SO MUCH WINNING

Just today, there has been a mass resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities and the Department of Commerce’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors. The American Red Cross, the Cleveland Clinic, and the American Cancer Society will no longer hold fundraisers at Mar-A-Lago. The director of the Office of Public Liaison George Sifaki has been fired.

And of course Steve Bannon is out.

It was a good day.

Racists (and psychologists) don’t understand evolution

I hate this study already. Some psychologists attempted to develop a psychological profile of the alt-right by interviewing them and using a questionnaire. Fine. There’s nothing unexpected in their results.

A lot of the findings align with what we intuit about the alt-right: This group is supportive of social hierarchies that favor whites at the top. It’s distrustful of mainstream media and strongly opposed to Black Lives Matter. Respondents were highly supportive of statements like, “There are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of white people.” And when they look at other groups — like black Americans, Muslims, feminists, and journalists — they’re willing to admit they see these people as “less evolved.”

It’s that last bit that bugs me. One of their questions primed them with a bad pseudoscientific image, and then asked them to rate various groups of people on how “evolved” they are.

That question makes no sense. It starts by leading people to think an invalid, linear model of progressive evolution is scientifically reasonable, and then asks them to indulge in rating human beings. It doesn’t surprise me that Nazis are willing to dehumanize, but is it fair to miseducate in the process of figuring that out?

Here’s the average of the answers they got.

If they’d asked me this question, I would have slammed every slider straight to 100%, and then aborted the whole survey and told the investigators that their methodology was poisonous. But that’s me.

They’re trying to measure dehumanization, and I can appreciate that this might be an effective way to do it, but really, do we need to spread more misinformation in the process? They got a strong distinction, but I’m also annoyed by the comparison group.

The comparison group, on the other hand, scored all these groups in the 80s or 90s on average. (In science terms, the alt-righters were nearly a full standard deviation more extreme in their responses than the comparison group.)

How can you be 80% evolved? How can you even argue that different groups of Homo sapiens are “evolved” to different degrees? None of this makes any sense.

Although the result that Trump’s favorite Nazis think he is less evolved than women in general has got to burn.

Also, they determined that racists are not more economically stressed than other people. They are just goddamned racists. No surprised there.

I think xkcd made a comic just for Mano!

Mano Singham is unenthused about the eclipse. Same here. It’s neat, would be an interesting phenomenon to observe, but I’m not going to travel out of my way to witness a few minutes of darkness. I also wouldn’t be seeing it as a scientist, but as a tourist, nothing more.

Fortunately, xkcd seems to share our views.

So if you’re going to make an effort to see the eclipse, have fun! Take pictures!

If you’re not going to see the eclipse, have fun! Enjoy a nice August day!

Under fascism, there is a new flowering of arts and music

That’s the myth, anyway. Repressive governments will stir up a rising of protest music and street art and great poetry and literature so we’ll at least have that. But wouldn’t you know it, Donald John Trump is fucking that up, too.

I am surprised to learn that there is a Nazi death metal scene in Minneapolis. It’s small but growing, led by a local patent lawyer named Aaron Wayne Davis in his spare time, through a website called Behold Barbarity Records and Distro.

The site sold a customary catalog headlined by name bands like Slayer and King Diamond. But closer inspection reveals an exhaustive selection of more obscure titles, with album covers sprinkled with permutations of neo-Nazi symbols like swastikas and iron crosses.

Take Deathkey, whose 2010 album is called Behead the Semite. Then there’s Aryanwulf, whose songs include “Kill the Jews” and “At the Dawn of a New Aryan Empire.” There’s also the Raunchous Brothers, whose rhyming poetics include such passages as, “You’re of no use to me, you disgraceful fucking dyke, so I’ll shove you in the oven like the glorious Third Reich.”

There are plenty of similar lyrics quoted at the link, so I’ll spare you. I did learn how to write a Nazi death metal song, at least. It isn’t hard.

He describes the power of hate music: Drop the slogan “White people awake, save our great race” a couple times in a chorus, then quadruple it per song, and you have listeners nodding along to it with every step and stumble of their day.

