Thursday, February 16, 2017

Scanning the Brains of Those Who Say Neuroscience Disproves Free Will: A Reply to Sam Harris and Others

Stuart K. Hayashi

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Popular atheist author and neuroscientist Sam Harris denies human volition.  As he states in his short treatise Free Will,

Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less). Either  [a. --S.H.] our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or [b. --S.H.] they are the product of chance, and we are not responsible for them.

No, Spinoza and Harris, the Law of Causation Does Not Preclude Free Will
That first possibility that Sam Harris raises is actually an argument made by Benedict Spinoza.  Spinoza was an excellent philosopher in many respects, but not in this one.  The argument there is that recognizing the Law of Causality recognizes (a) every action by non-sapient objects was the logical consequence of some prior cause, and (b) due to the Law of Identity, meaning that entities act only in accordance with their nature, that specific action by that specific non-sapient object could not have been anything other than what it was, due to the the nature of the non-sapient object and the nature of the prior event that stimulated this action.  As an example, due to the levels of moisture in the air, a lightning storm occurs.  A bolt of lightning strikes a branch of the tallest tree in the nearby forest.  The lighting strike severs the end of the branch from the rest of the tree, while the rest of the tree catches fire.  All of the actions pertaining to the tree could not have occurred in any manner other than they did. It is not as if the lightning strike could have magically transformed the tree into a giant dove and made the dove-tree fly into space.  No, if a bolt of lightning strikes the tree (Event A), the tree will catch fire and the branch that was struck will be damaged (Event B).  On account of the respective natures of the objects in question -- the nature of trees, lightning bolts, and air -- nothing but Event B could have resulted from Event A.  That is the Law of Causation.  And the Law of Causation is the Law of Identity as applied to action.

The argument of Spinoza -- and, here, Sam Harris -- is that if we accept the Law of Causality as valid, then that precludes human beings from having free will.  The reason they say this is that surely human beings are physical objects, and the very same laws of physics and causation that apply to trees and air molecules and lightning bolts apply to human beings as well.  The argument is as follows. I am just as much a physical entity as a tree is, and therefore I am just as much of a physical object as a tree is.  Therefore, any time some stimulus stimulates some reaction from me, that reaction was not my choice -- the reaction was simply me (an object) responding accordingly, given the respective natures of both the stimulus and me as objects,  and no other outcome could have resulted.  If some random stranger comes out of a crowd and kisses me, for instance, and then I kiss back, as opposed to pushing the stranger away, then it means that I had no choice in the matter -- I could not have chosen to push the stranger away.  Rather, if I kiss back, that was the only possible outcome of the stimulating event.  To deny that, presume Spinoza and Sam Harris, is to deny the Law of Causation and the Law of Identity.

Actually, another neuroscientist -- Michael Gazaniga of U.C. Santa Barbara -- presents another option in his book Who's in Charge?  Gazzaniga points out that the Laws of Identity and Causation do not preclude unprecedented events from occurring (page 71).  For example, at one point in the past, the universe was in one form -- some hot, dense state.  Then the Big Bang happened, and the universe, as we know it, underwent what is metaphorically called an "expansion," bringing it to the form with which we are more familiar.  At one point in the past, there were no life forms on Earth.  Then some chemical reaction occurred, and the first singe-celled organism came to be.

That first single-celled organism did not consist of any new matter that had not already existed on Earth minutes earlier. The matter constituting the first organism already existed prior to the first organism existing. Rather, what happened was that some rearrangement of matter, which had already been on Earth minutes earlier, brought about an unprecedented phenomenon: the arrangement of constituent parts acting as an organism.

That new phenomenon is called an Emergent Property.  First you start with a set of components. In most arrangements, those components do nothing new.  When those particular components find a particular new arrangement, however, a previously unprecedented phenomenon occurs -- that is the "emergent property" -- despite no new components themselves being added.

Gazzaniga argues that volition in organisms is similarly an emergent property.  At one point in history, our ancestors were much like ants or beetles -- largely doing what they were programmed by their genes to do.  However, over the course of millions of years of evolution and reproduction and mutation, the chemicals in the bodies of some ancestor of ours were arranged in a new fashion, bringing forth an unprecedented phenomenon:  a new level of spontaneity in the behavior of this ancestor, an enlarged ability of this ancestor to act upon a wide variety of different behavioral options at its disposal.  We had some rat-like ancestor whose abilities were closer to volition than that of its own worm-like ancestor, and then we had some ape-like ancestor whose abilities were closer to volition than those of the rat-like ancestor.

Note that recognizing that, over the course of billions of years, some unprecedented phenomenon can occur -- such as living matter emerging from nonliving matter on Earth -- does not contradict the Law of Identity or the Law of Causation.  The reason is that the Law of Identity is contextual.  For instance, suppose I hold one American football and you hold another American football.  Mine has a smudge on it and yours does not.  I say they are both footballs -- they have the same shape and are used for the same purpose -- and therefore they are both of the same type, the same identity.  Because they are of the same identity, the same Newtonian laws should apply to them.  If I release my grip on the football I hold, it will fall.  The same should happen to your football if you release your grip on yours.  In that respect, they are of the same identity.  However, that does not mean that both American footballs are exactly the same on the noumenal level.  My football has a smudge, and yours does not.  Mine was made in California; yours was made in New York.  When I said earlier that both footballs had the same identity, I mean that they were same as far as we needed to be concerned in our present germane context -- if we just want to play football or throw it around or experiment on Newtonian mechanics, the two footballs are similar enough to be considered of the same type and identity.  It does not mean that the two footballs are exactly the same on the noumenal level.

The same applies to the emergence of living matter from what was once wholly nonliving matter.  The laws of physics mean that, as far as we need to be concerned in most contexts in our lives, the same principles will apply consistently.  Most objects that are released from our grip will fall to the Earth, an exception being balloons filled with helium.  In our normal dealings, physical laws are consistent -- they are absolute within the context of our normal dealings.  But recognizing this principle -- the Laws of Identity and Causation -- as contextual absolutes does not preclude the recognition that, because not all similar-and-like events are exactly the same at the noumenal level, it is the case that, once in a while, something unprecedented can happen.  In our normal everyday dealings, we can consider two reactions by the same sets of chemicals to be similar enough for us to classify them as being of the same type.  Over the course of billions of years, though, because no two reactions are exactly the same at the noumenal level, something unprecedented can happen. Hence, living matter arising on Earth when, just minutes earlier, all matter on Earth was nonliving.

Likewise, the first organisms were relatively predictable in their behaviors, as ants seem predictable to us, doing what they were programmed by their genes to do.  But among the myriad random mutations in the history of our ancestral germline were mutations that made our ancestors, over the course of several generations, more spontaneous and volitional.  

If  the Law of Causation were some Platonic Imperative that transcends all context, then Spinoza and Sam Harris would be correct (1) that it precludes volition and (2) that it even precludes any unprecedented event from occurring ever.  However, we can instead recognize the Law of Causation as a contextual absolute --meaning that it regularly applies within the context of our normal everyday dealings, but that, over the course of billions or trillions of years, it does not mean that all natural events of a similar type will be exactly the same at the noumenal level; depending on how granular we want to be in examining similar events, there may be minute differences.  If we recognize the Law of Causation that applies consistently in the pertinent contexts while not transcending all context itself, then the Law of Causation does not preclude the possibility of unprecedented events occurring.  And one of those unprecedented events was volitional organisms evolving from ancestors that were far less volitional.  

