Supersonic Man

April 11, 2018

What do Nazis have in common with pickup artists?

Filed under: Rantation and Politicizing,thoughtful handwaving — Supersonic Man @ 12:11 am

When the Nazis came to Charlottesville, one thing I noticed in the news coverage was that some of them were using the jargon of the “red pill” movement — a jargon which originated in the world of pickup artists.  How did that happen?  I decided to look into the connections, and learn a bit more about the hidden history of these new reactionary movements.  I ended up learning more than I wanted to know about today’s young racists.  Here’s what I’ve managed to put together. Surprisingly, a key figure linking the two groups is professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos — not someone I ever thought would do anything consequential.

— 1 —

Our story begins in Japan.  And not because Imperial Japan once allied with the Nazis — I mean the Japan of the eighties and nineties.

Japanese popular culture is full of many cool and wondrous things, and among these is anime — the medium of hand-drawn animated film.  Japan supports and embraces this medium more than any other country, and as a result is at the top of the heap in both quality and quantity, compared to other countries which are productive in this artform.  And as a result, it has many fans in other countries, among people who don’t speak Japanese; both the masterworks and the mass-produced crap find lots of people who can enjoy it, despite barriers such as subtitles and confusing cultural differences.  By 1990 this fandom was starting to attain a significant size in the USA, and it has only continued to grow since.

Because of those barriers, anime fandom is not for everybody.  If you are not Japanese, it’s definitely an acquired taste; it requires investing some time and effort to appreciate.  As a result, anime fans in countries like the USA are a bit outsider-ish, a bit of a clique… or, depending how you look at it, they’re dorks.  Or in Japanese, otaku — a word which was subsequently adopted in English to mean a fan of anime, or of manga (Japanese comic books), while retaining some part of its original implication of diminished social skills.

And that brings up another point about the nation of Japan.  It may be full of fun and color and entertainment with a unique flavor and a level of creativity and commitment that you won’t easily find anywhere else… but Japan also has another distinction: according to an international survey by a condom company, Japan has become the most sexually frustrated country in the world.  Both sexes report lower happiness with their love lives than the people of any other land.  Romance and relationships and commitment just aren’t happening.  Many Japanese men describe themselves as having no further interest in trying to pursue relationships, identifying with a group commonly called sōshoku danshi or “herbivore men”.  It’s to the point where politicians are agonizing over the question of why the young generation isn’t getting married and having children… they fear a dramatic shrinkage of the population.

How did this happen?  It’s a vicious cycle, since the larger the percentage of retired elders becomes, the longer the hours the young have to work, leaving them no social time and less capacity to raise new workers.  But that doesn’t tell us how the cycle got started.  As far as I can tell, the original problem at the root of it is a lingering patriarchal prejudice against women in the workplace, which is willing to tolerate single women, but draws the line at married ones.  For Japanese women, getting married usually means losing your career and being stuck at home.  Modern women shrink away from this.  So they avoid marriage.  And if you want to reduce the risk of marriage, you will tend to avoid romantic relationships, and if you want to avoid romantic relationships, you will also tend to avoid casual sex.  So the average Japanese woman is very hard to get, and the average Japanese man is baffled and frustrated by women in a manner which in other countries would be considered a mark of loserdom or masculine inadequacy.  Of course, the way men tend to behave when feeling this way makes them even less appealing, creating another vicious cycle.  The average Japanese woman has apparently settled into viewing the average Japanese man as unattractive.

As a result, Japan has a considerable demand for porn, but for some reason porn is much more censored and regulated there than it is here.  One escape valve is… kinky anime.  There’s a lot of Japanese pop culture material which is sexualized in ways that skirt being censored as porn.  Appealing to fetishes is one way to accomplish this.

This situation in Japan wasn’t too bad in the eighties and nineties.  People still managed to have happy married lives at a halfway reasonable rate back then.  It’s gotten progressively worse.  And one result is that overseas anime fans now have a lot of material which is made to appeal to those who are baffled and frustrated by women.

— 2 —

We now bring the tale to the United States.  In 2003, a fifteen year old anime fan in New York put up a forum website for Japanophilic discussion.  It was modeled on a Japanese discussion site known as Futaba Channel, or 2chan, so he called his new site 4chan.  One trait of this site was its high level of anonymity.  It quickly developed a userbase which was actively hostile to anyone going against the spirit of this, especially toward any post along the lines of “let me tell you all about myself”.

Being fans of hand-drawn art, the community collected many who were into artistry themselves. It became a center of visual creativity, being particularly productive of what are now called “memes” online: text and pop-culture images combined to make a telling point or get a laugh.  It also became a hotbed of non-mainstream political opinion, particularly libertarianism.  Before long, the original anime-fandom aspect of 4chan was being drowned out by the burgeoning of other topics.  One outcome of this hotbed of creativity and freedom and radical opinion was the hacktivist group calling itself “Anonymous”, using high-level computer skills in an effort to do social good and undermine oppressors.  Others were less constructive.

It is a well-known truth that anonymity sometimes brings out the worst in people.  “Memes” and other visuals were often mean-spirited.  Other visual creativity sometimes reveled in shock value.  Some of the more mature members rolled their  eyes at this, and eventually started using the disparaging term “edgelord” for those trying to sound cool through shock, but the practice remained popular nonetheless.  Since the anonymous context allowed greater freedom of speech in practice than polite society is usually willing to put up with, it attracted those whose opinions were unpopular and shunned.  It also attracted those who were willing to use unpopular and shunned ideas just to get attention and make the squares clutch their pearls.  This made the place attractive to those who really believed various ugly things, and who wanted a chance to be mean and hostile and ugly to other people in a safe manner.  (If you make racist jokes for shock value, don’t be surprised if real racists join in.)  Either way, some of the people drawn to 4chan were major assholes.

Another ancestor of 4chan was a site called Something Awful, which was known for a tendency to specialize in shock content, and fostered a fairly robust community of assholes back around the turn of the millenium.  4chan in turn, reveling much more deeply in the adolescent thrill of shock content, developed a cultural value of extreme free expression, and as a corollary, total insensitivity to anyone else’s resulting distress.  This of course appealed to those valuing political incorrectness.

The antisocial behavior wasn’t confined to their own circles.  On both Something Awful and 4chan, there were cases of groups trolling and harrassing people who had done nothing to them, including sometimes people with mental disabilities, just because they found it amusing to see the reactions.

Anyway, since the core group was anime fans, and a lot of anime was designed to appeal to those frustrated and baffled by women, that trait was also not uncommon among the 4chan asshole community.  Some of the most prominent forms of assholery were misogynist.  For example, one of the catchphrases originating on 4chan was “Tits or GTFO”, commonly addressed to anyone identifying as female who acted like a newbie in the culture.  The phrase was short for “We want you to get the fuck out of here, but on the other hand, if you show us your tits we’ll be happy to let you stay.”

Driving away women, of course, only heightened the concentration in the user populace of those who valued traditionally masculine traits such as aggression, competitiveness, and hard-heartedness.  From what I’ve heard, there was a lot of emphasis on dividing people into winners and losers.  This macho attitude not only made it more a place for single men than for women (despite there being lots of female anime fans) or for men in stable relationships… it also helped make it a perfect place for lovers of hardcore video games.  At the time, online gaming was starting to develop a reputation for being pervaded by assholes, with very un-PC taunting being the norm between competing players.

Because 4chan still included a lot of cleverness and creativity, the style and techniques of the community spread elsewhere on the internet.  They became one of the founding sources of what is now often called internet culture.  The combination of effective visual imagery as a medium plus asshole ideas as a message is now a commonplace everywhere.  Twitter especially seems perfectly designed to encourage the use of this particular technique for spreading ideas.  It supports images and does not support long thoughtful writing, and the lack of the latter drives away those who take their time and pay attention to nuance when considering other people’s thoughts.

And this major influence was quite an accomplishment for a bunch of otaku — people who were not as a rule very successful in life.  This was a group which happily embraced the stereotype that they were all living in their parents’ basements, with no careers and no girlfriends.  The majority of them were, after all, members of the first American generation to have substantially less economic opportunity than their parents had, and many were unemployed.  And naturally, the less outside life someone had, the more time and energy they’d put into their online community, thereby elevating those who were less successful in society to be among the more prominent and influential voices online, even if everything they said was blended into a stream of anonymity.

