Month: September 2014

Intellectual bullying and the postmodern discourse of GamerGate

The discrediting of voices in intellectual discourse is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, when a person holds a position that is indefensible and plain wrong, they should either accept that they are wrong or have their soapbox revoked. Most of the time it isn’t this clear. Different opinions are held by disagreeing parties, and silencing dissenting voices requires tactics that are a little more underhanded. The tactic of dishonestly re-framing a viewpoint into something outrageous in an attempt to discredit those who hold the viewpoint is known as intellectual bullying.

Black_box bulling

This is a powerful tool. With enough voices dishonestly insisting that someone holds all those beliefs that everybody hates, the person in question will either be shamed into silence or suffer from character assassination. The black box takes an honest input and produces a dishonest output. But what goes on inside the black box? I am going to try to explain that, both in general and specifically for the GamerGate controversy.

A lot of of the tactics of the anti-GamerGate intellectual bullying campaign were famously codified in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  The ideological guerrilla warfare tactics encouraged in that book and others like it include character assassination, isolation, and ridicule. Ad hominem attacks are implicitly encouraged, because people are easier to hate than abstract ideas. Strawman arguments are particularly effective – rather than addressing actual arguments, so one should ignore the points of those who disagree with you and respond to something else.

I initially scoffed at the prospect of Cultural Marxism being real, because in common parlance among conservative pundits, it’s used as a stronger pejorative in place of “political correctness.” Despite what the noise around the provocative term might sound like, Cultural Marxism is not Alex Jones-style paranoia. From the beginning, Marxism rejected positivism – positivism meaning the belief that mathematical logic and scientific experimentation are the sole authoritative sources of knowledge. This should be interesting for the reader who has heard of Marxism being scientific socialism. To Marx and Engels, scientific was merely a nice sounding word that meant that their socialism had a philosophical methodology behind it. This is true: Marxism does have a methodology, it’s just a non-rationalistic methodology.


Thoughts on the NFL abuse scandal

The NFL is being forced to backtrack and install harsher penalties following the outrage of the video of Ray Rice knocking out his wife being released and Adrian Peterson being indicted for child abuse. While the attention has focused on both instances of abuse as well as the response of the NFL, I would like to consider the broader cultural implications of the story.

First, I think the outrage is driven by a certain cultural elitism. When Roman Polanski was arrested for raping a 13 year old child in Switzerland in 2009 after spending 30 years hiding from justice the public outrage was muted. In fact, numerous well known movie and television personalities expressed their support for him.  Despite this, there was no conversation about the moral failure of Hollywood. The NFL is being excoriated in the media, not for defending Rice and Peterson, but for not punishing them harshly enough. Part of the reason for this different treatment is that sports fans and players are seen as unsophisticated. They need to be told how to act while famous movie directors are the kind of people the media enjoys talking to at cocktail parties.

The second point is the blurring of the line between private and public. The NFL, not the police, is expected to punish Ray Rice for assaulting his wife. Or, if the law treats domestic violence too lightly. Then the focus should be on changing the law, not the NFL. That people, especially the liberal elite, are expecting a private actor to punish what is a public crime, especially because the public punishment failed, is somewhat ironic. Especially so because it contributes to the conflation of public and private, a distinction I imagine they would assert they want to keep.

Lastly, from the target of the outrage and the response we can infer several things. First, private monopolies are extremely sensitive to public pressure, though the NFL is especially so because it is in the entertainment business. The NFL changed their domestic abuse policy after the outrage and pressured Adrian Peterson into not playing.  Second, public monopolies such as the police force are not responsive to public pressure. There has been no additional attempt to prosecute Ray Rice in spite of the outrage, though that is probably a good thing as we do not want justice to be swayed by public opinion. Third, those arguing for additional sanctions on Peterson and Rice implicitly understand the marginal benefits of targeting their outrage at the NFL over the justice system.

Christian group that hosted Ted Cruz calling for an apology from the Weekly Standard

My latest at TheDC:

The group that hosted one of the largest ecumenical Christian gatherings to address religious persecution in years last Wednesday night, which was crashed in dramatic fashion by junior Senator from Texas Ted Cruz, is calling for an apology from The Weekly Standard for remarks made by senior editor Lee Smith on Twitter regarding the incident. Smith accused the crowd of showing its “ISIS face” when some in the crowd which included many Arab Christians booed the Senator for goading them with successively more politically-charged lines about Israel.

“There were people in that very room whose loved ones were killed by ISIS terrorists. Smith’s hate and bigotry should not be tolerated by The Weekly Standard,” IDC Senior Advisor Joseph Cella said in a statement to The Daily Caller.