OK, that’s the dark side. There has to be a light side to oppose it, right? There must be some musical genre that has arisen to oppose Nazi death metal. It’s like some core principle of the universe. And out of the darkness rises a gleaming bright beam of beauty and light.

It’s Insane Clown Posse and the Juggalos. On 16 September, there will simultaneously be two rallies on the mall in DC, one of white nationalists, another of juggalos. They are expected to clash.

I have learned that many Juggalos are radical leftists, and that the duo are not fans of our current administration.

Save for this one issue [the FBI has labeled Juggalos a “loosely organized hybrid gang”], ICP is not an explicitly political band, and there are some pro-Trump Juggalos. But the overlap between the Juggalo March and rabid Trumpies is likely to be minimal. Juggalos view their community as a loving family that accepts everyone just as they are, which is the opposite of what Nazi pricks—or, as they prefer to be known, “white nationalists”—advocate. And, in the unlikely venue of a Time magazine editorial on last year’s wave of creepy clown sightings, ICP’s Violent J had this to say about the clowns in Washington:

These clowns threaten the very fabric on which our nation was supposedly founded upon—and for some f—ing crazy-a– reason, they’re getting away with it. From keystone-cop clowns shooting unarmed citizens, to racist clowns burning down Islamic centers or clowns in the NSA spying on us through our cell phones and laptops, America has turned into something far more terrifying than Insane Clown Posse’s Dark Carnival.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that radical leftist Juggalos are mobilizing online in opposition to the Trump supporters who are giving clowns a bad name.

I guess I should have expected this, given the nature of their fanbase. But gosh, this could be interesting, come September. The Nazis ought to be worried; they’ll have sticks, but Juggalos have hatchets. Of course, the ICP can be neutralized if the Nazis think to deploy magnets.

Remember when country music wasn’t all jingo?

I barely remember it myself, but I do remember a machine that kills fascists. And now here’s a statement from the family of Johnny Cash.

A message from the children of Johnny Cash:
We were alerted to a video of a young man in Charlottesville, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, spewing hatred and bile. He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of Johnny Cash, our father. We were sickened by the association.
Johnny Cash was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice. He received humanitarian awards from, among others, the Jewish National Fund, B’nai Brith, and the United Nations. He championed the rights of Native Americans, protested the war in Vietnam, was a voice for the poor, the struggling and the disenfranchised, and an advocate for the rights of prisoners. Along with our sister Rosanne, he was on the advisory board of an organization solely devoted to preventing gun violence among children. His pacifism and inclusive patriotism were two of his most defining characteristics. He would be horrified at even a casual use of his name or image for an idea or a cause founded in persecution and hatred. The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII. Several men in the extended Cash family were among those who served with honor.
Our dad told each of us, over and over throughout our lives, ‘Children, you can choose love or hate. I choose love.’
We do not judge race, color, sexual orientation or creed. We value the capacity for love and the impulse towards kindness. We respect diversity, and cherish our shared humanity. We recognize the suffering of other human beings, and remain committed to our natural instinct for compassion and service.
To any who claim supremacy over other human beings, to any who believe in racial or religious hierarchy: we are not you. Our father, as a person, icon, or symbol, is not you. We ask that the Cash name be kept far away from destructive and hateful ideology.
We Choose Love.
Rosanne Cash
Kathy Cash
Cindy Cash
Tara Cash
John Carter Cash
August 16, 2017
‘Not one of us can rest, be happy, be at home, be at peace with ourselves, until we end hatred and division.’ Rep. John Lewis

I swear, if I hear Melvin Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA one more time, I’m gonna have to puke in someone’s face. But I can listen to Cash all the time.

Nazis cured cancer?

I got some spam this morning from “Natural Health Choice”, which you can guess from the name is not going to be a trustworthy source. And when you click on that link (I don’t recommend it), there’s another sign of fraud: they put up a video with no controls and force you to listen to a whole lot of garbage before they’ll tell you the secret of how to cure cancer, or rather, tell you about the book you can order from them that’ll give you a painless, easy natural cure for cancer with no chemotherapy or surgery.

