Let’s go off-meds with Mike Cernovich!

I haven’t covered what’s going on in Mike Cernovich’s alt-reality for quite a while. This is partly because he is, like arsenic, best consumed in small doses, and partly also because, credit where credit’s due, he did turn out to be completely right about the American Presidential election. However, since that involves, for practical purposes, two parties, anyone has a fifty per cent chance of getting that right (and being American’s an advantage too), so I’m not getting impressed with his political punditry yet. If he’d correctly predicted the outcome of the Dutch election this week, I’d probably be asking him for racing tips and stock predictions right now.

Also, once his mission to get Trump elected was accomplished, his blog did seem to ease off a little on its signature epic bombast and outrageous inaccuracy. But, they do say you can’t keep a good man down, and here’s a link to one of his more recent posts.

“Everyone agrees that Trump is the most powerful man in world history.”

But of course. Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Genghis Khan, Philip II of Spain, Hitler, Stalin, all the forty-odd US Presidents before Trump, many of whom were more or less as powerful as he is – who the hell were all those guys compared to the Donald? Featherweights, says I.

“If you doubt this assertion, try reading a Twitter account omitting discussions of his latest doings.”

“You’ll probably find it doesn’t belong to one of the tediously opinionated airheads who dominate that social media platform, and hence is refreshingly readable! Or at least includes funny photos of cats. Also, Twitter is really important – because I’m all over it, of course!”

“People are gaining weight because of Trump. Jobs are being created.”

I will admit to having missed the speech in which the President declared “You know what the problem with America is? We’re all too damn skinny! What I want you people to do, like, right away, is get out there and start eating massive roast dinners three times a day!” A pity, really, but I’m going to have to suggest that this claim might just be total  bullshit.

The “jobs created” bit I assume refers to the mini-Stock Market boom since Trump’s election. However, once you’ve factored out the part of this that’s due to general economic conditions unconnected with anything he says he’ll do, taken into account the lag between “company becoming more valuable” and “company hiring more staff” and considered that a company’s share price increasing does not magically provide it with more real money with which to hire, I think you’d have a real problem proving Trump has created jobs. And Cernovich doesn’t even try proving it.

“These developments make complete sense to any student of philosophy.”

Well, they are bullshit, and the philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt did write a book On Bullshit, so they probably make complete sense to him…

“In Reality, Trump has far less power than we imagine…Symbolism is why Trump has power over the world…We do not live in Reality. We live in a socially constructed reality.”

This is all true, but there’s nothing unique to Trump in that. American Presidents, even at the height of the post-war American imperial age, have never been quite as powerful as they look. The US Constitution was deliberately written to limit the Presidency.

And it’s not that shocking or new an idea that reality is to some extent what we agree it is. However, what Cernovich is going to, rather sneakily, go on to do is to use this idea to justify his (and Trump’s) favoured tactic of pumping out as much bullshit as possible in the hope that it confuses everyone so much they stop asking questions. Hey, we live in a socially constructed reality, this isn’t outrageous behaviour at all!

“It’s endlessly amusing watching English majors struggle with the rise of Trump or even the rise of me.”

“Me! Me! Me! I mean, just in case you forgot who the really important person here is.”

“How can “big gorillas” win, they exclaim in between bites of cream cheese frosted cup cakes.”

“Lol@ those people with their fancy English degrees and their girly cup cakes!” This is Cernovich blatantly pandering to the section of his fanbase that consists of nerdy basement dwellers with terrible jobs, but by God they got engineering degrees, and that makes them superior to nerdy basement dwellers with bad jobs who got English degrees. The phrase “two bald men fighting over a comb” springs to mind.

Also notice that oh so subtle plug for the whole idiotic “Gorilla Mindset” thing. Seriously, who talks like that in real life?

“While discussions of alpha and beta grow tiresome, status is all around us.”

I’ll just pause to remind everyone that before Mikey C turned Danger and Play into rahrahgotrump.net, it promoted his ideas about being a success in life for men, and it still contains plenty of just such discussions.

