Category Archives: Radicalism

Scapegoating: take responsibility for my sins, please.

It is well understood that the concept of scapegoat started as a way to channel everyone’s sins into a goat and releasing it into the wild, and the sins with it. In general, people widely accept the validity of scapegoating through their unthinking acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice, that one man’s sacrifice (all man all god, whatever the hell that means) can somehow transfer responsibility for everyone’s sins, as long as you believe in his sacrifice.

From a purely logical standpoint, this doctrine is an intellectual mess. There can be no such thing as delegation of responsibility for one’s “sins.” There is no reason why such delegation would only work if the person whose sins are delegated also believes in the validity of the delegation. It’s a ridiculous belief, and Christianity is an extremely bad framework to understand scapegoating.

I think scapegoating can be understood much better from the perspective of the manichean worldview. One of its basic premises is that the in-group is always right, good and noble; this entails a huge paradox because it fails to account for evil behavior and purposes within the in-group.

The most direct response is, as always, to ignore it, but this is only possible up to a certain point. There is only so much that one can ignore before the cognitive dissonance becomes just too great. Cults and governments get around this problem with information control, but unless you have absolute dictatorial control there’s only so much you can hide. And obviously you can’t attack the in-group, because the in-group is always right.

So the way out of this conundrum is to vilify, objectify and marginalize the individuals we believe are responsible. You have to set them apart from the in-group in order to preserve its moral purity. And you need to use labels and social roles within the in-group to differentiate between the “bad people” and the “good people.” So you’ve got “criminals,” unbelievers, “terrorists,” traitors and subversives, “suppressive people,” socialists and communists, and so on.

The scapegoat absorbs the sins of the population and, by doing so, becomes a subversive element (you can’t be subversive unless you’ve been marginalized first). Because of this, the scapegoat becomes the target of all the pent-up cruelty that would be reserved for the opposing out-groups. No amount of cruelty is too much to inflict on a scapegoat.

So you’ve got this attitude of “no cruelty is bad enough” against “criminals,” unbelievers, “terrorists” and all the other undesirables. People will always be in favor of more restrictions against “criminals” and their rights, no matter how cruel, because they “don’t have rights” or have “surrendered their rights” by standing against the in-group’s rules. This can only possibly make sense if rights are granted by some moral authority, but I’ve already debunked that notion.

Other examples of scapegoats in popular political discourse are abused women (who are called whores, attention-seekers), POC (such as the black men getting shot by police, who are painted as thugs and gang members and are portrayed worse than white serial killers), “immigrants,” welfare recipients (who are portrayed as exploiters of the system, and whose basic needs are portrayed as entitlement, because right-wingers confuse rights and entitlement).

Another excuse for scapegoating is the “it was consensual” defense. It seems that consent is another black check for any amount of abuse, such as rape and BDSM, workplace abuse, religious indoctrination and cults, and so on. Of course the vast majority of this supposed consent is actually imaginary: dressing “slutty,” being drunk, “consensual non-consent,” having a job at a certain workplace, belonging to a religion or a cult, are not acceptable forms of consent. But either way, people believe that there is actual consent there and that it excuses any amount of abuse.

Of course this abuse is often reframed in more positive ways. One way we justify abuse, especially against children, is under the strange contradictory concept of “tough love.” We also call it “teaching them a lesson” (because they need to be reminded of how evil they are) or that they “deserved it” (for being evil).

From all this we get powerful defensive responses when someone tries to debunk any instance of scapegoating: “how dare you defend them?” This is a powerful response because we’ve been conditioned to associate scapegoats with opposition against our in-group, and any support of a scapegoat is equated with attacking our in-group. It doesn’t feel good to attack our in-group and it’s easy to say things like “well, I don’t support what they do, but…” That sort of reasoning, though, fails to do justice to those labeled scapegoats, who are usually the victims in that situation.

Drawing more radicalist connections.


The graph which forms the basis of this entry.

I decided to write this entry based on observations about advocates of various radical ideologies. We tend to be very insular. With the exception of anti-capitalism, there isn’t really any cause that is widely embraced: we usually keep to our one hierarchy and promote destroying it as the one solution.

I hope that writing about many different positions on this blog has spared me this attitude. I have spent a great deal of time writing about at least five of these. My objective here is not to change anyone’s mind but for me to explain my reasoning on why I think these issues are connected.

I have previously described the connection between antinatalism and radical feminism, and between antinatalism and the pro-abortion position. I have also touched on various other connections, but not in a systemic way. In this entry, I want to make more explicit what I see as the various connections between the radical ideologies I’ve written about on this blog.

I admit the nature and number of connections is more or less arbitrary; each position could be subdivided or expanded as desired. I tried to use the concepts and labels that are most used. The one exception is my replacement of the word “anarchism” with “self-government,” as I thought it was more descriptive and more fitting to what anarchism actually is about. Anarchism is supposed to be an ideology against all hierarchies, but anarchists generally seem to have little concern with actually abolishing all hierarchies (religion, government, capitalism… eh, let’s call it a day), as many feminists have learned in their attempts to join anarchist movements.

These ideologies I’ve put on the graph are all radical ideologies, but I haven’t really defined what that means. To me, an ideology is radical if it follows the following principles:

1. It offers a systemic analysis of an issue, showing its structure and cause/effect relationships.
2. It strikes at the root of some issue, identifies a hierarchy or other basic source generating the problems about that issue.
3. It presents a solution: debunking the false beliefs generated by the identified source, presenting the truths that result from the systemic analysis, acting in accordance with those truths.

As a result, these ideologies generally present us with a view of what’s right and what’s wrong. In general, coercion is wrong and freedom is right, hierarchies are wrong and egalitarianism is right, dogma is wrong and critical thinking is right, and so on.

The specifics of course vary depending on the issue addressed, but there is definitely a radicalist mindset. I know that if I talk to a radical, I will tend to be on a similar wavelength, and if I talk to a liberal (I don’t talk to conservatives so don’t even think about it), we’re unlikely to see eye to eye ethically or politically.

In contrast, a “moderate” or mainstream ideology usually follow these principles:

1. It offers an individualized analysis of an issue, reducing everything to agency, consent, and other individual-centric concepts.
2. It offers a superficial analysis which relies on popular beliefs, assumptions, political narratives, etc.
3. It presents a solution which entails working within the system to effect change, without challenging any fundamental premise of that system.