I didn’t need to listen to it. They give it away at the top of their page: a photo (unlabeled, of course) of Otto Warburg. He apparently discovered a metabolic pathway that is only used by cancer cells, and not healthy cells. It’s a lie. None of their lead-up to promoting the Warburg effect is actually true: no, it’s not a way to trivially cure cancer with your diet. Nothing Warburg figured out has been suppressed.

The one remarkable thing about it is how they’re plugging it. They make a big deal of the fact that it was discovered at a Nazi medical center (wait, that’s a positive thing?), and that the Nazis had a cure for cancer in 1944 and that it was suppressed by the American conquerors. Why? I don’t know. I couldn’t stand listening to it that long to find out. I stopped when they announced that if you follow their special diet,

Pretty soon, a shocked oncologist will tell you, “I don’t believe it. Your cancer just disappeared.”

They also whine that their website is going to be shut down by the mysterious pro-cancer powers-that-be, so you’d better act fast. I don’t think it will be shut down soon enough, not because I like cancer, but because lying con artists who exploit people’s fears with lies and false promises deserve to be crushed and given jail time.

Joint statement from AA and the IHEU

David Silverman of American Atheists and Andrew Copson of the International Humanist and Ethical Union have issued a statement on the raging racism in America. They’re against it.

That these people feel emboldened to march and protest in 2017 in the United States sickens us. Their views are reprehensible, their actions are abhorrent, and they have no place in our civil society. We stand in solidarity with the targets of the hatred espoused by these white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

As many have said, bigotry in America in 2017 isn’t just people in white hoods and robes. It’s people who are our neighbors, coworkers, and even government officials engaged in subtle acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and religious hated. It is our obligation as humanists and as citizens of this nation—and indeed the world—to fight this bigotry at every turn.

Silence is not an option. Anyone who does not forcefully and unequivocally condemn the bigotry of these people is complicit in their actions.

Our thoughts and support are with those who have been injured in Charlottesville and the families of the people who lost their lives. We must remember that this violence didn’t start and won’t end in Charlottesville. We must be prepared to confront it across the nation wherever we find it.

I’m glad that they condemn not just the angry men and women with clubs and shields, chanting slogans about Jews, but also the silent complicity of the majority. It’s also interesting because many of the alt-right are atheists or agnostics; Richard Spencer, for example, is openly atheist.

I would say it is definitely a young movement. I’d say that it is predominantly white millennial men. It is not sort of stereotypically conservative in its profile. I’d say that probably it is a more secular population than the country overall. That is, there are a lot of agnostics and atheists or people who are just generally indifferent to religion. And I think that it is a fairly well-educated movement on average, that as I think that probably the model alt-right member has at least some college education.

So we like to argue that religion does not instill any sense of morality in people, and it doesn’t. That claim is supported by the fact that while so many corporate people resigned from Trump’s business advisory council over his fascism that he dissolved it, but no one from his evangelical council (here’s a list of some of the most horrible people in America) have taken a similar step. They’re more interested in praising Trump’s appalling responses.

However, that religious leaders are propping up racism does not mean that all believers are racist, nor does the fact that many racists are atheists mean that the atheist organization leaders are racist; it also does not imply that Nazi atheists are not True™ Atheists. What it means is that there is an additional piece of the puzzle of what makes for a good human being beyond their beliefs about a deity, and that many Christians, Muslims, and Nones are lacking that piece…and that one of the roles of any organization that intends to be a lasting, positive contributor to our society’s well being ought to include ethical principles as an essential component.

Keep in mind that while the religiously indifferent showed up in Charlottesville with clubs and shields and anger, many of the nuclei of resistance were centered around religious institutions in the city. It’s great that American Atheists is speaking out in opposition, but we also need to have atheist representatives who travel to these trouble spots and link arms with the principled clergy. We’ve got lines of men and women in funny robes forming barriers to white nationalists, and we need outspoken atheists who stand in solidarity with them. Otherwise, we cede ethical leadership to the religious.

We also need to own the godless folk within the alt-right. We cannot effectively repudiate them if our first response is to deny the fact that there are a great many deplorable atheists, and if we fail to include a moral dimension in our philosophy.