McInnes, Molyneux, and 4chan
April 20, 2018 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Investigating pathways to the alt-right is SPLC's exploration of the question, "what brings someone into the alt-right ecosystem?"
posted by Jpfed (119 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
For those wondering why all these online services not actually combatting racism is such a problem, here's your answer. It's all a funnel into hate.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:35 PM on April 20, 2018 [15 favorites]


Thanks for this. It makes painfully clear how humor greases the pipeline. "It's all a big joke, brah!" ...and then a few years later you're enmeshed in full-on hate.
posted by clawsoon at 3:37 PM on April 20, 2018 [16 favorites]


Just the other night I noted that a few years ago, some asshole wrote a rant about his ex, things escalated, and then a few years later it led to Trump's election.

A pox on all their racist misogynistic hateful houses.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:44 PM on April 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


My answer would have just been Matt Drudge.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:44 PM on April 20, 2018


Man, I wish there was an actual study on this. This article is interesting, but to me it seems focused like...pretty far along in the funnel? I would pretty much consider anyone already in the “alt-lite” category to be lost. Like that is close enough, you’re basically a Nazi as soon as there’s a stiff breeze. It just seems far enough gone that any successful intervention would be incredibly laborious and expensive.

I’m wishing there was something that illuminated the process closer to the mouth of the funnel, where interventions will be easier. Like, idk, Reddit. Etc.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:47 PM on April 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


There's an interesting through line here with Ask A Korean: Korea's Alt-Right, and How to Fight the Ones at Home. Internet message board memes to trolling to nihilistic hate, guided and enabled by intentional bad actors.
posted by figurant at 3:49 PM on April 20, 2018 [17 favorites]


schadenfrau: This article is interesting, but to me it seems focused like...pretty far along in the funnel? I would pretty much consider anyone already in the “alt-lite” category to be lost. Like that is close enough, you’re basically a Nazi as soon as there’s a stiff breeze.

I read Jim Goad a couple of decades ago and thought, "Hmm, interesting points!", I briefly browsed the /b/ boards back in the day, I know lots of libertarians online, and then I got deep into evo-psych for a few years (though via Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, which might've helped). I've had lots of exposure to stuff around the edges of the funnel opening.

And yet here I am now. I don't think I'm alone, either. If you've got someone in your life who's feeling that stiff breeze, please don't assume that they're already gone.
posted by clawsoon at 3:54 PM on April 20, 2018 [29 favorites]


I've known a fair number of libertarians, and I feel like it is often clear which ones are harboring racist ideology and which are not. I do not believe there is a "libertarian to nazi" pipeline the way the article implies. It seems more that many people who are racist are also attracted to libertarian ideals, and for some of those, the racism wins out.

In general, I would be suspicious of the respondents' professed narratives. I would expect them to err on the side of "I myself started with more respectable material, but through this procession of increasingly radical vloggers, I became more radicalized," and not "I've always felt angry and resentful toward Black/Latino/Jewish people, and now I found an online community where I feel at home."
posted by andrewpcone at 3:59 PM on April 20, 2018 [24 favorites]


There's something about the relationship between humorous play-engagement and intention to push an idea out of malevolent reasons that I think might be related to the Tide Pod stuff. Like there's this conceptual lasagna to that. On one layer there's a wry commentary on the fact that the detergent packaging sure matches some styles of edible packaging and that's funny but it's also a criticism. Then there's another layer where somebody thinks it's funny to see if they could issue a faux-challenge as a commentary on youtube challenges. Then there's another layer where somebody thinks it's funny to see how many people would believe the faux-challenge is real, either for the lulz, or as a commentary on how lots of adults seem to believe Kids These Days are weird snake people. Finally there's a layer where some assholes think it's high-larious to see who will actually do it and hurt themselves OMG those people are so dumb HAHA WHY ARE YOU HITTING YOURSELF WHY ARE YOU HITTING YOURSELF?

TBH I'm honestly pretty amused by the former conceptual layers, but uneasy about the fact that they don't necessarily separate cleanly from the last.

Slippery slope is my least favorite fallacy in some ways. Treating a reasonable position as a threat because it can transform into an unreasonable one seems tautological and unhelpful when I'm thinking about it logically.

But OTOH, it sure seems as if people do drift one way or another and that requires some thinking about how to shore up directions on a slope you don't want them to fall off of.

So, maybe the question is... what pathway do we offer people to go the other way?
posted by wildblueyonder at 4:03 PM on April 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


Same way ISIS recruits. Attract disenfranchised, angry or depressed young men, give them answers to all their questions, tell them who to blame, tell them how to attack, and then stand back and watch the fireworks.
posted by SansPoint at 4:16 PM on April 20, 2018 [32 favorites]


Looking at the broader groups seems like it'd also be useful, but I think this is very useful to say, look, McInnes says he's not a white nationalist, but there's an incredibly high incidence of white nationalists saying they started with him, maybe this is a good reason to say that he is doing something wrong. And really--even proper white nationalists are not "lost", some people do get better. But it's harder, the further in you are. If you know that following McInnes is what can foreshadow that, it seems like it gives you a better point to try to intervene with friends and loved ones.
posted by Sequence at 4:21 PM on April 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've known a fair number of libertarians, and I feel like it is often clear which ones are harboring racist ideology and which are not. I do not believe there is a "libertarian to nazi" pipeline the way the article implies. It seems more that many people who are racist are also attracted to libertarian ideals, and for some of those, the racism wins out.

In general, I would be suspicious of the respondents' professed narratives. I would expect them to err on the side of "I myself started with more respectable material, but through this procession of increasingly radical vloggers, I became more radicalized," and not "I've always felt angry and resentful toward Black/Latino/Jewish people, and now I found an online community where I feel at home."


To be clear, "standard libertarian to nazi pipeline" is a direct quote from one of the nazis, not an analysis from the authors. They say that 22 of the 74 people mentioned libertarianism (although the chart at the top only identifies 9 libertarian "individuals or platforms", which perhaps means that they didn't include the mention of libertarianism unless someone specifically named Ron Paul or whoever). That's already somewhere between 3 times to 10 times greater rate of libertarianism in nazis than in the total US population*; this probably understates the percent of nazis who are libertarians, since only those who felt it was relevant to their conversion would mention it. I'm for some reason reminded of the old Simpsons joke about Fox News: "Not racist, but #1 with racists."

Your second point would make sense if the information is from an outsider surveying nazis and asking them how they came to be nazis. This instead is a group of nazis chatting amongst themselves on a nazi board, trying to figure out what the best paths for conversion are, which would encourage honesty. I suspect if people are trying to err on the side of "I myself started with more respectable material", 4chan would not be the most cited source.

* it's about 3 times the roughly 11% a 2014 Pew survey found - the only independent polls I can find to ask the question clearly - and about 10 times the roughly 3% of voters who voted for the Libertarian party in the last election.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:35 PM on April 20, 2018 [16 favorites]


andrewpcone: I've known a fair number of libertarians, and I feel like it is often clear which ones are harboring racist ideology and which are not.

I'm not sure if I'd have the confidence to look at a young man who's exploring unconventional ideologies and say, "He doesn't seem very racist to me, so I'm not going to worry."
posted by clawsoon at 4:40 PM on April 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


> "...Go the irony bro route, it’s all a big joke brah.”

Decrypting the Alt-Right: How to Recognize a F@scist | ContraPoints
posted by CheapB at 4:42 PM on April 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


I forgot about Stefan and thought wow - I didn't think Fable was *that* bad.
posted by symbioid at 4:50 PM on April 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


I wish this question were re-framed as "What should bring someone into the [better] ecosystem". There are a lot of people looking for meaning, purpose, and a world that they can affect and be rewarded by. What are these other ecosystems. and how are people being brought to them?
posted by amtho at 4:52 PM on April 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


wildblueyonder: So, maybe the question is... what pathway do we offer people to go the other way?

Maybe we need to get funnier. "Ever notice how your racist friends...?"
posted by clawsoon at 4:55 PM on April 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


When I started hanging out in libertarian circles I got introduced to Molyneaux. And even though he may or may not have had some philosophy that is good, I don’t have any idea, because it was immediately apparent he was a misogynist who had been through a bitter divorce and hated women afterwards. And it was immediately apparent to me that this wasn’t his considered philosophy about alimony or marriage, but just his embittered opinion, because I have encountered men of that type before without the “Great Philosopher” title and it was super obvious there as well.

So like - I’m sure you can get sucked in by Molyneaux, but it requires a certain obliviousness that I don’t possess and am vaguely irritated by.
posted by corb at 5:03 PM on April 20, 2018 [17 favorites]


Paranoid. 90% of them.

I attended a beach party in 1965. Three of those present were members of the John Birch Society. They were preaching the necessity of standing up to the government. I thought at the time, who could possibly swallow this crap. Uhm. Paranoid deplorables? Her use of deplorables was certainly ill advised. But nonetheless Hillary was right on the mark. Her timing was just wrong.
posted by notreally at 5:25 PM on April 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


I really feel like the most glaring vector for recruitment into the alt-right versus the John Birch Society or white supremacist groups of years past is that people can be socialized far more quickly through online recruitment than previous person to person recruitment. My gut says this ties in strongly to a dearth of local community groups for young dudes to get involved with.

I'm an old millennial, and I spent a lot of time around my local Food Not Bombs and 2003 anti-war activist spaces and a little bit around the local punk community. This was like, when MySpace was the height of social media. There are definitely some racist shitheads within punk communities, but there are also a lot of folks in those communities prepared to throw down against those people, to school younger kids on what's OK and what's not, etc. I'm not trying to be utopian here (and I often myself was not always comfortable at hardcore shows - I think folks from that time period are only just now finding out the extent of sexual assault that was going on). But at its best, the local punk scene provided a space for young dudes to be confused and angry young dudes and process out their anger against their actual oppressors and occasionally find a useful outlet like Food Not Bombs instead of getting duped into thinking that women and immigrants were their enemies. I really think that if some of the men didn't have that local community steering them onto the right path, they might have been among the easily recruited alt-right a decade later.

I don't think we can fix right-wing radicalization until we find useful spaces for young angry men to find healthy outlets for in-person and local fellowship and community in healthy ways. I wish I could wave my wand and make young men's anger disappear. Until that happens, the best way I've seen to innoculate it is to give them a sense of community and a healthy outlet to rage against the machine, as it were. And it's why even though I still have some reservations about how DSA can trend a little brocialist at times, at least it seems to be giving a lot of young guys a place to build something healthier in their communities than whatever is being built in the dregs of 4chan.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:46 PM on April 20, 2018 [21 favorites]


My gut says this ties in strongly to a dearth of local community groups for young dudes to get involved with.

