I don’t think I have enough patience to deal with people this far gone


How do young people become racists? On Reddit (a dubious source, I know), one young man explains how his own self-loathing was easily co-opted into support for “scientific racism”. It started with “4chan related memes, which were the coolest thing on the internet”, and then he gets deeper into LessWrong and other sites, and he discovers the two coolest people ever — Davis Aurini (!) and Mencius Moldbug (!!), which tells me that you have to be dwelling in an intellectual vacuum if you think a skull-posing misogynist and a blithering reactionary are intellectuals at all.

To me he was the coolest guy ever. A fearless intellectual who used facts, logic and reason to challenge society’s deepest taboos and come to disturbing conclusions, and a Silicon Valley programmer on top of that. One of his favorite conclusions was that there were biologically distinct human races, and some, like “the black race”, had lower IQ. At this time, 4chan was beginning to go alt-right, with the creation of /pol/, Stormfront brigades, and the pervasive idea that SJWs destroyed OWS and New Atheism, so “race realism” was a big topic there as well. They made it look like a valid scientific theory, with charts and data sheets and all, that just happened to be a taboo because of our collective trauma with slavery and imperialism. Sure, it makes sense that people approach the subject of race with caution, but does that really mean there are absolutely no differences between the races? If the Neanderthals were still alive, wouldn’t these PC leftists be telling us that even they are equal to us?

I was immediately sold on it. Part of the reason is the obvious: it told me I was the master race, and gave me a purpose in life, as a fighter in the war to save western civilization from degeneracy. The incels are always telling you that you are an abomination, that everyone hates you, that you are and will always be been genetic garbage, and the racists let me get some of my self-esteem back.

On top of that, I think part of the appeal of scientific racism is exactly that it feels so wrong. I was ignorant and had never understood what racism was and why exactly it was wrong. I thought it was just a moral failing, and for similar reasons as in “masochistic epistemology”, I was drawn to racist ideas exactly because they were so disturbing. When I was confronted with an argument I didn’t have an answer to – and they do come up with some intimidating statistics and ten-dollar words – I felt like my whole worldview was collapsing, like I was turning into a freak just for being exposed to these ideas, like I would never be able to go back and be accepted by society. There is a reason these far right people like the red pill metaphor so much: they present their ideology as a revelation so profound and disturbing that hearing it will change who you are forever, probably ruining your life. That’s what I felt: knowing this would turn me into an outcast, and I could never trust anyone outside of the alt right.

That rings true. He was deeply ignorant. His intellectual void encountered a body of bad ideas that were “edgy” and swathed in pretentious vocabulary, so he absorbed them. Then he is simultaneously hit with feelings of superiority because he knows the dark secrets, and isolated from better ideas by the feeling that he is now an outcast.

Now I have a couple of questions. How did a garbage site like 4chan become fashionable among young people? And how do we rehabilitate people so infested with bad ideas that they have become pariahs?

Comments

  1. aziraphale says

    “The incels are always telling you that you are an abomination, that everyone hates you, that you are and will always be been genetic garbage, and the racists let me get some of my self-esteem back.”

    Why would you listen to anything an involuntary celibate tells you? Surely they are, in their own terms, the paradigm case of “loser”.

  2. Jazzlet says

    The incel line struck me too, this is someoone who is already feeling worthless and the racists gave him a feeling of not just worth but superiority. Along with the feeling of being outcast that suggests that the old christian line (that they so rarely live up to) about hating the sin, but loving the sinner would be the way to go, and for me that’s hard, but should be an important distinguishing feature of the left and of atheists; ‘all humans have equal value’, and ‘it’s not what you used to believe that matters, but what you believe and how you act now’ and work on making thoe two points so well known that no right-wing nasty can possibly be ignorant, in other words they will know that there is always a way out.

  3. HappyHead says

    Part of the reason for 4chan’s popularity is because at one time, it wasn’t total garbage – they were the ones who hunted down people posting pictures of themselves abusing animals, and made sure they got arrested for it. They were the ones leading the protests against the cult of scientology. They were actually pretty damn socially responsible and progressive.

    And then the crap people they were chasing after (starting with the scientologists) realised they could just flood the place with their own brand of evil, and drown out anything resembling reason or decency, and then all of the other scum of the internet followed suit, until the whole thing just kind of collapsed into the cesspool it briefly stood against, and the crap people just kept flooding in and dragging others with them.

  4. F.O. says

    I’m kind of surprised to see Less Wrong on the list.
    They are kind of cultish and insular, but leading to racist phonies like Aurini? o_O

  5. rietpluim says

    I think what the young man says, is true for many on the extreme right. A feeling of importance, the idea of being an initiate. Intellectual and moral superiority; what more could you want? This is why they are immune to reason. They need deprogramming.