— 3 —

The pickup artist game is, of course, as old as life itself, but the modern “PUA” culture arises largely from a series of books in which authors would boast of their success at getting women, and then claim to reveal the secrets of how the reader could do likewise.  The founding volumes of the current subculture were published around 1970, but they have long since been supplanted.  Some of the major influential works in the current canon are, I gather, The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene (2001), The Game by Neil Strauss (2005), and The Mystery Method by Erik von Markovic (2007).  The Strauss book sounds like it might be the most interesting, as it’s a journalist’s story of entering the hidden subculture of hardcore PUAs as an outsider, and gradually becoming a full member.  It popularized a lot of jargon which, up to that point, the PUAs had mostly kept to themselves — terms like “negging” and “kino” and “oneitis”, and acronyms like “IOD” (indicator of disinterest) and “LMR” (last minute resistance).  A key aspect of their terminology was the separation of people into dominant or charismatic “alphas”, and ordinary, drab, or conformist “betas”, with the former state being what men should strive to achieve.

One group which started to listen to some of these ideas before they spread widely was bodybuilders, because after all, for those seeking to alpha-ize, one obvious step is to go to the gym and muscle up, so anyone who was already there got plenty of chances to hear their theories.

You won’t be surprised to hear that in the principles taught by pickup manuals, respect for women as peers is not prominently featured.  Naturally enough, this approach to relations between the sexes gets a warmer reception among those who are unfriendly to feminism.

Once PUA culture started to become widely visible online (as many other once-unnoticed subcultures have done, and continue to do), it was soon cross-pollenating with overtly antifeminist groups.  Weirdos of many stripes who had various beefs with feminism, or with women in general, started to find common ground.  In this crowd, fanatical believers in traditional biblical patriarchy were some of the least scary.  Some other branches included: the MGTOW movement (Men Going Their Own Way) — followers of a 2004 manifesto which urged men to reject marriage and intimate relationships as a bad deal, and generally avoid social contact with women; Men’s Rights Activists: guys convinced that society is systematically victimizing men and changes must be made (but not all MRAs — there are some who are more sensible, and view their ideas as complementary to feminism rather than opposed to it); “Androphiles”: gay men repelled by the slightest indication of femininity in either sex; and buyers of mail-order brides, who enthuse over how wonderful a woman can be if she comes from a culture which still teaches submissiveness.

The MGTOWs tried to claim that the Japanese “herbivore men” were members of their antifeminist movement, despite lack of evidence of the two groups having any such common ground, and despite feminism having far less success there than it has achieved here.

In this setting, which gradually became known overall as the “manosphere”, PUA attitudes fit in easily.  And the PUAs offered them something the rest of the antifeminists lacked: a clearly and confidently presented system of thought which could, to one sufficiently naive, explain women.  Pickup artists claimed to know exactly how the female mind works.  For those who found women baffling, this viewpoint offered both reassuring clarity, and justification for misogynist anger.  The apparent success of this framework at manipulating some women into bed gave it authority and credibility, and its cynical objectification made it helpful for rationalizing attitudes of contempt for women in general.

And of course, one of the key goals of PUA practice is to achieve dominance, or as they sometimes more euphemistically put it, “leadership”.  A quest for dominance in a social setting, or over a particular woman, fits very easily with a belief in dominance of men over women in general.

Meanwhile, in the PUA scene itself, people like Daryush Valizadeh started to rise to the top — an author who combined seduction teachings with vile misogynist rants and a goal of overt male supremacy.  His books have been accused of being rape manuals, and his “Return of Kings” website became a haven for those who want to deprive women of basic rights.

Perhaps just as bad, some PUA discussions have started going beyond the level of just encouraging each other to become ever bigger douchebags, and taken interest in the psychological concept of the “dark triad” — a term that those who study antisocial behavior came up with to describe the combined character traits of narcissism, machiavellianism, and sociopathy, because they become especially virulent when they work together.  Some of these pickup artists and wannabes have started telling each other that intentionally adopting this pathological behavior pattern is a path to better PUA-hood, and further, to general success in life.

So the whole manosphere was soon adopting PUA jargon, and telling themselves that PUA cynicism was biological truth.  Even groups calling themselves PUA haters — those who tried the seduction tips and found them worthless — used PUA terminology as enthusiastically as anyone.  (This latter group became briefly infamous in 2014 when one of them, Elliot Rodger, went on a murder spree.  That’s when the whole manosphere scene got its first serious media exposure.)

By 2012 the fusion of PUA and antifeminist ideas started giving birth to what was soon called “red pill philosophy” — an ideology which accomplished the remarkable feat of being even more toxic than the parent ideas which gave rise to it.  In this belief system, most men are losers because they have swallowed a set of lies (the blue pill).  It is these lies which tell you that society is based on equality of the sexes.  Once you open your eyes to the truth (the red pill), and discard all respect for women, you are empowered.  This shortcuts the PUA promise of achieving the power to seduce, telling those who are baffled and frustrated that they have already won, whether they seduce anyone or not.  Nevertheless, online red-pill fora (the most prominent one being on Reddit) apparently still feature pickup technique as a major topic.

This ideology has gained some massive popularity in recent years even among those who were not previously invested in antifeminism, because of its cultlike promise of worldly success through hidden knowledge.  This scene developed a further jargon of its own, layered on top of the PUA jargon.  One common term which is a giveaway for this branch of the belief system is “cock carousel” (CC for short) — the fun ride which they are convinced all the single women are on, while they fuck everyone they meet who’s more alpha than you are, before getting old enough to settle down with a beta who makes money, which only happens when they lose their looks.  I’m not kidding — they talk as if this narrative applies universally to all women.  They tell each other that “all women are like that” so often that they’ve shortened the phrase to AWALT.  Unsurprisingly, their judgment of non-monogamous women is blatantly negative, though of course these “men” apply no such standard of chaste temperance to each other.

The belief system is complex and layered and full of ideas and jargon, but you really don’t need to learn the details of it, because the core principle of it is very simple: you have trouble with women because women are inherently rotten people.  Everything that goes wrong in a relationship is their fault.  All of the other ideas in the system are just there to provide the rationalizations to support the prejudicial conclusion that women are to blame for everything and are generally contemptible.  Beneath the thick layers of pseudointellectual pontification, the Red Pill belief system is essentially a hate ideology, like white supremacism or antisemitism or jihadism.

Some advocates of this ideology take it very seriously.  An author named Theodore Beale (who writes columns and blogs as “Vox Day”), for instance, equates red-pillery with saving western civilization.  (And he doesn’t shy away from admitting that by western he means white.)  In this he resembles Jordan Peterson, the favorite self-help author of this crowd, who likewise teaches that to uphold traditional masculinity is to uphold civilization against chaos.  But Peterson’s ideology is all his own — he doesn’t belong to anyone else’s cult.  That guy might be worth writing a whole separate article about.

— 4 —

Meanwhile, what’s happening back at 4chan, and how does it become important?  Well, while retaining a fondness for anime, it had developed gradually into a more politically conservative scene.  Anime fandom and dorkiness are not traits that separate liberals from conservatives, nor is living in a basement, nor is lacking a significant other… but the embracing of offensive political incorrectness definitely is.  When this really took root, 4chan started adopting the right wing epithet “social justice warrior”, or SJW, for anyone who spoke up for inclusion or sensitivity toward fellow citizens of different backgrounds.  This term is used quite broadly now by young conservatives, far beyond the Nazi fringe, but it’s still essentially indicative of either racism or sexism.  Or in some cases, sociopathy — the fundamental offense being committed by those labeled as SJWs, after all, is to tell you to care about someone other than yourself.

The PUA / red-pill ideas also took hold strongly there, and apparently it was 4chan that started the use of “cuck” as a popular insult.  Originally “beta cuckold”, it later evolved into being short for “cuckservative”, a hard-right term for disparaging wishy-washy mainstream Republicans as too moderate.  So yes, the term is based on directly conflating hardline fanaticism with dominant masculinity — an equation not at all unfamiliar to the original Nazis.

