Centrism, Features, Free Speech, Politics

Amidst the YouTube Junkies of MythCon, I Witnessed a New Kind of Radical Centrism

Late Saturday afternoon, police ordered the evacuation of the historic Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee because of a bomb threat. Along with hundreds of other MythCon attendees, I filed out in orderly fashion. While most of the crowd milled around City Hall, I went up to my hotel room at the neighbouring Intercontinental. But that building, too, was evacuated by police, because it sits adjacent to the Pabst. Across the street, a bride in white shuffled around nervously with her family. Her wedding reception was scheduled to begin shortly in the Intercontinental ballroom. These are the ordinary people who suffer when idiots phone in bomb threats.

Eventually, we were all let back into the Pabst, and our conference resumed, amidst much gossip about what had motivated the bomb hoax. It says a lot about the ideologically heterodox nature of MythCon—a secular humanist and atheist meet-up organized by self-described “mythicists” seeking “to promote dialogue about culture, religion and freedom of thought”—that no one could be quite sure. The headliner was a popular YouTuber named Sargon of Akkad who’s often described as a radical conservative. But Sargon (known to the world of flesh as Carl Benjamin) disdains the alt-right label, and his most implacable online enemies tend to be hard-right trolls. MythCon itself (more formally known as the Mythinformation Conference) originated five years ago as a rally for atheists and skeptics; and so the hoaxer could theoretically have been a Christian conservative. Or it could have been a radical feminist who opposed the panel on transgenderism—or a trans activist opposed to the oddball politics of the trans trio that appeared as panelists. Or the whole thing might have been rooted in some fantastically obscure feud that played out on a comment thread. As I learned on Saturday, MythCon is in large part a meet-up for YouTube devotees, with the celebrity value of panelists casually measured in the currency of views and “subs.”

Quillette founder Claire Lehmann (center-left) speaks on a panel about independent media

I’d come to MythCon out of professional interest. Two of the speakers at the one-day conference were my Quillette teammates—Editor-in-Chief Claire Lehmann (who spoke about the future of media) and columnist Clay Routledge (who heroically managed to keep his composure amidst a panel on intersectionalism that almost immediately devolved into testiness, bickering and audience pandering). But even before the first panel was done, I’d already become fascinated by the proceedings, as they played out both on stage and among the vocal audience members surrounding me. From out of this strangely coherent melange of exasperated heretics and hipster autodidacts, I caught a glimpse of that once-endangered political animal called radical centrism.

The idea of radical centrism is not new. The label was claimed by a variety of theorists and politicians in the late 20th century, including Anthony Giddens, an advisor to then-British prime minister Tony Blair who championed a so-called “Third Way.” In 2010, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert capitalized on public exasperation with polarization by staging a “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.” The well-attended Washington, D.C. event was supposedly aimed at skewering both sides of the political divide. But having covered that rally for a Canadian newspaper, I can attest that, hilarious as the satirical signs on display may have been (“I may not agree with you, but I’m sure you’re not Hitler”), these weren’t true centrists. They were bemused upper-middle class college-educated leftists who loved watching late night news comedy. The demographic I saw at MythCon was poorer, angrier and more ideologically disenfranchised.

Over 20 years of covering conferences of all political flavours, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading a movement based on the people who attend the meet-ups. I’ve seen everything from traditional conservative think-tank gabfests populated by Alex P. Keaton types to Israeli Apartheid Week events organized by white people who wear kufiyahs.

But the attendees at MythCon didn’t look like any of these crowds. In appearance, they seemed more like the apolitical introverts and subculturalists I see at the board-game conferences I attend in my spare time, or the nouveau-hippie seekers and spiritualists I find manning kiosques at new-age medicine and Truther conventions.

Police evacuate the Pabst Theater

Except that, in the way they actually think, the folks I met at MythCon are the very opposite of conspiracy theorists. They have as much contempt for conservatives who dismiss evidence of anthropogenic global warming as they do for raw-food locavores who insist GMOs will turn you into Frankenstein’s monster. From what I could tell through casual conversation, many of MythCon’s radical centrists work in the tech field and inhabit online worlds completely saturated by the passing idioms of social media. Inside jokes about favourite YouTube stars often blur quickly into conversations about ideology, information technology and digital privacy. Having lived through a period when new digital platforms have repeatedly destroyed and remade the fabric of public discourse, they observe no boundary between the domains of thought and tech. A typical specimen was a white-hat hacker from the Boston area whom I met at the after party. He had trouble even articulating any one reason why he’d come to the conference, except to offer, “Let’s just say I have a lot of cultural interests.”