Anyway, he goes on to talk about how the “fake news” media, as he thinks of them, still have status as compared to outlets like his website, but not for much longer, because he and others in social media have shown how they can set the agenda, set the news cycle and force them to talk about what he wants, so removing their status. This is what I mean about weaselling in a justification for bullshit artistry under the heading of ” it’s a socially constructed reality.”

Unsurprisingly, he includes a ton of self-congratulation about his success in persuading some of the media to talk about Hillary Clinton’s alleged health problems (in a just world, Cernovich would now look like an idiot if she doesn’t die for another 20 years, but no doubt either he or his claims on this subject will be long forgotten by the time that event arrives). Oh, and his eleventy billion subscribers on Twitter or whatever it is.

“Have you noticed that my writing rarely elaborates its concepts in detail? That’s a sign of social status.”

“My English teacher used to say it was a sign of bad writing and laziness, but who’s laughing now, Cupcake Boy!”

“Status is the power to decline explaining yourself.”

“If you are a shameless asshole, that is. I stand as one with the shameless assholes of this world!”

“It takes a deep education to write sharply.”

But any idiot can post things on the Internet. (Just read the rest of my blog).

 

 

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Video game review (?): Detention (spoilers)

The question mark in the title is there because the first thing I have to admit is this: I’ve never actually played this game, only watched it being played in someone else’s videos. How can you possibly review a game you’ve never played? Well, you can’t, really. Video games are made to be played. Part of the point of reviewing them is to tell other people who might play them what that experience is like, and I can’t do that here.

So this isn’t so much a true review as a record of my reaction to the story that Detention tells, and I’ll summarise that this way – this is the only video game I’ve ever seen whose story provoked an emotional reaction in me that wasn’t “well, that was pretty silly” or “well, that was OK, but it’s very derivative some movie or other I’ve already seen.” To me, it seemed both good and original, and combining those two is pretty unusual.

Of course, nothing is ever completely original. Detention is a survival horror game. For anyone who isn’t aware of the genre, the basic idea is that you play a character in some kind of horror scenario – zombies, monsters and so on – but minus the arsenal of weapons, limitless ammunition, hand-to-hand combat skills  and overriding objective of “blast the hell out of these things” that you get in the average video game where you encounter those things. You may have no weapons, or only limited weapons or ammunition. You usually aren’t some kind of highly trained badass either; more of a normal human being, and the point is more “avoid the monsters and survive” than  “shoot them and survive.”

Detention follows that template, up to a point. For most of the game, you’re playing Fang Ray Shin, a 17 year old Taiwanese girl in a 1960s school who (more or less) wakes up to find herself one of only two people in the school, everyone else having supposedly been evacuated because of a typhoon. She quickly finds that she can’t get away from the school and the other character mysteriously disappears. The game is you guiding her around the empty school buildings and slowly uncovering the truth behind what’s going on, whilst avoiding being killed by…well, I’m not quite sure what the things roaming the school are. A sort of cross between a ghost, a zombie and a vampire, I think (I’m not sure if their nature is intentionally kept a bit mysterious, or I just don’t know enough Taiwanese mythology).

The appearance of zombie-ghost-vampires clearly indicates that “the truth” here is a bit more than an oncoming typhoon, and eventually it emerges that actually, this isn’t your school so much as your personal hell. Ray betrayed people close to her to the authoritarian military government of 1960s Taiwan who were then executed or jailed, she committed suicide out of guilt and her reward is being stuck in this place. The player’s choices in the game either keep her stuck in that cycle or free her from it, although since “freedom” appears to mean “wandering the earth as a ghost forever” even the good ending isn’t all that great.

I think the biggest reason I reacted positively to the game was that, despite being a horror game, the scariest thing in it is not the monsters (although they are pretty creepy) or even the setting (although that’s arguably even creepier). The really scary thing is making a terrible decision and then never being able to alter its effects, just live with the consequences. Which after all, is the scariest thing in real life as well. It’s a very existentialist video game; Jean-Paul Sartre, who after all wrote a play about characters trapped in hell by their terrible decisions, would have approved.

