Nuclear Fallout

I only write on holidays now.

There’s a parade impeding traffic nearby in celebration of the millions of men (and, in recent years, a few really weird women) who — willingly or via conscription — traveled overseas on the orders of other violent, authoritarian men in order to kill (and rape and torture) people in one of the nearly countless wars the US has instigated or horned its way into. War always has been and always will be the province of men who demand obeisance, crave domination, and have no compunction about the physical and psychological damage their violent whims cause to other human beings. The war impulse doesn’t materialize out of thin air; authoritarian men learn authoritarianism from other authoritarian men, and nearly all men are authoritarians because they’re accustomed to a world ordered around their desires.

The fundamentals of children’s personalities and their understanding of how to relate to other people are formed by the time they enter school. Gendered behaviors become ingrained in early childhood; girls learn to suppress their personalities and opinions, to take up as little literal and metaphorical space as possible, and to consider everyone’s needs and comfort before their own, while boys learn to despise everything associated with femininity, to do everything they can to force their will onto the world around them, to push boundaries, to expect. The degree of male authoritarianism they’re exposed to — in the home, via popular media, by simply looking around — will determine in large part what degree of authoritarianism boys will exhibit toward anyone they perceive as falling below them in the social order. The degree of male authoritarianism girls are exposed to will determine to a similar degree how little they will value themselves and how cowed they will be by men and their whims.

In theory, authoritarian patriarchy — the absolute rule of the father — in the nuclear family is supposed to produce ideal male workers (dependent on the company for their continued household authority), patriotic soldiers, and compliant, agreeable wives (and/or cheap and docile labor). The institution is and has historically been protected by men’s self-serving division of social life into the realms of the public and the private, the latter being the sacrosanct purview of male heads of household, to be intruded upon only in the most egregious of circumstances (and rarely even then). This arrangement has been slowly breaking down over the course of the last few decades, but we ain’t there yet, and we certainly haven’t emerged from under the legacy of the era in which these institutions and the dividing line between public and private were considered inviolable.

Assuming father figures behaved like Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, this arrangement has historically only seemed noxious to feminists (and, in rare cases, anti-capitalist and anti-war activists, though few of them seem to understand or care how this functions). It works great for men, the managerial class, and the government. But when men all tacitly agree that a man’s home is his castle, there is no check on how despotic and deranged the king of the castle can become and almost no telling how far the effects of the “private” sphere can ripple outward into the “public” world.

My maternal grandmother Maria* died when my mom was seventeen, thirteen years before I was born, when she was crossing a street on New Year’s Eve and was hit by a car, after which my mom was taken in by the sympathetic mother of one of her friends. I only met my maternal grandfather Chuck* once for a few minutes, when I was eleven and he was enfeebled by old age and disease. He died about a year later and my mom seemed simultaneously relieved and nonchalant, which I found peculiar given my attachment to my own father.

I knew there was a reason I had never met my mom’s two older brothers, Dale* and Bob*, and had only met her two older sisters, Sarah* and Deborah*, and their adult children once when I was a toddler; details were slim, but she told me on the many occasions when I asked why we spent holidays with my dad’s family and not hers that I was lucky I didn’t know them, the PG version. Reaching adulthood — in addition to inaugurating the horror of hearing my parents tell dirty jokes without whispering the punchlines — brought with it top family secret clearance.

The king of the castle my mom grew up in — even when his wife and children were the only breadwinners within it — behaved like a whiskey-fueled Ivan the Terrible. He routinely brutally beat and sexually assaulted my grandmother in front of their children, abused my uncles so severely that Bob lost several of his toes, and almost definitely sexually abused my aunts and mother (I don’t push when my mom drops hints). Because my mom was fourteen years younger than her oldest sibling, she got to witness her oldest brother Dale unload that physical and sexual abuse onto his own children when he moved them into the house and allowed his mother to support him and them until her death; the apple moved in with the tree and helped suck the last of the nutrients out of the ground.

Both of my mom’s sisters, having had no contrary examples, married abusive monsters who beat them and their children, and Bob ended up dying a homeless, mentally disturbed alcoholic on the street in San Francisco. Lord knows how, but my mom was the only one who escaped the family curse, probably in part because she finally witnessed a functional family when her friend’s mother took her in and she subsequently made the decision to do whatever she had to to avoid what she had grown up immersed in.

I saw my aunt Sarah when I was in my twenties and she was nearing death, and she was the most pitiful being I’ve ever encountered in my life. Here was a woman in her late sixties who had survived unspeakable abuse at the hands of her own father, only to move on to a husband who was just as bad. Her own children physically abused her and had stripped her home of everything in it that was worth more than a nickel. She was completely alone, the paid “caregiver” who spent the entire day sitting on her ass and blowing smoke all over her notwithstanding. That she managed to smile at me nearly knocked me over.

By my count, my mom and her four siblings begat at least fifteen children. I’m the youngest by at least a decade, and I’m also the only one who isn’t either a chronic victim of domestic violence, a homeless drug addict, or a violent criminal of one sort or another. Two of Dale’s sons, Joseph* and Allen*, are serving triple life sentences for three counts each of first degree rape and kidnapping, crimes they committed together after they had been convicted of rape and other felonies in another state fourteen years prior. They’re also on a short list of suspects for over forty unsolved murders in the metropolitan area in which they were arrested. One of their sisters was a prostitute in the same neighborhood in which they stalked their victims. The oxy plugs and wife beaters who round out the clan pale by comparison, but I no longer imagine that I’m missing much by not attending family events.

One violent, authoritarian man with no self-control directly destroyed the lives of his wife and four of his children and severely damaged the psyche of the fifth, and indirectly destroyed the lives of all but one of his grandchildren (and, surely, of most of his great-grandchildren). One of his sons directly destroyed the lives of his wife and all nine of his children, two of whom directly destroyed the lives of at least four women they violently raped (and there is no fucking way there aren’t more). It is nearly impossible to quantify the exponential toll this piece of shit took on the world, all by himself, from a position of zero economic power, simply because his maleness conferred upon him the social prerogative to do it.

This is admittedly an extreme example, but it isn’t as if it’s rare. Domestic violence, misogyny, and general male authoritarianism are hereditary global pandemics that resist cures because they’re shielded by systemic male supremacy, the public/private dichotomy (which, by the way, also shields men’s porn use and prostitution from scrutiny), and the lionization of the nuclear family that stubbornly persist despite decades of effort. Male supremacist societies and authoritarian men produce insecure, angry boys who simultaneously kowtow to more powerful men and shit all over women, children, and men they feel hold less social power than they do. They produce fearful, self-loathing girls who acquiesce to and collaborate with societal and interpersonal misogyny. And they’re responsible for very nearly all violence, up to and including war.

There may be a silver lining here. It’s obvious to me, from personal experience, that nurture can dominate nature in some cases. If the culture of male authoritarianism and supremacy can be overthrown, it will be when it exerts itself in full, brazen public view, and we are there.

*Fake names, obviously.

The World of “Witchcraft”

It’s Halloween, and witchcraft is a hot topic (haha, get it?) these days, so let’s talk about it. I’ll leave the history of witch hunts in pre-modern Europe and the US aside for the moment — since those topics are being covered like whatever Kanye West is doing this week — and focus instead on something more immediate and hence — since it could theoretically be ameliorated — more important.

“‘We’re women and we’re the weaker people; that’s why we are here.”

Resident of a “witch camp” in Ghana

Witch camps — really, labor camps — only exist in northern Ghana and are populated chiefly by elderly widows who have been accused of witchcraft in their home villages, often by relatives using the accusation as a means to take over their deceased husbands’ property. Because, you know, why would an old woman who had served her husband like a slave for decades deserve to keep anything that her unpaid labor allowed him to accumulate?

Since an accusation of witchcraft comes with absolute ostracization and often brutal mistreatment including rape, torture, and murder, these women flee to witch camps where local chieftans offer them protection in exchange for labor and money. That’s right. Elderly widows, their lives endangered by the cupidity of their own relatives, get to pay for the privilege of performing backbreaking fieldwork, which often requires that they make and sell food items on the street once they finish their day in the fields so they can pay for their safety. And they’re not glamping. Many of them walk several miles a day to collect water since the huts they’re crammed into don’t have plumbing of any kind. I’ll give you one guess as to what kind of health care they’re offered.

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(Naturally, western tourists stop in by the busload to have a gawk at these “witches.”)

They’re the lucky ones. There are no witch camps outside of northern Ghana, which means even that dismal remedy is available only to a select few.