But overtly taking political sides was still discouraged.  In the spirit of 4chan, action was to be taken only “for the lulz” (laughs), not for a sincere cause.  But by 2014 the community had built up a successful track record at joke activism.  They had, for instance, protested outside the Church of Scientology in 2008 for no reason except that it was funny, never mentioning where they were from or why they were there.  Then, getting a bit more serious, they’d been a major but confusing presence at the Occupy Wall Street protests.  They apparently felt ready for something they cared about more strongly.  Unfortunately, what caught their enthusiasm was the fiasco called gamergate.

It started with one random guy complaining that his ex had cheated on him.  She happened to work in the video game industry as a developer.  Since many 4chan users are avid video gamers, this came to their attention.  By this time, serious big-budget videogaming was heavily focused on war scenarios, selling a very masculinized sort of empowerment fantasy, and 4chan users included many fans of this macho form of entertainment.  Many of them, no doubt, were baffled and frustrated by women, and war games were a perfect place to just get away from all that.  And many of them apparently thought of Social Justice Warriors as their enemies, seeing them as the force in society which was holding them back.  I guess it’s easy to conflate those who obstruct your indulgence in antisocial behaviors, such as using racial or homophobic slurs, with those who obstruct your opportunities to prosper financially.

And somehow, in some of these fantasy-fueled brains, one little allegation about a sexually unfaithful woman in the video game industry managed to turn into a vast conspiracy to SJW-ify game content, and pass their beloved macho war games through a feminist filter to make them politically correct.

Then they latched onto another woman, a journalist covering games, and painted her as selling out journalistic integrity because she was in a relationship that could be interpreted as a conflict of interest.  The truth was coming out — the game industry was rife with corruption… and worse, with feminism!  They saw it as a scandal they could expose.  They not only drew up lists of suspected SJWs to be targeted (most of them women), some of them actually hacked into game companies’ private data, looking for proof of conspiracy.

The management of 4chan had been making some effort at containing and regulating hate content, and in response, a new site called 8chan was created in 2013, where the worst elements of 4chan could be even less regulated.  That site soon got in trouble for hosting child pornography.  Nevertheless, it kept going (relocating outside of the USA), and when the people in charge of 4chan decided it was time to stifle crazed gamergate content, it promptly shifted to 8chan.

Even before the ban, perhaps most 4chaners didn’t take this conspiracy theory very seriously.  But the manosphere did, along with the 8chan schism.  They embraced gamergate as a cause.  The result was a vicious outpouring of misogynist harassment lasting for months, sometimes escalating to death threats.  It was a very public rupture between the gaming industry and the worst of its own customer base, and things never fully recovered.  It highlighted other incidences where game-makers weren’t safe from their own customers, and may even be one reason why Valve stepped back from ever finishing Half-Life 3.

Since then, bigotry as well as misogyny has come increasingly to public attention as a visible part of online gamer culture.  There are now a number of very successful multiplayer videogames in which the accepted social culture includes pervasive use of racial slurs, and overt hostility to any player discovered to be either nonwhite or female.

One result of gamergate was an elevated degree of connection between the anti-SJW forces on 4chan and 8chan, and the more explicitly right-wing factions in the manosphere, and beyond that to right wingers not previously connected to either.

For one asshole, gamergate was an opportunity to achieve personal fame and fortune.  Milo Hanrahan was an unlikely figure to position himself as a champion of threatened masculinity in America, being both gay and British, but under the pen name of Milo Yiannopoulos, he did just that.  He was probably the first journalist to give positive coverage to the gamergate allegations in the media, and he lent credibility to the wilder speculations of a social justice warrior conspiracy.  Having won over a large and vociferous readership thereby, he then got himself a job as “technology editor” at the right-wing website Breitbart News Network.  From there, he became a prominent troll and gadfly against the left, finally settling on a very lucrative business model in which he profits by intentionally provoking liberals to protest against him, and then lets the conservative support roll in.  This tactic is based on making increasingly outrageous public assertions which, according to some in the gay community who claim to know him privately, he doesn’t believe himself.  He doesn’t care about being consistent: he can oppose gay marriage in one breath and support gay pedophilia in the next, just to maximize the number of left-leaning people offended by each statement.  This counterintuitive baiting tactic allowed Milo Inc. to make so much money that reportedly, he now wants to buy 4chan, which is struggling financially.

The pedophilia statement prompted Breitbart to let him go.  It didn’t help that Milo had accumulated a large staff of apostles who were loyal to him personally rather than to Breitbart — mainly people who had been involved with gamergate.  One of these hangers-on was so paranoid that he eventually snapped and murdered his own dad, but that’s another story.

His moneymaking technique didn’t fully develop until after he left Breitbart.  It is that organization which concerns us now.  Andrew Breitbart was a journalist who participated in various branches of the conservative propaganda network, even teaming with Arianna Huffington before she changed sides.  He founded his own “pro-liberty, pro-Israel” news aggregation service in 2007, which became notorious for its promotion of scandals based on statements taken out of context, deceptive journalism practices, and other means of distorting the true positions of his opponents.  He had to settle at least one defamation lawsuit as a result.  He was no role model for journalists, but he still had enough principles so that, after his untimely death in 2012, the news organization which still bears his name sank far lower under its new boss, Steve Bannon — an obvious white supremacist.  Bannon was pushed forward by Robert Mercer, a billionaire who started financially supporting the Breitbart network in 2011.

To my personal shame, Mercer started out as a computer scientist, and apparently did some sterling early work in speech recognition.  He reportedly fulfills the worst stereotypes of that field, coming across as an unfeeling automaton.  Then he got hired by a Wall Street “quant” to analyze stocks, and did it so well that he went on to run the hedge fund, becoming wealthy thereby.  He backs many conservative causes, from corporate deregulation to bringing back the gold standard — an idea that you’d think someone this intelligent would easily know better than, just by asking simple questions such as how much gold is available.  He not only supports Breitbart, he continues to funnel cash to Milo despite him being banished from the company.  Mercer shuns publicity.  He’s probably worse for America than any Koch brother, but until very recently has done quite a bit better at not being noticed for it.

Under Bannon, the Breitbart network’s attacks on liberals and Democrats expanded to include smears against foreigners (except Israelis), minorities, and Muslims.  The use of deceptive editing to distort news gradually gave way to stories based on outright fabrications.  In any conflict involving race, Breitbart News would make it very clear that they supported the white side.  Mercer and Bannon had no use for such modern disappointments as the civil rights movement, or immigration quotas that failed to favor European countries, and their attitudes came through clearly.

As a result, the Breitbart site developed a lively audience of racists — a group which had been hearing a lot of hints and dog-whistles from mainstream conservative figures, but little overt support.  They were glad to find a modern site which could be so refreshingly open in echoing and reinforcing their views of nonwhites, while also being read and respected by mainstream conservatives.  Previously, their best outreach had probably been the old-media outfit Regnery Press, a company which published William F. Buckley back in the day, books full of wacko anti-Clinton conspiracy theories in the nineties, and sometimes found bestseller success with the likes of Dinesh D’Souza and Ann Coulter.  The Regnery family had been supporters of the original Nazis, doing all they could to keep the USA out of the war against them, and some of them are still financially backing white nationalist groups today.

It may seem that a covert racist slant in news reporting should not be enough to draw a Nazi crowd.  And indeed, it was not.  It has recently come out that the Breitbart staff engaged actively with white supremacist groups, taking their suggestions for what stories to emphasize and how to make the service friendlier to their kind.  The comments sections on the website became a gathering place for them.  Breitbart’s editorial staff was very aware of where the line of overtly deplorable racism was, and always strove to ensure that their published material stayed just short of it.  Old Andrew Breitbart, who was certainly no Nazi, was spinning in his grave.

Then Milo arrived as Technology Editor and started rallying the antifeminists.  Normally a technology journalist is someone who writes excitedly about the improved specs of the latest gadget.  He’d cut his journalistic teeth on that kind of writing, but he didn’t care about that stuff now.  (Bannon was unimpressed with Milo’s tech writing, in fact.)  His real job was to evangelize Breitbartian bullshit to geeks.  And he did it by rallying them against feminism… sometimes, it seemed, against women in general.  Here’s a sample Milo headline: “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy”.  He recast his readers’ poor relations with women into a new narrative in which modern women had made a fatal error by adopting the man-repelling philosophy of feminism right at the time when so many other alternatives were becoming available to men, such as video games and streaming porn and, he predicts, sex robots pretty soon.  Like the MGTOWs, he argued that you don’t need any women in your life, and that the loss is theirs, not yours.  You’re not missing out on their love, rather, they’re missing out on your awesome masculinity because of their foolishness.  He crowed that “men are simply walking away” from these unwomanly women.