The general ethical corollary to these ideologies is that there’s no such thing as objective right and wrong and that moral evaluations are inherently subjective and arrogant. The whole “values are passé” attitude should probably partially be blamed on post-modernism, but either way it’s a very convenient position for a “moderate” ideology to take. Religious or other dogmatic ideologies hide their subjectivism behind a veneer of idealistic certainty.

So let me go through every connection, giving what I think is the justification for each of them. Keep in mind that these connections do not describe the ideologies in their entirety (e.g. there’s a lot more to children’s rights than just the consequences of procreation).

I also want to point out beforehand that I am not stating every advocate of one side must necessarily be an advocate of the other; I’m making a statement about what I think are the causal relations between them. If you disagree, that’s fine, although I would welcome further comments.

For those wondering, I didn’t include anti-racism because I know very little about race theory (although I do intend to remedy that lacuna).

***

antinatalism / children’s rights: Antinatalists are concerned not only with procreation being wrong, but also to the deleterious effects of procreation. Natalists hold, for the most part, that procreation is always permissible no matter the consequences to the resulting child. This is an attack on human rights, made acceptable only because it is made against children.

antinatalism / pro-abortion: This connection, I think, is pretty obvious: if one believes that procreation is wrong then abortion, as a means to prevent procreation, is not only permissible but desirable. Contraception is very fallible, and discouraging PIV is unlikely to be successful in a pornography-driven society.

antinatalism / radical feminism: I’ve written about this before. My basic point here is that natalism subsists on the back of women, and natalist arguments always assume (mostly by omission) the exploitation of women’s bodies and labor. Therefore a radical feminist approach, in standing against this assumption, debunks the natalist position and provides justification for antinatalism.

Furthermore, studies have shown that the reduction of harm to women entails lower reproductive rates, because a lot of procreation, especially in countries where genderism is more prevalent, is driven by male entitlement to PIV and the validation of having children.

antinatalism / radical environmentalism: One line of reasoning on procreation being wrong is that humans, for whatever reason, can’t create a liveable environment: crime, poverty, corruption and war seem to be constants of “human civilization.” Environmental destruction and degradation is an increasingly important part of that. Humans are making this planet unliveable and are bringing about the conditions of their own destruction. The dominant economic system does not take into account the well-being of future generations.

So it’s wrong to bring new people into this world when they may very well think this world is not good enough to be born into. Furthermore, it’s been demonstrated that the very worst thing any person can do to attack the environment is to have children: given that fact, it’s hard to understand why anyone committed to the environment would choose to have children or would consider procreation anything but ethically wrong (if not universally, then at least right now).

radical feminism / radical environmentalism: Feminism and environmentalism have a connection in that they are both concerned with the Other: women as objectified, natural life as objectified, women and natural life as targets of exploitation. In fact, women are sometimes objectified by being associated with natural life. But most important is the theoretical framework which underlies both patriarchal exploitation and capitalist exploitation. It’s no coincidence that they use the same language to speak of both (rape, pillage, destroy) and the same arguments of necessity and natural superiority.

radical feminism / anti-capitalism: I have not met any radical feminist who isn’t anti-capitalism, and for good reason: inherent in capitalism’s “may the strongest win” ideology is the perpetuation of structural inequality, women being one of those groups which has always been made unequal. It is impossible to “reform” capitalism because it will always seek to exploit the weaker elements of society: if it’s not women or POC, it’ll be somebody else.

radical environmentalism / anti-capitalism: I think this is a no-brainer, since it is the rise of industrial capitalism which has led to the current environmental crisis. The capitalistic ideology of “expanding at all costs” combined with globalization inevitably leads to environmental destruction on a worldwide scale. To the radical environmentalist, all life is inherently valuable, or at least there’s no reasonable criterion by which we could separate “valuable” from “non-valuable” life; to the entrepreneur, life is only valuable if it can be turned into a resource, which means the destruction, pillage, suffocation of nature.

anti-capitalism / determinism: The rejection of the free will/choice/agency doctrine and the acceptance of determinism implies a number of things about ethics. The most important change is that there is no place for blame in a deterministic worldview. This means that the justification of capitalist inequality through blame becomes indefensible, and ultimately it seems to me that all defenses of inequality reduce themselves to some form of blame (“people get what they deserve,” “they should work harder,” “they were born in the wrong country,” “some of us are born better than others,” and so on). If I am correct in my position that determinism is profoundly anti-inequality, then it is highly incompatible with capitalism.

Another area where eliminating blame entails a great deal of ethical change is our confrontational justice system based on revenge. From a deterministic standpoint, revenge, while a natural human emotion, has no place whatsoever in public policy. The confrontational nature of the justice system is what makes it favor corporations and the power elite over the rights of the individuals.

anti-capitalism / self-government: Another no-brainer there I think, as self-government is by definition the antithesis of all hierarchies, including capital-democracy. Self-government basically means that decision-making and management are made by the individuals concerned by those decisions and management, and decisions are taken in a small-scale, direct and egalitarian way. Every single principle of self-government contradicts representative democracy, workplace hierarchies, public education, the legal system, and so on.

Not treating people as means to an end.

The core principle of this blog is “do not impose harm,” and I take it seriously as an ever-present ethical issue.

Not treating people as means to an end is a direct corollary of this principle; most of the time, barring true accidents or errors, to harm people means to treat them as a tool for our own values, instead of following theirs. Every crime, every atrocity, every conspiracy, reduces itself to fulfilling some people’s values at the expense of the victims’.

The maxim “the end justifies the means” can only make sense if you already seek to impose the rule of brute force, otherwise it is a logical impossibility. Moral justification for an action can only be located in the action itself and its context, not in some hypothetical future state. As says the Zapffe quote on my header, no future triumph or metamorphosis can justify the pitiful blighting of a human being against his will: I chose this quote as an apt restatement of “do not treat people as a means to an end.”