So like...there’s a dearth of local communities for everybody else, too. This is a thing that’s happened across the board.

And also, um, lots of POC and women are pretty pissed off, at this point? And have much better reasons to be pissed off.

So. Yeah. I don’t know about that.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:54 PM on April 20, 2018 [23 favorites]


So, maybe the question is... what pathway do we offer people to go the other way?

The podcast With Friends Like These just did an episode on how the Alt-Right fishes for converts among online atheists. Their conclusion was that as long as most of these people were against something (religion), without having a firm stance in favor of another system for navigating the world, they would be vulnerable to corruption by reactionary ideologies. The answer in that case is Secular Humanism as a structure to articulate positive, pro-social values.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:07 PM on April 20, 2018 [25 favorites]


I do not believe there is a "libertarian to nazi" pipeline the way the article implies.

There are very clearly pipes running from the libertarian reservoir run to the far right and perhaps to left-anarchism, depending on what you actually value.

This guy has a lot to do with it right now, but I think it goes back a lot further than that.
posted by atoxyl at 7:10 PM on April 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


"what brings someone into the alt-right ecosystem?"

I would assume extremism is mostly genetic, but conveniently sponsored by those who want to split the downtrodden along racial or gender lines in order to keep them voting apart, because race and gender are the easiest divisions to exploit (and the bonus is getting poor people to campaign for rich people's interests by virtue of racial identity). Those fooled are living in a glorious denial, and when asked, they will bizarrely channel the thoughts of their puppet masters as if they are their actual fathers or coaches, as if familiarity exists. This delusional familiarity is rather telling, because a desperate poor guy will allow himself to feel like a winner without anything being delivered, which is by design. However, it would not be enough to preach love and harmony to bring everyone together because that's the same theme from Sunday School where they were all indoctrinated to feel self-righteous and brainwashed to experience guilt and shame about being poor, which amounts to blaming themselves. They are like putty in this state. The trick is to prevent others from falling into their polarization trap, and avoid the inevitable clash between extremists, left and right, which results in chaos and ends up with more people choosing sides with race. They want everyone to leave the common ground so they can claim it for themselves, because extremists are desperate to appear normal while pretending to being hated for just being (white, male, Christian, etc), and polarization achieves it.
posted by Brian B. at 7:18 PM on April 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's weird that people feel the need for there to be a complicated path to hate.

Hate is an easy and lazy emotion. It's seductive and inviting.

There really isn't a need for there to be a route, curriculum or philosophy.

It's the other roads that are the ones that require thought, routes, curriculum or philosophy. If knowing and being good were easy religion would be superfluous.

Hate just wears these things to pretend it is equal to real systems of thought. It's pretty obvious when you see how when confronted with superior arguments rather than change their conclusion (hate) they usually just change their justifying system.
posted by srboisvert at 7:20 PM on April 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


Their conclusion was that as long as most of these people were against something (religion), without having a firm stance in favor of another system for navigating the world, they would be vulnerable to corruption by reactionary ideologies.

Yes! In contrasting the path I took with those of some other people I know, this is what seems to make the difference.
posted by Jpfed at 7:27 PM on April 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


"Their conclusion was that as long as most of these people were against something (religion), without having a firm stance in favor of another system for navigating the world, they would be vulnerable to corruption by reactionary ideologies. "

Interestingly, this is replicated in some studies of evangelicals who leave the faith; if they're raised as evangelicalism is something AGAINST the world, against secularism, against evolution, against abortion, etc., they're highly likely to leave Christianity entirely when they begin to question evangelical teachings, and become hostile towards religion in general. If they're taught that it's FOR helping the poor, loving one's fellow man, etc. etc., they're somewhat more likely to land in another Christian denomination, and much less likely to end up hostile towards religion in general.

My personal observation of that group would be that the "againsters" are taught that there's only This Way To Be, and when they discover that evolution is real or secularism isn't so bad, they throw away the whole edifice. Whereas the "for" people are more like, "I still believe that protecting vulnerable children is one of the highest moral imperatives, I just no longer believe that blanket opposition to abortion is the way to achieve that." In other words, if you teach people to be "against," they have no way to reorient their moral compass if the against-ness fails. Whereas if people are "for" a thing, it's possible to incorporate a failure of one's earlier beliefs by understanding the moral goal is still good, but the specific choice of how to pursue it is flawed. That's not nearly as threatening.

My other observation (which is also borne out by some studies of why people join and leave religions) is that admitting complexity and doubt is basically always a good thing; when your belief system encourages strict black-and-white thinking, it inevitably fails when it runs up against mushy human issues, and a lot of the "militant atheists" who fall prey to reactionary ideologies are firmly in that camp. They can't accept gray areas, and they can't accept dissent, so more black-and-white ideologies to fill the gray areas are very welcome. (Which is, frankly, also how evangelicals end up racist.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:44 PM on April 20, 2018 [43 favorites]


So like...there’s a dearth of local communities for everybody else, too. This is a thing that’s happened across the board.

And also, um, lots of POC and women are pretty pissed off, at this point? And have much better reasons to be pissed off.

So. Yeah. I don’t know about that.


Young men of color seeking community and purpose have been known to get into destructive shit too - it just tends to end up being more inwardly targeted because, obviously, it's a very different ideology and set of expectations that's available to them.
posted by atoxyl at 7:50 PM on April 20, 2018 [8 favorites]




This guy has a lot to do with it right now, but I think it goes back a lot further than that.

Like, all the way to the beginning of big-L Libertarianism as a movement.

But to expound a little more on what I mean - the Libertarian idea of "freedom" isn't all that coherent and the idea of the self-regulating free market doesn't hold up all that well in practice. Once those ideas start to wear thin, you have to decide whether you are at heart an anti-authoritarian, or a might-makes-right guy.

c.f. Peter Thiel's "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible," or Hoppe's "[we can have the Libertopia after we murder all the communists.]"
posted by atoxyl at 7:58 PM on April 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


From the Atlantic article linked by SansPoint: Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift.

So they didn't stick to church attendance on Sunday and instead tapped into their resentments; whether such resentment originated at those churches in one form or another is not revealed.
posted by Brian B. at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


So like...there’s a dearth of local communities for everybody else, too. This is a thing that’s happened across the board.

And also, um, lots of POC and women are pretty pissed off, at this point? And have much better reasons to be pissed off.

So. Yeah. I don’t know about that.


Absolutely, but young men are also a lot more likely to be raised in a way that precludes a lot of real world socialization that contains deeper emotional interactions. Online interactions allows a combo of anonymity and less consequence for emotional exposure. The anonymity aspect allows for people to offer or be offered much more toxic ideologies than would be allowed in the real world.

Imagine someone trying to recruit for neo-nazi shit on the street vs anonymously over the internet.
posted by Ferreous at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


Throughout history armies have recruited 18-25 year old men because they have a unique combination of lethality, drive and willingness to follow orders. Older men and pretty much all women are less easily controlled and less willing to kill through lack of empathy.

I don't know why this is true and I don't know the solution, but I'm pretty sure it's not connected to how pissed off you are. I also suspect that this is connected to the slightly taboo but oft-observed preference of young women for somewhat older men as partners, and the MUCH higher insurance rates for under-25 drivers.

Given that the anger of susceptible guys in this age range makes them unattractive and sexually frustrated in whatever you call the opposite of a virtuous circle, it doesn't surprise me that misogyny is the typical path of hate-group recruiters, or that Steve Bannon stumbled onto Gamergate in his effort to fleece this demographic through a WOW gold-mining scheme, and turned into a career in what /r/The_Donald calls "weaponized autism."
posted by msalt at 11:46 PM on April 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


CTRL+F "parents"
CTRL+F "family"

Interesting... in these comments and the article these yield nothing. Coming from a redneck town, just about all the white people were racist in that unexamined quasi-religious way that people are when they learn everything from their families. Racist parents have racist kids.

The notion that a person's default state is non-racist and that they have to be indoctrinated is, to me... odd.

Granted, the Internet turns a lot of these "hick" racists into "educated" racists, but they don't have to be fed through a pipeline, they know what they're looking for and it's spread out before them like a banquet.
posted by klanawa at 12:32 AM on April 21, 2018 [10 favorites]


The notion that a person's default state is non-racist and that they have to be indoctrinated is, to me... odd.

When I think about the kind of attitudes that existed in the redneck towns where I've lived...and the non-redneck towns where I've lived...this is not a problem exclusive to redneck towns...

I think it's still useful to talk about this kind of indoctrination. A lot of white people have racist attitudes while still believing that racism is bad and that they aren't racist. These are the kind people who worry about welfare queens taking advantage of social programs, but don't realize that this bothers them so much because it taps into their unconscious racism.

Some of them are consciously racist and cynically hiding it, but I do genuinely think a lot of them are in denial. Challenging those internal attitudes takes self-awareness and self-work.

If they are challenged, there's a couple of directions they can go: They can ignore it and go on thinking what they think (a popular choice). They can change for the better; they can realize their attitudes are racist and work on them. Or, they can find a group that tells them that yes, you're racist but that's okay because racism is right. There's still indoctrination in the latter case, even though it's not starting from zero.

Also, I think one thing that is "new" is the way these groups are recruiting people who aren't socially conservative in the traditional sense. They bundle up racism and misogyny, which still have powerful holds among their demographic - but many of them let go of other conservative bugbears, like homosexuality and drugs. The "white" culture that they hold up as ideal might be, for example, atheist.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:49 AM on April 21, 2018 [19 favorites]


It's Pewdiepie, isn't it?
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:01 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Throughout history armies have recruited 18-25 year old men because they have a unique combination of lethality, drive and willingness to follow orders.

Seems more likely to be tgat only men are considered capable of being useful in combat and young men are the healthiest, strongest and least encumbered by familial obligation.

The destructiveness of angry young men isn’t just about anger, its about anger+entitlement+fearlessnes. Not necessarily the maximum amount of entitlement, but enough to make you confident that if you're angry something is wrong and someone else should pay. Thats why you have angry old men too, and angry old white people in general, watching Fox angrily and angrily voting for Trump.
posted by mrmurbles at 5:17 AM on April 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


This seems relevant here.
posted by eviemath at 5:26 AM on April 21, 2018


The destructiveness of angry young men isn’t just about anger, its about anger+entitlement.