The game’s also well written enough to make the central character sympathetic despite her treachery. She is given reasons for doing what she did and didn’t intend the results to be quite what they were. Indeed, overall, the characters are realistic and believable people living at a particular time in a particular place. And, I have to admit, if you started off describing any video game to me by saying “This was made in East Asia and the central character is a teenage girl” my immediate reaction would be “OK, are there bad anime cliches involved in it? Am I going to want to take a shower afterwards, because I’m supposed to regard the underage girl as a love interest or sex object or something?”

That isn’t true here. Ironically, the plot rests on an older character treating Ray as a love interest (and vice-versa), but given the consequences, you can hardly say it’s being approved of. And “Taiwan in the 60s” isn’t exactly a well-explored setting, in the West anyway. My knowledge of Taiwanese history was basically “Oh, the Chinese Nationalists went there after they’d lost the Civil War in 1949. Then it dropped right out of history because Communist China was the major world power and no British people were involved.” (History, as taught in British schools, generally regards things as important if they either involved British people or a major world power, preferably both, and even better if the major world power involved was Britain). So this is a game you can actually learn a little from, if you follow it up. That’s also not that common.

Thanks to Slowbeef, who did the Let’s Play I watched.

 

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Crappy holidays: Presidents’ Day

A US federal public holiday which fell on 20 February this year. Now, on one level, no public holiday can ever be that crappy – a day off work/school is a day off work/school, someone might bother to put some good stuff on TV, there’ll be sales on…

No, the problem with Presidents’ Day is not so much crappiness as, well, complete confusion as to what exactly is being commemorated. Naively, I assumed from the name it was a day to celebrate the Presidents of the United States of America (the historical figures, not the Nineties band), and I was all ready to point out “that’s superfluous, isn’t the Fourth of July more or less about them anyway? That’s American National Being Patriotic Day.”

However, it seems the story is more complicated than I thought. Breaking it down:-

  1. The federal holiday is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday,” because that’s what it was originally meant to celebrate, even though Washington was born on 22 February and the holiday falls between 15-21 February, so it’s never actually on his birthday.
  2. Because Abraham Lincoln was born on 12 February, some US states, perhaps virtue-signalling about how very right they were in the Civil War (or would have been, if only they’d existed at the time), took to celebrating it as “Washington and Lincolns’ Birthday” or as “Presidents’ Day” (i.e. those two Presidents only).
  3.  Some Southern states, presumably to show that how much they don’t care that they lost the Civil War (honest!), don’t seem to have it as a state holiday at all. Result – the world gets the impression that they not only hate Old Abe, but also George Washington, and are possibly pining for George III or something.
  4. A guy called Harold Stonebridge Fischer spent about 20 years from 1951 trying to persuade politicians to have a “Presidents’ Day” on 4 March to celebrate all the Presidents, but eventually got turned down when they decided it was just one holiday too many. Incidentally, Fischer lived in Compton, California (CA). I assume he didn’t believe “it’s Uzi up the ass if you don’t get paid” or even make much dollars on the First and Fifteenth, though. Maybe his campaign would have gone better if he had.
  5. However, Fischer won a moral victory, of sorts. Some states have their own 4 March holiday to celebrate the Presidents in general, an awful lot of Americans think that’s what the February holiday’s supposed to be for and certainly the “Presidents’ Day” label is the one generally applied, mostly because it’s what retailers running holiday sales have decided to go with.

I think the conclusion is “try and keep politics about as far away from your national holidays as you can, if you want to avoid total confusion setting in.” Say what you like about Jesus, the vast majority of people don’t seem to mind having a day off on His (non-)birthday.

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Crappy holidays:Singles Awareness Day

Looks like I’ve tapped a rich vein of material when it comes to “special days made up for questionable reasons.” Next up is Singles’ Awareness Day, which, as any fule kno, was celebrated on 15 February, the day after St Valentine’s Day. Unlike your average “Hallmark holiday”, there’s no-one who obviously makes money out of this one, so I can only assume it was invented by fearless fighters for the rights of single people  (surely the world’s lamest social activists).

