tim: Solid black square (black)
"What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?

The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

The worst is atomic war.

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road. the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Today is the sixth anniversary of my post "Emotional Labor Day", chronicling how I was constructively dismissed from the computer science Ph.D program at Portland State University because of sexual harassment.

Portland State radicalized me. Whatever worthwhile work I've done since as an activist, as a writer, as a feminist, for social justice, all traces back to Andrew Tolmach, Mark Jones and James Hook telling me that they were willing to lose two queer trans grad students in order to keep one Thomas Dubuisson, a cis male sexual predator, as a student.

They lost all three students, and the research grant for the entire group, and they were willing to make that choice. They were happy to destroy the group in order to protect rape culture.

Thomas now works at Galois, a prestigious software company that hired him even though they knew exactly what he did, and he's had a high-paying job ever since. The other two of us lost our careers. No place welcomed either of us with open arms the way that Galois welcomed a known serial sexual harasser. The two of us are both still struggling to figure out a way to make a living and use our talents in a way that doesn't require subservience to those who see us only as objects to be used to further their own needs.

A year ago I wrote:

And I'm still paying the bill, literally, for the program I got kicked out of without a degree; I'm still paying off the student loans I took out while I was at Portland State to cover the cost of student health insurance and other medical expenses, as the university didn't consider the research that graduate students did for low wages to be work and thus didn't provide us with employee benefits. Grad school isn't for people like me who've had no financial support from parents since the age of 17. At age 35, I have no savings and I don't expect to retire -- all because I made the mistake of thinking that a person like me could have an academic career. But those careers aren't for me -- they're for people born to wealthier parents, into more acceptable bodies.

At age 36, I have savings; working at Google paid off the loans I took out while I was at Portland State and then some, and gave me enough savings to not work for a year. (I still don't expect to ever retire.) But like grad studentships at Portland State, jobs at Google are also not for me; they're for people born to wealthier parents, into more acceptable bodies, or at least, for people more willing to be conciliatory about the centering of acceptably-bodied people from the suburbs and the subordination of the rest of us.

But as hard as it is, it's better to be free.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
This is a follow-up to my article "Refusing to Empathize with Elliot Rodger: Taking Male Entitlement Seriously".

As I mentioned initially, Lundy Bancroft lists a number of tactics abusive men use in conversations. In Why Does He Do That?, he notes that when one of the abusers he works with attempts to use one of these tactics on him or another group participant, and Bancroft calmly names which tactic it is instead of reacting, the abuser usually gets even angrier. So in that spirit, I thought I would compile a list of responses to my article and classify them according to the abuse tactics they use.

Here is a subset of Bancroft's list of conversational abuse tactics in p. 145-146 (n.b. all page-number references are to Why Does He Do That?)

  1. Sarcasm
  2. Ridicule
  3. Distorting what you say (this was one of the most common responses I saw, in which the interlocutor would make up a caricature of what I wrote and then attack that, instead of engaging with the actual ideas).
  4. Accusing you of doing what he does, or thinking the way he thinks (AKA projection, as discussed on p. 142)
  5. Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority -- "defining reality":
    When Mr. Right decides to take control of a conversation, he switches into his Voice of Truth, giving the definitive pronouncement on what is the correct answer or the proper outlook. Abuse counselors call this tactic defining reality. Over time, his tone of authority can cause his partner to doubt her own judgment and come to see herself as not very bright. (p. 82)
  6. Not listening, refusing to respond -- I've rephrased this as "dismissal", since the original list was concerned with in-person conversations where one person can literally ignore the other. Online, the equivalent of this is not ignoring, but replying in a way that doesn't at all engage with the content, rather labeling it in ways that create negative sentiment without actually trying to refute ideas. Dismissal is not ignoring (it's great when people ignore things they don't like or don't care about!) -- the effort that the abuser puts in to communicate "I didn't read this, I didn't think it was worth reading, but I'm still going to attack it" shows that it is important to them that the person being abused not be heard. (Compare Kathy Sierra's "Trouble at the Kool-Aid Point" and my own previous discussion of false dismissal.)
  7. Changing the subject to his grievances
  8. Provoking guilt
  9. Playing the victim
  10. Name-calling, insults, put-downs. I'm calling out "insulting intelligence" as its own subcategory:
    The abuser tends to see his partner as less intelligent, less competent, less logical, and even less sensitive than he is.... He often has difficulty conceiving of her as a human being. (p. 63)
    One of the primary rhetorical weapons used against underrepresented people in tech is that we're not intelligent, and indeed, that was a large part of what made the original manifesto abusive.
  11. Threatening to harm you
There are others, but I listed the ones that are most relevant to online conversations. And I would add two more:
  • Demanding explanation, where the interlocutor asks for more justification either in ways that make it clear they didn't read the entire piece, or didn't read it carefully, or don't actually want to debate and are just asking in order to steal attention. Sort of like a human denial-of-service attack. The person demanding explanation is like the type of abuser Bancroft describes as "Mr. Right":
    "Mr. Right tries to sanitize his bullying by telling me, 'I have strong opinions' or 'I like debating ideas.' This is like a bank robber saying, 'I'm interested in financial issues.' Mr. Right isn't interested in debating ideas; he wants to impose his own." (p. 83)
    "It is frustrating, and ultimately pointless, to argue with someone who is certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that his perspective is accurate and complete and that yours is wrong and stupid. Where can the conversation possibly go?" (p. 144)
    Demanding explanation is abusive because it's deceptive: the abuser who demands an explanation holds out the promise that he is reasonable, he can be persuaded, and the conversation can go somewhere positive if you just explain more. In reality, he is not open to being changed by what he hears, and is just trying to waste your time and/or entrap you for more abuse. Demanding a 1-on-1 conversation also reflects entitlement to the time and attention of the writer, who has already provided plenty of explanation. It is pretty obvious to me when someone is asking questions out of genuine openness to change, and when they're doing it in a rude and entitled way.
  • Gaslighting; Bancroft discusses discrediting extensively (p. 125, p. 146) but doesn't call it out in the above list. "You're too sensitive", "You're overreacting", and -- when not justified, other than by the purported oversensitivity of the writer -- "You can't make that comparison, it's ridiculous" are all forms of gaslighting. They attempt to make the listener doubt their own perceptions and judgment. I included gaslighting comments under "ridicule", but it's worth pointing out that this is a common and insidious form of ridicule, since it seems superficially reasonable (of course we all think that nobody should be too sensitive, or react too much, though the boundary for how sensitive it's acceptable to be is rarely discussed).

The analysis

I read:
  • All of my mentions that were replies to tweets (from me or other people) linking to "Refusing to Empathize with Elliot Rodger, or that linked to the essay without replying to me.
  • Two comments on my Dreamwidth post that were screened and that I deleted.
(I excluded a lot of mentions that could also have gone on this list, but were replies to tweets unrelated to the essay. My favorite one of those, though, was a response to a picture I posted of a display of boxes of LaCroix sparkling water, which said something like "looking for something to drink so you can get fatter?")

The following table lists all but one of the responses, along with the abusive tactics each one employs.

There was one response that didn't use any of the abusive tactics above. It was illogical (blaming Marc Lépine's actions on Islam because Lépine's father was Algerian), but may have been written in good faith, even if it was ignorant.

So in short:

  • 27 critical/negative replies
  • 26 out of 27 use at least one abuse tactic identified by Bancroft; most several
  • The remaining one is illogical / primarily based on religious stereotyping.
  • No substantive criticisms. At all.
I am often wrong, and many times, people have had critical things to say about my writing. Sometimes they were right. Often, they were non-abusive. But something about this essay drew out many abusive responses, while no one had a genuine intellectual criticism. When you call out and name abuse, a way that you can tell that you were right is that the abusers get more abusive. I'm sure there are places where this essay falls short, logically, or could be better expressed. But no one has pointed them out.

CW: verbally abusive comments; slurs )


The dominance of abuse in the negative responses to my piece doesn't prove I'm right, of course. It doesn't prove there's no good argument against my core theses, and it doesn't prove I didn't make any mistakes. But given that a lot of people were so eager to debunk my article, if there was a good argument, don't you think one of them might have found one?

I think giving names to abusive conversational patterns is extremely powerful and I think it's important to distinguish between criticism and abuse, and notice when the only thing people can seem to muster up in response to anti-abuse discourse is more abuse.

tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
[Content warnings: Discussion of domestic violence, suicide, and verbal abuse, including specific misogynist slurs and more general sexist gaslighting strategies.]

In 1989, Marc Lépine murdered fourteen women in Montreal for being women and being engineering students. He proceeded to kill himself, having written in his suicide note:

"Would you note that if I commit suicide today 89-12-06 it is not for economic reasons (for I have waited until I exhausted all my financial means, even refusing jobs) but for political reasons. Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.... Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men." (quoted by Wikipedia)

More recently, in 2014, Elliot Rodger murdered six people near the UC Santa Barbara campus. Rodger also killed himself, citing his feelings of social rejection by women as the reason for his crime:

"I'm 22 years old and I'm still a virgin. I've never even kissed a girl. I've been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I'm still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I've had to rot in loneliness. It's not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime.... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.... How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me?" -- (Rodger's manifesto, quoted by Wikipedia)

Did Lépine and Rodger have some good points? Did they have valid grievances regardless of the regrettable way in which they both chose to express those grievances (mass murder)? I hope you won't have to think too hard before saying "no". Neither Lépine's sense of entitlement to social privileges, nor Rodger's sense of entitlement to sex and racial status, are reasonable.

In Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft (a counselor who co-founded the first program for abusive men in the US and has worked with abusive men for many years) shows that domestic abusers don't abuse because of their feelings, because they're out-of-control or angry, or because they are mentally ill or influenced by substances. They abuse because of their thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, which create a coherent justification for abuse -- largely through beliefs that they are entitled to something from a woman, and are morally justified in punishing her if she doesn't provide it.

"...an abuser's core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong." (Bancroft, p. 35)

Likewise, Lépine believed that he had a right to a job and that women were oppressing him by being better job candidates than him. Rodger believed that he had a right to sex and that women were oppressing him by not sleeping with him. By killing women, they hoped to send a message to all women that interfering with men's wishes was dangerous. They killed in cold blood, uninfluenced by mental illness or uncontrollable rage. Both crimes were premeditated; both killers had moral theories that justified their actions. We know about those moral theories because both men wrote about them. The positions that men have a right to jobs and women do not, and that men have a right to sex and women have a moral obligation to provide it to men who want it, are political opinions. I hope it's obvious to you that these political opinions are wrong.

Last week, a manifesto written by a Google engineer surfaced; the manifesto resembles those of Rodger's and Lépine's, and you can [CW: explicit sexism, racism, and various other *isms, as well as gaslighting and manipulation] read it for yourself. The manifesto tells a subset of people who work at Google, "Your presence here is illegitimate and you don't belong." I know that's the message because I'm one of those people: I'm a trans man and thus, according to the document, am biologically worse at engineering than cis men like its author (although it's not exactly clear whether the author thinks that cis women's uteruses make them worse at coding -- in which case my skills would come into question -- or whether their hormones do -- in which case I'd be in the clear, phew!)

The manifesto expresses thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that are common to its author, Lépine, Rodger, and the domestic abusers Bancroft describes. It is written from a place of entitlement: like Lépine and Rodger but unlike some of the domestic abusers, the entitlement is not to just one specific woman's attention and service, but rather, to special privileges as white men and to submission and deference from all women, and all people of color, and everybody else occupying a lower position in the social hierarchy. Like Lépine, he's concerned that they're taking our jobs.

