Hate meeting in the middle. At the bottom. The very bottom.
Most things in the world happen in a standard distribution -- a bell curve -- that demonstrates that the greater the distance a single point is from the mean the less common it is. If something is "in the tails" it means that it is both far away from the mean and also very rare. There are two tails - one on each side -- and conventional wisdom and experience tells us that the variation in many things conform to curves like this. It could be assumed that American political ideology would also conform to this -- with 95% of people falling within two standard deviations of the mean. For the most part, I think it's fair to assume most people one would describe as reasonably sane are somewhere in the middle, and those who are not might be associated with Neo-Nazi movements. But the analysis felt somewhat flawed because for much of my lifetime, it was really easy to identify the tail dwellers on the right side of the curve but a little less clear on the left. Enter the Dirtbag Left.
The characteristics of the tail-dwellers are similar enough that I began to wonder if what we have is, in fact, a circle, where the tails come together. The bottom of the circle populated by radicals who would rather firebomb the system than make even tiny concessions and then stand in front of the flames and say, "I told you so." Militant adherence to the stated principles of these groups parallels fundamentalist movements within the world's major religions which often beget violence and promote totalitarianism. The instinct of these groups to inflict outsize consequences on those who disagree with them is critically dangerous for any society but a pluralist society like the US may be in the gravest danger. What does the bottom of the circle have in common? Rigid "supremacist" ideologies with little tolerance for dissent, misogyny, nihilism, the Internet, and the employment of chaos and "othering" to recruit and further their cause.
There are hate groups all over America. Some of them, the entry level ones, seem just mildly sexist like that dude who talks over you in meetings, or racist, or homophobic, or anti-Semitic while others plan and carry out violence against whomever they blame for their perceived impotence. It’s a common recruiting tactic for terrorist organizations to draw one in and gradually indoctrinate with more and more radical material. The popularity of some of these “milder” grievance groups should not be ignored – they are like those gateway drugs Nancy Reagan was always warning us about in the 80s.
What is Chapo Trap House?
An American political podcast founded in March 2016 and hosted by Will Menaker, Matt Christman, Felix Biederman, Amber A'Lee Frost, and Virgil Texas that rails against "elites", "identity politics" and civility. It’s not hard to see how this goes bad.
The New Yorker, What Will Become of the Dirtbag Left? 11.18.16 "Their argument is inextricable from the way in which they make it. But when an ethos of vulgarity is enthusiastically practiced by a group of white men, this will sometimes translate as chauvinism. Particular strains of “Chapo” invective can be hard to take—people are “pussies,” or they’re “retarded.” Botanical gardens are “gay,” Hillary Clinton is “a freak.” The caricature of the “Bernie bro”—an aggressively disaffected white guy who hates Clinton ostensibly because of her neoliberal incrementalism but deep down because of her gender—occasionally seems to apply. The very name of the podcast—as well as its theme song, a vaporwave remix of Gucci Mane—suggests a dismissive attitude toward identity politics. They are, after all, three white guys."
What's up with Bernie & Joe Rogan?
Bernie Sanders recently touted the endorsement of Man Show alum Joe Rogan in an ad to almost immediate backlash. Rogan, popular podcaster and UFC fan, is also known for giving a platform to Alex Jones, misogyny and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and has indicated he will vote for Trump in the fall after the Sanders kerfuffle.
The Atlantic, Why is Joe Rogan So Popular? 8.19.19 “One of the downsides of total human optimization is that you’re always coming up short, and in the wrong stew of testosterone and serotonin, it can turn into a poison of self-loathing and trigger-cocked rage. And a key thing Joe and his fans tend to have in common is a deficit of empathy. He seems unable to process how his tolerance for monsters like Alex Jones plays a role in the wounding of people who don’t deserve it. Jones’s recent appearance on the podcast came after he was sued by families of children and educators murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre—a mass shooting that Jones falsely claimed was a hoax, which families of the victims say prompted his gang of fans to harass them. (Jones has since acknowledged that the Sandy Hook massacre occurred.) So is Joe really nurturing a generation of smarter, healthier, more worldly men, or an army of conspiracy theorists and alt-right super soldiers? At the very least, he shows too much compassion for bad actors, and not enough for people on the receiving end of their attacks.”
New York Times, The 'Man Show' Diaspora 3.13.20 “The idea was to appeal to men with a certain brand of over-the-top frat-boy humor: crude jokes about beer, bodily functions and women, with a sidekick who could drink a pint in one gulp, resident “Juggy girls” who entertained the audience with their, well, have a look at the name, and credits that ran while women jumped on trampolines in short skirts and bikinis.
Hard to see how this goes wrong... or is it?
And Cenk Uygur/The Young Turks?
The Young Turks is a self-described left-wing/progressive news and opinion show which is the flagship product of TYT network. It was created by Cenk Uygur, Ben Makiewicz and Dave Koller. Cenk Uygur sound familiar? He just lost big in primary to replace Rep Katie Hill who resigned from Congress after embarrassing photos and text messages were published online. (It's Not Over After All in NYT is worth a read on that as well.) He initially received an endorsement in the race from Bernie Sanders which was rescinded the next day after an outcry about things he's said in the past.
