power analysis and they are, by many means, already successful at this because the media is focused on painting them as misguided, downtrodden young men or the recipients of a stalled economy when, in reality, most of the alt-right are college educated, have jobs, can travel, and spend much of their time online - or they're white Trump supporters with incomes in the six-figures. Neo-Nazis in the vein of American History X might have been beaten down young men but alt-righters and MAGA-types are a very privileged elite who live very different lives, who'd likely have a classist disdain for a Neo-Nazi. they only look the same because of that narrative we love is that a white supremacist is somebody with a white cone mask in their closet - they can't possibly be our boss, our Congress person, or even us
posted by runt at 8:48 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Having grown up in a country that saw large scale internecine conflict and violence over decades, and slowly and painfully moved beyond that, I am close to certain that essentialising and stereotyping your enemy is not the way to do it. One hesitates to use the term 'identity politics', but the tactics that go with the term can only work if the State is trusted as a reasonable referee: judging by many comments, that isn't the case in the US now.

So a genuine question for the left wingers here: what ideas can you offer to the disaffected people that seem to be coalescing into something truly nasty? Ideas that don't require them to bend the knee to an ideology they define themselves by hating.

Otherwise it seems you are headed for a war you will lose.

One obvious commonality is that both sides feel they are economic victims of the System: then, each side has constructed an entirely different view of what the system is. Natch.

How do you separate the poor whites from the reactionaries? Where is their progressive vision?

Parenthetically: I had an interesting conversation with a cousin by marriage, a literature professor in a US college. He maintained that as whites would soon be a mere plurality in the US, their grip on power would weaken. (He himself is mostly Irish American, from a solid Detroit union background.) This struck me as an ahistorical: usually it is when the dominant group starts to conceive of itself as an ethic group among others that things get really nasty. So perhaps American exceptionalism (American ahistoricity) is not limited to the right.
posted by AillilUpATree at 9:02 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Charlottesville changed the visual narrative. Today's American Nazi is a white man with short hair, a polo shirt, and khakis.

well, that's the tricky thing about the alt-right. they recognize this and so they advocate not for violent, Neo-Nazi style white supremacy (they actually disdain this) but for a more aristocratic version that celebrates and epitomizes European culture, that says 'hey if y'all minorities wanna live in minority places, we won't stop you - we just want white spaces', where 'it's okay to be white'

"No, you do not get to advocate for a separate ethno-state within the US based on skin color. "Ethnic cleansing" is an Illegitimate desire that we don't have to recognize. That's the Original Sin of this nation which we are still dealing with. You don't get to advocate for a new round. That's on the list of subjects that are off the table."

Wow. That was easy.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:09 AM on February 13 [23 favorites]


How do you separate the poor whites from the reactionaries? Where is their progressive vision?

It's been given multiple times by multiple people - MLK famously pointed out to his jailers that they were just as much in the same boat as the black people they were oppressing were, and he was assassinated while working to organize and support sanitation workers. The problem is that in the US, race and class are tightly interwoven. Many whites reject the progressive vision because it would ask them to surrender their idea of their race making them "better".
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:19 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


"Ethnic cleansing" is an Illegitimate desire that we don't have to recognize. That's the Original Sin of this nation which we are still dealing with. You don't get to advocate for a new round

I'm not gonna play devil's advocate for the alt-right but self-driven, culturally popular segregation is not ethnic cleansing and the US already did that in 70s and is currently doing so now by means of gentrification. your sin is a social norm in the US and it has never not been

if you want to make an argument about how the effects of displacement may very well be killing large populations of people of color, I'm here for it, but the rest of the US isn't. in my city there are alt-right types who are advocating for more gentrification by whites. you think the market is going to go out of their way to monitor this and prevent them from buying houses? and what does it even matter when their demographic and ethnic cohort are virtually doing the same thing under the guise of ignorant bliss?
posted by runt at 9:26 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm not gonna play devil's advocate for the alt-right but self-driven, culturally popular segregation is not ethnic cleansing

Yes, it is, especially given that it's not nearly as "self-driven" as you claim. The Great Sort has been driven by both society and governmental policy.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:31 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Internal messages from the “unite the right” organizers say they wanted to change it to a “free speech rally” as cover.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm tired of being asked to convince 30 percent of the country not to be Nazis. I'm going to focus my attention of the 70 percent of the country that already isn't.

As for the Nazis, I will continue to do what I can to shut them down every place they show up, because I have yet to see a case be made that Nazis can be talked out of being Nazis, but history has proven they can be beaten into going away for a while.
posted by maxsparber at 9:42 AM on February 13 [30 favorites]


Yes, it is, especially given that it's not nearly as "self-driven" as you claim. The Great Sort has been driven by both society and governmental policy.

if that's what helps you y'all sleep at night, sure. let me know how it all shakes out when you engage with actual white supremacists as part of your day-to-day organizing
posted by runt at 9:44 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I don't think we can have absolute free speech, because

as previously noted not so long ago ...

as a philosopher friend once put it, "It's the freedom to be virtuous we need to defend to the death, not freedom itself, which isn't truly freedom anyway if it suppresses virtue."
posted by philip-random at 9:45 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


if that's what helps you y'all sleep at night, sure. let me know how it all shakes out when you engage with actual white supremacists as part of your day-to-day organizing

Huh? The point is that the shifting and concentration of ethnic groups is not nearly as "self-driven" as people would like to believe, but is in fact driven by both societal forces and government policy - as it's been said, "the ghetto is public policy". Furthermore, it very much is a form of ethnic cleansing, especially given that the minority communities formed are then targeted for reductions in services,while white communities get better programs that minorities are denied access to.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:00 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


How do you separate the poor whites from the reactionaries? Where is their progressive vision?

There is actually a lot of good work going on in this arena. DSA and their MediCare For All campaign, Redneck Revolt, and strengthening unionization drives across the country are working an engaging the working classes for a progressive vision. Where you are much less likely to find it is, unfortunately, in the mainstream Democratic Party. The decision-makers at the DNC and DCCC are far too beholden to the consultant class, although there are a ton of great politicians to get behind (Bernie, Pramila Jayapal, and many more).
posted by Existential Dread at 10:07 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Also, the "alt right" is advocating for actually kicking non-white people out of the country - a separate ethno-state, as per PBZM's comment - not mere segregation (though segregation is also bad).
posted by eviemath at 10:13 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


a thought that might perhaps cast a little light on the virulent angst of (mostly) young men who are mostly

"... college educated, have jobs, can travel, and spend much of their time online - or they're white Trump supporters with incomes in the six-figures."

It comes from something I read years ago (before the interwebs so I can't seem to find the actual text) in a book called Bomb Culture by a guy named Jeff Nuttall who was very much a player through Britain's 1960s counterculture phase, from the Ban the Bomb movement on through Swinging London and beyond.

At some point, he talks about what, for him, was the most positive time of the 1960s. It wasn't 1967, the Summer of Love when the Beatles released Sgt Peppers etc, it was just before that, the period of hopeful anticipation beforehand when all who'd been struggling so hard for so long through the Ban the Bomb movement etc began to sense that yes, finally, a change was a-coming. They didn't know what it would be exactly (indeed, everybody probably saw something uniquely different coming), they just felt it was nigh and it would be for the glorious good. And this was as good as it ever got for "the movement" in terms of overall positivity of mood, because once the changes actually came, they carried their own weird unanticipated currents and complexities (the problems of actually having power etc).

Anyway, back to that hopeful anticipation -- I suspect that's precisely what normal white men all over the western world are currently lacking. Which means they're in precisely the opposite the place that Jeff Nuttall's counterculture types were in 1964-65-66. There's a change a-coming, they don't know what it's going to be exactly, they just know it's nigh and it won't be for their particularly skewed notion of "the good".

TLDR: living without a vision of a hopeful future - that's not good for inspiring anyone's better angels.
posted by philip-random at 10:16 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


the shifting and concentration of ethnic groups is not nearly as "self-driven" as people would like to believe

see I thought white flight was a self-driven reaction to desegregation and modern day gentrification is the same population going back to cities to enjoy the infrastructure that was built up by the tax dollars of the PoC population and government

I guess assuming that we all know that ethnic enclaves are the result of racist legislation and feeling like that point doesn't need to be explained again isn't a great assumption to have in this crowd, huh

"alt right" is advocating for actually kicking non-white people out of the country

fair enough but history should show that this was also the covert Democratic line on immigration about a decade ago until Trump made it his staple. taking the moral highground in these instances just because they happen to be voiced by boogeymen who wear swastikas feels like it pins white supremacy on overt white supremacists and not any of the white people who are complicit in benefiting from white supremacist systems which is, well, all white people
posted by runt at 10:23 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I guess assuming that we all know that ethnic enclaves are the result of racist legislation and feeling like that point doesn't need to be explained again isn't a great assumption to have in this crowd, huh

The fuck? That is exactly the argument being made. Zoning laws, development policies, fucking Robert Moses’ “urban renewal” — all policy driven examples of “soft” ethnic cleansing or whatever you want to call it. You are calling someone out for agreeing with you. For some reason.

That cities then became incredibly unsafe — which, urban renewal + leaded gas hypothesis, I guess? No one really has that figured out — led to a bunch of predictable outcomes. People with money and access to power and privilege left. Now they’re safe again, for reasons no one’s been able to adequately explain. So people with access to money, power, and privilege are coming back.