Take that, oppressive social norms of romantic togetherness! You may have cheap-looking cards with hearts on them and low-quality chocs on your side, but we singles know where you live and we aren’t afraid to get mediaeval on your ass! Although that expression doesn’t really work here, since the real Middle Ages was pretty much a high point of getting married whether you liked it or not, not to mention the era when the ideal of romantic love really first emerged.

As a single person, I don’t really see the need for a day on which the world is made more aware of my status, which is really none of its business anyway. I find any notion of the unattached as an oppressed group frankly incredible. I mean who, in the advanced world anyway, loses their job over being single? You’re more likely to be more successful at it because you don’t have to keep ducking out to go home to the wife/husband/S.O. and kids. Who gets beaten up and killed over it? Having to “suffer” Valentine’s Day once a year? Is that something that anyone over the age of 16 is seriously bothered about? Really, the more you think about it, the more Singles’ Awareness Day becomes almost symbolic of “overindulged Westerners with far too much time on their hands behaving like big spoilt babies because they don’t have literally everything they might have.” And that’s something we already see far too much of.

I could write a book about my own romantic “history” (the most boring one in history, but still), but in the end the reasons I’m single would boil down to the usual mixture of bad decisions, bad luck, general laziness and, probably, not really wanting it hard enough. Of course, it cuts both ways and the truth is that I’ve clearly never inspired wild romantic desires in others. “I’m single by choice – not my choice” applies to me as much as all the other people who clearly think it’s a side-splitting meme. Very few people actually set out to be single from day one.

If you end up that way, though, you eventually come to accept it; the alternatives aren’t pretty. Just look at Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in 2014 because girls weren’t interested in him. According to his “manifesto”, only blondes need have applied – lucky them. On a less extreme level, there are all the many, many young men who whinge endlessly on the internet about being “Forever Alone” and sit around creating those side-splitting memes about their existential tragedy. Really, it’s a story of crazy emotional self-indulgence from beginning to end, and we shouldn’t enable its continuance with a fake holiday.

The whole idea of single people as some kind of unified group requiring that others be aware of their needs also promotes the fatally attractive idea for many – including me, sometimes – that what you really need to do in life is go out, find someone else’s prefabricated notion of an identity and, if it fits, wear it, because then you’ll know what you truly are and must do. You’re single? Well, then you should be doing this. You’re a black man? Well, you should act like that. You’re a genderfluid genderqueer from non-binary Bulgaria? I don’t believe you, but here’s the pronouns you should insist on anyway. But you can’t buy identity off the rack, made by someone else. You have to create it, and ultimately what you are doesn’t have a name, apart from your name. If you accept other people’s labels, hostile or sympathetic, you stop being the individual you are.

Famously, God’s self-description in the Bible is “I am what I am.” We’re supposed to be made in God’s image; maybe that’s what we should all be aiming for.

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Crappy holidays:The “No Pants Subway Ride”

Which took place in early January, because I am the Internet’s Worst News Source. Because there is some limit to even my quest for publicity through cheap tricks, I have also chosen not to illustrate this post with a photo of female participants in the event in their underwear, although there are certainly plenty of these floating around.

Anyway, the “No Pants Subway Ride” is an annual event in which people turn up on their local subway/underground/metro without pants/trousers/pantalons, and then, it seems, take lots of photos of each other doing this and post them on the internet. The weird thing is, that unlike most of the outbreaks of painful public wackiness you see, there doesn’t seem to be an actual reason for all this. It isn’t for charity, which is the go-to rationalisation for anything in which people either act like prats or do something they probably wanted to do anyway but were too PC to be seen doing (“it’s not a lavish high society event, it’s a lavish high society charity event!”).

It isn’t some kind of organised protest against society’s insistence on clothes either, or else presumably the participants would actually turn up naked (and almost certainly get arrested). No, this is pretty much running around in your underwear for a laugh, although the organisers are apparently a plonkerish sounding crew of unemployed actors performance artists called Improv Everywhere who seem to have vaguely subversive “artistic” reasons for pulling off zany pranks.

