Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Extremism Isn't a Thing

Further bolstering my theory that anyone who describes themselves as a researcher on extremism is a fucking idiot, Eoin Lenihan has been caught with his pants down in his recent "anti-antifa" study (probably also deserves scare quotes) and the conspiratarian sphere is not happy.

This Fucking Idiot

Once known on Twitter as @ProgDad until being banned, Eoin Lenihan secretly rebranded as an online extremism researcher, though unaffiliated with any existent organization or university. After publishing a dubious network graph purporting to demonstrate unseemly collusion between anti-fascists and journalist who cover anti-fascists, this unknown extremism expert was outed as the banned troll @ProgDad.

Still, the right wing media ecosystem latched onto the claims laid out in Lenihan's thread detailing the conclusions of his purported research. His history of being a notorious right wing troll went unnoticed by the right.

Then Lenihan upped his confidence game. He took to the pages of the Quillette (does the Quillette have pages?) to summarize his findings. Oddly enough, this article spends little time on his actual research methodology than it does pointing out a few journalists that he says aren't hard enough on antifa.

Then something funny happened. Reporting for CJR, Jared Holt decided to ask some apparently unwelcome questions such as "Has this research been fact-checked?" and "Where is the data necessary to corroborate these findings?"

The first question was met with a cold shoulder from the Quillette, but the second one turned into a funny story. In his attempt to prevent replication of his findings, Lenihan decided to lie. Lenihan said he had submitted the research to a journal and thus couldn't corrupt the peer review process by releasing the data. No matter that he summarized his findings complete with diagrams on both Twitter and a right wing magazine/blog, the data was a secret.

So again, some concerned journalists did what concerned journalists ought to do–they asked questions. This time it was Elizabeth King asking whether Lenihan's peer review story held water. The result should surprise no one who has had to weather grad school.

So Elizabeth asked the editor of the journal Lenihan begrudgingly identified as the one he had submitted to. The editor's response was...well, predictable.

As journalists kept digging the rabbit hole of lies only kept going deeper. His job history, it turned out, was also a lie. Patrick Strickland served up some sweet tea:

A lot of folks have been going after the low-hanging fruit on this one to say that (rightly so) this is another example of the far right whipping themselves up into a frenzy over a salacious lie about the left. This kind of shit has gotten pizza restaurants held up at gunpoint, etc.

To me this speaks to the tendency of the media in general to believe any salacious lie from an "extremism expert." All they care about is violence (unless the state is doing it) and never apply their extremism label to historically violent revolutionaries like George Washington. The project of "extremism research" is founded entirely on a blindness to the status quo.

Prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses is extreme. Insisting on a privatized healthcare system responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths annually is extreme. Cheerleading for an asymmetrical war of retribution is extreme. But these positions will never get centrists labelled "extremists." The reason is because extremism isn't a thing.