Yes, the laws of physics, the Law of Identity, and the Law of Causation apply both to rocks and human beings.  According to the Laws of Identity and Causation, if water splashes on both a rock and me, both the rock and I will have some type of reaction to this stimulus.  But it does not follow from this that my reaction to the splash of water has to be as predictable as the reaction from the rock.  (A) Looking at reality and (B) observing the respective natures of entities (C) also shows you that I am more complex in my behavior than is the rock.  Recognizing the Law of Identity -- and with it, the Law of Causation -- means recognizing that I possess volitional capabilities that the rock does not possess.

The quotation from Harris at the start of this essay, then, reveals that Harris presents his readers with a false dichotomy:  either (x) everything in Existence is governed by consistent principles with predictable responses to their respective stimuli, or (y) everything that happens is random chaos.  He refrains from acknowledging the presence of emergent properties.  Within most normal contexts, the same principles do keep applying in most situations.  Therefore it would be an epistemological folly (which, sadly, is made by many people who call themselves Pragmatists) to reject principles, per se, as useless and unreliable.  Nonetheless, while the same principles do consistently apply in most contexts, they do not prevent unprecedented phenomena from occurring.  The emergence of organisms from what was previously only nonliving matter, was one such emergent property.  The evolution of volition among those organisms, too, is an emergent property. 

Yet Harris and his fans can reply that they do not merely have Spnioza's philosophy on their side.  They claim that psychology experiments performed by Benjamin Libet and Chun Siong Soon prove their case.  Therefore, let us take a look at those experiments.

Do Benjamin Libet, Chun Siong Soon, and John-Dylan Haynes Disprove Free Will?
In Libet’s original career-making experiment, conducted in 1979, Libet hooked the human test subject up to an electroencephalograph (EEG), which measures brain activity. In this particular experiment, the EEG measured brain waves in the part of the cerebral cortex most strongly associated with one’s readiness to make motor movements with one’s own body. When someone is ready to move a specific muscle, but has not yet moved, the EEG indicates the activation of one’s “readiness potential” -- the readiness to initiate motor movement. Libet instructed a human test subject to perform a simple motor activity, such as bend the fingers of her right hand or bend her right wrist, whenever she felt like doing so. The test subject also had to look at a clock and remember the specific point in time when she decided consciously to make a specific movement. Libet found from this experiment that the test subject’s readiness potential became active in her brain an average of one-third-of-a-second prior to making the actual movement. This means that the human test subject’s subconscious mind anticipated what would, an average one-third-second later, be the consciously-recognized decision to make a movement.

In 2008, Chun Siong Soon, John-Dylan Haynes, and the rest of their team ran a more technologically sophisticated version of that experiment. This time, Dr. Soon’s team hooked up the test subject to an fMRI -- functional magnetic resonance imaging device -- that provides a diagram of exactly what parts of the brain are activated as a person performs a specific motor action or so much as experiences an emotional reaction to some stimulus. When someone performs an action or emotionally reacts, blood flows to specific areas of the brain, and these areas light up in images taken by the fMRI scan. In the experiment, while having their brains fMRI-scanned, human test subjects were to stare at a personal-computer monitor that would flash a series of letters onscreen, one letter at a time. The letter could be any of the 26 of the English alphabet and would be drawn by the computer at random. Simultaneously, the human test subject could, at the same instant that any letter flashed onscreen, press a button -- either the button on the left or the one on the right. One would press the button on the left using her left hand, and use the right hand for the right button. Naturally, whether the human test subject chose the right or left is something she did instantaneously; there was no time to plan it out in advance.

Whenever someone pressed a button, the computer recorded whether it was the left or right button, and it also recorded the letter that was onscreen at the very same instant. On the fMRI, one region of the brain would light up to indicate the choice of pressing the left button, whereas a separate region would light up to indicate the choice to press the right button. The fMRI scans, too, had their own time stamps recording the exact time of day -- down to microseconds -- that a specific brain region (for left or right) lit up.

As indicated by the time markers on the fMRI scans, the brain region signifying the left-button-pushing lit up for an average ten seconds prior to the left button actually being pushed. It was vice versa for the right side. This indicates that, an average ten seconds prior to the test subject making a split-second choice, that consciously recognized choice had already been anticipated by the subconscious brain by an average ten seconds.

Your Conscious Mind Didn't Plan to Buy a House or to Marry That Special Person?
Therefrom, Sam Harris concludes that every person’s course of action is automatically set by one’s subconscious. This is quite absent of, or prior to, one’s own conscious reasoning. Indeed, Harris continues, someone’s conscious reasoning serves as nothing more than a rationalization for courses of action that the subconscious has already thoughtlessly put into motion. Beyond that, Harris maintains, conscious reasoning plays no role in deciding someone’s course of action. Rather, what we wish to believe are our consciously-ratiocinated choices really amount to arational instincts being acted upon.

According to Harris's argument, we have conscious thoughts, sure, but when it comes to every major long-range life decision, such as purchasing a house in a particular neighborhood, what determines these courses of action are not our conscious deliberations but our body chemistry passively reacting to external stimuli. This is just as a cockroach is guided, not primarily by some conscious reasoning, but by its inner, instinctual drives -- its seemingly spontaneous actions being a complex emergent property that emerged from the interfaces of components of its body chemistry. Yes, humans have conscious thoughts and cockroaches do not, but Harris maintains that what we have in common with cockroaches is that our courses of action, taken as a whole and looking long-range, are guided mostly by something other than conscious reasoning.

To repeat, those who cite the Libet-Soon experiments to denigrate free will, argue as follows. In the experiments, the exact moment that someone’s decision-making process begins can be precisely ascertained. In Libet’s 1979 experiment, the exact moment the conscious decision-making process began was the moment that the human test subject noticed the time on the clock as she chose to bend her fingers. On that interpretation, the subconscious anticipated the conscious mind by at least one-third of a second. Likewise, in the 2008 Soon-Haynes experiment, the conscious decision-making process began and ended the precise moment the human test subject pressed a button. On that interpretation, the subconscious anticipated the rapid-decision-making conscious mind by an average of ten seconds.

Note that this interpretation assumes that once the brain-measuring instrument indicates the activation of “readiness potential” -- once the region for moving the left hand lights up -- that indicates that the decision to make a specific motor movement has already been finalized. To proceed from that assumption would be to deduce that once the readiness potential for moving the left hand is activated, the decision-making process has concluded, and the motor movement that occurs ten seconds later is not the final stage of the decision, but rather something that happens ten seconds subsequent to the decision-making process’s conclusion.

Such defenders of free will as University of Manchester geriatric medicine professor Raymond Tallis and psychiatrist Sally Satel observe the flaw in any citation of these experiments to prove the allegation that free will does not exist. The flaw is that to cite such experiments as proof of free will’s nonexistence, happens to ignore the contextual and continuous nature of human volition.

To argue that the experiments precisely identified the exact instant in time when a human decision begins (at the noumenal level) and the exact instant when it ends (at the noumenal level), is to presume that any human decision can be observed in isolation from the wider context with which it intertwines.

First off, every choice is made within a larger context and cannot be understood when examined apart from that context. One decision begets the need for other decisions, still. My decision to walk to a grocery store to purchase ice cream begets still other decisions, such as which flavors I am to purchase and whether I am to purchase the ice cream by means of cash, check, or credit card.

Moreover, what starts out as a small, seemingly trivial decision can expand into a whole sequence of small choices that ultimately culminate in choosing to undertake a major long-range project. For instance, when I was six years old, upon some impulse my mother gave me some sheets of paper and colored markers and asked me if I wanted to draw. On impulse, I said yes. Without much fussing over my choices or the limits of my resources, I drew an entire series of drawings of some of my favorite video-game characters at the time. Also without thinking much about it, my mother asked me if I would like to staple the drawings together into a book. Again, in the absence of ponderous deliberation, I answered her in the affirmative.

