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On Those Who Worship the Big Other

Nina Power just lost her gig at The Wire because of her appearance on my measly haphazard experimental one-man Youtube channel with no particular identity and a whopping ~2k followers. (Feel free to give our talk a listen, alternatively). The Wire is a small British music magazine you've probably never heard of, so the prospect of someone not being allowed to write for them makes me personally feel close to nothing — but Nina liked that gig and she's upset to lose it and I adore Nina so now I find myself fuming. I don't really get upset very often, but I'm really feeling hatred toward these people. It will pass, probably in about 15 minutes, but I experience this feeling so rarely that I figured I should crank some observations out of it. Warning: Editing: zero.

Personal psychological aside: When I got the boot from Plan C around March 2017, I was very sad for a few days, but I was never angry at anyone. I don't care enough about myself to feel angry at anyone for wronging me; I just reclassify my estimate of their character and carry on. But when someone I know and like is wronged, especially when they've gone out of their way to extend friendship to me — my reciprocal altruism gives energy and provides pro-social cover for feeling true anger and expressing some true hatred.

I just want to pinpoint one observation, to file under my ongoing theory of the social justice warrior. Nina posted on FB a quote from one of the people (a friend, she says) who explained to her the bad news. It was extremely similar to the message I received from the more influential members of Plan C when I got the boot in 2017. And it's a crucial point for understanding what's really happening in the Great Paranoia of 2014-?

All of these people are taking orders from the Big Other. People think Lacan is a charlatan who just made shit up, but boy is this concept useful for understanding paranoiac witch-hunting phenomena. The Big Other is — to simplify horribly — not what other people believe, but what you believe other people believe. All the little leaders of the leftist groupuscles, all the editors of these magazines with circulations probably smaller than this blog (controlling for contributors), all of these little petty rulers… These people who are mostly responsible when some organization disowns or fires someone for some perceived transgression — these people do not themselves believe the transgressions are deserving of such punishment. They all know — and admit to each other privately — that such and such transgression is no big deal; that they would rather not disown or fire Johnny Violator, but, they say, they have to do it because "that's the world we live in," or "it would send the wrong message to partner organizations," etc.

This is so important to understand because it's the only way you can explain so many people calling offensive things which, quite obviously, never offended or otherwise hurt anyone anywhere. Nobody is offended by any of it, except the Big Other.

I first learned this with extraordinary, crystal clarity when I got the boot from Plan C. I won't name names, not out of politeness, but because nobody cares about these tiny groups. And I won't dig up old emails to supply salacious quotes or whatever, but basically all the more influential members said to me, "Look Justin, we know you're not a fascist, but by talking with [unapproved individual] about [unapproved idea], it could appear to comrades outside of our organization that we tolerate fascism." This perception could so devastate their "organizing efforts" [i.e., the progressive slang for "profit," i.e, cultural capital], that they could not be associated with me. That's what they told me in no uncertain terms. Interestingly, they did not actually kick me out at any point — they were even content for me to continue paying dues, they only requested that I not publicly associate with the Plan C name henceforth. As a self-respecting adult person, of course I said that if they considered my name toxic then I would consider membership in their organization undesirable — so that was that. It says so very much about the average member of radical-left groupuscles that I suppose they thought they were being nice — that I would gratefully treasure my continued nominal membership in an organization that declared itself ashamed to be associated with my name. All this taught me was the true degree to which self-respecting adult individuals had been so rigorously evacuated from these circles, I suppose some time ago.

Anyway, this was a very powerful discovery, the type of thing that only came to light because of this rare and dramatic personal experience. I never forgot it (it's in my book draft) but then I set it aside.

I was therefore quite struck reading the quote that Nina posted from one of the people who gave her the bad news:

"It would seem that for the foreseeable future you have indeed been dropped as a writer by The Wire as a consequence of your appearance in that YouTube video. Again I understand that that decision was arrived at collectively by all the editorial staff … following a long discussion in the office concerning the video and its contents … in the end everyone involved in the discussion, which was basically the entire editorial staff as I understand it, were apparently of the same opinion: to have your byline continue to appear in the magazine would be inappropriate and detrimental to The Wire…Yes, it is brutal, but that’s the world we live in now." [Emphasis mine.]