Independent confirmation of the principle is the fact that all radical positions have at their foundation a desire for some people to not be treated as means to some authoritarian end: people who are not part of the power elite (anarchism, anti-globalization), religious believers and those attacked by believers (anti-theism), women (radical feminism, anti-genderism), children (antinatalism, anti-pedagogy), all living species including humans (radical environmentalism). The flip side of this, of course, is that there are plenty of corrupt people who have used and continue to use these people as means to their ends, otherwise radical ideologies would not need to exist.

All hierarchies must necessarily use people as means to an end, because all hierarchies are predicated on superiors and inferiors. Inferiors must obey, and therefore surrender their value-system to that of their superiors. The values of the victims of these hierarchies are obviously equally irrelevant. Militaries do not waste any time examining whether their murdered victims valued the “freedom” supposedly being fought for, alcohol manufacturers do not spend money investigating the victims of drunk driving accidents, and male misogynists not known for their concern for female rape victims.

The consequence of routinely treating individuals as tools is objectification, literally associating individuals with tools. So you have the serious business expression “human resources,” living species called “natural resources,” the semantic association of women with nature. No matter what hierarchy you examine, you find absolute disdain and contempt for those lower on the ladder and desperate attempts to shut them up, indoctrinate them to devalue themselves, eradicate criticism in any way possible, and so on.

From an intuitionist standpoint, not treating others as a means to an end is a logical corollary to seeing other moral agents as being equally valuable as ourselves. This has a counterpart in the common sense notion of respecting others as you wish to be respected, and the Golden Rule.

So there are two basic tendencies in any society: one is the natural moral impulse to condemn treating other people as means to an end, which we might call legitimate crimes (murder, assault, fraud, etc), and another is the overwhelming power of hierarchies in molding thought, hiding its legitimate crimes (military crimes, police crimes, criminal collusion between the government and private entities, etc), and creating illegitimate crimes (heresy, treason and sedition, prostitution, drug crimes, evading arrest, etc).

This struggle between human rights and hierarchies typifies most of human history. This is why I sometimes say that there’s only two options, to be pro-harm or anti-harm. Of course every day situations are more complicated; but when you boil it down, every statist law, every State power, every claim of property is ultimately backed by the gun of the State; every religious maneuver and argument is backed by the wrath of God; every genderist rule is backed by ostracism, rape and murder. You can’t co-opt people “a little bit.”

The unjustified fear of role reversal.


From Harper’s Weekly: This image dramatically condemns the brutal racism of some white Southerners against blacks. The white man has killed a black child, and his plea of “self-defense” exemplifies the perspective among Southern whites that Reconstruction had led to “black rule.” The cartoon appeared just a few weeks before the presidential election [of 1876].

There is a common tendency amongst reactionaries to fear the possibility that the people they oppress might rise up and become the oppressors themselves. This leads them to violence against the oppressed (as in the image above) and an increased desire to repress anyone working towards the freedom of oppressed groups.

Historically the idea of role reversal has always been present: in order to placate the oppressed, holiday celebrations (such as Saturnalia, the Feast of Fools, and mumming) have sometimes involved slaves and master, poor and rich, trading places for a certain period of time. Nowadays, we have much more complex and effective political institutions serving this role, and role reversal holidays are no longer needed.

If you look at the rhetoric of reactionaries, you find this sort of reasoning pretty much everywhere. Racists see anti-racist theory as calling for the extermination of white people. Misogynists associate the end of the patriarchy with women controlling society. Capitalists associate Anarchism with mob violence and nihilistic destruction. Childists associate the idea of giving children freedom with children controlling adults and running amok.

One interesting thing to note about this state of affairs is that people who are scared of reprisals probably have a good reason to be afraid, that reason probably being guilt.

Either way, the fear of role reversal is an unjustified one. Newly empowered groups cannot attack the society that oppressed them, because they need legitimacy above all else, and only that society can give it. All movements which succeeded in bringing some measure of legal equality to an oppressed group have not to attack those who oppressed them. Instead, they have turned against each other and other oppressed groups instead. Feminist women have turned against each other (third wave feminism), the LGBT movement is already turning against itself (transgender v homosexuals), the zionists have turned against the Arabs. It seems that only black people have retained any hostility against the power elite, but they’ve been mostly unable to do anything about it.

It is not that reactionaries are smarter or that their ideology is superior. It is merely that they have more power. Oppressed groups cannot fight back, not only because depends on the legitimacy granted to them by their oppressors, but because they are integrated within society and depend on it. The livelihood of individual women, POC, and homosexuals depends on cooperation with the existing capitalist order. They therefore can hardly think of attacking that order.

As Audre Lorde famously said, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. One could add to this that people living in the master’s house will hardly have much incentive in dismantling that house. The Anarchist concept of dual power provides the only rational solution: we must build an alternative house which provides a power base from which revolutionary elements can operate.

Impositionists and their problems with consent.

In this entry, I want to make some general observations about some common characteristics that impositionists seem to share. When I say “impositionists,” I am referring to people who hold to an ideology which explicitly advocates imposing harm.

Invariably they have reasons why such imposition is just or reasonable (e.g. innate evil or sinful nature, innate gender, the innate stupidity of children and other species, might makes right, etc). I do not care about these reasons, or at least not in this entry. All I will say is that only the limit cases (e.g. saving someone’s life by pulling them out of harm’s way) have been proven justified; every systemic imposition of harm in our society is blatantly unjustified. Of course they don’t really care about justification anyway: harmful power has no motive to deconstruct itself, only its victims do.

* They have major issues with consent.

My first issue is that of consent. Consent is a vitally important topic because it represents the bare minimum standard that must be met by any action for it to be non-coercive; advocates of most ideologies are keenly interested in portraying them as non-coercive for the same general reason as advocates of some pseudo-science want to portray it as scientific: being explicitly unscientific or coercive is considered bad form in this day and age.

So again let me list the criteria for consent to be present. First, the obvious:

1. There must be a clear signal of approval of the action.

This is merely a slight extension of the standard definition. And now, for the corollaries:

2. If there is no signal that one or the other party would accept as a refusal (no alternative), then there can be no signal of approval either, and no consent.
3. A signal of agreement given where there is a credible alternative, but said alternative is not viable due to pre-existing conditions, is as invalid as one given without actual alternatives.
4. Any signal of agreement given under a threat of force is the product of duress, not approval, and is therefore not consent.
5. In a situation where one of the parties cannot communicate, there can be no consent.
6. If the signal of agreement cannot be given prospectively (i.e. to the action itself), then there is no possibility of consent for that action.