That personal racism is absolutely a factor in any given individual’s decisions to support or not support a policy — yeah. (Or to move away, I guess. But “individual white people are racist and that’s why they’re gentrifying black neighborhoods” is a nonsensical argument.) But these are things that happened on a policy level, with state backing. They were political crimes on a political scale. Macro doesn’t tend to map well onto micro.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:36 AM on February 13 [14 favorites]


individual white people are racist and that’s why they’re gentrifying black neighborhoods” is a nonsensical argument

individual white people are racist because they don't understand their place within systemic racism, the benefit it accords them, and their power to disproportionately increase the suffering of others for a small uptick in their own quality of life. it is absolutely an individual thing that you can see from bottom-up - like the masses of white folks moving away from the suburbs to escape their AANHPI neighbors in spite of the good schools, land value, etc, for example

in any case, you don't have to be intentionally bigoted to be racist - intention doesn't matter when it comes to systems of power, all that matters is outcome and effect. and even if that weren't the case, economic policy that results in the harming of PoC has been a political strategy openly voiced by the likes of Lee Atwater since the 60s

That cities then became incredibly unsafe — which, urban renewal + leaded gas hypothesis, I guess? No one really has that figured out — led to a bunch of predictable outcomes. People with money and access to power and privilege left.

this is a conveniently liberal erasure of how white people reacted to desegregation.
posted by runt at 10:47 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


not at all coincidentally, raceblind analysis is also pretty much the line those privileged white racists took to explain their own movement:
The white elite and middle class that benefited most from the post–World War II economic boom argued that their move from Atlanta and the remaking of a new whiteness in areas of suburban development was not a product of racial antagonism but a race-neutral consequence of upward mobility and pursuit of the American dream.
it's nice to see those beliefs perpetuated to this day from would-be 'allies'
posted by runt at 10:53 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


The development of private schools, especially private evangelical schools, only really started to take off once desegregation and busing happened.
posted by The Whelk at 11:06 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


this is a conveniently liberal erasure of how white people reacted to desegregation.

Not really, since I expressly said racism was absolutely part of why individuals decided to leave cities.

in any case, you don't have to be intentionally bigoted to be racist

That white people benefit from racism even when they don’t intend to is a given. But that’s also, particularly in your formulation, not a choice. So what would you have them do, cease to exist entirely? Or do what they can to support policies that try to break the stranglehold of systemic racism on the body politic?

What are you trying to get out of this exchange?
posted by schadenfrau at 11:18 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Also, if you think the policy decisions that made it easy for white people to flee desegregation weren’t also crimes on a political level, I don’t know what to tell you. That racism engendered the political support necessary to enact those policies is just...true? And obvious? But the power of the state to perpetuate those policies on a generational scale shouldn’t really be discounted, and I’m not sure why you’re doing that in this thread.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:25 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


the one thing I'm doing in this thread and generaly elsewhere on this site of mostly white folks is to ask y'all to get involved in organizing instead of hypocritically sitting on your asses while tone policing everyone who doesn't fit what you consider the proper level of chummy
posted by runt at 11:32 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


More proof of the Chan to news pipeline, this post made with the express purpose of “getting it on the news” and bam Hannity is talking about this insane racist theory (CW: racist slurs)
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


[A few deleted. This thread really needs to not be about the virtue or non-virtue of individual white people here who are opposed to racism. That's a bottomless hole. There's plenty to talk about here without making it about "have you personally met my requirements" or bickering about how much slack needs to be cut to individuals or whatever.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


As white people, we have a moral duty to work against white supremacy regardless of whether PoC are being "nice enough" to us because the evil of white supremacy is an inherently white problem to solve. If you're white and you're not doing anything to oppose white supremacy then you are part of the problem, even if you yourself aren't overtly racist. You can't just coast through life benefiting from white privilege while denying any responsibility for it.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:04 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Unicorn riot releases the contents of the discord serve the unite the right rally people used for planning the event in a searchable database

The thread is very .....illuminating, people bringing caravans of neo Nazis from Texas, active service people, the heads of almost all the major alt right hate groups in one place.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on February 13 [14 favorites]


But the problem with giving the same social stigma to the dudes at 40P and the dudes at 95P

The thing is, I don't see this happening. It's like the Reductress piece "Harassment and Rape are Different Man Helpfully Explains to Woman Who Has Experienced Both."

What I think is happening is that people disagree about what the appropriate social stigma to the 40P dude is. But nobody is throwing anyone into jail for harassment (heck, we're often not throwing people into jail for rape).

For example, some people are ok with having senators who have sexually harassed women, and some people think we can do better.

And a lot of the people who are ok with having senators who have sexually harassed women will say "this is terrible, we're not distinguishing between a minor offense and a serious offense."

Whereas other people are saying "losing your job is in fact the appropriate punishment for a senator who has harassed women."
posted by mrmurbles at 12:35 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Damn. That's... some deliberate organization, there.

So far the thing that hits me hardest staring at those Discord screenshots is that the motherfucking Charlottesville racists had a code of conduct.

What the fuck is on that thing?
posted by sciatrix at 12:39 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


> Many whites reject the progressive vision because it would ask them to surrender their idea of their race making them "better"

That's a depressing thought but really doesn't describe any of the white Americans I've met, some of whom have been pretty instinctively racist. They mostly seemed, for different reasons, to be worried about this abstract thing called 'America'. And their complaints were about breakdown: family, community etc. Some kind of general systems failure.

And yet (in one case) there we were in a Massachusetts summer, surrounded by beauty and plenty by the standards of anywhere else on earth. And I thought: what are the Americans dreaming about?

But I'm really not sure the 'progressive vision' exists any more except as a series of critiques. It's far from being a constitutional or political program.

What is without doubt is that there is good coin to be had from rancour. Grievance is gold.
posted by AillilUpATree at 12:54 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Unicorn riot releases the contents of the discord serve the unite the right rally people used for planning the event in a searchable database

So of course I immediately had to search: libertarian.

Ugh. Too many of those fuckers claiming to be one. Glad we told them to GTFO.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:55 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


They mostly seemed, for different reasons, to be worried about this abstract thing called 'America'. And their complaints were about breakdown: family, community etc. Some kind of general systems failure.

And yet, when given a choice between a platform that would improve their lot but diminish their societal status based on race, and one where they would face further penury but their racial class status would be reaffirmed, a lot of them chose the latter. Also, a lot of those breakdown complaints are filled with dog whistles - comments about how things were better when people "knew their place" and such.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:08 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Unicorn riot releases the contents of the discord serve the unite the right rally people used for planning the event in a searchable database

Thank you unicorn riot! Also, I cannot stop searching through this.
posted by corb at 1:17 PM on February 13


i don't know what i was expecting but i wasn't expecting quite so many sieg heiling cartoon ponies
i've been on the internet long enough to know better, but still i'm somehow surprised
posted by halation at 1:24 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


So of course I immediately had to search: libertarian....Too many of those fuckers claiming to be one. Glad we told them to GTFO.

No TRUE libertarian would...claim to be libertarian? I'm not sure how party policy is relevant to self-identified ideological leanings.
posted by cjelli at 1:28 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how party policy is relevant to self-identified ideological leanings.

sounds like the Libertarian party had some background politicking that involved the intentional removal of alt-right ethno-nationalist types from their ranks which I am sure was not without a lot of fragile masculinity exhibiting itself
posted by runt at 2:52 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


sounds like the Libertarian party had some background politicking that involved the intentional removal of alt-right ethno-nationalist types from their ranks which I am sure was not without a lot of fragile masculinity exhibiting itself

The point, though, is that the Libertarian Party only represents a subset of individuals who identify as libertarian, and as such cannot really be said to be the voice of the movement. More important to understand is why many people who see themselves as libertarian wind up aligning with the alt-right. It has a lot to do with how similar the worldviews are.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:18 PM on February 13


How is Unicorn Riot not a band name?
posted by rokusan at 4:32 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Dear White Ppl

POC know "not all white ppl" are white supremacists & not all white men are mass shooters. POC dont push blanket travel bans, house raids,& border walls

We need y'all to work w/us to dismantle white supremacy—not worry that we cant distinguish a white guy from KKK
-Qasim Rashid

Several weeks ago I was describing a situation where, during setup for a rock festival, I was working close enough to a guy to see the German eagle on one arm, SS bolts, and big Celtic knot work in his other arm. Months later, I told my work homie about this. Nothing happened, but I was VERY aware of that guy’s ink.

My work homie, a liberal open minded guy who would probably describe himself as “white”, replied, “Yeah, but what if he only did that to survive in prison? What if he did time, and he’s not a Nazi at heart, but got all that ink because it was join or die while locked up? You don’t know his heart.”

That’s a real, actual sincere conversation I had.

Tolerance for those who reciprocate tolerance.
Peace to those who will leave in peace.
No place at the table for Nazis.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:40 PM on February 13 [19 favorites]


You don’t know his heart.
My uncle recently admitted to me that as a kid he drew SS symbols on his notebooks as an expression of rebellion and anger. With tears in his eyes, he said he regretted it deeply as he wandered the halls of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC and thought of his father's WWII service. It's from that perspective that I can have a tiny amount of empathy--sometimes rebellion is about doing the worst thing you can think of, and in his mind it was drawing Nazi symbols on his notebooks while he contemplated his draft number.

