Burbling Waste

I haven’t really been able to discuss the internet recently. The internet left in America is busy asserting that violence is the best solution to political problems, which would be less weird if all branches of government, as well as the military, the police, and most people with guns in America weren’t explicitly “the enemy.” The internet right, meanwhile, ALSO wants to use violence to solve political problems, which would be less weird if the violence wasn’t being directed from Russia against us. I don’t know how to critique anything that is this far gone. Alex Jones recently tweeted: “We are all Alex Jones,” but he’s only correct in the sense that we are all idiots.

Everyone once in a while someone says something that’s almost smart, but it’s also really stupid, and so it goes viral, and let me talk about John Scalzi.

yyscalzi

Scalzi actually manages to articulate a pretty accurate theory of human interaction; and then, predictably, he says, “This only applies to other people.”

Imagine if Freud had written, “People suffer from something I call an Oedipal Complex, although only outside of Vienna.” If the old primer had read, “In Adam’s fall we sinned all; except, of course, for you and me.”

I don’t understand how anyone can believe that the last few years of internet discourse have been a case of one side exercising good faith arguments in an attempt to reach an amicable solution and only blot is THE OTHER SIDE and their cynical machinations. But apparently 20,142 people do.

(You’ll notice that nerd hierarchy is never far from Scalzi’s mind; here the bad people play CCGs. Probably they have neckbeards.)

I don’t mean to call “both sides,” as though both sides were necessarily equal; equally bad, I mean. At any given moment one side is probably worse, and right now it’s not hard to pick a winner. Anne Coulter’s book Treason was probably always garbage (I didn’t read it), but it’s going to be hard to explain now that the GOP party-line is that treason is good (because: her emails).  But to pretend that WE are concerned, caring, sincere, and informed, and THEY are [opposites] — look, you should pretty much never believe this. Regardless of who you are and what the issue is, never believe it; it’s sloppy and lazy. Obviously I think the specific behavior of Scalzi’s “we” over the last few years makes the assertion even more ridiculous.

Here’s what Scalzi should have said (please break it up into tweet-sized chunks at your leisure): “We made a bunch of crazy rules with the assumption that we would always be the ones who got to enforce them. Somehow we never thought that anyone else would be able to use these rules, even though a child should have been able to figure out that rules do not get applied to one side and not the other. When the Washington Post sports the headline ‘Georgia Police Invoke Law Made for KKK to Arrest Anti-racism Protesters,’ we should take a moment to remind ourselves that the law may have been ‘made for’ the Klan in the sense that the Klan inspired it, but it was actually ‘made for’ masked activists, because that’s the way laws work. The fact that we believe they are primarily tree-dwelling sociopaths makes our hope that they would honor a gentleman’s agreement not to use our own tactics against us particularly silly. Let’s try in the future to think two steps ahead before insisting, say, that anyone’s job should be contingent on never having made the wrong kind of joke [the specific impetus for this particular tweetstorm]; glass houses etc.”

Scalzi’s real complaint seems to be they are self-aware and we are not.

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10 comments

  1. >I don’t mean to call “both sides,” as though both sides were necessarily equal; equally bad, I mean. At any given moment one side is probably worse, and right now it’s not hard to pick a winner.

    I agree with this, but I suspect you and I are talking about different sides. What has the right done that is so awful?

    -Elected a boorish reality tv star as president who constantly says outlandish things
    -Enacted a poorly thought out (and quickly overturned) travel restriction on people from select countries (which happened to be predominantly Muslim)
    -Continued a bunch of policies which the US had been doing for some time, but which the left has suddenly realized are morally indefensible and cause for histrionics.