I would say that all impositionist ideologies break at least one of these principles. Before I get into examples, I do want to point out that probably all these ideologies fall into most categories I’ve listed, and when I say that a given ideology breaks a particular point, I am not by any means implying that there’s nothing else wrong with its attitude towards consent.

***

* Most religions heavily rely on childhood indoctrination in order to propagate. This breaks point 3, as childhood indoctrination is most definitely a “pre-existing condition” that makes alternatives (to belief in the religion one was raised in) non-viable. A person cannot be meaningfully said to consent to anything that they’ve been indoctrinated to believe (e.g. we don’t say a cult member consented to the hardships of being in a cult, such as false imprisonment or human trafficking).

The religious call it “freedom of religion.” They are incapable of explaining how being indoctrinated and peer pressured into a religion which keeps you in by threatening eternal torment has anything to do with “freedom.”

* Genderism is similar to religion in that it’s indoctrinated from the youngest age, and therefore there cannot be any freedom to live without some conception of gender, gender hierarchy and gender roles (which are all the same thing). It’s equally meaningless to say that the performance of gender is consensual, in any form.

* Statism always assumes that anyone born within a nation’s borders “implicitly consents” to whatever the State makes into law. As a citizen, you simply have no means to signal disagreement with the law, breaking point 2 (prejudice against prisoners would also enter into this).

Yes, I know, the standard argument is that voting is the signal of agreement. But that’s not really true, is it? Otherwise non-voters could veto any law applied to them, which obviously does not happen.

Another argument is that staying in a country is the signal of agreement to the laws of that country. But we don’t use this “go away if you don’t like the rules” in any other context. Either way, it’s only further proof that there’s no means to signal disagreement (compare to telling a child “you can’t get beaten by your dad if you just run away!”).

Related to statism is imperialism and neo-liberalism, which follow the same general pattern, except applied to other countries. You will be liberated whether you like it or not; consent is always assumed.

* Capitalism relies on pre-existing conditions for its docile workforce (poverty, expensive education, creation of artificial unemployment, need for medical insurance in the US). It is therefore part of point 3. The conditions that make capitalism possible (property rights, money system, corporatism) are set by States, so what I’ve said for statism applies here as well.

The usual sort of reply you get to capitalist consent issues is that no one has to take any specific job. That may be so, but it doesn’t provide an alternative to capitalism. Faced with the massive inequality, environmental destruction, human rights violations, objectification, servility and conformity inherent in capitalism, it’s natural to want alternatives. People do not naturally want to work for other people’s profit margin or to have no control over what they produce.

* As a way of often dealing with having limited possibilities (or no possibilities, in the case of trafficked women) within the capitalist system and often as a result of parental abuse ingrained in the personality, prostitution is also part of point 3.

* Natalism, insofar as it assumes consent to being born where consent cannot be obtained, breaks point 5. The usual natalist answer is that we should assume implicit consent because it’s necessary in order for them to experience the pleasures of being alive (compare with: brown people implicitly consent to us “liberating” them and will be happy later, after we’re done killing them).

But mostly natalists just don’t care about consent, because they assume that the impossibility of consent is a carte blanche to do anything you want, which is absolutely illogical and delusional. Impossibility of consent basically means you are not allowed to do anything, because consent is, again, the absolute bare minimum criterion.

* Pornography and BDSM both fall under point 6: they both pretend to be concerned with consent and contracts, but only prospectively, which means that there can be no agreement on specific acts.

Advocates would, I suppose, argue that a contract is enough agreement to signal consent to any act that’s part of it. But if you sign a contract to perform a series of acts, and then no longer wish to perform one of the acts but are coerced or intimidated into performing it, that’s rape pure and simple. No contract can contradict this fact.

* Misopedia and carnism, two ideologies which posit a hierarchy where children/other species occupy the bottom rung, both partake of point 1, because they just don’t care if children or other species consent. The “lower intelligence” argument supposedly justifies exploiting children and other species. Guess who gets to define intelligence? Adult humans, of course. Surprise, surprise.

When you do point out to misopedists and carnists that they are simply ignoring consent issues, they will use the “lower intelligence” argument to posit that children/other species cannot consent, therefore justifying coercion against them. Again, this is logical nonsense.

***

I cannot think of a single ideology which explicitly creates harm and does not also attack consent in some way. This is not too surprising, as they are also all hierarchies, hierarchies set people apart as superiors and inferiors, and inferiors cannot have the same freedoms as their superiors; a child cannot have the same freedom as a parent, a cow cannot have the same freedom as a human, a sub cannot have the same freedom as a dom, a worker cannot have the same freedom as a boss. There must be some imposition, and that imposition cannot be consensual (the superior-inferior relation is based on obedience backed by power, not consent), for a hierarchy to be maintained.

Note that you could do this same analysis with the term “scientific” and show how various pseudo-sciences line up.

What is the perspective on consent from their perspective? One credible model was made by Tom W. Bell and is called the “scale of consent”:

Now, from a rational standpoint, only the very first item on this scale- “negociated exchange”- is actually a form of consent (“standardized exchange” implies giving consent prospectively, which breaks point 5), so the idea that the top half represents different forms of consent is complete bullshit. “Negociated exchange” is basically consent, the rest of the top half represents all the non-consent that impositionists claim as consent.

If we look at this scale, not as any sort of truth, but as a tool to help us understand how impositionists think, then I think this scale can be used as a complement to my list of points. It’s basically a chart version of the impositionist’s rationalization playbook.

For example, consider “custom” as signal of consent. That is an exact description of cultural relativism and how it provides support for customs such as female genital mutilation, suttee, foot-binding and prostitution, to name only those. It is assumed that because it’s “their/our culture,” that the issue of consent is automatically resolved.

Granted, proponents of cultural relativism would not state outright that they think there can be no consent issues. Rather, they would say that we, as outsiders, have no grounds to criticize the practice, but this really amounts to the same thing; we are after all talking about harmful, non-consensual practices, and therefore suppressing criticism about them is the same thing as evacuating consent issues.