It certainly is - or anger plus [a lot of things that are dangerous about the way men are socialized], anyway. But I didn't think that original comment was supposed to be a justification.

When I think about the kind of attitudes that existed in the redneck towns where I've lived...and the non-redneck towns where I've lived...this is not a problem exclusive to redneck towns...

I always think of the alt-right coming more from the 'burbs but I don't have much formal evidence one way or another. I also tend to think of it as an elevation of "background" white supremacy to an active cause.

Also, I think one thing that is "new" is the way these groups are recruiting people who aren't socially conservative in the traditional sense.

Well, one of the dsiconcerting things is the way they recruit people who are not traditionally socially conservative into being socially conservative. Look at our buddy Jordan Peterson.
posted by atoxyl at 5:27 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I really like exploring weird belief systems, and the communities that uphold them. As a kid who was 15 in 1990, I remember how interesting shocking and "politically incorrect" stuff was to me as a teenage boy.

I'm trying to remember the pathways back then to Nazism and for a teenage metal head there was definitely a musical component, there was the occult/conspiracy angle ... What stuck with me I think was material that seemed to reflect the underlying reality of the society I thought I was in... Things that revealed a truth that the adult world wanted to hide from us.

I guess Howard Stern, Gwar and the Satanic Bible and that type of thing would have opened the door to the same rejection of/suspicion of the metanarrative of pop culture that could morph into a worldview based in hatred and the threat of difference.

I felt at the time like we just wanted to be free of social rules... but so much of it boiled down to license to be the Worst (ie. entitled white shit heads)
posted by ServSci at 5:33 AM on April 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also, I hate that YouTube algorithm. Just because one day I wanted to find out who Faith Goldie is doesn't mean I want all my suggested videos to be full of white supremacist garbage for the next month.
posted by ServSci at 5:42 AM on April 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


It's time to reread Eric Hoffer.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:18 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


And also, um, lots of POC and women are pretty pissed off, at this point? And have much better reasons to be pissed off.

While it's true that this is not a problem unique to young white men, that doesn't make their anger and their loneliness illegitimate. They are still people, they're still hurting and looking for answers. If they hear from people on the left that their pain isn't worth taking seriously, many will look for answers elsewhere.

Young people of all demographics are desperate for acceptance, purpose, and identity. In theory, leftist movements have a lot to offer on these fronts. The fight for justice and equality should by definition be inclusive and meaningful work, it should make people feel good about who they are and what they're helping to achieve. In practice, I'm not so sure that's the case, especially online.
posted by Kilter at 6:32 AM on April 21, 2018 [13 favorites]


The point was that POC and women have more reasons to be angry, but for some reason have not become radicalized terrorists. It’s not the anger that’s the problem.

And also...I think this is a complex topic with lots of nuance, but it is definitely not the case that all grievances are legitimate. That women don’t want to fuck you is not a legitimate grievance. That you were never forced to learn how to regulate your own emotions is not a legitimate grievance. Part of developing emotional maturity is realizing that your feelings are not necessarily someone else’s problem, that your problems aren’t always important, and that you are not always entitled to be heard. It’s the nuance, the complexity, and the context-dependence that makes this difficult, but it’s just part of emotional maturity.

And at a certain point you become responsible for being who you are. No one taught me any of that stuff; my family of origin was pretty neglectful in their own unique way (as many families are). I’ve had to learn what I know so far on my own, either by being beaten up by the world for not knowing it already, or because I realized I was not who I wanted to be and I wanted to change. This process is ongoing. In fact I think it’s a lifelong practice. You don’t ever get to be like, “ah yes, I have my certificate of wokeness, I can stop now.” You never should stop trying to practice introspection, humility, compassion and empathy, nor should you stop listening to people when they tell you what their lives are like. You’ll fuck up a bunch, but you never stop.

Anyway. Treating these men as poor wounded little souls just enables their entitlement by validating it. It’s literally treating them like privileged children. They are not children. I am all for accepting people into the not-deplorable fold, but they have to do the work themselves to get there. And they won’t get there all at once! There will be people and groups who can’t accept them for a long time, bc that work is hard and it takes a while and in the meantime they won’t be safe to be around. But they still have to do the work themselves, in the end. No one else can do it for them.

I do think there’s a pragmatic question about how to best deal with these men in aggregate. But that is not the same as legitimizing their grievances or, perhaps more accurately, their coping methods.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:55 AM on April 21, 2018 [31 favorites]


It's weird that people feel the need for there to be a complicated path to hate.

It's worth studying this instead of just saying "racists gonna be racist" because the people described in this article are not just ordinary white supremacists. This isn't just casual racism that leads to unconscious bias in the workplace or the occasional harmful joke. These are people who have so committed to the ideology of white supremacy that they are spending their free time focused on it, actively looking to spread the ideology, and in many cases using violent direct action. They are not being lazy about it but instead working against humans' natural laziness to take action because they have become so convinced by these ideas.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


I have to admit I get a bit impatient when I hear that the alt-right movement is caused by young men lacking a sense of meaning and purpose and identity and this is because of failures of [the left / society / their mothers] to supply them with one. I do have some sympathy for the argument, on a systemic level—something has gone wrong, with the atomisation of society and the decimation of an economic model that provided more security to their demographic (and mine)—but it also irritates me somehow.

I think my annoyance is with the passivity of the young men in this story. There seems to be an implicit assumption that conceptions of meaning and purpose and identity are consumer goods, and the just versions need to be attractively packaged and sold at competitive prices in order to keep the target demographic from buying into the inferior but cheaper and flashier fascist product. Come on. Individuals have some responsibility for the meanings they choose to impose on their lives. It is my moral responsibility to reject the attractions of hatred and contempt and to embrace the more difficult and scary values of compassion and empathy. I can’t say no one marketed kindness to me at a cheap rate, it looked difficult and depressing and endlessly demanding, so I picked contempt instead and now that’s not my fault, it’s the fault of the adherents of kindess for not marketing it in a more appealing way. The same is true for these guys. Yes, there’s are many systemic social and economic problems that make life harder for their / our generation, but no, they are not pure victims of our failure to make them feel good about social justice.
posted by Aravis76 at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


The "lack of community" theory of radicalization also needs to explain why THIS community. I lean towards thinking a need for community is part of the issue, but we need to identify why the community they choose is white supremacy and not, say, bronies or a fantasy football league.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:04 AM on April 21, 2018 [11 favorites]


Well, one of the dsiconcerting things is the way they recruit people who are not traditionally socially conservative into being socially conservative. Look at our buddy Jordan Peterson.

I get the impression that our buddy Jordan Peterson was always socially conservative, regardless of whatever his party politics might have been at various points in his past (though I think I read that he's been a Conservative for at least quite a while, if not more-or-less lifetime?). Like, this idea he has that women are agents of chaos, and his associated fear of disorder, was kind of always there from what I can tell, long before he realized he could capitalize on it with white supremacists and such.
posted by eviemath at 7:18 AM on April 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yes, there’s are many systemic social and economic problems that make life harder for their / our generation, but no, they are not pure victims of our failure to make them feel good about social justice.

It's a fair point, and certainly the blame for right wing radicalization rests squarely on the shoulders of the right wing radicalizers and those self-absorbed and hateful enough to follow them.

Regardless, it's a problem that needs to be solved, and as far as I can see, the methods available for solving it are (a) restricting / drowning out the speech of the would-be radicalizers and/or (b) finding ways to redirect their followers and potential followers to other, less-toxic paths.

Personally, I think (b) is more interesting and more likely to be successful in the long term, but it does probably involve a certain amount of coddling.

...it is definitely not the case that all grievances are legitimate. That women don’t want to fuck you is not a legitimate grievance. That you were never forced to learn how to regulate your own emotions is not a legitimate grievance.

There's a distinction to be made between legitimating grievances and acknowledging the pain that underlies those grievances. If you can't get laid, then hell no you shouldn't blame women for that. But to feel frustrated, rejected, and angry under those circumstances doesn't make you a monster, it makes you human.

From what I've seen, Dr. Nerdlove is someone who does a good job of walking that line, taking seriously the pain of being a young nerdy guy who just wants to get laid, while also communicating strong empathy and respect for women. While it's a narrow message for a narrow audience, I think it's also hugely valuable.
posted by Kilter at 7:56 AM on April 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


^ Also, I hate that YouTube algorithm. Just because one day I wanted to find out who Faith Goldie is doesn't mean I want all my suggested videos to be full of white supremacist garbage for the next month.

This is such a good point that isn't brought up nearly enough when we talk about how "online" affects people's ideology. Someone engages once with one of these far right videos or posts or figures, for whatever reason, and then the platform's algorithms do an excellent job of setting up an immersive path forward in that same direction.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2018 [35 favorites]


That women don’t want to fuck you is not a legitimate grievance. That you were never forced to learn how to regulate your own emotions is not a legitimate grievance.

I think...it kind of depends on how we are defining grievance, right? Because while no one is entitled to sex, intimate connection is also an innate human need, and people without the ability to get that need met do have legitimate unhappiness. And this is a problem we see also with non-white dudes - a lot of people have less chance of getting their intimate needs met because of race, or physical appearance, and it will possibly always be the case for the rest of their life and that is actually sad. And having unregulated emotions is actually hell to live with - as a mom, I can say it’s super hard for kids and they have a lot of unhappiness until they learn to do so.

I think the fact that you have grown, destructive men who don’t know how to manage their feelings about tough situations is a huge fucking problem, but I don’t think that makes the feelings illegitimate, just the expression of those feelings.

At the same time, it’s frustrating as fuck, because one of the things that has fed those feelings and made them worse is toxic entitlement, and the men themselves aren’t even usually aware of the correct place to lay blame - they blame women for not fucking them and giving them emotional intimacy, not society for failing to teach them how to manage emotions.

And it’s also kind of frustrating, because they are definitely the most dangerous-to-others group, which means those emotions have to be dealt with, but they’re definitely not the most hurt or victimized group, which means for our own safety we may wind up prioritizing them and their problems again, which doesn’t feel fair at all. I feel you. This problem is really fucking hard.
posted by corb at 9:00 AM on April 21, 2018 [17 favorites]


I think...it kind of depends on how we are defining grievance, right? Because while no one is entitled to sex, intimate connection is also an innate human need, and people without the ability to get that need met do have legitimate unhappiness.

I think the semantic difference between a grievance and a source of unhappiness is centrally important here. A grievance is a complaint that one has been treated unfairly—I have a grievance if someone has violated my rights, or harmed me in some way, and the characterisation of something that’s happened to me as a grievance implies that I have a right to redress.

