The alt-right: a dumping ground for Trumpian losers

I’m reading about the alt-right yahoos at Portland State University, and it’s horrifying. It’s a long story, focusing on a small group of admitted racist trolls who have absorbed 4chan/Reddit culture and have decided that openly parading their ignorance and bigotry is fun. What’s particularly appalling to me is that they claim that their views are scientific and rational…but when I read them, they’re just wrong about everything.

Well-read in the authoritarian right, Kolychev says he supports the liberal values of the Enlightenment.

This is a common refrain among certain kinds of conservatives. They claim they are the True Liberals, or neo-liberals, and they are simply returning to the original values of the Enlightenment. There is a grain of truth to that, but they’re doing it wrong. A central value of the Enlightenment ought to be the embrace of change, accepting the idea that we can learn more and become better; it’s not a fixed set of rigid values. You especially cannot support the liberal values of the Enlightenment by thinking that you should turn back the clock three or four hundred years.

The Enlightenment arose in the 17th/18th centuries. It was also a time of colonialism, empire building, racism, slavery, oppression of the poor, and vicious punishments. You don’t support the Enlightenment if you think everything about the past was virtuous, so therefore we should bring back public hanging, workhouses, and colonial exploitation.

Modern liberalism is different than 18th century liberalism. Ideas change. Seeking justification in the past is a conservative value.

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Deriving evil, with reason

James O’Brien makes a very good point here.

If I was to be reading my newspaper every single morning and be told that my very existence was under siege from people I’ve never met and never seen but keep getting told are coming here in their hordes.

If I was to open my newspaper or turn on my radio or TV to hear that everybody who is coming here is a rapist and they’ve got their eyes on our women and we’ve got no chance whatsoever of protecting ourselves.

And unless we do this or do that, or treat them like this or treat them like that, then we’re all doomed, we’re all going to hell in a handcart.

If I was being told it’s time to reclaim our country every time I got out of bed in the morning, I’d begin to believe it, I think, if I didn’t have the knowledge and the insights and the education to know that it is not true.

We atheists are very, very good at telling people they ought to use their reason and think rationally. The most important thing is reason, we say, not emotion; if only those wacky religious people would use evidence and rational thought, they wouldn’t believe in such silly things.

But reason is not enough. “Garbage in, garbage out” is a familiar phrase to describe what happens when your eminently predictable, logical computer is reduced to processing bad inputs, but it’s also true for human beings. We make the mistake of thinking other people’s brains must be inferior or working badly when they reach bad conclusions.

Those wacky Catholics…how stupid they must be to believe in original sin or that Jesus and Mary are watching over them. But Catholic culture actually values education and logic, and they aren’t stupid at all: what they’ve done is reach an entirely rational conclusion built on a set of premises that have been dunned into them from an early age. Their flaw isn’t that their minds are bad, it’s quite the opposite — Catholic scholars think creatively and intelligently from a set of invalid claims about the nature of the universe.

Consider any group you disagree with. Your first assumptions shouldn’t be that the group is a unique vortex of stupid that draws in mentally deficient people who don’t know better, and will be unable to think their way out of a soggy paper bag. Assume that they are a group with the same mental capacity in general as your favorite people. Then try to figure out what foundational ideas are leading them to conclusions you find repugnant.

Look at gun fanatics, for instance. That earlier post about arguments for owning an AR-15 is addressing an entirely reasonable set of justifications for needing a deadly weapon…if you believe you are living in a world in which you and your family are facing an existential threat from hordes of other human beings who specifically intend to do you harm. That guy’s rationale would make a lot of sense if this were the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, and we had to deal with random monsters popping up and trying to eat our brains, and also needed to forage for any wild game to survive.

We do not live in such a world. He thinks we do. GIGO.

As O’Brien points out, if you wake up every morning to listen to right-wing talk radio, or Fox News, or to read Stormfront or white nationalist literature, the inputs to your mind are all skewed. Those outlets are committed to presenting a terrifying picture of the world, in which you, your family, your tribe, your race, your whole damn species is in peril. The brown hordes are coming to replace you…yes, you personally! Your problem with landing a job is not your fault, it’s because that immigrant over there is competing with you unfairly. We once were a great and powerful nation — you know because your grandparents said so — but it’s all gone to the dogs in your generation, because it’s different.

Get that message over and over and over again, and then apply your rational, intelligent, thoughtful brain to the problem, and you’ll come up with reasonable solutions. Kick out those immigrants. Assassinate that politician. Build a wall. Vote for Trump.

The man who killed Jo Cox was not crazy. He was somebody who read and listened and came to what he thought was a necessary solution to a serious problem. He had built a world in his mind that corresponded poorly to reality, because he’d been consuming lies.

Lies kill.

Unfortunately, we all live in a world where institutions and media lie to us constantly, and navigating through all the chaos is a difficult skill that none of us have fully mastered and that misleads many of us.

My hometown does good


I grew up in Kent, Washington, and I just learned that Kent is one of a small number of cities chosen to settle Syrian refugees.

Among a divided community, Twenty five, ten-member families will resettle in Kent in the coming weeks.

“Kent has affordable housing, ample job opportunities, and a welcoming community,” said Dave Duea, director of refugee and immigration services for the Seattle-based Lutheran Community Services of Washington. “We expect to resettle many more families in Kent, along with many other refugee groups we are proud to serve.”