Days later, again without a painstaking weighing of my options, I chose to draw more home-made picture books. Increasingly, I wrote captions to each picture. The captions evolved into sentences. What began as a series of random images evolved into a short story. Through a chain reaction of such events over age six, I decided that my life goal was to be a professional writer. Now, that is a long-range choice that requires years of dedication and various long-range consequences.

To stay true to that choice throughout one’s adult life does require painstaking deliberation and a serious weighing of options. Following through on this long-range choice also encompasses an entire series of steps wherein I make smaller, easier choices, such as what sort of font I might use when I type out a manuscript.

Entities and their actions are interrelated in a wider context; one action of a specific entity relates to that entity’s other actions, being an effect of prior actions and a cause of subsequent actions. During waking experience, the decision-making process is therefore an ongoing, continuous process. It is not as if, during a single duration of time in which I am awake, my volition starts, stops, and then starts again. Therefore, volition itself is an ongoing, continuous process that requires no noumenal-level beginnings or endings. Within the span of your waking experience, the volitional process exists holistically, as a continuum. As a corollary, you cannot, on some noumenal level, pinpoint the exact moment when the process of a making a specific decision begins.

Often, the implicit and initially superficial recognition of having to make that choice starts out vague and faint, and the urgency of the need for a committed position on the decision becomes clearer and more apparent over time, as more sensory evidence accumulates. If, between February 1 and March 1, I notice I have made a net gain of four pounds in weight, the need to decide whether I will change my eating or exercise habits will not be obvious, though I might give it some passing thoughts before temporarily forgetting about it. Should I gain thirty pounds between March 2 and April 2, though, then recognition of the need for a long-range decision becomes starker. Even when we consider such sophisticated scientific instruments as EEGs and the fMRI, such machines cannot ascertain, on the noumenal level, the exact beginnings or endings of the process of coming to a specific decision; these beginnings and endings bleed together into a continuous whole. This is just as how, although a pet dog is made out of atoms, we cannot, through unaided senses, discern where one atom of the dog begins and another ends.

That my "reptilian brain" -- my subconscious -- might anticipate my conscious mind in recognizing my need to make a long-range decision of life-changing consequences, does not preclude the necessity of applying conscious deliberation to such a decision. Yes, long before my conscious mind responds, my subconscious might (1) prove sensitive and responsive to the environment, (2) send signals to my conscious mind, and (3) prepare my body for specific motor movements. That my subconscious responded to something prior to my conscious mind responding to it, and then readied my conscious mind for conscious thought, does not mean that my subconscious overrode my conscious mind and “therefore made the decision for me.” My conscious mind still has to be there to weigh each option and contemplate the consequences of taking any option.

Moreover, contrary to Sam Harris, it is not a matter of a woman’s subconscious proactively leading her in her course of action and of her conscious mind passively following along and rationalizing decisions that have already been finalized. Rather, it is a matter of both one’s conscious mind and one’s subconscious both being active during one’s waking experience, and of the conscious mind remaining proactive in deciphering signals sent from the subconscious. It is also a matter of the conscious mind weighing options and judging which subconsciously-motivated impulses are or are not safe to act upon. Then it is up to the conscious mind to decide proactively which desires should or should not be acted upon, which vaguely-considered plans should be provided further detail and ultimately implemented.

A Complex, Volitional Choice Doesn't Require a Conscious Account of Every Motor Movement, . . . Let Alone Every Conscious Motor Movement Being Thought Up Prior to the Subconscious's Activation of Your "Readiness Potential"
It would be silly to conclude that a long-range goal is not consciously chosen if not every single motor movement that contributes to meeting that long-range goal is consciously-thought-out and planned. Here is an example that Raymond Tallis provides. Today I might decide to walk to the grocery store. On my trip there, it is not as if I consciously think about every single step I take. I do not think “Now I bend my left knee. Now I raise my left foot above the ground. Now I place my left foot on the ground again, but farther ahead than it was previously. Now for the right foot...” On this trip to the grocery store, explicates Raymond Tallis, “there isn’t a separate decision corresponding to every one of the hundreds of steps” taken to get there (page 249). That I do not consciously think out every literal step, does not prove that conscious thought played no role in the overall, larger goal of making the trip from my home to this retail establishment.

Likewise, as I type the first draft of this essay, I do not consciously think out every stroke of every key as I type. It is not as if I must tell myself, “First I will type the F key. Then I will type the I key. Then I will type the R key...” I just type. I do not agonize over every single sentence; I just type out the sentences as they pop into my head. Agonizing over specific word choices or grammatical choices comes later, upon rereading and editing the draft. Recognizing the fact that my commitment to writing was and is an overall conscious choice, does not hinge upon believing that every specific procedure involved -- that is, every single stroke of a key as I type a first draft -- had to be consciously thought-out prior to my cerebral cortex activating the “readiness potential” of my fingers.

Yes, the subconscious parts of my brain might activate before my conscious mind becomes aware of it, as my body makes specific motor movements. Yet it is a tremendous leap to conclude from this that my decades-long dedication to becoming a writer -- a choice first made years ago, and a choice that is renewed every day -- was a choice not made by me but rather simply a course action that my subconscious simply programmed me, before the fact, to undertake. When we look at the wider context of long-range life decisions, the results of Libet’s and Soon’s neuroscience experiments cannot erase the conscious thought that went into my making, and my renewing my commitment to, various choices that I know will affect me for years to come.

The Concept Theft Involved in Trying to Convince Me, Consciously, That My Consciousness Is Not in Charge
And, again, there is a self-refutation in Harris’s own attempt to explain his conclusion verbally. The snag is that Harris’s explanation appeals to his readers’ and audiences’ conscious cognition. Should it be the case that one’s courses of action are determined by the subconscious, and conscious reasoning has no influence in that, then it is self-defeating for Harris to attempt to explain his argument.

According to Harris’s own logic, his reader’s subconscious will predetermine agreement or disagreement with his opinion prior to Harris being able to finish his articulation -- thereby rendering it superfluous, before the fact, to explain himself. As Wayne Dunn puts it,

Determinists hold that man's every thought and action is necessitated by factors beyond his control. Yet, curiously, a determinist typically cites "evidence" for his philosophical convictions. To which you might respond: "So, let me get this straight. Only after scrupulously 'weighing' the facts did you conclude that determinism is true, correct?" When he says yes, he's busted. For if determinism is true, then one could not "weigh" the facts: all one's opinions are pre-set, including opinions on determinism. Choosing to believe that men lack volition is a contradiction in terms. (And choosing to evade the issue is also a choice.)

True, people often have particular emotional predispositions toward particular courses of action that antecede their rational thoughts about the matter. Also true, it is common for people to employ conscious reasoning, not to reconsider their choices but merely to rationalize their immediate preconceptions or the beliefs to which they have already committed themselves for years.

Ultimately, Harris overlooks that when it comes to long-term decisions, such as purchasing the right home, human beings often do employ their conscious reasoning for the purposes of making their final decision. Moreover, their conscious reasoning does influence them insofar as the conscious reasoning provides a check against following one’s impulses. That is exactly why, when one deliberates over a decision that requires an enormous investment of money and years’ worth of commitment, someone is capable of changing her mind.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

They're Racist "Only Ironically"?: Satirizing Racism Vs. Actual Hostility Hiding Under the Guise of Humor

Stuart K. Hayashi

"It's Just Edgy Humor or Satire"?
A common excuse frequently delivered in favor of alt-right trolls -- the ones who send unsolicited pictures of Nazis, or of Jews in gas ovens, to such "establishment cuckservatives" as Jonah Goldberg and Ben Shapiro -- is that they are merely expressing a dark sense of humor; they are not racist and should not be taken literally.