People who lack intimate connection may reasonably be unhappy, but they only have a grievance if someone is unfairly depriving them of (opportunities for) intimate connection. Miscegnation laws in the US were a legitimate grievance because the law was unfairly stopping people from seeking intimate connection with people of other races (and refusing to allow them to cement those connections that they had formed in marriage). “No one wants to date me”, by contrast, is a legitimate source of sadness, but I don’t see how it’s a grievance in the same way. If we think of Victorian spinsters, or “left over women” in China, no one has ever suggested they are or were wronged just by virtue of men not marrying them; the problem is and was the loss of other opportunities and the undeserved social stigma, not the fact that society failed to supply a husband. Why are young men different from young women on this issue?

I think the broad point is that “needs” are connected to “rights” in quite a limited way. I can make an argument for the state supplying some of my needs—education, housing, healthcare, food—because I am unable to act freely in the world, and exercise my other rights, unless those needs are met. I may feel some other needs are equally pressing—needs for intimate connection, or friendship, or rewarding work, or spiritual practice, or emotional regulation skills—but it’s almost built into the structure of those needs that only my personal effort can fulfil them. No state or social organisation can give me friends, since the need of friendship is the need of making friends, which is an active practice and not something that can just be handed to me in a shop. It’s reasonable to say that we need a society that creates space, and opportunities, for people to form social connections but I don’t see that the middle-class white young men who populate 4chan are specially deprived of that space in our society. It’s true that some of them decline to do the work, and prefer to form easier and more toxic social connections built around hatred for others. This may be because young men in our society have fewer chances to learn the skills needed to make relationships. It may also be that they have more freedom to opt out of forming those skills—which are difficult and demanding, as well as rewarding—than people who are systemically disadvantaged do. Or actually they may have those skills, have full and rewarding social lives offline, and still prefer the rewards of hatred. They are morally blameworthy either way. If you react to a situation of deprivation and unhappiness by actively hating and harming other people, that is a morally wrong choice and your own personal individual fault. Victorian spinsters were in an awful social situation, but that doesn’t mean it would have been understandable and excusable for them to beat their servants.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:42 AM on April 21, 2018 [15 favorites]


And just to add, on solutions—I don’t think figuring out how to make white supremacists feel better about their lives is the only route we have to dealing with this stuff. I think, for instance, better regulation of the internet and pressure on advertisers who make money off this content is a promising route. If the US could reconsider its position on the prosecution of hate speech, and slide a bit closer to the European position, that would also help. In general, I think legal and regulatory routes are more promising than treating white supremacist political opinions therapeutically.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:51 AM on April 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


That women don’t want to fuck you is not a legitimate grievance. That you were never forced to learn how to regulate your own emotions is not a legitimate grievance.

and

I think the fact that you have grown, destructive men who don’t know how to manage their feelings about tough situations is a huge fucking problem, but I don’t think that makes the feelings illegitimate, just the expression of those feelings.

At the same time, it’s frustrating as fuck, because one of the things that has fed those feelings and made them worse is toxic entitlement, and the men themselves aren’t even usually aware of the correct place to lay blame - they blame women for not fucking them and giving them emotional intimacy, not society for failing to teach them how to manage emotions.


I had a relevant conversation with a friend a couple weeks ago. He mentioned that in a group of other guys he hangs out with (related to a hobby that is traditionally pretty male-dominated), many complain about now feeling more worried that there will be social and economic/job-related consequences for their choices around dating (specifically, how they choose to interact with women) where there didn't used to be. I pointed out that women have been experiencing social and economic consequences for our dating-related choices (including ones that don't involve being assholes to anyone) for always, though don't necessarily focus on that or talk about it as much because of the more immediate problem of the danger of physical violence in our romantic relationships.

So, there's this problem in how our culture conditions men and women (*) to relate to each other. And women have been experiencing it as a problem for a long time, and trying to bring that up to men, and have largely been ignored by a majority of men. Now this problem is also sort of starting to become men's problem in some cases too, as women get a little more societal power and gain at least some ability to ensure that there are consequences for some bad enough actions for some people. *And the related, even larger problem of how everyone else relates to those of either gender who are not strongly cis-gendered.

Fortunately, because this has been a problem for women (and trans or gender-queer folks) for a very long time, we've also thought a lot about it and come up with a variety of solutions! (Namely, feminist ideas about relationship structure, consent, etc.) Feminists (of all genders) have been trying to put forth these solutions again as more men are realizing that there is a problem.

Unfortunately, just because more men are realizing that there is a problem, doesn't mean that they've correctly identified the problem yet. In particular, although the status of women has gotten a little bit better, we still live in a patriarchal culture which largely still does not take feminism seriously. So in their search for definition of the problem they are now experiencing and for solutions, these men are specifically steered away from feminist explanations and solutions, despite the hard work of many feminists.

It's like, suppose you've been trying to tell your supervisors at work about a problem for years now, and you've even come up with suggested solutions to the problem, but they haven't seen that the problem you see is actually a problem yet. Until something happens and they do, but they are so accustomed to ignoring you and thinking that you bringing up this problem is an annoying distraction that their response is mostly to blame you as the messenger, and they still haven't gotten to the point where they can listen to your solutions to this problem (in part because they still don't understand the nature of the problem, since they're only just coming to understand that there is a problem).

So instead of listening to your well-thought-out solutions, some of your supervisors jump on some stupid idea that happens to be in the news lately, that involves some to-them reassuringly familiar management speak or something. Which is of course related to what got your company into the problem in the first place, but they are still trying to stay in that state of denial of the very existence of a problem, so they aren't thinking too deeply about that. And they get upset with you in a blame-the-messenger sort of way, on top of jumping on entirely counterproductive "solutions" to the problem. Other supervisors see that this purported solution that the first group of supervisors have latched on to is going to be a counter-productive approach to the problem and actively harmful for the company, but they also are still a little bit in denial about the existence of the problem and not fully understanding what it is, so what they latch on to is complaining about why you haven't solved the problem already, before it became "their" problem, if you've known about it for so long.

Now, of course an "ideal" employee would calmly continue to try to work for the best interests of the company and continue to work on making their supervisors understand the actual shape of the problem as well as the actual solutions that will actually solve the problem. But a real human being will be getting pretty fed up and angry at this point, and is quite likely to say stuff that comes across to outsiders or to the supervisors as, oh I dunno, petty or something. Stuff like, "no shit Sherlock, I've been telling you for years that this is a problem," or "this is your fucking problem; I quit." In fact, if this were an AskMe post, quitting post haste and leaving the company to deal with the problem themselves is likely exactly what we would overwhelmingly be advising the employee in this sort of a situation to do. We'd probably also label it a toxic or abusive workplace. And we wouldn't be wrong in that.

Unfortunately, we can't quit society in quite the same way. But I think it's important to:

(a) have compassion for the frustrated response of those of us who have been trying for a long time both to convince others that there is a problem and to explain the solutions, for whom hearing ourselves blamed for the problem from some folks, and hearing others imply that we haven't been doing enough to solve the problem is kind of the last straw; and

(b) understand very clearly that solutions to the problem exist, but that the obstacles to the majority of people learning about and understanding the solutions are themselves part of the problem, not obstacles from those who first noticed or were first affected by the problem.

In particular: feminism has solutions for the gender and sexual/romantic or family relationship structures that more of society are just noticing are problematic. The obstacle to people learning about, understanding, or implementing these solutions is that we still live in a patriarchal society that by and large still ignores or denigrates feminism. Anti-racist activists and theorists have solutions for our cultural problems around race. The obstacle to people learning about, understanding, or implementing these solutions is that we still live in a very racist society that by and large still ignores or denigrates racialized voices. Various leftist strains of thought (anarcho-communism being my particular choice) have solutions for the atomization, lack of community, or lack of belonging or purpose that many people feel in late-stage capitalism. The obstacle to people learning about, understanding, or implementing these solutions is capitalism itself.

Of course - along with acknowledging our frustration and anger about being blamed for the very problems we've been the most affected by, or being blamed for not solving those problems already when we've been trying to hard to do just that, and taking care of each other around that - activists are also having strategic discussions about how the new societal awareness that there at least is some sort of problem will change our strategies in explaining the nature of the problem and potential effective or reasonable solutions. I've been a part of such discussions in a couple different areas, for example. If you haven't and you are wondering why "someone" isn't doing more to help vulnerable people (young white straight cis men or whatever) see, for example, the alternative ways to develop a sense of community and purpose that don't involve white supremacy, remember that you are "someone"! You can do some reading and educate yourself about the many better solutions that have been proposed, and then you can work to steer young white men away from white supremacy, or whatever issue you have a connection to and thus the motivation and energy to work on!
posted by eviemath at 10:00 AM on April 21, 2018 [21 favorites]


If the US could reconsider its position on the prosecution of hate speech, and slide a bit closer to the European position, that would also help.

It might but the far right has been on the rise in Europe as well.

But I suppose really it's a good idea to distinguish between different kinds of far-right, though. It's pretty easy to identify material factors behind the rise of the proverbial rural West Virginia Trump voter. 4chan kids - let alone neoreactionary software engineers - are obviously something a little different.
posted by atoxyl at 10:46 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Regardless, it's a problem that needs to be solved, and as far as I can see, the methods available for solving it are (a) restricting / drowning out the speech of the would-be radicalizers and/or (b) finding ways to redirect their followers and potential followers to other, less-toxic paths.

A third option would be to deprogram those who are brainwashed through guilt and the psychological need to express their self-righteousness, a conditioning that is surprisingly dogma neutral (relying more on cloistering and identity). Their search for eternal truth resulted in their idealism being used against them by hidden organizers, goading them into blaming the world for not being perfect. This process began with their disillusionment or personal failings, then misled into volunteering to fix the world by imposing a simple-minded, superficial order. This is enabled by their blindness to centralized power, as it has maintained itself since feudalism, whether religious, political or economic. Some confusion may arise when idealists flock to opposing sides, as if vying for the control of the same hegemony, because control methods are surprisingly dogma neutral.
posted by Brian B. at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


The far right is on the rise in Europe, and I certainly don’t think hate speech laws are the only or even the main solution. They can be part of the solution, though—one reason why the far right is on the rise globally is because the internet makes it so much easier for people and organisations based in jurisdictions with far laxer laws (like the US) to spread their views. That’s one instance of the general problems of global governance at the moment—a kind of regulatiory ‘race to the bottom’ when it comes to speech.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:09 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]



The destructiveness of angry young men isn’t just about anger, its about anger+entitlement+fearlessness

but mostly, more than any of that except entitlement, and as the comment you quote makes a point of, the willingness and the positive desire to follow orders and be told what to think. to have slogans, armbands, group haircuts, uniforms, a boss. like the JP-loving boys don't just love a philosophy that encourages them to feel superior to others; there's a million of those already pre-made and JP's just sampling their greatest hits, not writing new ones. what they love is an authority figure who's speaking right in their ear. and they love it so much they will project strength and dominance onto any weepy weedy weakling who says he's got it, if he happens to be lucky and in line with the style of the times.

they aren't fearless, that's laughable. they will even admit their fears when they think they're in a safe space where only their fellows are listening (i.e. on reddit, right out in public.) they aren't mostly brave and don't have to be to be useful; if you're young enough, you can do through stupidity or depression what requires real courage in adulthood.