This pathetically transparent reinterpretation of history managed to find an audience willing to be convinced.  Even those who had gone beyond otaku or herbivore status to the point of becoming hikikomori (antisocial or agoraphobic shut-ins living solely for media and online content) now had a pundit to reassure them that their lifestyle made them superior to someone.

Then Milo expanded his area of the Breitbart service into a generalized culture war against liberalism, and started meeting personally with white supremacist groups.  He became the main conduit for back-channel communication between Breitbart and these groups.  He and his sidekick Allum Bokhari (who wrote much of the material appearing under Milo’s byline) began to publish news articles about the alt-right movement, presenting it in as positive a light as possible, normalizing it into the conservative mainstream.  Milo, with Bannon’s encouragement, positioned himself to be the main lightning rod for liberal attacks on Breitbart’s racism, in which role his identity as a one-quarter Jewish gay man helped insulate him from charges of Naziism, just as in the previous generation Camille Paglia had used her lesbian identity to obfuscate her antifeminism.  (Milo later added a black husband to his identity insulation layer.  That was after being cut loose by Breitbart.)

This, as far as I can tell, is what connected the final span of the bridge between the misogynist trolls and the KKKers.  There were undoubtedly some who visited both 4chan and Breitbart before, but it was thanks to Milo that a broad highway was now opened between them.

If you read 4chan’s /pol/ area today, you’ll probably find white supremacist messages in sixty seconds or less.  I don’t just mean people who use racial slurs, I mean people who are seriously considering where in the world they might be able to found an all-white state to preserve their otherwise-doomed race from the existential threat of miscegenation.  I suspect that this transition from libertarian assholery to white-supremacist fascism happened mainly just in the last two or three years.  (But on the other hand, the libertarian movement has always contained some fascists, whose dedication to principles of liberty was entirely hypocritical.)  The full blown KKK/Nazi faction has now settled there in force, without even needing 8chan anymore, and it turns out that anime fandom is still something that works for them.  Whether existing assholes have been converted to the cause of racism, or simply been pushed aside by new blood, is impossible to say due to the anonymity.

Recently one of the neonazi online forums did a survey of its members asking them to describe what led them to discover white nationalism.  4chan tied for first place.

On the gaming side, the makers of the Wolfenstein games faced a twitter backlash after emphasizing that their latest game is about retaking America from Nazi control.  It’s bad enough that Far Cry 5 got a fan backlash for making its enemies a rural American militia insurgency instead of Africans or Asians… now some vocal gamers apparently feel it’s too one-sided for Nazis to always be cast as the bad guys.  And among movie fans, we have a small but very vocal group who have managed to get people far outside their little group discussing the question of whether Star Wars should be boycotted, when it’s pretty clear that their reason for disliking movies VII and VIII is just that the cast is now multiethnic and the protagonist has cooties — a change which, in their eyes, turns the films into SJW/feminist propaganda instead of entertainment.  (One bunch of men’s-rights types actually made themselves an edited version of The Force Awakens with all the female characters cut out!)

In any case, whether as interlopers or as native converts, the racist far right is now fully integrated into environments which were already hotbeds of red-pillery, and ideas naturally flow both ways.  One result is that the term “red pill” is now broadening to cover racist as well as sexist teachings, and any other ideas that the far right see as forbidden knowledge.  “Red-pill me” is used to mean “clue me in”, on any topic of right wing interest.  If someone like, say, the Youtube star Pewdiepie states a racist or sexist opinion, they’ll celebrate by saying “He just red-pilled millions of people.”  The resemblance to a cult is kind of still there, with racism now being treated as if it were esoteric knowledge.

And again the influence goes both ways: the old Nazi website known as The Daily Stormer (which grew out of the pre-internet Stormfront newsletter) has now restyled itself in 4chan-ified form.  Their current writers’ guide heavily emphasizes the use of memes, pop culture, and lulz, while telling writers to avoid overt vitriol.  The desired tone is “ironically unironic”.  This is far more appealing to new readers than traditional Nazi diatribes are.  (Apparently this effective new style was the bright idea of Derek Black, the young son of site owner Don Black.  Derek was being groomed as a future white nationalist leader, but renounced the movement after going to college.)

So there you have it: a cadre of young men with insecure incomes and disappointing love lives, who think that what they need is to become more dominant and “alpha”, and that they can achieve alphahood by joining a violent movement that hates people of color, and optionally Jews.  Right before the Charlottesville riots, some of them were heard telling each other that now, with this show of strength, they would definitely all be irresistible to the ladies.

— 5 —

Of course, we shouldn’t attach too much importance to Milo’s role.  By the time he was fully settled into it, there was someone else helping to build bridges among the people who were now calling themselves the alt-right.  In a story where most of the people we’ve discussed so far were young, he was rare in being a member of the elder generation.  This other influential figure was a hustler from the New York real estate business.  He had a connection to both pickup artists (as a wealthy womanizer) and racists (as the son of a Klan member).  His name was Donald John Trump.

The alt-right pundits of Breitbart supported Trump’s presidential bid early and often.  This mattered, when he was facing no less than sixteen conventional politicians to win the Republican nomination.  He won the backing of racists right from the start, quite deliberately, by describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers during the official announcement of his candidacy.  And of course, his preliminary forays into politics years earlier had consisted of supporting the racist fantasy that Barack Obama had somehow faked his American birth.  Trump reciprocated Breitbart’s support by hiring Steve Bannon into his campaign, and then into the White House.  He also hired Kellyanne Conway from Robert Mercer’s PAC.  Mercer was Trump’s single biggest campaign donor, and apparently had plenty of influence, getting his people where he wanted them.

And of course, Trump’s racist campaign did more to legitimize and normalize white supremacism than any politician had done since the days of Martin and Malcolm, so existing racists came out of the woodwork in swarms, and perhaps many who would never previously have considered such a viewpoint dared to think about joining this exciting new hate movement.

And 4chan?  They loved Donald Trump, even before he ran for office.  Not because he was someone who they thought would be a great leader (at least not until the Nazis took over the site) — quite the opposite.  Apparently the established members adored him for the lulz, because as a politician, he was a hilarious buffoon.  And some say he spoke to the strange dichotomy underpinning 4chan’s tortured relationship with traditional masculinity, because he was someone who embodied being a big alpha winner, while simultaneously also being an obvious laughable loser.  He was a lazy fuckup and a huge success, at the same time.  Perhaps this made him a symbol of hope to lazy fuckups.

They quickly identified him with a cartoon character named Pepe the Frog.  We now think of Pepe as a white supremacist symbol, but that apparently only happened because, when asked by a reporter, some 4chan trolls made this claim as a joke.  This was promptly taken up by the real white supremacists, who found images of Trump as Pepe ready to hand.  Richard Spencer, for instance — in the famous video where he gets punched by a masked Antifa asshole while talking to a reporter, he had been just about to explain why he was wearing a Pepe button on his jacket.

The artist who created Pepe sued the Daily Stormer and got them to remove Pepe, but no such measure was usable against 4chan.

So what did Pepe actually signify, before he was co-opted by racists?  I gather that the character was basically a stoner/slacker, and as far as I can tell, he signified not giving a fuck, and being happy in your way of life even if people laugh at or are repelled by it.  His most referenced catchphrase was “Feels good man!”  He’d been popular on 4chan as far back as 2008.

Trump was also appealing to those who found shock content funny, because his buffoonery was based in “dark triad” personality traits — narcissism, machiavellianism, and sociopathy — which more sensitive members of the public found genuinely horrifying.

— 6 —

So, having traced this history, it really boils down to one simple fact: that fascists and wannabe pickup artists found common ground because they are facing a common threat in the empowerment of women.  Feminism is a bulwark against which both schemes dash in vain.  Both feel that it is their due and their rightful place to be dominant and to impose their wills over women, and yet where feminism takes hold, they are thwarted.