In response, Google's VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance -- in an email to all Google employees with the subject line "Affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion—and healthy debate" -- said, "Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws." Other executives expressed disagreement with the message in the manifesto while agreeing that the author had a good point about the "psychologically unsafe environment" for people with political beliefs like his. Some managers reiterated that it was important to be able to share different points of view at Google. In other words: he was wrong to say these things, but you can't help but sympathize with the poor guy -- he felt persecuted for his political views.

When you say that the manifesto writer had a point, you are saying that Rodger and Lépine had a point.

"...the abuser's problem lies above all in his belief that controlling or abusing his female partner is justifiable." (Bancroft, p. 35)
In the rest of this essay, I'm addressing you if you think the views in the manifesto are wrong but that the author has some valid points, or that the manifesto is a valuable contribution to healthy debate. I want to show you that these views need to be shut down, not debated with or sympathized with. I am not addressing people who substantially agree with the content of the manifesto. If that's you, then you might as well stop reading right here.

Read more... )

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
In light of the trans military ban, a lot of you have written things on social media along the lines of, "Trans people, I love and support you, you're not a burden, etc." That's nice, but it would be nicer if you told your fellow cis people that disrespecting trans people isn't behavior that you accept. Another thing you can do to show that your words aren't just words is to give a trans person money for necessary medical care that many trans people can't access (and accessing it will almost certainly become harder in the next year.)

Here's one opportunity to do just that. Rory is an acquaintance of mine and I can vouch for them being a legit person with a need.

edited to add, 2017-09-20: Rory's fundraiser was fully funded and their surgery went well! If you're only reading this now, find another trans person to donate to -- there are plenty. ;)
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)

Lots and lots of people are falling for the "trans people are destroying free speech and intellectual freedom!!11" articles that are going around. For context, a good one to start with is:
"Why Tuvel’s Article So Troubled Its Critics" by Shannon Winnubst:

As one of the many scholars involved in writing the open letter calling on Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy to retract the essay "In Defense of Transracialism," by Rebecca Tuvel, I am compelled to come forward and attempt to reclaim a narrative spinning increasingly out of control.
First, I want to clarify the anonymity of the authorship of the letter. The writing was a collective effort by a dozen or more scholars — the majority faculty members and all of us in philosophy — weighing in on drafts, contributing to and editing sections, requesting additions, and demanding deletions. Many of us became involved at the request of black and/or trans scholars who feel completely demoralized by Tuvel’s article and the failure of peer review that it represents. Speaking for myself, I signed and circulated the letter because I know, firsthand, of the damage this kind of scholarship does to marginalized groups, especially black and trans scholars, in philosophy.

The letter was addressed specifically to Hypatia’s editor and associate editors. All of those involved in the writing of the letter care deeply about the journal, and our effort is itself an expression of our commitment to it. Given our various roles as authors, readers, and longstanding reviewers for the journal, we were alarmed about the failure of the peer-review process that allowed the publication of Tuvel’s article. Some readers have stepped back and come to understand our dismay.
Tuvel received substantive critical feedback at conferences from scholars in critical race theory and trans studies. We do not understand how this failed to shape the review process and can only assume that such scholars were not selected as peer reviewers. We argue, then, that the peer-review process failed, in this instance, in at least two ways. First, it failed a junior scholar, Tuvel, by allowing subpar scholarship to be published in a flagship journal. Second, it failed the field of feminist philosophy as a subdiscipline that continues to struggle to break from the longstanding habits of the broader discipline of philosophy. More specifically, the article’s publication signals an arrogant disregard for the broad, well-established, interdisciplinary scholarly fields of both critical race theory and trans studies. For an article that is explicitly about the concepts of the transracial and transgender, that omission is egregious.

While feminist philosophy should imply a critique of the field of philosophy itself, the open letter to Hypatia wasn’t aimed at the discipline over all. None of us ever expected it to circulate so widely, to garner so many signatures, or to become the object of news stories. Yet, largely due to the fast response by Brian Leiter, the letter and the quickly issued apology by a majority of associate editors of Hypatia quickly became whipping girls, as it were, for the discipline as a whole. This has been, for me, the most astonishing part of the saga. Why would a discipline that has shown a systemic disregard for feminist scholarship suddenly care about this critical dialogue within it?

An article by Julia Serano
Regardless of what you think about the specifics of this case, what happened next is unconscionable: Jesse Singal of NY Mag (who has a penchant for writing high profile articles that depict transgender activists as out-of-control and anti-science, and with whom I've had previous run-ins) decided to write an alarmist article decrying the open letter to Hypatia as a "witch hunt." This helped to inspire a "pile on," as pundits far and wide who couldn't give two-shits about feminist philosophy weighed in on the matter, and attempted to portray this as yet another liberal-attack-on-free-speech (a position that I've previously critiqued as disingenuous and hypocritical).

Historically, "witch hunts" refer to when the masses, consumed by moral panic, attack people on the margins based on the assumption that these marginalized groups will infect or contaminate greater society with their wayward or evil beliefs and practices. So it seems extremely farcical (not to mention scaremongering) for people in the dominant majority to complain that one of their own kind is the victim of a "witch hunt" solely because a few people in the marginalized minority have challenged or critiqued their views.

A third article by Noah Berlatsky:

So, a scholar failed to follow best practices around the treatment of marginalized communities. Critics pointed out the problem. She acknowledged her error and the harm it caused, corrected it, and apologized. Truly, this is a crisis of totalitarianism in the academy.

You have the option of reading those articles, by authors who patiently explain the problems with the Tuvel article and the manufactured controversy about it, at length, or you can read tweet-length summaries. Your choice!

From TransTheory on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TransTheory/status/862046791444738048

"I want to consider (1) core commitments of Trans Studies/Philosophy in the context of Hypatia and (2) irresponsible contrapositives.

Trans Studies/Philosophy demands awareness of the ways academia exploits our bodies, which are highly politicized

In this vein, the “In Defense of Transracialism” article already fails by not addressing that it is wrapped up in this politicization.

In most Philosophy journals this may have flown, but Hypatia (a feminist journal) professes to do better. JS's article decontextualizes this"

From Sara Ahmed on Twitter:


"Baby tip: be very skeptical of articles using 'poisonous call out culture' and 'witch hunt' to describe critiques of transphobia & racism."


"The work of exposing how transphobia and anti-black racism is reproduced by how philosophy is reproduced is vital, brave and risky."


"I learnt from working on sexual harassment that 'witch hunt' tends to be used to describe what you are doing when you contest power."

More from @TransTheory:


"excited that Philosophy & the opinion magazine community expanded which groups have a sacred right to reduce others' lives to tenure fuel

this is a great step forward for professional feminist philosophy, which no longer has to worry about pesky things like feminist commitments" (read the twitter thread for more)

An excerpt from Julia Serano's book, Outspoken, about cis people claiming to be experts on trans issues: https://mobile.twitter.com/JuliaSerano/status/860672214324068353?s=08

In short:

  • If you're defending an article you haven't read while simultaneously refusing to even read what actual trans people are saying in response, consider whether maybe it isn't intellectual freedom that you're defending.
  • When you're used to controlling a conversation, you may feel upset when people you've traditionally been able to silence get to say anything at all. This doesn't mean their presence is stopping you from speaking. If you claim you want an intellectual debate, reacting to hearing the other side by throwing a tantrum about evil call-out culture is inadvisable.
  • The patterns of elevating an intra-community disagreement to a campaign by evil trans people to silence differing views, and of framing the presence of speech by marginalized people as somehow repressive of speech by privileged people, are familiar from GamerGate.
  • Try not to engage in cis fragility: the process of centering your own discomfort with being criticized by trans people to the point where you demand that trans people be silent in order to make you feel more comfortable. (By analogy with the concept of white fragility.)
  • Have some tissues for your cissues.
tim: Solid black square (black)
[livejournal.com profile] badasstronaut would have been 51 today. I wrote this about her two years ago. (Images don't work, for temporary reasons.)
Photo of Debra taken by me in London, December 2006
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
LiveJournal is now requiring even people who log in through OpenID (e.g. me) to accept this user agreement in order to read anything:

As [personal profile] kshandra pointed out:

"Lemme say that one more time for the folks in the back:

ATTENTION: this translation of the User Agreement is not a legally binding document.

So unless I agree to something written in a language I do not read, I can no longer access a blog I have been using over fifteen years."

I actually can read a little Russian (the three years I took in college haven't totally evaporated), but that doesn't mean I have enough confidence in my fluency to sign a contract written in it.

So it is unlikely that I'll be reading LiveJournal at all for much longer (I can still scroll through my friends page with part of it blocked by the modal dialog, but I don't expect that to keep working), which means that I won't be seeing your friends-only posts there, especially if you are [livejournal.com profile] caladri. Migrate over here and let me know. (Or migrate somewhere else and let me know.)
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Compiling what I wrote in an impromptu Twitter thread:

I saw a tweet that said: "English major = 'Want fries with that?' 🍟. Pick something that will give you enough money to write what you want." (In the interest of discretion, I won't say who wrote this, but you can find out if you go to the thread.)

This is bullshit. I have a computer science degree and thus all the money I want and no emotional energy left after work for writing. If I'd majored in English (like 13-year-old me wanted) I wouldn't have gone down the path of lots of money and spiritual/artistic vacuity. (Maybe more like 10-year-old me wanted; 13-year-old me wanted to be an editorial cartoonist and major in sociology or journalism in order to get there. 10-year-old me maybe had the best plan.)

I was in debt -- student, medical, or both, at various times -- from September 1997 to January 2017. Now that I'm out of it, I can choose what to do next, so the point here isn't "cry for me". It is: Please do not pretend choosing an economically useful major while telling yourself you can do your important work "in your free time" (imagine all the finger air quotes there) doesn't have a serious, permanent cost. It does.

You can never get back the time you spent doing stuff you don't care about for people who despise you. You need money to live, but time is the most precious resource you have because when you lose money, you can get it back; when you lose time, you can never get it back.

Me, I didn't even choose computer science for the money (that came later). I thought, at the time, that I'd enjoy it more than I enjoyed writing or playing music. (I didn't enjoy playing music at all at the time, because I spent most of the first 16 years of my life playing classical music not because I wanted to, but because I had a parent who was foisting "what I didn't get to do when I was younger" onto me. I did get over that, but it took me about another 20 years. That's another story.)

Anyway, once you get into industry, you realize the real day-to-day work isn't much fun, or that there are fun things about it but not the ones you anticipated, and a whole lot of soul-sucking baggage that's the price of both the fun and the money, but by then the money has you trapped.

So if somebody had said all this to me when I was 18 (which they probably did, but I also had a parent yelling at me pretty loudly to be practical so I could support her when she got old (joke's on her, she's old now and I haven't spoken to her since 2014 and never will again)), it wouldn't have mattered -- I thought I was choosing the major that was what I wanted to do most, and I was pretty solidly on the side of telling my peers to do the same, and grieving with the ones who had parents who felt their tuition money was buying them permanent control over their children's lives.

I would hate to see someone who doesn't even like computer science, though, choose it anyway because of shaming from people using the 🍟 emoji (and by the way, there is zero shame in working in food service -- someone has to cook for the people who get to spend their time writing), because of middle-class anxiety over the psychic cost of being one of the people their parents or grandparents stepped on to achieve middle-class status. It's one thing to choose it because it seems like the most fun thing at the time, another to hide your light under the barrel of "a stable job, a practical career."