The concepts of “standardized exchange” and “consent per past agreements” are often used to justify rape, especially spousal rape. Marriage is supposedly a contract which grants mutual sexual ownership, and therefore spousal rape is seen as just sex. It’s also often argued that past interactions justify sexual demands (you made out with me, so you should let me fuck you).

Likewise, “hypothetical consent” is reflected in many different areas. Take the natalist justification “the vast majority of people are happy, therefore anyone would want to be born.” That’s purely hypothetical, since there’s no way to gauge a state of non-existence: anyone who is happy also exists, and has vested interests in being optimistic. It does not mean that e.g. a hypothetical person in Rawls’ Original Position would always want to come into existence. In fact, it seems more likely (from the antinatalist perspective) that a fully informed person in such a position would decline existence.

* They refuse to quantify the risk of harm.

Impositionists have to ignore the harm their ideology causes because that would mean they are cheering for the perpetrators, not the victims, which is why they have to claim victimhood in any way possible. Statists build up the big bad leftists and Anarchists as their persecutors, capitalists scream about the “entitlement” of poor people, the religious demonize anyone who stands in the way of their pseudo-moral agenda, parents claim to be slaves to their children, and so on.

Related to this fundamental dishonesty is the fact that impositionists refuse to quantify the risk they are willing to impose on others. For instance, I asked anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates to quantify the risk they bring about, and very few even tried. Of course they cannot, for doing so means no longer ignoring the harm their ideology causes.

I admit that asking such a question puts the person between a rock and a hard place: who wants to say they want such and such number of children to die as a result of their cause? But if you have this problem, why do you believe in an ideology that entails the death of children in the first place? Shouldn’t that make you think?

The quantification of risk can, and should, be asked for all ideologies which promote harm. For instance, here’s one that has been asked about pornography:

And a serious question for porn users in general: what’s the maximum percentage of risk you’re willing to accept that the scene you’re getting off to has a performer who was coerced into participating, who couldn’t consent to participating, who was forced to perform acts she was uncomfortable with or explicitly barred, who didn’t consent to the distribution of the material? Give me a number.

But we can make similar questions for everything else, too. In all cases, what we’re trying to find out is: what’s the point where the implementation or fulfillment of the ideology entails just too much harm? And most importantly, how do we determine that point?

That would be the start of any real discussion on the ethicality of harm and risk. But impositionists will not, and probably cannot, have such discussions (feel free to prove me wrong!).

* They treat people as means to an end.

This can be deduced easily from what I’ve said so far. Impositionists see other people, especially their inferiors, as resources to be controlled (non-consensually) by a hierarchy to achieve some level of control over society. Impositionists see harming other people as a tradeoff, that it’s okay to do so in the name of some higher goal, which is really some level of control over society. All of that is very anti-freedom, anti-individual and anti-human.

If there is any ethical principle that should be obvious, clear and basic, it is that we should not treat other human beings as means to an end. It is the most basic form of egalitarianism that one could conceive.

* They all fail the Chomsky Principle.

I’ve discussed before what I call the Chomsky Principle, that we should in principle reject any hierarchical relation or structure unless it’s proven to be justified in some way.

[T]he basic principle I would like to see communicated to people is the idea that every form of authority and domination and hierarchy, every authoritarian structure, has to prove that it’s justified- it has no prior justification. For instance, when you stop your five-year-old kid from trying to cross the street, that’s an authoritarian situation: it’s got to be justified. Well, in that case, I think you can give a justification. But the burden of proof for any exercise of authority is always on the person exercising it- invariably. And when you look, most of the time these authority structures have no justification: they have no moral justification, they have no justification in the interests of the person lower in the hierarchy, or in the interests of other people, or the environment, or the future, or the society, or anything else- they’re just there in order to preserve certain structures of power and domination, and the people at the top.

Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power

Bourgeois Defense Mechanisms.

Being privileged is an uncomfortable position. People are made to feel like they are responsible for the victimization of other groups. Coupled with the fact that privilege is invisible, the privileged are made to feel guilty for something they believe does not really exist. This is a position which must elicit some response.

The most obvious response is to try to claim the higher ground of victimhood and project the violence of one’s privileged group onto the victimized group. Because this is a reaction mainly based on hatred, this is the reaction of more aggressive people. I have written about this in earlier entries, and I have nothing new to add about it.

The other response is to defend one’s own ego and deflect blame by adopting a “progressive” ideology or taking “progressive” actions, which “proves” that one cannot be blamed (“I’m not part of the problem, I’m helping!”) and that their privilege is no longer relevant. These ideologies have a great variety of theoretical purposes, and people who follow them do not explicitly believe that they are using a defense mechanism.

* Social justice movement and hashtag movements: These Internet movements have arisen recently, with seemingly good intentions. They give Internet users the feeling that they’re doing something, anything, to help resolve a social or international issue. In reality, such movements not only don’t actually accomplish anything except occupy space on the Internet, but they can also potentially be damageable.

Although it is not an ideology or a movement, I think the phenomenon of tone policing is in some way related to these. A lot of social justice on the Internet seems to consist of tone policing and reframings of very personal issues (like sexuality and gender), which makes it simultaneously profoundly offensive and silencing.

* Positive thinking movement, self-help movement, New Age movement: Superficially, again, these movements seem like they are powerful agents for change. They promise you the Moon (become the best you you can be! get the kind of life you want! evolve to a higher plane of existence!) and portray themselves as the ultimate solution to social problems.

But from a radical standpoint, there are fundamental problems with any “solution” which concentrates on individuality. Social problems cannot have individual solutions because individual action cannot change the institutions which (through various social constructs and their concrete implementation) are the cause of those problems.

Another fundamental problem is that such ideologies ultimately amount to blaming the victim, and institutional causes are ignored. If your life is not as good as you wish, it’s your fault for not being positive enough. The hardships in your life are the result of your lack of evolution. Got fired? Got raped? Got imprisoned? The institutions have nothing to do with it, you just need to learn from these events and become a better person. You are responsible for your own hardships.

At this point, the “solution” actually becomes part of the problem. The more we concentrate on ourselves, the less we are able to change the actual agents in society that harm and exploit people. Nourishing the ego in such an introverted fashion ultimately means hurting the world.

