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Obfuscating Stupidity & the IP/MA Game

In his seemingly unlimited capacity to #trigger people, Arvin Vohra, Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party, recently posted this on Facebook:

“Guys, we shouldn’t speak badly of rapists. Many people rape, and they vote. If we attack them, they might not vote libertarian!”

That’s how some of you sound when you suggest we pander to public school “teachers” and members of the military welfare complex in order to not lose their votes.

Without going further, I’m sure readers will accurately assume the most common response to this. Of course, the widespread was one in which the commenter pretended to be excessively stupid by pretending not to understand metaphors and how they work. In fact, every time I think of this and how common it is, I’m reminded of Christ saying, “It is harder for a rich man to get into Heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.”

I suspect Americans today would ask, “Jesus, are you saying rich people are camels?!”

We saw exactly the same thing when Donald Trump, Jr. made his analogy using Skittles over immigration and refugees, when he said that “refugees are like a bowl of Skittles [or M&Ms?] where some of them are poisoned. Would anyone out there really help themselves to a handful?”

Predictably, the widespread response to this on Twitter was “Are you saying we should eat refugees?” The sentiment was so common that a news site, doing its typical crap of taking samples of tweets and compiling them into an “article,” used several different tweets that expressed that confusion.

The alarming possibility is that there are people out there who sincerely don’t understand how metaphors work. This is more plausible than it should be, given how few American adults actually read (anything more than Facebook posts and tweets]. The ability to read and process information is indisputably helped by reading (hence why people’s reading levels tend to increase the more they read), and Reading Comprehension is similarly helped by exposure. However, the ability to reason is also critical to understanding analogies, and I’m not sure that reasoning can be taught. One either knows how to think or one doesn’t.

Cue Joshua Smith, who fancies himself qualified to be the Chair of the national Libertarian Party (despite having no more qualifications than I have, and I’m imminently unqualified):

Wow, you just compared school teachers to rapists.

Just when I thought there wasn’t possibly any way you could get edgier and drive more people from the party.

Can’t wait for June 30th.

Joshua Smith was not alone in this idiocy. I called him out on this directly, of course:

You’re over here (at best) pretending not to understand a basic metaphor and how metaphors work. That is 100% worthy of condescension. Don’t obfuscate stupidity if you don’t want people to think you’re an idiot.

At worst, you legitimately don’t understand how metaphors work, which is more sad than funny. But I think I’m okay with being condescending of a grown ass man who claims to read philosophy but doesn’t know how metaphors work.

…and earlier, when he attempted to change the subject to “being an asshole”:

Don’t change the subject. This is about you deliberately feigning ignorance over something you know damned well that you understood.

Joshua continues to this point denying that he’s simply pretending not to understand how metaphors work. This is, as I’m sure you’ve observed, very common. It’s almost impossible to use any kind of metaphor in conversation with people these days, because they either knowingly pretend not to understand, they have convinced themselves that they don’t understand, or they actually don’t understand. There’s not much that we can do about the latter, except aknowledge their apparent mental handicap and stop trying to reason with them.

The middle group–those who understand how metaphors work but who have convinced themselves that they don’t, because then they can be outraged at the non-meaning they extract from the statements–are caught up in doublethink, and I think the logical absolutes are the only way to break people out of doublethink. They know that they understand, but they have forgotten that so that they can feign ignorance. I suspect Joshua falls into this group. They know that Arvin was not comparing teachers to rapists, but it doesn’t matter; they have forgotten that and convinced themselves otherwise.

The first group are those who deliberately and consciously pretend to be stupid, again because this allows them to be outraged and triggered over the meaning that they imagine.

Who can blame them? Outrage works. It’s a method of putting the speaker on the defensive. Instead of the point they’re trying to make getting the focus, they instead end up spending the entire conversation defending what they said and trying to explain that they did not, in fact, compare rapists to teachers.

So let’s break Arvin’s down. What is Vice Chair Vohra referring to? The actions of people in response to teachers and rapists.

On the one hand, we have the fictionalized hypothetical response of someone to rapists as effectively defending them, saying that we shouldn’t antagonize them because then they won’t vote for us. It’s not rape or the rapist who is the focus of this, but the person responding to the rapist. The person acting in this metaphor is the person responding to teachers and rapists; neither the teacher nor the rapist are acting here. They are not, therefore, the subjects of the metaphor, since they are not the ones acting.

Then Arvin pointed out that this person’s response is just as stupid when it is teachers to whom they are responding. There is no quantitative assessment of how “bad” rape or teaching are; there is just the assumption that both are bad, and this is not presented in any comparative sense. There’s no comparison at all in Arvin’s words to the act of rape and the act of teaching in a public school. The comparison is entirely about the way people react to rapists and to public school teachers. So in its most basic form, Arvin’s metaphor is quite clearly not comparing rapists to teachers; it is comparing how people react to teachers to how people react to rapists.

Understanding Metaphors

The first step to understanding any metaphor is to determine what, exactly, is being compared, and what it’s being compared to. “Cat is to mouse as bird is to worm” is a simile, and what is it comparing? Is it saying that cats are birds? Is it saying that cats and birds are the same thing, or that mouse and worms are the same thing? In fact, the relationship between the cat and the mouse is being compared to the relationship between the bird and the worm. None of the animals are being compared. Their relationships are being compared.