So if you're reading this and you're a teenager, choosing a major, or choosing whether to go to college at all, and you want to write or make art: write. Make your art. Put your first energies into those things, build whatever scaffolding you need to in order to keep your first energies there. (And if you change your mind later, that's cool too.) If you de-center those things in your life now, it will never get any easier to center them again. Do what it takes to survive, but never pretend that what fuels your fire is secondary and "real jobs" are primary; know it's the other way around.

If you're 28 and in a "good" job and you want to write or make art but you're afraid of losing safety, know it'll never get any easier. So you might as well do it now.

If you're 38 and you want to write or make art but you have 2 kids to support, I wish you the best.

We -- as in, we adults who've had our dreams beaten out of us -- terrorize kids with a lot of fear-mongering about starving artists and starving musicians. The truth is that artists and musicians have always found ways to survive in a world hostile to art, so long as they're lucky enough to get taught that the shame of not being affluent must be avoided at all costs. (There are a few other kinds of luck that I'll talk about a little later.)

Sometimes there's a very strong reason to pick the "I'll make a lot of money, then I'll do what I want" path: medical bills or responsibility for children or parents or both, while living in a society that is vicious towards young, old, sick, and disabled people. But ask yourself: If I'll be able to do The Thing later, when I have X amount of money, can I do it now without the money? And likewise: If I'm afraid to do The Thing now, will having X amount of money actually address the root cause of that fear? Because "I need to have X amount of savings before I do Y" tends to turn into "no, no, I was wrong, I need X*Z amount of savings first". The goalposts never stop moving. When you were 12, maybe you thought all you needed was rent money and enough food to eat. At 25, maybe that turns into a down payment on a house, and at 30, maybe a hot tub in the yard, a nice car, and a vacation home. Centering yourself on what really matters now builds a foundation on which it remains easier to not forget what mattered to you in the face of the distractions capitalism will try to sell you (especially when you spend all day in an office with people who also believe they can buy their way to personal fulfillment).

Another thing to keep in mind: even if you are a person who can put in 8+ hours a day at a professional job, then leave and spend 6+ hours on your art (and not sleep much), you don't really know how much time you have before becoming too disabled to do both. Might be 60 years. Might be 1 year. All abled people are temporarily abled, and some of the most common disabilities and chronic illnesses take your excess energy first. Not to mention that chronic stress both from toxic jobs and double-timing tends to trigger any latent predispositions to those illnesses.

Especially now, in 2017: there is only the present; stability in the future is a lie.

Keep in mind reading all of this, I don't necessarily know the answer or the plan, not even for me and certainly not for you. I'm 36 and still in a job I'm ambivalent about on the best days, and I want to buy a house and adopt kids; renting a room doesn't afford much space for musical instruments or my sewing machine or more animals, much less kids. At this point, I don't have the conviction that the writing and art I want to make are worth delaying those plans for (the plans that more closely resemble the lives of my peers, my college friends and my office co-workers, and have their own appeal).

A few months ago I was driving through Iowa and bought a new hardcover copy of Bruce Springsteen's autobiography on impulse. When I started reading it, I loved the writing but I had to set it aside because some uncomfortable feeling overwhelmed me, and a little later I realized it was envy: of people like him and his friends who got to spend their time, from early teens onwards, playing the kind of music they wanted to play. I was playing music when I was a teenager, too, but I hated it, and stopped as soon as I had the freedom to. It took me my entire adult life so far to want to do it again. My other musical hero, John Darnielle, worked day jobs for most of his career. Envy, as well, because I can't seem to find work that isn't primarily emotional labor (even when my business card says "engineer") and that doesn't leave me with much at the end of the day to put into art.

So while part of me knows it's not too late, part of me is too busy grieving over all the time I lost to be able to make a new plan. If you're younger, and don't have as many sunk costs, maybe listen to whatever inside you makes you feel the most alive. And if you're older than me, do it too so I'll have more examples to look to.

Another reason why the original advice is garbage: yes, Wallace Stevens was an insurance agent. But I suspect that if you look at the writers you like, you'll find more people who can write because they have a partner who financially supports them than you'll find full-time engineers or lawyers who are part-time writers. This is sort of a dirty little secret. The best thing you can do to be a successful artist is major in whatever you want, then marry rich.

This doesn't mean you should marry for money. It does mean that "bust your ass doing 2-3 jobs if you want to earn the right to be an artist" is toxic victim-blaming capitalist pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps bullshit, because a lot of the artists you admire got there because someone else worked full-time to support them, not because they moonlighted. The good luck of being loved by someone with money should not be confused with hard work.

Aside from economics, something I think stops a lot of younger people from following their vision is belief in scarcity: there are a lot of people who want to be musicians and writers, and many who are more talented than you, so why bother? Even if you make a living off it, you won't be famous. There are too many novels and no one will read yours; too many bands and no one will go to your shows. Sound familiar? It does for me.

The more time passes, the more I think that's a seductive lie, too, not because you will get famous, but because that probably isn't what you want anyway. What you do want is time to spend doing the work that makes you feel whole.

'You hold onto Berryman’s line – “It is idle to reply to critics” – and understand that the actual work isn’t the thing you make, but the process that makes it, whose inherent value and dignity is well beyond any debate, because it is an expression of your self and therefore nobody can really judge it.' -- John Darnielle
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Quoting this in its entirety because it's a better version of some posts I wrote years ago about why Brendan Eich was so off the mark when he said that even though he supported anti-queer legislation, he didn't hate queer people.

"OK, as a queer person who grew up in a genuinely loving, caring, utterly wonderful, and still deeply homophobic Church, let me try to fill in what you’re not understanding about this whole “Love the sinner” deal.

When we refer to people like you as “Homophobic” I want to be clear what we’re saying here. This is not a judgment of your intent. We are not describing you as a hateful person, as an aggressive or violent person. But we are saying that your actions and your attitudes participate in and reinforce a system of rhetoric that encourages violence against LGBT people, and, far, far more importantly, that forces millions of LGBT people to live in shame.

That’s really what this comes down to. Not hate. Not violence. Shame.

Consider the point purely theologically. Jesus tells us that to desire a sinful thing is as bad as to act on that desire. My lusting after another mans wife is as bad as actually sleeping with her. My genuine desire to hurt someone is as bad as actually hurting them.

So when you tell me that loving another man is a sin, you’re not just talking about physical acts of intimacy. You don’t get to draw the line there. You don’t get to pretend that I can be bisexual so long as I never actually physically act on it (which is already a terrible burden to place on someone). You’re saying that every time I look at a guy and imagine how soft his lips would be, or think about how beautiful his eyes are, I am sinning. I am a sinner every time a dude walks past me with a tight sweater on that shows of his arms. Every time he has nice hair or a nice smile.

My love, according to you, is a sin. That is the burden you are forcing people to live under. That burden forced me so deep into the closet that I didn’t even know I was there. It forced me to repress every genuine feeling of sexual attraction for other men, and to live for years with those feelings straining to get out, whilst I struggled with the constant guilt and shame that came from having those thoughts.

And I am one of the lucky ones, because I’m alive to have this conversation. Because for many, many LGBT people that guilt and shame manifests as self-harm, substance abuse, low esteem that leads them into abusive relationships, and very often suicide.

You tell yourself that you’re one of the good ones because you don’t hate us. You only hate what we “do”. But what we “do” is living. It’s being alive and whole and a part of this world, and if you genuinely believe that we can’t have that then you might as well put the gun to our heads and pull the trigger. Because you’re already doing that, you just don’t have the guts to admit it."

-- Peter Brunton, via Tumblr. Emphasis added.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy often gets pushed, to the exclusion of all other therapy modalities, for a range of mental health issues: depression, anxiety, insomnia, phobias, addiction.

I can't speak to how well it works for all of those issues, but one of the things wrong with it -- not with it, rather, but with the privileged place it's been given in the current medical model of mental health issues -- is that it's close to useless for people with a trauma history, and trauma is the underlying cause of all five issues I mentioned for many people. (I could write a separate post on why it's been given that privileged place, but I'll leave that to your imagination for now.) I am not a medical or mental health professional, just someone with a lifetime of personal experience.

[personal profile] azurelunatic's post about being prescribed a CBT workshop for insomnia is a great example. When I read it, I thought about my own sleep issues and how useless every behavioral approach -- both CBT-type approaches, and "sleep hygiene"-style approaches -- have been for it.

I have obstructive sleep apnea, so no behavioral approach can address the fact that untreated, I wake up more tired than I was when I went to bed, because I wake up many times an hour unable to breathe. But the main issue is that my body learned when I was a child that sleep was dangerous, and neither cognitive nor behavioral approaches can make my body unlearn that -- it's something I learned before I was developmentally able to use cognition or to reflect on my behavior.

As a child, I had an abusive parent who would force me to go to bed hours before I was actually ready to go to sleep, because she thought it was good for children to be on a regular sleep schedule. (Or because she wanted to control somebody and doing things to children that are generally believed to be for their own good is a socially acceptable way to do it. I don't really know.) So I learned that sleep meant lying in bed for hours, awake and intensely bored but not allowed to get up and do anything. When I got a little older I would get up and night and go into a walk-in closet in our apartment and read for as long as I could get away with it. When my mother figured out I was doing this, she unscrewed the light bulb. I learned to associate sleep, as well as going to bed early, both with an abusive parent who I knew was incapable of knowing what was good for me, and with hours of boredom and anxiety.

Therapists (and others) who apply CBT simplistically would tell me that the lasting, physical residue of these years are "cognitive distortions" that I need to reason my way out of. They would be wrong, because there's nothing distorted about mechanisms I learned in order to keep myself safe. Being awake is safer than being asleep in an environment that is dangerous for you, and for a child, there's nothing more dangerous than an environment that contains an alternately intrusive and inattentive caregiver and nobody else.

It's safe for me to relax now, and has been for the past twenty years, but because trauma changes your body in chemical and physical ways, just telling myself that won't make me go to sleep. I use chemical solutions to a chemical problem: medication. Maybe someday, I'll have had enough trauma therapy that I won't need it as often. But in the meantime, I'll be able to get enough rest and avoid some of the constant physical stress that arises from inadequate sleep.

CBT is politically attractive because it individualizes responsibility . Better to blame people's suffering on their own cognitive distortions, and teach them that they need to do work to overcome them (under capitalism, any solution that gives already-overworked people more work to do gets conferred with near-religious levels of praise), than to recognize that abuse culture harms people in long-lasting ways. If we recognized that many parenting practices widely considered to be non-abusive, or even helpful, in this culture are actually traumatic, we'd have to rethink a lot. Better to avoid confronting that by privatizing trauma and recasting it as individual pathology, ignoring the patterns in front of us.

Mental health is (I suspect) not the default state of human existence in the first place -- our brains are complicated and have too many failure modes for that. But in a society that depends on denial -- of the lasting effects of slavery (denial of the effects on white people, mostly), of the violence done by income inequality, and of the corrosiveness of toxic masculinity -- self-awareness is rebellion, and thus it's not surprising that to find therapies that foster it rather than providing a few tools to be economically productive while hurting inside, we often have to look outside the mainstream.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I used to be a pacifist. It's easy to be one when you aren't being attacked.