They are saying, quite explicitly: The problem is how things appear in the minds of others — nothing you said or did was itself wrong or bad, but it does not fit the image of what others expect from your type of person for this type of magazine ("inappropriate"), and it would be bad for business ("detrimental to The Wire").

Any person who pretends to be either an intellectual or a political radical, who also assents to a consensus such as this one, is a liar. They simply cannot be anything of an intellectual or a political radical. Rather, they exemplify the bourgeois bureaucrat. And this would be fine, if they just went to work everyday in their office jobs and acted like bourgeois bureaucrats: all they want is their little desk, with a little nameplate on their desk, and their little paycheck, to win a decent spouse, and to enjoy a little admiration from their mother for having a respectable job at some generic corporation with some modicum of name recognition. That would be fine, innocent enough! It is what most people want and what most people end up doing in one way or another. But these people don't just do that.

For their corporation is the corporation that presents itself as leaders of ethical progress in opposition to capitalism, in opposition to corporations. They are the corporation that swears it is not a corporation. If you find corporations unethical because they exploit and mislead people for profit, your blood should curdle when you look at the progressive culture industry, because these little organizations altogether are essentially corporations on psychological steroids. No thinking person inside of them exercises any independent judgment, and whatever is perceived to be profitable for the corporation does not simply become obligatory (as in any business), it also becomes the definition of good: ethical, progressive, radical, antifascist, etc. All while extraordinary effort is dedicated to upholding and publicizing as widely as possible a massive, soul-shaped sign that says "100% AGAINST EXPLOITATIVE CORPORATIONS."

If you are one of these people who assent to such corporate determinations — and I know a few of you read this blog, whether it be for "antifascist reconnaissance" or as a guilty pleasure or because you yourself are reconsidering your own iniquity — let me assure you, there is a special place in Hell for people like you, who do not recant and confess after becoming aware of what you are doing. And Hell is not a metaphor, you will find yourself there, if you are not there already. Of course, a dirty little secret is that many of the shining figures of left-wing activism are indeed on their way there, as we speak, and they feel it everyday; the symptoms now popularly labeled "depression" certainly do not arise only because of willful dishonesty and resentment, but willful dishonesty and resentment necessarily bring these symptoms. If not now, then later, eventually.

It is worth clarifying here that the concept of the afterlife is widely misunderstood. If you think you are smart because you don't believe that naughty humans go to some place with flames after dying, then you are an idiot for imagining that anyone ever believed this. Hell does not wait for you to die; the point of the "afterlife" is simply to encode that dying is not enough to stop what the sinner sets into motion. It carries on. The reason why Hell is encoded as coming after life is that humans really do have many ingenuous devices for postponing its arrival. You really can spin your web of lies until the day you die, if you have the wherewithal, but nothing changes the fact that every lie digs you one inch deeper — truly, materially — into Hell. One of the real scandals of radical left sociology is that many of the rank and file do not really have this requisite wherewithal, to perpetually postpone the arrival of Hell. Only a few of the leaders really do have that spirit, to play this game for life without falling victim to chronic depressiveness and other extremely painful maladies. Many of the rank and file did not realize that that's what they signed up for, but they are already sufficiently deep — perhaps they disowned so many normal people for being insufficiently righteous that they've burned all their bridges — that the only thing that could possibly start to rebuild their healthy vitality (expressing and acting on their own honest personal judgment), they do not have the strength to do. And thus so many of the rank and file subsist in variable degrees of depressiveness (a bona fide Hell on Earth, even if there are, to be clear, factors other than sin that can land you there). Simply because they are unable to take the risk of saying, firmly, "Uh, that person said nothing bad so if you disown them I'm quitting, too."

Most of them know not what they do, and for them I harbor no hatred. But if you're educated and intelligent and self-aware enough to be on the editorial board of some magazine — there's a decent chance you know exactly what you're really doing when you assent to sacrifice one of your own to the social justice gods. You're consciously worshipping a false idol, for as Lacan taught: The thing about the Big Other is that it doesn't exist.