[different comment] Online interactions allows a combo of anonymity and less consequence for emotional exposure. The anonymity aspect allows for people to offer or be offered much more toxic ideologies than would be allowed in the real world.

blaming isolation is really offensive considering all the women I've known or known of who grew up with mostly online friends, if any. they're plenty weird and socially maladjusted (no offense to any reading, etc.) but none of them were radicalized because of it, or have the combination of stupid gullibility and submissive pleading for dominant male authority that heterosexual boys and men so frequently do.

part of that is because women just aren't desirable recruits to a lot of hateful leaders, I 'm sure some could have been converted if anyone had tried. but not all of it is that. plenty of women are bigots, plenty of women are dumb. but women don't have this unquenchable thirst to be at the bottom of a pyramid with tens of thousands of identical sisters all chanting the same bullshit in unison and a few strongadults standing on top of them.

I am a feminist and a scholar, so I blame it all on socialization. specifically, I think women and girls who aren't surfeited with and sick of being bossed around and told what to think by the time they reach the age of danger are so rare as to be anomalies; I think men and women equally hunger for what they've never known, and that is why as a group and as a class, girls are free-thinkers and rebels and boys are conformists and cowards. I don't think we're necessarily born that way; I reject that easy explanation no matter how flattering it is to me and my kind. I think the more empathy and fear and subservience and nuance and sympathy and deference we as a society show to men-on-the-scary-edge, the more they will yearn and hunger for a Jordan/RichardSpencer/Adolf figure to bellow idiot noise at them. a little harshness from intelligent people may save them from this insatiable desire to receive it from monsters.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:07 PM on April 21, 2018 [13 favorites]


I have a college buddy that ended up in the alt-right. We were both Dawkins-ian vocally-atheist libertarians at the time. He entered the funnel, I didn't. I figure it's my job, as a very privileged person, to try to connect with him and pull him back.

It's weird. In 2015, he was gobsmacked that his fellow libertarians reliably voted with Republicans, which he recognized as being more essentially authoritarian. He was a vegan, so he wasn't devoid of empathy or anything. But by the next year there was a rightward cultural surge that somehow swept him up. His hatred of religion in general was redirected to a hatred of Islam in particular, and that put him in alliance with deeply unsavory people.

And like Kitty Stardust said, he was ultimately manipulated because it was so important for him to be against religion. And I can't think of anything that he is for. I'm really glad she put it that way because maybe I can get somewhere with him using those ideas.
posted by Jpfed at 8:26 PM on April 21, 2018 [12 favorites]


I am so, so glad that my atheism originated with Terry Pratchett's genial, gently mocking secular humanist ideology as expressed in his fiction and not in the darker corners of the web.
posted by Scattercat at 12:17 AM on April 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


I am so, so glad that my atheism originated with...

Good point. I still remember back in the Soviet era when atheists were called communists and, during Reagan, one was expected to explain their claims to be Democrat with caveats about not being communist or atheist. I even remember people claiming to be Democrat-but-not-liberal out of sense of loyalty to the New Deal or dad's union days. Even as the internet was emerging "liberal" was a loaded word, thanks to religious attitudes. On the flip side, the idea that libertarianism owns atheism is somewhat interesting, but misses the point that most libertarians were already steeped in conservative philosophy and rebelliously joined a cultish expression of purified self-interest, which joyously left out the family baggage and bible science. The bottom line is that childhood theism usually requires recovery, because of the robbed sense of modesty about the self and the world at large (from once having all the answers to life as a cross to bear, everyone else mere heathens). If this recovery to modesty is never started, one often transfers those ego-driven attitudes to other movements and cults that do the same thing, too often self-medicating along the way. I note that genes play a role in this too, which makes anecdotal experiences difficult to measure by.
posted by Brian B. at 9:29 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


feminism has solutions for the gender and sexual/romantic or family relationship structures that more of society are just noticing are problematic. The obstacle to people learning about, understanding, or implementing these solutions is that we still live in a patriarchal society that by and large still ignores or denigrates feminism

So I think - while we have definitely come up with a variety of solutions, I'm not sure we can say that the solutions are all actual solutions for the problem, right? Like they are usually a net good, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are solutions.

Like, boy do I love me some feminist family relationship structures, but if you look briefly over at the marriage thread it becomes clear that we don't actually have solutions that solve the problem, we have analysis of the causes of the problems. And we say 'well it will be better when the men are better' but in many ways that seems like wishful thinking.

Feminism has answers for how to be better humans and how to treat each other better, but I don't know that it has good solutions for 'the problem of human loneliness and disconnection' even for women, much less for men.
posted by corb at 9:43 AM on April 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was nodding along, all "yeah. Yeah, that's right! I'm gonna favorite this comment!

And then there was the non sequitur ending:
I note that genes play a role in this too, which makes anecdotal experiences difficult to measure by.
posted by eviemath at 10:00 AM on April 22, 2018


And then there was the non sequitur ending:

Genes wasn't my conclusion, merely a caution to the anecdotal drift of this thread, which I was responding to, specifically this non-sequitur: unknown>libertarianism>atheism>anti-Islam>alt-right, therefore atheism bad. Regardless, I can't think of any pathology like this where genes aren't involved, which doesn't exclude experiences, but is why so many differences emerge and complicate things, especially with partial timelines and people targeting a non-belief as the culprit. The latter presumes that humans are naturally evil without dogma, when it can be shown to be otherwise.
posted by Brian B. at 10:32 AM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Atheism isn’t the problem. There is a version of anti-theism which is more about being anti-religion than strongly pro-(some other ethical framework) and that tends, unfortunately, towards a kind destructive nihilism.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:54 AM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


His hatred of religion in general was redirected to a hatred of Islam in particular, and that put him in alliance with deeply unsavory people.

The pre-Gamergate trajectory of the alt-right runs through movement atheism in ways that I think have been under-reported and under-appreciated. The misogyny part gets a little bit of play when people remember to mention Elevatorgate in their GG histories, but the virulently Islamophobic tendency in post-9/11 atheism (viz. Harris and Hitchens; Dawkins joined them when he saw where the bread was buttered) doesn't get as much attention as it deserves.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:01 AM on April 22, 2018 [13 favorites]


that tends, unfortunately, towards a kind destructive nihilism.

They are typically promoting themselves, their culture, and their race, above all others, implying a winner-loser paradigm that was a foundation of slavery. One may have better luck tracing where their families were from four generations ago. My bet is mostly rural, many from the southern US.
posted by Brian B. at 11:04 AM on April 22, 2018


I find it strange that online anonymity encourages ideological conformity, intuitively you'd expect the opposite, wouldn't you?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:26 PM on April 22, 2018


I am a feminist and a scholar, so I blame it all on socialization. specifically, I think women and girls who aren't surfeited with and sick of being bossed around and told what to think by the time they reach the age of danger are so rare as to be anomalies;

I assume you mean, bossed around by men and boys? But I wonder if exposure to junior high pettiness of the "mean girls" variety also inoculates women to some of the dangers of toxic groupthink at an earlier, less dangerous age.

There are, of course, a number of alt-right women but many, many fewer than the men.
posted by msalt at 9:41 PM on April 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


One may have better luck tracing where their families were from four generations ago. My bet is mostly rural, many from the southern US.

I don’t really care where anyone’s family was from, four generations ago; I care what they themselves have chosen to believe now. Even my dad’s belief-system is in no way a predictor of my own, and I think that’s a function of my free choices and not a genetic mutation. I assume the same is true for young men who have abandoned their families’ mild bigotry or liberalism in favour of full neo-Nazi hatred, wherever they come from.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:32 PM on April 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


corb, the article linked in that thread just brushes the surface. I still haven't read it myself, but from the comments in the thread, it sounds like the article author might not themself be fully aware of past thought and research on the topic? It's hard to say, because, like, I know that there's plenty I still don't know about stuff I support, like ending racism, and sometimes I notice I have a reaction of "well, that won't work/isn't well thought out" to things where, on digging, I realize that I'm the not very well-informed party. So, for example, I saw lots of comments in that thread that were very well-intentioned, but that were worrying about issues that have already been though of and addressed by, eg., the book I posted a link to in the thread. So possibly other commenters were missing those links in the article.

I've been on the other side of that, too. I was on a panel a few years ago where I posited that the common framework of individual rights and communal interest being necessarily in opposition was incorrect - that although we commonly do think of communal interest in ways that infringe upon individual rights as those are also commonly conceived, that humans need a supportive community in order to have the sort of basic security required for healthy self-actualization; and of course communities are comprised of individuals despite also having emergent properties that make communities more than just a collection of atomized individuals. It was a panel about the relationship between Marxism and anarchism, and although my points seemed both obvious to me (based on my lived experience combined with the little bit of theory I've read) and obvious in their relevance to the panel as helping to better define what we mean by anarchism, they were largely ignored by the other panelists. The organizer remarked later though that it had taken him a while to understand what I was saying, and that he thought I had made a really important point that the panel should have engaged with. The organizer and all the other panelists and audience are long-time leftists whom I respect, have learned other stuff from, and who I believe share many of the same basic values as myself - the point of this anecdote is that even in that situation there was this idea that they didn't disagree with but also didn't fully get at the time, that I think is an important and powerful idea. As welk, although none of the components of my remarks were my own new ideas - all of the details came from other folks before me - I hadn't seen that specific connection made explicitly before. But a few months, I learned that I had merely re-discovered ideas around relational autonomy that others had already been thinking about and articulating. So in this anecdote, even I had a bunch to learn!