Here is how Milo Yiannopoulos himself phrases it,

Just as the kids of the [']60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish “Shlomo Shekelburg” to “Remove Kebab,” an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide. . . .

Are they actually bigots? No more than death metal devotees in the [']80s were actually Satanists. For them, it’s simply a means to fluster their grandparents. . . .

...the alt-right openly crack jokes about the Holocaust, loudly -- albeit almost entirely satirically -- expresses its horror at “race-mixing,” and denounces the “degeneracy” of homosexuals . . . while inviting Jewish gays and mixed-race Breitbart reporters [this is referring to this essay's co-author Allum Bokhari] to their secret dinner parties. What gives? 
If you’re this far down the article, you’ll know some of the answers already. For the [alt-right's practical-joking] meme brigade, it’s just about having fun. They have no real problem with race-mixing, homosexuality, or even diverse societies: it’s just fun to watch the mayhem and outrage that erupts when those secular shibboleths are openly mocked. . .

The intellectuals [of the alt-right -- here, Yiannopoulos means Richard Spencer --] are animated by a similar thrill: after being taken for granted for centuries, they’re the ones who get to pick apart some of the Enlightenment’s dead dogmas.

It turns out that Milo is speaking from experience. In 2006, when he was in his early twenties and calling himself "Milo Andreas Wagner," he adopted a Nazi sympathizer persona -- allegedly in jest, naturally. As one example, he strolled around in public adorning a Nazi Iron Cross necklace.

In 2009, Yiannopoulos uploaded this image -- again, "jokingly."

I came across those images visiting this blog post, which chronicles still other instances -- all from before the year 2015 -- of Yiannopoulos hinting at sympathies for Naziism.

In his apologia for alt-right trolls, Yiannopoulos asserts that these trolls merely wear "the mask of racism."  That is quite the postmodernist ploy -- the real concealment, the true disguise, is in the insistence that the racism is but a mask.

For much of late 2014 and early 2015, before I learned about Milo's Nazi fetish, and when I still wanted to believe Yiannopoulos was my ally against politically-correct fanaticism and the "Social Justice Warriors," I saw increasingly offensive tweets done in the name of humor, and I wanted to believe that it was safe to dismiss them as callous humor not to be taken literally. "It's just the satire that is common on 4chan," I was told. Here is the reason why, when many hostile, Nazi-themed tweets are sent to Jonah Goldberg and Ben Shapiro, very few of those should be dismissed as just humor or satire, even when most of them try to pass themselves off as being humorous in tone.

The Good-Looking Female, Her Racist "Jokes," and the "Thirsty" Men Who Reinforce Her
Some years ago I interacted with this one female on (anti)social media; she was in her twenties, and very good-looking.  No matter what she said on (anti)social media -- no matter how vile -- she would get a hundred "likes," mostly from (very "thirsty") men.  Among the online status updates that received hundreds of "likes," were her "jokes":  making light of the death of Whitney Houston (this mostly related to drugs, not race), saying that her boss is always trying to cheat her because he's Jewish and that's just what Jews do, and that all Asian-descended people in the USA look and behave exactly alike.  The first few months this went on, I told myself, "As unfunny as she is, she's still just joking..."

This trend went on for more than a year.  Her consistency in derogating Jews and Asians was remarkable.  By the end of the year, I had to admit to myself,

I don't think she is joking.  I think she seriously harbors these deep-seated prejudices, but knows that if she stated outright that these were her actual opinions, she would receive well-earned flack over it.  Hence, she expresses these prejudices under the guise of being "tongue in cheek."  If someone calls her out for expressing racist sentiments, she can issue the stock reply, "Didn't you notice the facetious tone?  Can't you take a joke?"

There is an old term for this type of behavior. It is called being passive-aggressive. Someone is passive-aggressive when she wishes to express some type of anger or hostility toward someone, but, out of fear of some blowback, she does not want the expression to be recognized exactly for what it is. Therefore, she lashes out at her target in a somewhat sneakier fashion.

A more precise expression for this particular phenomenon is kidding on the square.  As World Wide Words explains it,
Somebody kidding on the square makes a joke but means it, too. . . . The idiom is known from the early twentieth century -- it turns up in February 1907 in McClure’s Magazine and is often recorded in the years that follow. . . . 
If you are on the square, you’re honest or sincere, an idea that turns up in other idioms, such as square deal. It may be from a square being an uncompromisingly straightforward shape, but a link with Freemasonry has been plausibly suggested. For masons, a square was a key instrument for accurately measuring a 90° angle, those of the corners of a square (also called right angles because they were the correct or true ones), so that a structure on the square had been properly built. Similarly, anything off square had something wrong with it.

Kidding on the square, in the most passive-aggressive fashion, is what Milo Yiannopoulos's beloved alt-right Nazi-meme-senders are doing when they tweet Nazi imagery at Jewish conservatives and then say that they are merely being humorous pranksters -- that they are being satirical. But for you to fall for this, you would have to misunderstand what satire means.

No, Trying to Elicit Laughs While Being Racist Isn't "Satirizing Racism"
To satirize bigotry is not to say something bigoted that one either does not mean or later professes not to mean. To take a satirical approach to bigotry is both:

  1. To make some demonstration of how absurd bigotry is. 
  2. To be open about one’s own intention to expose what bigotry looks like when taken to its final absurdity. 

That is what Mel Brooks did in his classic movies, such as Blazing Saddles. A more recent example is a narrative near the end of the South Park episode “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow.” Near the climax, Eric Cartman melodramatically points a gun at his frienemy Kyle Broflovski and demands, “Hand over the gold. . . . All Jews carry gold in a little around their necks. . . . Give me your Jew gold now! . . . I want your Jew gold.”

The humor there ridicules not Jews but anti-Semites: it exposes the absurdity of anti-Semites making stereotypical assumptions about Jews. Later in the episode, Kyle removes his hat and it turns out he was hiding his “Jew gold” there the whole time. The surprise elicits a laugh, but it doesn’t imply that anti-Semites are correct in making assumptions about Jews in general: the humor comes from the idea that, once in a while, a member of a minority does behave in a manner similar to particular stereotype while it still doesn’t apply to the group as a whole. The Cartman character makes for a compelling satire on anti-Semitism because the ridicule is directed at the absurdity of the anti-Semites; it doesn’t express hostility toward Jews in general.

By contrast, what point is made when alt-right people tweet Nazi imagery at Jonah Goldberg? What point is made when they tweet images of Pepe the Frog in a Nazi uniform? Is the point to ridicule anti-Semitism or racism? No, obviously the main point is simply to make Jonah Goldberg understandably uncomfortable. There is nothing satirical about it. The point is indeed to express hostility -- and then, in an implausible fashion, to plead “I was only joking!” when confronted about it. Ayn Rand is quite right in The Romantic Manifesto to cast aspersions upon "the man who...seeks to undercut all values under cover of a chuckle, who gets away with offensive malicious utterances and, if caught, runs for cover by declaring: 'I was only kidding.'"

When alt-right jerks send Nazi photos to Jonah Goldberg, do they literally want him murdered in a gas oven?  I very much doubt it; that part is a "joke" in poor taste.  But do they intend to express genuine hostility and spite toward him?  Yes.  That part is not a joke, is not funny, and the very intention to express that hatred is to be taken literally.