The rest of his nasty comments at the link.

I emailed Bill Kristol for comment; haven’t heard back and don’t expect to. Condemning anti-Christian bigotry is not high on the Weekly Standard’s list of priorities.

Secession lagniappe: Here’s hoping for an ‘aye’ today

If it’s a ‘no,’ the referendum has put secession on the map. And if, as Tim Stanley thinks is more likely at this point, they vote to split, may it move more towards Singapore-of-the-North than “Pakistan with exposed knees.”

By the cross oor Andrew bore
By the sword oor William wore
By the crown our Robert swore
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the falcon frae the glen,
Ca’ the eagle frae the ben
Ca’ the lion frae his den
Tae win oor Liberty

By the man wha’s faith was old
By the man they sold for gold
By the man they’ll never hold
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the thieves o’ Liddesdale
Ca’ the spears o’ Annandale
Ca’ the brave o’ Yarrowvale
Tae win oor Liberty

By the arm that bends the bow
By the arm that plies the blow
By the arm that lays them low
Tae win oor Liberty
Ca’ the banners frae the West
Ca’ the raven frae his nest
Ca’ the clans that dance the best
Tae win oor Liberty

By the field that once was green
By the shield of silver sheen
By the sword in battle keen
Tae win oor Liberty
Bless the man wha’s faith we hold
Bless the man in chains they sold
Bless the man in cloth o’ gold
Wha’ won oor Liberty
Bless the man in cloth o’ gold
Wha’ won oor Liberty

William Batchelder, “Libertarian Perspective on the Scottish Independence Referendum, Part I: Scotland, The United Kingdom, Devolution and Referendum

The Guardian says whatever happens, things won’t be the same.

Reason’s for it

So’s Billy Bragg

Gavin McInnes is against

And I can’t help but like this crotchety take from a Jacobite:

Alex Salmond is regularly described pejoratively by the ‘No’ campaign as a ‘separatist’ – and he is, but not because he wants an independent Scotland. Independence is no more than what Scotland deserves, but the separation of Scotland from the British Crown by the assertion of a novel notion of sovereignty is an existential threat to the Union of Crowns and the concept of monarchy itself. The notion that Salmond is advocating was never accepted by James VI and his legitimate successors, who asserted the Crown’s undoubted and unqualified sovereignty over the Three Kingdoms – and all right-thinking people in Scotland must now assert it again.

Michael Brendan Dougherty on what it could mean for Northern Ireland

Steve Sailer on why it couldn’t happen here

Sacred Harp 33b: ‘Abbeville’

Come, Holy Spirit come,
With energy divine,
And on this poor, benighted soul,
With beams of mercy shine.

Melt, melt this frozen heart;
This stubborn will subdue;
Each evil passion overcome,
And form me all anew.

Mine will the profit be,
But Thine shall be the praise;
And unto Thee will I devote
The remnant of my days.

Secession lagniappe

Groundskeeper Willie would like a word:

Here’s Ewan Watt over at TheDC on why free-marketers should support Scottish independence.

Sort of related, what if journalists covered Scotland like they cover the Middle East? And why are these Tibetans playing bagpipes?

National Journal on how American secessionists in Cascadia, Vermont, and Dixie are rooting for an “aye” in Scotland.

The New York Times on how Texans, Basques, Kurds, and other minorities are watching the referendum closely.

Pro-union parties are panicking.

David Boaz is for it.

John Harris in the Guardian:

In the broadcast media in particular, there is an implied assumption that “the Scotland moment” is something confined to that country. But the reality across the UK suggests something much deeper and wider, and a simple enough fact: that what is happening north of the border is the most spectacular manifestation of a phenomenon taking root all over – indeed, if the splintering of politics and the rise of new forces on both left and right across Europe are anything to go by, a set of developments not defined by specific national circumstances, but profound social and economic ruptures. …

What with every conceivable threat being thrown at the pro-independence side, let us assume Scotland narrowly decides to remain in the UK, that the three main parties stumble through their conferences and we get to May next year. Whoever wins will do so with only the flimsiest of mandates and, particularly in the case of a Labour party uncertain of its mission and committed to austerity, the backlash would set in early; indeed, mid-term blues might arrive well inside the first year. Ukip could easily end up on yet another roll, while the consequences of increased powers for Holyrood ripple through the whole of the UK, with unpredictable results, as evidenced by increasing interest in the kind of nationwide devolution floated today by Nick Clegg. …

In short, nothing is going back in its box. Anxiety and excitement abound in equal measure, which is what happens when uncertainty takes over almost everything. Only one thing seems clear: politics as usual suddenly seems so lost as to look completely absurd.