  6. cartomancer says

    What I wonder about these people is the general lack of a “wait a minute, this seems too good to be true” response. I mean, if someone came up to me and told me that I was a member of a super-race and thus objectively better than anyone else, I’d be highly skeptical of the claim. However depressed and self-loathing I was (and I have been pretty depressed and self-loathing over the years), I doubt I’d be willing to entertain such claims. Indeed, the more self-loathing I had, the less likely it would have seemed – when I feel worthless, people telling me I’m not seem like just so many concerned liars, trying to make me feel better with their sweetened falsehoods.

    Maybe there’s something else in the mix too?

  7. Kagehi says

    @HappyHead Sadly, the “socially responsible” stage of 4chan was itself an aberration. It started out as basement dwelling trolls, who liked to poke random fun at things, and people, just for laughs. That it ever, at any point, was socially responsible for anything is a miracle. That it fell back into its old, trolling, ways, is sad, but hardly a surprise.

  8. Gaebolga says

    They made it look like a valid scientific theory, with charts and data sheets and all….

    It’s a cargo cult version of science, and more than enough people are so scientifically illiterate that they’ll fall for it.

  9. Kevin Dugan says

    @#4 F.O.
    I was kind of surprised too that LessWrong was in the list. I’ve read both HPMOR and “AI to Zombies” and don’t recall race ever being mentioned. There was however a LessWrong Facebook group that was taken over by Alt-Right trolls. Eliezer disavowed the group and changed it’s name (or had it changed) to distance it from LessWrong. His words, as I recall, were something along the lines of:, “I planted a garden and came back to find nothing but weeds and garbage.” I left the group soon after because arguing against them was fruitless.

  10. says

    “facts, logic and reason”

    This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve never found anyone who has any of those words on their Twitter bio to actually use facts, logic, or reason. The problem is that once someone decides to have “logical” become a major part of their identity, anything they come to believe therefore must have been a result of logic.

    How did a garbage site like 4chan become fashionable among young people?

    It’s shocking and subversive and that’s always been popular with young people. They get to use things like the f-slur without anyone telling them they’re wrong for it, and then that gets them using the n-word with abandon. As much as streamers caught using the f-slur like to argue that it’s not homophobic (and it’s mostly, but not always, young straight white cis men making this decision if it’s homophobic or not), they know that the word is definitely about gay men and by using it they are calling into question someone’s masculinity. And masculinity means a lot to these people (see: “soy boys”).

    It seems like it’s usually misogyny that is the entry point these days. “SJW feminists are trying to take your gaming away!” If feminists are wrong about gaming, they must be wrong about everything else.

    Once you’ve convinced yourself you’re superior to over half of humanity, it doesn’t take much to start whittling that down even further.

  11. kome says

    I’m always amused when people (a) treat “logic”/”rationality” as opposite of “emotions” and (b) cherish the former while trashing the latter. It’s a pretty intensely anti-science attitude.

    Emotions motivate us to do things. Without an affective nudge to push us in one direction or another, we’d simply stagnate and die because we’d make no decision (the paradox of Buridan’s Ass comes to mind, although that was meant to satirize something else). I guess it’s ironic that the same people who turn logic into a fetish and are dismissive of emotions never seem to grow or mature, but healthy human cognitive development requires a healthy relationship with your own suite of emotional states.

    Kind of as a consequence of the first point, we could not have the capacity to be logical or rational or to even know what a fact is without our capacity to feel and experience emotions. There’s even a really prominent neuroscientific and neurophysiological theory of decision-making, the Somatic Marker Hypothesis, that implies that we can only make decisions rationally when we can recognize the “value” of the different options, and “value” is something we assess in part by our emotional response to each potential option (informed by our emotional states that resulted from the consequences of similar decisions in the past; I’m vastly oversimplifying it but hopefully the broad description is clear).

    A huge warning sign for me that I’m dealing with someone with a profound intellectual inferiority complex is that they feel compelled to defend their position as a logical or rational one that doesn’t have the baggage of emotions attached to it. They clearly don’t know what those words mean. But then again, fundamentally these are just dog whistles anyway, where those folk use “logic” or “rational” to mean “masculine” and “emotion” to mean “feminine.”

  12. PaulBC says

    Have kids today ever heard of a library? Going to some random website for intellectual stimulation makes as much sense as getting sex education from graffiti in bathroom stalls.

    But if I knew being a “Silicon Valley programmer” had such cachet, I might have started my own cult. Still time?

  13. PaulBC says

    timgueguen@12 “Davis Aurini sounds like the name of a Harry Potter character.”