On February 23, 2017, I added the explanation of the term kidding on the square, and I also changed the wording of the paragraph beneath that explanation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Amorous Anguirus

Stuart K. Hayashi

Anguirus is the first monster to have fought Godzilla in any movie, and is the second-oldest in Toho's pantheon of predators.  But my drawing shows a different side of him.  Anguirus feels no romantic angst; only affection.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Milo Yiannopoulos and Stefan Molyneux Whitewash Richard Spencer's Racism

Stuart K. Hayashi

NOTE:  On February 18, 2017, I made some significant changes to this essay upon learning that in 2006, Milo Yiannopoulos had been walking around in public with Nazi paraphernalia.  This includes his wearing a Nazi Iron Cross necklace.  One might make the excuse that Milo Yiannopoulos had adopted the Nazi persona in his early twenties just to be "edgy," but that is still pathological and not to be encouraged.  I am sad to say that I have known people who, in their twenties, repeatedly "joked" about admiring Nazis or wishing they could have been Nazis.  Without exceptions all of these people had -- and still have -- self-hatred issues.  Even if we try to be charitable and try to assume that Yiannopoulos's Nazi persona from his twenties was just some poorly-though-out youthful indiscretion and not done out of malice, it's still a horribly unhealthy sign.  And that, as of this writing, Yiannopoulos is still whitewashing neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, indicates that the pathology is not "long passed."

In an earlier draft, I said that Yiannopoulos was "Alt Lite," meaning that he whitewashes white supremacists but does not go as far as saying that he is one of them himself.  Upon learning about Yiannopoulos actually going around praising Hitler and Naziism -- even allegedly in jest -- I have to revise that.  Yiannopoulos might not merely be alt-lite; he might be in the same category as Richard Spencer after all.


No, Dummy, It's Not OK to Punch Richard Spencer Over His Racist Speech
Richard Spencer is the neo-Nazi who famously coined alt-right.  You may recall that in January, as Spencer was being recorded on video, some terribly misguided vigilante punched him as he was speaking.  For the record, that was wrong and the hooligan should face assault charges.  Spencer's propaganda is vicious -- indeed, evil -- but, as of this writing, it is still no more than speech.  No matter how evil someone is -- even if people acting on his advocacy does great harm -- violence against that person cannot be justified until and unless that person himself is behaving violently.

The reason is that even if someone advocates something truly evil, such as racism, through his speech, people are still free to avoid him or counter him by using their own speech to expose what is wrong with what he advocates.  Conversely, if someone is imposing his will through violence, then he is at the point where you cannot reason with him and you cannot simply avoid him; as long as someone chooses to act violently he can only be answered with force in kind.

One should not be "rationalist" about this and assume that I am saying that you cannot strike a violent party until and unless it has landed the first blow.  If a party demonstrates a long-term plan to enact violence upon you, you are right to call the police to apprehend that party prior to any blow being landed.  If, for example, someone like Charles Manson were plotting your murder, you would right to call police upon that party before any physical altercation broke out.

Richard Spencer indeed poses a threat to the republic in advocating his racism, but as long as that remains speech, the threat Spencer poses remains an indirect one.  On the contrary, when that vigilante punched him, that vigilante gave everyone probable cause to be concerned that that same vigilante might direct similar violence upon them; by throwing that punch, the vigilante made a concrete demonstration of how physically dangerous he is, and thus poses a more direct threat upon others.  Violence against those who advocate Richard Spencer's brand of neo-Nazism cannot be justified until there is concrete evidence that those neo-Nazis are planning an act of violence upon person or private property, or if one has proof that they are already engaging in such violence.  At that point, one is called upon to bring such evidence to the police (here is my explanation why a free republic requires that citizens leave retaliatory force to the police and do not become vigilantes).

The same principle applies to scheduled speeches that are supposedly to be delivered by Milo Yiannopoulos.  Yiannopoulos's sleazy antics did not justify the riots and vandalism at Berkeley; and those who riot out of purported protest against him are behaving as fascists.

Yes, Stefan Molyneux Fans, Richard Spencer Is a Neo-Nazi
Now that I have made that clear, it's important to acknowledge that Richard Spencer really is a neo-Nazi and that, to the extent that people swallow his propaganda, he indeed poses a danger.  As a matter of course, people act upon their beliefs.  If they believe what Richard Spencer espouses, they will ultimately call for governmental initiations of the use of force upon innocent people -- the likeliest innocent victims will be of dark-skinned "races."

In the very video where Richard Spencer gets punched, right before the fist lands on his face, he is in the middle of denying that he is a neo-Nazi.  "Neo-Nazis hate me," he insists.  Later on Twitter, however, he tweeted this out.  Under the guise of being tongue-in-cheek (as if a white member of an anti-immigration circle calling him- or herself a Nazi is sooo amusing), he is implicitly acknowledging the association of him with neo-Nazism:


If you want to see for yourself the sort of racism that Richard Spencer promotes, you can go to the white nationalist propaganda website he owns and operates, called Radix Journal. It has some mentions of Ayn Rand you might find interesting. One of them is a piece titled "Ayn Rand's Curious Bloodlust," which goes out of its way to denounce the Ayn Rand Institute and, of course, Jews in general. It bemoans, "Faith, racial pride and even loyalty to one’s family if it isn’t based on selfishness were also judged harshly by Rand." Interesting how it threw in "racial pride" between "faith" and "loyalty to one's family" as if it's equally uncontroversial, is it not?

You can also check out "What's Wrong with Libertarianism?" authored by Richard Spencer himself. In that piece, he heaps hostility upon Gary Johnson while, of course, praising Murray N. Rothbard, Hans Hermann Hoppe, and Lew Rockwell. More interesting than that, though, is what you find in the comments section from Spencer's alt-right fan base. "Albionic American" uses the triple-parentheses (((echo)))) for "Ayn Rand" at least twice, and proclaims the need to "restrict women's franchise and sexual freedom, and instead enforce a benevolent but strict patriarchy."


That is Richard Spencer and the ideological company he keeps.

Milo Yiannopoulos:  Open Scorn for the Left, Respect for Richard Spencer's Sleaziness
It is concerning that some people who call themselves Objectivists express admiration for Milo Yiannopoulos.  From the summer of 2015 to January 2016, I would have told you that I thought Yiannopoulos was not exactly in the alt-right, as being alt-right means going as far as Richard Spencer and Stefan Molyneux:  stating explicitly that different "races" have biologically innate behavioral differences and therefore the State must intervene to keep them apart.  I would have told you that instead Yiannopoulos is a leading figure in what is called the alt-lite:  people who do not state explicit agreement with the eugenics but go out of their way to provide a moral sanction to the alt-right, treating the alt-right as just another opinion and admonishing people to respect it as a legitimate hypothesis worthy of consideration and respect in a pluralistic republic.  While members of the alt-lite aren't the ones fervent enough to stick their necks out and say all the racist rhetoric bluntly, they remain fellow travelers who provide encouragement to the more explicit racists and reinforce their antics.

Yet, upon learning on February 18, 2017, that Yiannopoulos actually has a history, going back over ten years, of hinting to people of some sort of sympathy for Naziism, Yiannopoulos might not be just alt-lite; he might really be alt-right and in the same camp as Richard Spencer.

As "proof" of Yiannopoulos opposing the alt-right, some of his fans quote him saying, "White nationalism is not the answer" and his saying that he doesn't agree with how white nationalists are trying to counter the political Left's collectivism with their own. But this gesture is merely perfunctory on his part.  You can tell someone's real priorities by his actions.  Looking at Yiannopoulos's actions -- as I have done since the autumn of 2014, back when I was following the Gamergate controversy and when Yiannopoulos was then well-known only among those who knew about Gamergate -- allows one to see that while Yiannopoulos heaps nothing but disrespect upon anyone and anything he misconstrues as leftist (such as free-marketers who stand up for the transgendered), he presumes that the alt-right's racism must be paid respect and that its central tenets can only be, at worst, and as-of-yet-unproven hypothesis.