Many of Quillette’s writers and readers describe themselves as “classical liberals.” And that label does seem to fit to some extent at MythCon. Out in the lobby, a group of men representing something called the Liberalist International Association—one of the event sponsors—were handing out leaflets celebrating individual rights, economic freedom, freedom of speech, “blind justice” and secularism. Like many classical liberals, they champion small government in a way that can shade into libertarianism. But MythCon isn’t about reducing taxes or getting rid of public-sector unions. The attendees were mostly young adults in their 20s and 30s who’d grown up during a time of stagnating wages and growing income inequality, trends that make nonsense of the idea that hard work and grit are all you need to get ahead. Amid all the passionate arguments I heard at the Pabst, none were directed at the welfare state.

Even when it came to free speech and freedom of conscience—core issues for the attendees—it was interesting to note that there was little ire directed at government per se. The panel on media—populated by Lehmann; Tim Pool, Jeremy Hambly, AKA The Quartering; and Stephen Knight, AKA Godless Spellchecker—focused almost entirely on the role of oligopolistic corporations such as PayPal, Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter in throttling the ability of small media companies and entrepreneurs to get their message out. After receiving congratulations for effectively using Patreon as a Quillette fundraising tool, Lehmann sobered up the room by reminding the attendees that these private companies can cut you off with little notice, and so smart entrepreneurs always need to have a “backup plan.”

Youtuber “Shoeonhead” in the Pabst Theatre audience

This was a room full of people passionately engaged in the world of ideas. Yet in their panelist remarks and Q&A comments, few of the speakers and audience members invoked the name of any actual party, politician or even broad political movement. That’s because this new breed of centrist radicalism doesn’t originate in reaction to any particular government policy. Rather, it’s expressed in reaction to the dynamics that adherents experience within the online communities that define their sense of collective belonging—and, in the case of the more popular YouTubers and podcasters, their source of status and livelihood.

During a morning panel—“How has the political climate divided the atheist community?”—comedian David Smalley observed that many outspoken atheists had grown up in religious families, and poured themselves into online activism because they were looking for a new kind of community to replace the church. This dynamic, he argued, made it especially painful when, thanks to ideological purists, there was “fighting within your second family.” Expanding on this same theme, YouTuber Jaclyn Glenn decried the absolutism of the “atheism-plus” sub-subculture, which she described as a social-justice cadre that requires atheists to obey feminist mantras unrelated to actual atheism. To which Smalley added: “Atheists started out as insurgents demanding to be heard. Now we’re silencing each other.”

Like all the panels, this one had at least one dissenter—in this case, YouTuber Vadim Newquist, AKA Creationist Cat—to push back along social-justice lines. Newquist argued that atheism isn’t an intellectually rigorous posture unless it is rooted in the broader evidence-seeking tradition of skepticism. And since, according to Newquist’s view, “reality really does have a left-wing bias,” intellectually rigorous atheists should be expected to shun incorrect views such as trickle-down economics.

At wonky conferences of this type, one usually hears, near the end, a call for attendees to put ideas into action by writing letters to legislators, or voting a certain way. There was little of that here. During the feminism debate, for instance, which pitted executive-turned-author Karen Garst (AKA Faithless Feminist) against Canadian men’s rights firebrand Karen Straughan, the brief foray into politics came by way of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. But even on this point, there was little discussion of the enormous political stakes at play, and a tight focus on the cut and thrust of debate about #MeToo and the larger issues of due process.