Large-scale violence always starts with ideas and rhetoric, because rhetoric eases organizing and large-scale violence requires the consent and participation of many people. How do you let people know you don't take their ideas seriously? How do you defend yourself against ideas that can only cause harm to you? Communicating that you will refuse to listen is one way, but it doesn't scale. No-platforming powerful fascists does scale. So does punching one on camera.

Here's a FAQ list of things people have asked me -- or, in some cases, things they would have asked me if they had thought to ask rather than assuming an answer -- about why I think fascism must be stopped by any means necessary.

  1. When you say "fascist", are you just talking about anybody you disagree with?

    No. I'm using the word in its accepted meaning. As with any other word in any language spoken by humans, there is no "objective" meaning. Like any other word, "fascism" is meaningless except in the presence of a particular shared understanding between speakers. I expect that people listening to me will have a bit of basic historical knowledge, and understand the meaning of "fascist" by example, the way we understand most concepts: the Nazis during World War II are the best-known example, but the past 100-odd years in Europe and North America have seen a number of others. In ordinary conversation, I don't stop to elaborate all that -- it would be hard to talk about fascism without having to explain a great deal of denotative and connotative meaning every time, since after all, words are useful because they mean things. But since this is an FAQ, I'll quote Emily Gorcenski; her definition of "fascism" coincides with mine.

    There is a tendency, built from 40 years of online debates, to call anything you disagree with "fascist."

    Likewise, anything authoritarian gets called fascist, too, as if people assume that only fascists can be dictators.

    Fascism is a political theory that jelled in the early 1900s and found particular traction in Central Europe.

    The word comes from an old latin term, where leaders carried rods, or fasces, tied together to symbolize strength.

    The core belief of fascism is strength through unity. That the state is stronger if all parties are unified.

    The politic also suggested that fragmented liberalist parties needed to be subjugated and could be ruled by a minority fascist party.

    Given the timing of the rise of fascism, technology was critical in the theory. To fascists, the purpose of tech was to strengthen the state

    Dissent by other parties was weakness, only the party could determine its own fate.

    I'm quoting this entire thread because to have a conversation, it's important to agree on shared vocabulary. Of course, you are free to define "fascism" to mean anything you disagree with, but that's not how I define it, and if you're committed to a different definition, then it's unlikely that reading this FAQ will help you much.

  2. Okay, sure, I accept that definition of "fascism". But Trump isn't a fascist, is he?

    Yes, he is -- not because I disagree with Trump (I'm not sure Trump has a coherent enough ideology for the word "disagree" to denote much, though Steve Bannon certainly does), but because he fits the definition of "fascist." Quoting Emily Gorcenski again:

    So let's look at how we're using the term today. Is the modern GOP a fascist party? Is Trump? His supporters?

    Trump won with the minority popular vote. So there's that. He's controlling narratives away from negative views of his party.

    His policies involve cutting off resources for marginalized communities. His supporters call anyone not a white man a "snowflake."

    His rise to power was strongly aided by technology. He wants to march tanks through DC in a show of military might.

    He has a singular focus on restoring manufacturing jobs to the US at the expense of other services.

    And he and his team regularly harp about "unity" and patriotism.

    So yes, Trump is a fascist and his team promotes fascism.

    Not because I disagree with them, but because actions align with fascist policy.

    If you talk like a fascist and you act like a fascist and you govern like a fascist, you're probably a fascist.

    TLDR: fascism requires mandatory unity for strengthening the state and isn't about dismissing speech or dissent.

  3. Well, okay, maybe he's a fascist, but the people elected him, so don't you have to accept him as our leader?

    No. Donald Trump exploited a loophole in the Constitution in order to take over the government. Voting in the US is based on the electoral college because the founders foresaw that the popular vote might result in the election of an incompetent leader. They thought that the job of president was too important to entrust directly to the majority. They wrote the electoral college into the Constitution to provide an additional layer of oversight, so that electors -- who were supposed to be trusted representatives of the people in their home state -- could use their discretion and use their vote in the best interests of their constituents, which meant usually but not necessarily voting the way the numerical majority did.

    In 2016, the electors failed to do their job by keeping Trump -- deemed incompetent by both Democrats and Republicans with any degree of governance experience -- out of the White House. The system does not do in practice what the Constitution intended it to do, and the fact remains that Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular vote by 2.86 million votes. We are experiencing minority rule.
    It is “desirable,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, “that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of” president. But is “equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” These “men”—the electors––would be “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.” And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—“the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

    As Michael Signer explains, the framers were particularly afraid of the people choosing a demagogue. The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming president. And they would combat “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” They would prevent America’s adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump. -- Peter Beinart, "The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President"
    In addition, a fascist cannot legitimately lead a representative democracy, because fascism is incompatible with democracy; a two-party (or more-party) state where both parties have meaningful influence is not a fascist state.

  4. Doesn't it undermine democracy to deny that the current government is "legitimate"?

    No, the fascist currently controlling the regime is who's undermining democracy, as well as the Nazis he has appointed as strategists. To accept a fascist government as a legitimate one means it's legitimate for a democracy to operate not based on the consent of the governed, but based on the will of the minority, backed up by a monopoly on violence. When you decide that the opposite of democracy can be democracy, you undermine democracy.

  5. So why are fascists so bad? Aren't they entitled to their own opinions? What effect do fascists really have on people's lives? Sure, I get that the ones in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy were bad, but that was a long time ago. Are the ones now really so bad? They have nice haircuts and dress nicely, after all, they don't look like a bunch of thugs.

    Zoë Quinn is a video game developer who was targeted by the GamerGate coordinated harassment campaign starting in 2014. GamerGate began with an aggrieved, abusive ex-boyfriend determined to ruin Zoë's life, and quickly evolved into a campaign to purge women from the video game industry. Somewhere along the line, fascists recognized that GamerGaters were their fellow travelers and co-opted the movement into a much broader coalition of angry young white men who helped get Trump elected. I know it sounds weird. But there are people who wrote it all down. They also warned you at the time that GamerGaters were dangerous, but most people just dismissed them as basement trolls.

    Like many of us, Zoë was glad to see a certain neo-Nazi shithead get punched in the face, and wrote this to contextualize why:

    Reminder: before you msg me about my joy in that "alt right" shithead punched, remember that the movement has tried to kill me for years.

    I don't talk about it much anymore because I don't want it to be The Only Thing About Me, but they've literally tried to kill me. A lot.

    at the height of it, a lot of people just watched. People did the two sides shit then too. People said it was too messy and looked away.

    People thought the people trying to kill me were too ridiculous to take seriously. Or that they were just having an opinion.

    While the Discourse did its thing, they tried to kill me. Literally, actually kill me, beyond the damage they actually succeeded in.

    So if you were around for that, and were silent then yet defending nazis now, you need to take a really hard look in the mirror.

    Cause I'm just *one* of the people they personally singled out and targeted.

    i can tell you right now after years of work, advocacy, and protecting and hiding their other targets and asking for help, it's not enough

    So maybe I just don't need to hear another uninformed take on how we just need to try more discourse to solve the problem, like I haven't.


    They celebrate people they hate scorning them. You can't shame people who are proud of the horrible shit they do.

    So yeah, I'm gonna enjoy watching a video of the self proclaimed leader of a movement that tries to kill me getting socked in the head.

    the only good thing about these little shits stalking me years after the fact is that I can fill my timeline with videos of it that they see

    I hope it makes their ideology feel unwelcomed and unaccepted, because all the Discourse has failed and people in power failed to help too."

    Listen to Zoë. She has the authority that comes from the lived experience of being targeted by fascists just because they need a target to hurt in order to prove that they're strong. They didn't succeed in killing her, which is why her Twitter handle is "UnburntWitch". But this is what fascists do to people. The only difference between GamerGate/Trump-style fascism and Nazi Germany is that Trump is just getting started.

  6. Why is fascism different from other political ideologies? Would you say that any Republican political leader was illegitimate just because they were a Republican?

    No. Fascism is different from other political positions because, by definition, what defines a democracy is intolerance of fascism. Democracies are not democratic unless it's accepted as a basic principle that every adult human (the definition of "adult" doesn't matter as long as there's a consistent and widely accepted one, which is not to discount the injustice of laws that strip voting rights from disabled people and convicted felons) is a person who deserves to have a say, and that no single individual's voice matters either more or less than any oher. When we start questioning that, when we start saying that some lives matter more than others and one person's vote should mean more than a different person's vote does, then we are no longer a democracy.

    Of course, democracy has always been aspirational. The founding fathers owned slaves. However, reverting what progress we've made does not bring us closer to the democratic aspiration.

  7. Can't we defeat fascism using the marketplace of ideas?

    No, because fascism operates outside the rules of any marketplace of ideas, using violence, not rational discourse or persuasion. Free markets (of any kind) can't exist without regulation, because a game with no enforcement of rules is a game at which people will cheat. When it comes to protecting what we value, few people take a laissez-faire approach: the only places where people don't lock their doors tend to be ones where everybody trusts our neighbors. We cannot trust fascists and thus cannot leave the gates of our marketplace of ideas open to anybody who wants to come in and flip all the pushcarts.

  8. No, but really, if we just explain to the fascists why they're wrong, won't they change their minds?

    There's no historical precedent suggesting that has ever been effective. It's certainly true that individuals who hold horrible sets of beliefs, like Derek Black can, over time, with exposure to a variety of perspectives, change their mind. However, if we wait for every fascist to attend college and hope that they will expand their minds to see that reason is a better way to make decisions than coercion, a lot of people will be dead before they graduate. It's nice when horrible violent people decide to stop being horrible and violent, but nicer still when my friends and I can be alive because fascists haven't been allowed to murder us, regardless of whatever intellectual journey those fascists might be in the middle of.

    As [twitter.com profile] meakoopa eloquently explained, to allow open debate on whether genocide is good or not is to allow genocide to happen:

    "every liberal democracy realizes early on there are some positions which must prima facie be aggressively excluded from public discourse

    u can't even articulate WHY they are unreasonable bc to articulate WHY they are unreasonable is to itself open the possibility of reason.

    this is why u can't allow "just hypothetical" questions abt whether Jews or blacks, as Spencer posits, are innately inferior/destroyable.

    Nazi theorists like Carl Schmitt VERY QUICKLY diagnosed this weakness in

    U can collapse a democracy by insisting the democracy had a right to end itself: Hindenburg to Hitler, "the peaceful transition of power."

    Intolerance cannot be tolerated, bc this corrosive effect means the law can be co-opted by, and so protective of, fascism.

    Fascism wriggles into democracies by insisting on right to be heard, achieves critical mass, then dissolves the organs that installed it.

    WHICH MEANS the stronger it becomes, it cannot be sufficiently combatted with reason. Bc "reason" becomes the state's tool to enforce.


    some positions must be excluded from discourse. Some positions you do not listen to - u can only punch.

    A society that begins to entertain why some members of its polis might not belong invites catastrophic decay. Those voices must be excluded.


    All of American history is an exercise in one debate: "who is the 'we' who are the people?"


    hello! unexpectedly a lot of responses to this thread. almost all vector around "does this mean I can exclude [group/race I hate]?"

    This question vexes the Frankfurt school. But democracy is only form that can even DIAGNOSE the problem.

    "you haven't solved the problem." no; the problem is self-replicating and -perpetuating. The point is u must articulate problem AS problem.

    You cannot take as given that allowing free and open debate about genocide will stop fascism. Because it never, ever has.

    Emphasis added.