And this brings us to the question of why people would turn Nazi, even if they are baffled and frustrated.  Lots of people, otaku and otherwise, feel that way without turning hateful or evil.  There are usually other factors at work.

It’s worth noting that the original Nazis arose during times of high unemployment and economic misery, where even those with good jobs could find purchasing power slipping through their fingers thanks to problems such as inflation.  In today’s United States, the owning class has used every trick in the book to lower wages, weaken unions, and disempower working people for the last forty years.  The result is that you now have to be a skilled white collar professional to afford a lifestyle which, back in the sixties, was available to factory workers.  And if you’re an unskilled worker today, you’re probably living in outright poverty.  And you’re told that it’s not poverty because even the economically marginal can occasionally afford a high-def TV or a smartphone — allegedly premium devices whose retail prices can barely buy an hour of service from a doctor or lawyer.

Add to this the fact that large numbers of working people have recently had their assets stripped from them by a Wall Street flimflam whose perpetrators were never punished, and you see that despite superficially reassuring employment numbers, these are desperate times for many.  Then add to that the rapidly approaching development of artificial intelligence to commercially useful levels, threatening to make millions of unskilled and semiskilled workers economically obsolete… old-line politicians seem completely oblivious to this threat, but tech-savvy youngsters can see their career options growing more uncertain every year.  Economic desperation may be a distant rumor for the mature and well-established, but for young people seeking a place in the system, it can seem very real.

Of course, many of today’s young fascists do have jobs, and when they do, it happens that quite frequently (and again to my personal shame) those jobs are in the IT field.  It’s been said by some investigators that the median alt-right member is a 29 year old IT worker, not someone unemployed or in a dead-end job.  By normal standards this is considered a strong career path with a good future.  But if we take a look at what a typical IT employee sees at work, we notice that:

  • The company hires lots and lots of immigrant workers, because they’re cheaper.  Colleagues with accents may easily outnumber those without.
  • The company also hires a great many temporary and contract workers with no benefits.  Any restrictions imposed on this practice by state law are evaded pretty easily.  This affects both the immigrants and the native citizens.
  • IT workers don’t often have jobs where one builds seniority; instead, they have “gigs”, and are expected to routinely move from one company to another.  If you don’t feel like changing jobs frequently, the company can do it for you, cutting staff without a thought at the slightest downturn.
  • Many IT job opportunities are at high-risk ventures.  A few create millionaires, but many collapse and fail.
  • The company loves workers who are young and “passionate”, filled with eagerness to create something world-changing.  When they find someone with that special combination of idealism, physical stamina, and gullibility which is lost as people age, they may get them to work tons of extra hours for no extra pay, until they either wise up or burn out.
  • Alternately, if the company is less edgy and more traditional, IT workers find themselves in a position with high value but low status, regarded by management as a glorified assembly-line worker, with little opportunity to advance.
  • If you’re older they may start pushing you out the door well before retirement age.  It’s called “graylining”.
  • You constantly have to learn new skills and specialties as old ones become obsolete.  You have to run to stay in the same place.  And yet the company strongly prefers to hire you for a position in which you do exactly what you did in the past, rather than anything new.  And if you want to advance up the corporate ladder, you need a whole additional set of skills unrelated to those you need for hands-on work.
  • Often the whole point of a new IT development project is to automate something that used to be done by a human being.
  • Because those who are most talented at IT often have poor social skills, the industry has learned to treat bad social behavior with kid gloves or even with respect.  Some workers have learned to exploit this, and some departmental cultures have unintentionally fallen into incentivizing and rewarding asshole behavior.  People learn to act like dicks because it gets people to assume that you’re some valuable asset who has to be given extra slack.
  • And we might as well note that they aren’t likely to see many women in important roles.

So IT can be a renumerative career, but it sure doesn’t have any sense of long term security to it, aside from the pseudo-security of feeling superior to ordinary people due to your intellectual skills.  I note that like 4chan, IT departments used to be hotbeds of libertarianism.  Now it seems that some of them may be following the same sort of transition toward becoming little enclaves of fascism.  The two philosophies are completely antithetical on paper, but the ease with which people seem to be sliding between them is somehow not entirely surprising.  As more-or-less libertarian writer William Gillis said, some putative libertarians value the philosophy only as “a grab bag of justifications for feeling elite and for resisting critique of their privilege and the status quo… the only remotely acceptable shield for reactionaries who wanted intellectual airs.”

Today’s IT industry is certainly trending toward becoming more hostile to women: the female population in the field has been dropping since a peak in the nineties, and the stories I hear about how women are treated are actually getting worse.

Some may wonder how economic difficulty is relevant to the popularity of fascism.  Those same persons may also bemoan why the political spectrum seems to be increasingly radicalized, why people in general are aligning with fringe beliefs and backing various drastic measures.  The reason for that is really very simple: people are only going to support the status quo when the status quo is supporting them back.  People who pay attention aren’t in the middle anymore because the middle isn’t offering them anything.

So of all the radical alternatives to centrism, why the racist and sexist ones?  Some were explicitly taught hatred in their youth, but not all… how would someone arrive at such a thing on their own?  Well, we’ve all grown up with promises about what kind of society we’re supposed to be living in.  Some of us grew up with the promise that if you become a real man, you’ll have a role of leadership, because you’ll be suited for it.  And some took in a promise that if you’re a native-born real authentic American — implicitly, a white American — then the bounty of this land is yours, belonging to you more than it does to some others.  And just about all of grew up with the promise that success and prosperity could be ours if we just worked hard for it — a promise which once was quite true, and which still works for some, though fewer every year.

So whether you’re Billy Bob in an Alabama trailer park, or hAkrAz0r89 in a Massachusetts suburb, it’s very easy to feel like you’re being deprived of something that should rightfully be yours, when it turns out that you can’t locate an opportunity to become successful and prosperous.  If you take an expansive view of your peer group, you might see women and minorities around you as being in the same boat as you are (or worse), but if you’re not so inclined, it’s kind of easy to see anyone else who gets ahead as having taken something from you.  This feeling is particularly exacerbated if it feels like that other person is somehow cutting ahead of you in line, for instance by means of something like affirmative action.  If you have strongly internalized a belief that the system ought to be working to your benefit, then thinking that someone else is taking your spot is an easy mistake to make.  Billy Bob probably works hard, and hAkrAz0r89 is probably intelligent or educated, and each of those ought to translate into success according to the vision of society they grew up with.

For suburbanites, facing a lack of prospects is particularly shocking, as it was not a problem for their parents or grandparents.  I think this is why, though organizations such as the KKK were previously known for drawing their membership from the least educated tiers of society, this new wave of alt-right recruits includes many who seem reasonably well off and reasonably bright.  In the past such movements were anti-intellectual; now they are pseudo-intellectual.

I have no doubt that the Nazis and KKKers will be discredited and driven out of polite society, as they always have been in the past, and that white supremacist ideology will again retreat to dark corners as its new appeal tarnishes.  But the issues underlying it, which drove people to seek answers in such an dubious place, will remain.  Radical fringe politics is going to be an ongoing problem, until centrist politics manages to do its job again, and produce a society that supports its members.  That goes for the left-identified anarchists just as much as it does for fascists.  As the hard right burgeons with hate and evil, the hard left is also starting to show a violent side which we have not seen for a long time.

So extremism is understandable as people grope for solutions to the economic challenges which threaten to rob them of a secure future.  Statistically you can expect that once the center way becomes too narrow, some are going to turn left and others are going to turn right.  But when it comes to fascism — and that is the correct term for the kind of government that white nationalist groups are pushing toward — there’s another factor.  What distinguishes fascism from other American ideologies is its cruelty.  As a philosophy, it’s basically grade school bullying rationalized to a pseudo-adult level.  To get into fascism, you have to be either in strong denial about your comrades in the movement, or you have to be a real asshole.