Now, in theory, running around in your underwear is funny, sort of, but (and this is what the participants don’t get), any humour is crushed out of it by the time it’s become an organised annual event for masses of people that’s been running for years. There’s no spontaneity left, no real individualism and what you’re left with is basically the real life equivalent of a forced meme.  That funny cat picture/scene from some anime with hilariously apt caption might have been amusing to start with, but by the time the worst and least-imaginative posters have crapped it out thousands of times, you’ll want to weep every time you see it. It becomes comedy for the unfunny, creativity for the uncreative and being daring to the most conformist.

And that’s pretty what I think the No Pants Subway Ride is.

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Accept no substitutes

As anyone who’s ever glanced at this blog before – and who’s ever done more than glance at it? – I have a proud record of being last with the news. Always fashionably late to the punchline, that’s me.So it gives me great pleasure to extend that run by informing you, precisely several months after most of the rest of the internet, that the “Everyday Feminism” website is now offering an online course for white anti-racism activists who don’t feel they can work effectively without confronting their “toxic whiteness”.

Incidentally, I would love to claim at this point that I am hip enough to read “Vice” everyday, and discovered this nugget there, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I was stupid enough to visit “Everyday Feminism”, and they promptly advertised their course to me, so if they don’t like my take on it, they’ve only got themselves to blame. Anyway, if you follow the links through you will soon discover the two key points about this course:-

  1. It costs $97, and;
  2.  It’s basically about telling white people what racists and all-round bad guys they are, and getting them to accept this “truth”.

Who spends that much money on a process that’s guaranteed to make them feel worse about themselves as people? The word “masochism” is mentioned a lot in the (many) blogs that got to this before me. I think that’s actually unfair to masochists. If you pay a person of your preferred gender to tie you up and flog you, you do it because you get off on it. The connection between pain and enjoyment is clear, if too circuitous for most people. No-one – not a single person – is going to enjoy sitting in a lukewarm bath of white guilt with a bunch of social justice warriors while being lectured on their failings by the most annoying people on Earth.

A lot of other bloggers have gone a bit deeper, and drawn the comparison between the attitude of the social justice industry to whiteness, maleness and heterosexuality to the attitude of Christianity to Original Sin. Of course, you can never quite purge the stain, but if you confess enough, say a sufficient number of “Hail Marys” and generally carry out enough of the right things (like handing over cash for our online course!), you might eventually be granted grace, although by a bunch of internet feminists, not by God.

I’ve made the comparison between religious belief and belief in identity politics myself in other posts. Basically, once people stop believing in God (or gods), that doesn’t end the need for belief, nor even the need for something like a church or religious structure. It’s no coincidence that once religion started going on the defensive, from about the late 18th century on, all these alternative, secular religions start appearing. You get Robespierre and the French revolutionaries, and their “Festival of the Supreme Being.” Then in the 19th century, you get positivism, socialism, communism and all the other “-isms.”

Feminism is just a further development of that, and like a lot of its predecessors, it has a tendency, when the chips are down, to start getting very authoritarian and prescriptive about what people can and cannot do and say, and, as here, to try and train or even force them to do and say the right things. That is also something Christianity, at its worst, has very much done, and the root cause is really the same. Christianity has a tendency to keep forgetting that you can’t earn God’s grace. It’s not a reward for your good deeds, however good they are, and forcing people into righteousness is pointless. The secular religions don’t have a God in the first place and they can’t promise redemption through his grace, so all they can offer is “boot-strap your way to being whatever our version of a good person is – if you can’t, we’ll bully you into doing it.”

The paradoxical result is modern feminists who basically behave exactly like mediaeval Popes at the lowest ebb of Catholicism – they sell indulgences. Don’t worry if you can’t stop being the white person you are! Pay for our course and you can clear your conscience for that! Of course, when the Papacy did that, Martin Luther and others came along to restate the importance of faith over works. No-one can or will do that for feminism, or for that matter any of the secular belief systems. Without the supernatural, all you have are flawed human beings on the endless, most likely hopeless path of self-improvement.