Now that we have determined what’s being compared, we have to identify that the comparison is. This can be difficult, and is dependent on the reader’s knowledge. Here, we are comparing the cat’s predatorial relationship with the mouse to the bird’s predatorial relationship to the worm. Presumably, we are doing this as an attempt to explain to someone that birds hunt and eat worms. So we’re using this analogy (a simile, though it contains neither “as” nor “like”) to clarify to someone the relationship between one of the two. As long as we understand cats’ relationship to mice, we can understand birds’ relationship to worms; as long as we understand birds’ relationship to mice, we can understand cats’ relationship to mice. Through this simple analogy, we have communicated a lot of information about the animals and their habits, and the listener can extrapolate their knowledge of one of the relationships to figure out the nature of the relationship.

So How Do We Respond To These People?

First, don’t let them take the offensive, as Joshua attempted to do by feigning stupidity, and then attempting to change the subject to whether it’s necessary to be an asshole. Their tactic is a weak, intellectually dishonest one of shifting the conversation onto their outrage (the poor little snowflakes), and it shouldn’t be allowed. At this point, there are two ways to handle the stupidity, and both need to be done. First, the metaphor needs to be fully explained. Sadly. Secondly, the person needs to be called out for acting stupid or being stupid, neither of which is acceptable for an adult. My seven-year-old nephew would understand the metaphor without somehow coming to the conclusion that we were directly comparing two things qualitatively. Have fun with these points, though, and combine the two together: explain the metaphor like you would to a five year old.

Don’t let up on this. Be ruthless. Keep in mind that this is a grown adult (and in this case, someone who fancies himself qualified to lead the national Libertarian Party!) who is pretending not to understand a basic and simple metaphor, unable to even figure out what is being compared. Reasons for doing this are complicated. The most obvious, as I said, is that doing so allows them to be outraged, which snowflakes love. But there’s more to it than that, I think–perhaps remnants of the high school attitude that it’s uncool to be smart and cool to be stupid continue on into adulthood. I know we can find examples of this on YouTube.

When Joshua went on to criticize me for being arrogant and condescending, I rightly pointed out:

Don’t obfuscate stupidity if you don’t want people to think you’re an idiot.

These are people are acting like idiots. They deserve scorn, ridicule, and shaming. We should not mock and belittle those with handicaps that prevent them from understanding simple metaphors, but that doesn’t come close to describing the bulk of these deliberate morons. Most of them aren’t stupid. They’re just pretending to be stupid (often with doublethink thrown in, because they want to convince themselves that their outrage should be directed outwardly, at Arvin, instead of inward, at their own past). For this, they should be laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, memed, shamed, and scorned. This scourge of people pretending stupid so that they can be outraged must be stopped. Our ability to communicate takes too severe of a hit if we can no longer use metaphors and analogies.

There’s a reason that Christ, the Buddha, Nietzsche, Plato, and so many other great people in human history communicated primarily in metaphors–they are unrivaled in their ability to clarify things for people. Losing the ability to use parables and metaphors so severely hinders our ability to communicate that it could very well be enough to send us into a second Dark Age. See? That’s a metaphor. It compares the dangers of the Dark Ages to the dangers posed by feigning stupidity so much that everyone becomes stupid and believes in their own stupidity. Someone responding to that with “Are you saying we’re going to experience famine?” would be appallingly moronic (another metaphor). Metaphors are extremely common.

Allowing people to be outraged because they’re getting away with pretending to be stupid will only exacerbate the problem. Why would Joshua pretend to be stupid? To be outraged. But why would he want to be outraged? What does he gain from that? Victimization. Typical of snowflake behavior (Don’t act like a snowflake if you don’t want to be called a snowflake, and being outraged over imaginary offenses is the modus operandi of snowflakes), he seeks and latches onto any possible offense he can find. It’s a way of playing the IP/MA (Identity Politics / Micro Aggressions) Game, because we reward victims so heavily and love them so much. It’s simple psychology and positive reinforcement. People see “victims” being rewarded for being victimized with adoration, “respect,” pity, and other positive things–often money and gifts, too.

Don’t let it stand. Always challenge it.

Bad Apples & Peer Pressure

Americans continue to underestimate peer pressure, but I’m not sure that there is a manipulation force in the west that is more powerful than that of peer pressure. In fact, the dangers of peer pressure are ones that I constantly watch out for; as I’ve said countless times, it will only take one drunken idiot jokingly saying, “We should teach that fag a lesson” for it to grow out of control. We all know how it will play out next: his friends will agree, and the next thing you know they’re on their way to my house with chains and bats, and the first drunken idiot’s reservations about it are kept quiet.

I think it was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that Dumbledore remarked that standing up to one’s friends is among the most difficult things that a person can do, and this remains true today. Yet I’m seeing a lot of condemnation for the cops who stood around and did little, or nothing, to stop the arresting asshole from being an arresting asshole.

Absolutely, yes–that was wrong of those officers. But let’s not pretend like most of us would have done otherwise in that position. The overwhelming majority of us would have stood around silently, keeping our reservations quiet. The top-right officer, who you can see in the video putting his hand on the asshole and attempting to calm him, is the only one who did something to try to calm the situation, and I daresay that it was far more than what 99% of people would do.

We all like to think we’re immune to peer pressure. But we’re not. Because he says it infinitely better than I can, take a few minutes to watch this short video on conformity by therapist and psychologist TheraminTrees:

This is an observed phenomenon that affects the majority of people.

It’s easy to stand there and condemn the cops for doing nothing. Yet how many of us have stood and watched a fight play out, and one person be kicked in the head while they lie on the ground? You know what you see when you watch the video of the nurse being arrested, and everyone else standing around and watching?