But it seems that another significant factor is masculinism.  Journalist Michael Kimmel set out to understand why people choose to become violent extremists, and interviewed dozens of current and former American Nazis, European skinheads, and Arab jihadists.  He found that the consistent thread was that these guys were driven to extremism because they felt that they were failing as men.  It was about recovering their masculinity.  They believed, or hoped, that the cause of the failure was external.  “Their manhood had been taken from them by unseen conspiratorial forces, and their recruitment was seen as a way to reclaim their manhood.”  He quotes psychiatrist James Gilligan: “The purpose of violence is to diminish the intensity of shame and replace it as far as possible with its opposite, pride.”

— 7 —

Fascist movements have always also been masculinist, but masculinism — or even outright misogyny — doesn’t imply fascism or racism.  It’s a broader issue.  But as with racism, I think a key factor is the expectations that people are raised with.  Are men supposed to be in charge, as the head of the house?  Are women expected to defer to the leadership of their men?  If you have taken this in as an assumption about life, it’s bound to lead to additional frustration in the already challenging area of forming intimate relationships.  And that frustration will be with the behavior of the woman you’re trying to relate to, who will be seemingly refusing to do her part.  And since her noncooperation implies a refusal to show an expected level of respect, it’s easy to interpret as an insult, so it’s easy to get angry at her, and start thinking that she’s the asshole, not you.

To make things harder, we all generally have some instinctive sense that we deserve sex and love, as if it were a right, but it isn’t.  Relationships are not necessarily for everybody, no matter how often we might tell each other that they are.  This is true because in nature the endpoint of such relationships is parenting, and parenting demands many strengths and virtues which not everyone possesses.  And relationships even without kids make some demands of this kind.  So we instinctively recognize that we need to have some standards when seeking partners, but it never sits right when someone is too picky to pick us.  This is an area where life is unfair, and we do it to ourselves: our default behavior is to hold others to standards which are higher than the ones we are able to meet ourselves, even in such basic areas as youth and health.  We may laugh when we see some fat oldster opining about which young starlets are pretty enough for him and which are not, but most of us are prone to doing the same thing, less obviously.

So dealing magnanimously with failure or rejection in romance is not easy to start with, and maybe it doesn’t necessarily take all that much, in terms of bad ideas about masculine prerogatives, to nudge some guys toward feeling like women owe them something, and are mistreating them if they refuse to be attracted, or refuse to stay in a relationship once it’s started.

For those carrying around this type of entitled grievance, Donald Trump makes a good spokesman, because he’s packed with it.  Constantly feeling disrespected and insulted by any reaction other than praise, always convinced that people aren’t treating him fairly, he takes offense as dependably as he offends.  When he manages to step outside of overt narcissism and speak for others, as he did while campaigning, aggrieved white males could certainly recognize him as someone who gets how they feel.

In Michael Kimmel’s interviews of violent extremists, aggrieved entitlement is what he found over and over, along with a sense of victimization by a social order which they perceived as unfair.  Whether the issue is love or money, it’s the same attitude.  And come to think of it, aggrieved entitlement also seems to be what’s driving a lot of wealthy businessmen to rail against taxes and regulations.  It’s visible in how often we see them being not just cynical or self-interested in this quest, but also indignant and self-righteous, as if it were an affront to their innate rights for society to put any limit on what they get to take for themselves.  The same attitude is visible in tax resisters, who are outraged at the idea that they need to contribute anything to society, and in the Bundy crowd which believes that they should be free to make money off of public land with no restrictions, and are willing to get into armed standoffs with authorities to defend this principle.

Of course, it’s possible to grow out of this attitude.  Having entitled expectations of how other people are supposed to treat you is a common failing of youth (because when we’re small we really are legitimately entitled to care and support), and part of maturity is accepting that other people are autonomous and that the choices they make aren’t up to us.  But maturity is not easy or automatic, any more than having a successful relationship is.

One obstacle to the realizations of maturity can be dogma or ideology.  If you are committed to a belief system, that can prevent you from learning truths incompatible with it.  And if a set of beliefs was absorbed in childhood, you may have difficulty seeing alternatives even if you want to be open-minded.

So what we teach our young people can make the situation better, or make it worse.  There will always be some who struggle with this stuff, but there’s a lot we can do to avoid starting people off on the wrong foot.

And this brings us back to the subject of feminism, which has the aim of doing exactly that.  If we look through the issues that have been mentioned in this history, from the low Japanese birth rate to Trumpian white male aggrievement, it looks like feminism is the correct answer to most of them.  Even the purely economic issue of wealth concentration, in which the desperation of working people is magnified by the greed and corruption of those on top, is an issue where feminism has a lot to say: women’s movements have always, all the way back to the eighteenth century, stood against economic privilege as well as against sexual privilege.  This faction of society which fears and despises feminists are, if they only knew it, among those who would benefit strongly from feminism.

And yet, as feminism is currently formulated in America, they may never be able to accept it.  They often have so little, and hostile women are telling them to give up more, or so it seems.  On the most basic level, they associate feminism with hostility.  They meet two women, one acts nice and the other does not; the immediate reaction is to prefer the company of the former.  If the latter gives a feminist reason for taking a dislike, then the obvious generalization is to learn a preference for nonfeminists.  Among those who dislike feminists, a constant complaint is that feminists seem angry and hostile and aggressive, and that this is unpleasant and unattractive.

It’s perfectly natural to react that way… just as it’s perfectly natural to enjoy the company of sycophants, flatterers, and ass-kissers over those who are honest with you, or to prefer the attentions of servants or slaves to those of people who make you do your share of the chores.  We all like being treated as special and receiving little favors… but as members of a society based on democracy and basic equality, we’re supposed to be a bit more woke than that.  Ideally we are supposed to say, as Abraham Lincoln did, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”  But if you grow up accustomed to some form of deference or subservience, especially if it’s as subtle as someone continuing to treat you more nicely than you are treating them, it’s awfully hard to see that as taking advantage of a privilege.  We’d rather just frame it as them being kinder souls than some others are, and therefore better people.

The latest catchphrase they hear from both feminists and anti-racists is “check your privilege.”  This phrase is best used among friends and sympathizers who are aware of the context and in theory willing to do some self-examination, but even when it doesn’t leak over to be heard by antifeminist groups, the word “privilege” is certainly one they’re bound to hear.  And to them it’s both galling and baffling, especially for those who are working hard for little money, because they know their position is not a privileged one in this society.  And if you try to explain to them that they are privileged because of minor acts of deference and little presumptions of social status, they are not going to see how that is significant when measured against the overwhelming scope of their disadvantages in other areas.  It sounds ludicrously disproportionate as an issue to worry about.

So what can feminists do to reach them, and help them understand that they’re not the enemy?  Be more polite and considerate?  That might work if an individual woman chooses to try it, but it’s not a general solution, because having to stay polite and friendly when someone is being ignorant and patronizing is exactly the sort of thing that feminism is supposed to get women away from.

I think the only thing likely to change minds on this kind of point is when women they know and respect personally start calling themselves feminist, and explaining why.  As it is now, it’s very easy, especially in rural America, to dismiss feminists as weirdos who only exist in faraway places which are known for being prone to weirdos, such as big coastal cities and college campuses.  It’s commonly believed that in the big multicultural mishmosh of the coastal cities, and in the ferment of unusual ideas around a campus, there are influences which turn otherwise normal women into feminists, which would never happen if they were just grounded among sensible folks in the real America.  The same goes for liberalism in general — for multiculturalism and environmentalism and all the other leftish attitudes which might seem like an attack on traditional values.

But in fact, this idea is often backwards: it is not cities and campuses which create feminists and environmentalists and liberals, so much as it is feminists and environmentalists and liberals who bring their values to cities and campuses.  If you look around among the most nontraditional elements of a big city — the people who are the most feminist, the most liberal, and the most hostile to traditional values — you start to notice that they are commonly not from the city.  They moved there.  Many of them grew up in rural America!  Very often, they didn’t go to the city and then get turned liberal, they turned liberal and then decided they had to go to the city.

America’s rural population has been shrinking for a long time.  People have been moving to the cities for decades in pursuit of opportunity, economic and otherwise.  What this means is that the remaining populace is now self-selected for resistance to this appeal.  And yet the outflow continues.  And it’s stronger among women.  Those who cling hardest to traditionalism are usually men, for the simple reason that traditionalism offers them a better deal than it offers women.  The result of this is that there are areas of small-town America which have a substantial gender imbalance — a very real shortage of women.  And the ones who leave are often the ones with feminist leanings.

