Showing posts with label Fascism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fascism. Show all posts

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Coxcomb Watch (edited)

Everyone is going to tell me that I shouldn't do this kind of thing, but here goes:


Five times Hugo award loser John C Wright recently placed on his web log a piece of text, written in 1938 by Gene Autry, a country singer and actor now best remembered for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It purports to be the moral code which Cowboys followed; it seems to have been sent out to children who sent him fan mail.

EDIT: Here is a link to the article:

One might have expected a devout and pious Catholic like Wright to put the Singing Cowboy’s grab-bag of secular morals alongside the Ten Commandments or even the Sermon on the Mount to demonstrate how inferior the one is to the other. One might have expected him to say that if you are still thinking up rules and codes you probably haven’t understood Christianity very well.

But if you are hammer, everything looks like a snail. If you see a well-meaning set of moral precepts written by a celebrity for the edification of kids nearly a century ago, then obviously the first thing that will occur to you is "Aren’t The Left awful." The Hugo award loser wants to know how many of the Singing Cowboy's moral precepts The Left break, or encourage others to break, on a regular basis.

EDIT: His precise words were: "A question for the reader: how many of these do mainstream Leftwing politicians, pundits and speakers, routinely call for all of us to violate? And I do not mean the Leftwing speakers and leader of ten or twenty years ago. I mean those who this year, this month, this week, or this hour? For the hour is late, and it is darker than you think." Yes, I am afraid he really does write like this.

I intend to tell him. 

I do not speak on behalf of The Left. I do not even regard myself as a Socialist. (As we've seen, a Socialist thinks everyone should have the same amount of money as everyone else; a Communist thinks we should get rid of money altogether. I am merely a Reformist: I think the Rich should be a little bit poorer and the Poor should be a little bit richer.) I am a member of the British Labour Party, and a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. I have been called an SJW, although not by anyone sensible.

So. Here is how The Singing Cowboy's Code struck this particular Leftie. Next month, I promise to start writing about Spider-Man.


The Cowboy Code goes thus:

1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. He must always tell the truth.

4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.

5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. He must help people in distress.

7. He must be a good worker.

8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.

9. He must respect women, parents and his nation’s laws.

10. The Cowboy is a patriot

If I have counted correctly, these 10 precepts actually contain 23 different commandments; which can be grouped under eight general principles:

I: Be kind

II: Be honest

III: Be tolerant

IV: Be conscientious

V: Be polite

VI: Be chaste

VII: Be law abiding

VIII: Be patriotic

Eight out of Autry's ten rules I endorse unreservedly. One I would like to have a little more information about. One is, as it stands, positively misleading. Let's go through them one by one: 

Rules 1 and 4

I fully endorse both these rules, which are in fact, the same rule stated in different words. Don't start fights; don't fight weaker people; don't take advantage of anyone who is weak. I would call this "Kindness", and it’s a universal human virtue.

Insofar as these rules are specifically intended for the edification of Cowboys, the Singer may be thinking particularly about chivalry and honour: how men behave in fights. When soldiers are not actually fighting, they should go out of their way not to be macho and aggressive; even when they are fighting their mortal enemies, they should fight fair, accept his surrender; never kill or torture prisoners.

I have never come across anyone on The Left or The Right who was opposed to Kindness. The Left are on the whole more strongly in favour of it than The Right. It has tended to be The Left who have made laws against child beating, domestic abuse and the inhumane treatment of pets and animals: it has often been The Right who have called these rules silly and sentimental and said that if a man can’t beat his own wife and children in his own house then whose wife and children is he supposed to beat? When there are complaints about our soldiers not using Honour and Chivalry — there have been terrible allegations about the use of torture and the mistreatment of prisoners in recent wars— those complaints mainly come from The Left. It is The Right who are inclined to regard such concerns as soft, unmanly, treacherous or cowardly.

Rules 2 and 3

Rules 2 and 3 are also different wordings of the same rule. I fully endorse both of them. Keeping promises, keeping secrets and telling the truth are part of the universal human virtue called Honesty.

I have never come across anyone on The Left or The Right who is opposed to Honesty. It is always possible to come up with clever, exceptional cases where lying is the best thing to do, for example, when the Gestapo knock on your door and ask if you have a Jewish family hiding in your attic. But the fact that we can imagine exceptions doesn’t invalidate the general principal. The exception proves the rule, as the fellow probably didn’t say.

Rule 5

This rule is oddly worded. I don't have that much of a problem with someone "possessing intolerant ideas" or indeed "advocating intolerant ideas". I am not quite sure how you can possess and idea without advocating it. What I have a problem with is people who behave in an intolerant way.

But I think we all know what the Singing Cowboy was getting at. He wasn't saying that Unitarians (who think everybody goes to Heaven) made good Cowboys, but Baptists (who hold to the arguably less tolerant theory that only people who have been washed in the blood of the lamb can be saved) made bad ones. If anything, he probably thought that Religion and Party Politics were not the kinds of things which gentlemen ought to talk about  — certainly not when they were risking their lives together in hostile in’jun territory. I think that what he had in mind was saloons with "No Jews or Irish" written on the doors; and individual Cowboys who refused to associate with black people or who used horrible words about them behind their backs. I think he was telling the kids that they should treat everyone the same, even if they don’t look like you or use the same word for God.

I strongly endorse this rule. Tolerance is a universal human virtue. It tends to be emphasized more strongly by The Left than The Right. It is The Left who say that signs saying "No Jews" and certain kinds of bad-language shouldn’t be allowed. It is The Right who say that if a landlord wants to ban Jews from drinking in his pub, that's a matter for him. The Right have, indeed, invented a cuss-word, "Political Correctness" to refer to people who behave tolerantly. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that The Right are personally intolerant. It may simply mean that they have an unwritten eleventh commandment "A Cowboy thinks personal freedom is more important than any of these rules".