You’re probably a pretty awful person, with all kinds of flaws (like reading my endless blog posts). So am I (like writing them). Chances are, neither you nor I will ever get past a lot of those flaws. There are only two honest responses to realising this – stop defining them as flaws or sins, in yourself or others, and get on with life, or head to the nearest church (or synagogue, mosque, whatever). Just don’t, whatever you do, think that you can buy a better self by paying for online courses. Or if you must, at least stop sneering at Scientologists for doing the same.

Posted in News and politics, Psychology, Religion, United States | 1 Comment

What Lebanon taught me

No, I’ve never actually been there, but I did grow up in the 80s, and if there was one place you couldn’t avoid in the 80s it was Lebanon. Or was it “the Lebanon” (yes, there were still a few older people around who called it that)? Lebanon at that time was what Bosnia was in the 90s, Iraq was in the 2000s, and Syria is today – media shorthand for “war-torn hellhole” and mental, if not physical, destination of choice for Western liberals wanting  to indulge Western liberal guilt. It was the problem that never seemed closer to being solved.

Images of the gutted and shell-holed tower blocks of Beirut turned up regularly on news programmes, usually accompanied by much speculation about the fate of several British or American hostages who had vanished into captivity there, and it seemed that every major player in the Middle East drama was fighting a war in Lebanon, either by proxy or directly. Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Iranians, Americans – they all got involved, one way or another, and the main result was more death and destruction for the Lebanese.

Lebanon is “better” now – well, at any rate, there isn’t open warfare being waged on the streets. But it’s still a far from stable place, and the basic reason for this is the extraordinary religious and ethnic diversity of its inhabitants. How many other countries are there where population statistics are so politically controversial that no national census has been carried out since 1932? Recent estimates put the population at about 54% Muslim, 40.4 % Christian and 5.6 % Druze (the Druze are an off-shoot of Islam, sort of, but that’s only as accurate as saying Mormonism is an off-shoot of Christianity, sort of). Even that over-simplifies the reality, given that the Muslims and Christians are of various ethnic origins and each sub-divided into different sects that often really don’t like each other, and that they all have their representative political parties and the parties all have their armed wings.

And that, in my view, is exactly what you get when a nation is so multi-ethnic that no single group has enough of a clear majority over the others to define the mainstream national culture. Lebanon is a great example of a multi-cultural society, and a great example of why that ideal simply does not work in practice. When there is a clear majority culture, its members can agree to tolerate the minorities because the latter clearly are minorities and so aren’t threatening. The minorities are prepared to accept that as the best deal on offer, since they can’t realistically challenge the power of the majority.

When no-one is in enough of a majority, anyone might get their hands on the levers of power, and generally everyone tries to. For a less violent example than Lebanon, look at Belgium, which has frequently become almost ungovernable because of the differences between its two main ethnic groups. “Diversity” is a nice buzz-word, but in reality it usually means conflict, often conflict that can’t be managed peacefully, and that is why it is a terrible idea to voluntarily allow a well-established national majority to become a minority and a country to become so diverse that it becomes ungovernable. And whatever you think of those who voted “Leave” in the Brexit referendum in the UK or for Donald Trump in the US, that is one concern many of them had which was absolutely valid.

You can dispute whether no change in the existing set-up either here or in the US would actually have led to this, or whether Brexit or Trump is the right solution even if there is a problem, but the dark side of diversity is not something that should be denied. Just ask the Lebanese. It’s all very well to wax lyrical about “rainbow nations” and “melting pots”, but real people usually don’t react quite so benignly when faced with different cultures. They tend to stick to their own and to those who are like them.

People can learn to tolerate what is different, but whether or not it might be more moral of us to do so, we’ll probably never truly love it. Where there never was an accepted mainstream majority culture or even where there are fears, even inaccurate fears, that there soon might not be, we’ll probably stop even being tolerant, and that really explains a lot of what’s happened in politics over the past year or so.

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