In the sixties, large portions of middle America managed to work up a great deal of hate and loathing for the hippies who hung around campuses and cities.  They managed to forget in the process how many of these despised hippies were, in fact, their own departed children.  Something similar is happening today: people are not realizing that the faraway feminists are often their own sisters and cousins and neighbors who moved away.

So if the culture in middle America today is essentially one which drives feminist women away… how can the people left behind be reached?  It seems like an impossible bind.

But remember that twenty years ago, conservative traditional-values America was caught up in a paroxysm of hate and fear of homosexuals.  Even more than feminists, these were people whose hometowns drove them away — people who congregated in the coastal cities because no one else wanted them.  And yet, over the following decade, the epidemic of homophobia in middle America largely collapsed.  Attitudes measured in polls shifted dramatically, and people overcame their repulsion and started seeing their gay neighbors as regular people.  The default attitude of the average person toward homosexuality became tolerant.  It’s still an ongoing process, but as a cultural shift, it’s been remarkably rapid.

I am optimistic that a similar shift could break through the current antipathy toward feminists in middle America.  And seeing antifeminism being embraced by actual Nazis might be just the trigger to bring that about.  One reason that attitudes shifted on homosexuality was that various religiose hatemongers overplayed their hand, filling the airwaves with homophobia foul enough to repel even those who originally agreed with the basic idea.  Bringing Nazis into the debate on feminism could easily have a similar effect.

So for those in small conservative rural towns, we can understand and empathize with people’s distrust of feminism.  For folks who live in the suburbs, it’s much more difficult.  They’ve got no such excuse — in that environment, they certainly know personally some people who identify as feminists, who are members of their own subculture and not faraway weirdos.  They haven’t been insulated from feminist ideas at all, and cannot claim ignorance of the real story.  So when someone like a well-paid software engineer in Palo Alto turns all red-pill and antifeminist, I don’t hold out much hope that they can be reached by showing them a better understanding of the women they are talking about.  In their case, the best idea I can offer is to confront them, fight their ideas, and tell them when and how they are being assholes.  In short, to hell with ’em.  They’re part of the exact same techno-culture that I am — in fact, I used to live in Palo Alto, before it became too expensive for mere mortals — and if they choose to embrace fascist ideas while the rest of us keep our heads straight, then they’ve got no grounds to expect any Get Out Of Jail Free card.  If they mouth off with hate and then get fired from their jobs for it, I say good.

— 8 —

What’s the prognosis for the current wave of fascism, masculinism, and racism?  Will it continue to grow, or will it collapse?  I am optimistic.  I think the nastiness of it peaked in 2017 and it is now in the process of embarrassing itself back into obscurity.  Having put a useless buffoon into the White House — someone who doesn’t have a clue how to even pretend to not be corrupt — they’re now showing everyone that the fascist ideas aren’t going to help America.  At least a quarter of the people who voted with them, maybe a third, have now decided that they don’t like the outcome and that in hindsight it was a bad idea.  That number can only grow as the administration’s criminal dealings are slowly exposed to the daylight.  Even without that, the more people get a sober long-term look at the ugliness, the more they will reconsider any sympathy they used to have for it.  This isn’t our first time at this dance — we’ve seen the process play out before.  Outbursts of hate are, in any halfway decent culture, self-limiting.

So how do we treat it in the meantime?  Should Nazis be approached with empathy and open ears, or should they be shunned, or should they be met with fists and rocks and pepper spray?  The correct answer, in my opinion, is all three.  Whichever of those paths you choose, you have a good and valid reason to stick with it… but others might do as much good on a different path.  The path of empathy is clearly not for everyone, nor is that of violence.  Most of us will stick to the simple path of shunning and denouncing.  The good news is that it seems to work, in the end.  Outbursts of hateful ideology do eventually shrivel in the face of public rejection, especially when that public rejection clearly grows not from ignorance but from public exposure of the hate movement’s beliefs and practices.  A favorite delusion of these hate groups is the idea that maybe this time, ordinary people are finally becoming ready to listen to them and accept their ideas.  Disappointing that hope can dampen their enthusiasm considerably.

But there’s bad news to go with the good news: though historically hate movements do tend to be disempowered pretty effectively by social opprobrium, unfortunately in our current climate in the USA, young people have seen racism treated as taboo in exactly the sort of way that makes them curious.  There’s been a tendency, I think, among some parents and educators to treat racism as a semi-invisible verboten topic, as that-which-shall-not-be-named, rather than as an active subject of current events.  I think there’s some denial at work behind this — a desire to treat racists as something distant and faraway and rare.  We can do better, I think, to explain honestly to our kids that the word “racist” doesn’t just mean some long-dead Southern governor from the Jim Crow days, it might also mean the bully sitting right next to him in class.  I think maybe one way to do better in this is to give kids a message that’s less “gasp, don’t say something that sounds like it might be racist” and more “come on, don’t start acting like an asshole.”  Because it’s much harder to pretend that assholes, as a group, are only historical, or have an aura of forbidden coolness.

I think maybe we need more of this with adults too.  When someone is being mildly racist and you want to discourage them, they will sometimes react very badly to hearing racism mentioned.  A lot of people really hate finger-pointers using the R word, and they react by turning  defensive and stubborn.  So don’t use the R word, use the A-hole word, or some equivalent.  That makes it about their choice of behavior and attitude, rather than about some political correctness boogeyman.  It has a somewhat better chance of leaving them feeling chastened instead of self-righteous.

Public exposure of the alt-right movement’s evils is progressing, though gradually.  The news media are beginning to take note of how violent today’s young racists can be.  Aside from visible outbursts such as that at Charleston, some journalists are noticing how often the ideology is tied to individual acts of violence.  I saw a story lately reporting that at least a hundred murders have been tied to the alt-right in just the last couple of years… and another saying that over the last decade the victims of white supremacists include more than twenty police officers.  You won’t find a stat like that for any normal group or movement.  So public revulsion is growing and will, I expect, continue to grow.  As members of the movement go through disappointment, disillusionment, lost battles, and arrests, I think the present surge of fascism will dissipate soon enough — as long as those driving it from the top down are pushed out of power in a timely fashion.

What about red-pill antifeminism, as distinct from racism and fascism?  It isn’t nearly as publicly well known, and for the most part can plausibly deny being tied to the other two.  It might get away for some time with continued popularity, even as the fascist movement is worn down.  It might appear to keep growing.  But even if it never does end up getting exposed for heinous crimes which tar the movement in the public eye — and I don’t think it’s at all unlikely that such an outrage could happen — it’s still doomed, in my opinion, to a limited lifespan before it shrinks away again.

Why?  Because like many cults before it, it’s made the mistake of promising things which it can’t deliver.  It tells people that they can achieve concrete worldly success with its teachings.  Unlike successful religions, which mostly keep such promises to the afterlife where they can’t be verified, it has made claims of value in areas which are objectively measurable.  So, there is inevitably going to be a lot of disappointment.  The movement is mainly appealing and exciting, I think, among people who are relatively new to it, and are essentially treating it as something they are still learning and haven’t gotten good at yet.  No wonder they attract so many video game players: they’ve gameified masculine success.  This allows followers to give teachings the benefit of the doubt even when they don’t succeed.  But this will only stretch so far — when enough time goes by, people are going to expect to see results, not excuses.  After the disappointments go on long enough, people will start to give up and quit, and start questioning the validity of the belief system.  Eventually the idea will be seen as something that “everyone” knows is bogus.  This happened with the ideology of traditional patriarchy, and eventually this neo-techno-retro-futuristic alt-patriarchy spinoff is going to end up in the same trash can.  But it could take longer than the more obvious evils of fascism will.

Of course, this view is markedly optimistic, and worse outcomes are possible.  We could see an electoral revolt against the fascist movement thwarted by cheating, hacking, gerrymandering, foreign interference, or simple denial of the right to vote to key segments of the populace.  We could see a police state crackdown, or a military coup, or other scenarios in which the fascists basically just seize power.  It could happen.  It’s also possible that some event might galvanize the right wing and undermine liberal sympathies, such as for instance a foreign military attack on the United States, or the appearance of one.  That might dash a lot of our hopes.