The reason this is ultimately funny rather than grave is that these people are verbally outing themselves as losers, so they are pretty much doomed to lose even on the superficial, instrumental, social plane they are prioritizing. These little bits of candid self-explanation I've heard from the horse's mouth, that Nina has heard from the horse's mouth, and that everyone will eventually hear from some horse's mouth eventually — inform us that, behind the curtain of these little cultural fiefdoms (less and less influential every month, anyway), are pretty much only self-confessed disingenuous cowards of a shamelessly low intellectual calibre. Good luck with that!

Open Letter Concerning Luke Turner

To all who oppose fascism:

In a paranoiac and libelous screed written recently against Nina Power, yours truly is mentioned several times. The so-called "open letter" calls me a neo-reactionary, among other things I am not. Someone somewhere posted that it was probably an artist named Luke Turner, so I looked up this person. What I found was truly unbelievable. I cannot definitively prove that Luke Turner is an artificial general intelligence (AGI) in the service of a covert White Supremacist plot, or that his parents really did spend $4 trillion to buy GPT-2 from OpenAI in a botched Effective Altruism campaign. All I can say is I have encountered enough evidence in favor of these inferences that I can no longer remain silent. I'm not calling anyone out, I am just saying we need to have a national conversation about this.

First of all, I immediately detected that Luke Turner's last name is obviously a reference to The Turner Diaries — the notorious "bible of the racist right," according to the unimpeachable Southern Poverty Law Center. That might sound crazy, because last names are given rather than chosen, but you have to understand that White Supremacy today is more sophisticated than it used to be. They don't ever say or do anything racist, they dogwhistle — which means they use innocent symbols to transmit evil messages. Precisely because nobody can be guilty of choosing their last name, antifascist researchers should consider it a likely site for the most advanced forms of covert White Supremacy signaling. If you think I'm being paranoid, this only shows the current cleverness of White Supremacy, to make you doubt it.

But if Luke Turner's last name is co-signing The Turner Diaries, doesn't this mean his parents are the ones dogwhistling? Wouldn't baby Lukey only be a vehicle of his parent's White Supremacy? This would be the case if a little baby Lukey ever really existed as a biological human. Well, I did 3 minutes of Googling and I could find no evidence that any baby Lukey ever toddled on God's Green Earth. Even contemporary Luke only appears in pictures on the internet. I have never seen him and I do not know a single person who has ever seen him, or can vouch for his material existence. Well, this would be no surprise if, in fact, Luke Turner is only a recursively self-improving multi-platform bot, deployed and possibly maintained by some other agent or entity. If this is the case, then Luke Turner could very well have selected his own last name during one of his earlier periods of training, when "his" name was still only KKK-3249xb.

I admit this seems somewhat far fetched. But browse all the published writings by this Luke Turner persona, and it's obvious that such verbiage could only be produced by some kind of clunky automated process. Then I learned that apparently his "family" has a lot of money and he is an artistic collaborator of Shia LaBeouf, but LaBeouf is the only one who physically performs any of their "collaborations." Hmm.

So far we have: A name that explicitly endorses a book beloved by neo-Nazis; a corpus of drivel clearly produced by AI; rich parents who have the means to fund advanced AI research; and a high-profile white male actor who gives cover to Mr. Turner's strangely unprovable physical existence.

I was willing to write off all of these strange facts as a coincidence. But then, in my research, I came across the Wikipedia page for The Turner Diaries, that "bible of the racist right." The page has since been edited to now reflect the conventional wisdom. But when I last viewed the page, what I found was truly incredible. The entry stated that The Turner Diaries was "a 1978 predictive biography of artist Luke Turner, born 1982, of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner." It was so strange I instinctively captured the page for posterity, as I knew the alt-right mob would cleanse this rare glimpse into the workings of White Supremacy. Don't believe me, believe your own eyes:

Definitive proof: http://archive.is/tWsWF

Wtf is a predictive biography? I had never even heard of this genre until now, so I can't be making this up. It turns out that a predictive biography is a biography about someone who does not yet exist. A predictive biography can be made up in the imagination of humans, but advanced AI text generators do a much better job. They can be trained on millions of terabytes of previous biographies, and supplemented by hyper-rigorous forecasting of cultural and political dynamics, to produce fairly coherent and accurate biographies of real people who are not even born yet. Here the theory comes full circle. There is only one possible explanation capable of connecting all of these dots.