In sub-Saharan Africa, anthropologists have identified a “multi-crisis” that afflicts much of the subcontinent and has been growing over the course of the last three decades. The legacies of colonialism and the arrival of the culture of capitalism with all of the economic insecurity and jealousy that it foments have led to disruptions in traditional means of survival and in community and kinship structures. At the same time, the continent has been ravaged by warlordism, superlative poverty, public health crises including HIV/AIDS, and the strange constellations of political and economic corruption and abuse that attend the extraction of the region’s resources as repayment for exploitative development loans.

The admixture of indigenous beliefs in hidden spirit worlds and the virulent misogyny of the syncretized/”Africanized” proselytizing religions that have come to dominate the region — Islam to a lesser degree, and various stripes of regressive evangelical Christianity to a much greater degree — leave women and children open to accusations of witchcraft when their communities or families suffer misfortunes that appear to be inexplicable or to lack obvious or feasible remedies, misfortunes that vary from a bad dream to the wrong kind of weather to an unexpected illness to a sudden change in financial fortunes.

Some of them are simply exiled to face the dangers unaccompanied women and children endure, but they’re often beaten, whipped, gang raped, and tortured to death in their own communities. In just six months of 2017, for example, 479 elderly Tanzanian women were brutally murdered by hysterical mobs for the crime of being female and no longer of use to men or the market.

Children are, however, of use to men and the market, at least up to a point.

Over the course of the past twenty years, witchcraft accusations levied against children have exploded in urban areas in Africa and are increasing by the day. Pentecostal and revivalist ministers help to legitimize witchcraft accusations made against children in their communities and offer their parents expensive “exorcism” programs comprising repeated psychological and physical abuse including starvation, beatings, prolonged isolation, forced ingestion of poisons, and gasoline being poured into their eyes and ears. They often die during the course of their “treatment.”

These pastors have arrogated to themselves the authority to identify child witches, to oversee their “treatment,” and to collect hefty fees for their efforts. Christian ministers advertise their services via billboards, radio, and television commercials and spread the fear of child witchcraft among the pubic in an effort at self-enrichment so brazen it would make Joel Osteen wince. These pastors, with their wealth, connections to international networks, and semi-divine status as prophets, carry enormous power over the futures of the children they come into contact with; once they’ve “confirmed” a child as a witch, the stigma that follows leaves the child open to continued suspicion, repeated accusations, and a permanent state of vulnerability and exclusion. And, conveniently, repeat visits to the pastor for future exorcisms.

Again, we’re talking about lucky witches, though, whose parents can afford and are willing to pay for repeated “exorcisms.” Orphans, step-children, children born with developmental disabilities or deformities, and gifted or otherwise “troublesome” children are often labeled witches or sorcerers by their families or communities who can’t (or don’t want to) care for them. And, because sub-Saharan Africa is the world region most devastated by the legacies of imperialism and the contemporary realities of neoliberalism, there are a lot of reasons they can’t.

What do you think becomes of children who are shunned and abandoned by their families and communities in regions that suffer from extreme poverty? They’re still of some ephemeral use to men and the market — just different men and a different kind of market — and their exclusion from their communities leaves them with absolutely no protection from human traffickers, corrupt and exploitative authorities, and depraved men in general. The vast majority end up living on the streets of major African cities. The boys survive by begging, selling cheap goods on the street, petty theft, indentured mine work, and selling drugs. In Central Africa, they’re also vulnerable to impressment as child soldiers.

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The girls are — surprise — trafficked abroad or funneled directly into local sexual slavery, the average age at which this begins being six or seven years old. The police and other governmental authorities not only offer no help, but are often the chief agents of exploitation that these girls come into contact with. Their johns — despite the widespread awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa — routinely either pay slightly more than the average price of $1-3 per paid rape to eschew condom use or, being that they’re adults raping children, they often just refuse to use condoms and refuse to pay at all.

“Sometimes men come and force themselves on me, and after, they go without leaving any money. That often happens. I started doing this work when I was ten years old. It’s not a pretty life. I’d like to go somewhere else and study.”

— Lumbashi, age 18, in an interview with Human Rights Watch

Lumbashi, being 18 years old, can be considered one of the “lucky” few children accused of witchcraft to reach adulthood. According to UNICEF, the majority are either starved or murdered before they even reach the streets of urban capitals, or they succumb to starvation, die of AIDS and other preventable diseases, or are murdered with impunity within a few years of being accused and exiled to the streets.

Whether a crazed mob carries it out immediately or it’s effected by the conditions in which discarded human beings exist, an accusation of witchcraft is almost always a death sentence for a woman or child in sub-Saharan Africa.


Let’s hop to another region of the world no one seems to care about, Papua New Guinea. The country has been absolutely devastated by foreign exploitation and forced integration into the market system and suffers from extreme poverty and social chaos as a result. In the past several years, gruesome murders of women and girls over accusations of “sorcery” (sanguma) have spread from rural areas to larger towns, including the capital of Port Moresby. As usual, the violence is aimed at the most vulnerable members of the community:

“[A]ccusations of witchcraft were usually levelled at those on the bottom of the social hierarchy, most often women who lived on the margins of society — the elderly, disabled, or those who had married into the village.”

The killings usually begin with a woman or girl being accused of causing the death or illness of a member of their community. They are then tortured by being beaten, cut with knives, whipped, or burned into providing a “confession,” which then provides justification for even more brutal abuse and murder.

Two recent noteworthy cases highlight just how ghastly PNG witch hunts have become. A 20-year-old woman named Kepari Leniata was accused in 2013 of causing the death of a young boy by means of witchcraft, after which she was set upon by an angry mob and “stripped, tortured with a hot iron rod, doused in petrol, and burned on a pile of rubbish and car tyres.”

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Less than a year ago, Leniata’s six-year-old daughter was also accused of witchcraft — serving by dint of association with her mother as a scapegoat for the community’s unexplained misfortunes — after which she was “tortured with hot knives.” The girl survived and her story became a national and international sensation, which prompted PNG’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, to acknowledge the reality of modern witch hunts in his country:

“In the modern day sanguma is not a real cultural practice, it is false belief and involves the violent abuse and torture of women and girls by pathetic and perverted individuals.”

The PNG government, however, lacks the resources or the will to do anything about the increase in violence against women and girls accused of witchcraft. Women and young girls are trafficked from all over PNG to Port Moresby and to logging and mining camps where they’re sold into sexual slavery in brothels frequented by migrant workers and the male employees of multinational corporations that have bought the rights to the nation’s natural resources. Women are considered commodities in this new economy, and accusations of witchcraft serve as an expedient means of disposing of them once their value has been extracted.

Their male family members sell them into sexual slavery, so it’s not exactly shocking to hear that these same men use accusations of sorcery to control women within the home:

“Sorcery accusations all too often become a form of family violence, with abusive husbands threatening or using sorcery accusations to silence and control women.”

If a woman’s husband finds himself a new and improved wife, what better way to rid himself of the troublesome old one than accusing her of witchcraft (or threatening her with an accusation if she refuses to accept being abandoned)? Once he has discarded her, she is rendered even more vulnerable to accusations of sorcery since she exists outside of the traditional social order.

As is the case in sub-Saharan Africa, men in PNG suffering new forms of economic and cultural insecurity and exploitation turn on the most vulnerable members of their communities and facilitate and profit from their sexual exploitation, and accuse them of using dark magic to create the misfortunes they either can’t understand or feel powerless to confront. Misogyny comes together with confused rage to exclude unprotected women and girls from the community, after which they are eligible for the most ghoulish forms of exploitation and violence.


Austerity, structural readjustment programs, and the resultant growing poverty in Asian countries have resulted in huge spikes in human trafficking from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and elsewhere (including Africa, of course) to the US, Europe, and the Middle East (especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE). If someone were to put a gun to my head and tell me to pick one of those regions to be accused of witchcraft in, I wouldn’t choose the Middle East.

Women who migrate or are trafficked to Saudi Arabia as domestic laborers find themselves at the complete mercy of their employers, mercy which is often lacking. They are routinely forced to work more than 18 hours a day, are rarely if ever afforded days off, are whipped and beaten for the flimsiest of perceived failures, and have no recourse to state aid when the abuse becomes unbearable. They’re often undocumented and do not speak Arabic, and even if they do approach authorities to allege abuse, they are open to counter-accusations of witchcraft that put their lives in danger.

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It’s noteworthy that the Saudi government inaugurated its “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” in 2009, since it coincides with the drastic rise in numbers of female foreign domestic workers entering the country.