Notice all the people standing around, watching, as “a few bad apples” engage in being bad apples. Those “good apples” in Antifa–they’re doing nothing to put a stop to this, to calm the situation, to de-escalate it. I’m not ripping on Antifa; the exact same thing is seen in the cop video, or in any video of a mob targeting a single person. The horrific murder of Kelly Thomas certainly applies. You’re watching animals–bloodthirsty predatory animals–who smell blood circle around and pounce on their target.

I remember being in high school, my ninth grade year, when a friend of ours wanted to put together “a gang.” I don’t remember what he called it, but it wasn’t “gang,” though it had the same effect. Naturally, we all agreed, and the rule was anyone who wanted out had to fight the guy who put it together. None of us took it seriously, of course. Then one guy said he wanted out. They fought in the locker room of the Fieldhouse. These two large dudes shoved each other through lockers while everyone else watched. No one moved to stop it. No one went to get the coaches. No one jumped in, because these two behemoths would have crushed most people purely by accident. But there were more than enough of us to rally together and break up the fight.

And none of us did.

On September 11, 2001, a number of planes were hijacked by a relatively small number of people. The passengers, despite being numerous enough to overwhelm the hijackers, consistently did nothing, in at least three out of four of the alleged hijackings*. Because it’s not just a simple matter of “Hey, everyone, we can take these guys! We can put a stop to this.” Anyone who thinks it’s that simple has never been in such a situation.

The reality is that, even if “everyone else” joins in, that first person who acts is as good as dead. Even if five other people would have jumped in and overpowered the hijacker and his box-cutter (or whatever), the first person who jumped for the hijacker was still dead. Of course, in the grand scheme, they were all dead, weren’t they? Surely we have to wonder why, once it became clear that they were all going to die, they did not take over the plane? It was not cowardice; they were not cowards. No, it’s too easy to call them cowards, but that doesn’t carry water. If you tell an animal they’re about to die, they’ll not passively submit.

The answer is more insidious and more dangerous: peer pressure.

Further, we have to ask ourselves what would have happened if one of the cops had moved forward to put a stop to it? Even though it’s pretty clear from the video that most of the cops present had quiet reservations (anyone familiar with body language can see this), only the one guy did anything about it. What if he had done more? He’d have been fired, or at the least reprimanded for questioning another officer’s authority during an arrest. You know how a mother occasionally says to the father, “How dare you challenge me in front of the kids?” or how the father says that to the mother? It’s the same thing here.

Good apples and bad apples is too simplistic of a view. It’s not that simple. There are good apples (yes, coming from me), and you can often see their reservations about how things are developing. It’s easy to criticize them for not stepping forward and putting a stop to the bad apples’ bullshit, but this criticism drastically underestimates the power of peer pressure–the same power that caused the Salem Witch Trials, the anti-clown hysteria of last year, the anti-Russian hysteria, the current Neo-Nazi hysteria. The same power that causes peaceful Antifa protestors to stand around and do nothing as their comrades pile on single individuals and beat them.

We can’t address this quickly or easily. We have to go to the source, and the source is peer pressure. It takes far more forms than the simple “Ah, you know you want to smoke this marijuana” indicated by afterschool specials. Watch the video I linked to get a more complete picture of what, exactly, peer pressure can do–what that innate desire to conform to others can do. It’s powerful.

And it’s the problem.

* Don’t get me started.

A Letter to Glenn Beck

While doing my usual “scroll through Facebook to make sure the world still exists” thing this morning, I stumbled across two interesting things from the very same source: The Blaze. For those who don’t remember, The Blaze is a cable news network started by former Fox host Glenn Beck, a Mormon with a decently good head on his shoulders, but with a lot of socially conservative leanings that I can’t get on board with. Conservatism, as we understand it in the U.S. today, conflicts with itself–they want “small government,” except that they want the government to impose social conservatism.

First I saw this well-phrased, well-written emotional appeal to the American public to stop the divide, to reach across the aisle, and to heal the country:

Well, I’m sorry, Glenn, but you don’t get to be the Voice of Reason right now.

I’ve noticed many people on the left and right pulling this schtick, where, after years, if not decades, of peddling divisiveness and hysteria (remember The Blaze and Michelle Bachman’s attempts to link President Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood?) and then, when you see that the mess you’ve been creating is getting ready to implode or explode, pull a 180 and try to take the highroad, saying, “We have to stop this!”

You. We have to stop you.

You, Glenn Beck. You, Rachel Maddow. You, Milo Whateveranis. You, The Young Turks. You people now trying to act like this mess isn’t of your making–you are the ones who must be stopped, because this mess is of your making.

This random guy being attacked by his own allies because of his appearance? You created this. You paved the road here, you sat us down in the vehicle, and you drove along that road until we reached this point. You did it knowingly and deliberately, to boost your ratings, and now you’re saying “No, we shouldn’t be divided. We’re all humans”? Where was that spiel when you were trying to link Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood?

You monsters did this. You created the circumstances, you lied, you manipulated the facts, and you misled everyone, waiting to release critical information until the most opportune moment, and this hysteria that you’ve created is a direct result of all of that. I wrote about how the news purposely and deliberately withheld information about rotting farms across the country until the most opportune time, and they decided that time was when they could blame it on Trump’s immigration policies instead of droughts, wildfires, and government interventions paying farmers to grow crops regardless of whether the crops survive. All of this has been happening for years. But now that the media can blame it on Trump and ask if he’s going to claim responsibility for the famine–because, yes, people really are that hysterical–we hear about it.