Rule 6

Rule 6, "help people in distress" is simply another way of phrasing rules 1 and 4. The former say "Don't hurt people if you can possibly help it"; this one says "Help people if you possibly can." Of course, the Singing Cowboy is thinking mainly of the rugged, manly outdoor life. When he says "people in distress" he is thinking of people who are trapped in quicksand and being menaced by hungry wildebeests. But I am sure he means us to apply it to other kinds of distress as well. If someone is sick or hurt, you should do whatever you can do make them better; if someone is broke, you should share your dosh with them. Many of us think that Jesus Christ was an even better role-model than Gene Autry, and he said that everything turned on this point: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in, naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

I have never heard anyone on The Left or The Right who is against helping people. If there is a difference of opinion, here, it is usually between people on the The Left who say that we need to provide ropes, pulleys and ladders to help people out of holes; and people on The Right who say that if people fall down holes then it’s their own fault and if we keep fishing them out then no-one will ever look where they are going.

Rule 7

I strongly agree that one should be a "good worker". I think that whatever you do; you should do it to the best of your ability; and I think that everyone should do their fair share of whatever needs doing and not leave it to other people.

I have never heard anyone on either The Left or The Right say that laziness and incompetence are virtues. If anything, The Left is more inclined than The Right to say that everyone should lend a hand, and to object to rich freeloaders who sit on their trust funds and watch the money role in. That is what the "according to his ability" part means.

Rule 9

Rule 9 is confused. "Respect" means both "be polite to" and "pay attention to".

To Respect your parents and the opposite sex means to be polite to them; to use good manners and social etiquette in your interactions. I think that good manners are a good thing. I think hurting people with words is as ungentlemanly as hitting a smaller man or a man with glasses or indeed anybody. I would even go so far as to say that the old fashioned rules of etiquette were quite a good idea. If everyone agrees that the younger person should let the older person pass through the door first; and that the man should let the woman do so, then we avoid unnecessary pushing and shoving. Etiquette and manners change over time; but knowing about this is part and parcel of good manners. If Granny has good manners, then she understands that the young folk use words that she would never have used and don’t mean anything by them; if the young folk have good manners they try not to use those words in front of Granny because they hurt her feelings. (Idiots on The Left and The Right sometimes say that it is impossible to hurt people with words, or that hurting people with words doesn't matter, and that there is literally no such thing as giving offence. Cowboys know better.)

"Respect" in the sense of "Respect your nations laws" means something quite different. Calling a lady "Miss Jones" until she invites you to use her first name and refraining from parking on a double yellow even if you are in a big hurry are both good things, but they are not the same good thing. I strongly support rule 9.2. I think that you should obey laws, even silly laws, particularly in a democracy where you have the power to change them.

Sadly, the Singing Cowboy does not tell us if a Cowboys first loyalty is to the Cowboy Code or to the laws and constitution of the United States. Does the Cowboy follow the Code except where it would be against the law, or does he follow the law, except where it conflicts with the Code? If the Government says that citizens are no longer to put Bibles on the wall or flags on the table; or if the Government says that cowboys are no longer allowed to carry six-guns, does a good Cowboy cheerfully and uncomplainingly follow the law, at least until the next election? If not, what was the point of putting "respect the law" in the Code to begin with?

I think that in this case, The Right make more of manners and obedience to the law than The Left do. The Left is more likely to say that old fashioned, ceremonial codes of politeness can be dispensed with. The Left is more likely than the Right to endorse the breaking of immoral laws; or the breaking of any laws in pursuit of a laudable goal. The Left is more likely to say that the Suffragettes, for example, were heroes and martyrs; The Right is more likely to see them as a bunch of vandals. 

Rule 10

I like the country I grew up in; I think that England has good laws and a sensible constitution; I am proud of the BBC, the National Health Service and the Welfare State. With all my faults, I love my House of Peers. I feel that the Lord of the Rings, the Beatles and the Two Ronnies are mine in a way that Moby Dick, Woody Guthrie and the Marx Brothers are not.

I think that I am in some sense a good person because I don’t punch smaller men, am polite to my elders and have (so far as I remember) never shot first in a duel. I don’t think that I am in any sense a good person because I love England; any more than I think that I am a good person because I love jaffa cakes. That is to say: I am a Patriot, but I do not think being a patriot is a moral virtue. Some of my friends on The Left would certainly say that patriotism is a vice or a temptation; that Loving England can too easily turn into Hating France and even Being Nasty To French People. Some of them would say that we should stop thinking of ourselves as English and see everyone as citizens of the world and members of the human race. A very great man once assured me that it isn’t hard to do.

I am not exactly sure how the Patriotism of the Cowboy Code is meant to play out in practice. Does a Cowboy simply go around thinking that the Yosemite valley is the most beautiful place on earth? Or is obliged to love the Constitution as well? Does he have to love it with "a love that asks no questions", or can he patriotically acknowledge its faults? He is entitled to think that the present, democratically elected Commander in Chief is an idiot, or does he have to say "my President, right or wrong." Or are we going to smuggle in some idea that Patriotism involves loving "the real America", and that certain places, people, institutions and points of view don't count?

A brief survey of Gene Autry’s music suggests that he was one of those who conflated Christianity with America and who had an instrumental attitude to religion. The Bible on the table and the flag on the wall are the backbone of our nation. Rely on both God and bullets. Pray to God, not because it's a good thing in itself, but because otherwise Santa might not bring you any presents. 

Rule 8

Rule 8 is about cleanliness, which is, it will be recalled, next to godliness. (*)  I do not think that the Singing Cowboy is telling me that I should take a shower every day and make sure that I have a supply of lavatory paper in my saddle bag. I think that "clean" and "dirty" are euphemisms for "chaste" and "unchaste". I think that when the Singing Cowboy tells children to have "clean thoughts" he is telling them not to think about sex. When he tells boys to have "clean actions" he is telling them not to get too close to girls. When he tells them to have "clean personal habits" he is telling them not to masturbate.