  9. Fine, there might be a few bad guys we can't convince, but surely the majority will see they're wrong.

    History suggests otherwise. As Rachel Stark points out (read the whole thread), no-platforming is the only effective defense against fascists because the wrongness of their position is not obvious -- over time, fascists have adapted and found ways to re-brand themselves that bypass people's defenses, much like pop-up ads that make it past your ad blocker. Ideally no-platforming would be done peacefully, and it usually is, but sometimes peaceful methods fail, and punching a Nazi if it prevents genocide is a moral imperative.

    So I am 100% pro punching Nazis & tired of hearing this debated, but I wonder if folks realize WHY anti-fascists punched that Nazi.

    We don't punch Nazis out of anger (though we are mad), or to change their minds (they don't want to change)...

    We don't even punch Nazis because it feels good (though it feels SO good).

    A central Antifa (anti-fascist) principle is that fascists CANNOT be allowed to have a platform.

  10. I thought you were against the violence committed by the military and police. What's the difference between that, and the violence that self-appointed anti-fascist activists sometimes commit?

    The military and police defend the state and protect wealth; anti-fascist activists defend justice. Under a trustworthy government, the military would do the job of protecting that government from corruption by anti-democratic forces, and the police would do the job of protecting individuals from each other. In reality, the military and police both protect the wealth of the few and nothing else. Thus, as citizens, our interests are not and cannot be aligned with the state, and the military and police act against us, not with us. They started the war; anti-fascism is us fighting back. (I am not an anarchist, but I am one in circumstances like right now, where the government does not have the legitimacy that arises from the consent of the governed. A government elected by a small minority of the people, which -- more importantly -- is driven by a political philosophy that explicitly disregards the consent of the governed -- is not legitimate.)

  11. Violence makes me feel bad. Can't we just have peaceful debate?

    Violence makes me feel bad, but genocide makes me feel worse. I can't honestly say that seeing one advocate of ethnic cleansing get punched feels worse to me than witnessing a genocide would feel.

    As [twitter.com profile] AmyDentata put it:

    "If you want peaceful debate then don't advocate dehumanization and genocide. Otherwise get punched

    The liberal nonviolence purity test exists because the state needs you to be ineffective against its own violence. This enables fascists"

    You have a choice between violence against fascists to protect democracy, and violence against democracy to protect fascists. As long as you're comfortable with it, I can't tell you which one to pick.

  12. But I don't like punching people. I'm small and I'm afraid I would just get stomped.

    You don't have to. Even if it's not safe for you to risk jail time or a beating, you can still refuse to listen to fascists and to people floating the "but you have to tolerate different opinions" sealioning that I talked about. Anyone can refuse to listen! Also, you can make friends with people who do punch fascists and bake them a nice loaf of vegan banana bread.

  13. Can't we use, idk, the rule of law, or democracy, somehow, to stop fascists?

    No. Fascists operate outside the rule of law and therefore, the rule of law cannot stop them from destroying democracy.

  14. Isn't democracy strong enough to survive anything?

    How would you prove that claim? Democracy is a fairly new idea and arguably has still never been fully implemented. The democratic aspiration is not so strong as to be able to survive a persistent, sustained, organized effort to kill it, because aside from the inevitability of death, there's very little that is. So the idea that democracy isn't under an existential threat from fascism seems like magical thinking to me. If fascism doesn't pose an existential threat to democracy, what does?

  15. But my free speech?

    If you're not a fascist, you have nothing to worry about with respect to your free speech. "Human beings are good with slippery slopes: we build stairs."

    Alisha Rai quoted two different tweets from the same fascist, Dan Adamini, who on one occasion wrote:

    "Violent protestors who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery."

    and two days later wrote:

    "About to go on the air, lots of hate coming from the tolerant left."

    "You're so tolerant" is the kind of contemptuous sarcasm whose intent is pretty clear: to manipulate, to shame through an attack on your self-image as tolerant, an attempt to make you disintegrate in the face of the supposed disconnect between your self-image and yourself. Feigned concern over free speech from those who want the monopoly on free speech does the same work. By saying "but free speech!" you tell people like Adamini that you're easy to manipulate.

  16. But like, don't Milo and all those people have some valid points? I mean, don't some people get awfully mad about people like Milo hurting their feelings? Isn't it fair to call those people special snowflakes who need to be in safe spaces all the time?

    If you don't like safe spaces, start by refusing to make any space you're in a safe space for fascists. The idea that fascists only "hurt feelings" is useful to them: we know we're in a culture that devalues emotions and, indeed, anything culturally coded as feminine. If you can get people to disconnect their rational minds from their emotional selves, you can cut of their innate sense of right and wrong and get them to carry out an evil agenda for you. So feelings matter. Yours might well be trying to scream at you that you do not need to sacrifice yourself for fascists' supposed free speech rights, and you ignore them at your peril.

    Even more so, fascists don't hurt feelings for its own sake. They hurt feelings in order to see what else they can get away with. Attempts to shock and offend with words alone are boundary-testing. They want to see if they can get away with using their power to make you feel horrible, small, disgusted, less than human, silenced, invisible, or any number of other things. If they observe that they have the power to make you feel something (which they do, because you're human and living humans have feelings as a result of things other people do, at least occasionally), they'll get a sense of how much power they have to do more than that to you.

  17. What if someone thinks I'm a fascist and tries to silence me?

    Then prove them wrong. The fact that sometimes people are wrong about things does not need to be a reason never to take action.

  18. But what if they punch me accidentally?

    Apologies in advance. Get an ice pack and reflect on what you just sacrificed for freedom.

  19. Okay, fine, I see now that fascism and democracy are incompatible. So what do we do about it?

    You should listen to the people who have been fighting fascism for decades and use that knowledge to inform your action: the most comprehensive guide is M. Testa's Militant Anti-Fascism: A Hundred Years of Resistance.

  20. Somebody told me that discriminating against them for their political views was exactly the same as racism.

    It's okay to treat someone harshly because they want to kill you. They can and should stop trying to kill you, but a Black person can't stop being Black.

  21. Okay, but didn't you say before that I also shouldn't discriminate against queer people who chose to be queer?

    Note the words "and should" in that sentence.

  22. Who are you to tell people they shouldn't be trying to commit genocide?

    Who am I, indeed? The question is: do you think you should tell people they shouldn't be trying to commit genocide?

  23. Somebody told me that it's wrong for me to fight fascists, because they just disagree with me and I have to accept anybody who disagrees with me.

    That's straight out of the Nazi playbook. Ask them why they're using the Nazi playbook if they're not a Nazi. I am being very literal here. There is a Nazi playbook, and seeding doubt this way is in it.

  24. What about Godwin's Law?

    Godwin's Law was repealed on November 8, 2016.

  25. Somebody asked me for an objective definition of fascism.

    Ask them for an objective definition of "objective."

  26. Somebody told me that I was intolerant of differences of opinion because I said genocide is bad.

    The last couple of things are all examples of sealioning, defined by Erica Friedman as "a specific, pervasive form of aggressive cluelessness, that masquerades as a sincere desire to understand." Fascists understand that if they front-load their preoccupations with gaining power through violence and with ethnic cleansing and racial purity, they will meet resistance. So they test people's boundaries and defenses by sealioning: asking people to justify democracy starting from zero axioms. But logically, you can't prove anything if you don't start from axioms. The value of democracy is self-evident and an argument with a person who does not accept it is a waste of time, because arguments are only useful between people who are willing to listen to each other. People who are prepared to destroy you don't need to listen to you. The purpose of these questions is to make you doubt; fascism itself admits no doubt.

    Punching a Nazi is one way to say "I do not believe this kind of discourse should be treated in any other way than with a swift kick you-now-where. It is not worth the breath that it would take for me to explain why this discourse is wrong." There are other ways. If it's your co-worker talking fascism at lunch, then words are an appropriate way to shut them down (if they escalate, one can consider other remedies). If it's Richard Spencer giving an interview to the news media that could make fascism look appealing to thousands or millions of people at once, then someone showing up to interrupt him doesn't make for a good story, but punching him does.

  27. Why are you talking about Nazis, anyway? I thought we beat the Nazis in 1945 and they're gone now.

    While Nazism in Germany (and beyond) was a specific historical phenomenon, neo-Nazi movements have flourished everywhere that doesn't explicitly try to stamp them out (e.g. Germany) since the end of World War II. Nazis are a specific kind of fascist, but the advantage of talking about "Nazis" is that the word is recognized, whereas many people think "fascist" is just a generic insult that means you don't like somebody's views. On the other hand, we all know Nazis are bad. At least, I thought we all knew that until the past couple months. It's also really not a stretch: just read Steve Bannon's CV and find out what he thinks about Jews.

  28. I get all that, but still, isn't there some non-violent way to stop Nazis or fascists? Isn't violence bad?

    Again, listen to the people who actually have relatively-recent experience defending their spaces against Nazis: here, [twitter.com profile] puckett101 shares their experience in the punk/hardcore music scene, which -- like 4chan-ish messageboards later on, has long been a recruiting ground for Nazis because it's a good place to find and corrupt alienated young white people. What both groups have in common is a strong commitment to shocking their parents, and when that involves dyeing your hair pink and having gay sex, that's good, but when Nazis figure out that you can talk kids into being Nazis by telling them it will shock their parents, that's bad.

    ...There was a good chunk of my life when I think everyone I knew had put hands on a Nazi.

    And here's why - it was never "just one" Nazi skin. One became six became 20.

    Nazi skins showed up, pushed people around, took over the venue and turned everything to shit with bullying, abuse and their Sieg Heiling.


    In the punk and hardcore scenes I was part of, discourse led to more Nazis showing up and more problems.

    The only reaction that prevented Nazis from becoming a problem was not letting them in. AT ALL. EVER.

    And if they somehow got in? Or wouldn't go away? We had no choice but to defend ourselves.


    So no, I don't feel bad that a white supremacist got punched in the face. I don't think dialogue is the solution.

    And I think those things because I and people I know dealt with actual Nazis for years.

    If you want to clutch your pearls, fine. If you want to understand the flip side, talk to some folks from the ARA or a SHARP.

    Because old punks are some of the only folks in America to have dealt with actual Nazis on a regular basis.


    tl;dr Nazis are like vampires - if you let them in, they'll just start sucking and the only way to get rid of them is a right/left cross.

  29. I think I can figure out a way to stop Nazis without punching. Should I try to come up with one?

    You can if you want to. While you're thinking about it, I'm going to be over here supporting the people who are actually stopping Nazis and fascists in the only way we know how. This is a classic "the perfect is the enemy of the good" situation. Personally, I won't let your unfinished project to come up with a perfect solution to the attraction many people have to fascism stop me from supporting those using the good solution, and punching Nazis is good.

  30. I feel uncomfortable. Doesn't that mean you're saying something bad?

    No. Sit with that discomfort and learn from it. Also, read these words from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail":

    I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.

    Whether or not you're white (and most of the people who ask these questions are white, because having to struggle to survive as a member of a subjugated minority group makes it hard to forget that subjugators cannot be controlled by being nice to them -- but not all are), ask yourself whether you recognize yourself in MLK's description of "the white moderate". Do you, too, value the absence of tension more than the presence of justice? Consider the possibility that what is making you uncomfortable is not injustice, unfairness, or immorality, but rather, the presence of tension -- which you can learn to be comfortable with if you realize that it is a necessary part of pushing ourselves collectively closer to justice.