On feminist relationship stuff in particular, I strongly recommend bell hooks' "All About Love" as an excellent start. (From past threads, I suspect that you, corb, are probably already familiar with the book. This is a general recommendation for everyone.) But the whole point of this comment of course is to encourage everyone to dig deeper, beyond even one book recommendation!
posted by eviemath at 6:57 AM on April 23, 2018


Yeah, Brian B., like Aravis96 points out, you seem to be claiming that socio-political viewpoints are genetically inherited? This is clearly and demonstrably incorrect, and also completely irrelevant to the discussion. Thus my puzzlement.
posted by eviemath at 7:03 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Aravis76: I care what they themselves have chosen to believe now.

eviemath: you seem to be claiming that socio-political viewpoints are genetically inherited?

They didn't choose their race, culture or personality, yet they are obsessively/compulsively shoving it down everyone's throat. If its an abnormal psychology, then it would likely be genetically influenced. If its just a choice, then we are normalizing anti-social behavior. If it is so normal to us that way, then we should examine whether our choices are in fact not the norm. It is a good bet that genetics would likely determine any extreme or compulsive behavior within an otherwise normal choice-based society. Traditions would likely determine which culture an obsessed person might "choose" to enforce on the rest of us. If some of us are tradition-free enough to choose fresh, we probably shouldn't assume everyone was raised that way, or that everyone is mentally healthy in an old but unhealthy tradition.
posted by Brian B. at 7:23 AM on April 23, 2018


It is a good bet that genetics would likely determine any extreme or compulsive behavior within an otherwise normal choice-based society

Societies where you get to roughly choose how you live, and where racial and gender-based hierarchies are not shoved down your throat by law, are a pretty recent human phenomenon and the legal and social structures that enable such societies to sort-of exist were achieved over a couple of centuries of painful effort. It’s really unlikely that they represent the genetic human norm and that these guys, who want us to reinstate all the old hierarchies, are some kind of mutant species among us—as opposed to people making the free and mistaken ethical choice of preferring the old order.
posted by Aravis76 at 7:31 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


What Aravis76 said. Also, in addition to being incorrect, Brian B., your arguments are potentially harmful in that they could support alt-right arguments for affirmative action for "viewpoint diversity" - that is, for thinking of conservatism as worthy of being a protected class in, eg. university admissions and hiring in the same way that actual non-chosen traits like gender, sexuality, race, or did/ability are.
posted by eviemath at 8:56 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


(Edit: dis/ability. Autocorrect does not like that slash.)
posted by eviemath at 9:17 AM on April 23, 2018


I think about this pipeline a lot. In '08 I read Ron Paul for the first time and a light seemed to click on for me in terms of politics. I got real heavy into Libertarianism and then moved on to Mises and Rothbard and was a full AnCap by 2010. I have always been an optimistic guy. I thought "here is an ideology that I believe will help ALL people, why is it not talked about more". I got tired of seeing and hearing Old white men use the AnCap platform to complain about being old and white. in 2011 I went to a Mises Conference in Houston, TX. There were 6 women and maybe 4 PoC out of a room of 200. I remember coming away from that conference wishing that it was more diverse and less of an echo chamber.
A friend of mine came with me to that conference. We had a great time in general and I loved the discussions about economics and "liberty" that came from it. 5 years later my friend followed that pipeline to the alt-right. I did not. There was no "fork in the road" moment for me, it just seemed that the logical conclusion to AnCap was NOT the alt-right. But maybe I'm wrong and I'm just lucky to not have traveled down his same path.
posted by GreatValhalla at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I kind wonder if the fact that the skeptics/atheists (I know they are not exactly the same, but there is a large amount of overlap) kind of won on the issues they actually cared about against the religious right made it so that they no longer viewed them as the enemy. Kitzmiller v. Dover killed any really organized teaching of creationism or creationism lite in the public schools. Gay marriage is legal across the US. Supernatural healing powers are now seen in the media as something that granola loving hippies talk about with being anti-vaccine and against regular medical care instead of the ministers running giant revivals and healing everyone in the audience. Stem cell research didn't pan out the way that people had hoped and the ban on funding vanished with Obama. The evangelical politicians these days are all about issues that require some finesse- abortion/contraception, opposing trans rights, and dismantling anti-discrimination protections. The other low-hanging fruits have been grabbed as well- UFO stuff is incredibly fringe, ghost hunting is a joke show, claims about cryptozoological animals do not make it into the general media (the Weekly World News is much missed), and while there are plenty of people who believe in astrology and other forms of divination, no one is trying to dictate policy with it.

The atheists/skeptics are used to seeing themselves as the embittered minority. I don't know the current polls, but even during the heyday of the worst Islamaphobia or the 00s, atheists were considered less trustworthy than Muslims. After Columbine, there was talk about how taking prayer out of schools had caused this. It seemed that alternative medicine was showing up everwhere and Orin Hatch was one of the biggest boosters of it (he still is, after all Utah produces a great number of "dietary supplements").

These days, alternative medicine is seen as something that rich, left wing, women with more money than sense do. Goop being super popular, Jenny McCarthy as an anti-vaccine crusader (she hasn't said anything about them in ages, but she's still seen as the face by many in the community), combined with the whole tech-bro mentality (which has filtered down) has made liberal women a target. Add in Gamergate, the Puppies, and all the other toxic shit in the geek sphere and you get a breeding ground for misogynistic conspiracies. Add in the racism of some of the heroes of the movement (Dawkins and Harris and to a lesser degree Hitchens), accompanied by what seems to be an unexamined championing of people like Charles Murray (Contrast this with the Skeptic magazine from 1995, right after he published The Bell Curve. There is a single article defending the book, but the rest addressing it are either pointing out flaws or unknown (the interview with Sternberg).)

I've written before about how I left the Skeptics movement out of a feeling of it not doing anything. Watching it turn on the women who were members and the backlash to people being called out for harassment of both the sexual and ethnic varieties has really been disheartening. Did I really think buying Dawkin's The God Delusion was a positive step for my mental development? Watching them turn into just another wing of the alt-right makes me realize that I really did leave at the right time.
posted by Hactar at 11:35 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


This article is far from the first to notice links between big "L" libertarianism and racism.
A quick google gives me: The White Supremacist Roots of America's Libertarian Right, Libertarianism is for White Men, Exposing the Racist History of Libertarianism and Murray Rothbard (in Business Insider, of all outlets), Black Liberty Matters, and The White Supremacist Origins of Public Choice Theory.

I don't know what it looks like from inside movement Libertarianism--anecdotally, the only self-identified Libertarians I've ever encountered were white men with inherited wealth--but from out here, it looks a lot like the same system of prioritizing wealthy white men that we've always been under.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:41 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Hactar: It's tricky, because depending on who you ask and where you look, you find statistics saying that young people are leaving organized religion in droves, and yet becoming more spiritual than their parents. Or, that they're joining organized religion in droves. I can't be sure.

I do know that among my generational cohort, and somewhat younger, there is a strong uptick in interest in alternative spirituality and related things, be it astrology, tarot, or outright paganism. (My partner was a member of the OTO for a while, and there's a significant enough pagan community in NYC to keep several Occult Shops up and running, including a new-ish one in Bushwick.)

As an atheist, I can't say I get it, but I do think there's something that these things are providing people that straight up, no-chaser atheism isn't providing. Nor, if you look at New Atheism, does it want to provide. New Atheism's utter disinterest in any sort of community-building, combined with their disdain of all things philosophical creates an utterly despondent worldview that has no joy, no spark, nothing but Cold Hard Rationality. Or, rather, what a bunch of crotchety old white men consider to be Cold Hard Rationality, because they can't see past their own innate biases.
posted by SansPoint at 11:51 AM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, in addition to being incorrect, Brian B., your arguments are potentially harmful in that they could support alt-right arguments for affirmative action for "viewpoint diversity"

Or it may fund a fix for the anti-social behavior, which more studies link to genes, which only makes sense, since abnormal behavior is likely caused by something other than normal genes within same environments. I note that your affirmative action concerns only makes sense if one were to normalize their aggression, which is what I am not doing.
posted by Brian B. at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2018


A big reason that New Atheism started pushing out all the women was that a lot of the folks trying to push atheism into being about something were women. The nihilism was obviously the whole point for a lot of the men in that "community".
posted by tobascodagama at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


tobascodagama: I'm shocked! Shocked!

... Well, not that shocked.
posted by SansPoint at 12:26 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


SansPoint: I feel like this is an opportunity for secular humanists to do something, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of them. I don't know if it's that organizations like the American Humanist Association are just too small to gain attention or if they just don't make it into the news.
posted by Hactar at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hactar: Unfortunately, the secular humanists are up against a media ecosystem where what gets attention is what gets people angry and riled up, which is something the New Atheists figureheads are really good at doing. See also the recent fracas with Sam Harris.
posted by SansPoint at 12:59 PM on April 23, 2018


My wife reads some Catholic forums and she was telling me how among the more right-wing members there's this romantization of the crusades and talks about how muslims need to be defeated and "western culture preserved." It's very troubling.
posted by drezdn at 1:07 PM on April 23, 2018


These days, alternative medicine is seen as something that rich, left wing, women with more money than sense do.
And right-wing, anti-government Alex Jones types, based on strong anti-intellectualism, mistrust of anything that could be considered "mainstream," and basic magical thinking.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:08 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I note that your affirmative action concerns only makes sense if one were to normalize their aggression, which is what I am not doing.

My concerns are based off of actual alt righters actually arguing for affirmative action in academic contexts for people holding conservative views, which they actually label "viewpoint diversity". This isn't a hypothetical.

You had not previously (and have not actually or explicitly still) articulated a link between holding conservative viewpoints and anti-social behavior in an abnormal psychology sense. One could certainly argue that alt right ideology is fundamentally anti-social (I, personally, agree with that in a philosophical sense! though I don't know enough about the technical psychology definitions to have an opinion in that sense). Is it a natural or necessary outcome of some specific genetic mutation however? No. People with anti-social tendencies may or may not end up involved in alt right groups, depending on a wide variety of environmental factors. People without pathological or abnormal levels of anti-social tendencies may also end up involved in alt right stuff. Or any other group that uses cult-like recruitment methods. Also the Central Dogma of molecular biology that information transfer is unidirectional from genes outward was disproved as early as the 1950s. Molecular biology and animal behavior are both complicated. Individual human beings are very complicated. Complex systems of complicated organisms exhibiting emergent behavior such as human societies are super complicated. Lots of aspects of both individual and group human behavior are negligibly influenced by variations in DNA between individuals.
posted by eviemath at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


And right-wing, anti-government Alex Jones types, based on strong anti-intellectualism, mistrust of anything that could be considered "mainstream," and basic magical thinking.