    And Mencius Moldbug doesn’t? OK, that’s obviously a pseudonym and yikes, it’s really Curtis Yarvin, who I remember from Usenet days.

  14. says

    The thing about 4chan that seems to always be missed is that it wasn’t made for a purpose, certainly not for these purposes.

    Young people will always find places to hang out. The abandoned warehouse; the clearing in the woods; the beach or the space under the bridge. Anywhere they can be away from their parents’ authority and try to figure life out in the company of their peers.

    4chan is just the place on the internet where people go to define themselves.

  15. says

    PaulBC @#14

    Have kids today ever heard of a library? Going to some random website for intellectual stimulation makes as much sense as getting sex education from graffiti in bathroom stalls.

    Have you never heard of printed books containing misinformation? Picking a random book at a library isn’t necessarily better than visiting a random website.

  16. says

    Ya I had one of those superior smug people go “it’s called a library” preaching about…how wrong climate science is…

    And the internet contains books, reviews of books, articles that cite books, and so-on.

  17. voidhawk says

    @13 Kome

    I’ve made this argument, too. ‘logic’ means nothing unless you’re setting the goals. For instance, is it logical to begin a relationship with this person? Well, that depends on the basis by which you’re judging it. Happiness? Financial security? Social standing? It’s impossible to make a decision on ‘pure’ logic.

    It’s one of the things I actually liked about Star Trek: Enterprise where the ‘logical’ Vulcans were shown to bej ust as factional, bigoted, aggressive, and arrogant as humans based on how they were applying their logic.

  18. PaulBC says

    Andreas Avester@17 “Picking a random book at a library isn’t necessarily better than visiting a random website.”

    I’m not even sure this is true. You’re more likely to find something boring and irrelevant than something wildly inaccurate but preying on your presuppositions if you just pick a published work at random. (True, you can find the wildly inaccurate without much trouble*.)

    I was half-facetious. A better rebuttal would be the fact that there is high-quality crowdsourced information on the web such as Wikipedia as well as curated information like Snopes. You can also read a wide range of media outlets and adjust for bias. E.g., if Daily Kos and National Review agree on the facts of a case, I’m inclined to assign a high weight to them (but it’s no substitute for tracking their sources).

    You can also tour something akin to a ruined library of fragments via Google book search. (What a missed opportunity! There’s really no excuse for not having complete access to out-of-print forgotten works of the 19th century. No author is losing money by making them free.)

    I don’t spend as much time in an actual library as I used to, and my public library, while decent, is no substitute for a university library. My point is actually that if you want to learn something, it’s better to carry out some form of research (online or offline) than finding a buddy group to feed you what you already wanted to hear in the first place.

    *https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12447514-the-lost-empire-of-atlantis “Tremendous. This guy has done history like you would not believe.” —Glenn Beck (I didn’t.)

  19. PaulBC says

    Brian Pansky@18 “And the internet contains books, reviews of books, articles that cite books, and so-on”

    I know (see 20). I was joking. The day every significant work at my public library is online is the day we have have this discussion again. I read a lot of out-of-print non-fiction as topics interest me. None of it is online (except teasers at Google books).

    Yes, there is misinformation everywhere, but there is actual information at libraries that isn’t online, and ignoring libraries makes it inaccessible. There are things you won’t know unless you look for them in a published book. My actual point was that if you want to know something, you look up primary sources and commentary or analysis by experts. You also do your own thinking. Going to 4chan (or whatever) is a recipe for being fed misinformation.

  20. cartomancer says

    I would say that picking up a random library book is far more likely to yield accurate information than going to a random website. Published books have a lot more in place by way of editorial standards than publishing on the internet does. There are no editorial standards on the internet that one cannot easily go around! And a library will have some standards in which books it purchases also – avoiding self-published dross and the like.

    Not a guarantee of accurate information, granted, but certainly a far higher chance. It’s not even close.

  21. Zmidponk says

    How did a garbage site like 4chan become fashionable among young people?

    Well, I don’t know how it got that way, but one reason I suspect it stays that way is the older generation dismiss it as ‘garbage’. In my experience, people who are in their mid to late teens (mentally, if not physically) tend to believe they know much more than just about anyone else – especially the old fucks that are doddering around, even ones that, to pick an example totally at random, are an associate professor with a Ph.D. and a B.S. Therefore, anything that these doddering old fucks describe as ‘garbage’ is obviously something that is worthy of checking out. I’m not quite sure how to combat that, though, as describing 4chan as anything other an absolute cesspool of utter garbage is describing it inaccurately.

  22. says

    Ian King @16 – 4Chan was made for a purpose. It was made as bait for terrible people. The SomethingAwful forums were getting clogged with people who wanted to violate even that site’s lenient posting rules, so the staff at SomethingAwful created 4chan as a place with almost no rules to lure those people away. It worked.