New York Times, Bernie Sanders Retracts Endorsement of Cenk Uygur After Criticism, 12.13.19 “Mr. Uygur’s long history of comments about women included ranking them on a scale of 1 to 10, based on how likely men would be to have them perform oral sex. He also defended a similar ranking by Harvard’s men’s soccer team, which was widely condemned at the time.
Mr. Uygur, a longtime supporter of Mr. Sanders, has also disparaged former President Barack Obama on his show, argued that bestiality should be legal and hosted white supremacist figures, including David Duke.”
Uygur despite being "left-wing" has fought the unionization of his employees at TYT and has been the subject of headlines like the below in right wing propaganda factory Breitbart (which we won't link to because ew.): "Cenk Uygur Exposes Media's 'Biden is Still Sharp' Gaslighting Campaign".
Other bottom dwellers…
White House advisor who hates immigrants. Loves hair spray paint. Possible co-author of recent Presidential Oval Office address with Jared Kushner which sent stock market into bear territory for the first time in 11 years. Speaking about immigration, Miller said this: “It’s just that this is all I care about. I don’t have a family. I don’t have anything else. This is my life.”
The New Yorker, How Stephen Miller Manipulates Donald Trump to Further His Immigration Obsession, 3.2.20 “Miller, who was a speechwriter during the campaign, is now Trump’s longest-serving senior aide. He is also an Internet meme, a public scourge, and a catch-all symbol of the racism and malice of the current government. In a cast of exceptionally polarizing officials, he has embraced the role of archvillain. Miller can be found shouting over interviewers on the weekend news shows or berating reporters in the White House briefing room; he has also vowed to quell a “deep state” conspiracy against Trump. When he’s not accusing journalists of harboring a “cosmopolitan bias” or denying that the Statue of Liberty symbolizes America’s identity as a nation of immigrants, he is shaping policy and provoking the President’s most combative impulses.”
Southern Poverty Law Center, Stephen Miller's Affinity for White Nationalism Revealed in Leaked Emails, 11.12.19 "In the run-up to the 2016 election, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage, according to leaked emails reviewed by Hatewatch."
It's chilling to think that American taxpayers pay his salary, even his uncle is ashamed.
What about Incels?
Incel stands for "involuntary celibates" -- men who can't get laid. Enough said? Nope. Not nearly.
Washington Post Opinion, Men are in Trouble. 'Incels' are Proof, 6.7.19 “These communities tend to be self-reinforcing. Members believe that their looks or personal traits have consigned them to lifelong loneliness, and similarly downbeat peers are always willing to add more fuel to that fire. And the incel community has developed elaborate, and elaborately misogynistic, theories to blame others for their plight, entered on the idea that women are shallow, stupid and cruel -- exclusively choosing only a handful of the most attractive men to be with and disdaining the rest. All men should deserve a chance with women, incels tell themselves, but some men have all the luck, while they get left out.
Today, the incel subculture has become not just self-reinforcing but self-radicalizing, often with tragic outcomes. At its most horrifying extremes, self-described incels have taken their anger out on the women they believe are refusing them. At least two mass shooters have left behind manifestos identifying themselves as adhering to incel ideology and explaining their actions as taking revenge on the world that hasn’t given them the women they think they deserve.”
The New Yorker, The Rage of the Incels, 5.15.18 “In the past few years, a subset of straight men calling themselves “incels” have constructed a violent political ideology around the injustice of young, beautiful women refusing to have sex with them. These men often subscribe to notions of white supremacy. They are, by their own judgment, mostly unattractive and socially inept. (They frequently call themselves “subhuman.”) They’re also diabolically misogynistic."
The Proud Boys?
White nationalists sporting hipster beards.
Southern Poverty Law Center, Proud Boys “Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. Indeed, former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler helped to organize the event, which brought together Klansmen, antisemites, Southern racists, and militias. Kessler was only “expelled” from the group after the violence and near-universal condemnation of the Charlottesville rally-goers.”
What about the Russians? Bots?
Chaos agents supporting the spread, amplification and extremism of the messages of the groups above to further sow discord among the American public.
New York Times, Chaos is the Point 1.10.20 “For federal and state officials charged with readying defenses for the 2020 election, it was a clear message that the next cyberwar was not going to be like the last. The landscape is evolving, and the piggybacking on Iranian networks was an example of what America’s election-security officials and experts face as the United States enters what is shaping up to be an ugly campaign season marred by hacking and disinformation.”
It’s not too big a leap to see where the left-wing and right-wing hate meet in the very bottom of our circle - their ideas and methods similar enough that the Russians and bots can hardly tell them apart and amplify all of their hate, misogyny, and racism in an effort to tear an already divided America to pieces.
They seem nice.