And what about the fact that critically important news items seem to pop up and vanish just as quickly, keeping the masses in a paralytic state of paranoid fear? This was the entire point of your attempts to link Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood. You know it, I know it, and everyone knows it. You rode that “Obama is a Muslim Kenyan” line every bit as hard as Donald Trump. In fact, I lost a longtime friend with whom I used to play in a rockband, because of his constant peddling of Glenn Beck bullshit, telling me that I needed to be afraid of the Muslims who were infiltrating our government. You did that, Glenn. You took over his mind and replaced his rationality with fear by exploiting his vulnerabilities.

And now you want to say “We’re all humans”?

No, because you’re not. You’re not a human. You’re an immoral monster. You’re a disgusting, mutant salesman obsessed with your sales numbers, and you didn’t give a damn how much damage you cause to humans while you attempt to sate your ravenous hunger.

The alt-right for years, Glenn–for years has been calling Obama a Muslim and a Kenyan hellbent on destroying America from within. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you have a documentary that asserts that very thing. You can’t just distance yourself from it now that it’s grown beyond your control, because you planted the seeds that became that tree. And you’re still doing so, you slimy toad.

What is this shit, Glenn? That article was released yesterday. Yesterday, Glenn! On your website.

This diehard, rightist propagandist, wacky, inaccurate, nonsensical article propagating the notion that transsexualism is a new thing that should be condemned rather than allowed appeared yesterday, 24 hours ago, on your website. And now you want to say “We’re all humans”? What about transsexuals like me, Glenn? Are we “all humans” too? Because this article on your website from yesterday suggests otherwise. “Trans people should get back in the closet and shut up,” is what this article from yesterday on your website asserts.

You want to dance in Romulan territory while proclaiming your neutrality, and it doesn’t work that way. Libertarians are in the neutral zone. You, though? You cast your lot with the Romulans a long time ago, just as the leftists cast their lot with the Federation. And I’m over here like, “No… Why did we let people like Glenn Beck push this to the point of war?”

Because you did, Glenn. You and the leftwing media both. You did this.

Now we jump from war with Syria (which, it’s time to confess, we are fighting) to war with North Korea to trans military bans to Nazis to possible trade wars with China to raging anarcho-communists in the blink of an eye. You won’t let people sit down and take a deep breath and remind themselves that “We’re all humans,” because you’re too busy peddling fear trying to keep their eyeballs glued to their television screen and listening to you prattle on about Obama’s ties to the freaking Muslim Brotherhood.

You don’t have the right to stand there and appeal for calm now, Glenn. Neither you, the Nazis, or Antifa have the right to do that. You’ve all taken your sides. Maybe you didn’t have the foresight to see where it would go. Maybe you didn’t realize what you were doing. I could accept that. But you’re still responsible for his mess. You can’t just pretend like that isn’t true. If you want to call for calm and unity now, that’s great–you can join the call of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists who have been calling for calm, liberty, tolerance, and love for years. At this point, though, you’re tainted by the circumstances you’ve created, and you owe the world an apology if you want to change your tune now.

You directly contributed to this. In fact, wasn’t it because you wanted more leniency to say wild, speculative things that you formed The Blaze in the first place? And you continue to dance in the redzone of conservatism–the very same redzone that created the alt-right that morphed into Neo-Nazism, as that lunatic article from yesterday shows. Of course, trans people have always existed, Glenn. The only question was whether we had to pretend otherwise, or whether we could embrace it. Through most of human history, it was “pretend otherwise.” This led to many suicides and many problems–like with a guy you may have heard of named J. Edgar Hoover.

If you want to appeal for calm, that’s great, but you’ve got to extract yourself from either side. You have to get out of the left versus right paradigm entirely, or you’re not appealing for calm. You’re appealing for victory for your side. “Conservatives have the high-road because conservatives are calling for calm… It’s the leftists who are calling for violence still.”

You made this bed. Either set it ablaze or lie down in it.

The Free Market is not Omnibenevolent

I know it’s considered heresy among libertarians and anarchists, but I feel it’s important to remind people that “The Free Market” isn’t always an acceptable answer. Says the anarcho-capitalist, right–what many would rightly call a “free market anarchist,” in fact, given  the history of the word “capitalism” and whether the market as advocated by anarcho-capitalists actually is “capitalism,” but it’s not important. I’ve written loads praising the free market, and now that we are seeing widespread cheering for the firing of white nationalists, I’m going to write something condemning the free market as the solution.

But let me explain, before you get all worked up and say that I’m abandoning the market now that it’s targeting Nazis, because, in fact, I’m not, and I’ve written this exact thing before targeting traditional values“” and other Nazi-style aphorisms. So, you see, rather than contradicting myself, I’m actually staying true to what I’ve said before, and am now applying the same logic and principles now that the shoe is on the other foot. In this article praising the virtues of personal relationships as the destroyers of bigotry (by all accounts, a positive thing), I said:

There are only three ways that liberty can work: homogeneity, diversity, and individualism.

I also said this on Facebook, drawing attention to the inherent absurdity of attempting to use homogeneity to achieve liberty–we would recognize this as a direct attack on paleo-libertarianism, a weird and twisted school of libertarian philosophy that, in essence, argues that liberty is only for white people:

Homogeneity is obviously broken as an idea–it’s simply impossible. There will always be differences between people, and those differences will always be highlighted. Hitler wanted to basically produce an all-white society, and what happened? The differences among white people were immediately targeted as points of divide: those with blond hair and blue eyes were considered superior to someone who had brown hair and brown eyes. By definition, a society can never be truly homogeneous. Even if Hitler had succeeded in eliminating everyone but white people with blond hair and blue eyes, the divisiveness wouldn’t have ended; instead, it would have become “tall people are superior to short people” or something else. I’d venture the statement that the more homogeneous a society is, the more petty are its points of division.