Men’s rights activist Karen Straughan

There was also a somewhat granular discussion of criminal statistics, with Straughan going into detail about what she suggested were official efforts to suppress evidence of female domestic assaults on men. And there was some discussion of the bias against fathers embedded in family law. But the largest audience reactions—during this and other panels—generally were reserved for broad statements of principle that gave voice to audience members’ frustration with the hypocrisies, fallacies, tone-policing and censorship-by-mob that these speakers described, such as when Straughan declared “It is true that [women] are less equal—[but only] because they are held less responsible for their actions.” Or when Derrick Blackman declared, while debating Marissa Janea Johnson on the effect of social-justice activism on the black community, “everyone just needs to be chill,” and “I enjoy being a black man in America.” There were dozens of moments such as these, with the sudden eruption of applause indicating that the speaker had tapped into some truth that, however obvious to this crowd, is found to be maddeningly unsayable on many parts of the internet.

This year’s iteration of MythCon was hosted by Mythinformed podcast host Dmitry Krivochenitser, a self-described Russian atheist Jew. His approach as host was self-deprecating and clownish, which was designed to set a light-hearted, anything-goes atmosphere for the rest of the day. Other participants also tried to keep the atmosphere bubbly. During the feminist panel, featuring the two Karens, moderator Melissa Chen gave an angel-halo clip-on tiara to Karen Garst and a devil-horn tiara to Karen Straughan, telling them they would be known as Good Karen and Evil Karen to avoid confusion. This got a big laugh.

But all this good humor couldn’t hide the underlying tension in the room, which originated in the fact that many of the attendees were spending a sunny Milwaukee Saturday indoors precisely because they were fed up with the ideological enforcers who hovered over their online activities every other day of the year. So when some of those same ideological enforcers appeared on MythCon panels as foils—such as Michael Rowlands and Chrisiousity, who spoke about “the impact of intersectionality”—the audience often erupted in boos and catcalls that sometimes threatened to send the room into chaos.

The atmosphere seemed especially tense when Chrisiousity, who behaved very much like someone who knew she was in hostile territory, argued that black babies are dying across America because of the psychological stress (or “allostatic load”) associated with living in a white supremacist society; that denying the theorem of intersectionality was arguably akin to denying the lived experiences (and therefore the humanity) of people of colour; and that many of her naysayers were channeling racist ideas (to which Routledge won much applause by countering that, for someone who focuses on the sacredness of one’s perspective, Chrisiousity was “pretty good at telling other people what they’re thinking”).

When the crowd responded with a loud chorus of laughter at the reference to allostatic load, Chrisiousity turned to them and accused us of finding the death of black children funny—which of course created more pandemonium. It fell to Lauren Chen (AKA Roaming Millennial) to calm everyone down by calmly pointing out the obvious fact that no one was laughing at the underlying tragedy of infant mortality—only at the idea that racism in America is so potent as to constitute a sort of invisible poison gas. Her patient explanation and somewhat thinly veiled exasperation perfectly captured the spirit of radical centrism that filled the room.

Quantitative psychologist Clay Routledge (right) speaks on a panel with YouTuber Lauren Chen aka “Roaming Millennial”

Given Jordan Peterson’s self-description as a Christian, one might think that he wouldn’t have much sway in this godless room. And it’s true that his name didn’t come up much (though the moderator of the atheism panel did gamely ask whether it was legitimate for atheists to graze Peterson’s non-religious ideas—“Can we treat this as a buffet?”). But at the very least, the proceedings indirectly helped explain to me how Peterson has managed to create such a mass constituency among young people through the video medium. For these radical centrists, video isn’t just a multimedia tool for amplifying or explaining ideas that are set out in books or academic papers: It is their main spigot for the intake of new information and concepts. Only once during the entire proceedings did I hear anyone give a detailed and specific reference to an actual book, in fact. It was Chrisiousity, who held aloft a volume about intersectionality that she said would make good remedial reading for audience members. She might as well have been explaining the workings of a ham radio.

After the dinner break and some final presentations, the proceedings adjourned to a local hotel lobby for pizza, drinks and a musical presentation. The tense atmosphere that had permeated some of the panels seemed to melt away, and even the foils appeared to be having a good time. Then we all went back to our hotels and set wake-up calls for our morning flights out of Milwaukee. When I landed back in Toronto, I Googled around to see if anyone had written up their impressions of the event. I couldn’t find anything substantial. But then I checked YouTube and the first hit was Sargon of Akkad’s Thoughts on Mythcon V and What’s Next.

It already had more than 100,000 views.