    Okay, now pop quiz, which side is currently
    -saying violence is a perfectly acceptable response to ideas you don’t like
    -trying to make unemployable anyone who has ever violated an ever-shifting, ill-defined and inconsistently applied of set social norms (currently most obvious in things like the me too movement, where anyone who has ever unsuccessfully asked a woman out is a target, but realistically can be due to anything)
    -trying to stifle academic discourse, not only through political indoctrination at the undergraduate level, but also calling for the retraction of any peer reviewed papers which support politically dangerous ideas

    These things strike me as a lot more dangerous to the long term chances of classical liberalism than any stupid thing Trump has said. (And all the Russia stuff seems completely unimportant to me. The left is just looking for a reason to say this election doesn’t count).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, some of your questions come down to who counts as a “side.” Who’s saying that violence is acceptable response to political speech? Well, yes, most of my demographic. Also, the guy who ran over a counterprotester at Charlottesville. Also, all the people I’ve known in my life who say they’d beat up anyone who burns a flag. Also Alex Jones. (Also, to be fair, the guy who shot a bunch of Republicans at a softball game.) It’s easy to dismiss some of these people as crazy outliers, but it’s not really fair to leave Alex Jones’s followers off the graph and include Antifa.

      I mean, who’s incited violence more, Trump or Sanders?

      The left is absolutely terrible and unforgivable in its weird bloodlust. The right is also absolutely terrible ind unforgivable. It’s easy for me to forget this fact because my demographic’s default setting is to applaud when a red-hat gets jumped and clutch one’s pearls when a Trumper boycotts Netflix (or whatever).

      They didn’t invent it, but the last few decades have seen the left trying to monopolize the “unemployable” gambit, but of course the right has now loaded that James Gunn and is seeking to strike back. Colin Kaepernick is unemployed.

      Etc. If your point is that the left is hypocritical and amoral, obviously I agree. I’m used to the right having some kind of moral high ground, but the right has made great strides in the fields of:
      *use of dehumanizing epithets instead of making arguments (snowflakes, etc.)
      *pretending the world must reorganize itself to match its sensitivities (the college student who refused to read Fun Home)
      *using pop movements as a way of getting rid of “enemies” (Gunn, of course, but Franken before that)

      Depending on how we define things, the right has loooong been trying to manipulate educational curricula (about the Civil War; about evolution), and I am tempted to dismiss it because they’re not my kind of conservatives, so they “shouldn’t count.” But this is spurious.

      It’s possible that the left is still worse than the right in these fields, but the right is trying hard to catch up, and may have caught up. It’s no longer an obvious rout. And with these two sides canceling each other out in the fields of stupid and malicious, we have the right destabilizing NATO. Not merely continuing but RAMPING UP morally indefensible kids-in-cages policies (there’s more to talk about there, but every rightwing source has been so squirrelly and insincere that I don’t know really how bad it was before Trump; no one seems to deny that it got much worse). Violating certainly the emoluments clause of the Constitution if not others. Obviously, Trump’s protectionist trade policies are not something I’m going to like, and, sure, they sound like Democrats’ policies. But that doesn’t make them good. And the Overton-shift of opening the presidency to completely unqualified celebrities may not have begun with the Republicans (debatable) but has certainly flowered recently, and this may be the most dangerous change of all (depending on what happens to NATO.)

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      1. >it’s not really fair to leave Alex Jones’s followers off the graph and include Antifa.

        Have you ever met an Alex Jones follower? I haven’t. I don’t even know what he endorses other than everyone apparently agrees that it is crazy. I’ve had plenty of educated professionals tell me that Antifa is justified in doing what they do though. There are always crazies on both sides who will use some political platform to justify violence. That isn’t the problem. The problem is when mainstream opinion starts to cheer those crazies on. How many people do you know who cheered on the Charlottesville driver? How many people do you know who cheer on Antifa? That’s the difference.

        >I mean, who’s incited violence more, Trump or Sanders?

        How much violence has Trump incited? Maybe the difference is in how the media covers the violence and which politicians it is looking to delegitimize.

        > Colin Kaepernick is unemployed.