By 2011, the unit had created a total of nine witchcraft-fighting bureaus in cities across the country, according to Arab News, and had “achieved remarkable success” in processing at least 586 cases of magical crime, the majority of which were foreign domestic workers from Africa and Indonesia…

In a country where public observance of any religion besides Islam is strictly forbidden, foreign domestic workers who bring unfamiliar traditional religious or folk customs from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Africa, or elsewhere can make especially vulnerable and easy targets. “If they see these [folk practices or items] they immediately assume they’re some kind of sorcery or witchcraft.”

Accusers are guaranteed anonymity by the Saudi government, leaving foreign domestic workers especially vulnerable to retaliatory accusations made by their employers when they flee or report abuse:

“Recently, all family members has started to suffer from fainting and epileptic fits. After the housemaid fled, we found magic items planted in various part of our house,” the unnamed man said, quoted by Sabq Arabic language daily.

“I swear that we do not want to hurt her but to stop her evil acts against us and others,” said the man, who published a picture of the 31-year-old maid in newspapers.

I’ll bet.

Make no mistake: the Saudi state actively pursues these women, and though some of them are merely lashed and imprisoned, the vast majority are convicted on the shadowy basis of a male judge’s whim and sentenced to death.

The most economically, politically, and socially vulnerable women in the world are trafficked to or migrate to one of the richest countries on Earth out of desperation, only to be treated like chattel. When they display the slightest resistance to being brutally dehumanized, the Saudi state comes to the rescue of their abusers under the guise of protecting the socio-religious order from the “danger” these powerless and completely isolated women purportedly pose via labeling them as witches. It’s a tidy system that allows for the demonization and disposal, yet again, of women who have lost what little value they had to men and their market.

Spooky, huh?

After the revolution, everything is gonna be so dank.

Right after the 2016 election, several of my well-intentioned (but comically misinformed) male friends attempted to console me with the argument that Trump’s presidency would only hasten “the revolution” and was hence a net good. It wasn’t a comfort. Lemme tell ya why.

Accelerationism, whether of the pseudo-intellectual cyberpunk or the vacant Bernie Bro stripe, is the privilege of the comfortable and clueless. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to check out on the Rob Zombie-produced stage play that is contemporary electoral politics, but only someone who has never had to consider the idea of being in arbitrary physical danger (and has never been exposed to detailed information about the history of large-scale revolutions) could flippantly bandy about the idea that we’re due for a “revolution” without thinking about what that might entail. Hence, most lefty chatter about “the revolution” emanates from overconfident white dudes who have never even been poor.

The variety of lefty “revolutionary” movements these days is about as broad as it was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (probably more so), but there’s a key difference: lefty revolutionaries in earlier eras created well-elaborated critiques of capitalism as it functioned at the time and theorized alternative arrangements that at least made an attempt at plausibility. Another fairly important characteristic of these movements was the recognition that economics, politics, and culture were not discrete realms and that any revolutionary program that hoped to achieve meaningful change had to address all three. (Nota bene: they all still eventually failed, probably because none of them bothered to include women as anything but dupes/tokens.)

One of the keys to the capitalist world system’s increased success in the aftermath of these movements was the construction of conceptual walls between culture, the economy, and politics in the academy and in the minds of the populace. Capitalism is agile and adaptable. It functions almost nothing like it did during its brief period of fragility, which very few half-stepping neo-revolutionaries seem to realize. Hence, anyone who espouses one of these proliferating and laughably incomplete ideologies is too stupid to follow anywhere, even on social media.

I don’t want to sound like Jordan Peterson or anything, but “let’s burn everything down and then figure out what to do” just isn’t a sound program for the future, especially given the history of how women have fared during revolutions and their aftermaths, the unpredictable nature of revolutions themselves, and the absolutely ludicrous premises of most contemporary revolutionary movements. (Ever heard of brocialism or manarchism?)

Sure, there’s a chance that things could get better “after the revolution” (depending on what revolution we’re talking about), but the far more likely outcome is things becoming exponentially worse (especially for women and children) in the short and medium term and, once the dust settles, a much worse system emerging out of the vacuum that would result from the lack of thorough post-revolution planning.

And let us not forget the historical leitmotif of radical women being assured by dishonest male revolutionaries that all they needed to do was sideline their own concerns for the duration of the revolution itself, after which — no, I swear — all of that “women’s stuff” would automatically be resolved in women’s favor. Ding Ling comes to mind.

I’m not too worried about the fallout of any of these aspirational revolutions, though, because they’re all about as likely to occur as Law and Order is likely to be taken off the air. It’s pretty hard to imagine any of the infinite number of anarcho-whatever or Marxist groups on social media emerging as armed mass movements capable of overthrowing the US (or any other) government. It’s hard to imagine any of them even taking over a student council group at UC Santa Cruz.

Seriously, why are people still arguing the finer points of dead revolutionary ideologies? Marxism has limited functionality as a system of critical analysis of capitalism. Anarchism correctly (when it’s actually understood — a rarity) questions hierarchical social arrangements. That’s about it. Marxism and anarchism are now forms of white male identity politics in my book (and so are a lot of other groupings — but that’s another post).

Watching people call each other “tankies” and argue over Trotskyism on social media is like listening to a bunch of teenage boys argue about the officiating of a Super Bowl they didn’t even see. And it’s about as likely to lead to political change. I know that fantasizing about participating in a violent revolution of one sort or another appeals to people raised on first-person shooters and Michael Bay movies, but it ain’t gonna happen (at least not in the way they think).

There are exceptions, but the tide of neo-identity politics has hamstrung most would-be revolutionaries on the left and the alt-right and trapped them in the splintered realm of cultural antagonism and archaic politico-economic pedantry, leaving economic and political structures immune to disruption. When some faction of the rabble gets a little too restive for comfort, the elites drop a meaningless policy concession on them and get right back to business, and this new-and-improved identity politics continues to serve as a buffer between the masses and the true beneficiaries of the neoliberal global order, especially the rapacious neoconservative/neofascist bloc in the US.

Studying and taking account of culture, geopolitics, economics, feminism, and (ideally) world-systems theory isn’t quite as fun as ripping on people whose social values appear clownish, but if your revolutionary program ain’t doing all of the above, it ain’t doing shit but creating meme fodder. The atomization of political culture and the pitting of tribalized factions against each other in a series of increasingly stupid and violent culture wars were intentional moves by the beneficiaries of the global order. They cannot be successfully combated while we’re combating each other over a bunch of manufactured “outrageous” bullshit and impractical esoterica, and that’s the whole point.

(I don’t wanna hear any nonsense about feminism being a form of identity politics. “Women” isn’t a term that coheres around a manufactured identity, it’s a material reality. We’re more than half the population globally, and extending human rights and proportional political participation to half of the population is not tokenism. This is also not a traditional lefty “class before race/sex/etc.” argument but a “class and race/sex/etc.” one. That dichotomy/opposition is a neoliberal falsehood that benefits no one but those elites we were just talking about. Oh, and lefty white dudes.)

When Democrats spend their “mental energy” drawing elaborate analogies between Trump and Voldemort, when Libertarians and Anarchists concoct an opium-nod of a future based on digital Monopoly money, when Republicans envision an unhinged libertine leading the nation into an extended episode of Leave It to Beaver despite all evidence to the contrary, when Marxists/Socialists delude themselves into believing a proletariat still even fucking exists, they’ve all rendered themselves NPCs. It’s called intellectual decadence, and it’s one of the chief indicators of a system in collapse.

It’s an unfortunate and repetitive occurrence; systems in collapse are ripe for intelligent manipulation, but only intelligent and manipulative people seem to recognize and act on that, which is exactly what the nihilist/realist moneyed class is doing in order to ensure its own survival. They know what’s coming down the pike and they expect the culture wars (that should become Civil War 2 any day now) they’ve fomented to distract everyone else while they enact their own silent revolution that ends with them all sipping the last of the world’s Moët on man-made, floating resort islands and laughing while we kill each other over water.

Culture can and probably must be the starting point of a comprehensive, prescriptive political theory that could lead humanity out of the morass, but only if it starts from scratch from a set of ethical reference points that completely supplants tribalism and the politics of fear and extends outward to politics and the economy. You know, weird shit like empathy, self-control, dignity, curiosity, critical thinking, the recognition of the humanity of every human being. Identity politics ceases to be necessary if we aren’t focused on fighting over crumbs bestowed by a divide-and-conquer governing/corporate elite. Easy, right?

In the meantime, go ahead and proactively fight for the lesser of whatever set of evils present themselves. Nihilism is lame.