Photos by Andy Ngo


Jonathan Kay is Canadian editor of Quillette. Follow him at @jonkay 

 

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104 Comments

  1. What are these people angry about?
    What sort of things would they like to see changed, or kept the same?

    • Morge Zorge says

      Political correctness, deplatforming, leftwing and rightwing attempts at censorship,social justice ideology and identitiy politics that declare white people to be oppressors, colonizers and cultural appropriators. And when you complain about those things you are also labled a white supremacist and Nazi.

      What i would like to change, all of the above.

      • They just sound angry that other people disagree with them.
        I mean, its not like these people are being arrested, or shot. The worst they face is people snarking at them on Twitter.

        • They are being arrested for jokes (Count Dankula, Scottland)
          It’s a trend that will only further develop until you can’t have an opinion other than the mainstream one.

        • Anonymous Coward says

          “They just sound angry that other people disagree with them.”

          At least for me a big thing is mixing scientific knowledge and opinion in to a nice stew that can be used to argue anything under the Sun.

          I.e. I am very frustrated that we cannot have discussions about topics because real arguments can be countered by bullshit. Just spewing bullshit has become so effective that all sides are now using it.

          For example, one might accept the scientific view on climate change but go on to propose totally idiotic ways of fighting it. Or one might say Trump lies a lot and then see him as the antichrist that we should have a civil war over.

        • Northern Observer says

          You are not paying attention chip. You can be un-personed (McGuiniess, Milo). You can be fined and imprisoned (Dankula, Tommy Robinson) You can be punched in the face by an antifa goon (The Quartering). You can have someone tweet you his “taint” (Ethan Van Sciver -ComicProSecrets). You can be targeted for deplatforming and harrassement.
          In shot the flack storm from the red black alliance is getting tiresome and people are stirring to do something about it. Unfortunately many corporations have been subverted in SJW thinking and government, even right wing government, doesn’t seem to know what to do.

        • In America you can just have your social media cut off, be fired from your job, or the small risk of physical attack. In Germany reporters Tim Pool and Lauren Southern were run out of Munich by threats from antifa.

          Lauren was arrested by the UK immigration under the Terrorist Act because when she was in England she blasphemed against Islam.

          Britanny Pettibone was arrested on arrival in England, held in a cell for the weekend and then deported because she is an American conservative who wanted to interview Tommy Robinson.

          Mr Robinson was taken off the street, unlawfully imprisoned without due process and the Judge placed an order to prevent reports on what he had done.

          In Britain we get arrested. The left passed laws that created thought crime and the so called Conservative government have not repealed those laws.

    • wesrdtfy says

      Ideological subversion of our communities and hobbies to make them serve the ideology and not the pursuits for which we have created them.

      • Reader says

        I think the rough issues are:

        – Ideological totalizing forms of argumentation (critical theory comes to mind) are being accepted and enforced as the only answers to difficult and complex questions, particularly those that hit a moral disgust response on the cultural left: gender and employment, IQ, Islam, immigration, tradition. This is a big reason, probably the biggest reason, why Quillette exists. A lot of the MythCon types in particular were probably already in agreement that religious thinking had the same problems, but are more puzzled by the left’s quasi-religious turn in the past few years

        – the above issues are not limited to the Oberlin English department or the deep end of Twitter, but are becoming integral of major mainstream organizations like NBC or the BBC. The Damore incident, which was reported in an actively and consciously misleading way, jumps to mind – maybe toss in Sarah Jeong. There are completely legitimate reasons to believe this will result in misinformation and unstated ideological bias.

        – this can even extend into the academic realm, where scientific work on rural whites or consideration of desistance in trans people or exploring male IQ can meet ideological, and not scientific, objection

        – previously apolitical hobbies are being maneuvered (from the top-down) to conform with the ideological crusade. Kingdom Come Deliverance being declared problematic because rural medieval Bohemia is too white comes to mind.
        (“All art is political!!!” all art is open to political interpretation sure, but that doesn’t mean every piece of work needs to fulfill some kind of political quota and should be shunned if it doesn’t – I would even argue criticism performed under this metric is the most boring shit)

        – Irrational identity politics based on tribal allegiance is a cycle – the excesses of Milo promotes the excesses of antifa promotes the excesses of Breitbart promotes the excesses of Vox. It’s all crap.
        (Admittedly, some people on the Trumpy right make this case without looking in their own backyard, which is a fair criticism, so I only speak for myself here.)