Well, here's the thing. Both Alex Jones and Gwyneth Paltrow sold Goop. Like, literally exactly the same shitty alt-med product.

But which one of them gets the public heat for being a Goop-hawker? Paltrow, because she fits the "lol those looney libs and their fake medicine" narrative.

When you're talking about narratives, reality rarely enters into the equation.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


tobascodagama: The pre-Gamergate trajectory of the alt-right runs through movement atheism in ways that I think have been under-reported and under-appreciated.

You can draw a line from the Kathy Sierra death threats of 2007 through the anti-Rebecca Watson campaign of 2011 (link to original video that “started” the “controversy”) to the recent violence centered on Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. I’ve been shocked at the consistency of “woman does very little thing, gets targeted with rape and death threats, gets blamed for being targeted” over eleven years, and I see no signs of it changing any time soon. The satisfaction men like this get from abusing women as a group outweighs any alternative stimulus, and several of them are making livings from it.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:34 PM on April 23, 2018 [18 favorites]


These days, alternative medicine is seen as something that rich, left wing, women with more money than sense do.

I don't think that you can discuss New Atheism without discussing how their conception of their own intellectualism is fundamentally entwined with toxic masculinity. It's not just that they have no "real" enemies left and have turned; this sexist, racist undercurrent has been there for a long time and it's just getting more vocal.

I was into online atheist groups as a teenager - this was probably around the early 2000s. There was a huge pressure to be intellectually "tough". Many of them were kind to me, but the environment itself was shot through with intellectual machismo (that at the time, I tried hard to fit into). A lot of people in the New Atheist movement have always conceived of their intellectualism* as a source of personal power - something that sets them apart and makes them better.

It's no surprise to me that a group of primarily white guys would conceive of their own intellectualism this way. It's no surprise to me that they would see the increasing presence of women and minorities - critical ones - as a threat to their superiority, and would turn increasingly towards explicit sexism and racism. And from there the path into the alt-right is pretty clear.

* I mean this is how they perceive it. I'm not saying they are all intellectuals here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


These days, alternative medicine is seen as something that rich, left wing, women with more money than sense do.

Gwyneth Paltrow is hawking the same stuff that Alec Jones is. One group of consumers is seen as more inherently frivolous, somehow. (previously)
posted by rmd1023 at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of people looking for meaning, purpose, and a world that they can affect and be rewarded by. What are these other ecosystems. and how are people being brought to them?

There are plenty of other ecosystems. However, this one starts with: you are supposed to be in charge; you are supposed to be respected and admired; it is the fault of THOSE PEOPLE that you are not. And then it does some fudging of the definition of "those people" to be "people the seeker doesn't believe are part of his personal community;" later, after he's bought the initial pack of delusions, they can expand those people to include lifelong friends and allies - "they were always holding you back; you just couldn't see it."

It's a compelling message, especially if you started with plenty of privilege. Most other paths don't have the easy sales pitch of, "you don't need to work harder or learn more or change your personality; you just need to learn to perceive the real truth that is keeping you from realizing your destiny."

Any other path that has that as a foundation is not an improvement, except in the sense that it may not have millions of buddies to hang out with. (Scientology. Conspiracy theorists.) Any path built on a different foundation starts by saying, "you'll need to give up some of the comforts of privilege to find value in life." And a whole lot of overprivileged white dudes will fight tooth and claw to hold every shred of the privilege they believe they earned, rather than being something handed to them at birth.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


tobascodagama:

A big reason that New Atheism started pushing out all the women was that a lot of the folks trying to push atheism into being about something were women. The nihilism was obviously the whole point for a lot of the men in that "community".

5-10 years ago the big complaint everyone seemed to have about New Atheism was not nihilism but "scientism". Sam Harris wrote a book claiming to have solved the is-ought problem and how science is not value-neutral but "can determine human values". He was derided as a simplistic thinker, philosophical illiterate etc.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2018


L.P. Hatecraft: Sciencism is still a valid complaint about New Atheism today.
posted by SansPoint at 4:25 PM on April 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Another problem with New Atheism was that it spent its first 20 years explaining that Victorian gender roles made total sense because evolution. Evolutionary theory has moved on, but many New Atheists haven't.
posted by clawsoon at 4:31 PM on April 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


clawsoon: Now they make a similar argument about the invalidity of transgender people because “something something biology.”

Some even make the same argument about gay people too.
posted by SansPoint at 7:38 PM on April 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


If your biological theory doesn't fit the biological facts, it's probably not the facts which are wrong.
posted by clawsoon at 5:09 AM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


It seems that the Toronto man who drove into pedestrians the other day described himself as an incel. That's one end-point of the views we're discussing here: Someone who believes that they are entitled to a compliant sexual partner, that women who don't know their place are denying it to them, and that terrorism against women is the way to bring the world back in line with their entitlement beliefs.

Why do men in this situation feel oppressed? I'll slightly modify a phrase which has been used here many times: When you feel entitled to a position of privilege, equality feels like oppression.
posted by clawsoon at 6:42 AM on April 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'm less surprised by the connection between sexual frustration and aggression than I am left wondering how so many young men are so poorly socialized that they literally have no clue how to approach or ask out, much less seduce, a woman.

The tragic and pathetic thing about the incels is their obvious, desperate longing. How weird do you have to be where asking nicely doesn't occur to you, so you imagine a conspiracy involving the majority of all people on earth?
posted by msalt at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


seduce a woman

This phrase, with its connotations of trickery, coercion, and misfortune, should probably just be set on fire. It’s already a big ol’ red flag.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:25 AM on April 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


msalt: I'm less surprised by the connection between sexual frustration and aggression than I am left wondering how so many young men are so poorly socialized that they literally have no clue how to approach or ask out, much less seduce, a woman.

I was socialized in a church where expressing any sort of romantic or sexual interest in any woman who you weren't ready and willing to marry just wasn't done. No clue how to approach or ask out a woman? That was me.

I had to do a lot of self-education - and some of it ended up being unhealthy detours - before I learned how to have interesting conversations that could evolve into something more. It still doesn't come naturally.

There are great swathes of society, inside and outside of churches, which believe that most women can't truly enjoy sex; at best, it's a chore that you do for someone you love. With that belief, there's no such thing as real consent; all sexualized interaction with a woman is manipulation or harassment or coercion at some level. If you have that belief, and you hear feminists saying that men should never coerce or manipulate or harass women, the logical outcome is that feminists are saying that you should never have sex.

You can go two ways from that point: You can conclude that feminists are obviously wrong, since otherwise the human race wouldn't have survived, therefore we need to make it once again okay for men to harass and manipulate and coerce women. Or you can ask, "What the hell does enthusiastic consent mean, anyway?" and learn from feminists, and realize that real consent is possible.
posted by clawsoon at 11:51 AM on April 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


This phrase [seduce a woman] with its connotations of trickery, coercion, and misfortune, should probably just be set on fire. It’s already a big ol’ red flag.

Not just the language but the institutions of courtship and marriage are riddled with problematic patriarchal holdovers, from vows of obedience to white dresses to the central role of alcohol in flirtation and the presumption that men will pay for dates [and implicit quid pro quo].

All of it needs to be re-thought and redesigned, but I'm not convinced that the concept of seduction is worse than any of the rest. You do a good job of identifying the problematic aspects; plus, even more subtly, it implies a default sex-negativity on women's part and primary agency by men. (The same could be said about the concept of consent, as it's generally understood, for that matter.)

But the concept of seduction also has some positives; it clearly involves a dance, a back-and-forth and responsiveness to each other's desires (more than, say, consent per se). If we can redefine it to be a two-way interaction instead of something assumed to be done to a woman by a man, I think it might be salvageable and even useful.
posted by msalt at 12:13 PM on April 26, 2018


Consent is not a gendered concept.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:31 PM on April 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


There are great swathes of society, inside and outside of churches, which believe that most women can't truly enjoy sex; at best, it's a chore that you do for someone you love. With that belief, there's no such thing as real consent; all sexualized interaction with a woman is manipulation or harassment or coercion at some level. If you have that belief, and you hear feminists saying that men should never coerce or manipulate or harass women, the logical outcome is that feminists are saying that you should never have sex.

No. No, there really aren't, and I'm going to take this on because this idea is so fucking pernicious and deeply rooted into the incel thing.

Women, in nearly every society that has existed up to the present, bear the greater risk in sexual activity - both because they bear the risk of getting pregnant while men do not, because their sexual activity has been used against them while men's is generally not, and because it is and has historically been far easier for a man to leave a baby than for a woman to do so.

If sex were genuinely held as something women couldn't enjoy, then there wouldn't have ever been any need to condemn women, and those societies you are trying to reference would have the burden of proof on the rapist rather than the accuser, because it would be self evident that there was no consent to sex, because why would a woman ever consent to sex if it was completely unenjoyable?

The idea has always been about the depth of women's enjoyment of sex and whether or not they enjoy it enough to be able to take on the enormous risk inherent in having it.

The issue of whether real consent can take place in a society where choice and the consequences of that choice are stigmatized is a real thing. There's a lot made about 'enthusiastic consent', I personally feel a better model would be 'enthusiastic informed consent', where, for example, men who are only intending to engage in a one night stand and would bugger right the fuck off if a pregnancy occurred would need to declare that shit up front, or men already in a monogamous relationship,etc. Sex as the result of a lie is not consent either no matter how much the person thinks you aren't lying.

But the issue 'affecting' incels right now is quite simply that they are not a good informed consent deal given the risks involved. They aren't offering marriage, which for all of its faults is a way to protect against some of the dangers of sexual activity, they aren't offering support and stability, or emotional support, fuck, they're often not even offering a good time. They literally bring nothing to the table other than the fact that they possess a penis, and you can buy one of those at Babeland (with a vibrator) for less than the price of three dates with a guy.

Some men, in a world of informed enthusiastic consent, will never have sex they don't pay for if they don't make themselves a better deal for women. And we need to be up front about that. Enthusiastic consent is not a trick for dudes to have better sex, it is a requirement for humanity, and many dudes will not be able to have sex without coercion or offering something, and that's just fucking fine. Nobody is owed time in somebody else's body.
posted by corb at 1:19 PM on April 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


"Incels" are the results of a toxic mess of poor socialization, an entitlement mindset, the inbuilt misogyny of society, and an echo-chamber that bases a man's self-worth on their success at the traditional manly pursuits like getting laid. Somehow, that these people can't find a girlfriend is simultaneously the fault of women for not being into them, and yet a sign of their failure as men. It's beyond fucked from both sides.
posted by SansPoint at 1:36 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


No. No, there really aren't, and I'm going to take this on because this idea is so fucking pernicious and deeply rooted into the incel thing.