  31. Okay, fine, we should stop Nazis. But I don't know any, so what am I supposed to do?

    If you work at a big enough company, you work with Nazis. If you're a white person living in a white-dominated area, then you probably don't live too far from Nazis. Nazis keep their views hidden when it's not safe to express them, so do your best to make it unsafe to be a Nazi and they won't be able to organize themselves well enough to build concentration camps.

    A lot of us nerds on the Internet spent time on 4chan (I didn't, but that doesn't make me a better person -- I did spend time on Reddit, after all) and [profile] spnbmb described in detail the ways in which 4chan and 8chan denizens make no secret of their fascist views when they believe no one's watching (while engaging in more socially-acceptable behaviors, like sealioning and decrying anti-fascist violence, in public). Contextualizing Richard Spencer (that guy with the punchable face) and who he is, [twitter.com profile] spnbmb wrote:

    If you think Spencer's views are somehow outside the norm for his political peer group, I have news for you: he is toning it down a LOT.

    I spent most of 2016 monitoring various /pol/ and /k/ boards on a daily basis. What Spencer says in public is just the tip of the iceberg.

    "Right wing death squads" is a popular phrase & aspiration. Are many of them basement-dwelling LARPers? Sure. But look at Dylann Roof.

    I witnessed firsthand the percolation of memes & talking points from imageboards to social media to "alternative" news to mainstream.


    Meme magic is indeed real, in a way. If you don't understand imageboard culture, you won't understand what's happening now.

    GETs and blessings of Kek are a new spin on Nazi esotericism. Memes are the new propaganda ministry. Digging/doxing is the new SS.

    All of these things are now amorphous & crowdsourced. You have a highly tech-literate group of angry disenfranchised men with a goal.

    The most important thing about this situation is that the movement is self-directed and *self-motivating*. They do it all for free.

    Nazis got uniforms & paychecks & met in buildings with a Reichsadler above the door. Today, they are all around you. How many have you met?

    Not everyone will be as obvious as Spencer, with his (hip) Nazi youth haircut and Pepe pin and openness about his views. He is a rarity.


    I actually agree with Spencer — many /pol/acks do indeed hate him. They hate him because he is labeling the movement and attaching his name.


    Trump's campaign absolutely monitored and took direction from /pol/, and vice versa. Do you think Trump's pepe tweet was an accident?

    That's why Trump was indeed memed into presidency. Trump's campaign is absolutely connected to /pol/. Why aren't you connected too?


    antifa: your enemies have been absolutely salivating for 'the day of the rope' & say trump will allow it. they're preparing for it. are you?


    the line between 'ironic' fascism and actual fascism has always been paper thin

    If you're a tech worker, you know people who don't think 4chan is so bad. Which means you probably know Nazis.

  32. Why are you quoting tweets? Don't you have more reliable sources to quote?

    I could quote Hannah Arendt, but then you would just tell me that -- in the words of Ann Reed -- "history is in the past, it's not like it is real."

  33. I know you're talking about current events, but still, why aren't you quoting the New York Times or the Washington Post?

    Good question. Why do you have to go on Twitter to see these critical perspectives; why are you not finding them in major, respected, liberal publications? Sit with that question.

  34. But a lot of people support Trump, so don't I have to treat that as a normal political point of view that I have to respect?

    Who told you that you have to respect all points of view? It wasn't me.

  35. No, really, a lot of people support him, so we can't just reject him out of hand.

    If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you take time to rationally deliberate over whether you should jump off a cliff too?

  36. I like to be polite. Isn't it rude to tell somebody their ideas aren't worth listening to?

    Maybe, but I don't want to ask anybody to die so someone else can practice good etiquette. When somebody is lying, you are not obligated to keep talking to them as if the lies are true. In fact, to talk to them at all is to cede ground: you admit that their lies could be true. Walking away may be rude, but I think letting your friends die is also pretty rude.

  37. I'm a Republican and I feel bad. Doesn't that mean you must have said something wrong?

    No, other people aren't obligated to refrain from saying anything that makes you feel bad.

  38. No, but really, I'm a Republican and I don't support Trump. Aren't you wrong for stereotyping me?

    In a word, no. If your Republican representatives in the House and Senate wanted to show they're not like Trump, rather than just telling us, they could always refuse to vote for Trump's cabinet nominees, which so far almost none of them have done. I don't really care whether your Republican representatives disagree with Trump and are too afraid to stand up to him, or genuinely agree. A genocide that people went along with because they were scared kills people just as dead as a genocide that people went along with whole-heartedly.

  39. Well, I'm a Republican and I don't agree with what my congresspeople and senators are doing, either.

    At least so far, it's still legal to leave a political party that doesn't represent your views.

  40. But I'm a Republican, I just don't agree with anything the Republican Party is currently doing.

    I thought Republicans didn't like identity politics.

  41. You can't hate me for who I am.

    I don't hate who you are -- I'm a die-hard optimist, so I think there's a good person hiding somewhere inside you, even if that good person is scared of the fascist who also lives inside you. But I hate what you're doing to me. If you choose to ally yourself with the Republican Party in 2017, fascism is what you're telling the world you stand for and we are not going to let you forget it. Words have meaning: if you say you're a Republican, then it's not a personal attack for me to tell you that you're a Republican, because you just told me that. You are free to value your party loyalty, but I am also free to draw conclusions based on who you do and don't stand in solidarity with. That's kind of how this whole "freedom of opinion" thing works. Also, we warned you this would happen.

    If you say "I'm a fascist" and I say "so you're a fascist" and then you say "You're hurting my feelings!", you're lying about either one or both of those things.

  42. What about unity and acceptance? Aren't those values important?

    Hey, Republicans, it's never too late to change your mind. But as long as you say you are standing with fascists, I will believe you. Do you really want me to not believe what you say? Words matter. If you say "I choose to align myself with a party that's been taken over by white supremacists, but don't call me a white supremacist", I'm not going to automatically defer just because you said that. It's time for you to make choices. Which side are you on? (Your options are "The Nazis" and "Everyone Who's Not a Nazi.")

    Also see what [personal profile] solarbird addressed to self-identified anti-fascist conservatives.

  43. Was that exhausting to write?

    Yes, but less so than having to explain it from first principles every time someone pipes up with "if you fight fascists, doesn't that make you as bad as fascists?" Now I can just paste a link.

  44. Why do I have to think about this? I found life easier when I could play music or mess around with computers and know that democracy was a given.

    You and me both, friendo.

"Maybe you missed this, but you’re not in a dialogue. Your views are beside the point. Argue all you want—your adversaries are glad to see you waste your breath....

This is not a dialogue. How could you be so naïve? A dialogue—from which some of the participants can be deported at any time? A dialogue—in which one side keeps shooting and incarcerating the other side? A dialogue—in which a few people own all the networks and radio stations and printing presses, while the rest have to make do with markers and cardboard signs? A dialogue, really?"
-- "This Is Not a Dialogue: Not Just Free Speech, But Freedom Itself", CrimethInc

"The only slippery slope we have to worry about is from tolerance of Nazis to governance by them. The tipping point is RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.
Do not engage.
********Debating a Nazi is conceding the point that some people might be inhuman.*********
Do not acknowledge they have a "side." There is some speech that does not deserve "free expression" or "equal protection," and genocidal speech is at the head of the line." -- Tarin Towers

"The essence of fascism, as historians like Robert Paxton never fail to remind us, is not in ideas but in emotions. Robbing fascism of its virility and hyper masculine pretence is to rob it of its primary capacity to grow and survive. We have to confront the crucial question: are we more interested in upholding the slogan “Don’t Be Evil” or in making sure that no evil occurs? Is instilling fear in the hearts of fascists or fascist-curious individuals, even at the cost of isolated violence preferable to allowing fascists to consolidate power and therefore commit greater atrocities?" -- anas el hawat, "In Defense of Assaulting Fascists"

Further reading

I'll continue to add to this section as I find new articles.

  • "Free Speech and the Paradox of Tolerance", Julia Serano: "I think that “freedom of speech” is a lovely aphorism. And aphorisms are useful. But I am not gullible enough to believe that “free speech” (as free speech absolutists envision it) actually exists, or that it is something that I have ever truly possessed. The truth of the matter is that there are two types of speech or expression: those that we (either as individuals, or as a society) are willing to tolerate, and those that we do not. (This is explained compellingly here.) You may cherish a particular word, idea, expression, or identity. But if enough people collectively refuse to tolerate it, well . . . you can shout “free speech!” at the top of your lungs all you want, but it isn’t going to protect you.

    Believing that freedom of speech is generally a good thing — an ideal worth striving for — but also knowing that speech can be (and often is) used to suppress other people’s freedom of expression, the question becomes: How do we best strike a balance between these two competing forces?"
  • "but we are seeing now that if we fight, if we put on pressure, if we make our voices heard, we no longer have to go by those old rules" -- [twitter.com profile] spacetwinks
  • "Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech", Stephanie Zvan: "The assertion that instead of punching, we should be engaging Nazis on their arguments is pure free speech fetishism. It’s assigning power to argument that hasn’t been demonstrated. The idea that we’ll convince anyone that all human life is deserving of protection through the exchange and support of logic propositions is ridiculous. That’s a value proposition. Those aren’t instilled through debate. They’re instilled and maintained through socialization.... Still, though, most free-speech advocates do nothing to ensure good speech beats bad speech. They treat it like a true fetish. Or worse, they prioritize promoting the bad speech."
  • 'I love it when they mock our tolerance as though it should be endless and apply to everything when they "tolerate" fucking nothing.' -- [twitter.com profile] Charlotte_Stein
  • "Because Ignoring It Worked So Well", by Stephanie Zvan: "A problem we don’t or won’t know about is a problem we can’t fix. If only 1 of 10 people have heard what Yiannopolous has to say and half those people find it disgusting, then yes, calling lots of attention to him might double his audience. But if 4 of 10 people now know what he has to say, there are now six times as many people who may be ready to do something about him.

    That is actual progress. Pretending he doesn’t exist is not."
  • "Drop Apocalyptic Thinking and Get in the Streets: On White/Male Voices Stifling Resistance", by Real Talk WOC and Allies: "People of color never had the luxury of trusting institutions."
  • "Why Punching Nazis Is Not Only Ethical, But Imperative", by Katherine Cross: "The vulnerability of Nazis cannot be revealed through debate — many thinkers who lived through the Second World War, from Karl Popper, to Hannah Arendt, to Jean Paul Sartre, have been quite clear about why dispassionate discourse with men like Richard Spencer is not only pointless, but actively dangerous.

    The use of force, by contrast, does reveal the shared humanity that Nazis deny. Our vulnerability is one of the things that links us all, seven billion strong, in a humane fragility. These are essential aspects of our humanity that both Nazi mythology and channer troll culture deny. Punching a Nazi, by contrast, reveals it. It reveals they are no masters, but quite eminently capable of fear, of pain, of vulnerability. And that takes the shine off; it eliminates their mystique, and it puts the lie to the idea that their ideology is an armor against the pains of modernity.
    That alone justifies Richard Spencer being punched in the face on camera."
  • "True cruelty is allowing a bully to demean his own humanity through harming others. Stopping the bully is an act of love." -- [twitter.com profile] AmyDentata
  • "Everybody Hates the Berkeley College Republicans", anonymous: "In the aftermath of the Berkeley College Republicans’ defeat, we’ve seen an increase of interest in radical anti-fascist politics taking hold throughout the campus. Students saw a stark contrast between the out of touch administration at UC Berkeley, which sought to protect Milo as he planned to out undocumented students, and the black bloc that helped shut the event down and kick far-Right scum off the streets. We think it is important to discuss what else has happened in the week following that demo because it is relevant to discussions about the role and efficacy of militant anti-fascism in the context of a growing far-Right movement that is itching to get off the internet and into the real world."
tim: Solid black square (black)

Is dialogue working if Trump’s policies all seem to contradict Silicon Valley’s values? “I think it’s early — I can’t sit on this stage and predict (and predict) what will happen,” Sandberg said, seeming flustered. “I have to remain hopeful. I have to remain hopeful. I have to remain [hopeful], looking at this audience of women.”
Sandberg answered the question as though Trump hadn’t yet taken office and issued 18 executive orders. The public, and certainly the audience at the women’s conference, already knew that she opposed Trump’s anti-immigration and anti-abortion policies.
Tech workers, activists, and the tech press are clinging to every line from tech executives, however strategic or meaningless or misleading, because despite its impassioned “public statements” on the immigration order, Silicon Valley has chosen to negotiate with Trump behind the scenes. Two of the largest corporations in the world, Facebook and Google, and two of the most revered CEOs in the world, Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick, are still working with Trump."