        – a lot of this stuff is justified on a foundation of victimhood culture that has a pretty shoddy foundation: trigger warnings are baseless, implicit assumption tests are almost certainly meaningless, catastrophizing is REALLY BAD FOR YOU, etc.

        Back up ideas with substantive evidence, not just theory compiled on top of theory. Let offensive art exist. Let controversial speakers engage with controversial topics – and if someone says something wacky, counterpoint it instead of calling their employer (this goes for left and right alike too). Stop giving out crummy mental health advice because it helps your ideology. Keep the internet free and open, in part precisely to counterpoint the types of people who don’t want articles like this to exist.

        I can go on.

  2. Circuses and Bread says

    Interesting article. And ironic. From what I understand, this is a meet-up for atheists, nonbelievers, and various and assorted heretics. What I find fascinating is that these same people, who are so skeptical toward religion appear to have little problem accepting, on faith, that politics as a means brings about beneficial end results. Or if the attendees were skeptical, the article doesn’t mention it.

    • Wentworth Horton says

      The article state’s pretty clearly the participants weren’t looking to politics. The non-belief in a deity doesn’t assume an ideology any more than race or gender does. I know, the easy and popular route is to make the assumptions then do the Us vs Them thing but it’s just so pointless.

  3. Well, as you might imagine from glimpsing my nom de Quillette just above, I couldn’t help but notice the title of this article — i.e., “Amidst the YouTube Junkies of MythCon, I Witnessed a New Kind of Radical Centrism.”

    I post here (and elsewhere) under the moniker A New Radical Centrism. It’s the name of a tiny Facebook group I started a few months ago, where I post items from all around the Internet. There’s also a statement pinned to the top of the group’s page describing what I think “radical centrism” should be – and a lot of it doesn’t sound like things that Tony Blair, The Economist, or Thomas Friedman (all of whom have been at times associated with the concept) would be all that enthusiastic about. While my idea of “radical centrism” does sort of occupy a “broad middle” in the political spectrum by sharing with the more common understanding of the term a commitment to pragmatism, reason, and data-driven solutions, it is more suspicious of concentrations of political and cultural power than the typical strain, and is at times as radical as the farther reaches of the contemporary left and right. For example, it is adamantly opposed to illegal immigration and most race-based affirmative action (like much of the American political right), but would, at the same time, also seek to remove virtually all money from politics and introduce elements of a more direct democracy (like much of the political left). Probably most of what I post to the group relates to what you might call the “culture wars,” because that’s what gets my blood boiling more than anything else these days.

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @ new radical centrism

      Hmmm. So maybe I should change my nom de Quillette to the “New Political Indifference”? 🤣

      I have a different theory of what really makes up the “political center” in the US. It’s the plurality of people who can’t be bothered, don’t vote, and generally get on with their lives notwithstanding whatever silliness is going on in the political sphere. These people provide stability and do the work in society while those who are “woke” (or “unwoke” “) think great- thoughts and plan great things.

      We tend to ascribe civic virtue to those who are informed and involved in politics. But what is all that information and involvement really accomplishing for us? Are we happier, healthier, more moral, or richer as a result?

      • @Circuses and Bread

        You should try to galvanize –- well, that’s probably not the correct word -– all those millions of apathetic, low-information voters I keep reading about. Who know, maybe they might be interested in joining the New Political Indifference?

        And who could blame them? When the choices offered to us by political parties include barely-reconstructed Trotskyites like Jeremy Corbyn, twitchy vulgarians like Donald Trump, vessels of corruption and ambition like Hilary Clinton, and fatuous undergraduates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, why not withdraw from the depressing spectacle and seek comfort in indifference? It’s certainly not the worst choice.

      • In case you haven’t already read it, I recommend _Against Democracy_ by Jason Brennan. He divides the electorate into three groups: hobbits (who don’t care), hooligans (who are mindless partisans), and vulcans (who make rational decisions but comprise less than 5% of voters).

    • Is Radical Centrism supposed to be an oxymoron? Like extremely mediocre? Is there a profound statement being made that I’m missing?

      • @Craig Willms

        Sure, “radical” and “centrist” can certainly be oxymoronic. But they don’t have to be. Let me explain.