I would also include Buddhism in this category, if the practitioner becomes a Buddhist for selfish reasons.

* Charity: There is no easier recipe to feeling like you’re doing your part than to throw some money at a charity. But the emphasis on charity turns welfare into an individual endeavor, and diverts attention from political solutions. As Janet Poppendieck discusses in Sweet Charity?: Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement, charity is necessary to alleviate poverty in the absence of political engagement, but it is a time and energy trap for the providers and for the donors, making real solutions impossible to achieve:

There is a little of Wenceslas in most of us. We, too, “find blessing” in exerting ourselves on behalf of the poor, especially if we can simultaneously prevent waste. And we, too, have become distracted by these labors from challenges that urgently require our attention. This is what might be called the “Wenceslas syndrome,” the process by which the joys and demands of personal charity divert us from more fundamental solutions to the problems of deepening poverty and growing inequality, and the corresponding process by which the diversion of our efforts leaves the way wide open to those who want more inequality, not less. The Wenceslas syndrome is not just something that happens to individuals and groups that become deeply involved in charitable activity; it is a collective process that affects our entire society as charity replaces entitlements and charitable endeavor replaces politics.

* Liberal feminism, sex-positivity, trans genderism: Here I am talking mostly about men, since they are the ones with privilege where gender is concerned. Men call themselves “feminists” and “sex-positive” in order to show that they are on the side of women and that they oppose the objectification and exploitation of women, but these ideologies are individualistic, promote objectification, and exploit female bodies and “consent.”

It’s been proven by studies that men who insert themselves into female-dominated fields are given more attention, and I think this is also true of liberal feminism. In practice, many men adopt feminism as a way to attract women or as a rape blanket; by the latter, I mean an opportunity to rape a woman without losing the support of other women because they are ostensibly “feminists” and “one of the good guys” (a real “good guy” wouldn’t claim to be a “feminist” and wouldn’t talk over women’s voices in the first place).

* Cultural relativism: Of all the ideologies I list here, relativism is perhaps the one that’s closest to the “hate” side of the scale. Certainly there is something very hateful to posit that an individual who’s victimized by a cultural practice is not “really” a victim and that we (meaning, Westerners) should just accept all cultural practices, including those who entail harm or death to innocent people.

But I think that in some way relativism does bolster their ego as well. There is something attractively self-righteous in the notion that we should just accept the practices of other cultures and stop criticizing. It feels respectful and right, and makes the person appear as if they support the self-determination of other cultures against imperialist conceits.

The problem comes when we actually look at real acts happening in the world. Acts are not done on cultures, they are done on individuals. And when we look at the fact that cultural relativism is telling us that the suffering of actual people is irrelevant because their culture has authorized it, then we can see how much hatred is hidden behind the self-righteousness.

So unlike the other ideologies on this list, the problem with cultural relativism is not its vulgar individualism but rather its complete inability to confront individuality. It does not propose absurdly individualistic solutions; rather, it proposes doing absolutely nothing because it refuses to acknowledge that there is any problem. In this, again, it is more similar to the hate ideologies than the ego ideologies.

Since I am now mentioning hate ideologies, let me talk about a few of them. Most of the ideologies on this list has a “hateful” counterpart (I can’t think of any specific counterpart for the social justice movement):

* Conservatism (hardships are your fault, you deserve no help) for positive thinking/self-help (hardships can be alleviated by thinking right, you can help yourself).
* Capitalism (social problems will either be solved by the free market or should not be solved) for charity (poverty can be alleviated by you giving money or time).
* MRAs and anti-feminism in general (it is in the natural order of things for women to be oppressed) for liberal feminism and sex-positivity (choosing to be oppressed is freedom).
* Imperialism (we must impose our culture on others) for cultural relativism (we cannot criticize any culture).

You may note that, except for the last point, there appears to be few differences between my comparative descriptions. Indeed, one of my points here is that while these hate and ego ideologies may superficially be seen as opposites, they really are complementary.

So you’ve got positive thinking coming straight off American religious conservatism (see the book Bright Sided for the history of this). You’ve got charity being used by a wide range of (money-raking) religions, businesses, and umbrella organizations to justify their existence. You’ve got the genderists from the right and the genderists from the left basically playing from the same pro-pornography, pro-prostitution, pro-gender roles, pro-rape playbook (in both cases the objective is the protection of male privilege, but for different reasons). And finally, the belief that there is no right or wrong can only lead to the rule of force (because who’s to say that force is bad?).

I am not saying that these ideologies are always used as defense mechanisms. I am also not saying that people can’t hold to one without the other. Obviously you can be into positive thinking or self-help without being a conservative, or a sex-positive advocate without being explicitly anti-feminist. My point is not that these things are the same, but that from a general radicalist standpoint they are adjacent and self-reinforcing pieces of the same puzzle.

If you look again at the three stages of reasoning, I think “hate” ideologies align with the reactionary stage, “ego” ideologies with the libertarian stage, and radicalism with the liberationist stage. And this makes a lot of sense: reactionary ideologies generate hatred for people who don’t keep the party line and hierarchical inferiors, while libertarian individualism massages the ego.

Individualistic ideologies have two facets to their individualism. First, which I’ve discussed extensively as regards to voluntaryism, is the evaluations of actions as if they exist in a vacuum (divorced from any social context, historical context, class theory, or consequences). Second is that the individual is sold on the idea that his or her personal actions are powerful and that individual action can affect social problems (and by extension that failure to resolve one’s problems is the result of individual failure). The latter is what interests us here.

As always, the radicalist response is, as in the three stages of reasoning, that the evil principled stance of the reactionaries and the mindless individualism of the libertarians are the equally incorrect thesis and antithesis which provide a springboard for integrated, systemic reasoning. The radicalist position is both principled and freedom-seeking, but unlike both alternatives it states that social problems cannot be resolved without seeking knowledge about the facts of the matter. The typical reactionary stance is that there are no facts of the matter, only allegiances and inter-subjective truths, and the typical libertarian stance is that facts are irrelevant: both are mired in the subjectivist viewpoint (either that belief creates reality, or a complete refusal to confront reality).

In this entry I did not mention much of religion or politics, although they are an important part of bourgeois defense mechanisms as well. Perhaps this will be a topic for a future entry.

Red flag terms.