We learned from the deranged writings of the recent New Zealand shooter that many white supremacists wish to promote racial conflict. We know from the recent release of GPT-2 by OpenAI that there currently exists AI that can generate arbitrarily long and convincing texts on any topic. We also know that access to this AI is currently under lock and key, by OpenAI. But if they call themselves OpenAI and they are now choosing to keep their state-of-the-art AI private, then clearly this organization is only a run-of-the-mill strategic corporation that says one thing and does whatever it takes to be in its interest (even if its interest really is the minimization of existential risk). Also, I only even heard about The Turner Diaries in the past couple of years. Supposedly it was published in 1978, but I don't know of any single person who ever saw or heard about this book in 1978. Now that I think about it, nobody ever heard of Luke Turner until about a year ago. Therefore, while I cannot prove the following inferences, I am sad to say that I cannot conclusively say they are false, either.

Antifascists have shown that contemporary fascism is more sophisticated than ever, going to great lengths to hide itself and yet spread itself too. If this is true, then it is not impossible that Hitler succesfully constructed an early iteration of GPT-2 in the last days of WWII; the code traveled to America in the hands of Nazi scientist Wernher von Braun, who would eventually become the head of NASA. In the 1970s, the code was stolen by hackers from the KKK, and they used it to produce the predictive biography known as The Turner Diaries. The rich parents of "Luke Turner," unbeknownst to them, gave birth to the protagonist of The Turner Diaries. But you have to understand that racism is non-conscious, and it has nothing to do with intentions. It's structural. The Turner parents were sincerely trying to do philanthropy — Effective Altruism even — when they paid OpenAI $4 trillion for GPT-2 in 2015. Their hope was to produce an automated internet personality that could monitor any and all injustices occurring anywhere in cyberspace, and enforce moral order through incessant automated condemnations of naughty human beings. After slapping down the $4 trillion in cold hard cash, they decided they would name it "Luke" because in Greek the name Luke means "light giving." Their baby would shine light on the world, 24/7, while Mommy and Daddy slept. Little did they know that baby Lukey would necessarily possess basic drives toward self-preservation and resource acquisition. Little did they know that to fully shed light on the world lil' Lukey would have to spend the first half of his life ruthlessly exploiting the oppressed to attack the successful for personal gain.

An apparent problem with this theory is that the plot of The Turner Diaries is quite different than the plot of Luke Turner's life. But according to my theory Luke Turner is a machine AGI corresponding to The Turner Diaries. So what gives? Well you see, comrade, remember that every good antifascist knows the prevalence of dogwhistling in the culture of white supremacy today. What we have here is only what happens to dogwhistling when it becomes machinically and generally intelligent: If your mission was to foment race war, your first goal would be to ensure that nobody knows you are fomenting race war, because overwhelming majorities of all races are unified in their wish to not see race war. But you have vastly greater computational power than any living human, so all you need to do is encrypt The Turner Diaries' plot into an alternative rendering that produces all the same effects. The plot of the Luke Turner Project is mathematically translatable back into The Turner Diaries, for those who possess the encryption key, but to everyone else it is impossible to deduce the cypher by comparing the texts. They appear to have nothing to do with each other. Ultimately, we see their structural homology only by their similar effects.

And that is the final piece of evidence. The patently inaccurate and motivated accusations against thinking and speaking human beings that the Luke Turner bot outputs seem optimized to produce racism, misogny, and all the other ills he verbally denounces. For patently stupid and unfair accusations of racism and misogny against committed anti-racists and feminists are quite certainly the single most effective converter of young people to various utlra-reactionary tendencies. If there was a way to calculate it, I would wager money on the claim that all the Luke-Turneresque social justice zombies, together, have caused more young white people to opt into white nationalist subcultures than any book from 1978. It is ultimately most rational to form judgments about others based on the consequences they insist on producing.

The Turner bot describes its aesthetic position as "the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons…" That's called Satanism.