-- Nitasha Tiku [Note: After this piece was published, Kalanick announced he was leaving Tr*mp's business advisory council.]

"The fact that Hitler’s appointment meant that a fanatical anti-Semite had come to power should have made Germany’s Jews, above all, nervous. But that was not the case at all. In a statement given on Jan. 30, the chair of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith said, "In general, today more than ever we must follow the directive: wait calmly." He said that although one watches the new government "of course with deep suspicion," President Hindenburg represents the "calming influence." He said there was no reason to doubt his "sense of justice" and "loyalty to the constitution." As a result, he said, one should be convinced that "nobody would dare" to "touch our constitutional rights." In an editorial in the Jüdische Rundschau, a Jewish newspaper,published on Jan. 31, the author argued that "there are powers that are still awake in the German people that will rear up against barbarian anti-Jewish policies." It would only be a few weeks before all these expectations would prove to be illusory.

-- Volker Ullrich
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I was born in the United States. I am a US citizen. I'm a first-generation American and a child of refugees.

My mother was born in Indonesia; so were her parents and grandparents. Her father's grandparents were refugees; her great-grandfather fought in the Napoleonic Wars and had to get the fuck out of Europe after all of that went down. That part of the story is a bit sordid, not that the rest of it isn't. My mother was three when Japan invaded Indonesia in 1942. I'm not sure exactly what happened to her over the next ten years (she talked about it when I was growing up, but always in a fragmented and fractured kind of way), but I know most if not all of the Dutch population in Indonesia was sent to prison camps or placed under house arrest by the invading forces.

They survived that (somehow), and shortly after Indonesia became independent in 1949, my mother, who was a teenager by then, and her family moved to Amsterdam; a place neither her nor her siblings nor her parents had ever seen before, as far as I know. Along with more or less everybody else of European descent in Indonesia. That was about 300,000 refugees, most of whom were of mixed European and Asian ancestry -- including my mother, though she's white-passing, as am I. I don't know much about her mother's family, except that her mother's father was of European descent and her mother's mother was of Asian descent. They were Indos, a word I didn't learn until I was an adult; my mother taught me that we were "Indonesian Dutch."

Out of curiosity, I ordered a copy of her mother's (my grandmother's) death certificate; she died before I was born, in Australia. Australian death certificates have a space for the deceased's parents' names. Her mother's name is listed as "unknown", although her son (my uncle, who I've never met) reported her death and he presumably knew what it was. There's a whole complicated story here involving racism, xenophobia, colonialism, interracial marriage coexisting with racism (because guess what, anti-racism is not sexually transmitted), co-optation of nationalist movements, and revolution that I won't pretend to know more than the beginning of.

"Nine tenths of the so-called Europeans are the offspring of whites married to native women. These mixed people are called Indo-Europeans… They have formed the backbone of officialdom. In general they feel the same loyalty to the Netherlands as do the white Dutch. They have full rights as Dutch citizens and they are Christians and follow Dutch customs. This group has suffered more than any other during the Japanese occupation.” -- Official US Army publication, 1944 (quoted on Wikipedia)

Those 300,000 refugees of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent? They weren't welcome in the Netherlands. Where else were they going to go? They couldn't go home.

Short story long, my mother ended up in the US, two of her brothers went to Australia (where I've never been, nor have I met either of them), and her other brother stayed in the Netherlands (I met him once). Except for a second cousin, the rest of her extended family, other than me, remains in Europe and Australia.

My mother was single when she conceived me with an anonymous donor. Thanks to the magic of 23andMe, and the magic of the genetic bottlenecks, I learned when I was an adult that my other biological parent (I hate that phrase, by the way, but I also don't have a second "non-biological" parent) was likely of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. The history of how Ashkenazi Jews ended up in the US is better known.

I'm still not sure how much personal meaning to read into genetic material that didn't bring a familial or cultural component to my life, but I know what meaning the Nazis would have read into that genetic material if I had lived during World War II in Europe: from their point of view, I would have been Jewish enough to be the enemy. So if I choose to think this way, I'm descended from refugees on both sides, in a deep and historically complicated way on both sides, one side that survived multiple genocides and another that survived multiple violent regime changes. Both sides spent time in prison camps, or internment camps, or concentration camps because of their ethnicity (literally on my mother's side; maybe literally on the other side too, or maybe there was just a blood relation to people who did) and because of invading governments with political agendas that required ethnicity-based punishment. This is not to equate the Japanese treatment of Indonesian-Dutch folks with the German treatment of Jews; same war, different events, different reasons, although Google has quite a long list of possibilities for autocompleting "Japanese invasion of".

We know that Japan imprisoned 300,000 Dutch citizens living in Indonesia, we know that no one stopped them, and we know that most of those Dutch citizens, including my family, were people descended from both Asians and Europeans. Indos were loyal to the Dutch, so to the invading Japanese army, they were European and therefore the enemy. But that loyalty was not reciprocated: Dutch folks in the Netherlands saw Indos as Asian, and therefore as second-class.

Maybe that kind of double bind is why so many of us who are descended from mixed-race people are so acutely aware of the contradictions of racism. We can never be fully loyal to our more privileged ancestors, because we know what they think of us.

Growing up, I never felt like an American. My mother spoke two languages that weren't English, and people constantly asked her where her accent was from. Now that I'm grown, I know that there is no one more American than me, except for indigenous people, Black people brought to the US by slave merchants, and Chicanos/Chicanas. The reason why us refugees and children of refugees are so vocal right now is simple: we're living proof of the best things America aspires to, and know the human cost of the worst things America has always done up till now and is currently intensifying. Listen to us.

"Remember what I told you,
if they hated me, they will hate you."

-- Sinéad O'Connor
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
A comrade on Twitter has written up the result of spending a year observing 4chan and 8chan fascists use their message boards to organize to get grassroots support for Tr*mp. It's a fascinating document and you should read it.

Most good liberals have spent years studiously ignoring 4chan. To read it would be feeding the trolls, even if only with your attention, even if you never post anything. And there's nothing more shameful than feeding the trolls, unless it's reading the comments, right?

The authoritarian right noticed that and exploited it. If you want to organize a coup, what better way to do it than using a messageboard that all of its political opponents ignore because they believe it's "just trolling"?

So that was thing #1. The second thing, which was maybe even more genius, was that the authoritarian right noticed that 4chan users are nihilists who care mainly about approval from their peers, as Kathy Sierra pointed out deftly. As [twitter.com profile] whisperkick characterized 4chan "mostly it was a pissing contest of who could be The Most Shocking™."

If you've found a group of disaffected young people who care about nothing other than who could be The Most Shocking, what a stroke of luck! Being a Nazi is shocking, so you can easily co-opt that group into being Nazis for the lulz. Of course, it's just for the lulz, and they're not really Nazis. Right?

We weren't sure about that for a while, anyway, but now we're sure. I don't know or care what amount of Nazi sentiment was already present on 4chan and similar forums before the coordinated far-right takeover. Anti-semitic memes got introduced into those forums somehow, and someone with more patience than me will have to write the intellectual history. I don't care whether someone did that on purpose or folks there hated Jews from the start. The point, which all fascists know, is that those memes take on a life of their own.

If you want to know how Tr*mp won the electoral college: 4chan did it for the lulz.

Gamergate, by the way, was a test run for this. I'm not the first person to point that out and I hope I won't be the last.
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
Elsewhere, I wrote this bit of dialogue:

Skeptics: (also movement atheists) "Social science is stupid because it doesn't have the same evidentiary standards that physics does. Browbeating people about how they should learn more about physics and math will save us all."
Fascists: *quietly and skillfully use techniques from psychology, sociology, and political science to obliterate the trust most of the public used to have in scientists to collect and disseminate knowledge accurately*
Skeptics: "None of this would be a problem if people just understood science better."

It's hard to just leave it at that. The skeptic and atheist movements have failed to strengthen public trust in science because people who invest themselves in these movements (as opposed to skeptics and atheists, who are a diverse group) refuse to recognize that that trust is even necessary. They think they can browbeat or shame people into accepting the value of the scientific method. Calling people "stupid" may be satisfying, but it's ineffective: not because it hurts people's feelings, but because the people you're trying to reach literally don't care whether you think they're stupid. If you want to shame anybody, you need to understand what does and doesn't make them feel ashamed. People who lack basic confidence that scientific modes of thinking are useful for understanding the world don't care what scientists think about them.

At this point, people might ask a number of questions:

Why does it matter if people trust science? Science: it works, bitches, whether or not anybody believes in it.

It's true that science works whether or not anybody believes in it. However, as another xkcd comic points out, when there is no intersection between people who value science, and people who control the funding that scientists need in order to produce new research, the truth that "science just works" is of rather academic relevance. The military-industrial complex has always been very interested in funding computer science research because there's something in it for them: they like machines that make the process of killing people more efficient. That's convenient when you're working on robotics or artificial intelligence, but inconvenient when you're studying climate change, a truth whose recognition has little short-term economic value (and which poses a threat to many people's economic interests.)

Why do I need to persuade anybody? Isn't this tone policing? Aren't you always saying that telling people "you're alienating potential allies" is unproductive?

If you want people to give you power or money, you have two options: take it, or ask for it. Social movements for minority rights are (in my opinion) more effectively framed as "take it". You can't, indeed, convince someone that your life matters when they believe their socioeconomic position to depend on your life not mattering.

Scientists, however, are not a group marginalized based on identity. Scientists will be the first ones to tell you that it's in your interests to accept that vaccines, computers, cars, and other products of technology that would not be possible without basic scientific research are useful. Science has something to offer.

There is no counter-argument to "I don't believe you when you say you deserve to exist" -- you can't bargain without a bargaining chip. There is one for "I don't believe you when you say that you can use the scientific method to understand the world": show the results. Your kid not dying of polio is a pretty strong bargaining chip. How do you show people that it matters that scientific consensus says that the benefits of vaccines overwhelmingly outweigh the risks? That's where persuasion comes in.

But people should just know.

You feelings about what people should do, along with $6.99, will buy you a pour-over. If you like science so much, can't you observe what something actually is rather than how you think it should be?

To believe anything to be true that you did not learn through direct, empirical observation, you need to have confidence that someone else learned it through direct, empirical observation and that they are telling you the truth when they say that they did. It's only been a few centuries since science started gaining cognitive authority (that quality that causes people to recognize when people are operating based on the scientific method, and inclines people to believe those people are telling the truth) -- before that, only religion compelled people so. The cognitive authority that science has gained can also be lost. That's a social problem.