It is a well known fact that words are far more than ways to point to concepts, that words can be symbols which stand for a whole perspective or even worldview.

[T]he terminology we use is heavily ideologically laden, always. Pick your term: if it’s a term that has any significance whatsoever- like, not “and” or “or”- it typically has two meanings, a dictionary meaning and a meaning that’s used for ideological warfare.
Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power

This is true in any area of life. In general, the use of words typically gives us a good indication of a person’s allegiance. The framing and reframing of words and concepts are the main weapons used in ideological warfare, and so it should not be surprising that people on different sides deploy words in different ways.

The textbook example of this is the “pro-life” (instead of “anti-abortion”) and “pro-choice” (instead of “pro-abortion”) reframings. In general, people who use the reframing terms are proponents of what they stand for; opponents of the position have no reason to agree to the reframing. I would never call anyone “pro-life” because I believe that term is a lie (anti-abortion is a much better descriptor); “pro-choice” is at least more accurate, and in that case I’d rather attack the concept of “choice” itself than argue semantics (although perhaps “pro-imposition” would be better).

So here is my list of red flag terms, mostly on feminist issues, which immediately make me suspicious of anyone using them. Note that I am not arguing that people using these terms are always wrong; I sometimes use these terms to explain why they are imbecilic. “Red flag” means alert, warning, not exclusion.

Agency, choice

These are red flag terms, not just because they refer to things that don’t actually exist, but because they are routinely used to nay-say systemic analysis and support an individualistic view on feminist issues.

Basically, the argument underlying these words is that women have “agency” and “choose” to be oppressed, therefore “proving” (only to an idiot who believes that reality magically changes depending on what we call it) that they are not actually being oppressed. A related term is “consent”: while consent is a useful ethical term, it can also be used to argue that women “consent” to be oppressed.

Cis, cissexist, cis-privilege

Here is my entry on this subject. But furthermore: the concept of “cis” is an organized attack against feminism because it pushes forward the idea that people who identify as women are privileged by virtue of having been born women. One of the basic principles of feminism is that the gender hierarchy places men at the top and women at the bottom, and that therefore women cannot be privileged because of their gender. So any use of the term “cis” is fundamentally anti-feminist.

This term has gained widespread support amongst liberals, which makes it easier to weed out non-radfem sources.

TERF

This is a slur term against radical feminists, which means: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. The term is meant to imply that there are good (non-trans-exclusionary) radical feminists and bad (trans-exclusionary) radical feminists; a thinly-veiled attempt at divide-and-conquer.

Radical feminists are not “trans-exclusionary” and do not seek to exclude transgender people from analysis or consideration. Trangender people are not the issue, but rather the genderism (and therefore anti-woman ideology) generated by trans activists to bolster their unscientific worldview.

The term “TERF” is most commonly used against people who support women-only spaces. Since historically we know that women-only spaces are essential for women’s liberation and safety, this means anyone who truly honestly support women’s liberation and safety will be called a “TERF,” ironically turning it into a badge of honor.

Kink-shaming

This term is used to nay-say systemic analysis of BDSM. The basic principle is that criticizing BDSM as a practice is really a personal critique of everyone who practices BDSM by “choice.” Any critique of BDSM must therefore be an attempt to shame individuals for their “kinks” (a term which sounds much more innocuous than “bondage” and “domination,” and therefore hides the reality).

In reality, a critique of BDSM for being hierarchical is no more a form of “shaming” than a critique of prostitution is meant to “shame” trafficked women. The goal of systemic analysis is to evaluate institutions and processes, not individuals. So the term “shaming” is simply propaganda.

Slut-shaming

No woman deserves to be called a “slut,” even in a sympathetic way. People who use the term “slut-shaming” to defend young girls and women who dress in “unapproved” ways are calling these young girls and women sluts for the way they dress. They are no better than the accusers! Do not support such people, and call them on their behavior. No one deserves to be called a “slut” based on what they wear, even if the name-calling is supposedly done to support them.

Vanilla sex

This term is used by BDSM proponents as a slur against people who do not practice BDSM, especially people who criticize BDSM. It is not only a slur but a concept which promotes hierarchical thinking about sex:

The s/m concept of “vanilla” sex is sex devoid of passion. They are saying that there can be no passion without unequal power.
Audre Lorde

Sex-positive

I’ve already addressed this particular point: sex-positive, like other terms I’ve already listed, aims to break down any attempt at making a systemic critique of sex.

Innate gender, gender identity

This term is used to nay-say gender atheism. There is no scientific or logical proof of any such thing as “innate gender.” I accept that people feel that they have one, but that’s no more evidence for an innate gender than personal experience is evidence for race or religion.

There is nothing inherently wrong about the concept of gender identity, but it is most often equated with innate gender or to the effects of innate gender. Any analysis of gender identity, gender self-identification, identification of others, must start with socially constructed categories as its basis. Any biological argument for gender identity is essentialist.

Sex work

This term is used to try to normalize the trafficking, abuse, rape and murder of women in prostitution and to pretend that it’s just another form of work. It’s used by liberals who are trying to reframe the radfem position against prostitution as singling out prostitutes for punishment when they are just “workers” doing their job. It hides the fact that prostitution is not, and cannot, be just another form of work because it is predicated upon the exploitation of women’s bodies.

Girls

The use of the term “girls” to talk about adult women is infantilization and aims at trivializing women’s speech and women’s beliefs by portraying those women as children.

Men’s rights, Men’s rights advocates

This term seems trivial: after all, men are humans and all humans have rights. But the term is a code-word for men who believe that women are the true rulers of Western societies and benefit from privileges acquired at the expense of men. These men (and a few handmaidens) are no more connected to reality than Creationists or Scientologists.

I have debunked MRA “evidence” in two entries (1, 2). This has infuriated some MRA groups because their ideology is mind-bogglingly stupid. Fortunately, they don’t meet any radfem-allied men and thus have no idea what to do with me (a fact about which I am eternally grateful).

Alpha male

MRAs believe that the “alpha male” and “beta male” structure of dominance in wolves also exists in human beings. Unfortunately for them, the whole concept of “alpha male” was a scientific fabrication; so are the MRAs’ bizarre theories about how humans operate, but at least the former has been corrected.