I don't think clawsoon, or anyone on this thread, is advocating for this view. It is clearly a terrible way to see sex. It does, however, sort of follow if you accept the sex-as-self-negating-favor-to-men view with which many people are (still) indoctrinated.

If sex were genuinely held as something women couldn't enjoy, then there wouldn't have ever been any need to condemn women, and those societies you are trying to reference would have the burden of proof on the rapist rather than the accuser, because it would be self evident that there was no consent to sex, because why would a woman ever consent to sex if it was completely unenjoyable?

Perhaps because the model wasn't so much that women couldn't enjoy sex, but that they shouldn't. Like, there was a script of How To Be A Virtuous Woman, and if you followed it, you ended up with a strictly submissive, non-enjoyable, self-negating sexuality. Anything else was seen as proof of spiritual corruption, and a threat to the social order.

I agree that "incels" are just not a good informed consent deal. My sense from them is that they are deeply ashamed of themselves, and because of poor socialization and lack of decent coping mechanisms, they lash out at women, or feminism, or society, or whoever else is walking around downtown Toronto.

and many dudes will not be able to have sex without coercion or offering something, and that's just fucking fine. Nobody is owed time in somebody else's body.

Well, it's how things have to be if we want any semblance of decency. That doesn't mean it doesn't suck for those guys. I think such men are more likely to accept their unfortunate state if it is clearly acknowledged as a legitimate source of pain, for which no one owes them any relief. Another thing that might help is getting rid of the idea that they will find companionship if they just make themselves a better deal. For many men, that just isn't on the table.
posted by andrewpcone at 1:43 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Another thing that might help is getting rid of the idea that they will find companionship if they just make themselves a better deal. For many men, that just isn't on the table.

Why isn't it? Serious question. Like, I understand that everyone starts from various starting points, but I don't understand who could possibly be unable to make themselves in any way a better deal for women.
posted by corb at 1:46 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


corb: If sex were genuinely held as something women couldn't enjoy, then there wouldn't have ever been any need to condemn women, and those societies you are trying to reference would have the burden of proof on the rapist rather than the accuser, because it would be self evident that there was no consent to sex, because why would a woman ever consent to sex if it was completely unenjoyable?

I don't expect misogynistic assumptions to be logical and consistent. Women - girls! - are condemned for being seductresses, for seducing their abusers, by the same people who say that women can't truly enjoy or consent to sex. That's the mindfuck of some subcultures; especially, in my experience, conservative religious cultures. Condemned if you let yourself get raped outside of marriage; condemned if don't let yourself get raped inside of marriage.

So you're right to correct me for saying that it's a logical conclusion. It's not. All the different misogynistic assumptions are jumbled together, no matter how self-contradictory, and deployed as necessary.
posted by clawsoon at 2:08 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Why isn't it? Serious question. Like, I understand that everyone starts from various starting points, but I don't understand who could possibly be unable to make themselves in any way a better deal for women.

A better deal yes, but possibly not a better enough deal to find a companion they want. Being a good deal isn't the only factor. Even if you're a real catch, that is not a guarantee you'll find True Love or Good Sex. A lot of it is luck and personal situation. Then there is the nasty problem of very low attractiveness, severe disability or mental illness, etc, etc. There isn't necessarily "a gal for every [sufficiently self-improved] guy"—indeed, the myth that there is seems like part of the problem.

I agree that everyone can make themselves a better deal. But that is kind of like saying that under capitalism, everyone can make themselves a more employable worker. Like, OK, sure, but that doesn't guarantee that everyone finds a remotely decent job. With the market, fortunately, we can redistribute money and other resources, and coerce employers into doing things they wouldn't choose to. These methods don't apply to the romantic marketplace, at least not within the ethical constraints I'd want to impose.

So I think we're probably stuck with some brutal inequality.
posted by andrewpcone at 2:23 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


So you're right to correct me for saying that it's a logical conclusion. It's not. All the different misogynistic assumptions are jumbled together, no matter how self-contradictory, and deployed as necessary.

(However, I did struggle myself with the combination of not wanting to make anybody do something that they didn't want to do and assuming that women didn't truly want sex. That's a paralyzer. Learning that mutually enjoyable consensual sex was truly a possibility was a good thing.)
posted by clawsoon at 2:35 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


A better deal yes, but possibly not a better enough deal to find a companion they want. Being a good deal isn't the only factor. Even if you're a real catch, that is not a guarantee you'll find True Love or Good Sex. A lot of it is luck and personal situation. Then there is the nasty problem of very low attractiveness, severe disability or mental illness, etc, etc. There isn't necessarily "a gal for every [sufficiently self-improved] guy"—indeed, the myth that there is seems like part of the problem.

So I think the problem is that when we consider The Plight Of The Unloved Man, the goalposts always start shifting. And I don't think you're doing it intentionally! But our society has done a lot of conditioning on the idea that not only do men deserve companionship and sex, but they deserve the companion they want, the sex they want, the relationship they want. The idea is generally that men shouldn't have to give up any of their wishes, while women should give up theirs.

These 'incel' men who are complaining that women won't sleep with them are generally complaining not that they can't ever have sex under any circumstances, but that they can't have what they view as the pinnacle of sex - exclusive sex in the manner they prefer bestowed on them with no other consideration involved (no promises of marriage, support, no financial transactions) with women who are considered conventionally attractive. (Generally white, physically fit, under the age of 30, with a certain body shape and of a certain socioeconomic status). Usually with a side helping of emotional labor and ego feeding.

They want sex that makes them feel respected in other men's eyes - not merely sex with a woman, any woman.

Because they could easily adjust their filters. They could look for older women, less conventionally attractive women. They could also make the bargain that many women have made for centuries and offer full house-cleaning, cooking, emotional labor, etc, in exchange for a relationship. I guarantee there are a ton of women who would adore having someone utterly and totally focused on the woman's needs and making her life easier and cooking the food she wanted and asking her how her day went and keeping largely quiet otherwise and fixing her a martini when she got home or whatever. That would absolutely be added value.

But they don't want to do that, because they don't just want companionship or sex - they want to be the dominant partner in a relationship, to be catered to and to feel important. They are not willing to make the compromises that women have made.

And that's why, ultimately, I'm not as sympathetic to them as I once was. Because they have the tools to the problem that they SAY is the problem - no sex - in their hands already. But they're not willing to solve it, because their stated goals are rarely their actual goals.
posted by corb at 3:01 PM on April 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


corb: They want sex that makes them feel respected in other men's eyes - not merely sex with a woman, any woman.

Yep.

I'd be curious to know how you figured that out, because it's not something that men say out loud very often, in my experience.
posted by clawsoon at 3:12 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


The problem with suggesting that incels should try and make themselves "better deals", and giving dating advice in general, is that it gets twisted into some kind of implied promise. Then when it doesn't happen just leads to more anger at women for breaking the "deal", being liars who just wanted chad all along and strung the poor incel anon along with false promises and so on.

For example, suggesting that they go for older or less conventionally attractive women is just going to lead to more entitlement and resentment. "Who do you think you are you to turn me down, you're ugly/old, you should be happy I even look at you" etc.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 3:31 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


So I think the problem is that when we consider The Plight Of The Unloved Man, the goalposts always start shifting.

I don't follow. What goalposts are shifting here?
posted by andrewpcone at 3:34 PM on April 26, 2018


For example, suggesting that they go for older or less conventionally attractive women is just going to lead to more entitlement and resentment. "Who do you think you are you to turn me down, you're ugly/old, you should be happy I even look at you" etc.

Well, and this kind of exposes what's going on with the whole thinking, and how it's not about companionship/sex at all, which is kind of what I was getting at, andrewpcone. The problem with 'incels' is a valuation problem - they value themselves higher than the dating market will bear, and refuse to accept that their misogyny and entitlement is an enormous negative value -far greater than their looks or income or what have you- that has to be compensated for or eliminated.

There's a guy I served with who actually exemplifies this problem. He's not bad-looking, and he's pretty physically fit. By physical standards alone, he'd be considered quite a 'catch'. But he has a fundamental disrespect for and anger at women for not offering him the gold prize of an exclusive relationship, and a complete inability to understand why women steer away from that. He constantly posts on Facebook about 'stuck-up' women who turn him down for reasons he considers to be invalid - I actually had to block him because I found it so toxic - and then he wonders why women don't want to date him.

But the thing is - one of the better ways to become a 'better deal' for these men is to become more emotionally competent, and that's something that can come about through actual therapy - through paying someone to do the emotional labor to get them to a healthy place. But it's not something they want to do, because it requires admitting that there isn't something wrong with the world, or with the women they want, but within themselves.
posted by corb at 4:34 PM on April 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


Reflecting more on my own experience, I think that the reason I didn't end up going down the incel route may have depended, yet again, on entitlement beliefs. I was sad and frustrated and socially paralyzed and sometimes angry, but I never believed that I was entitled to sex. I just wasn't raised that way. It never crossed my mind that women were obligated to meet my sexual needs.

Maybe that's all there is to it? If you believe that you're entitled to sex, you'll be an asshole whether you're constantly in relationships or never in relationships.
posted by clawsoon at 5:12 AM on April 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


L.P. Hatecraft: The problem with suggesting that incels should try and make themselves "better deals", and giving dating advice in general, is that it gets twisted into some kind of implied promise. Then when it doesn't happen just leads to more anger at women for breaking the "deal", being liars who just wanted chad all along and strung the poor incel anon along with false promises and so on.

If you give self-improvement advice to someone who doesn't have the belief that they're entitled to sex, they'll take it as a source of hope rather than a promise.

Entitlement beliefs are the problem.
posted by clawsoon at 7:39 AM on April 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


They want sex that makes them feel respected in other men's eyes - not merely sex with a woman, any woman.

This. And the opinions of the women they pursue are not really important to these guys, it's about how other men perceive them. The woman -- to these guys -- is fundamentally no different than a hot sports car they drive.

The dehumanization of women is IMHO the root problem. If they accepted the worth of female opinion, it would be even simpler than "making themselves a better deal as a partner." They would think, "what is wrong with me if I repel or disturb every woman I meet?" one hopes, and work on that. Instead, you get the manipulative tricks of pickup artists, or incoherent rage.

I have no clue what causes this dehumanizing attitude though, or what the solution might be
posted by msalt at 3:10 PM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


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