  23. longdog says

    I think a big issue is that reactionary forces are far more willing and able to publish rebuttals to rebuttals. If I read something that supports race science or whatever, it’s possible I might see that a researcher has gone into depth explaining why it’s invalid, in like a Twitter thread or something. But even if I were to find that compelling, someone is immediately going to say something that throws it into question. This can go back and forth, but ultimately reactionaries are going to be doing it faster, and more often.

    Amy Harmon’s Twitter is a good example of this. She frequently publishes or otherwise circulates anti-racism material, but click on any of her tweets and the replies are flooded with DOZENS of people going ‘this is not true- check out this OTHER article explaining why’. That subsequent rebuttal, no matter whether it’s credible, is never going to be rebutted, basically. This gives the appearance of a strong position.

  24. says

    Lots of books in libraries are complete crap. And of course they have to be. A library is there to provide information, and the information you may want is some New Age claptrap, or Rush Limbaugh’s latest bablbing

    @PauBC thinking about it Mencius Moldbug sounds like the name of a Steve Ditko character. I don’t know if it would be a Ditko hero or villain.

  25. PaulBC says

    I wanted to comment on this part.

    I felt like my whole worldview was collapsing, like I was turning into a freak just for being exposed to these ideas, like I would never be able to go back and be accepted by society. There is a reason these far right people like the red pill metaphor so much: they present their ideology as a revelation so profound and disturbing that hearing it will change who you are forever, probably ruining your life. That’s what I felt: knowing this would turn me into an outcast, and I could never trust anyone outside of the alt right.

    I’ve learned new things that have changed my outlook, but when something makes sense, it is not really profound and disturbing. You internalize it and can evince reasonable arguments for it. The promise of revealing hidden mysteries is the oldest trick in the book, and the reason these can remain hidden and mysterious to outsiders is that they’re nonsense. They are preserved mainly through repetition and groupthink. Anything that is so subtle and counterintuitive that it is mind-blowing is either wrong or not fully understood. Once understood, it is just another thing you know.

    There are things that are counterintuitive and true as well as things that are appealingly paradoxical, but not true. The difference is that the more analysis you apply to something that’s true, the clearer its truth becomes. The more analysis you apply to nonsense, the more it is revealed to be nonsense.

  26. Maya says

    F.O@4 and Keving Durgan@10: LessWrong being a gateway makes a disturbing amount of sense because of the close link between Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky. (They were co-bloggers before Yudkowsky started LessWrong.)

    The overlap between LessWrong and OvercomingBias readership makes it easy to believe that someone starting with LessWrong could easily be radicalized into Incel/MRA/Libertarian movements and from there into white nationalism.

  27. says

    @#3, HappyHead:

    And then the crap people they were chasing after (starting with the scientologists) realised they could just flood the place with their own brand of evil, and drown out anything resembling reason or decency, and then all of the other scum of the internet followed suit, until the whole thing just kind of collapsed into the cesspool it briefly stood against, and the crap people just kept flooding in and dragging others with them.

    It also didn’t help that “respectable” progressives refused to acknowledge the pre-collapse 4chan as being on the same side because they were uncouth. As is so often the case, people closer to the center valued presentation over content, and ended up with lousy content, and since they wouldn’t protect their allies they lost them. Although it doesn’t always end in the allies turning actively evil, it’s a story which has happened over and over and over again in the last 30 years — Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street and (in progress) Antifa.

  28. Crudely Wrott says

    “Part of the reason is the obvious: it told me I was the master race, and gave me a purpose in life, as a fighter in the war to save western civilization from degeneracy”.

    Kid, lemme give you a piece of advice. See, for many, many centuries people have done two things consistently. Firstly, they moved about, taking long treks over the mountain to see what they could see. They often found (surprise!) other people. That’s when they did the second thing; they screwed! They did the ol’ horizontal mambo. In other words, they mixed their genetic codes.
    Repeated uncountable times over great expanses of space and time and the result is that we are all Heinz 57s. Mongrels!
    There are no pure races any more, kid. Haven’t been for a long time.
    Now, as far as you being a warrior to defend the (tee-hee) “master race”, which is a pointless goal, you cannot even pick up the needed weaponry required, let alone wield it usefully.
    Now, go stand in the corner, in the wash tub because you’re dripping. Put on this pointy hat and shut up until you are told otherwise.
    Damn kids these days!

  29. John Morales says

    Crudely Wrott, ahem. When someone repents and says “this is what I thought”, you telling them what they thought was wrong is not just otiose, but pointlessly insulting. They have already acknowledged that!

    (Well, your bully instinct seems well-developed, to me)

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