Yiannopoulos came out as the preeminent alt-lite apologist for the alt-right with the essay "An Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt-Right," which Yiannopoulos's former friend Cathy Young accurately describes as "a whitewash, full of far-fetched arguments and misleading claims that consistently downplay this movement’s ugly bigotry." "Establishment Conservative's Guide" introduces Richard Spencer and the alt-right as follows:

There are many things that separate the alternative right from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared), but one thing stands out above all else: intelligence. . . .  The alternative right are a much smarter group of people -- which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much. They’re dangerously bright.  . . .

The media empire of the modern-day alternative right coalesced around Richard Spencer during his editorship of Taki’s Magazine. In 2012, Spencer founded, which would become a center of alt-right thought.

Alongside other nodes like Steve Sailer’s blog, VDARE and American Renaissance, became a gathering point for an eclectic mix of renegades who objected to the established political consensus in some form or another. All of these websites have been accused of racism.

Note the question-begging presumptions that Yiannopoulos has in those paragraphs:  the large group of people who disagree with the alt-right's members -- which he misidentifies as "Left" -- "hates them so much" for no better reason than that the alt-right figures are "smarter."  If you compare Richard Spencer and his alt-right cronies to skinheads -- which makes sense, given that white supremacism, and their support for the idea of having a government separate "races" by force, are what the two categories share in common -- then Yiannopoulos is quick to dismiss you as behaving "idiotically."  By contrast, Yiannopoulos has no sharper barb for Spencer and his alt-right cronies than "All of these websites have been accused of racism," which is a far cry from Yiannopoulos admitting the obvious:  these websites "have been accused of racism" for a solid reason:  a reading of these websites demonstrates that these websites blatantly advocate racism.

After a quick and perfunctory admission, "Anything associated as closely with racism and bigotry as the alternative right will inevitably attract real racists and bigots," he goes on to attempt to minimize this.  What Yiannopoulos would have us believe are the very few true racists and bigots in the alt-right "are the people that the alt-right’s opponents [merely] wish constituted the entire movement" (emphasis added). He disingenuously assures readers "there's just not very many" real racists in the alt-right, "no-one [in the alt-right, definitely not Richard Spencer] really likes them, and they’re unlikely to achieve anything significant in the alt-right."

Were it the case that it was unlikely for real racists to achieve anything in the alt-right, then it would have been unlikely for Richard Spencer to achieve anything in the alt-right. Yet Yiannopoulos already identified Richard Spencer as the alt-right's thought leader.

He gave a "speech" that simply amounted to the arbitrary sentence "Feminism is cancer." There was no equivalent "The alt-right cancer." He told one left-wing student, "Fuck your feelings." He did not say "fuck" to the feelings of Richard Spencer's ilk (and the racist pseudoscience promoted by Richard Spencer and Stefan Molyneux end up amounting to nothing more than a sprawling rationalization for their own feelings, those feelings being prejudices and unproductive hostility). The implication of Milo Yiannopoulos's public antics has consistently been that he regards Richard Spencer and the alt-right as having the moral high ground over anyone they consider "Left," including moderate Democrats and even Yiannopoulos's former friend, Reason magazine writer Cathy Young.

Yiannopoulos's apologia for Richard Spencer and the alt-right is not some new affectation he adopted to sell books.  It goes back at least as far as 2006, when he was in his early twenties.  Back then, Milo was calling himself "Milo Andreas Wagner." He wore a Nazi Iron Cross necklace out in public.

In 2009, Yiannopoulos uploaded this image -- supposedly "jokingly," of course.

I learned about those images from this blog post, which chronicles still other instances -- all taking place prior to 2014 -- of Yiannopoulos expressing some sort of anti-Semitism, often rationalizing that being Jewish precludes him from being anti-Jewish.

The main excuse for Yiannopoulos, naturally, is that all of these were mere "jokes" in crude taste. For an explanation as to why that excuse fails to mitigate concerns over the pathology of the crude "joker," read this blog post of mine.

Of course, if we find that Yiannopoulos is at least as favorable to white supremacism as Richard Spencer is, that would still not exonerate the Berkeley riots from moral condemnation. What I said about violence still applies: if Yiannopoulos has yet to initiate the use of actual physical violence, then those who rioted against him demonstrate themselves to be a greater direct physical threat to others than does Yiannopoulos himself.

Now, to the degree that Yiannopoulos is ambiguous about whether or not he realizes that Richard Spencer is a real racist -- and, remember, Yiannopoulos mendaciously asserts that real racists are rare in the alt-right -- that gives Yiannopoulos some weaselly wiggle room whereby he can maintain some plausible deniability about whether he condones Richard Spencer's propaganda specifically. But Stefan Molyneux -- with whom Yiannopoulos exchanged accolades in an online video interview -- is less ambiguous: Molyneux's apologia and whitewashing of Richard Spencer's racism advocacy is much more direct.

Stefan Molyneux's Excuses for Richard Spencer's "White Homeland" to Exclude Nonwhites
Since the autumn of 2015, Stefan Molyneux -- once most famous as the leader of a cult that was purportedly about anarchy -- has become most famous as an online apologist and propagandist for Donald Trump (it does not appear that the cult has disbanded, though). You might have seen my prior critiques of Molyneux's advocacy of eugenics, white supremacism, and government-enforced racial segregation. As an apologist for Trump, Molyneux has also found it necessary to make excuses for some of the unsavory characters who have been manipulating Trump (sometimes even Vladimir Putin). For that reason, Molyneux took it upon himself to make an entire video to rationalize, as purely justified, various disturbing behaviors on the part of Trump's chief strategist, former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon. To his credit, conservative commentator Glenn Beck has remained critical of Trump, Bannon, Breitbart News, and the alt-right. Beck pointed out that by catering to the alt-right, Steve Bannon and Breitbart News were elevating and reinforcing the white supremacist agenda of Richard Spencer. On this point, Molyneux decided that defending Steve Bannon against Glenn Beck naturally compelled him to defend Richard Spencer as well. The result is Molyneux delivering mind-bending rationalizations for Richard Spencer's racism.

First, Molyneux approvingly cites Richard Spencer's dishonest comparison of his own agenda to the establishment of Israel.   Richard Spencer says that his desire for purely white countries -- which block nonwhites from entry -- is simply to have an "ethno-state" that is to white Christians what Israel is to Jews, and therefore what he promotes is no more objectionable than is present-day Israel.  Molyneux announces that he shares in that evaluation completely.  As I've explained before, that comparison is misleading. More than a fifth of Israel's population is gentile; this includes Arabs.  Over 16 percent of Israel's population is Muslim.  According to Israeli law, these non-Jews are to be treated with the same rights and freedom as Jewish citizens. And, yes, as of this writing Israel is accepting orphaned child refugees from Syria.