I don’t think it’s a great idea to look at too much pornographic material; and I definitely think that young people ought to be careful how far they go on a first date; and I am a fan of marriage as only a bachelor can be. But I think that looking at sexy pictures and having sexy thoughts and yes indeed playing with yourself in a sexy way is a perfectly normal part of being a human being, and that it is a very bad idea to tell children to associated their sexuality with dirt.

Chastity — total abstinence before marriage, total fidelity within marriage — is a Christian virtue; but I don’t know why this is the only Christian virtue that a Cowboy needs to worry about. Why not include "going to church on Sundays"; "only worshiping one God"; "not worshiping idols" or, for that matter "not coveting your neighbors ox"?

I don't think that there is any particular split between The Left and The Right over this rule. The Right have been known to prohibit things like pornography and sex-clubs on moral and decency grounds. The Left have also been known to campaign against pornography and sex-clubs on the grounds that they are degrading and insulting to women. Both sides have also said that grown-ups should be allowed to look at pictures of other grown-ups with no clothes on if they really want to.


In summary: this particular member of The Left is in favour of kindness, honesty, toleration, conscientiousness, politeness, law-abidingness and (depending on what you mean) patriotism. I think that The Left, on the whole, places more emphasis on kindness and toleration, while The Right, on the whole, places more emphasis on politeness and law-abidingness. I reject only one of the Singing Cowboy's precepts outright: it is pernicious to teach children that ordinary sexual feelings are dirty.

I know, of course, what five times Hugo Award losing author J C Wright will say at this point. He will say that The Left (on the whole) support a woman’s right to choose, and therefore approve of cruelty to foetuses; that The Left (on the whole) believe that two males who love each other should be treated exactly the same as a male and a female who love each other, and therefore disapprove of chastity; and that The Left support such things as a legal minimum wage and welfare payments for the unemployed and therefore disapprove of hard work. In fact, I think he would say that The Left approve of legal abortion because they positively disprove of kindness and want to encourage as much cruelty as possible; that The Left approve of civil partnerships and equal marriage because they positively hate chastity and want to encourage as much sexual immorality as possible; and that The Left came up with the idea that everyone should be paid enough to live on because they positively hate work and want to encourage everyone to be layabouts and bums.

There difference between The Left and The Right isn’t anything to do with their adherence to the Singing Cowboy Code. We all believe in kindness, honesty, tolerance and good manners in the same way we all believe in oxygen and gravity. We disagree about the extent to which kindness, honesty, tolerance and good manners are matters of individual responsibility; and the degree to which we all have to get together and make a kind, honest, tolerant and well-mannered world. We all agree that big people shouldn’t hit little people. We disagree about whether there need to be laws preventing grown ups from hitting children; or whether we should stop poking our noses into people's domestic affairs. We all agree that you should help people in distress; we disagree about whether the government needs to set up a big anti-distress fund or leave it to individuals to help each other. We all agree that if you see a lady in a burning building, you should try and get her out. We disagree about whether there need to be building regulations that stop ladies living in houses which are constructed of flamable materials; or whether that kind of thing is health and safety gone mad.

There are nasty, immoral people on both sides. We have recently had pundits on The Right saying that they positively hope refugees will drown; and newspapers of The Right positively comparing immigrants with vermin and infections. That goes against the Golden Rule, and the Sermon on the Mount and point 6 of the Cowboy Code. It is wicked, plain and simple. But we on The Left may be tempted to say that anyone who doesn't agree with our particular approach to immigration and asylum is a monster who thinks that foreigners are no better than rats. And that isn't true: only some of them are.

I support the National Health Service: like most British People, it is practically a religion to me. "The collective principle asserts that... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means." But I couldn't quote you facts or figures to show why the British tax-payer funded system provides better outcomes to say, the German insurance based model; or demonstrate what the optimum balance between standard of health care and tax burden lies. Those sorts of debates are difficult, boring, and once you start looking up facts there is a terrible risk that it will turn out that there are good points on the other side. So the temptation is to say that The Right positively want poor people to get sick and die. And that isn't true. Only some of them do.

The Far, Far Right go much further than this. They don't just say that The Left is incorrect about the degree of collectivization that is possible or desirable. They affect to think that The Left -- not just Kim Jong Un and Tony Blair but you and me and Jeremy Corbyn are actually evil -- zombies and moorlocks with funny hats and bad breath who actively reject the basic moral values of humanity. When they see a confused list of watered down Christian morals, written decades ago by a well-meaning celeb, their first reaction is to say "Here is someone who dares to come right out and say that he is in favour of kindness, tolerance, honesty, good manners and chastity — UNLIKE THE LEFT WHO ARE IN FAVOUR OF CRUELTY, BIGOTRY, LYING, RUDENESS AND FORNICATION!!!

I don't think that The Right are, on the whole, wicked and amoral. I do think that one or two of them are very, very stupid.

"Why are you printing this on your blog, Andrew, rather than contributing to the discussion on Wright's own page."

"Because Wright says that he will only publish contributions if they contain offensive, derogatory and intolerant language."


Illustrations of the Tao, taken from the works of the Singing Cowboy.



1.1 Never shoot first,
1.2 Never hit a smaller man,
1.3 Never take unfair advantage.
4.1 Be gentle with children
4.2 Be gentle with animals
4.3 Be gentle with old people.


6. Help people in distress.


2.1 Never go back on your word.
2.2 Never go back on a trust
3: Always tell the truth.


5.1 Do not advocate racially intolerant ideas
5.2 Do not advocated religiously intolerant ideas
5.3 Do not possess racially intolerant ideas
5.4 Do not possess religious intolerant ideas


7. Work hard


8.2 Keep clean in speech
9.1 Show respect to women
9.2 Show respect to your parents


8.1 Have clean thoughts (ie Don’t think about sex)
8.2 Have clean actions (ie Don’t have sex outside of marriage)
8.3 Have clean personal habits (ie Don’t masturbate)


9.3 Show respect to the laws of your nation.


10: A Cowboy is a patriot

(*) "But only in an Irish dictionary." R.I.P Ronnie Corbett.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

You too can use proven school yard bullying techniques to win political arguments on the internet

The Calvin Gambit

A sophisticated form of Hobson's Choice -- heads I win, tails you lose.