But that's not what people who continue to display 88s and German eagles on their arms are doing. They aren't doing the worst thing they can think of to be contrarian. They are doing the best thing they can think of. The right thing, in their minds. If you cover it up or get it lasered off because you've changed your mind, I have the capacity to forgive you. But when I meet assholes at the dog park who've named their German Shepherds Rommel and Himmler, I do not start in a place of empathy. Maybe that makes me a bad person, idk.
posted by xyzzy at 6:26 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


There's a lot to unpack both in the article and in the discussion here.

As to the general "Why isn't social justice cool?", the alt-right has effectively done a pivot. It used to be the right wing was the moral scolds always wagging their finger and furrowing their brow earnestly about the downfall of society. Now it's the left. The stereotypical image of the Social Justice Warrior is the woman with rainbow hair and Problematic Glasses getting ready to melt down because she's been offended by (or on behalf of a group she thinks should be offended by) some minor triviality. She's a prude wanting everyone to sign waivers in triplicate before having mutually consensual sex. She's language police. She wants white men to feel shame about everything their people have ever done. She wants everyone to have earnest conversations about feelings.

If that's your idea of social justice, why in the world would you want to be part of it?

It's some really good smears wrapped around a grain of truth, because the left isn't really offering a solution to the dilemma these young men face. A lot of leftists go "Oh yeah? You feel disaffected? How dare you feel disaffected when these people here are even more disaffected?!" Sometimes with a subtle or not-so-subtle "And you deserve it because white men have had the advantage for so long."

Which is a misinterpretation of everything, but as we've seen in the US' election history (and elsewhere), the liberal/leftist position of nuance always gets steamrolled by a conservative with a snappy answer. The W. Bush debates and the Trump debates were exemplars. W. would say something off-base, Gore would sigh and start explaining, and Bush would mug for the camera like "Can you believe this asshole?" Trump would spout out word salad, Hillary would start explaining, and Trump would just go "Wrong" and ignore her point completely.

The right offers you a (illusory) chance to get what you feel you deserve in a soundbite. The left, broadly speaking, appears to rub your face in it and tells you other people have it worse and it's your own fault and wants to lecture you.

Who'd want to be a part of that?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:49 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


It's some really good smears wrapped around a grain of truth, because the left isn't really offering a solution to the dilemma these young men face.

No, the left is offering them a solution to their dilemma. The problem they have is that it's not the solution they want, because the left also asks them to surrender the beliefs that make them feel superior to others because of their race and gender - beliefs that are also the chains around their own necks. But they would rather have that familiar weight around their necks than take it off, because to their mind, it's a symbol of how superior they are.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:37 PM on February 13 [20 favorites]


because the left also asks them to surrender the beliefs that make them feel superior to others because of their race and gender

Although they may have had an advantage in life for being white and male, they likely failed to impress anyone if they suddenly joined a hate club against minorities to feel better about themselves. And this raises the point about failing to include white male under-achievers as marginalized.
posted by Brian B. at 9:19 PM on February 13


No, the left is offering them a solution to their dilemma. The problem they have is that it's not the solution they want, because the left also asks them to surrender the beliefs that make them feel superior to others because of their race and gender

Well - sort of. The hard left absolutely offers them a solution to their dilemma, but liberalism as practiced by the Dems really doesn't.

Like, you can get all your feels about manhood out fighting Nazis/the bosses/the capitalist state just fine, and get a lot of social approbation for Doing! Things! Boldly! There isn't a lot of functional difference in the motivations of some blackbloc smashy-smashy folk and the populist right - both offer belonging and adrenaline - but one is far more dangerous as a whole to the rest of us, and it's not the one with the fetish for bricks through windows. I'll take an anarchist dudebro any day over a fucking Nazi.

But like, liberalism seems to offer "think the right things and say them all at the same time, and, uh, go to work, and vote for Democratic candidates, and feel bad about yourself? We all know you are the problem, and so the fight is the one INSIDE YOURSELF" - and yeah, that's just...not a fucking good pitch.

That's why OWS had a lot of traction, because it wasn't saying "you are the problem", it was saying "the big bosses are the problem, and you can join us and do hard stuff and suffer and sacrifice and feel good about what you're doing in the world", and while I had issues with the long term success of their movement at the time, I now realize it is a valuable pressure valve for people who are disaffected and don't have a war on.
posted by corb at 9:33 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Yeah it's not the Left, the left is offering solutions! I've got a binder full of NYC specific policy suggestions! There's rich ideology! Some of it really good! and as corb says, there's the more militant anarchists if you want to want to punch a Nazi. It's neoliberalism and milquetoast politics that can only offer "things should be mostly the same but slightly nicer, conditionally". No one likes that who isn't already comfortable, and that's increasing less and less people. No one wants to go shopping to express politics anymore and they can't afford to go shopping anyway.

There is no good reason to buy into the system as it currently exists. And there's going to be some big changes on the horizon soon the big thing is that we make sure the fucking Nazis aren't the one in charge of the changes.
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 PM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Hard agree with The Whelk. I've been thinking about #MeToo as the harbinger of a larger social sea change we can all smell coming, which I'm sure is exactly what terrifies the white supremacists. It's...telling that the movement was started by a Black woman who has gotten very little credit for it and popularized by white women. Turns out maybe the left should put BIWOC in charge of more shit to have a fighting chance against both the Nazis and neoliberalism.
posted by Ragini at 11:21 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


It's some really good smears wrapped around a grain of truth, because the left isn't really offering a solution to the dilemma these young men face.

"The Left" isn't a force from the outside that offers people solutions to their problems. We are the left. We work together solve our problems. Nobody is stopping them from joining us. The solutions to our problems, like a stronger social safety net, would help them, too.

These disaffected white guys don't want to join us and help us solve our collective problems because they hate us. Fundamentally, their biggest problem is that they perceive that the rest of us are doing better than them (or at least equal to them), and that makes them mad. They would prefer that someone solve their problems while we continue to have our problems. I am weary of any narrative that ignores that their hate for the rest of us is fundamental to their "problems".
posted by hydropsyche at 7:16 AM on February 14 [24 favorites]


It's pretty rich to demand that we solve their problem when, for so many of them, they are our problem. And the solution they want, the one they really crave, is that we go away and there is a return to a world in which mediocre white men get a relatively easy ride on the labor of everybody else.
posted by maxsparber at 7:28 AM on February 14 [18 favorites]


I am weary of any narrative that ignores that their hate for the rest of us is fundamental to their "problems".

They also hate themselves. Dividing classes along racial lines is an old Republican trick, but with social media and funding from Putin, it has been raised to a new level. The one thing separating poor white males from everyone else is that they were last to discover they were economically exploited, and someone is organizing them into racist macho cabals to channel their growing awareness of losing, but on their terms (which makes them think they are losing out to other groups). They are brainwashed, and nothing and nobody rational is leading them. They are typically suffering from paranoia and are terrified of everyone but those who accept them, and they are mostly bankrupt from collecting guns and paying child support. If I were calling the shots on the left, I would create an app to arrange correspondence relationships for them with liberals.
posted by Brian B. at 8:13 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Again, we are the left. If you want to make that app, you can make that app. My prediction, based on 41 years of experience, is that the racist white guys won't use it because they hate us and don't care what we have to say. Or at least that's what they tell me every time I try to engage them in conversation, only they also call me a bunch of racist, sexist, ablist names.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:18 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


Good lord, the degree to which we are expected to pamper white dudes. Look at the implied threat: Lead them, solve their problems, or they will turn white nationalist and kill you!

Fuck that. Seriously. I have been economically insecure my entire life and somehow managed not to start planning to murder people of color.
posted by maxsparber at 8:22 AM on February 14 [28 favorites]


I'm hard-pressed to come up with any way I could possible help the clean-cut young college kid I caught on the bus the other day browsing through his FB feed filled with a bunch of Brietbart nonsense. He's in college at a good school (he didn't get off at the CMU stop, so I assume Pitt). If he wasn't upper middle class he certainly was successfully coding himself as upper middle class with his clothes and general presentation. He'll have college loans probably, but he's not in any worse position to pay them off than the legions of other young white college kids who have successfully not become Nazis.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:22 AM on February 14 [12 favorites]


Good lord, the degree to which we are expected to pamper white dudes. Look at the implied threat: Lead them, solve their problems, or they will turn white nationalist and kill you!

I mean, I agree with everyone that in an ideal world we shouldn't have to offer alternatives to fascism to get people not involved in it, but I don't live in that ideal world. I live in the world where fascism is getting lots of willing, eager, bored recruits. And if I sit back and refuse to offer alternatives because I feel I morally shouldn't have to - which is true, I do feel I shouldn't have to - they are going to increase their numbers, and that is intolerable.
posted by corb at 9:18 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


The alternatives are out there. There are so many alternatives. In fact, one alternative to being a Nazi is simply not to be a Nazi.

The trouble, it seems to me, is that none of these alternatives offer what Nazis actually want, which is to be treated special for being white, which is an alternative I will never offer.
posted by maxsparber at 9:30 AM on February 14 [15 favorites]


It's pretty rich to demand that we solve their problem when, for so many of them, they are our problem.

I would submit that we're all each others problem, symptomatic of not just living on an increasingly crowded planet, but also being mostly social/tribal by nature. And oh yeah, we've got enough weaponry lying around to kill everyone everywhere about nine times, or is it nine hundred? So if our goal is for the species to survive, we're compelled to deal with this problem.