        It’s worth noting the NFL players were making a public protest at their jobs and this caused quite a bit of trouble for their employers. There is a world of difference between that and trying to get someone fired from their job because they have beliefs that differ from yours but have no effect upon their job. If you started making political protests at your job to customers, would you expect to keep your job?

        >(Gunn, of course, but Franken before that)

        I could be wrong, but I thought the Franken thing (and much of the #me too idiocy) was the left eating its own. Jezebel published some of the accusations and leftwing activists were calling for him to resign.

        >Depending on how we define things, the right has loooong been trying to manipulate educational curricula (about the Civil War; about evolution),

        You are correct, although this is different in that it targeted public schools for kids and not academia (also it isn’t like the left hasn’t propagandized children in schools either). I guess neither is obviously worse than the other, but I am more upset about academic research being silenced than I am about public schools being an expensive waste of time that lies to children, since as far as I am concerned, that is public education’s natural state.

        >It’s possible that the left is still worse than the right in these fields, but the right is trying hard to catch up, and may have caught up.

        So I’ve discussed this with some people much more right wing and militant than I am. Their view is, the left keeps doing these things, and as long as the right maintains the moral high-ground, the right loses and the left suffers no consequences for playing dirty. The only way to fight back is to make the left victim to its own policies (eg, constant feigned outrage at everything, etc) Otherwise, people on the left will never suffer from these tactics and will have no incentive rule these tactics as foul play and the future will just consist of a holier than thou right getting beaten up forever. I don’t like it, but it certainly isn’t obvious to me that they are wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. > How many people do you know who cheered on the Charlottesville driver? How many people do you know who cheer on Antifa? That’s the difference.

    I have become persuaded that this is 100% the fault of my demographic filter. Every trip I take outside of it reveals people who are creepy and weird, the same way I think the left is creepy and weird. They can’t string together three sentences without using the words “snowflake,” “safe space,” or “Killary,” reflexively. Tomi Lahren is dumb. Alex Jones is legit crazy ( =even dumber), and I would estimate he has more “followers” in a social media sense than antifa has active members, although since half his followers could be Russian bots and antifa doesn’t have a membership roster, these estimates might be meaningless.

    Franken’s fall was initiated by a Fox news personality, but of course it was also the left eating itself because it’s always the left eating itself. The point is that the right figured out how to weaponize the left eating itself. and for Trump inciting violence: I’ve seen several clips of him during his campaign encouraging his followers to rough up protesters; I’ve also seen him ask police to rough up suspects; a lot of his other inflammatory rhetoric may not match the legal definition of inciting anything, but remember no Democratic candidate explicitly said she would jail her opponent or refuse to acknowledge as legitimate any election she lost.

    I remember when Lindsey Stone shouted in a cemetery and the rightists I knew who had been opposed to social media shaming started lobbying for her to be fired. “This is what THEY do,” I said, quoting Ken Kesey, but actually it’s what we do, for any value of we, as soon as we realize we have the power. It’s the same flip the left made about HUAC/Hollywood blacklists/etc., once they realized they could give better than they got.

    So I think the right has gone apenuts crazy, and they suck, with no implication that the left doesn’t also suck. But the point is Obama didn’t try to dismantle NATO.

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    1. >I have become persuaded that this is 100% the fault of my demographic filter.

      I’m sure this is part of it. I’m sure there are some people who cheered the Charlottesville driver on and they’re outside of your calling circles. I’m also pretty sure they aren’t running the newspapers, or the universities or most major corporations and generally aren’t in positions of power such that their opinions on such matters are important. I can’t say the same for people who think it is okay to physically assualt Nazis (for some extremely broad definition of Nazi). One of them has a shocking level of respectable, mainstream support. The other, not so much.

      > The point is that the right figured out how to weaponize the left eating itself

      Honestly, are you opposed to this? If any group should be a victim of these tactics, shouldn’t it be the one using them? How else do you make a group of people see that these are terrible and perhaps they should adopt new tactics other than by making them play by their own rules?