The idea that any group of people can be truly homogeneous is laughable. If that divisive mentality is there, then it is there regardless of the characteristics of the people in the group. With the divisive mentality in place, paleo-libertarians, the alt-right, and Neo-Nazis think that all non-white people are the problem. Let’s presume for a moment that they somehow manage to get rid of all the non-white, non-straight, non-cisgender people. Do they suddenly stop hating people? No. They merely redirect their hatred to some other minority. Redheads become the target of their hatred, or people who are under 5 feet, 6 inches tall, because the core of their hatred–that there are differences within their group that cannot be tolerated–remains. As long as that idea remains, they will identify any and every difference and pinpoint it as the problem, and will continue on until only one person remains standing and everyone else is dead.

The point I’ve been driving at since I began thinking and writing about this subject a month or so ago is that neither homogeneity nor heterogeneity can deliver on the free market promises of “ultimate equality,” despite its ups and downs. The market, as any market advocate will tell you, swings like a pendulum, and it isn’t always fair or just. It does, however, tend to come to a point of equilibrium, one that is based on the dominant positions and ideologies about what constitutes “justice” and “equality.” If a market comes to rest indefinitely* on inequality, then it is merely a reflection that the majority of people in that society do not value equality.

As written in Fight Club, “on a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.”

Just as that is true, so is it true that “on a long enough timeline, the values embraced by a free market are reflective of the people who support that market.” This is why it’s so damning to see that so much child and sweatshop labor continues to go into much of the gimmicky, cheap bullshit bought by people at Wal-Mart; that these things have not vanished in the last few decades since we learned of the child and sweatshop labor is a tacit endorsement of child and sweatshop labor. We know that Indonesian children are making our Nikes. We just don’t care. We know that diamonds are steeped in blood. We just don’t care. We know that the cobalt that goes into our phone and laptop batteries, and soon into our Tesla electric cars, is stepped in blood and horrific child labor. We just don’t care.

With this enormous preamble out of the way, let me get to the point.

People are cheering the firing of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I’m actually inclined to view this as a Pandora’s Box–one that we painstakingly managed to close in the 60s and 70s, and one that we should not, under any circumstances, open again. It was arduous, difficult, and unjust for black Americans, Asian Americans, women, homosexuals, transsexuals (ongoing), and all of these others to have to fight an uphill battle to take back their jobs, to not be fired for these things. Thirty years ago, we all (those of sound mind and reasonable ideas–I didn’t even exist then) condemned the idea of firing a man because he was a drag queen two Fridays out of the month, because he and his wife were swingers, because his wife was black, because he was living with his girlfriend and they weren’t married, or because he was gay. How far have we truly come, if we now revisit these ideas, but simply reverse the power structures so that, instead of the white supremacists firing the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual for being a transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual, the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual fires the white supremacist for being white supremacist?

I’d argue that we haven’t changed anything. We simply turned the table around.

It’s important to remember that swords like this cut both ways, which we should damned well know from the history of American injustices against black people, LGBT people, Hispanic people, women, Asians, and everyone else. We know how this shit feels when it’s done to us, and we know that it can be done to us. As it stands, “we” have the cultural power–there is no doubt of that. We are currently the ones holding the reins of power, freely able to bend society to our will in whatever ways we want, with very few exceptions. We will not always be the ones holding the power. Less than a century ago, we were not the ones holding the power.

It so perfectly mirrors the growth of the executive branch that it’s staggering. For years, Republicans gave their approval to the growth of the executive branch, apparently never considering the possibility that it could end up in the hands of someone they didn’t like. Then Democrats did the same. Now we have Trump in power, and people are like, “You know? Maybe we shouldn’t have created this power structure that is now ripe for abuse against us instead of in favor of whatever we happen to want at that particular moment.”

More bizarrely, we’ve already been through this. We’ve already been on the receiving end of discrimination, and it’s still the case that there are tons and tons of “non-protected groups” with whom we are allies to some extent, and who are free to be fired by their employees for upsetting someone’s personal moral sensibilities.

Drag queens aren’t protected.

Swingers aren’t protected.

Interracial couples aren’t protected.

Women who have had abortions aren’t protected.

Former partiers, musicians, rappers, and the like are not protected. In fact, we see this already with colleges and employers searching through people’s histories and firing them for getting a little too wild at a party 6 years before.

Polyamorous people aren’t protected.

In fact, if we look at things rationally and objectively, we’ll find that not a whole lot are protected from anti-discrimination laws. And while I don’t think we need anti-discrimination laws at all, and certainly not more of them, the overall sentiment appears to be that “It’s okay if we discriminate against them, because the law prevents them from doing the same to us,” and this simply isn’t true.

There is no protection for contractors, of course. You could wreck my entire life by finding out who my clients are and informing them that I’m transsexual. This was actually my biggest concern with forming the Libertarian Party in my county. Even if I was an employee, and not a contractor, there is still very little protection for transgender and transsexual people, legally or socially, and none at all in the state of Mississippi.

Do you think that the white supremacists and traditional valuists in positions of authority will not retaliate? Do you think that secret KKK member Bob Greenwich, head of the marketing department in some firm, won’t suddenly begin finding reasons to fire his black employees?

Unlike many people who seem to be talking these days, I reject both. I fully recognize the right of an employer to fire anyone that they want for any reason that they want. This does not mean, however, that having the right to do something makes it the right thing to do. I have the right to fire someone for being gay, for being a white supremacist, or for being lazy. But this doesn’t mean it’s right, just, or moral to fire someone for being gay, or for being a white supremacist. The only factors that should go into employment are the person’s capabilities to do that job. I said this exact thing two weeks ago when arguing against Trump’s proposed trans military ban, and people applauded. I say it now, and I’m called a Nazi sympathizer.