Secondly, Molyneux resorts to pedantry to distract his audience from the fact that the general thrust of Glenn Beck's criticism of Richard Spencer remains correct.  Glenn Beck faults Richard Spencer for advocating that the State intrude upon people's private decisions on whether to have children or not; Beck is concerned about white supremacists calling for the compulsory sterilization of nonwhites. Molyneux replies that Richard Spencer is not calling for compulsory sterilization but is only advocating that tax money be spent to subsidize upper-middle-class whites to have more children, which means that Richard Spencer is benign and that governmental intrusion upon private families' choices is OK.  (And this same Stefan Molyneux still calls himself an anarchist.😑 )

Here is the essay of Richard Spencer's that Stefan Molyneux quotes and defends. Richard Spencer says,

We are undergoing a sad process of degeneration. We will need to reverse it using the state and the government. You incentivize people with higher intelligence, you incentivize people who are healthy to have children [Spencer is demanding that the State do this 'incentivization,' and Molyneux approves] . . . .

Today, contraception and birth control are nothing less than a curse [when used by upper-middle-class white couples]! Those with the foresight to engage in 'family planning' [he means upper-middle-class white couples] are exactly the kind of responsible, intelligent people who should be reproducing. And increasingly, middle-class White families are so over-burdened with taxation and the rising costs of housing, healthcare, and education that they don't feel they can afford children [you see? --S.H.]. This is not only a dysgenic catastrophe but a moral one as well. 
On the other hand, individuals with low innate intelligence or even criminal personalities [Spencer means blacks and Latinos] -- those who should be limiting their reproduction -- can't be bothered to purchase a condom.

Molyneux approvingly quotes Richard Spencer as saying that because nonwhites are out-competing the white population in terms of out-breeding whites, the solution is for Western governments to manipulate white citizens into having more children as a means of catching up to nonwhites and matching them (as if this is some contest).  Molyneux would then have his audience believe that this is not racist; this self-proclaimed anarchist does not even acknowledge how statist an intrusion that is. (This fretting over how white people in rich countries are not having enough children, in competition with nonwhites in poor countries, was started by the first eugenicists in the late 1800s, and this scare was revived in the 1990s. A moderate version of it is called "demographic winter" and the more fanatical version involves the alt-right screaming about "white genocide" in the West. For my deconstruction of this nonsense, read this post.)

Molyneux says of Richard Spencer, "He is making an argument based on facts. And you can agree or disagree." If you don't approve of this, "you would need to find arguments or counter-facts; Richard Spencer would be open to any counterfactual arguments that came his way [lie]." Molyneux's ultimate assessment of Spencer's white nationalism is, "It's not racism if you're pointing out empirical facts about ethnic differences. It's just facts. You hate facts, I guess, if you're on the Left [translation: by 'Left,' Molyneux means everyone who doesn't swallow his rhetoric on race]."

Below, you can watch the excerpt from Molyneux's Steve Bannon apologia that makes excuses for Richard Spencer:

Stefan Molyneux Floats Proposition That "This Battle Has Moved Beyond Words"; Richard Spencer Approves
Richard Spencer apparently recognizes an ideological ally when he sees one, as he has taken to retweeting Stefan Molyneux's propaganda.


This is one I find quite noteworthy:


That tweet contains an excerpt from the ending of Stefan Molyneux's video "Anti-Milo Yiannopoulos Rioters Burn UC Berkeley | True News," FDR Podcast 3581. The video purports to be about the riots of misguided people in Berkeley to shut down one of Milo Yiannopoulos's "speeches." Molyneux turns on the crocodile tears and talks as if the Berkeley rioters are representative of everyone in the country who disagrees with the racial fanaticism he preaches. The Americans who disagree with Stefan Molyneux's fanaticism and his calls for State-imposed racial segregation, by means of immigration bans based on IQ and race, number in the hundreds of millions, vastly outnumbering the Berkeley rioters. But Molyneux talks to his audience as if the Berkeley riot is the fundamental essence of the entire rest of the world, the big bad world that rejects his cultish doctrine. For that reason, between crocodile tears, Molyneux almost-whispers,
Maybe the time for arguments is passed. Maybe this battle has moved beyond words. Perhaps my job is over. Perhaps I have failed or the world has failed. Perhaps I am done. For ten years I've been saying '[That's] not an argument' [to anyone who disagrees, even when -- especially when -- they do give real counterarguments]. Tonight, perhaps, it has been made clear there are no more arguments to be made.

It would be great if, by that, Molyneux meant he was finally folding up this dishonest operation, taking all his propaganda off the Web, and finally making a living off of some work that is actually constructive and psychologically healthy. But Molyneux is not giving up. What, then, does he mean that "there are no more arguments to be made"? Since he is not giving up on trying to push his racial separatism, what is meant by "the time for arguments is passed" and "this battle has moved beyond words"? To what is he referring?

Ayn Rand -- the same Ayn Rand whom Stefan Molyneux's pal, Richard Spencer, despises -- gave some insight. The same Leonard Peikoff denounced in Radix Journal explains in The Ominous Parallels, "There are only two fundamental methods by which men can deal with one another: by reason or by force, by intellectual persuasion or by physical coercion, by directing to an opponent’s brain an argument -- or a bullet." Molyneux is floating the idea to his cult audience that his making persuasive appeals (that is, trying to convince people by reason that his racism is correct 😑) is no longer a viable option, and, therefore, if his cult audience is to have its way, it must have some other recourse. But what other recourse is left? Ayn Rand -- the one Richard Spencer reviles -- notes in "The Comprachicos," "When men abandon reason, physical force becomes their only means of dealing with one another and of settling disagreements."

Molyneux is floating the proposition to his cult audience that maybe he should stop with trying to reason other people into, well, his thoroughly irrational racial segregationism. If Molyneux and his audience come to conclude that that is the case, then pushing their own agenda, their own cause, would require that they go through with that one other recourse. Richard Spencer retweeted that monologue because that is the exact direction that he would push the Molyneux cult toward. And should the day come when Richard Spencer and the Molyneux cult decide that "this battle has moved beyond words" and that they will fight with their fists, then, yes, you will be justified in punching them back.

Yes, Richard Spencer is a neo-Nazi. Yes, Milo Yiannopoulos has done his part to normalize Richard Spencer's bigotry and to demonstrate his own pathological obsession with Nazi iconography. And Stefan Molyneux has made an unambiguous apologia for that bigotry; one cannot pretend that Molyneux is "only joking" about this.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Stefan Molyneux Whitewashes South African Apartheid; Denies It Was Racism

Stuart K. Hayashi

I have done what I could to expose Stefan Molyneux's racism and advocacy of state-imposed racial discrimination -- all of which Molyneux argued in favor of on eugenicist grounds.  But Molyneux still has his apologists, and I notice that some prestigious commentators are still lending Molyneux's podcast -- which revolves around Molyneux's racist advocacy in most episodes -- a veneer of respectability by going on as guests to be interviewed.  What is ironic about this is that at least one of those guests has written about the perils of white-supremacists' historical revisionism.  Perhaps we should be acquainted with Molyneux's attempts to whitewash the history of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

At the 0:50:59 mark of his video "The Truth About South Africa and Apartheid" (Podcast #3066), Stefan Molyneux proclaims, “The institution of apartheid was not racism but was designed to preserve the white population against the increasing communist militancy of the blacks.” On this point, he cites someone whom in the video he simply calls a "historian." He quotes that "historian" as follows:
The Cape Town-Stellenbosch axis of the nationalist intelligentsia, which was the most influential lobby in Malan’s NP, almost without exception defended apartheid not as an expression of white superiority but on the grounds of its assumed capacity to reduce conflict by curtailing points of interracial contact [emphasis added].

If you run a Google search on that quotation, it will take you to Jared Taylor's white separatist website American Renaissance, specifically the glowing review that American Renaissance provides to the book that is the source of that quotation: Ilana Mercer's Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa (take a guess as to why a book so dedicated to downplaying the mistreatment imposed upon native Africans would have the word cannibal in the title😒).