To use the Calvin Gambit, deliberately act in an illogical way in order to frustrate and annoy the target. If the target shows signs of frustration or annoyance this indicates that he is weak and deserved to be targeted. (See the Scotsman Tactic.)

The Calvin Gambit somewhat resembles Hopkins Fork:

"I accuse you of being a witch".

"Don’t be silly. You saw me in Church last Sunday; a witch would never do that."

"You seem to know a great deal about witches…seems suspicious to me."

The classic school-yard version goes:

"You are a Muslim,"

"No, I’m not. I am Church of England. I actually go to Sunday School, which is more than can be said for you. There's nothing wrong with being Muslim, but I'm a Christian."

"Anyone who says they aren’t a Muslim is a Muslim!"

"Very well then, if it will satisfy you: I am a Muslim."

"Andrew is a Muslim! Andrew is a Muslim! He said so." 

"Only because, according to your own arguments, anyone who says they are a Muslim is not Muslim and anyone who denies it, is. But you can tell quite easily I’m not, for example, because I don't go to Mosque on Friday. Not, as I say, that there is anything wrong with being Muslim, but I happen to be Christian."

"Anyone who denies being Muslim is Muslim! You said you weren't, so you are!"

"Have it you own way: I am a Muslim."

Experts can keep this going for months at a time.

The Calvin Gambit is usually a set up for the Turgoose Maneuver.

The Coventry Technique

Never speak to you opponent. He is a zombie and a moorlock and therefore beneath your contempt. If you address him directly you will get trapped into trying to show why (or even trying to find out if) his ideas are wrong.  But the things he believes (man made climate change is a thing, women should be allowed to vote, private citizens should not be allowed to own guns) are so off the wall that they do not even count as ideas.

Instead, talk about him, in a tone of voice that implies that you have already won the argument. Adopt the tone of voice of two school girls having a very confidential conversation in such a way that a third is certain to overhear it:

Oooo god did you see what Prudence wore to the disco last night I'm amazed she has the courage to show her face...

For example:

I met a person yesterday who actually thought Jeremy Corbyn was a politician, and what is more, I could tell from his photo that he smelled.

Do you know, there are people out there who think that philosophy is a proper subject, and what is more, some of them wear unfashionable jackets.

The Financial Times employs a journalist who knows so little about science that he thinks Jesus turned water into wine.

If the mark indicates that they have overheard or otherwise responds, accuse them of being cry-babies and move on to the Turgoose Maneuver.

The Scotsman Tactic

The Scotsman Tactic involves obfuscation between holding an opinion and membership of a group. It is absolutely central to all modern internet debate.

The classic political version runs:  

Jeremy believes that we should nationalize the railways.

People who believe in rail nationalization may be labelled "communist" 

Communists are evil.

Therefore Jeremy is evil.

Therefore we should not pay any attention to anything Jeremy says about rail nationalization. 

The classic Twitter version goes:

Andrew believes that women should be allowed to vote and own property.

People who believe in women's rights may be labelled "SJW".

The SJW always lie about everything. 

Therefore Andrew is a liar.

Therefore, we should not listen to Andrew when he says that women should be allowed to vote and own property. 

Note that the New Atheists have adopted a version of the Scotsman Tactic to prevent nuanced discussion of religion: 

Giles argues that Jesus preached a progressive message.

Arguments based on close readings of the Bible may be labeled "theological"

All theological arguments are meaningless.

Therefore Giles' argument is meaningless.

Therefore, we should not pay any attention to Giles’ argument that Jesus preached a progressive message.

They are currently trying to define all points of view apart from strict scientific reductionism as "the humanities" and declaring "the humanities" as a block as meaningless. This should eventually prevent the nuanced discussion of anything at all.

The Ricardian Device

When Shakespeare’s Richard III attempts to make a dynastic to marriage to the princess Elizabeth, she recoils in horror, saying that he is the man who murdered her two sons (the princes in the tower). 

"Harp not on that!" says Richard "It is past". Which is to say, being interpreted: I murdered your children yesterday. The fact that you are still going on proves you are a crybaby. Suck it up.

You should invoke the Ricardian Device whenever anyone quotes or references anything you have previously written. It doesn't matter if the target says "...but last year, you wrote" or "...but this morning, you said": they are still harping on the past, and therefore nursing a grudge (which shows that they are crybabies.)

The practical result will be that you can say anything you like, and be as inconsistent as you choose, without ever being called to account for it.

"The reason I say that you are racist is that you said that there would soon be a race war between black people and Americans." 

"That was yesterday. How weak would someone have to be to still be going on about something I said over twenty four hours ago?"

IMPORTANCE: If your opponent tries to invoke the Ricardian Device, accuse him of a sinister Orwellian tendency to change history. 

The Turgoose Maneuver

There is a scene in the movie This is England in which young Shaun deliberately misbehaves in a corner shop. When the Punjabi shopkeeper remonstrates with him, his older skinhead friends emerge and accuse the shopkeeper of picking on the little boy.

School teachers now recognize this as reverse bullying. A little guy follows a big guy around, perhaps for weeks, chanting (and I pick a purely hypothetical example here) "your dad’s a fucking cripple". The big guy eventually rounds on little guy.

At this point the little guy either 

a: goes crying to teacher, saying "he’s picking on me", or 

b: call in six of his bigger mates to beat up the big guy while telling everyone that he started it.

To use this technique on the internet simply say loudly that the mark is fat and smelly, preferably indirectly (see The Coventry Technique). When the mark responds "There is nothing wrong with being fat, and I am not, in fact, smelly", retweet the message to all your friends, and talk loudly to each other about how he is harassing you, abusing you, cyber stalking you, desperate for attention, creepy, sinister, mad, etc.