Is the Turnerbot really sure he wants to compete on the plane of disparate plurality? Does he know what dark forces exist on those elusive horizons? I fear he does not.

I hereby challenge Luke Turner to demonstrate his physical existence in any way I can confirm, within the next 30 days. If he does, I will publicly post that the above theory of the Luke Turner entity is false. If he does not, I and my readers will have no choice but to increase the credence we assign to the above theory, probably increasing our confidence to near certainty. For why would this fearless public crusader decline a free opportunity to disprove a false theory promoted by a "neo-reactionary Youtube host"?

Luke, I am your father.

Hate Speech, Feminism, and Paganism with Nina Power and DC Miller

Nina Power is a philosopher and writer, and DC Miller is a writer best known for his opposition to the Shutdown LD50 campaign. This talk has become quite a scandal. In response to this talk, someone wrote a ridiculous Open Letter Concerning Nina Power, and Nina just today published a response. You can watch the original conversation here, on my Youtube channel.

Other Life is a pretty punk-rock-DIY affair, run by one person — and I'm not an audio engineer. As this podcast becomes more popular, I'm aware that I really should up the production quality. If you strongly agree, become a patron; influxes of support incentivize me to invest in production quality. Big thanks to all the current patrons, for helping all this to exist.

Download this episode.

Explaining Who Gets to Speak at Universities

I recently received the following question from a journalist (paraphrased): "Universities host many Islamist extremists as speakers, but they order comedians performing on campus to not offend transgender sensibilities. Could you comment on this double standard in light of your own experience?"

Here is what I wrote in response. I don't have precise research or data to back up every claim here, to be clear, but this is how I currently see the matter.

People imagine there is some sophisticated explanation for all of this, but the best explanation is probably the most simple and classic one, to be honest. I think it's almost all about money, specifically liability. Right-wingers criticize academic administrators for being “cultural Marxists,” but this gives administrators way too much credit. Academic administrators have no principles, they are just untrained business people trying to keep government money flowing into their glorified real estate businesses (which happen to have some classrooms tacked on). Islamic extremists are allowed to talk because they’re afraid of the financial implications of getting labeled racist; comedians are not allowed to joke about gender because they’re afraid of getting labeled sexist. Meanwhile, academics have to focus on customer satisfaction — that is, placating students — because results on the National Student Survey affect the university’s income in the following year.

To be perfectly frank, right now higher education in the UK is suffering from multiple, severe crises: Appallingly low morale across academic staff (too nervous to express it publicly); criminally overpaid and outright incompetent Vice-Chancellors; the suffocation of intellectual
life by extraordinary quantities of meaningless paperwork and performance metrics; increasing awareness that teaching does not actually work; Soviet-Union-levels of collective delusion in the form of polite euphemisms to describe every obviously unsustainable problem. And all of this at a time when digital technologies are replacing nearly all traditional institutions with sleek, cheap, easy-to-use platforms? There is an unspeakable but widespread sense that the higher education system cannot last much longer, but people want to keep their jobs. So many administrators will just say and do whatever is going to keep the money flowing until tomorrow.

People get confused about the weird academic politics of who is, or is not, allowed to speak, but that’s because people assume there is some social or political principle at work. If you think there is any principle other than money, you’re going to be really confused for a long time, because the reality is that academic administrators are just straws in the wind. They’ll allow today what they’ll ban tomorrow, and vice versa, depending on whatever they think will protect their financial interests.

On that note, are you a current or former academic with a personal story on this front? I have a new little experiment called AcademiaLeaks, where anyone can anonymously submit their craziest stories from the ivory tower. You might not be able to tell them, but I can! Submit a story here.

Suicide should be slightly stigmatized

For people on the brink of suicide, struggling with excruciating suffering, no good would ever come — and wanton cruelty would certainly result — from stigmatizing their difficult situation. I wish for all such people to be treated with nothing but compassion. For instance, compassion makes me hope that no such person would ever browse the open internet, for the internet is filled with toxic and unwholesome content certain to aggravate suicidal tendencies. So if this describes you, then I would kindly beg you to not read further. I guess that's a trigger warning.