A Processing of What “Due Process” Means Is Due

It’s a bit difficult to discern what kind of argument Emily Yoffe is trying to make in her recent article in The Atlantic entitled “Does Anyone Still Take Both Sexual Assault and Due Process Seriously?” what with the haze of redundant and disingenuous proclamations of sympathy for sexual assault survivors and all. Her argument, which is further obfuscated by ill-considered appeals to the holy juridical tenet of “due process,” appears to be that sexual assault is now purely a partisan issue, which threatens to undermine justice itself. (Yoffe has been harping on this issue for years, straddling the thick line between “I empathize with survivors, I really do” and “this is a zero-sum game in which believing women makes men victims.”)

In reference to the Kavanaugh hearings, Yoffe argues, “Republicans — adopting the rhetorical style of the president — dismiss accusers. Democrats mock the idea that fairness and due process are necessary for the accused.” The tragic result: “Democrats’ disregard for unbiased and impartial fact-finding in their rush to embrace the slogan #BelieveSurvivors may actually have helped confirm Kavanaugh.”

Let’s start with the obvious.

I’m not sure which Ivy’s law school Yoffe attended, but she must have skipped the lecture on the difference between a criminal trial and a job interview. I know I’m not making a novel point here, but when was the last time you filed a Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment due process case against a potential employer who opted not to hire you? Let us review the concept of “due process” as enshrined in the Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Unless one considers a Supreme Court seat “private property” that had been bestowed upon Kavanaugh extralegally prior to his confirmation hearings, I fail to see a violation here, even had he not been confirmed. (I’d put the odds of a case arguing that a sense of entitlement equates to “private property” coming before the current SCOTUS at 12%, but it has yet to occur and is hence not settled precedent.)

On to the Fourteenth Amendment, which I would like to remind everyone was adopted during Reconstruction in a (failed) attempt to prevent Southern states from de jure re-enslaving African Americans after the Civil War, and was not, indeed, intended to guarantee Yale Law grads their dream jobs:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Kavanaugh, even had his confirmation not been “plowed right through” (oh, the semiotics), would have escaped with his life, continued to rove about the land as his whims dictated, and retained his nearly $1 million in net worth.

Still, according to Yoffe, Democrats’ (admittedly politically-motivated) decision to take Dr. Blasey at her word somehow showed an utter disregard for “due process” rather than a simple (if in some cases feigned) recognition of her humanity while she relived a sexual assault in front of a panel of hysterically hostile men and their female ‘Zonie sicario. And that total contempt for justice on the part of Democratic senators — rather than the GOP smear campaign aimed at Blasey, the White House’s obstruction of the FBI investigation of her allegations, and Mitch McConnell’s sociopathic machinations — explains Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Lady, whose side are you on again?

Oh, right. Men’s. If we take a look back at Yoffe’s ouevre, she seems inordinately concerned with what she terms the “excesses” of the Obama administration’s 2011 expansion of Title IX protections for women on college campuses, enshrined in the famed “Dear Colleague” letter that instructed colleges and universities to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard (meaning, basically, that they were directed to side with the party who seemed more credible) to determine what course of action to take in the event of a sexual misconduct allegation.

Universities do not administer lethal injections, seize students’ assets (of their own accord), or deprive students of their freedom when adjudicating campus sexual assaults, they simply decide how to ensure that they don’t allow their campuses to turn into hostile environments for women. Universities are not “states,” nor do they wield the same forms of power over their students that governmental institutions do over citizens.

Yoffe seems to have failed to make that distinction throughout her tenure as a constitutional law expert for The Atlantic. She went out of her way to track down and interview young men whose lives had been “ruined” by Title IX cases, decrying the lack of “due process” in campus sexual assault proceedings and thus tacitly declaring her fandom of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases which actually do present the possibility of depriving someone of “life, liberty, or property.”

Here’s the thing: campus disciplinary proceedings in sexual misconduct cases are administrative procedures carried out by private or semi-private institutions (state- and federally-funded colleges and universities do not, by dint of that funding, morph into governmental agencies — this fact is settled law). Due process does not attach to administrative procedures, it applies to civil and criminal cases as outlined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that dictate the parameters of governmental action against citizens.

Obviously, Yoffe has no idea what she’s talking about (hey, Atlantic, I’ll take her job if you ever figure that out), so that’ll be enough about her.

(The argument I’m about to make isn’t a completely new one for me, so I apologize for the redundancy if you happen to be one of the zero people who has read everything I’ve ever written.)

What happens when we apply the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal sexual assault cases (never mind in college administrative hearings)? It results roughly in a net of 6% of rapists ever seeing a consequence, that’s what. The presumption of innocence is generally a laudable bit of legal philosophy, as is the guarantee of due process, but something funny happens in rape cases: because the burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” falls onto the prosecution (i.e. the victim), a rape victim is required to prove a negative, that she did not consent to sex. The presupposition, then, is that women wander the Earth in a constant state of consent and that they must prove that they temporarily revoked it for the period of time during which an assault occurred.

Sans a firsthand witness other than the defendant, this absurd requirement applies even when there is DNA evidence and verified injury. Seriously. “She likes it rough” has come to be one of the more common — and successful — defenses against rape charges in which the perpetrator’s DNA has been collected from the victim and she has documented injuries derived from the encounter (thank you, porn industry).

Does anyone believe men don’t know this and act with it in mind? The de facto result of this particular arrangement of legal reasoning and procedure is that rape is legal 94% of the time. Why would Yoffe (or anyone else other than a rapist) be alarmed at the prospect of a disruption of this situation? That was a rhetorical question.

The law works exactly as intended because the law was encoded and elaborated by men, for men. That women are demanding via #MeToo and #BelieveSurvivors that women’s humanity be taken into account in sexual assault proceedings — whether they occur in college administrative hearings, job interviews, civil cases, or even/especially criminal trials — does threaten to upend some of the foundational concepts of our legal system.

And? What’s the problem, again?

Let’s say we were to make one simple move and replace “beyond a reasonable doubt” with “clear and convincing evidence” as the evidentiary standard in criminal sexual assault trials:

According to the Supreme Court in Colorado v. New Mexico, 467 U.S. 310 (1984), “clear and convincing” means that the evidence is highly and substantially more likely to be true than untrue; the fact finder must be convinced that the contention is highly probable.

You know, allow judges and juries to apply common sense when deciding whether an assault has taken place, rather than allowing defense attorneys to undermine victim testimony with irrelevant personal slander about the victim’s fashion sensibility, alcohol consumption, or sexual history, and then giving jurors to believe that that “evidence” holds as much weight as all of the other evidence presented at trial if it creates a “reasonable” doubt. Juries are not, as a rule, “reasonable” when it comes to sexual assault trials because we live — as even ol’ Yoffe will admit — in a misogynistic society in which women are assumed to be manipulative liars and men are assumed to be tellers-of-truth even when they’re obviously lying their fucking faces off (see the Kavanaugh hearing).

That sexual assault trial juries (and judges) cannot be relied on to apply reason can be easily illustrated by comparing rape trials to theft trials. Rarely does a defense attorney convince a judge or jury that the owner of a stolen car loaned it to the thief, because that’s fucking ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous to believe that a woman who has reported a rape to the police, endured a gynecological exam and evidence collection that includes having her genitalia photographed, and withstood recounting the experience in a room full of hostile strangers is probably just a lying whore. But alas.

Perhaps instructing juries as to what “clear and convincing evidence” means might make them behave a little more reasonably (probably not, but it’s worth a shot). Who loses in this arrangement other than premeditated rapists? This is not exactly a radical proposition, nor would applying the “preponderance of evidence” standard be, and neither would necessarily violate the due process clauses of either the Fifth or the Fourteenth Amendments (these standards are already used in some criminal cases).

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” does not derive from the Constitution but from precedent, which renders it open to modification via much simpler means (kinda like Roe is about to be). I am, however, aware that modifying standard of proof precedent to make rape cases easier to prosecute would be well-nigh impossible with the radicalized MRA Supreme Court we’re now saddled with despite the “lack of due process” poor Brett endured.

A Quick Note on Brother Brett

Quick. Does anyone know a single person who is so dedicated to the goals of a national political party that they would willingly place themselves between a rabid, violent mob of anti-abortion zealots and their holy grail? The idea that Dr. Blasey has fabricated her accusation simply to further the goals of the DNC — in spite of the catastrophic consequences to herself, her career, and her family — is absolutely fucking ridiculous.

But about ol’ Brett.

To sum up yesterday’s performance by the Phil Hendrie character who has been nominated to the Supreme Court:

I came away knowing four things about Brett: he played some serious JV ball, he’ll rape anyone he wants to and kick anyone’s ass who dares to mention it, he wants to see the goddamn manager immediately, and the boy fucking loves beer.