Advanced practitioners may ever like to try reporting him to the moderators.

The Midas Stratagem

We are told that in some ancient kingdoms, it was forbidden to say The king is a scoundrel. But it was also forbidden to say that it was forbidden to say The king is a scoundrel. The person who said If I find the man who said 'the king is a scoundrel' I will chop off his head  had himself said The king is a scoundrel, and would therefore have his head cut off. This is also how blasphemy works in fundamentalist Islamic context.

In the school-yard situation, the Midas Stratagem is often a game, although it is the kind of game that can drift into bullying without much effort:

"Bet you don’t know which Don McLean song was covered by Elvis"

"And I Love You So"

"Ha-ha Andrew said that he loved me, Andrew is a homo, Andrew is a homo."

In internet discussions, you should always feel free to take everything your opponent says completely literally; and to take sentences and even individual words as far out of context as possible.

"I think that anyone who uses the word n***** should be banned from Facebook"

"Andrew is the kind of person who uses the word n*****."

Note that the new atheists quote passages from the Bible or the Quran without context, and when context is provided, invoke the Scotsman Tactic.

"Jesus wasn't a good moral teacher. He said that people should hate their parents."

"Well, you need to look at what else he says in that particular discourse, at how the saying is quoted in parallel passages, and what the word 'hate' means elsewhere in the Bible..."

"Oh, now you are using theology. Theology is always meaningless. If you ignore theology, then Jesus told everyone to hate their parents."


1: How many of the above techniques can you spot in the following (real) exchange?

EPSILON: wow this guy looks like a faggot
ZETA: all Jeremy Corbyn supporters are faggot ass communists
ANDREW RILSTONE: Thank you for your imput. It has changed my mind totally. Tomorrow I shall resign from the Labour party and join UKIP

EPSILON: nobody cares you disfigured faggot

2: How many of the above techniques has David Cameron used in the House of Commons in the last week?

If you would like to contribute to the cost of placing an armed guard outside Andrew's house, please consider supporting his patreon (i.e pledging $1 each time he publishes an essay.)

The rhetoric of internet debate is discussed at greater length in One Hundred and Forty Characters in Search of an Author. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Noodly Appendages

"Tigger is all right really," said Piglet lazily. 

"Of course he is," said Christopher Robin. 

"Everybody is really," said Pooh. "That's what I think," said Pooh. "But I don't suppose I'm right," he said. 

"Of course you are," said Christopher Robin. 
                     The House at Pooh Corner

I was not unduly bothered by any of this. I somewhat brought it on myself by responding to the little fascists' original attack and I broke away from it when it became boring. But it did give me some insight into the sheer unpleasantness of the neo-right when they have you in their sights. Twenty people saying you are smelly is a little disconcerting. Two hundred people making violent remarks about your genitalia must be…. Well, harassment. An abusive attack. Very likely to leave you traumatized.

I am a satirist. It is my vocation, and I’ll let you into a little secret, it is also my very great pleasure, to stick my tongue out at the pretentious, the pompous, the ignorant, the stupid, and people called Giles. I don’t claim that tongue-sticking is the best form of debate; but it’s the easiest to get people to listen to. Some people seem to be amused by sarcastic Tweets. No-one appears to be very interested in long essays showing that Giles Fraser's claims about the meaning of the Eucharist are textually and historically unsupportable (which they totally are).

Twitter, like Usenet before it, is more like a street fight than a fencing tournament. That is part of the fun. Two drunk guys arguing politics in a pub may possibly provide some entertainment: two glove puppets reciting the party line by rote on Question Time certainly will not. An informed discussion between two people with well considered opinions (each prepared to change their minds if the other one makes a good point) would be even better. But that’s not currently on offer.

While I may use peppery language I believe I have only ever "punched up". The people I slag off have newspaper columns, pulpits, TV shows, university chairs. They have an audience of millions; I have an audience of dozens. Beyond one form letter from the War Criminal a decade ago, none of my targets — Dave Sim, Richard Dawkins, Giles Fraser, Melanie Phillips, Stan Lee — show the slightest sign of knowing or caring that I exist. That’s more or less the way I like it.

I fully accept that if I am going to spend my spare time sticking my tongue out at idiots, then from time to time, idiots are going to want to stick their tongue out at me.

I don’t think that what I experienced was orchestrated. I don’t imagine that one of the larger fascists spotted that I had made a liberal remark and released the hounds. I think that one nasty person made a nasty remark about me, and twenty or thirty nasty people in his echo-chamber repeated it. I don’t think that the little fascists belong to anything resembling a movement or have anything as coherent as an ideology, but the kind of language and forms of attack being used do have a familial similarity. Being nasty on the internet is a sub-culture, in the same way that being a hippy or a punk was. There never was a Supreme Punk who could disfellowship you if your hair was insufficiently spiky; and there's certainly no Punk Congress you can be thrown out of for dress-code violations. But, on the whole, you can tell who is a punk and who isn't by what they wear and how they cut their hair.

Some of the larger fascists have coined three rules to describe the behavior of the SJW

1: The SJW always lie

2: The SJW always double down

3: The SJW always project

It should immediately be clear that these three rules precisely describe the behavior of the little fascists on Twitter towards me:
  • They lied — saying that I approved of silly snarl-words that I had specifically deprecated; and saying that I had "literally made up" the charge of antisemitism, even though some pretty obviously antisemitic abuse had been thrown at me.
  • They doubled down —  escalating intelligible complaints like I wish you would let me insult you in peace and stop trying to engage with me into You are stalking me, I am experiencing post traumatic stress and  even You are the creepiest stalker I have ever encountered.
  • And of course, they projected like hell —  people with twitter feeds full of words like faggot and queer, some of whom were actively displaying Nazi symbols accused me of being a Jew and Homo hater.
This cannot, I submit, be accidental. The final exchange made it pretty clear what they are doing:

that 4 letter c word triggers me greatly

do you mind putting a trigger warning on that  

soo much PTSD 

Now please stop stalking me, 

I think that qualifies as harassment if you ask me.