I don't pretend to know what the solution may be beyond suspecting that "solution" is very much not the right word, because ... Hitler. Or as Henry Miller put it as an older man, "Don't solve your problems, dissolve them." Which I always took to mean, don't go tackling life's big problems head-on -- you risk getting trampled, because sometimes they really are BIG. Seek instead to undermine them in more subversive ways, go for their roots.
posted by philip-random at 10:06 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I would submit that we're all each others problem

Weird equivalence to make. I'm their problem because I am a Jew. They are my problem because they might kill me.
posted by maxsparber at 10:22 AM on February 14 [25 favorites]


i'm sorry my existence is such a problem for these white men.

but i didn't really have many opportunities to choose not to be, y'know, a queer asian born in their white, christian country

i suppose i could choose to bleach my skin and hair, go under the knife to widen my eyes, and then date a woman as a dude to help solve that

we're all pitching in

royal we, of course
posted by anem0ne at 10:25 AM on February 14 [7 favorites]


In fact, one alternative to being a Nazi is simply not to be a Nazi.

And such small portions
posted by beerperson at 10:26 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


"Don't solve your problems, dissolve them."

one of the older white man folk heroes they love, heisenberg, did just this with hydrofluoric acid at the very beginning of his epic saga
posted by anem0ne at 10:29 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Unicorn riot releases the contents of the discord serve the unite the right rally people used for planning the event in a searchable database

Emily Gorcenski found that she had been targeted by name in the Discord server logs as a target, with specific calls to run her down. She's now managed to ID some she suspects was the person who posted the picture of the Jeep. Hopefully some of this results in FBI investigations/charges.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:30 AM on February 14 [8 favorites]


corb I mean, I agree with everyone that in an ideal world we shouldn't have to offer alternatives to fascism to get people not involved in it, but I don't live in that ideal world. I live in the world where fascism is getting lots of willing, eager, bored recruits.

There's something deeply, fundamentally, wrong with that argument. I'm not sure quite what, yet. But it's an argument I see all over, not just from you but from many other people, and I can't help but think that however unintentionally it's an argument that's diverting our limited resources from actually solving real problems to, yet again, catering to the whims of the majority.

I'm not trying to accuse you of bad intent or an attempt to undermine people. I have no doubt that you're entirely sincere here and speaking from the best of intentions.

But something there seems wrong. Like we're being diverted, our efforts drained, to cater to people who are, when you get right down to it, the problem.

Rather than them being asked to improve, we're being asked to (in addition to everything else) try (ever so gently because they are volatile and liable to explode if handled with anything but the most gentle of kid gloves) to fix their problems. And if we fail then the fault is ours, because we didn't do a good enough job of solving the problems of the abusers.

There's a domestic abuse vibe to the idea that the victims of white male violence have an obligation to try and appease the white male perpetrators of violence. They want "excitement" and can only get that by being Nazis or by us doing X for them?

I'm reminded a bit of an article that was linked here a while back from an Australian writer who argued, literally, that failure by people of color to accept racist insults from white working class people without any criticism of any sort at all would inspire the white to take up Fascism, vote for it, and that they would be right to do so.

I think what bothers me here is that it's unquestioningly accepting the position that the feelings of white men are paramount, that all other groups must subsume their own hurts, their own feelings, their own desires to the whims of the white men or else the white men will inflict horrible violence upon the others and that, in some way, they're justified in doing so because, at heart, white men are the most important group.

There might well be times when its necessary to negotiate with terrorists who have taken hostages, but no one seems to frame the idea that hurt feelings (or simple ennui, boredom, and lack of excitement) on the part of white men will result in their becoming violent as such, or even to see it as especially bad. Instead it's seen as just a law of the universe: failure to cater to the every whim and hurt feeling of young white men will result in them becoming Fascists and pouring out unspeakable violence on everyone.

No other group gets this sort of shrug and appeasement approach. When young black men feel alienated by the system, lack excitement in their lives, lack economic opportunity, and they behave in an even slightly threatening manner the full power of the state is mobilized against them to crush them ruthlessly and without any hint of mercy. This is also presented as inevitable, as a law of the universe, and as right and proper.

Young black men feel displaced? Crush them.

Young white men feel displaced? All their potential victims should band together to appease them lest they unleash their rightful violence on us.

Why aren't we seeing people writing articles and posts about the need to appease young black men for fear that otherwise they'll turn violent? Because black violence is seen as unnatural and wrong, while white violence is seen as natural, inevitable, and in some ways right and proper. It's just the way the world works, white people get their way or they turn into Fascists and they're right to do so.

Again, I'm not trying to attack you, I don't think you're arguing in bad faith or setting out to enforce white supremacy. Your comment was just what triggered my thinking here.
posted by sotonohito at 12:57 PM on February 14 [19 favorites]


Mordax, above, posted this link about a teen fascist and son of a prominent nazi leaving the hate cult he was in, to the embarrassment of his dad. He credited his patient, liberal friends at college. A meet-your-opposite app would scale a way out for those who are willing. Many have never met a liberal. Many would be game for it by sheer loneliness. White males, in 2016, accounted for 70% of all suicides. That's what the gun collecting represents, as a compulsion, less of a threat to anyone else outside their family. Religion won't help, because their upbringing as Christians made them feel superior as well as insecure and distrustful of the world at large. Labor unions once channeled their political goals, but those are gone.
posted by Brian B. at 3:15 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


i mean. white supremacists would use that hypothetical app to target minorities willing to meet them in private, and would later not go to prison for killing these victims.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:13 PM on February 14 [7 favorites]


don't know about an app ... but the notion of actually finding a way to safely communicate one-on-one with these others feels relevant to me. The alt-right networks are growing one recruit at a time -- why not dissemble them the same way?
posted by philip-random at 4:24 PM on February 14


but the notion of actually finding a way to safely communicate one-on-one with these others feels relevant to me

Given how 4chan Nazis invaded Omegle persistently, you have to start from the assumption that whatever service you propose would be targeted for persistent organized hate. Assume they'll do everything they can to deceive the operators and everybody involved. Assume they'll send reams of slurs & child-porn at whoever signs up.

Then, and only then, figure out your proposal with that in mind.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:53 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


worth noting wrt Derek Black, his patient, liberal friends themselves endured a lot of anger and insults from fellow left-wing types for continuing to associate with him once his identity was revealed.

trying to rehabilitate a fascist should never be demanded of anyone, obviously, least of all members of the groups they hate. but it also shouldn't be seen as treasonous or forbidden.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:59 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


then again, maybe the good-cop/bad-cop dynamic was what actually made it work.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:59 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Instead it's seen as just a law of the universe: failure to cater to the every whim and hurt feeling of young white men will result in them becoming Fascists and pouring out unspeakable violence on everyone

Me being an idiot with a mouse just erased a long response, but my gist was essentially that the problem of 'surplus young men', or men who perceive themselves to be surplus men, is one that's cross-cultural and has some real history to it. It increases as sex ratios skew, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's because the concept of patriarchy essentially buys off people who would be otherwise discontented by the system - the promise that no matter how poor you are, you'll be able to essentially own at least one woman's labor is a potent one. And it's no mystery why the angry young Nazis today have strong ties to the 'incel' movement, where they are angry at women for not being their perfect store-ordered submissive bride.

There's a really good paper - about fifteen years old now, and focused on Asia, but with a lot to say about the current times we're living in as well. "A Surplus of Men, A Deficit of Peace" goes into how as men feel less integrated into the society and accepted signs of masculinity, they tend to indulge in violence and other antisocial behavior, destabilizing society itself if not checked. It also talks about governmental attempts to dissipate that activity and the way that governments are influenced by that activity:
As Boone notes, this confluence of factors bred extreme political instability for Portugal; the cadet sons and the lower-class bare branches began to band together in small armies. These bare-branch bands affected governmental policy in two ways: (1) in times of political upheaval, they generally backed—by force of arms—usurpers who promised to redistribute societal resources in their favor; and (2) in less turbulent times, the government consciously pursued policies to disperse them to foreign lands, usually in causes of expansionist warfare and colonization...

Indeed, governments of high sex-ratio societies must often cultivate a political style crafted to retain the allegiance and respect of its bare branches. This tends to be a swaggering, belligerent, provocative, martial style—to match that of the bare branches themselves. In the rhetoric accompanying such a posture, there is inevitably an “other,” who is weak and contemptible and whose attempt to and a place in society or in the international order must be opposed. The society is then enjoined to muster its strength so that these “insults” can be answered with appropriate action. Though all governments at one time or another may engage in these types of tactics, they take on a particular urgency for governments of high sex-ratio societies. These governments understand that its bare branches are a formidable club—if it is in your hand it can be very useful, but if it is poised over your head, it may constitute a greater threat than external enemies.
the tl;dr, I guess, is that it will turn out to be patriarchy that will have killed us all and I will be laughing all the way to the forced reproductive camps.
posted by corb at 5:30 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


There's certainly an argument to be made that aimless young men can contribute to political upheaval. Many historians take the view that one of the factors that made the Cultural Revolution more awful than it hypothetically might otherwise have been was a surplus of young Chinese men and a deficit of young Chinese women who might marry them.

I'm a bit dubious about that really being a factor in the Nazification of young white men in America. We don't have a particularly skewed sex ratio here, and while I'll agree the incel crowd is vocal I'm not at all convinced they're especially numerous. Young white women tend to have sex with young white men.

Worse, and back to my point, we don't see similar tolerance for lashing out by non-white young men. Latinx men, or black men who act like the radicalized white men don't get articles in the NYT or people wondering how they might be appeased or bought off. They get killed by police, or they get put in prison, and white America (for the most part) seems to think that's entirely right, just, and appropriate.