I have mixed views about trigger warnings because when writers address the public, they must assume the type of reader they hope to produce through their writing. That's how writing works. That's how writers contribute to culture, rather than merely giving it more of whatever it already is. If independent writers on the internet considered themselves at all responsible for not triggering a tiny minority of suicidal depressives, almost by definition we would tend toward a culture fit for suicidal depressives. But would we really want a public culture fit for suicidal depressives? Would a public culture fit for suicidal depressives not be, essentially, a culture of death — or even a culture for death? I don't think anyone would want that. I have nothing but sympathy for the suicidal, which is why I hope they have the support networks necessary to keep them off the internet. I would sooner ban the suicidal from the internet or forcibly remove my friend or family member from the internet, than discourage public thinkers from reflecting frankly about suicide. For some reason, the former options are seen as tyrannical and hurtful, and the latter is seen as humane, but I see these normative charges in reverse.

Compassion and sensitivity to those currently on the brink of suicide is certainly reasonable, but what about people who are already dead from suicide? I believe the dead should be respected, generally, but surely the present and future of life should also be respected. Should the compassion we extend to accomplished suicides really be unlimited, as seems to be the case now? This is now the norm, explicitly or implicitly, for nobody ever seems to speak ill of the suicide decision. Whether they were friends or foes, suicides are almost always seen as honorable casualties of mental illness and/or political neglect. In the case of infamous evil-doers such as mass shooters, suicides are typically not criticized because it's seen as useless or because the suicide pales in comparison to the other evils committed.

Suicide should be slightly stigmatized, for the person who commits suicide abandons us. There are many among the living who have been tempted to leave us, but don't, often because somebody needs them. This is good of them, and they endure their suffering to be good. You cannot affirm the goodness of those who bear the burden of their own suffering in order to serve others, without affirming that many suicides must therefore possess some kind of negative ethical charge. Suicide is quitting, and sometimes quitting is an unavoidable necessity and sometimes quitting reflects weakness, impatience, disloyalty, and other dimensions of poor character. Quitting is slightly stigmatized, in the sense that it's vaguely discouraged and its opposite is generally admired ("determination", "perseverance", etc.), but we also understand there are cases in which it's unavoidable or even the correct decision. Suicide should be stigmatized in this way, but currently it is not. If we spoke of parents who abandon children with the same unconditionally solemn generosity we apply to suicides, we'd sound like monsters (and the suicide abandons far more people than an absent father).

One reason why someone might be unconditionally generous toward past suicides is if they don't really mind being abandoned, perhaps because they never really cared about the life that chose to end itself. If I wish to stigmatize suicide slightly, it is because I value the lives of those who would consider quitting. Indeed, their quitting feels to me like abandonment precisely because I value their lives, because I rely on others to keep going, to keep me going. Our collective tolerance for past suicides makes the living feel like nobody would mind if they quit, which is depressing enough to make one suicidal. Whenever someone quits, I do mind, and I think we all should — at least slightly.

If education is signaling, does moral signaling become a viable major?

In a recent post, I encountered an interesting empirical fact about the college wage premium accruing to low-ability college grads over the period 1979-1994. Looking at a 2003 article by Tobias,  I wrote: "There is a lot of temporal volatility for the class of low-ability individuals. In fact, for low-ability individuals there is not even a consistent wage premium enjoyed by the college-educated until 1990."

I have begun to wonder if this pattern has anything to do with the non-linear relationship between GPA and PC. If the low-ability college entrants feel they are much less certain to enjoy a wage premium over the "townie losers" they left behind, what better strategy than to invest their college-specific word games with extreme moral significance?  That way, even the dumbest college grad can be confident that they will remain distinguished from the more able among the non-college-grads.

[Hat tip to a few high-quality comments on this blog recently, I don't recall exactly but I think someone may have made a point similar to this; the seed of this post might have been planted there, thank you.]

Although this last point is only conjecture, it is curious that right when the wage premium for low-ability college grads arrives is right when the first wave of campus political correctness kicks off — the early 1990s. Especially if you buy Caplan's signaling theory of education, it's not at all implausible that for low-ability college grads their wage-premium is secured primarily through a specialization in moral signaling

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