 Ilana Mercer is not a scholar of history; she is a Trump apologist, a self-described "paleolibertarian" (similar to Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute, who has published her as well), and a columnist for the paleo-conservative World Net Daily and even for VDare.Com, the latter of which is brazenly racist. (Click here for Cathy Young's exposé on VDare.) When expecting you to believe his assertion that apartheid in South Africa was not about racism, Molyneux cites not a history scholar but someone who churns out polemics promoting anti-immigration nationalism and who has aligned herself with VDare.

Molyneux provides only one major complaint against the apartheid regime in this video, and he does so at the end. The one complaint is: the apartheid regime conscripted young white men; that's it.

Given that the apartheid regime, thankfully, no longer exists, why is Molyneux dredging the topic up again? It is to rationalize his repeated assertions about the necessity for the State to enact statutes to keep different ethnic groups separate from one another. Such state-enforced segregation includes banning Africans from immigrating to countries whose current majority populations are of Western European descent. One commenter who calls himself "Master Yoda" typed in the YouTube comments section,

Hi Stefan, this is an absolutely brilliant piece. The facts are indisputable and right on the money. I sincerely hope that all Europeans watch this video. If they allow the hordes of African immigrants to enter their countries, they will soon look like the once beautiful South Africa.

Does Molyneux chew this guy out for the obvious racism, informing "Master Yoda" that he is not interested in reinforcing such bigotry? Of course not. Molyneux simply responds, "Thank you." (I have other witnesses who have seen, on their own computer screens, that Molyneux replied as much to "Master Yoda").

Here is a screen shot of that from December 10, 2016.

This is from February 9, 2017:

When you lend your credibility to Molyneux by going on his show as a guest and not confronting him about this racism, it is comparable to being interviewed by Richard Spencer and acting as if there is nothing controversial about Richard Spencer's main area of advocacy.  By the way, Molyneux whitewashes Richard Spencer's white natinoalism as well, as you can see here and here.

On February 12, 2017, I added the link on the bottom to the essay "Milo Yiannopoulos and Stefan Molyneux Whitewash Richard Spencer's Racism."

UPDATE from February 16, 2017:  The Moorfield Storey Institute has provided a detailed refutation of Molyneux's revisionist history.  It points out,
In a stunning example of Molyneux’s ignorance apartheid was advocated by communist controlled trade unions in the early 1900s. These trade unions represented white workers and they wanted a labor cartel to freeze out black workers to lessen competition for workers in the urban areas. . . .  
This followed the attempt by white Marxists to take control of the country in 1922, leading to such things as the South African Air Force bombing Johannesburg, and the Red Flag flying over city hall in Durban. Contrary to Molyneux the Communists were the original allies of apartheid. A Marxist-written history, which is quite candid in this regard is, Time Longer Than Rope by Edward Roux.

The Storey Institute explains how it was much later that the communists, under instruction from Stalin, decided to back the black South Africans over the white trade unionists.  You can read this here.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Transcript of Steve Bannon's Tirade Against Legal Immigration, Asians, and Silicon Valley, and His Belief in the 'Race to the Bottom'

Stuart K. Hayashi

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

During their ravings against immigration, “immigrant skeptics” frequently shout, “I’m for legal immigration; I'm just against illegal immigration!”   Here is what is wrong with that cliché:

 To proclaim that one favors legal immigration, while refraining from supporting a loosening of the present restrictions, is disingenuous.

This is one of he few areas where President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is more honest than most "immigration skeptics."  He did a podcast on March 9, 2016 where he delivered a whole diatribe against legal immigration from Asia and against the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who hire those immigrants for engineering jobs. Essentially, Bannon makes the same “Race to the Bottom” argument long delivered by Karl Marx and other left-wing anti-capitalists. You can read my refutation of the “Race to the Bottom” argument over here and over here.

The Washington Post embedded an audio recording of that podcast here, but the accompanying article only quoted a few sentence fragments. I therefore made a more complete transcript below.

In the rant, Steve Bannon is critical of then-candidate Trump for being too laissez faire on legal immigration and H-1B visas; he expresses the wish that Trump would take more of a hard-line stand against H-1B visas going to Asians.

As for why the “Race to the Bottom” argument is fallacious, I have prepared this infographic:


By the way, we started off the day in London with our [Breitbart] Tech group talking about the progressive plutocrats in Silicon Valley. John Hayward came on. These [Silicon Valley] oligarchs that were down there with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, um, and they weren’t just down there for radical ideology. I can’t tell you the number of callers that call in and are Trump supporters but are rattled. They are rattled about how they see this massive [Trump] rally with the Disney workers [who complain that the Walt Disney Company may outsource their jobs to Asia]. They hear a debate [where Trump criticizes immigration] but they think they hear a different thing [from Donald Trump] on the [H-1B] visas, and the next day it’s clarified; they got a [Republican presidential primary] debate coming up, and they see these [Silicon Valley] oligarchs down there with 54 private jets, and they’re not down there for their health.

They [Silicon Valley executives] are called down there by Karl Rove, and it’s a ‘Stop Trump’ movement, because they [Silicon Valley executives] want unlimited H-1B visas. So how is this going to work in the Trump campaign? People read the white papers [policy positions from the Trump campaign]; people hear the Disney workers [worrying that the Disney Company may replace them with foreign-born employees], people hear the [Donald Trump] rhetoric [against immigration], and, all of a sudden, [they want to ask Donald Trump,] ‘are you trying to be nuanced, or make a [dog whistle] signal, or is it that [Trump] doesn’t believe in the policy [he advocates] and [will] come out the next day and reverse it?’

Where are we in the Trump campaign right now with H-1B visas, because you got the [Silicon Valley] oligarchs down there, brother, and they got Karl Rove and they got literally hundreds of millions of dollars that come, and they’re coming for one reason, and the reason they’re coming is that they want unlimited — unlimited — ability to go throughout the world, and people come here [from Asia] and compete with [native-born] kids coming here out of engineering schools with I.T. [information technology] jobs? If you’re in your forties or fifties right now, people will tell you they haven’t had a raise in decades in I.T. What was supposed to be a great career [in engineering for native-born Americans] turned out not to be such a great career. It’s because [of] these [H-1B] visas.

And now all the [American] engineering schools are full of people from South Asia and East Asia. It’s not that [native-born] people have any problem with these folks, but they’re coming here to take these jobs [away from native-born Americans]. We’ve turned over the entire American education system. We’ve cut out art, we’ve cut out history, we’ve cut out music. Why have we done it? STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. We’ve told every [native-born] kid in this country, ‘You’ve got to have some of that.’ What happens? They can’t get engineering degrees, they can’t get into graduate schools because all these foreign students come [to the USA] and they [native-born Americans] can’t get a job. And they’re looking to people liked Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to talk about immigration and to talk about H-1B visas and to stand up against these [Silicon Valley] oligarchs. So where are we on this?

Stephen Miller talks, and then Stephen Bannon expresses disapproval that Arthur Brooks and the American Enterprise Institute are not opposed strongly enough to the issuance of H-1B visas to Asians.

Steven Bannon continues:

Isn’t the beating heart of this problem, the real beating heart of it, of what we have got to get sorted here is not illegal immigration — as horrific as that is, and it’s horrific — don’t we have a problem that we’ve looked the other way on this legal immigration that has kind of overrun the country, when you look at [the figure] of 61 million [immigrants in the USA], twenty percent of the country is immigrants? Is that not a massive problem?

Vox did a transcript of this podcast, though not exactly the same as the one I did above. The way in which Vox characterized Bannon's position is accurate: Bannon considers legal immigration to be the real problem.