White America certainly fears the threat of violence from young men of color, but it reacts to that fear by crushing them, not attempting to appease them.

Much like the opioid epidemic is treated as a medical problem with victims who deserve sympathy, while the crack epidemic was treated as a crime problem with perpetrators who deserved long prison sentences, it seems rooted in a culture of (often unintentional and subconscious) white supremacy and anglo-normativity.

White people have problems that need fixing, white people problems are universal and everyone must pitch in to solve them.

People of color are problems and need to be fixed, by which I mean killed, people of color problems are unique to people of color and can be ignored, made worse, and (at best) left to people of color to solve on their own.
posted by sotonohito at 7:21 PM on February 14 [13 favorites]


Worse, and back to my point, we don't see similar tolerance for lashing out by non-white young men. Latinx men, or black men who act like the radicalized white men don't get articles in the NYT or people wondering how they might be appeased or bought off.

You are comparing political conservatives to non-conservatives for the same effect. If a conservative were to reach out to non-conservatives in order to convert them from hating, say, conservative white people, it would not be the same idea at all, but an opposing political gesture.
posted by Brian B. at 10:21 PM on February 14


Let's not mince words here. What so all these groups have in common? They're fascists. So you need to think about what techniques and tactics work against fascists.
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


So you need to think about what techniques and tactics work against fascists.

There are currently very few fascists relative to the bored white males targeted by fascists. The vaccine is not a cure in this sense. Find a way to lessen the appeal, and the fascists who aren't sociopaths will become less so.
posted by Brian B. at 12:07 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


The likelihood of losing your job and getting beaten in the streets definitely makes fascism less appealing.
posted by maxsparber at 3:54 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


Contra all the positioning that seems determined to place the onus and therefore the blame on those opposing bigotry rather than the bigots themselves, here's a former white supremacist on /r/LateStageCapitalism pointing out his experience:
Knowing that, as a younger man, I would have been wearing a red cap and cheering on the murder of Heather Heyer makes me absolutely fucking nauseous. I look at /r/anarchocapitalism, /r/conservative, and of course /r/the_donald and I see my younger self. An angry child in a changing world, blaming my shortcomings on everybody else because it’s too fucking inconvenient to accept responsibility for my own shortcomings and failures, while ironically expecting others (blacks, Mexicans, etc) to do the whole ‘bootstrap pull’ thing.

That’s pretty much the end of my rant. I received a PM from someone asking me a similar question and asking how s/he can reach or talk to white nationalists today. I said the same thing I always say when this comes up... I don’t know. Nobody talked me out of it. I didn’t learn it with some big life epiphany. It happened over lots of time and even more denial. You can’t teach empathy and decency. Some people are beyond fixing, I’m just lucky I’m not one of them.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:42 AM on February 15 [6 favorites]


It happened over lots of time and even more denial. You can’t teach empathy and decency.

He's right, but the rest of his story in the link starts with being angrily indoctrinated by conservative AM radio personalities, and becoming deprogrammed as a history major at his university.
posted by Brian B. at 7:04 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Which, again, were choices that he had to make.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:07 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


It is so not worth my time and likely futile effort to talk or reason with bigots into not being bigots. It is something I had to do with my dad's side of the family--and guess what, they are still racists--and for my own mental health, I just don't interact with them anymore. I mean, if you want to do that because you've read one account of it working, then great, good for you. To ask people--especially women and POC--to expend that effort because if we don't, the already privileged white men will continue to be shitty is not great.
posted by Kitteh at 7:18 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


I just recently tried to reason with someone from my hometown on FB that where I live now is not, in fact, a Sharia law controlled no go zone etc. And that discussion ended up with him acknowledging that it mustn't be true etc. Less than ten minutes later, bam, up goes another bullshit meme about muslims. Made no difference at all. And that's before the 20 odd years of trying to reason my family out of bigotry.

There was a Twitter thread a while back (can't find to link) started by a WOC who was told by someone that they could have done as well as her (or something like that) if only they'd had a free college education too. And there were a ton of responses with the same thing over and over and the men not even believing them when they told them it was bollocks.
posted by threetwentytwo at 7:33 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


I agree with Kitteh that for me, right now, this is not worth my time. I am stretched thin and scared.

If progressive white men feel the call to do it, it might be a use of theirs. I don't necessarily think it's useless if you are willing to commit, one on one, to befriending someone and making socializing him your own personal project.

But the thought of me having to do so makes me nauseous, and I am grimly cynical about the likelihood of white men stepping up to do that emotional work given the glaring silences that rise every other time I ask men on this site what they are doing. Because this is hard work, and it's long work, and it might or might not pan out, and it's not flashy. My expectations are low.

If you're feeling defensive, prove me wrong. But I am so tired as it is, and I constantly see this impulse to talk these men out of their shittiness laid at the feet of women. Especially young women, and especially young women who might fuck these men.

If you think this is valuable, men, get to work. Find someone who wants to hear from you. Build a relationship. Deal with the constant insults. Practice pushing back on assumptions. Roll up your sleeves and put some muscle where your mouth is.

But make it a job of white men. Teach your own. Fix your own messes. White women are trying--I'm watching women learning this every day from their friends and allies and teaching each other and younger and older women talking to one another and trading experience and tactics. That's all over my Facebook feeds. I don't fucking see it from men.

So if you feel called to reach out to one of these young men, if you identify yourself with them, get the fuck up and do something about it. I will cheer you on as I pant from my own boulders. But that is your calling, and it needs to stay limited to those people who feel called to do it.
posted by sciatrix at 7:36 AM on February 15 [15 favorites]


I agree with Kitteh that for me, right now, this is not worth my time. I am stretched thin and scared.

This, so so so much. I have lost friends to suicide and murder, dozens more threatened by the same, and I am under a constant state of panic trying to simply plan out a method of surviving this whole mess. I literally do not have the time to coach pathetic, scared white men about their dumbassery. I will be spending my time on community defense against the worst of them, and leave that work to all the "good" white men who I keep hearing about. Constantly.
posted by odinsdream at 7:53 AM on February 15 [8 favorites]


The thing about talking to bigots to try to get them to become un-bigoted, is that a prerequisite for that working is that you have some personal connection with them where they respect you: where you can call on some shared values and show that their other actions are not living up to those values, giving them an alternative that does live up to the shared values, and they respect you enough to actually listen; or where you can point out how their actions are harming you, and they care about you enough to do something about that and make changes in their actions.

Examples:

I have an extended family member who has limited his racist posts on facebook because myself and other family members pointed out to him that shit was racist and that we were disappointed in his actions in posting racist shit. For various faults they sometimes may have, my extended family are basically kind, caring people, and family is important to this person in particular, so this has had an actual impact. (It was key, of course, that it wasn't just me.)

I have one friendly acquaintance/facebook friend who has enough overlap in values with me that when he posts racist crap on the one area that seems to be his blind spot even though he's not terrible on other racism issues, I maintain my connections with him, but I engage with him and push back against the area where he is racist every time - which is all of two or three times so far. It's not clear whether this has made a difference yet, and at some point I will have to evaluate whether continued engagement is a good idea or whether I need to disengage from this person. I've been friends with many people who come from more conservative backgrounds and are suspicious of "social justice", but who respect me and care about me enough that they have been willing to listen and change their viewpoint and behavior when I tell them about other peoples' life experiences that they hadn't been aware of or thought of before, or explained how their actions were causing harm in ways they hadn't considered, etc. Notably, none of these people have ever come close to supporting neo-Nazis, alt right groups, Trump, etc. - they are compassionate enough toward other humans as a default that they recognize and don't want to associate with people who are actively being bigoted assholes, even when they don't necessarily understand systemic oppression or other emergent phenomena.

I've had other friendly acquaintances (in the friend group, talk at social events sort of acquaintanceship) who spewed various sorts of bigoted and/or harmful conspiracy theory crap. When I tried to engage with them, it became eminently clear that they did not respect me, did not acknowledge my greater expertise in the areas of their conspiracy theories, and did not care if they were causing me harm or not. We are now definitely in the not-friends category.

There are people who listen to me or care about my opinion of them - who I am able to influence - because I am white, straight, currently hold a professional job, and have some social status in my local community, but who would not listen to someone with less privilege in these areas. I take it as my responsibility to work on influencing these people to become less bigoted, or to ensure that they at least feel like they must keep their bigotry to themselves, to make our community safer for others. Note that this doesn't mean "be friends with them", just engage in some manner. To me that is part of trying to be anti-racist rather than non-racist, for example. But the people who fundamentally don't respect me and won't listen to me? They are not my responsibility. They might be your responsibility, if you have more privilege than me in the areas that would make it so that they would care about your opinion of them. Or they might be a fascist or Nazi who doesn't care about any of the rest of us. Me engaging with them in good faith to try to change their bigotry has such a low chance of having positive results, and a high chance of negatively impacting my energy levels and emotional well-being, that it would not be a responsible or productive course of action.
posted by eviemath at 8:18 AM on February 15 [14 favorites]


Contra all the positioning that seems determined to place the onus and therefore the blame on those opposing bigotry rather than the bigots themselves,

is this talking about stuff in this thread? Because I can't say I've seen much of it. What I have seen is attempts to get folks to try to see these young men as more dimensional than simply spoiled, indulgent, self-pitying, evil monsters who are thus beyond all caring, so fuck 'em.