        Classically, a centrist is someone who tries to keep an open mind, and is therefore more capable of objectively considering competing ideas from all across the political spectrum than a liberal or a conservative because his or her thoughts and actions aren’t constrained by commitment to or a belief in a “standard” ideology (or often even by affiliation with a political party). Centrists try to take the best ideas from the right and left. Once all their positions on various issues are “averaged out,” they tend to fall toward the center of the political spectrum. If you’ve ever taken one of those online “political orientation” tests that asks you to identify your position on dozens of issues, and then positions you between “zero” (for most conservative) and “one-hundred” (for most liberal), centrists will usually end up toward the middle, around fifty. Even if some of their positions are very liberal on some issues and very conservative on others, they typically “average out” in the middle of the spectrum. Centrists think for themselves, and aren’t comfortable having political parties, cultural commissars, professors, intellectual fashion, or the media telling what to think.

        Studies over the years have shown that centrists who are not affiliated with any political party are the most open-minded, the least susceptible to confirmation bias and conspiracy theories, and, after libertarians, they have the highest education levels.

        “Radical” centrism differs from “ordinary” centrism in that it looks to actively (and sometimes dramatically) reform the existing political system. Typically, this takes the form of wanting to remove money and various forms of “rigging” from the political process. This is why people who call themselves “radical” centrists are almost always in favor of radical campaign finance reform and want to end partisan gerrymandering. The “radical centrism” I favor goes even further by seeking to limit the influence that certain contemporary establishment institutions – like the mainstream media and activist academia – have over us.

        It would be a mistake to think that all of this is, as you put it, a form of “mediocrity”. A belief in reason, science, practical solutions, deepening democracy, civil discourse, and unimpeded speech is anything but “mediocrity.” Mediocrity is observed in groups whose views are based on primal emotional impulses (e.g. alt-right, progressives) and who ignore science and data and basic common sense when these come into conflict with their ideology.

        I’ll leave you with my favorite centrist meme. It goes like this:

        Right wing says: “This outgroup is bad – let’s demonize them.”

        Left wing says: “This outgroup is bad – let’s demonize them.”

        Centrist says: “Why will no one look at my graphs?”

        • Madche says

          A New Radical Centrist – What you just wrote above was one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of something I want to belong to.

        • Thanks for that @A New Radical Centrism (@a_centrism)
          I buy what you’re selling until you get to the part about science. Accepting what the science says without pause is foolish.

          Scientists and science institutions are humans or human entities and are prone to all the same crap as the nasty ideologues -or- their own shortcomings and ignorance. Most of them are dedicated and on the up and up like most humans are, but they are imperfect and work for imperfect corruptible people. Science is never settled. When it becomes institutional gospel like Einstienian logic it actually prevents exploration and curiosity because the institutions themselves block it. Cosmology itself is steeped 100 year old logic that is being defied by what we see with modern tools of observation.

          The point is theoretical science is not infallible, so to belittle non-religious skeptics is just plain arrogant.

          • tokyo branden says

            It’s easy to conflate “Science” and “science institutions”. The first is a method to discover and acquire knowledge, the second is the human attempt to implement that method.

            Without question, scientists are sometimes fallible and corrupted. But that’s not at all the same thing as the method itself, it’s wise not to throw the baby out with the bathwater because some scientist or institution misinterpreted or even lied about their findings.

            As flawed as our implementation can be, it’s still the most useful tool in the bag.

            You might say that it’s the worst epistemology of all – except for all the others.

  4. Sharon says

    I would like to see the conversation shift from the poor black babies born in the US to the happy, prosperous and healthy black babies born in the black majority African countries. The African continent is huge and has limitless natural resources, so let’s hear how those blessings are being meted out to the black people by their black leadership.

  5. Justin Notley says

    So funny that a room full of skeptics accepts AGW as gospel truth.

    • So you have the scientific qualifications to overrule the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists? Which conspiracy theory do you subscribe to? Or are you just a die-hard libertarian who refuses to accept the obvious reality of climate change because you don’t like the political/economic implications of what will be required to address the problem?