Well, I hope it’s welcoming. On the forum where I heard about this, people were talking about “savages” and declaring that “the jungle just opened up”. I see it as good news, though. Not only are they praising the town, but it’s a reflection of a vast improvement since I lived there. I remember Kent as a barren wasteland of banks and gas stations, with farms being steadily paved over and replaced with warehouses. When I’ve been back to visit, it is much improved (although traffic is much worse), with an entertainment complex, an expanded library, and a light rail station. When I left, I thought I’d never be back. Now it looks like a lovely place to retire to (except for the traffic).

Having some more ethnic diversity is just another big plus.

It is too bad, though, that a religious organization is front and center in assisting in this humanitarian effort. If only secular organizations were larger and more involved…

NEVER MIND. Snopes has the source for this one, the “Nevada Scooper”, as a fake news site. I hadn’t checked because it was such a mundane and unsurprising story, and didn’t seem particularly like clickbait — it was just something happening in my hometown. But apparently, “settling refugees in America” is one of those subjects that draws in outraged readers.

The problem with games

The hot new game of the hour seems to be Overwatch — it looks fun and very well done, and a lot of my online friends are playing it. But I’m not even tempted. Zero interest. Don’t even want to try.

Why? Because it’s a multiplayer game, and hell is other people.

I used to play World of Warcraft, and what finally drove me to give it up was that there were big chunks of the game I could not play — not because of what Blizzard had done, but because I’d have to team up with assholes, and it was incredibly frustrating to have to drop out of a group because someone in it was a homophobic racist with a mouth. Note: and it was always me leaving voluntarily. I never once saw a group kick out the bigot.

Actually, it was something Blizzard did: the absence of any policy against hate speech is a kind of action, too.

(((How to make a racist cry)))

You may notice a wild proliferation of parentheses on social media lately — that’s because it was discovered that white supremacists have been flagging the presence of Jews by bracketing their name with triple parentheses, so everyone is mocking them by putting our own names behind triple parens.

I thought these racists were already pathetic, but I did not know how low they could sink.

It’s worth noting that the internet’s anti-Semites hate when their culture is appropriated by their opponents. For example, when internet users started repurposing Pepe the Frog, a previously racist meme, a white nationalist lamented:

Most memes are ephemeral by nature, but Pepe is not… He’s a reflection of our souls, to most of us. It’s disgusting to see people (‘normies,’ if you will) use him so trivially. He belongs to us. And we’ll make him toxic if we have to.

Which makes stealing the bigots’ signature symbolism for Jews all the more fun.

Say what? This is Pepe the Frog.


If that’s a reflection of their soul, that reflects very badly on their souls. Also, the character was part of a webcomic created by Matt Furie, so they actually don’t own it.

Rather, a sign of American culture in decline


I usually say bad things about most movies — you have to admit, it’s not exactly a testimony to creativity or intellectual accomplishment when most of the movies coming out of Hollywood seem to be a) remakes, b) movies based on comic books, or c) remakes of comic book movies. Or worse, the movie version of a video game. I won’t say we’ve reached the nadir, though, because they can always sink lower, but now there’s a movie of a cell phone game, The Angry Birds Movie. I’m skipping it. I’m waiting for Pong: The Movie, or perhaps I’ll even hold out for Pong III: The Paddling.

But you’ll never guess who loves this movie: white supremacists. Finally, someone is catering to the simple-mindedly violent and bigoted Americans, because no other movie has managed to tap so deeply into simple-mindedness. The VDARE review is amusing, in a horrifyingly stupid sort of way.

“Angry Birds” is funny, entertaining, and best of all, right wing and hated by SJWs. It’s PG, so it might be a bit too edgy for very small children, but if you are ok with that, take your kids to see it today!

Dude. It’s a cartoon based on a simplistic, repetitive phone game, and you’re projecting your racism onto it. Most SJWs don’t even care enough to hate it, so that’s even more projection. You couldn’t be projecting more even if you were a little red cartoon bird loaded onto a catapult.

But I’m happy for you that finally the intelligence of movies have descended to your level. Now just wait for the Tetris movie to be made, which you’ll interpret as a horror story about weird sexual combinations.

Ban football

It’s the only decent thing to do. It’s a thuggish sport that allows thugs to rise to positions of privilege, and fosters an environment of brutality and viciousness.

Or, if that’s too radical for you, shut down the football program at Dietrich High School in Idaho (warning: tale of gross racism and rape at that link). They’ve lost any right to ever play the game again.

Paranoia! Paranoia everywhere!

It’s another story of an airline passenger reporting “suspicious activity” and holding up a flight. In this case, the nefarious act was…doing mathematics. A woman complained about the swarthy man (he was Italian!) scribbling obscure marks intently on a piece of paper. I’m not quite sure why a terrorist would precede an attack by doing a bunch of calculations. Maybe she remembers this cartoon.

Yeah, you never can trust those sneaky math people.

Wait. The office right next to mine is occupied by a statistician…and the one across the hall by a mathematician. I’m surrounded! I should go to the division chair and beg to be relocated to a safer office, but she’s a statistician, too! They’ve taken over!