And, for me, I'd say that this comes from a rather self-centered position which is simply that I personally don't want to see American Civil War 2.0 erupting. Because that's one of the possible futures that I currently see on the table, and if the last one is any indication, it will be horrific beyond anyone's ability to imagine.

If you've got nothing left to give in this regard, I get it. We already have the term (and condition) compassion fatigue. I wonder if we should also be investigating empathy fatigue. But in the end, we still have this big fat problem, which is we've got way too many mostly young mostly white men out there with simultaneously too little to and too much to lose.

The too much refers to their assumed senses of privilege, power, importance, none of which have been earned. Fuck all that, I agree.

The too little refers to genuine human, emotional, empathetic ties with anyone who isn't some kind of alt-right, white supremacist fellow traveler. This is where we're failing, I fear.
posted by philip-random at 9:23 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


What I have seen is attempts to get folks to try to see these young men as more dimensional than simply spoiled, indulgent, self-pitying, evil monsters who are thus beyond all caring, so fuck 'em.

It's possibly worth noting that a number of people are seeing your call to empathize with these young men as a call to do something about it, at the same time as the harms done to folk who look a bit more like themselves are getting comparatively little attention and press.

I hear you and agree that some of these may be salvageable, if people with existing ties to them, who they respect, choose to work to pull them out.

It's just that many of us are also used to being discounted as people worthy of respect by these young man straight out of the gate, have bitter experience fighting for that respect anyway, and see the lack of grieving for the harmed people who are not advocating murdering everyone else as an extension of that fundamental lack of respect.
posted by sciatrix at 9:29 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


(There is of course also an alternate perspective, which is that making these angry men the recipients of loud and unsympathetic public shame might encourage them to quietly toss their badges to the side and melt into the crowds, where they might be less isolated from human connection in the first place. Personally, I'm always in favor of pairing carrots with sticks, and I haven't seen enough sticks applied from the general, mainstream public on this one for me to worry about carrots just yet.)
posted by sciatrix at 9:32 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


We don't have a particularly skewed sex ratio here, and while I'll agree the incel crowd is vocal I'm not at all convinced they're especially numerous. Young white women tend to have sex with young white men.

So, while the paper in question is talking about overall sex ratios, further on it's really talking about marriage, and the societal effects specifically on men. While young white women do have sex with young white men, I think young white women are also beginning to realize how fucking terrible young white men are, and that they don't bring very much to the table. Pew has some data (though they present it in a kind of paternalistic way, fuckers)
The overall male-to-female ratio is 115:100 among single adults ages 25 to 34. But when we limit the young men to those who are currently employed, the ratio falls to 84 employed single men for every 100 single women
So you have more unmarried young men than unmarried young women - and in precisely the amount of numbers that cause sex-ratio concerns - and when you filter for 'marriageability', that puts about 26.9% of single men between age 25 and 34 that are 'unmarriageable' - which is just enough to be a real fucking problem.

Not women's problem, I stress - but still a real fucking problem all the same, if men who have bought into the patriarchy act violently when they start to lose it.

Worse, and back to my point, we don't see similar tolerance for lashing out by non-white young men. Latinx men, or black men who act like the radicalized white men don't get articles in the NYT or people wondering how they might be appeased or bought off.

While you are entirely right here, this is more a function of 'current racism in the US' rather than 'governmental policy, even in the US, over time'. If you look at, say, the committee studies on the riots in the 1970s, they absolutely do advocate for providing tangible benefits to reduce the despair. We've moved away from that as a country, but that doesn't mean it's how it's always been or how it always needs to be.
posted by corb at 10:08 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Also, just to speak from the fucking heart, misogyny and patriarchy and Nazism are indelibly fucking linked. I don't want to drag the shooting into the thread in detail, but now they are saying that he trained with white nationalist groups and I'm just so sick of this whole shitball being woven fucking together forever.
posted by corb at 10:12 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


The thing with the shooting, at the end of the SPLC article, they said they’d go with less rallies and more “lone madmen” style attacks
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Also, just to speak from the fucking heart, misogyny and patriarchy and Nazism are indelibly fucking linked

A quick google leads me to this little bit of light reading, which may not be the best representation of the ideas but looks like a fine starting point for something that has been endlessly useful to me in navigating the day to day of contemporary US news, and which speaks directly to the oppressive tendencies of people in general.
posted by rhizome at 10:28 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


But the people who fundamentally don't respect me and won't listen to me? They are not my responsibility. Me engaging with them in good faith to try to change their bigotry has such a low chance of having positive results, and a high chance of negatively impacting my energy levels and emotional well-being, that it would not be a responsible or productive course of action.

I think this is right. dealing with these mass shooters, these extreme products of the patriarchy, is a bandage for a deeper, chronic wound that will never stop bleeding. much like how overt white supremacy is built on the societal acceptance of certain, unsaid assumptions, of people who do nothing, toxic masculinity is built on the same unsaid assumptions about gender and sex and performance that we allow to happen in our day-to-day with our friends, colleagues, bosses, families. they may not be overt sexists or incels or red pillers or whatever but they are all on the same spectrum; unless they are members of the class that's being oppressed, they are complicit

the personal has always been political - and how much you actually enact change in your day-to-day determines your complicity and reinforcement of existing oppressions. I think it should be obvious that a system won't change if our attention to fixing it is temporary and non-sustainable, if we don't practice changing it as much as we can. because it certainly won't change if we only practice it selectively, when it's 'safe' to do so (ex venting on MetaFilter!)
posted by runt at 10:31 AM on February 15 [6 favorites]


If progressive white men feel the call to do it, it might be a use of theirs. I don't necessarily think it's useless if you are willing to commit, one on one, to befriending someone and making socializing him your own personal project.

We’ll call it AAA, short for Adopt-An-Ass.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:59 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


> Find a way to lessen the appeal,

So what are you doing, in this regard?

This is not a GOTCHA.* I was at a talk tonight where Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele, who co-authored the book When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. Some of what they talked about was engaging with people you disagree with, and continuing to engage even when they continue to disagree. I will listen to them because I know they have the cred: they have done and continue to do this work.

One of the things I decided is that every time someone I engage with (here, elsewhere on the internets, in person) says something like this - "Find a way to engage them" or "Have empathy and reach out to them" I am going to ask that person (especially if I know he is white and male) to Show. His. Work.

So. What are you doing? What have you done? What have you found to be effective or not? What have you learned from your failures at outreach and connection? This is not easy work; we need community and infrastructure to help us all do this work. This means we share our triumphs and our failures, and our ongoing frustrations. So, Brian B., and anyone else who recognizes that they have said similar things, what have you done? What are you doing? What is hardest or easiest for you in engaging with people in this way? Share your knowledge and strategies and disappointments! We have to learn from each other! So much change happens in small and apparently inconsequential ways - like you take your raised-by-blatant-racists niece or nephew or random cousin out for coffee or a movie every week or two and you...what? What do you do and talk to them about?

*Unless you are actually NOT doing this work, but only lecturing people, in which case, yeah, it's a gotcha.
posted by rtha at 11:04 PM on February 15 [14 favorites]


i think i've helped to change the minds of some old hometown friends/relatives at least some. ime you almost always want to avoid getting into like, political arguments. As Dale Carnegie pointed out, nobody has ever won an argument. likewise giving people reading material never works.

also nobody is rational, not even you, and definitely not somebody who spends their days reading breitbart. we all believe whatever is convenient, minute by minute, as far as we can get away with lying to ourselves. so fact based logical argumentation will probably fail.

(the exception is if you're dealing with somebody who's getting into internet neoreactionary stuff, which i have actually run into but most people probably wouldn't, if they aren't in a social milieu full of maladjusted computer nerds.)

unfortunately (because it tends to be frustrating) i've found it's most effective just to listen, ask questions, and calmly but very bluntly point out where you disagree. (this requires that it's reasonable for you to remain calm, which is why white men have to be doing a lot of this work.) sometimes you find out people believe weird lies for obviously motivated reasons, like for instance the persistent belief that poor people of color are almost all receiving regular, generous cash welfare. something like that can be a crack in the edifice.

i've never changed someone's mind in the moment (even if you do convince them right away nobody would ever admit that), neither about ideology nor even a simple fact, but like days or weeks later it will sometimes be clear they've realized they were wrong.

i have an unhelpful impulse that i have to suppress. which is to treat it as a dominance contest where i win if i convince them of something -- people pick up on that and i don't even blame them for doubling down if i were to subject them to that.

also, i've come to believe that i don't really deserve much credit for not holding horrifically racist beliefs. it's not something i did myself. so even when i'm dealing with a real racist dumbass, i can't say with any confidence that i, personally, am morally superior to them.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:54 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


also, i've come to believe that i don't really deserve much credit for not holding horrifically racist beliefs. it's not something i did myself. so even when i'm dealing with a real racist dumbass, i can't say with any confidence that i, personally, am morally superior to them.