I mean, for real. If you took a shot of beer every time Kavanaugh expressed his enthusiasm for drinking beer during that hearing, you would have been as wasted by 4 PM as he was when he tried to rape Dr. Blasey.

It almost doesn’t matter how credible Dr. Blasey’s testimony was (extremely); Kavanaugh demonstrated yesterday that he isn’t intellectually or temperamentally qualified to make a decision about anything save a fantasy football draft.

Brett is an unhinged, wrathful sports hick who is most definitely a rapist (and likely a serial one) and lacks the judiciousness required of an ATV salesman. He delivered his opening statement with the acuity, spittle, and panache of a shitfaced wrestler. Ron “Tater Salad” White — with zero preparation or prior knowledge of the details of the case — could have responded on Kavanaugh’s behalf to the questioning he faced with more grace and eloquence than he did. He either didn’t bother to prepare for questioning at all — in which case he’s winning an unwarranted arrogance contest with Tekashi 6ix9ine — or he did and he’s just a fucking belligerent dunce.

What’s surprising isn’t that Donald Trump nominated this middle-aged frat try-hard or that the contemporary GOP plans to follow him straight to hell. It isn’t even surprising that he managed to wend his way through Yale Law and onto a federal bench (the boys’ club is real). What’s truly shocking is that, after that performance, there remains a single person who can think of him as anything other than the peewee football coach you wouldn’t allow your kid to play for.

I don’t know where this guy belongs, but it’s closer to angrily slamming 32-oz mugs of Pacifico by himself at a corner table at the bar of a Ruby Tuesday than it is to a Supreme Court seat.

I could go on for a few thousand more words, but it’ll have to wait.

The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause

Roy Moore just lost by a mere four votes or so despite the fact that he’s a serial child molester who lives in his own private version of Gunsmoke. The president is a rapist. Every famous dude in America — of every political stripe — has been fired or has stepped down from his job for sexually assaulting someone. Still, while the #metoo movement is laying bare the ubiquity of the abuse that all women face, there is no real concomitant movement to recognize the ubiquity of abusive behavior among men and boys or to determine the source of that behavior.

I’ll tell you a little about the source of that behavior.

Southern California is an exceedingly harsh environment to grow up in. The emotional depravity that seems to emanate from the starkly bright, spiritually empty, inescapably dull, brown landscape isn’t unique in the world, but it stopped seeming natural or unavoidable once I finally left and life, thankfully, ceased to resemble a Bret Easton Ellis novel. After recently reading about the suicide of 13-year-old Rosalie Avila after she had endured years of torment from her peers in Yucaipa — a smallish town just outside of San Bernardino — memories of growing up female in suburban San Diego began to reemerge from whatever part of my mind they have been sequestered in.

Thankfully, for Rosalie’s sake, the content of the social media bullying she endured hasn’t been made public (though I’m sure I could find it were I to make the slightest prurient effort). Still, it wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch to guess that she was terrorized for being brown and female. Everyone knows what form bullying takes when directed at an adolescent girl. Double that for girls of color.

I often wonder how one could quantify the potential, kindness, and brilliance the world loses when it is routinely beaten out of children by their families and by popular culture, and when those children turn around and unleash their anguish on other young victims (and go on to do so as adults). What would Rosalie have become if she had survived the abuse heaped upon her? How many other girls are enduring the same abuse now, and how will it alter their futures? How many imaginations have been snuffed out by the hatred this culture has for young women and people of color? How many little boys who were on track to become decent men have succumbed to the pressure to suppress their decency in favor of the capricious cruelty that adolescent society, the cult of masculinity, and popular media culture promote and reward?

How can these young people be convinced that anything outside of the nightmare they live in exists? What is the mechanism by which some victims of childhood and adolescent abuse survive and come to use their experiences to better the world, and how can it be provided to those who need it the most?

That list of questions makes it sound as though I have no hope for addressing the behavior of the culprits. That’s because I don’t. It’s a rare childhood bully who will even recognize their youthful behavior as a problem when confronted with it in adulthood, probably because emotionally terrorizing others isn’t a behavior that people easily grow out of. That would require a level of self-awareness and empathy that is hard to amass out of thin air. Besides, where would the motivation even come from when the public is too recalcitrant to shift its focus away from victim-blaming and toward the behavior of perpetrators?

Adolescents are routinely exposed to and forced to reckon with behaviors and ideas that are far too harrowing and complex for their young minds to cope with. They all commit and endure cruelties and subjugations that they are completely incapable of comprehending. Some people have argued that this is a result of the lack of purpose and meaning assigned to the life stage of adolescence in Western society. Adolescents are no longer children and aren’t yet adults, existing in a liminal zone of frustration and confusion about why they even exist. There’s nothing to do but emulate and wait, enduring a keen feeling of powerlessness and depersonalization wrought by a materialistic and power-obsessed culture. Cruelty, then, becomes a form of power for people who feel like they’ve been excluded from control over their lives.

Nothing novel there. But there was something peculiar about the social and cultural tenor of Southern California in particular that exacerbated this already noxious reality, and it seems to have metastasized to the entirety of the culture in recent years. When I grew up in Southern California, it was palpably uncool to have feelings of any kind. You didn’t respond to cruelty with tears. You didn’t respond to a reciprocated crush with honest excitement. You maintained the empty, dead demeanor of a sociopath lest you be vulnerable to the terrifying emotional possibilities around every corner. It was also extremely uncool to be intelligent, emotionally or otherwise. You forgot highfalutin words on purpose to prevent the idiot arbiters of coolness from descending upon you with their brutishly stupid rebukes. Everyone was smoothly empty and dull on the surface, their interiority completely invisible if not totally excised.

I think it took me an entire decade to recover. It’s been long enough now that I can afford to reflect on some of it in public, if only for the sake of other women and girls who might need to relate. What I’m about to recount didn’t occur in a trailer park. It wasn’t aberrant. We weren’t “the bad kids.” (Harmony Korine — retch — and Larry Clark were onto something bigger than they realized). This is not an extreme example, but rather the everyday reality that adolescent girls endure in this society until they either die emotionally, actually kill themselves, or rediscover the last glimmer of humanity inside themselves in time to escape and resist.

Sometime near the middle of my sophomore year in high school, I lost the only form of protection teenage girls have from the predations of teenage boys: my boyfriend. Well, I didn’t “lose” him; he decided to sleep with one of my friends while he was watching my parents’ house while we were on vacation. Being only fifteen, I handled it poorly, which means I partied a lot and was susceptible to predatory male attention because having been cheated on had made me doubt my self-worth. Some guy I had had a mild crush on in junior high started paying attention to me. Let’s call him Jack Phillips. At one of many Mickey’s-soaked house parties I attended that winter, I had three too many Hornets and blacked out, only to learn later that Phillips had intercourse with me.

I only discovered this had occurred because it immediately became the talk of the town. Another piece of evidence that something untoward had happened: while hanging out at my best friend’s house playing Toejam and Earl, I discovered a photo of myself and that best friend in which I had been rendered invisible under the etched letters “fuken hor.” I asked him who had done it, and he told me Phillips had, then asked me why I hung out with him. I didn’t know. I was too young to understand the mechanisms at work in my poor decision-making, and I was certainly not emotionally sophisticated enough to shrug it off and recognize Phillips as a psychopath (and an idiot). I mean, I did shrug it off — because that was a social requirement — but I internalized the message in the etching and the idea that Phillips’s stupidity and warped psyche and sexuality were somehow something for me to be ashamed of.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself at yet another party with Phillips. He suggested we drive up to some remote area where teenagers went to party unmolested by parents or cops. I was drunk, I desperately needed to misunderstand the obvious meaning of his treatment of me, and my naivete/denial told me the invitation meant he actually did like me but didn’t know how to express it (dear god, everyone, STOP telling young girls that boys’ abuse is a sign of a crush). We went. He demanded I have sex with him, threatening to leave me at the top of the mountain we had driven up if I didn’t. It was 1993. There were no cell phones. I certainly wasn’t going to knock at the gate of one of the “estates” up there and ask to call my parents to come pick me up, so I started walking downhill. He pulled alongside me and apologized, and I got in the car and let him drunk-drive me home.