      >for Trump inciting violence: I’ve seen several clips of him during his campaign encouraging his followers to rough up protesters; I’ve also seen him ask police to rough up suspects; a lot of his other inflammatory rhetoric may not match the legal definition of inciting anything, but remember no Democratic candidate explicitly said she would jail her opponent or refuse to acknowledge as legitimate any election she lost.

      Yes, there is no shortage of him saying objectionable things. I guess I care less about him saying stupid things than I do about stupid policies. That seems to be the big objection to him, he says gauche things. Whereas a president that claims it is legal for the US to execute its own citizens without trial but can wax eloquently about hope is a-okay.

      >. But the point is Obama didn’t try to dismantle NATO.

      This is the second time you mentioned NATO. I’m also with you on this, but wanting the US to not have a war over Ukraine or Georgia isn’t a super crazy policy and this is hardly the most objectionable thing about Trump. This is frankly in line with what most of the people on the streets protesting against Trump claim to want, a reduced likelihood of foreign wars.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Isn’t the whole point of NATO to reduce the likelihood of foreign war?

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      2. Less flippantly: When you ask “Honestly, are you opposed to this?” the answer is yes. I am trying to avoid demographic thinking.

        We could spend all day naming examples of times when people on the right were in favor of extremist policies, people on the left were in favor of extremist policies. It would be fun, except of course I don’t like being in the position of defensing the left. But it’s the wrong way to go about things.

        Running people over (and killing them) is worse than punching them; Charlottesville counterprotesters are less outre than Nazis. Therefore it is more likely that someone would support Nazi-punching than Charlottesville driver, and it’s not even worrisome. Let’s limit things to punchism (the doctrine that we should punch people who don’t agree with us); haven’t you known/met lots of people on the right who thought it was OK to punch flag-burners? If we compared the number of Republicans who think it’s OK to punch flag-burners vs the number of Democrats who think it’s OK to punch nazi marchers, would one number really be so much higher than the other. How about the number of Republican vs Democrat POLITICIANS. Are Democrats in Congress really pouring out in droves endorsing violence?

        I think it’s a bad idea to claim that Trump’s explicit endorsing of violence is harmless, but hypothetical Democratic politicians hypothetical endorsing of violence is sinister.

        (Quick sidenote: it’s important to distinguish among Trump’s utterances outrageous things like “Rosie O’Donnell is fat,” which is not also policy, and outrageous things like, “Europe is our enemy, Russia is our friend,” which shades into policy. I may wish he said neither, but let’s not pretend the latter is not dangerous.)

        I don’t know if you read Samzdat, but I thought his explanation of the left controlling social and the right institutional spaces was very handy. I don’d remember if he went this far, but I would say that the bicameral control system perpetuates because it is USEFUL to each demographic to pretend it is persecuted by pointing only at one space, and ignoring the other.

        And I think the reason that the left is obsessed with Fox News or Alex Jones (formerly: Rush Limbaugh) is that the right is “getting above itself” when it steps into the social sphere. Similarly, the right’s longstanding obsession with academia can be explained by the fact that in universities the left has institutional power, thereby infringing on the domain of the right. The wars happen at these borders.

        The left has long been more visible because celebrities are Democrats. But “people in power” should not be restricted to celebrities. If we take CEOs, lobbyists, politicians, tycoons, etc., and add them up, are you certain that so few of them endorse beating up criminal suspects, or Muslims, or immigrants, or protesters, or any number of things that are not Nazis?

        The goal of a system is always to perpetuate the system. The left talks big about violence so the right can seize upon it and talk about how the left is uncivilized and we must use violence against them so the the left can say the right is shooting up pizza parlors and they are not human and we must…

        My goal is not to be bound to the wheel. That’s what I’m opposed to. I’m opposed to “this.”

        Come join me and together we can rule the galaxy!

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      3. >Isn’t the whole point of NATO to reduce the likelihood of foreign war?