If we're truly becoming a world where every individual only believes what they've observed directly, we are on the road to ruin in the fast lane. No single individual can personally prove for themselves that humans are causing climate change. Even if you're a climate scientist, accepting that climate change is real requires trusting a body of work done by other people. Scientists trust each others' work because there are social processes in place (like peer review) that provide a basis for that trust. We are rapidly losing whatever confidence in scientific consensus previously existed outside the scientific community. The so-called "hard sciences" don't have the answers to how to make people believe science is real in the first place. To understand what went wrong and how to fix it, you need to look to philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology (start with the concept of dismediation and chase pointers from there.)

Well, if they don't understand science, fuck 'em, I'll be over here doing science.

Let's be real here, if you are active in the "skeptic movement" or "atheist movement", you're probably not a scientist so much as a science fanfic writer. Scientists generally don't have time for that kind of thing. So, if you are already in the business of social or political change, why not learn from people who have extensively studied social and political change, rather than reinventing the wheel with corners?

Sociology and psychology aren't real sciences. You can't do experiments or prove things the same way you can in physics.

It's true that the way evidence, hypotheses, theories, and experiments work in the social sciences isn't the same as the way those concepts work in physics or biology. It's also true that astronomy (usually considered a hard science), like social science, is based on observation and the ability to do controlled experiments is limited (ethics boards keep you from doing certain things to people, the laws of physics keep you from doing certain things to planets.) Modes of knowledge aren't automatically invalid because they're observational rather than experimental. Besides which, do you prefer not having any understanding of how people and cultures work over a flawed understanding of how they work? Sounds anti-intellectual, but ok.

Fascists have succeeded in taking over the US because a few people have studied hard and made use of the knowledge that the fields of sociology, psychology, political science, history, and philosophy have produced. They've used it to manipulate people into believing that bad things are good and good things are bad. Nonetheless, they've used that knowledge skillfully and effectively, whereas out of some misguided sense of purism, many people who strongly identify as skeptics, as rational, and/or as interested in hard science refuse to touch those fields at all for fear of contamination by science that is insufficiently hard. And they've succeeded at their goal of seizing power. Social science: it works, bitches.

This is, by the way, why fascists put a lot of effort into trying to corrupt or persuade intellectuals -- these days, especially intellectuals whose primary training is in science, technology, or engineering (such people easily fall for false equivalences like, "If you try to exclude fascists from the community, aren't you just as bigoted as people who try to exclude Black people?") -- to do the work of conferring legitimacy onto fascism. Whether you're speaking at a computer science conference or just trolling messageboards, the more intellectual types you can recruit to your side and the more communities you can infiltrate, the more cognitive authority you can steal and the more power you can grab.

Some intellectuals refuse to be persuaded, which is why fascist states like the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia murdered people who had more than a basic level of education. Intellectuals have only one use to fascists, because fascists only care about one thing: getting power by any means necessary. An intellectual who won't help fascists take power is an intellectual who is an obstacle to fascism and must be destroyed.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
I think most of us agree that you don't have a debate with a two-year-old over whether it's OK to put butter on the cat. You take away the butter. A two-year-old is not at a developmental stage where that debate is feasible -- that comes later. In the meantime, you stop children from hurting themselves or others (whether it's butter on the cat or running into traffic) because that is your job if you're a parent or even just an adult who happens to be nearby.

You as an adult do not use physical violence against a two-year-old, ever, because a two-year-old is incapable of posing a physical threat to an adult -- we're capable of picking up two-year-olds and physically moving them somewhere else (or at least of asking another adult to do that for us), and you don't use physical violence against someone you can do that to. Just to be super clear about what I'm advocating and not advocating, it is never okay to hit a child.

You as an adult do not use physical violence against a 16-year-old, either, because of the unequal power dynamic that exists between adults and people legally classified as minors. Except... it gets tricky, since you probably can't physically pick up a 16-year-old and move them somewhere else, and a 16-year-old is old enough to pose a physical threat to an adult. I refuse to draw a line that says "here's the age where it becomes okay to respond with violence", but I think most of us would agree it's OK to use self-defense against a 16-year-old who is actively trying to harm you, in the same way that it's OK to do the same against a 23-year-old who is actively trying to harm you. I'm talking about self-defense here, not discipline.

If we're parents, at least if we're good enough parents, we teach our children how to emotionally self-regulate because we're aware they aren't born knowing how to do that and it's a skill they need to be taught. The reason you stop a two-year-old from running into traffic is that they need to survive to get to be old enough to learn how to cross a street. You stop a four-year-old from pulling their brother's hair because they're not yet old enough to learn that they're capable of hurting other people and why they shouldn't. If you expect more than a two-year-old is developmentally capable of, that's going to be bad news for you, the child, or both. (People who know more about child development than me can argue about the specific ages, but hopefully you see the point.) Since a very young child can't understand or set boundaries either for themselves or others, we do it for them until they can do it themselves.

Then the question is: in society, what do we do when we meet adults who never learned those two-year-old or four-year-old lessons, or who did learn them and choose not to apply them because they think they will get something (usually money or power) by ignoring boundaries?

This is what we do:

Very young children can't reason on the level of "if I do X, Y will happen", which is why we have to act directly to protect children we're responsible for, rather than letting them learn for themselves what happens when you run into traffic.

Young children can reason on the level of "if I do X, Y will happen", but can't yet internalize the principle of "I shouldn't do X because I don't want to be a person who does X", which is why practices like time-in work: if they know that acting a certain way results in a parent temporarily withholding attention, they will learn not to do it.

Older children can understand the difference between right and wrong, which is why we can explain to them why hurting other people is wrong and they shouldn't do it, rather than just showing them there will be consequences if they do something wrong.

Adults can understand all of this and choose to suspend their own ability to differentiate between right and wrong in order to operate on a more child-like level of "I do this because I can." Unlike very young children, they're capable of organizing genocides to show just how powerful they are and what they can do.

It is imperative not to use violence against children, for a multitude of reasons. We have no such imperative to protect adults who pose a threat to us. You must never hurt a child because you're angry. Likewise, you must never hurt an adult only because you're angry. It's very reasonable to be angry at someone who threatens your life, and in those cases, you react to the threat to your life and anger is just a side effect. We can solve problems posed by young children without hurting them. Sometimes, adults pose problems to us that rule out the option of not hurting them. We are not their parents, and do not have the power over them that a parent has over a child. We are not obligated to act as their parents, though when there is mutual consent, we can do some of the work parents do for them in a situation-specific way (we usually call the people who do that work "therapists").

In situations where we cannot enforce laws or other boundaries, we must set norms instead. It's usually preferable to set norms with words rather than fists. But words aren't magical, and the limitations of language do not require us to sacrifice ourselves and our friends on the altar of nonviolence. Every piece of available evidence shows that words are insufficient to protect each other from organized groups of adult humans attempting to recruit more humans for Nazism, ethnic cleansing, or genocide (pick your preferred term).

That was the theory; here's the practice:
comic by Master Randall Trang on proper punching technique

Thanks to [personal profile] staranise for this post, and [personal profile] siderea for comments on that post, which sparked this idea.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Rephrasing what somebody said and repeating it back to them is a pretty powerful tool that has several distinct uses (not an exhaustive list):

  1. If you're listening to a friend and want to show that you're really paying attention to what they're saying, you can say, "It sounds like you said X?" Then they'll either say yes, and know that you understand them, or say no and explain what they meant, and you'll understand them better.

    friend: "I keep trying to tell my boyfriend I don't like it when he leaves his socks on the kitchen counter, but he just looks at his phone"
    me: "It sounds like you're frustrated that he's not listening to you"
    friend: "OMG yes!!"

    friend: "I don't like eggplants."
    me: "You mean you think they get too greasy when they're cooked?"
    friend: "No, I mean I'm allergic to them and they kill me."

  2. If you're arguing with somebody who you know you're not going to persuade, and want to accelerate to the point where they say something so ridiculous and unacceptable that you can just point at it and leave, you can rephrase what they're saying to bring out the worst possible interpretation (or just a more complete interpretation) and say, "It sounds you're saying that X? Am I hearing that right?" Then if they agree with you, you can either ask why or leave it at that with the confidence that other people will see why the rephrasing is bad, even if the original euphemistic version wasn't.

    them: "I hate this culture of victimhood that minorities have."
    me: "It sounds like you're saying that it's wrong to be a victim, and victimizing people isn't wrong?"
    them: "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying!"
    me: "Cool story, bro."

    them: "I hate identity politics."
    me: "Are you saying you hate white male identity politics?"
    them: "No, I just meant when women do it."
    me: "Cool story, bro."

  3. If you're talking with someone who you think might be persuadable, and they say something that's ambiguous, you can pick the best possible interpretation of what they're saying, and say, "Yes, I agree with you that X", without the question. Then if they say, "Yes, totally! That's right!" you'll know that you got through (or that they thought so all along) and if they say, "No!! Why would you think I thought X?" you can repeat the process. Either way, it gets you more data.

    them: "My boss told me to make a diversity hire, and that makes me angry."
    me: "Of course, diversity should be a consideration in all hiring decisions."
    them: "Right!"

    them: "We shouldn't lower the bar."
    me: "I agree with you that we shouldn't lower the bar, and that's why we should hold white men to a higher standard in hiring to counter the effect of their unearned privilege and make sure they're only judged on their competence."
    them: "Wait, what???"

I'm writing all this out because I was raised by Usenet, and had it drilled into me then that you should never say anything unless it was original enough to merit the use of precious, precious bandwidth to distribute your message to nodes around the world. It took me a long time to unlearn that training and realize that sometimes, the most important and useful things you can say are rephrasing or mirroring the person you're talking to.
tim: Solid black square (black)
"Tonight I am speechless
My head is filled with pouring rain
As the darkness falls on Montreal
When violence is shrieking
The city streets will run with pain
Until the moon can shed no light at all

And I believe that we have fallen
In the middle of an old highway
And the past is rolling over us
As men begin to understand
What women say
They see history reaching out to smother all of us

So ring the bells of morning
For sorrow and for shame
And let the deep well inside each of us
Swell with outrage
And those of us who know
What went before can come again
Must ring the bells
We must ring the bells of morning.

I met a man once
He held himself tighter than a fist
He was hard and fast in his inflexibility
He was threatened by the future
A product of the past
He was terrified by his own femininity

We must ring the bells of morning
We have everything to gain
And may those of us who comprehend
Commit our lives to change
And though you swear
You can’t let yourself be vulnerable again
Ring the bells
The bells of morning

For if we can’t face ourselves
We will never understand
We can learn to make a cradle
With these stubborn hands
And we will hear the echo
From this shattered land
When we ring the bells of morning

I met a woman once
She told me we might never see the day
When the violence was overcome
She said silence is the fuel
Fear and ignorance the roaring flames
That burn the freedom out of everyone

She said ring the bells of morning
And let none of us pretend
For if you walk the path of silence
You might never reach the end
And those of us who know what went before can come again
Must ring the bells, the bells of morning

Oh ring the bells of morning
Ring them loud and ring them long
Let the mother tongue of strength
Be the peaceful language of this song
And let those ancient voices lead us all into the dawn
Ring the bells, the bells of morning
Ring the bells, the bells of morning
Ring the bells, we must ring the bells of morning"

-- Stephen Fearing, 1989


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

December 2018

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