On July 27, I said this:

Banning trans people from a job is dumb.

As an employer, you shouldn’t be interested in what characteristics a person has; you should be interested in their ability and skills to do the job. If you hire them according to any other criteria, you won’t be hiring the best unless it’s by complete accident.

This applies to every job.

If you want the best military in the world, then you have to hire the people who are the best. If you hire the people who are second-best or third-best because they have whatever characteristics you prefer, then your military will be second-best, third-best, or worse.

People are looking at this thing all wrong. Perhaps, on average, the extra medical and psychological needs make trans people inferior to other potential employees. But then you have people like me, whose only “need” is to be left the hell alone by people with more free time than common sense. “Can this individual do the job? Is this individual the best person for the job?” The hardships and struggles of the collective are fictitious. We are dealing with individuals.

I don’t give a damn if I hire a guy who seduced his dog, if he’s the best damn tech in the area. The “best” are usually pretty quirky, to put it kindly.

No one disagreed. No one took issue with it. It was common sense, and I was obviously right. Earlier today, I said this:

People are cheering the firing of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I’m actually inclined to view this as a Pandora’s Box–one that we painstakingly managed to close in the 60s and 70s, and one that we should not, under any circumstances, open again. It was arduous, difficult, and unjust for black Americans, Asian Americans, women, homosexuals, transsexuals (ongoing), and all of these others to have to fight an uphill battle to take back their jobs, to not be fired for these things. Thirty years ago, we all (those of sound mind and reasonable ideas–I didn’t even exist then) condemned the idea of firing a man because he was a drag queen two Fridays out of the month, because he and his wife were swingers, because his wife was black, because he was living with his girlfriend and they weren’t married, or because he was gay. How far have we truly come, if we now revisit these ideas, but simply reverse the power structures so that, instead of the white supremacists firing the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual for being a transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual, the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual fires the white supremacist for being white supremacist?

I’d argue that we haven’t changed anything. We simply turned the table around.

… which you’ll find written above. I do that often, where I write something in an article and preview it on Facebook. Anyway, I was immediately accused of being against freedom of association. That’s quite remarkable, considering that I have a long ass history of arguing in favor of freedom of association.

On an individual basis.

I wholly reject as immoral, reckless, stupid, and irresponsible the idea of disassociating from an entire group of people because of the actions of some, the words of some, ostensible similarities among its members, or whatever-fucking-else is proposed. If someone wants to fire the racist asshat Bob because he treats black customers like crap, I have absolutely no issue with that. But if someone wants to fire the racist asshat Bob because he’s a KKK member even though he’s never displayed any tendency for treating black customers differently, I have to take issue with that. Sure, they have the right to do it, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

And it’s really just a back-handed, passive aggressive forceful coercion, when it comes down to it, especially in these hypothetical numbers I gave above, where 99.99% discriminates against the 0.01%. As someone pointed out, “Then the 0.01% of people who are racists need to change their minds.” Yes, and that’s a moral hazard. “If the 0.01% don’t want to die, then they need to get on board with my ideas and stop disagreeing with me.” I’m not saying that it violates the NAP. Nor does it violate the NAP if 99.99% of people are cisgender and insist, “Then the 0.01% need to stop being transgender if they want to work.”

I’m kinda surprised that I’m saying this, but the NAP isn’t the ultimate standard on what is and isn’t moral. It’s only the standard of what must be tolerated and what must not be tolerated. It’s not a moral guide. It’s a minimal level of acceptable behavior guide. One’s morality is something for one to work out themselves, and I have many thoughts on morality–many of which would you would disagree with. I’m not saying that my moral proclamations that collectivist discrimination is morally wrong is objectively correct. I’m saying that it’s subjectively correct, and here I’ve outlined the subjective criteria for making that assertion.

It has also been stated that the 0.01% are more than welcome to form their own little society, despite that I’ve pointed out that, even in the United States, this would produce a society of only 30,000 people–nowhere near enough for a self-sufficient society in any modern terms. Besides which, the nature of leaving a society where food is bought from stores to form one where there are no stores from which to buy groceries, and where food would have to be raised and farmed, is effectively a death sentence without outside help–do we need to be reminded that the only reason the Puritan settlers survived the first winter in the New World was the benevolence of Native Americans? There’s a rather large gap there between “leaving society” and “growing one’s own food” that results in rather a lot of death.

Now I’ve got someone who says he’s closer to anarcho-communism than anarcho-capitalism suggesting market solutions, while I’m pointing out that a free market, in order to achieve liberty, requires either pure heterogeneity (practically impossible), pure homogeneity (theoretically impossible), or individualism. You know–the same thing I said a month ago, when another group–*cough* trans people *cough*–were being treated as a collective instead of as individuals with their own merits regardless of these characteristics and behaviors that had absolutely nothing to do with their ability to do a job and function within the confines of a free market.

And though I was right a month ago… Now, I’m wrong. In fact, one of the people who liked my status about this very subject when I wrote it about trans people in the military is not arguing with me, because I’ve had the audacity to say the same damned thing about individuals who, regardless of their ability to do the task they are required to do, are also white supremacists. And, in so doing, this person–who alleges to fall closer to AnComs than AnCaps–is suggesting market solutions.