That would have been the end of our interactions were it not for the fact that he continued to call me constantly. One night, a friend I’ll call Sarah was spending the night at my house. She had just moved to the area from Utah, which rendered her woefully ill-prepared for the viciousness of a social environment informed more by Sublime lyrics than human decency. She was impressionable and eager to fit in, and for some reason found my interactions with Phillips fascinating. He called while we were sitting in my bedroom drinking yet more Mickey’s (I still can’t explain what I was doing drinking the official fine malt liquor of House of Pain so often; maybe we were white trash) and she told me to invite him over. I did so reluctantly, knowing no good would come of it, and none did.

They ended up having sex in front of me, these two inebriated children with no inkling of the social or emotional consequences of their actions beyond the immediate moment. I didn’t consider it socially acceptable to have obvious feelings about it, so I got up and wandered out into the house so as not to be forced to watch and listen, wandering back in to find Sarah crying after Phillips had climbed back out the window he had climbed in to drive drunk to his next destination. We went to sleep hugging each other, both engulfed in a confused fog of shame and fear.

The next day, she was an absolute mess. Shortly after she went home, she attempted to kill herself by taking upwards of 100 ibuprofen. Her mother called my parents to ask what had happened and they were astounded, having slept through the pointless drunken destruction that had occurred a mere 75 feet from their bedroom door. They naturally demanded that I tell them what went on, but I refused out of shame and some sense of obligation to protect Sarah from the intervention of adults I was sure could not possibly understand what she (or I) was going through. It netted me a month without a phone or a social life outside of school, which was probably for the best.

You know who wasn’t engulfed in shame, fear, parental punishment, and social opprobrium? Phillips. He was at a party the following weekend bragging that Sarah had tried to kill herself because she had had sex with him. In other words, this teenage kid was celebrating the fact that he had enough power to ruin someone’s life by having sex with them.

Men — adolescent ones especially — are so incapable of self-reflection that they can consider a woman defiled, ruined, permanently tainted by having come into contact with their dicks without thinking about what that says about them. He wasn’t ashamed of anything from what anyone could tell. He wasn’t shunned from any social circle, no one bothered to interrupt him to tell him there might be something wrong with what he was saying and doing, and he presumably continued to do it for all I know. He suffered zero social consequences for multiple instances of what today is considered sexual assault and for taking advantage of someone’s natural human need to be liked to the extent that she wanted to die.

Oddly enough (wink wink), people had plenty to say about me and about Sarah and our decisions. It disrupted our lives to the extent that we were prevented from thinking about literally anything else for months. I’m frankly shocked, given how poorly-developed our coping skills and emotional intelligence were at that age, and given the systemic psychological sickness of our social environment, that we didn’t both end up actually killing ourselves.

This incident was maybe a four on the “most fucked up things that happened between the time I grew boobs and turned 22” scale. It was part of what made me a mistrustful, angry jerk by the time I was 16, which didn’t help protect me as much as it led me further away from my true nature. And it was just one small speck of dust in a vast and dark universe of adolescent depravity.

Things are not better for young women today than they were in the 90s, they are exponentially worse. Internet porn, the vicious recent backlash against feminism, the death of the counterculture messages that used to compete with the materialistic and emotionally violent messages of popular media, and the rise of intrusive and inescapable social media have left young women in a much more emotionally precarious position than I ever found myself in, which beleaguers the imagination.

Which brings me back to my main point: I’m not surprised that suicide is on the rise among an ever-younger demographic. Just days before Rosalie Avila did so, a ten-year-old girl hanged herself after being bullied. Months before, an eight-year-old boy did the exact same thing for the exact same reason.

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear about an adolescent girl committing suicide after being coerced into sending revealing photographs to some porn-conditioned teenage boy (or some adult predator) who immediately turns around and shares them with all his friends at a minimum, and often with the whole world via social media and revenge porn sites. It’s downright pedestrian these days to read about a teenage girl being gang raped at some party, only to find out later that her assailants have recorded and shared images of her humiliation with everyone they know. The social consequences then fall squarely on her while the rapists get high-fived by their boys.

Teenage society, the law, and even the media have a never-ending supply of opprobrium for these girls, but there is somehow never enough left over for the boys and men who take advantage of them.

Anti-bullying campaigns are not an indication that things are getting better; they’re a begrudging recognition of the enormity of the problem of psychological and physical abuse against and among children and adolescents. The search for the root cause of this epidemic bears no fruit because those doing the searching don’t want to find the answer. Each “investigation” of adolescent suicide comes to the same conclusion: social media is beyond adult control and makes it easier for bullies to target victims.

It’s a facile explanation that allows everyone to shrug and move on without asking why the culture is becoming crueler, meaner, more atomized (and what role social media is playing in that process). It allows the parents of shitty little people to evade the examination of their own behavior and parenting practices. It offers nothing in the way of a solution for the millions of girls (and boys) in America who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of the way they’re treated by a growing number of underage sociopaths. And it completely elides the role of the perpetrators and a culture that foments and rewards cruelty, and then conveniently overlooks or excuses the behavioral excesses it inculcates.

It isn’t like we don’t know how these kids will turn out. It isn’t like we don’t know how the cycle of abuse works. I wonder how much more filthy laundry will have to be aired before the focus ends up where it belongs: on the perpetrators and the sociopolitical/economic systems that create them.

An (((Asshole Feminist’s))) Guide to the Alt-Right: Part 1

kek

We were seeing the attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum. Once we had seen these children, we could no longer overlook the vacuum, no longer pretend that the society’s atomization could be reversed. This was not a traditional generational rebellion. At some point between 1945 and 1967 we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing. Maybe we had stopped believing in the rules ourselves, maybe we were having a failure of nerve about the game. Maybe there were just too few people around to do the telling. These were children who grew up cut loose from the web of cousins and great-aunts and family doctors and lifelong neighbors who had traditionally suggested and enforced the society’s values. They are children who have moved around a lot, San Jose, Chula Vista, here. They are less in rebellion against the society than ignorant of it, able only to feed back certain of its most publicized self-doubts, Vietnam, Saran-Wrap, diet pills, the Bomb.

— Joan Didion “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” 1967

People are still flailing around trying to understand “how this happened.” How did the US elect a (rich) bowling league captain from Dayton into the most powerful political post on Earth? As usually occurs when they don’t get their way, liberals have decided that rural working class whites have been duped into voting against their own interests. The only problem with that explanation is that economically insecure rural white people only account for 17% of the electorate.

What actually occurred belies that explanation: every honky in the United States who wasn’t actively campaigning for Clinton and Tim Kaine voted for Trump, many Bernie Sanders supporters included. The DNC and the average urban leftist have done little to counter the image the right and the alt-right have created of the derisive Democratic elitist who spends half their time blaming rural whites for all of the country’s ills and the other half shopping for faux-folksy luxury goods while completely ignoring the realities of the people whose lives they’re romanticizing. That’s a level of full-of-shit that very few people can stomach, much less identify with.

But that isn’t enough to explain why so many white people of every social class and age decided to overlook or — in most cases — embrace the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia of the MAGA crowd. Bernie Bros and the actual left argue that this was a vote against neoliberalism; how many people you know know what the fuck neoliberalism is? How many people you know give a fuck about neoliberalism? (Say that like Steve Harvey.)

They also argue that this vote was a reaction to Obama’s failure to address the root causes of the economic crisis of 2008/9. Uh huh. I mean, he did fail to do so, but no one who voted for Trump could tell you what the root causes of that crash were or who Obama kept around despite their obvious complicity in the crash. Further, the idea that a billionaire would step in and break the bond between Wall Street and Washington, DC is too absurd even for a Trump supporter to take seriously.

Then there’s the theory that people were tired of the status quo and chose Trump because he was an outsider once Bernie Sanders lost the primary. That part may be true, but not in the way it’s usually presented. It isn’t as if Joe Six Pack is sitting in the Oval Office right now. A rich, old, white man is not capable of being an outsider in an old, rich, white man’s FUBU system. The only thing that makes Trump an outsider is his willingness to make brazenly racist and sexist comments in public. (Oh, that and the fact that he’s probably mentally disabled. But that criterion would make Ronald Reagan an outsider in US political culture, so nah.)

No one is confused about why old white men voted for Trump. The world is changing, their position at the zenith of the social hierarchy seems imperiled, women and people of color are getting WAY too uppity, and they weren’t about to see a woman take the place of a black guy in the White House. (If you’d like to learn which variant of Stockholm Syndrome drove old white women to vote for someone who openly admitted to sexual harassment and assault, read Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin; I don’t have time to get into that here.)

But, again, old white people couldn’t have done this by themselves. The DNC was so sure it had a lock on the youth vote that no one bothered to pay attention to what young people are even up to these days. And that’s what we’re here to discuss.