      • Farris says

        Consensus is not science.
        “In 1931 a hundred scientists and philosophers contributed to a volume denouncing Einstein and his theories.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-2-pro-nazi-nobelists-attacked-einstein-s-jewish-science-excerpt1/

        To which Einstein replied, “if I were wrong wouldn’t they have only needed one?”

        I think the theory of evolution is correct but I still have several unresolved questions. Does that make me a “denier”?
        Everything under the rubric of science is not sacrosanct. As the aforementioned article points out, several Nazi Nobel laureates claimed scientific theories about Jews and developed what they named Aryan Physics. Science that can not be questioned or debated is dogma.

        • You’re right, scientists have been wrong in the past, and consensus is no guarantee of truth. But when a theory is well established and supported by massive amounts of evidence — like both evolution and anthropogenic climate change — it’s irrational to deny it. If you think scientists are accepting the reality of AGW because they’ve been indoctrinated, you evidently have no idea of (1) how science works in general or (2) how the science of climate change has developed over the past 40 years. Believe it or not, all of the objections to AGW (solar activity, natural climate cycles, etc.) have already been considered in the literature. If the implications for the future the planet weren’t so dire, I would find it hilarious that non-scientists and non-specialists assume that they can somehow understand the science better than people who spent their life studying these issues.

          • Farris says

            So merely asking questions or seeking explanations makes me “indoctrinated”? People are still asking questions about the Theory of Relativity? Why is AGW beyond reproach? If a theory can’t be tested or questioned, is it really science? I think AGW is science that’s why I want to question and test it.

      • peanut gallery says

        Consensus isn’t proof and shouldn’t be used as an argument. But there is evidence that we should maybe try to curb global warming and also try to do it without tanking our economy and/or human progress. Unfortunately, Eco-activists tend to take on a very anti-human/anti-capitalist flavor, which can be quite off-putting to say the least.

        What I’ve always hated about GW folks is that they have been very anti-people who want to look into options other than what they already believe to be true. We shouldn’t just do ANYthing that comes to mind immediately because we’re scared of GW.

        • Can you provide some links to mainstream environmental organizations that demonstrate your point? I think you’re describing extremist environmentalists like Earth First and ELF. It seems intellectually dishonest to discredit an entire movement by pretending that fringe elements are representative of the whole. Personally, I support a gradually implemented carbon tax which would internalize the externalized costs of carbon pollution, thereby using market mechanisms to shift our economy away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy. That’s neither anti-human nor anti-capitalist.

          Do you also reject the consensus of biologists that germs cause disease or the consensus of historians that the Allies won World War II? It’s irrational to reject the consensus of experts if a theory is well-established and based on compelling evidence.

          • Why do we have states in the US and foreign countries refusing to frack huge shale deposits for natural gas which has much lower emissions then other fossil fuels? Why can’t wet get more nuclear power in the United States? When AGW alarmists and there allies in government start pursuing tactics that make sense I’ll join them in support. Saying we need to use mainly uncompetitive renewables subsidized through tax dollars that will do nothing but jack up energy prices and fat nuisance carbon taxes is not the answer. I guess my point is when they get serious about there remedies for AGW I’ll start worrying about it. The fact of the matter is the US have cut co2 emissions a ton.

          • neoteny: Given the ideological links between the anti-SJW crowd and the neo-Nazi alt-right, I’m not sure you want to set the precedent of judging movements by their fringe elements.

            Taleb’s article/chapter is interesting, but I don’t think the examples he cites provide any justification for evaluating mass movements by their most extreme members.

        • DrRadium says

          Actually scientific consensus is a valid argument provided the core ethic of science is considered: all conclusions can and must be subject to revision or rejection with new data. The reasons are 1) that very high levels of consensus are devilishly hard to achieve in the absence of very strong evidence, 2) provided you follow the rules of scientific argument, science is remarkably tolerant of heterodoxy compared to other human endeavors, and 3) the structure of science places huge rewards on those who break paradigms such that it is virtually assured that if evidence

          Scientists do not like to agree with one another. I have personally witnessed 50+ yr old academics nearly come to blows over subjects that cure insomnia for most people. The first thing we learn to do in grad school is rip other people’s papers and concepts new orifices. Scientists tear each other apart, it’s what we do. It’s hard to tear each other apart in the absence of disagreement. And as long as you are bound by certain standards of logic, commitment to experiment and objective reality, you can claim anything you want. You just have to be able to back it up. So wherever the evidence is weak (that is where multiple lines of evidence from multiple sources do not converge on a point) there is wide divergence of opinion. To get over 90% of scientists in a field to agree to a contention means the evidence is strong. And yet as the very examples raised prove, when new data comes along that cannot be explained, consensus weakens and some brash young scientists are going to blow the old model out of the water. Two early 20th century examples are relativity and quantum mechanics.