        Let’s rephrase the goal to a reduced likelihood of the United States being involved in foreign wars, even if it comes at a great cost. Again, not a policy I’m crazy about, but also not terribly out of the mainstream and very much in line with a lot of the hard left.

        >Let’s limit things to punchism (the doctrine that we should punch people who don’t agree with us); haven’t you known/met lots of people on the right who thought it was OK to punch flag-burners?

        Honestly, zero that I can think of. Obviously, this is entirely due to my demographic filter, where the right wing people I talk to are more likely to be anarcho-capitalists or people who think the United States should be a monarchy than a normal patriotic Republican. I am aware that people who are legitimately upset about flag burning are out there and I likely know some of them and just have never had a conversation about it with them. But the fact that they aren’t having that conversation all the time and trying to expand the category of flagburners to include not just people who burn flags, but also anyone who disagrees with them, should tell you something. Tell you what, the next time someone assaults a flag burner and there are mass celebrations over it, I’ll complain about that too.

        > How about the number of Republican vs Democrat POLITICIANS. Are Democrats in Congress really pouring out in droves endorsing violence?

        You’re right, they aren’t. Not yet. Politics is downstream from culture and right now we are seeing institutions which help steer thought and shift the Overton window (academia and the media, but also grassroots leftist movements which are chic) saying that it is okay to physically assault and silence by any means possible anyone who fails to hold beliefs which were largely unheard of as few as two or so years ago (transgender rights is the big area people are signalling in at the moment). If they end up succeeding, do you think it will be unheard of for politicians to support it? Do you think it will be impossible for judges who discover exceptions to the first amendment for hate speech to get appointed ?

        >I think it’s a bad idea to claim that Trump’s explicit endorsing of violence is harmless, but hypothetical Democratic politicians hypothetical endorsing of violence is sinister.

        Let’s put it this way. Trump says a lot of things without thinking about them. He contradicts himself a lot. I think there is a difference between what him blurting something out signifies and what it signifies when respected thinkers write 20 page essays explaining why it probably is okay to physically assault others. I am aware that this isn’t entirely an objective distinction, but well, I expect idiots to be idiots, it’s a lot scarier when the ‘smart’ people .are also idiots.

        >I don’t know if you read Samzdat, but I thought his explanation of the left controlling social and the right institutional spaces was very handy. I don’d remember if he went this far, but I would say that the bicameral control system perpetuates because it is USEFUL to each demographic to pretend it is persecuted by pointing only at one space, and ignoring the other.

        I don’t, but looked up his essay on social states based on this comment. Fair enough, although I think the conversation so far has been on social behavior and whether the right was really worse than the left (a claim you appear to backing off from, by now merely saying both are bad), so pointing that the right controls other spheres seems like a non-sequitor. Especially since, exhibit A in your case against the right’s behavior is Trump, who, perhaps you’ve noticed, is hardly practicing standard right wing economic policy and if anything is the most populist president of my lifetime.

        > If we take CEOs, lobbyists, politicians, tycoons, etc., and add them up, are you certain that so few of them endorse beating up criminal suspects, or Muslims, or immigrants, or protesters, or any number of things that are not Nazis?

        Very few of the CEOs where I work, for sure. But even if they did, it would probably wouldn’t matter so much. If the guy running the manufacturing plant has ideas about how a manufacturing plant should be run, he can implement them. If he has ideas on where the Overton window should be, he probably has not much more power to implement them than his workers do. The areas that do have control over this (again, academia, the media) are controlled by the left.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. >a claim you appear to backing off from, by now merely saying both are bad

        I think socially the left and the right are similarly bad to a degree I have a hard time being certain of who’s worse. But the right is in power, and it is behaving badly, by my lights, with that power. Therefore at the moment the right is clearly worse. That’s what I meant (initially, when I said one side was clearly a “winner,” although I can see why that may not be clear from context).

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      5. Ah, I mis-parsed that sentence. No objections from me then.

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