I’ll begin with a few caveats. First, I’m not a beta cuck, so I don’t spend 27 hours a day consuming media. That means that I’m not familiar with every layer of the inside jokes on 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit, so please forgive any minor gaffes I may make by dint of not being a complete dork.

Second, I’m not a millennial. I was born at the tail end of Generation X (thank Christ), which means the Internet and POV video games have only existed for half of my life. I had complex thoughts and experiences before the rise of interactive, neurologically manipulative media platforms, unlike people born, say, ten years after me. Who cares, right? Well, the world mistakenly believes millennials hold a patent on “irony” in the sense that the term is currently used, which is incorrect. Gen X counterculture in the early 90s created that phenomenon. Irony, as it developed in the 90s, consisted of making an ass of oneself on purpose in order to take away the power of materialistic, authoritarian bullies. It worked. That being said, it has gotten away from us and has morphed into the opposite of itself; rather than poking holes in conformity and undermining philosophically empty modes of living, it has been taken up by people who are missing the fundamental understanding of its usefulness. In other words, one of our most effective weapons against political and cultural authoritarianism now serves to further them both, whether on purpose or as a result of the clueless nihilism of those who deploy it (more on that later).

Third, I’m not a liberal. What used to be the party of Mr. Rogers types has become a competitive credulity and self-effacement league that is so repellent to anyone with any common sense or self-respect that I’m surprised there are any members left. Remember, shortly after the election, when Colin Jost joked on Saturday Night Live that Tinder now offered users 37 gender options and that the program was called “Why Democrats lost the election”? Well, that was fucking funny because it’s true. At some point, Democrats are going to have to confront the reality that ideologically and legally dicey propositions such as subjective self-reporting on gender identity are going to drive even diehard liberals out of the tent. I mean, really, who can tolerate listening to some North Face prick make hackneyed, obvious jokes about the stupidity of American Christians he’s completely unfamiliar with and then — in the next breath — demand that everyone show respect to Islam? The Democrats are literally playing themselves and feeding ammo to the alt-right like it’s their raison d’être. Any party that operates on game theory without any cognizance of the aims of the players is bound to lose.

With that shit out of the way, let’s get to lumping people into broad and blunt categories. Everyone’s favorite gay, half-Jewish, Supreme-sponsored misogynist, Milo Yiannopoulos (who would be a misceginator if he weren’t gay), in his “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” divided the alt-right into “Intellectuals,” “Natural Conservatives,” “The Meme Team,” and “1488ers.” I’m going to largely ignore most of these people for a few reasons.

“Natural Conservatives” and “1488ers” are nothing new. Radical-right white separatists have been around for decades, as have the wide array of non-ironic neo-Nazi organizations everyone is pretending just emerged onto the political scene. No one in, say, North Idaho is surprised at the disillusionment of white separatists with the pro-immigration stance of a Republican party that exists to serve the interests of corporations who need immigrants to suppress wages. The only new development in the world of earnest far-right white separatists/supremacists is that they’ve been given the signal that it’s OK to make a scene of themselves in public again for the first time since the 80s.

Milo’s “Intellectuals” don’t really merit the label, either. Steve Bannon may be a wet-brain alcoholic, but he isn’t stupid. Nor was Andrew Breitbart. But their attempt to coat extremely stupid far-right ideas with a veneer of intellectualism wasn’t working when I wrote about it a few years ago:

I wouldn’t know who Breitbart was had I not seen Dylan Ratigan interview him — and even then I could scarcely pay attention because I lost the ability to be amused by conservative commentators years ago — but apparently he makes the claim that objectivity is a falsehood propagated by the “liberal media” in order to cloak its agenda in an air of factual empiricism, when in reality they approach current events with just as much bias as Rush Limbaugh or any other right-wing demagogue. The debate over whether there is such a thing as a “liberal media” is beyond hackneyed and boring at this point, but it is rather amusing to hear a conservative public “intellectual” question the existence of true objectivity. It sounds oddly reminiscent of, oh, I don’t know, let’s say post-modern liberal academics. That isn’t an accident…[It’s] a new trend among conservative commentators, which is to jettison the Glenn Beck-esque hysteria that has characterized conservative media since Obama’s election and replace it with a faux-intellectualism that will allow even the borderline-illiterate to feel like top shelf political analysts.

And it isn’t working now, either. No actual intellectual is buying into the biological essentialism of the Bell Curve crowd or the theories of female inferiority that emerge from the “manosphere.” These arguments may be compelling to those who have never read anything longer than a Tumblr post, but there really isn’t an intellectual arm of the alt-right that has been anointed as such by anyone but themselves.

That leaves “The Meme Team.” If you ask me, they’re the only sub-group in Milo’s taxonomy that warrant examination, since they’re the ones the DNC are so thirsty for (never mind the GOP, who rightfully fear the alt-right that appears dangerously nihilistic and incomprehensible to them).

Millennial Men in Contemporary Political Culture

Neither political party has the ability to connect with millennials of any stripe because they’re both run by Baby Boomers and a few sellout Gen Xers who have no idea what life is like for a huge generation emerging into adulthood in a world that offers almost zero hope. Given that millennials are the most babied demographic in US history, it’s no surprise that they’re disillusioned with the reality of their lives when compared to what they had come to expect from the worlds their parents curated for them.

The economy has yet to recover from the 2008/9 financial crisis, and the “job growth” since the crisis consists of part-time positions for little (or no) pay and no benefits or security. Even the privileged millennials who manage to finish college are faced with the choice of defaulting on their student loans and borrowing money from their parents so they can intern for no pay or taking a service-sector job that will prevent them from ever pursuing a career position. Why bother? The ones without rich parents might as well throw in the towel now and start popping oxys.

Male millennials have a unique set of problems. They grew up on violent internet porn, music that celebrates money and fucking, movies and television shows that assured them that they needn’t do anything but sit and wait for a girlfriend to materialize and fulfill all of their bizarre fantasies, and violent video games that taught them to take anything they wanted by any means necessary (and to worship the military, if only for their masculine prowess as portrayed in these fantasy-lands). The world taught them to be lazy and incompetent, then didn’t deliver on the promise that being lazy and incompetent is no barrier to achievement. They also have no idea what’s going on, having fallen victim to the decades-long Republican offensive against public education, and have no social skills because they’ve lived their entire lives being coddled by their parents and interactive media designed to flatter their unwarranted arrogance. Given the growing gender achievement gap, it’s not surprising that young women are choosing to stay single rather than hitch their wagon to some entitled loser.

That leaves young men with two options: become a manipulative, faux-feminist, hipster fuckboy in order to use and abuse women, or — if they’re not handsome or “cool” enough to do that — retreat further from the hopelessness of reality and into the weird, stupid, dark circles of internet culture. It’s no surprise, then, that the “Meme Team” turns to “irony” and anonymous bullying to soothe their bruised egos. Young men have nothing to lose, nothing to hope for, and no ethical reference points. That’s a recipe for pointless chaos.

No one knows for sure what percentage of dudes in their 20s sincerely believe in the alt-right platform of white male supremacy, Libertarianism, and isolationism. No one knows what percentage of them promoted and voted for Trump and his looney message for the lulz. No one knows what percentage of them supported Bernie Sanders and then gave up and became nihilists when he didn’t magically turn the US into Denmark. No one knows what percentage of them place the entirety of the blame for the sorry state of their lives on women and/or feminism (though that’s likely upwards of 80%).

Millennial alt-right internet culture is amorphous and atomized, but the thread that seems to tie everything together is anti-feminism, mistaken self-perceived intellectual superiority, and trolling both for its own sake and as a protective measure for the ego. Oh, and the fact that every single one of these guys is a complete fucking dork. Let’s break it down a little, but keep in mind that there is massive overlap between all of the categories below.

Asshole Atheists

Dear lord, fucking atheists. Is there anything more irritating than a newly-minted atheist basking in the glow of self-satisfaction of having arrived at a conclusion most of us reached before junior high? Self-proclaimed inheritors of the virtues of logic, facts, and objectivity who display none of the above in their arguments, online atheists overlap so hard with incels and internet racists that I doubt there’s one dude out there who is one and not all three.