He's abusively attacking us. 

As we have already said, they cannot possibly believe any of this. They cannot possibly believe that the word cross requires a trigger warning — even if they really did know someone who had been injured with a crossbow, which patently they didn't. They might conceivably think that it was bad manners or poor netiquette for me to remonstrate with them about their insults: they certainly don't really believe that doing so amounted to stalking or harassment. 

Isn't it clear that they are quite deliberately and consciously acting out a parody of the left — or of what they suppose the left to be? They are, in fact, literally fools, criticizing the king by aping and exaggerating his mannerisms.

They pretend that they feel harassed and abused by me because people with mainstream political views often accuse the little fascists of harassing them.

They pretend to feel harassed and abused by silly and trivial things (like being tagged in a message) because they think that all complaints of harassment and abuse are silly and trivial.

They know perfectly well that they will not be taken seriously when they say I feel abused and harassed because someone asked me what I meant by a particular insult: they intend us to infer that women should not be taken seriously when they say that they feel harassed by men sending them sexually explicit threats. (Obviously, the women should just suck it up.)

When people say that you shouldn't talk about sexual assault without indicating that that is what you are about to do (in case a rape survivor reads it ), they pretend that they think it follows that you shouldn't use the word cross without a similar warning (in case, er, a person who has been injured with a cross-bow reads it.) Which is to say: trigger warnings for the word cross and trigger warnings for explicit discussions of rape are both equally ridiculous.

And when Delta claims that the word cross caused him to experience post traumatic stress, what he means is that there is no such thing PTSD: that everyone who talks about is being as silly as he is. If everything is abuse, then nothing is abuse.

But once you've spotted this, it becomes clear that this is what the neo-right movement as a whole has always been doing; almost the only thing it has ever done. The Puppies, Gamergate, Alpha and his little friends — all are offering up an exaggerated and distorted parody of the political left. They believe that by following us around mimicking us they will dis-empower us. Mimicry has always been the favored weapon of the playground bully.

Many other examples will occur to readers, but here are few which I thought of: 
  • They believe that we liberals see fascists everywhere; so they pretend to believe in a cult called the SJW, and pretend to see that everywhere.
  • They think that liberals says "everyone who disagrees with me is fascist" so they say "everyone who disagrees with me is one of the SJW" — and build up complex theories to explain why this is true.
  • They believe that the left are incapable of rational discussion and use faulty logic; so they deliberately adopt illogical positions and refuse to engage in rational discussion of any kind.
  • They believe that the left is characterized by a profound lack of integrative complexity — that we are pathologically unable to imagine anyone else's point of view. So they pretend to be pathologically unable imagine our point of view — to the extent of saying that mainstream political opinions don't even count as opinions.
  • They believe that the SJW spoiled the Hugo Awards by systematically filling them with dreary books that had no merit but happened to support left wing politics; so they deliberately spoil the Hugo Awards by systematically filling them with dreary books that have no merit but happen to support right wing politics.   
The little fascists are, in fact, very like the Flying Spaghetti Monster movement. It will be remembered that around 2005, a group of atheists created an obviously ridiculous deity and pretended to demand that children were taught about it in school, as a valid alternative to Darwinian evolution.

They didn't, obviously, actually believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and they certainly didn't really want it taught in schools. Their point was that it would be no less ridiculous to teach children about the Monster (in science lessons) that it would be to teach them about God. Christianity deserved no more respect than the Flying Spaghetti Monster; giving Christianity or the Spaghetti Monster special status would both be equally silly. Tash is no more than Aslan.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a one-note joke, and a funny one, directed at a target (the teaching of pseudo-science in schools) which deserves to be ridiculed. But a certain number of people persist in talking as if they really do believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and claim that pastafarianism is an actual religion. In some cases, they may  be executing a version of the Calvin Gambit — obstinately claiming  that a joke is not a joke in order to vex people without a sense of humour. On the other hand, they may be attempting to make their whole lifestyle a parody of mainstream religion. Or they may simply have forgotten the original point of the joke.

I submit that the little fascists are the pastafarians of the political right. They don't actually believe in the SJW, any more than Richard Dawkins actually believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The SJW is a construct, intended to mock liberals who think everyone else is a fascist.

But there are a minority whose entire lifestyle — whose entire online presence, at any rate — has become a parody of the very liberals they so despise.

And some of them have forgotten the original point of the joke.

If you would like to contribute to the cost of placing an armed guard outside Andrew's house, please consider supporting his patreon (i.e pledging $1 each time he publishes an essay.)

The rhetoric of internet debate is discussed at greater length in One Hundred and Forty Characters in Search of an Author. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Everyone I Don't Like is SJW: a Stroppy Teenager's Guide to Political Discussion

The True Story of How Several People Were Rather Rude to Me On Twitter

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.
                       The Screwtape Letters

Earlier this year, I came to the attention of one of the very minor fascist groups on the Internet. I don’t know why they selected me. They didn’t seem to have read any of my essays, and they certainly weren't interested in talking about (or even taking the mickey out of) any of my opinions. It was art for art's sake.

I initially thought that I was encountering the unacceptable face of the new atheism. I had at that time an advertisement for my book, Where Dawkins Went Wrong , pinned to the top of my Twitter page, with the comment I was saying that Richard Dawkins was a whey-face coxcomb before it was cool. So I sort of assumed that I had insulted their guru so they were insulting me back.

