Monday, October 8, 2018

Best Friends for Fascism

Journalist Elizabeth King published a piece in Truthout which very much resembles a piece I wrote for Jewish Currents last year. In it, she makes the case, as I did, that befriending fascists just allows them to have friends in spite of their fascism. Unlike my article, she points to some failed attempts at befriending nazis:

Writer Quinn Norton was briefly hired then let go from a position with The New York Times this year after tweets came to light in which she spoke favorably of a now-notorious American neo-Nazi called “weev” (whose real name is Andrew Auernheimer). Norton had referred to Auernheimer as her “friend.” Auernheimer, who co-runs the Daily Stormer, a website that is massively popular with neo-Nazis, appears on white nationalist podcasts and incessantly calls for genocide against non-white people.

Despite all this, Norton found it appropriate to maintain a friendship with Auernheimer. “I have been friends with various neo-nazis in my time, yes” Norton tweeted when asked about her relationship with Auernheimer in 2014. “I have never agreed with them, and I’ve been clear on that.”

This latter statement in particular exemplifies a sort of “holier-than-thou” position that fascist-adjacent people sometimes deploy in order to skirt accountability for their relationships. In attempting to show that she, a good person, can be friends with a Nazi and still be good herself, Norton is also attempting to show that she is above the peskiness of partisan biases: the ultimate tolerant liberal.

However, other tweets where Norton used the n-word also recirculated amid the public outcry that accompanied her hiring at the Times, as did a 2013 Medium post where she called Nazi leader John Rabe her “personal patron saint of moral complexity.” Rabe was a leading figure in Nazi Germany, and also helped thousands of Chinese people avoid being killed during the Holocaust. That is, there are at least two Nazis about which Quinn has kind things to say. Still, Norton also claimed on Twitter in February amid all this backlash that on the rare occasions she still speaks to Auernheimer, she brings up “the racism” and attempts to address it with him.

Even if Auernheimer were open to leaving the Nazi movement, and even if Norton were herself a staunch anti-racist, it’s not only a matter of disagreeing “with the racism” when it comes to helping fascists change their ways. Indeed, if Norton had hoped to somehow neutralize Auernheimer’s hate or make the world safer via a friendship with Auernheimer, she failed spectacularly. Auernheimer is still a prominent player in the fascist scene and shows no sign of giving up on the movement any time soon.

This is in no small part because it’s actually quite difficult to deradicalize a neo-Nazi, and the process has to start with a genuine desire or need to change on the part of the fascist.
Feels vindicating.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

On Supermen: Fascism and Vigilantism

Been thinking a bit about this snippet of an article I wrote for Public Seminar last summer:

What we see then in the use of “violence” is really a distinction between who gets to lay a claim to legitimate public coercion. The police are expected to use extraordinary measures to prevent any social disruption — from physical altercations to feeding the homeless in a public park. Doing so as a lay citizen, even through the consent of a larger community body, is seen as an ex ante violation of a higher natural law (even if not a violation of the actual law) of the distribution of legitimate physical coercion.

Transgression of this principle provides the basis for most superhero franchises. These characters, by virtue of centering the rationale for their righteous vigilantism, occupy a liminal space between guardian of the peace and social menace. Such a moral system is only sustainable through the artifice of the story’s narrator who ultimately wants readers to see the hero as good and thus constructs conflict resolution to support that. In reality, this moral system is where we locate fascist ideologies.

Fascist ideologies are like superheroism in that they take self-righteousness to be equivalent to general righteousness so long as vigilantism proves successful. More successful is the vigilante whose success accords him a loyal following. Unlike most superhero stories, real-life humans are prone to error without a sufficient social basis to check their hypotheses. This is evident in the proliferation of peer-review in academic literature; executive boards in corporate and non-profit enterprises; and of course the deliberative form of government that has become increasingly the norm since the eighteenth century.
Perhaps there is a little fascist in all of us. That voice that would make everything as it should be if not for societal strictures. That sense of moral indignation that one is prepared to do what society needs but does not want.

This is the locus of fascism. The executive sweeping away the degeneracy without sentiment. Disconnected from society as a true elite he grants no special favors. He perceives the social moral matrix and applies it ruthlessly, transgressing against that same moral matrix to do so.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Nazi in Hiding Disavows Nazis in Public

After a brief honeymoon of solidarity between The Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer's wing of the alt-right, it seems that Anglin is once again a negative nancy. Today Anglin published a blog post entitled "Official Daily Stormer Position: Don't Go to 'Unite the Right 2' - We Disavow" which self-explanatory as the title is, the reasoning is revealing.

Anglin give three major reasons: the doxxing is dangerous, the numbers are embarrassing, and the violence is off-putting. Rather than attempting to gather in public, Anglin advocates a retreat to the internet and underground organizing.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Stupid Things About Holocaust Denial On Facebook

So Mark Zuckerberg stepped in it, this time seeming to insist that Holocaust denial not be removed from Facebook despite how personally detestable it is to him. For Zuckerberg, what matters is intent to denigrate rather than merely spreading misinformation. However, Holocaust denial is part of a long-term strategy to recruit people to national socialism.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A comment on the Raworth-Milanovic debate

A friendly critique of Kate Raworth's book Doughtnut Economics by Branko Milanovic on the Brave New Europe blog has locked the two in a heated debate. One point of contention, has the two in a war of art references, Giotto's "St. Francis" versus Rodin's "Gates of Hell." This rhetorical sticking point appears to be a debate over nature versus nurture. While Raworth appears to regard such a debate sufficient to prove her point, Milanovic appears to take a more structural view. However, in his rejoinder to Raworth's reply, Milanovic plays to Raworth's critique on the question of human nature rather than reasserting his own.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Who Will Disrupt the Disruptors? A Review of Live Work Work Work Die

The final words of Corey Pein's Live Work Work Work Die are, "Off with their heads." In an engaging, hilarious, and gutwrenching first person account of the netherworld of Silicon Valley startup culture, Pein implores the reader to consider seriously the titans of tech are leading us into. By his account, it is a highly stratified society in which the toiling masses take turns pretending that they are among the tech elite.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

13 Reasons Why You're Probably Annoying Your Suicidal Friend

As someone who has been suicidal as long as they remember having emotions, I'm plenty familiar with the sorts of things wanting-to-live people think are helpful for suicidal people to hear. Turns out those things are actually just helpful for life-lovers to hear themselves say. Here's a list of 13 such pre-mortem faux pas and how to avoid them.