This is a problematic viewpoint in my opinion. While yes, "don't be racist" is a rather low bar to clear, the sad reality is that a lot of people don't clear it. And given the damage that racism does to its victims, why shouldn't you consider yourself morally superior to someone who chooses to continue to hold bigoted beliefs?
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:25 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


To clarify, I don't advocate for face to face disagreement without a safe structure or moderation in place. It's also pointless because people convince neutral parties, not entrenched true believers, for various reasons. Getting to an objective frame is key, and often requires personal intervention. Most of the people under discussion have plenty of hidden neutrality, meaning they are open to discussion, exactly because they are stuck in life. Also, ideas want to be tested before adopted, because people want something that works for them. Liberalism will work for any poor white guy, so long as he believes they really exist on a functional plane of existence and not as a caricature, as they are led to believe. Some of these people have been easily misled because of remote isolation from both civilization and, in a sense, reality itself. Importantly, we can't assume rationality (of motives) under the influence (of handlers), as the main article in this thread has. I thus entered this discussion because of the implied assumptions that people who are misled had good working reasons to hate others and lie to themselves. I disagreed. I then proposed an app to connect anonymous helpful sources with anonymous seekers, on the basis of normal people talking to normal people, as they see themselves. Some thought it was a bad idea, because they said it was asking them to give something the receivers didn't deserve. Perhaps people are unsure of the outcome, though I don't doubt the outcome, because curiosity is a driving force, as long as it is safe.
posted by Brian B. at 8:14 AM on February 16


“not holding racist beliefs” doesn’t feel like something I did myself, so it would feel very strange to claim moral credit for it.

some racists actually do cultivate and choose to indulge in their hatred (like the one in the article above) and I’d feel comfortable passing moral judgment against them.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:59 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


So, Brian B., and anyone else who recognizes that they have said similar things, what have you done? What are you doing? What is hardest or easiest for you in engaging with people in this way? Share your knowledge and strategies and disappointments!

ditto a pile of what vogon_poet just said, to which I'd add, in some cases it adds up to years of work. Not full-time or anything, just a series of moments in which you choose not to bite your tongue, or otherwise refuse to let certain bullshit stand.

In particular, this speaks to how you might deal with a friend. One in particular comes to mind for me (call him Ted). We met in university. Ted was an immensely talented writer etc, which was the appeal, but he always had a conservative, xenophobic streak that could get quite ugly (which in time, I came to realize came very much from his dad, who died a holocaust denier, mostly out of spite over a bad divorce it seems -- a piece of work to say the least). I'd sometimes outright argue with Ted when things simply got too toxic (usually regarding women), but in general, I realized the best tactic was to reinforce his "better angels", to let the bullshit blow by me like a bad but temporary smell, and wait for something more pleasant to show up, which it generally did, and then go with that. I've now known him for more than thirty-five years and let's just say, I doubt most people in this thread would think of him as "part of the problem". And to be clear, I'm only taking a small amount of credit for this maturing. Ted's personally done all the hard and oft humiliating stuff (admitting you're fundamentally wrong about something is fucking hard for everybody, I suspect).

And given the damage that racism does to its victims, why shouldn't you consider yourself morally superior to someone who chooses to continue to hold bigoted beliefs?

because as my mother said to me once when I was very young, "You were a better person than that boy right up until you decided you were a better person than him."
posted by philip-random at 9:21 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


And given the damage that racism does to its victims, why shouldn't you consider yourself morally superior to someone who chooses to continue to hold bigoted beliefs?

because as my mother said to me once when I was very young, "You were a better person than that boy right up until you decided you were a better person than him."


Ah, good old toxic canards from childhood. Never get old.

I'm sorry, but yes, we should feel confident in saying that yes, not being bigots makes us better. This attitude of "we should not assert our moral righteousness over asserting the fundamental humanity of all people" is part of why we struggle with bigotry, because they have no problem asserting their beliefs as right.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:31 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


I really think we’re talking past each other or have different ideas about what “morally superior” means or something like that.

as an example, I also don’t think “i haven’t committed war crimes” is a reason to judge myself morally superior to somebody, because i’ve never even come close to a situation where it’s relevant.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:44 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


what have you done? What are you doing? What is hardest or easiest for you in engaging with people in this way?

Not entirely sure if this is relevant, but: I used to picket Scientology offices (way back in the 90s, before Anonymous). I worked really hard on being as polite and friendly as possible to individual Scientologists, even the ones who were obviously sent out to "handle" us. My goal was always to stop the organization's abusive behavior, not to cause any distress to the individuals in the organization - aside from, obviously, any discomfort they might feel at having someone point out that their organization was actively hurting people.

It was very much a "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach, and while it's not always easy, it's definitely easier (and I think more effective) than getting into shouting matches. On the rare occasion when I heard myself raise my voice, I excused myself from the conversation until I felt calmer.

So to me, it involves two equally important components: acknowledging that everyone is a flawed person but still worth of respect; and being very clear and vocal about unacceptable behavior. Engaging with someone, or being friends with someone, who's doing something horrible doesn't mean you shut up about that horrible thing; it means you say to that person, "I like you. I respect you. But I absolutely will not sit by if you hurt other people. Even if you don't want to talk about it, I WILL, a lot, both with you and with other people, and I will put in time trying to clean up the harm you're causing, which will mean I'm less available to you and more tired when I'm around you. I want you to stop hurting other people, and I will do everything I can to protect them. If you don't stop, I may only be able to love you from afar, with no contact, because it's hard for me to contain my anger with people who hurt others. You're still a person worthy of love, because everyone is; but if you hurt other people, you're damaging my ability to be present and show you love. You're hurting me when you hurt other people."

Another really important thing (which someone else mentioned on a recent thread): it's really hard to convince a person you're talking to to change their mind or their actions; but the conversation can have a HUGE effect on other people. Any time you can have a conversation about stopping harmful behavior WITH OTHER PEOPLE LISTENING (like online - especially online!), you have a much better chance of letting passive listeners change their minds than the person you're talking to.

I absolutely am not asking everyone to take on this work; personally, I put most of my energy into other avenues of effecting change these days. But I think it IS possible to genuinely engage with someone who's supporting terrible things, to find the human who deserves love despite odious actions - but to avoid compounding the harm they do, you must be loud and clear about your disapproval of those actions, and ACTIVELY WORK to clean up after them.

I mean, I'm pretty sure the Rev. William Barber still aims to love Donald Trump, and all the North Carolina Republicans who have tried to deny so many people their right to vote, even as he speaks out constantly about the viciousness and wrongness of their actions and works to right them. It's HARD. It's REALLY HARD. But if he can do it, I can try, sometimes, too.
posted by kristi at 10:58 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


White supremacists are making a concerted effort to recruit young people & spread their hate on campus. Since September 2016, the ADL recorded 346 incidents of white supremacist propaganda on campuses. Read more in our full report
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 PM on February 16 [8 favorites]


What are you doing? What have you done? What have you found to be effective or not? What have you learned from your failures at outreach and connection? This is not easy work; we need community and infrastructure to help us all do this work. This means we share our triumphs and our failures, and our ongoing frustrations

I'm not white, or male, but because I'm the one who first said we need to lessen the appeal here, I will absolutely answer this because you are right, it is important to share our information.

Personally, I follow the calls to action from the IWW General Defense Committee, and encourage everyone to do so. The stated goals are:
The GDC's goal is to defend and support the entire working class, divided and under attack by those who wage class war against us... We say defense means organized action taken explicitly to defend members of the class against the different forms of oppression that structure our society.
At the moment, a lot of the focus of the GDC is specifically anti-Nazi, and I think it's important work. It doesn't really fall into the 'appeal to sensibility', but it does create the social stick for people who are engaging in this kind of thing.

Recognizing that the anger of those struggling is being exploited for racial hatred, I also am working on organizing unions both in my local area and nationwide. The IWW will organize anyone, anywhere, and an office that is unionized is placing the blame for their poor living conditions on the bosses, not on racial groups in society. While I wish that we could live in a society that wasn't balkanized, I no longer think it is possible and am trying to redirect that anger to people who are at least well equipped to withstand it. I have had great success with this. It is easier than you might think, and I encourage everyone, everywhere, to carry around union pamphlets with them and spend a few minutes talking to people who are existing in shitty working conditions. A few hours a week agitating can have a huge effect. If you hear people talking negatively about a racial or religious group, find something else in their lives that is bothering them that has a structural solution and focus them on that.

My biggest takeaway is that you can't directly convince them that they are wrong in extended conversation: going head-to-head rarely works and entrenches people in their belief systems. But talking about their problems and working on their problems has value. Talking positively about members of the classes that are being denigrated on the regular has value and I have seen shifts in behavior as a result. Showing them people they admire who happen to fall into those categories helps a bit. But first and foremost, give them another thing to focus on.
posted by corb at 9:34 AM on February 17 [8 favorites]


I watched the rise of white nationalism.
Journalist Vegas Tenold spent six years among some of America’s most extreme white supremacists, and discovered a people who believe the white race is under threat and the enemy is everywhere.
posted by adamvasco at 12:58 PM on February 17


The Guardian article had a lot of valuable information, but man. Tenold comes off as the naivest rube who ever sold his cow for beans. He's shocked and amazed that Heimbach is friendly and has a charming personality! Like no horrible movement has ever accumulated, consolidated, or held on to power on the strength of a charismatic leader and their dynamic personality?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:47 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]




"You were a better person than that boy right up until you decided you were a better person than him."

This is an important concept to remember in American culture. The counter is that while I'm not a better person than the racist, they are not being as good a person as they should be. They are letting themselves and the rest of us down by not acting like the good person they are. There is some serious shame in that concept, and the glimmer of redemption.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:12 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I am a better person than a racist.
posted by maxsparber at 4:28 AM on February 18 [16 favorites]


Y’all’s mother was talking some shit. That “you’re not better than anybody else” lecture is fine if you’re a Harvard legacy sneering at Yalies, but as soon as an actual Nazi shows up I don’t want to hear it.
posted by maxsparber at 4:31 AM on February 18 [14 favorites]


I think this is one of those things that just ultimately doesn’t matter. I don’t know if, at my core, I am better than a Nazi, given our different genetics, environment, opportunities, life choices, exposure to outside influences, etc. Maybe he would have been a better person than me if he had lived my life. Maybe I would be a worse person if I lived his.