I now think that the Dawkins angle was incidental to what happened. I had recently made some remarks about Dawkins' shameful trolling of feminist academic Anna Hickey-Moody. I said that his tactics resembled those of Gamergate and the Sad Puppies, and that both groups resembled nothing so much as schoolyard bullies. (Comments I fully stand by.) I think that my use of the words Puppy and Gamergate attracted the attention of some right-wing Twitterati. Although there is evidence that the extreme misogynist right are statistically likely to be new atheists, I don't any longer think that this particular group were in Dawkins' orbit. I think they were using him as a stick to bait me with. Had they become aware of my existence during a different Twitter-cycle they might have said that Stan Lee or Giles Coren were twice the man I was.

If I describe the little old ladies who decorate the church as the flower mafia then you know what I'm saying: they are a closed circle who are very territorial about their hobby. If I refer to the freemasonry of parents with disabled children, you know exactly what I mean: they mutually support each other and some of what they say is incomprehensible to outsiders. I am obviously not saying that everyone on the flower rota comes from Sicily, or that members of the disability support group wear aprons and role up their trouser legs at meetings. If I describe a political group as fascists then it is pretty clear that I mean they are militaristic, authoritarian racists. Only a colossal bore would say "Huh, huh, they can't be fascists because they're not Italians and this is not the 1940s." I don't think that fascist is a particularly good term for the Twitter trolls who targeted me: I don't think they are a group and I doubt that they have anything as sophisticated as an ideology. I was going to call then small-f fascists but have decided to go with little fascists which is less of a mouthful.

The vector of the infection was Alpha, a journalist or intern who writes bog-standard political-correctness-gone-mad essays for on line publications. (I am not going to use actual names or Twitter handles here. These are, after all, the kinds of people who think it is funny to make death threats. Not serious or credible death threats, but death threats nonetheless.) Alpha's initial tweet, immediately liked and re-tweeted by about twenty little fascists went: 

SJW's are the saddest, most bitter creatures 1 RichardDawkins is worth a billion AndrewRilstone/PhilSandifer's 

This was attached to some screen shots of Tweets by me and Phil commenting on the Hickey-Moody affair. I am deeply chuffed that my name was linked with as learned and witty a critic as Phil Sandifer. I assume you've all read his Doctor Who essays? His ongoing series about Alan Moore and Grant Morrison includes the second best commentary on Watchmen ever written. I do wonder what an a marxist/post-modernist/occultist like him makes of being associated with a C.S Lewis worshiping reformist [1] like moi.

Alpha's first tweet tells you a great tell about the little fascists' thought patterns. They don’t think in terms of wrong opinions to be refuted; they think in terms of enemies to be squashed. Not Andrew Rilstone is totally wrong about the feminist academic, and here's why... but Andrew Rilstone, by virtue of his support of a feminist academic, can be given the label SJW and as such, barely even qualifies as a person. They don't say that someone is wrong: they say that he is sad or bitter or pathetic or ugly or deformed or smelly or weak or childish or mad or scruffy looking.

What followed was a barrage of playground level name-calling which revealed a fairly consistent set of preoccupations: 
  • Belief that anyone with mainstream political opinions is part of worldwide conspiracy called the SJW.
  • Overwhelming concern with physical appearance, and, curiously, with personal hygiene. ("Christ, maybe they're right about keeping the public baths open".) [2]
  • Fascination with military imagery, especially Warhammer 40,000.
  • Hatred and contempt for weakness of any kind ("He’s a bit delicate, this one. Talk about a manchild. Lunatic".) If a person responds in any way to an insult, this is taken as evidence that they are weak; the fact that they are weak shows that they deserved to be insulted. (An example of the Scotsman Tactic, (q.v.)) "Suck it up!" is their favourite response when challenged. 
  • Use of extreme right-wing imagery, such as swastikas and confederate flags. When they are called out on this they say that the SJW see fascism everywhere and that in any case the fascist imagery was only intended ironically. Readers may like to try imagining how the little fascists would react if one of us put an ironic image of Karl Marx on their website. (Claiming that the SJW think everyone is a fascist; and then claiming that since you accused someone of being a fascist, you must be one of the SJW is another good example of the Scotsman Tactic.)
  • Use of  homophobic and anti-semitic language while simultaneously denying that they are homophobic or anti-semitic.  
  • Hatred of what-they-call feminism and what-they-call-diversity. 
Journalists who have interviewed Katie Hopkins sometimes say that they have found her to be a likable, damaged woman who admits that she doesn't mean half of it. I have heard credible reports of pleasant pints of beer shared with Nigel Farage and Margaret Thatcher. I suppose at some level I believe that if we could have sat down over some beer and bratwurst after a long Bavarian evening listening to Parsifal, Mr Hitler would have admitted to me that he sometimes went a bit too far. I happily throw up my hands and say that I made the schoolboy error of attempting to engage Alpha and some of his little fascists in rational conversation. If I had taken my mother's advise and ignored them, they would probably have gone away. It turns out that rational conversation is not something they really do.

A few examples should give a flavour of how their minds, or at any rate their typing arms, work. 


Several months before all this, I had tweeted: 

I agree about fires in crowded theaters but anyone using the phrase "freeze peach" will still get slapped

Beta found this in my twitter history, and responded: 

Freeze Peach? Seriously, how pathetic are you people you can't say "Free Speech"?...Not afraid of free speech but call it Freeze Peach?

Beta could not possible have supposed that I actually advocated calling free speech freeze peach. It was absolutely clear from the message he had quoted that I was deprecating the expression; saying that it was silly, and, indeed, threatening to slap anyone I caught using it. (I followed it up with a second message saying that I didn't really approve of slapping people, and it would be better to give them a time out or put them on the naughty step.) However, Beta invoked the Midas Stratagem (q.v) and pretended that Andrew says "freeze peach" is a silly phrase and Andrew uses the phrase "freeze peach" are equivalent. Had the feud continued, "Andrew calls free speech freeze peach'" would have become something all the little fascists believed. Had I pointed out that this was not the case, they would have told me to suck it up, called me a crybaby, and invoked the Ricardian Device. (q.v)  [3]


Alpha had found a picture of me looking drunk at a Christmas party and reposted it to his Twitter friends. In itself this is well within the bounds of legitimate internet mockery, although it says something fairly unpleasant about the little fascists' modus operandi.