Intersectionality

This is not a bad term in itself. Intersectionality tells us that a person’s identity is composed of many different hierarchies, and that you may be superior in one and inferior in another. In order to understand the story at the individual’s level, you have to look at how all these statuses intersect. Being a white woman is different from being a black woman, being a handicapped fat person is different than being a non-handicapped fat person, and so on.

The problem comes when intersectionality becomes one’s most important, or only, tool of analysis. Because intersectionality inherently focuses on individual conditions, using it exclusively becomes nay-saying of any systemic analysis. For example, feminism assumes that there is such a thing as female socialization and female experience, but intersectionality may lead someone to claim that there is no such thing and that every single woman is a different case, thus making feminism impossible.

As Aphrodite Kocięda argues in this article for Feminist Current, intersectionality is not a good model of oppression because it fails to include the sources of oppression and portrays hierarchies as fixed and immutable. If you want any sort of accurate model of how oppression works, you have to understand fundamentally that oppression is constantly created and recreated by social institutions, and how this is done.

Essentialism (or “biological determinism”)

I’ve decided to add this word, not because it is inherently bad, but because it seems people don’t know what it means any more and are using it as a weapon against radical feminism without regard for meaning.

Essentialism actually conveys the idea that every thing has an essence, which has attributes on which the identity of the thing depends. In sociology, it conveys the belief that gender, race, ethnicity, and so on, are fixed constructs which reflect biological realities, and are part of the “essence” that makes a human being. It is therefore the opposite of constructionism (the general radicalist position) that these things are social constructs and are not part of the “essence” of any human being.

Anyone who uses the word “essentialism” to support any form of genderism or attack radical feminism is therefore either lying or an idiot, and in either case cannot be trusted. Radical feminists are against gender and do not believe that gender reflects any biological reality; it is genderists, both traditional and trans, who are essentialists.

It seems that they try to associate “essentialism” with “believing that sexual organs matter in identifying someone.” But that’s not essentialism, that’s biology 101; radfems do not believe that the nature of a person’s sexual organs prove anything other than someone’s sex. What makes women have interests in common is not sexual organs but socialization, exploitation, objectification and an inferior status, all of which are a result of social institutions and ideological traditions, not biology.

Transgressive

I don’t think I have to explain this one!

Fearing the non-conventional.


Above: Matt Bors illustrates atheismophobia. Click to enlarge.

Fear seems to be wasted a great deal on things which are not at all powerful or horrible. People fear things as abstract as the redefinition of marriage or the disintegration of Western society. There is a lot of legitimate fear about losing one’s job or dying of a disease, obviously; I am more concerned with the illegitimate fears, because there seems to be a lot more of it going around. The personal fears are kept locked up in people’s brains, but the illegitimate fears are bandied about and spread like venereal disease.

A good example I’ve written about lately is the fear that determinism will be widely accepted. I think most people would agree with me that this is a pretty abstract fear, as are the claims that human life will be devalued or that Western society is under threat. What would be the concrete results of determinism being widely accepted? I don’t think those fundamentalists have even tried to imagine what a deterministic society might be like, or is likely to look like.

Another one is the fear of Hell. Many otherwise convinced atheists live with that fear for a long time. This is because Hell and its dramatic images live in their imaginary, not in their rational faculties.

Or take a more mundane example, like “Stranger Danger.” Now, we all know that’s a damn lie, and a dangerous lie. But it appeals to the widespread narrative of strangers lurking in the dark waiting to kidnap and rape children. Again, it appeals to the images that have been engraved in our imaginary, it is pre-rational, it is insidious and a form of indoctrination.

The main feeling that parents experience, I think, is not contentment or happiness, but fear. Everything they do to their children seems to have a component of fear to it, fear that the child will grow up “wrong.” What “wrong” actually means in this case is “maladapted to this society,” which in practice means that the child must be mentally broken in order to fit in our bizarro society.

In addition to a human being which is, in emself, complete, a child is also a potentiality. There is no obvious way to predict how a child will grow and mature. But a parent, through their ownership claim, seeks to control the child, so there is a fundamental tension there; they seek to control a child’s future but they really cannot. So there is a constant fear of a terrible hypothetical future for the child if ey “fails to adapt” to our dysfunctional society.

In all cases, we are talking about fear emerging from the imagination, the fear of a disastrous hypothetical futures, because we can always imagine greater threats in the future than the ones that actually exist in the present. A maxim is “better the devil you know.” Uncertainty triggers insecurity, insecurity triggers anxiety, and anxiety demands a remedy. This is true in all spheres.

Radicalism is a good way to stimulate people’s fear reflex, because it is innately counter-culture, and therefore summons up an uncertain future. Atheism triggers fears of the chaos of a world without the dogmatic, relativist morality of religion. Anarchism triggers fear of the chaos of an egalitarian world, devoid of obedience and submission. Antinatalism triggers fear of the chaos of a world without human life. Radical feminism triggers fear of the chaos of a society without gender roles. In all cases, fear is motivated not by arguments (although arguments may be used as rationalizations) but by the realization of radical difference.

But there is a deeper correlation between fear and chaos, between fear and counter-culture. We already know from observing society that fear makes people flock to hierarchies (“order”). The kind of hierarchy depends on the kind of fear: for instance, fear of death pushes people towards religion.

The explanation given is that people who feel threatened fall back on the culture and values of the groups towards which they feel allegiance. The contrast to the “chaos” of radicalism, obviously, is the “order” of hierarchies, where everyone knows their place and everyone has a role to play. Hierarchies represent a security blanket because they give you easy answers about how to organize society: there are inferiors and superiors, the superiors deserve their status (for whatever ridiculous reason), and the inferiors should obey the superiors in exchange for their lives or livelihood.

The fact that these answers fail time and time again, or the fact that hierarchies are not really a form of order and egalitarianism is not chaos, does not prevent the believer’s fear, because this emotion in based in the imaginary, not in rationality.

It is not, I think, a lack of imagination as much as a fertile imagination unbounded by rationality. The fact that people imagine all kinds of disaster scenarios in this fashion kinda proves that point. This indicates to me that the best way to combat it is by presenting an alternate and more credible narrative (such as my reframing of anarchism) and by presenting an alternate future.

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