I will be debating this person–presumably–on the 25th, where we will use Lincoln-Douglas format to discuss “The nature and scope of self-defense.” Honestly, I don’t think the debate is going to happen. I’ve not heard anything about it since I challenged and Matt accepted. This isn’t the way I do things, you know? I iron out the details beforehand, and I still don’t know the venue where we are having this debate. But, as soon as I have that info, I’ll share it.

I made that crappy thing. Someone is, again presumably, making a better one. Since they’re doing it for free out of kindness, I’m not badgering them about it, but it doesn’t seem to have been made, and that further makes me wonder whether this debate is actually going to happen.

* Markets never rest indefinitely, but that’s not the point.

Timing is Everything — Media Manipulation Part 2

And the media clearly knows that.

Much of what I hear on Facebook these days–aside from North Korea bullshit–is stuff about families being broken up by Trump’s immigration policy, and his harsh deportations. Yet, in reality, Trump has deported fewer people than President Obama did. In both absolute numbers and averages, Obama deported more people than Trump. But because the media chose not to report on any of that, people now being exposed to it are under the impression that it’s a new thing, and that Trump/Republicans are to blame for this “uniquely” awful problem.

I just watched a popular libertarian page say that they wonder if Trump will claim responsibility for the famine that is going to be caused by the “entire fields being left to rot” because so many people have been deported that there’s no one to pick the crops. I’m not even kidding. Those are the headlines right now: “Entire Fields Left to Rot Because of Deportation of Illegal Immigrants.”

But that’s been the case for years. The corn field right across from me is going to rot again–an “entire field left to rot.” This happens all over the United States, because the government just pays people to plant the crop, and doesn’t really care if the crop is harvested or not. The media didn’t report on it, though. Now they have. The result? Predictably, everyone thinks this is a new thing, brought about by Trump “deporting so many people.”

Two absolute falsehoods. Old news, really. But because it’s only now being delivered, people are manipulated en masse into believing that Trump is responsible, and that his “singularly harsh deportation policy” is responsible.

It’s scary, really, that people are so easy to manipulate. Because, two years ago, fields not being picked wouldn’t have been newsworthy. It still isn’t, really, except that it can be used to promote an agenda.

I would have hoped, and expected, if I had the interest, knowledge, and awareness then, in the mid 90s that the upcoming age of social media would have prevented this sort of thing from happening. It doesn’t seem to have abated, though, because not many people are sharing these experiences, but I know from firsthand experiences, having friends all over the United States and having been across most of the United States, that “rotting fields” are not new, and neither are they caused by a lack of illegal immigrants to be paid under the table for picking the crops. It’s actually quite standard. In the eons of human history, it has never been especially common that an entire society’s fields would be successfully picked–anything from weather to war to earthquakes to wild animals could destroy a crop. Yet now it is Trump’s fault.

I talked yesterday about how the media and the state are able to determine what you and I discuss, and I want to point out that I’m not asserting the state and the media are colluding together to control the conversation. They don’t have to, because the media wants your attention. It doesn’t really matter why they want your attention. They do. To get your attention, they’re going to talk about things most likely to interest you, and those will be the sensationalized things. That lunatic who we have as Secretary of Defense saying that he’s willing to annihilate the North Korean people would qualify, of course.

Another way of manipulating people, though, is to just withhold information. It’s inevitable that information will be withheld, and this is just part of human nature. Right now, your senses are taking in far more information than your brain can process, so most of it gets discarded. This has, on many occasions, resulted in strange things happening. Perhaps the most common is “hitting one’s funny bone,” which occurs when one collides with something and has no expectation of it at all. Psychologists enjoy playing with these quirks of the human brain and nervous system, and there are even a few television shows that exploit it. In one, viewers are asked to count how many times a person wearing blue jumps rope. Viewers, focused on counting, didn’t notice the man walk by wearing a giant chicken costume, because their brain discarded that information.

The media functions the same way, especially in today’s hyper-connected society. I could, if I cared to, find out exactly what conditions are like on the ground in Portland, Oregon, right now. I could find out the weather, the local issues, and could probably peer inside of a local restaurant as though I was there. How many people each day post something on Twitter and hope that it goes viral? How many people have family members killed by cops and attempt to spread it on Facebook and Twitter each day (note: at least three, just in the United States)? Yet these stories rarely gain traction. Just this month, an estimated 30 people have been killed by police officers. How many of them have you heard about? Probably “none.”

This is because there’s just so much stuff happening that it can’t all be talked about. The bulk of it is discarded as uninteresting and not newsworthy. Three years ago, a few rotting fields of crops across the United States was discarded as uninteresting and not newsworthy. But now! Now that the media has spent months telling us the previously-neglected horror stories of families being broken up by deportation, there is yet another angle that can be worked to push that agenda: finally mention the fields that have been rotting for years, if not decades, and people will come to the conclusion that it’s a new phenomenon, simply because they hadn’t heard about it before.

It’s clever, on their part, because they can’t be criticized for choosing not to report on something before. Something has to be discarded, after all, just like police officers can’t chase after everyone speeding on the highway. They can only go after some of the people they see speeding, just like we can only process some of the information our brains receive. The problem with police officers it that they appear to have racist motivations when determining who to pursue and who to ignore, given that a disproportionate number of black Americans are harassed by police each day. The problem with the media is similar: they often choose what to report on and what to discard based on their own agenda.