I have positive expectations, but we are not out of the woods by a long way yet.  We still today have an active fascist movement, consisting of Nazis, confederates, religious bigots, fake libertarians, and people with serious hate for both foreign immigrants and domestic political opponents — usually wrapped in a deep layer of doublethink so they don’t recognize their own nature as fascists.  We still have a major political party refusing to oppose or condemn this fascism.  We still have an ongoing police-state crackdown attacking vulnerable members of our populace when they can’t prove citizenship, and we still have countless instances of corrupt cronyism undermining our government and despoiling publicly held resources for profit.  We still have a large segment of the voting public being led by propaganda down a path where they are no longer allowed to accept or believe any neutral facts from outside their bubble, because the web of lies being woven by those in power is so outrageous and fanciful that it is no longer compatible with any form of objective knowledge, so the suppression of science and knowledge in general is now part of their agenda.  We have people constructing such vast amounts of conspiracy-theory bullshit in order to keep their followers in line, that beliefs far crazier than those of racists or sexists are making a comeback….  As I write, not only are people spreading theories about Taylor Swift being transsexual or Queen Elizabeth being a cannibal, we are seeing a wave of fresh assertions that the Earth is flat!  That is how far the rejection of reality is going.  On Youtube in particular, flat-Earth arguments are now a staple — thousands of examples are available, just as it has thousands of anti-SJW rants.  Flat-Earthism is now downright trendy; it’s got celebrity endorsements and everything.

Though the political actors who instigated the current wave of hate propaganda (including foreign ones whose interest is only in weakening our nation) are rapidly discrediting themselves, they’ve left behind an atmosphere in which vast numbers of people no longer have any trust in a consensus reality, or in neutral information reported by those in fact-based professions.  The damage from this kind of ideological isolation will last much longer than the outbursts of any particular hate movement, I fear.  It’s particularly sad that this new wave of know-nothing-ism is so strongly affecting the younger generation, when so much of the traditional hate and ignorance of the past was finally showing signs of dying off.  We are losing great numbers of our fellow citizens to an insular paranoia which pretty much ends their capacity to contribute usefully to public society.  Some will come back in time, but not all.  The good news, I think, is that the discreditation of some of these ideas should at least greatly slow the rate at which further young citizens are lost, even if it proves unable to bring back many of those already departed.  But the misogynist ideas are probably never going to be as disreputable in the public eye as the racist ones, and hence will be more persistent.

I think maybe my best hope for how the toxic myths of the Red Pill antifeminist cult might be undermined, is if the term that most prominently identifies them continues to become associated with the racists as well, as it is now doing.  If the antifeminist PUA wannabes wish to distance themselves from racism and fascism (and we shouldn’t necessarily assume that they automatically will), hopefully they’ll be forced to rebrand themselves with a new label.  Once they do that, we can just go “That’s just the Red Pill crowd again with a new name”, and they won’t have an answer.  On the opposite hand, the least hopeful case might be that maybe this particular cultish version of antifeminist belief eventually loses its credibility due to the pickup-artist tricks not working, but that the misogynist core of it remains, and takes on some new altered form which then has to be fought all over again from scratch.

If just one idea from this article manages to spread, I hope it’s the knowledge that the Red Pill men’s cult, being driven by hate and entitlement, is essentially part of the fascist alt-right.  I don’t think most people who’ve encountered it are aware of that connection yet, but the participants of both groups seem to be drawing the connection closer all the time, so I figure there’s a good chance that in time the link will become broad public knowledge.  There may be a lot of PUA-ish misogynists who would disavow racism, and maybe don’t even see themselves as being political, but I still say they’re part of the same broad reactionary movement, waging the same cultural battle as the white supremacists, against the same opponents.

And if some red-pillers are shocked or offended at being tarred with that swastika-shaped brush, I hope it prompts them to reconsider just what kind of social agenda they’ve been buying into.  Maybe if they don’t like racism, they can take a second look at whether or not they really support sexism.



  1. About two weeks after I published this, and speculated near the end about the possibility of someone in the Red Pill cult committing a public atrocity, one of them did: an Alek Minassian (allegedly) plowed his heavy van into pedestrians in Toronto, killing ten and injuring many more, the majority being women. He preceded this rampage with a facebook post saying “All hail the supreme gentleman Elliot Rodger!” and “The incel rebellion has already begun.” Incel is a jargon term from the red pill glossary, short for involuntary celibate.

    And the media are noticing, but unfortunately they are branding the new boogeyman group we should all be afraid of as incels rather than as red-pillers or antifeminists. Some news stories practically make it sound like being a white guy who can’t get any is synonymous with being a violent reactionary, though the attitudes which lead to such an outcome are hardly confined to that group, nor are they to be assumed within it. I need to point out that the misogynistic hate ideology includes some who succeed at picking up women as well as some who fail, so don’t cast too narrow a net.

    Comment by Supersonic Man — April 25, 2018 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

    • Holy crap, it turns out there are online communities of “incels” who venerate the memory of Rodger and refer to him as “Saint Elliot”! Minassian was one of them. The Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz apparently was also a fan of Rodger, though he apparently did once have a girlfriend (to whom he turned very abusive).

      The Southern Poverty Law Center is now saying that the misogynist online fora frequented by “incels” are also direct feeders into racist communities. Heidi Beirich says, “They started with hating women, and then went on to hate Jews, black people and so on and so forth. There’s a lot of examples of alt-right leaders who came to these views in this way.” They added manosphere misogyny fora to their official list of hate groups last year. They say that among the worst of these manosphere groups, the strongest desires they express are not to get into relationships with women, not to pick them up and seduce them, and not even to rape them… but to murder them.

      Comment by Supersonic Man — May 3, 2018 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  2. The U. of Chicago’s General Social Survey has found an upward spike in the last decade of men under thirty who report having had no sex in the last year. This is not a gradual trend but a sharp deflection that appears to have begun in 2008 or 2009. Could it be that Barack Obama made young conservatives lose their mojo? Whether this cohort leans conservative might be testable in their data…

    As of the last reported data point, the trend is still climbing steeply — we see no sign of when or where it might level off. Whatever the cause, we now have a bumper crop of frustrated young men.

    Comment by Supersonic Man — March 30, 2019 @ 6:24 am | Reply

  3. It has come to my attention that some of the channels which fill Youtube with a constant stream of anti-SJW and anitfeminist rants are doing so purely for money — the same algorithm that feeds a receptive audience a steady supply of more crap from the same latrine also guarantees a steady stream of ad revenue for the creators. What matters for such creators is to produce quantity rather than quality. Youtube is adjusting the failures in its system which spread bullshit on top of bullshit and reward high-volume spewers* over those who care about quality, but only slowly and minimally, so this will probably continue for some time. Once it was brought to their attention that conspiracy theory videos were ranking above actual news reports in the immediate wake of tragic events such as mass shootings, they knew they had to do something.

    Among the antifeminist rant channels, one of them even finally came out and admitted openly that he was exploiting his audience, making money by telling them nonsense that they wanted to hear. “I’m gonna continue to monetize your pain, and your stupidity, and your ignorance.”

    * By the way, I think this flaw in Youtube finally gives me an explanation for something that’s always mystified me: why Pewdiepie is so popular. Youtube’s system, before they adjusted it, simply rewarded channels like his for being able to produce lengthy footage on a daily basis.

    Comment by Supersonic Man — April 12, 2019 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  4. The right wing continues to use meme images as a strong element of their propaganda push. They even have a saying that “the left can’t meme”. The left can and does meme, but their memes tend to be a good deal more verbose, and therefore have less impact. Angelo Carusone of Media Matters, who has studied this issue, says this is for two reasons: one is that leftists are a lot more concerned with nuance, which makes it difficult to achieve pithy bluntness… but the other is just that the right is a lot more comfortable with outright lies.

    Comment by Supersonic Man — July 24, 2019 @ 10:57 am | Reply

  5. 8chan has now gained a reputation as the site where mass murderers plan and discuss their upcoming attacks. The founder of the site called for it to be shut down, and the hosting company agreed. We shall see whether it finds a way to return.

    Comment by Supersonic Man — August 5, 2019 @ 4:19 am | Reply

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