This yielded the following deathless bon mot from Gamma: 

He looks like the kinda guy who gargles kosher sausage

I took this to mean he looks like the sort of person who sucks Jewish dick. I still think this is what it means, particularly given that Gamma had a swastika on his Twitter profile.

I responded:

That awkward moment when you don’t know if a Dawkins minion is being homophobic or anti-Semitic

(I still thought, incorrectly, that I was being target by militant atheists. I don't now think that the little fascists were in fact anything to do with Richard Dawkins.)

Alpha chimed back: 

He's literally making things up too. Nobody was anti-Semitic.

Note the use of the Coventry Technique (q.v): he doesn't speak to me; he speaks about me. When I asked him directly what else "you suck Jewish dick" meant  he executed the Ricardian Device (q.v):

He said it over 12 hours ago and you're still banging on about it. Seems desperate for victimhood to me.

It doesn't matter that you were insulted, or what the insult meant, because it happened yesterday. 

NOTE: It has subsequently been pointed out to me that he gargles kosher sausage could be taken to mean he has bad breath. This would represent a particular bizarre from of political argument: We can tell from a photograph that your breath smells of garlic, therefore, your views on feminism are nonsense.


I attempted to pursue this further. I entirely agree that this was a completely insane thing to do:

Andrew Rilstone: ‏May I once again ask what you intended by this remark? Are you saying I am Jewish, or Gay, or something else?

Gamma: You got a problem with jews and gays, bub?? 

Andrew Rilstone: if someone would explain what it actually meant, I could go to sleep happy.

Gamma: Guess who's not sleeping tonight, jew homo hater? 

This doesn't extend far beyond "I am rubber, you are glue". If someone accuses one of the little fascists of using anti-semitic language, they simply double-down ("jew hater!") and reflect the accusation back at them.

I had another go, for some reason:

Andrew Rilstone: In what way do you think that sending abuse to strangers furthers your cause?

Delta: You imply we have a cause, you amuse me greatly. Please continue 

Andrew Rilstone: You just simply think it's funny to post random words to strangers?

Gamma: There is nothing funny about anti semetism

Andrew Rilstone Well, I have obviously misunderstood what's going on here. I thought you didn't agree with something I'd said. you are evidently playing some kind of game involving saying random words, like Mornington Crescent. Have fun.

Delta: So first you tag us in order to get some obtuse satisfaction from talking to us, and then when we do you step away? How rude are you? Were you raised among bears in the wilderness or what? 

Andrew Rilstone: I am sorry to have wasted your time.

Delta: Well that makes two of us... Now please stop stalking me, I am shaking and hyperventilating here already God what a fucking monsters. I' hope youre happy Andrew.

Gamma: I think that qualifies as harassment if you ask me. He's abusively attacking us. 

Delta: ‏I would even go so far as to call AndrewRilstone one of the most creepy cyberstalkers I ever had the displeasure to meet

We are now into the realms of heads-I-win, tales you lose anti-logic. (see The Calvin Gambit). If you continue the conversation, then you are "stalking" and "harassing" them; but if you end the conversation, then you are being rude and uncivilized.

One of the barbs does strike home. I was indeed getting an obtuse satisfaction in talking to them.

The final exchange is so stupid it's almost clever: 

Andrew Rilstone:‏ I thought you were cross because I had satirized Richard Dawkins. That was where this started,

Gamma:‏"Cross" are you implying that the Jews killed Jesus? It's been proven already that's anti semetism. [4]

Delta: ‏Woah there, my granduncle was injured by a crossbow once, so that 4 letter c word triggers me greatly 

Gamma: ‏Do you mind putting a trigger warning on that?! 

Delta: I would, if I could look at the thing. all wooden, crossed and bowey... soo much PTSD 

It scarcely seems worth typing that none of the people involved could possibly have believed a single word that they were typing. It is impossible that they actually thought that the word cross (as in annoyed) had something to do with the Crucifixion; or that referring to the Crucifixion (in any context) was anti-semitic; or that asking someone what they meant by an insult amounts to "harassment". I think that these people are human beings with interior lives, even if they don't believe the same of me. They could not conceivably have thought that anything they were saying was true, or even meaningful.

So why were they saying it?

Once a thing is seen it cannot be unseen. I have descended into the abyss of the minds, or at any rate Twitter feeds, of these extremely minor-league web-fascists, and I have returned with the boon by which we shall understand all web-fascists. 

What are they doing?

Two words: performance art.


[1] Reformist: I think that the rich should be a bit poorer and the poor should be a bit richer.
Socialist: I think that everyone should be as rich as everyone else.
Communist: I think we should abolish money and possessions and share everything.

[2] Who are "they"? Where is this debate about keeping public baths open happening? Unless you count shower cubicles in the public toilets on larger railway stations, is there in fact a single public bath house in the country which could be kept open? Is anything these people say anything more than word salad?

[3] I was under the impression that the term freeze peach was used by people who disproved of free speech, to disparage it, in the way that little fascists talk about numan rites and elf and safety. It transpires that it's more often used by people who take freedom of speech very seriously indeed, to disparage those who invoke it frivolously. So if a person was banned from Facebook for using racial slurs and tried to claim that this violated the First Amendment, someone might says "He thinks that freeze peach means he can go around calling strangers the n-word." 

[4] A priest and a nun were driving through Transylvania in an open top wagon. Suddenly, Dracula leaps out and threatens them. "Quick" says the nun, "Show him your cross". "Cross?" replies the Priest "I'm absolutely livid."

If you would like to contribute to the cost of placing an armed guard outside Andrew's house, please consider supporting his patreon (i.e pledging $1 each time he publishes an essay.)

Where Dawkins Went wrong is still available.