That agenda is clearly to manipulate Americans into disliking Trump and, in particular, his immigration policy, despite the fact that the numbers don’t bear this out, which even left-wing news sources admit. They’re perfectly free to admit this without hurting their narrative, though, because these are cold, emotionless, facts-based stories of numbers. It’s the personal stories that matter. It’s their focus on Juan Hernandez being deported from his wife and kids after 19 years in the United States that grabs people’s attention and is embedded in their minds. Similarly, news stories that properly cite that more than half of people killed by police are white, and the other half are divided among black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, middle Eastern Americans, and other Americans, have no impact, because the focus on the personal stories of black Americans who are killed by police do far more to construct the narrative than any raw numbers will.

Throw them a personal story that tugs at their heart strings, and it really doesn’t matter how many facts you throw out afterward that refute that personal story as an anomaly, or the agenda behind that personal story as flawed and biased. Once set, the narrative is set, and facts don’t change our minds.

Do I like Trump? No. I can’t stand Trump. Don’t take any of this as a defense of that buffoon.

Take it instead as a warning about manipulation. We must always be on guard against manipulation, because they are always trying to manipulate us.

Conversation Control

To a certain extent, we’re all reactionaries, because we react to news as it happens to provide–ideally–insights and perspectives that other people may not have considered. I think that definition, though, is a bit too limited, because many of us are using reactionism as a way of being proactive, contradictory though that seems, because there are underlying ideas that are being spread by the reactive writings. At the same time, many of these “reactionaries” I’m talking about are doing work on the ground that is certainly proactive, aimed at creating the circumstances instead of reacting to changing circumstances. I’m pretty sure this paragraph could be deleted without changing what I’m about to say much, but I’m going to leave it in anyway, because it’s still true: we’re all reactionaries.

That said, there’s one area where are reactionism is hindering us, especially libertarians and anarchists.

If we are to be free, we must stop allowing the government and other institutional authorities to set the agenda, to set the tone of the conversation, and to set the topic of the conversation. Last week–if you can believe it was only a week ago–it was Trump’s tweet about banning transgender and transsexual people* from military service. This week, it’s North Korea and the prospect of nuclear war. It should be interesting to note that both issues received similar levels of reactions: many Facebook posts, articles, and tweets, very little real activism. In fact, it’s just a lot of reactionism. We’re letting the government and other institutions decide what we’re talking about. Instead of advocating libertarian principles, we set aside what we want to discuss so that we can jump on the bandwagon and join the conversation that the government wants us to have. Scratch all the tweets, articles, and Facebook posts about Trump’s proposed ban on transgender/transsexual soldiers, and pencil in statements about North Korea. It seems pretty likely that you’ll find the same people have produced both sets of reactive tweets, with very few exceptions, and that, perhaps, the transgender ban received more attention than the North Korea one. However, the North Korea thing is still young.

How can we ever talk about freedom and the value of liberty if we’re jumping at the state’s beck and call to discuss whatever random issue they have landed on when they spun the Wheel of Reactionary Division? If the government can control what we’re talking about so effectively, there is no reason that it should ever stop doing so, because doing so gives us the breadth that we need to discuss liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love–and the government doesn’t want that, because liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love are ideas that can destroy governments.

Imagine that you own a multi-billion dollar company, and you treat your employees like crap, because they can’t work anywhere else–you have a monopoly in the area. Some of these employees are trying very, very hard, however, to form a union that would give them the leverage needed to fight for better standards, if not eliminate the people at the top altogether. How would you handle this? Ignoring morality (since not many of us would be so callous in the first place), would you just sit there and watch them unionize and take some of the power away from you?

Of course not. And one of the most effective weapons at your disposal is Conversation Control. Create scapegoats. Blame a small segment of the workers for the plight that everyone faces. “I know it’s bad,” you might say, “and it’s those migrant workers who are responsible. Being from poor countries, they don’t care if they can’t each afford to pay a car and house note with their wages. So they’re working for less, which drives down everyone’s wages. They’re the ones responsible.” Suddenly the workers are no longer talking about unionizing, because they’ve been divided into two camps: those who defend the migrant workers, and those who fell for the scapegoating. The conversation is no longer about unionizing. It’s about a manufactured enemy.

When that enemy expires, randomly pick another one–bonus points if the new enemy has never been encountered by any worker, and demonstrably poses the workers no threat at all, such as Isis or North Korea. They’ll stop talking about the harm being done to them because you’ve presented them with some imagined harm that is multitudes worse than what they’re already facing. To prevent that from coming to fruition, they’ll stop their talk of unionizing in order to prevent those evil, distant devils from making their situation worse. Once that problem is dealt with, of course–presuming it’s not an indefinite and eternal problem, like “terrorism”–their situation will certainly have gotten worse, and, as an added bonus, they’ll accept the worsened conditions as normal, as “the price we pay for protection from those external enemies.”

We are being manipulated en masse, and it is apparently pretty easily done. The masses are marionettes being made to dance and neglecting the dance that we want and need to perform. This has to stop. We have to begin ignoring the government’s attempts to change the conversation. We have to talk about the things that we want to talk about, not simply react to whatever they want us to discuss. Otherwise, they will always set the agenda, and Liberty will never be on that agenda.

* As a transsexual person, I don’t particularly care for how “transsexual” is being pushed out of the conversation by the same people who enjoy pointing out that gender and sex aren’t the same thing; therefore, “transgender” and “transsexual” aren’t the same thing. For months now, I’ve watched my allies push me and my type out of the conversation because they mistakenly have decided, as I once did, that “transgender” is a more palatable version of “transsexual.”  But that’s incorrect.

By the way, I would ask that you consider sharing and contributing to former libertarian vice presidential candidate Will Coley’s attempt to open an interfaith religious center in western New Hampshire, which you can find by clicking that link. New Hampshire, of course, is the home of the Free State Project, and contains, currently, the highest number of Libertarian state legislators.