As Alex Nichols points out, atheism was annoying enough when deployed in response to the evangelical turn during the Bush years, but once intelligent design faded from the political scene, the genius brigade turned their jaundiced eyes on women and feminism:

New Atheism and the Gamergate movement of 2014—which sicced vicious online mobs on female journalists and game designers based on spurious allegations of media corruption—overlapped in several ways. They were both male-dominated, the latter almost exclusively so, and they both festered on nerd-oriented internet forums. Both movements resented women and minorities who asserted themselves within those spaces, ostensibly because it provided an unimportant distraction from their respective goals of destroying religion and uncritically consuming entertainment products. The difference, though, was that Gamergate had no basis in reality. The central allegation of that controversy, that a developer slept with a Kotaku writer in order to secure a positive review of her game, was blatantly untrue. No such review existed, which posed a problem for anyone who viewed himself as the protagonist in a battle “vs. FEMINISM.” In order to continue this all-out war on feminists—the curious replacement creationists for a new decade that lacked for them—these New-New Atheists had to break with reality altogether…

The only surprising thing about this marriage of convenience between the most irritating rhetorical style and the dumbest possible ideology is that it took so long to come about. Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents. They were after the burst of dopamine that comes from feeling smarter than other people, from exercising some pathetic simulacrum of masculine power, from seeing someone else feel bad and knowing they were responsible. Strangely enough, this is also the goal of modern right-wing politics. Just as conservatives discovered they could skip straight to the “angry liberal” portion of the argument by electing Donald Trump, the worst New Atheists discovered they didn’t need atheism at all. They could be just as insufferable alone, on Youtube, spitting nonsense into the vacuum.

There’s no telling whether these fools believe their arguments hold water, but at least some of them have to. Otherwise, I’d be forced to believe they’ve all got unlimited time on their hands and don’t mind wasting it on making YouTube videos from their filthy bedrooms affecting aggressive sincerity just to see how much of other people’s time they can waste.

Ironic” Racists, Anti-semites, Misogynists, and Homophobes

Milo, though he’s disingenuously sanguine about the real motives of the “Meme Team,” makes a point:

Millennials aren’t old enough to remember the Second World War or the horrors of the Holocaust. They are barely old enough to remember Rwanda or 9/11. Racism, for them, is a monster under the bed, a story told by their parents to frighten them into being good little children.

As with Father Christmas, Millennials have trouble believing it’s actually real. They’ve never actually seen it for themselves — and they don’t believe that the memes they post on /pol/ are actually racist. In fact, they know they’re not — they do it because it gets a reaction. Barely a month passes without a long feature in a new media outlet about the rampant sexism, racism or homophobia of online image boards. For regular posters at these boards, that’s mission accomplished.

Another, more palatable, interpretation of these memes is that they are clearly racist, but that there is very little sincerity behind them.

There’s no real way to determine how many of the dipshits who spout racist nonsense online and at poorly-attended rallies are sincere believers in the “ideas” they spread, which is part of the reason most of them choose the forums they do. Maybe they’re just excited at the prospect of saying “nigger” and “faggot” in their little safe spaces under the cover of a handle. Some of them have consoled themselves with the ludicrous idea that their incel-dom can be blamed on the fact that women are out misceginating with black guys instead of staying true to their race. Some of them may even be stupid enough to have been convinced of their genetic superiority by the likes of ol’ Gavin McInnes and his Proud Boys, who hold that straight white men created everything of value in the world (though that could just be McInnes duping them into helping him salvage his career by trolling the public on a hot-button topic).

Oh, where would we be without the Mountain Dew-swilling creators of all that is civilized and worthy! Sorry, not Mountain Dew, milk. That’s right. White men are meeting up in New York City of all places to chug milk together in some kind of fucking dairy-based Fight Club to demonstrate their ability to tolerate lactose. Which, of course, proves that white people are the best people. Or that they’re just bad comedians.

I’ve seen my share of racist, sexist, and homophobic memes, believe you me. Most of the content has to be a joke, however poorly-conceived. How can anti-semitism explode in a time and place when no one can name a Jew other than Jon Stewart? Still, what the fuck is to be gained from pretending to be a racist, homophobe, anti-semite, or misogynist other than the opportunity to flex one’s waning white male privilege in a forum in which no one is around to kick your ass?

Incels and Their Svengalis

In case you’re unaware, “incel” is a portmanteau of “involuntarily celibate.” These guys are NOT kidding. One really wants to feel sorry for incels, but they’re so repugnant that it just isn’t possible. Elliot Rodger was the quintessential incel, and I hate rewriting something I’ve already written, so here’s what I have to say about that:

The culture tells all men that they are owed access to women’s bodies and energy. Sitcoms feature attractive women married to and putting up with mountains of bullshit from blundering schlubs. Movies hammer the idea into boys’ minds that young, hot women, though they may resist at first, will eventually fall into the laps of lazy, misogynistic, overgrown infants like those played by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Porn tells young boys with no other knowledge of sex that women are filthy pigs who just love being gangbanged and ejaculated on by abusive, sneering monsters.

I don’t know why girls rejected Elliot Rodger when he entered adolescence, or whether they even did. There seemed to have been a window in junior high — before he started consuming porn — when that was not the case. He might have been a little awkward, he may have lacked social skills, but it appears that his obsessive sense of entitlement to what he believed other boys enjoyed (whether that was the case or not) took over, coloring all of his interactions and probably preempting any chance he had at relating to girls. He was consumed by the foolish belief that porn and bullshit adolescent male bragging were reality for everyone but him. Once that set in, his anger and desperation probably became palpable in social situations to the point that women — who learn from a young age how to spot signs of danger in male behavior — steered clear.

Without any real contact with women, for Rodger, they became cartoon characters, aliens, beasts, non-human. They were an enemy to be vanquished, a prize to be collected for the achievement of having been born male, the source of all of his frustrated expectations. He absorbed those messages wholesale from mass media culture. Rodger’s memoir reads like a catalog of his consumption of popular media, from Pokemon through World of Warcraft through Halo 2, from Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Game of Thrones, to internet pornography, to MRA discussion forums populated by legions of men railing against women for not fulfilling the fantasies instilled in them by that same media culture.

They’re pathetically off-track and have no chance of solving what they perceive to be the biggest problem in their lives: lack of sex. They spend their days jacking off to internet porn, cultivating anime philias, pining for the day they’ll be able to afford their very own robotic sex doll, and spewing misogyny all over the internet. They’ve become a target market for pick-up artist charlatans like Roosh V who purport to teach men the secrets to transforming themselves from beta cucks into alpha pussy magnets by neg-ing and otherwise manipulating women into getting naked. Once that inevitably fails, they swarm to 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit to air their rape, murder, and necrophilia fantasies.

freemarket

Kekistani Kaos

Old white people don’t know what to make of this goofy cartoon frog in a MAGA hat, even though he helped elect their boy president. Pepe, described here by Dale Beran (who is way too diplomatic in his description), stands in for the cesspool of losers who made him famous:

Viewed through the lens of the people first posting him, Pepe makes nothing but sense. The original comic panels from which Pepe is excerpted feature him getting caught peeing with his pants pulled all the way down, his ass hanging out. Surprisingly, he is unashamed of this, “feels good man” he tells his roommate.

The grotesque, frowning, sleepy eyed, out of shape, swamp dweller, peeing with his pants pulled down because-it-feels-good-man frog is an ideology, one which steers into the skid of its own patheticness. Pepe symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.

This would be sort of funny if it weren’t for the utterly aimless and stupid chaos it has wrought:

At some point, someone at 4chan happened to seize on a coincidence: There was, in fact, an Egyptian god named Kek. An androgynous god who could take either male or female form, Kek originally was depicted in female form as possessing the head of a frog or a cat and a serpent when male; but during the Greco-Roman period, the male form was depicted as a frog-headed man.

More importantly, Kek was portrayed as a bringer of chaos and darkness, which happened to fit perfectly with the alt-right’s self-image as being primarily devoted to destroying the existing world order.

In the fertile imaginations at play on 4chan’s image boards and other alt-right gathering spaces, this coincidence took on a life of its own, leading to wide-ranging speculation that Pepe – who, by then, had not only become closely associated with the alt-right, but also with the candidacy of Donald Trump – was actually the living embodiment of Kek. And so the Cult of Kek was born.

Millennial male nihilism and dishonest, self-serving “irony” have managed to cohere into an Egyptian frog cult with origins in an arcane joke from a video game, the invention of a fake ancient civilization (Kekistan), and a goddamned FLAG based on the Nazi banner that these idiots wear in public as a cape. These people actually think this is funny, that this demonstrates their superior intellect, that trolling the world by inventing a cult and playing dress-up will result in anything other than further isolating them from everyone but other edgelords/shitlords. Or maybe they don’t. Who knows?

Remember when we were all making fun of LARPers? They control the political culture for the foreseeable future and have no discernible goals other than punishing women for not putting out and fomenting further dorkery and chaos, no matter what the cost. We got caught slippin’ big time.