But none of that matters. I don’t oppose Nazis because they are bad people in the recesses of their bones, I oppose Nazis because it is a poison ideology that kills innocent people and must be opposed lest it take over. I don’t need to know the state of a Nazi’s soul in order to oppose him. I just need to do it.
posted by corb at 10:13 AM on February 18 [9 favorites]


I realized the best tactic was to reinforce his "better angels", to let the bullshit blow by me like a bad but temporary smell

The "best tactic" for who? If he was in a position to hire people, what was the best tactic for the people he didn't want to hire because they had Spanish accents? Because they were women? What was the best tactic for the people on the subway car with him while he was using slurs? What was the best tactic for all the people who were actually hurt by his bullshit in ways that they couldn't let blow by them?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:23 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I don’t know if, at my core, I am better than a Nazi,

There is no core. We can never know what is in their hearts, or even our own, and it does not matter.

I judge people based on behavior. Do you advocate for genocide? No?

You’re better than a Nazi.
posted by maxsparber at 10:43 AM on February 18 [12 favorites]


fwiw...
Steve Bannon Sees #MeToo As An 'Existential Threat' To Trump, Journalist Says (transcript)
GROSS: So a couple of days before Bannon was forced out of the White House, Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect published a piece about Bannon and about the conversation that they had just had. And in spite of the fact that a lot of Bannon's base is anti-immigrant, a lot of, like, white nationalists within there, he told Kuttner in terms of ethno-nationalism, he said, it's a fringe element.
I think the media plays it up too much and we've got to help crush it. These guys are a collection of clowns. The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I've got them. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the leftists focus on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.
So it's an interesting message he's sending there, which is basically insulting a lot of the people who he fired up and made into his base, the ethno-nationalists and saying if the left focuses on that, then we've got them because we're really about economic nationalism.

GREEN: Yeah, there's two things that were going on in that interview with Bob Kuttner. One is what you saw Bannon doing - and let's recall for listeners. Bannon had out of the blue as a White House official called, you know, a liberal economist, who's the head of a liberal policy journal where I used to work, The American Prospect, essentially because he thought Kuttner would be an ally when it came to proposing more hawkish policy against China.

Bannon is always looking to broaden this nationalist-populist coalition and bring in people like that. And I think he was just utterly tone deaf to the fact that somebody like Kuttner would consider Bannon repellent, despite his ideas on China, because of his ideas on race and anti-Semitism and all the things that we saw in the Trump administration.

The other thing that was going on there is that Bannon knew and knows at some level that if he's going to broaden this political movement, he is going to have to shake loose the, you know, anti-Semitic white nationalist element. People like, you know - in the book, we discussed Richard Spencer, the prominent white supremacist, who's been very supportive of Trump and Bannon.

And Bannon sort of snorted and said, you know, these guys are losers. I think of them as "F Troop." You remember the movie "F Troop." But these were basically people, you know, rubes that you had to activate and get fired up to do your bidding but not important. And once nationalists had taken power in America through Donald Trump or taken control of Congress, you could kind of sweep those people aside, you know, and bring in more polite advocates of your ideas.

GROSS: But what had he done to cultivate the, as he calls it, ethno-nationalists?

GREEN: Well, what he'd done to cultivate it, I think, was to attract them to Breitbart News, to, you know, be a venue that focused very much in a very negative way on immigration, on issues of race, someone who supported and cheered Donald Trump when he said things like, you know, Mexicans are all rapists, as he said in his introductory speech when he became a candidate, and cheered him along the way.

I mean, I think on the one hand, Bannon consciously attracted and exploited those sentiments because they did have real electoral power, and they did get Donald Trump elected. But on the other hand, recognize that, you know, it wasn't going to be tenable going forward if that was how you were identified. If Trump's coalition is viewed as, you know, white nationalists and racists and anti-Semites, it's going to be difficult, obviously, to attract the kind of suburban voters that you need to maintain a political movement, to maintain control of the White House and Congress, you know, over any meaningful period of time. So I think he was always - Bannon was always torn between needing to appeal to these people, needing to exploit their political power, but also needing to distance his movement. And so depending on who he was talking to, he tended to change his tune about, you know, whether he supported these people or whether, as, he told Bob Kuttner, they were clowns and losers who were just doing his bidding.
also btw...
Bannon, despite his many flaws, is a very shrewd analyst of American politics, I think, and has a very good understanding of our kind of sublimated collective anxieties. And what he seemed so upset about was the power of this rising women's movement. He dubbed it the matriarchy, which I thought was a great name. But as he got going, you know, describing what this envisioned, he told me he thought it was an existential threat not just to Trump but to Republicans in Congress...

GROSS: Well, you know, one of the things that Bannon said to you about the Golden Globes and the #MeToo movement - he said, like, the anti-patriarchy movement is going to undo 10,000 years of recorded history. Women are going to take charge of society, and they couldn't juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch. So here's what I couldn't figure out. Does Bannon think these women have a point and they should topple the patriarchy; they deserve equality? Or does he think, this is a threat to everything I stand for?

GREEN: Oh, very much the latter. I don't think Bannon is at all concerned about the rights of women. But I think he perceives a backlash that threatens the whole rise of Trump and the nationalist politics that he's associated with. These are the ideas that Bannon really cares about. It was really what caused his falling out with Donald Trump to begin with.

You know, and I think there's something poignant about the fact that, you know, Bannon, who came from nowhere - you know, the far-right fringes of Republican politics, recognized this anti-establishment backlash that gave rise to Trump - has now been so thoroughly excommunicated that he's all the way back out on the fringes. You know, and here he is watching the Golden Globe awards, recognizing the next great American backlash coming. And it's against him and people like him and the guy that he got elected.
posted by kliuless at 8:53 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I read this a couple of days ago: Drunk on genocide: how the Nazis celebrated murdering Jews. It's a graphic, horrifying account of how the Nazis held "post-execution" victory celebrations. It also notes that "alcohol, atrocity and celebratory ritual" have been linked in at least one other attempted genocide, that of Rwanda. Note that the police in Warsaw at the Krochmalna bar were competing for who could obtain the highest number of murders of Jews. The bar's front door was notched with its patron's kills.

This is ultimately where racism, othering and demonizing other groups of human beings can lead.

American police are literally getting away with murdering unarmed African American men and women in broad daylight, and a significant percentage of the voting public vocally defends their right to do so. Our country is led by groups of people who vilify Muslims by lying about their religious beliefs. White supremacists go on killing sprees, mass murdering children and adults....

It all sounds terrifyingly familiar.

I don’t know if, at my core, I am better than a Nazi,

The question I think we should all be asking ourselves is not "am i better than a Nazi" but rather, "how do we stop them from taking power and committing atrocities?"

Because that's where we're headed.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


Just FYI to anybody who uses AmazonSmile, the SPLC is on there as charity to support! Very easy way to throw some extra money their way for the work they do.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:36 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


This is ultimately where racism, othering and demonizing other groups of human beings can lead.

It's semantics but I would say this is ultimately where *unchecked* racism, othering and demonizing other groups *will* lead. It's evitable. Give these people the power of no consequence and they'll follow through.
posted by Jalliah at 10:27 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Ya know what, fuck the racists.

We don’t need to “get them on our side”. They can come over if they recant and reject their racism and white supremacy, cover over their racist tattoos.

Until then, fuck you. No place at the table.

Instead, we will work to marginalize you, out organize you, and make it unacceptable to associate with you in public. We will point fingers and call you a racist. What is in your heart is unknowable and, ultimately, immaterial.

Actions and words are what we judge people on.

Time to draw a line in the sand and make public notice of what side people choose.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:55 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Frankly, and I think it's OK to drop this here rather than its topic thread, but my mantra these days is, "Yes, absolutely: we're coming for your guns."
posted by rhizome at 11:19 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


The SPLC has just added "Male Supremacy" to its list of tracked extremist ideologies. Write-up is here. Content warning: Multiple MRA quotes at the top of the article.
posted by JohnFromGR at 6:20 PM on February 23 [8 favorites]


WNYC's On the Media and The Guardian (US) are collaborating on a project that asks "How should the media cover America's racist extremists?"

Lois Beckett provided a subsequent article showcasing the best reporting on white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Beckett's article has a summary of each story, presented in reverse chronological order to accommodate time-travellers:

Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student, ProPublica, February 2018

‘I don’t know how you got this way’, The Washington Post, February 2018

This is the Daily Stormer’s Playbook, Huffington Post, December 2017

The Making of an American Nazi, The Atlantic, December 2017

Birth of a White Supremacist, The New Yorker, October 2017

Alt White: How the Breitbart Machine Laundered Racist Hate, BuzzFeed, October 2017

A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof, GQ, August 2017

Charlottesville: Race and Terror, Vice News Tonight, August 2017

The Moneyman Behind the Alt-Right, BuzzFeed, July 2017

Richard Spencer’s white-nationalist nonprofit failed to file basic paperwork to keep fundraising, Los Angeles Times, 2017
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 1:45 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


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