          Or maybe better yet, plate tectonics (born as continental drift). Alfred Wegener was widely mocked as late as the 1950’s for espousing the model in 1912. He went to his death (in 1930) searching for evidence that the continents moved. He always stated if he was right, the evidence would eventually be found. And he was right on both counts. When we mapped the ocean floor, the evidence stared at us. Hess and Dietz grabbed Wegener’s model and refined it. Vine and Matthews provided a separate line of evidence from magnetization data, followed by data from seismographs used to detect nuclear tests. Within a few years >90% of geologists held this previously ridiculous model was fundamentally correct. Of course, many paleobotanists already held that heterodox opinion because Wegener’s model neatly explained their fossil findings. And there were aways some geologists who didn’t think Wegener was a crank. I could go on and on with examples. It doesn’t matter what the conventional thinking is, some will hold opposing views even if they don’t advertise them. I have a few heterodox opinions. So do most scientists I know.

          I’m a molecular biologist, not a climatologist, but I have complete confidence that when 95%+ of climatologists agree with a contention, that the evidence for that view is very strong. I am equally confident that if that evidence weakens the consensus will fall. So long as one recognizes that what you are confident of today can and will be be overturned if evidence turns against it, consensus among scientists matters because it reflects the strength of the evidence base.

        • DrRadium says

          @Peanut Gallery Much as I disagree with disregarding scientific consensus. I do agree with much else of what you are saying. I have always said that too many people on the right are in denial about the reality of climate change, and too many on the left in denial about the reality of what it means and how to deal with it. A great example is the refusal of many environmentalists to even consider keeping, let alone expanding the one established major source of essentially carbon free electricity, nuclear power. And rejecting agricultural biotech, carbon sequestration and storage, and income neutral carbon prices that don’t create political slush funds, while promoting the idea that we can scold and moralize our way to decarbonization.

          I also find too many eco-activists to be nihilistic and anti-human, and in denial that while capitalism hasn’t been great for the environment (IMO because it has been able to externalize too any costs), state socialism has been an unmitigated disaster not only for human freedom but also the environment. Even the language of environmentalism is centered around scolding and guilt. I can understand their lack of appeal it turns me off too. They speak of humanity as a cancer. We aren’t a cancer, we are the nervous system of the becoming conscious. There is good reason to think that while life should be abundant in the universe, almost all of it is slime on rocks. Just like it was for 2/3rds of Earth history. We may be the only intelligent life in this galaxy. The whole talk of “Saving the Earth!” irritates me to no end. Jon Stewart had it right, to the Earth we are just a fever and bad rash. We could do our worst and on the way out, grid the planet with thermonuclear weapons and in 10-15 million years you’d need to be a paleontologist or a molecular biologist to know it ever happened. Scaled to a human lifetime, that is about 6 months. What we are saving is ourselves and our technical (i.e.Western) civilization. I cannot think of a better cause.

          And while the nihilistic environmentalists (Dark Green) are the ones most people on the right see and think about because they are in their faces, there is a whole other environmental movement out there. It is represented by people like Mark Lynas, James Hansen, Stewart Brand, Benjamin Halpern, J. M. Korhonen, Emma Marris, Ted Nordhau, Michael Shellenberger, and lots of others. Read what they have to say and you will find many of your views represented. They are pro-human, pro-technology, and pro-future. Most are stridently pro-nuclear energy and embrace agricultural biotech. There is a wide range of opinions about best sources of actions, but being open to new ideas is the rule not the exception.

          We need a wide variety of ideas if we are going to deal with climate change while continuing to improve the standard of living. And to do that, we need ideas and solutions from conservative and other people on the right. This is a great opportunity if only more on the right would grab it. For example, how about shifting our tax base away from things we want more of like income and towards things we want less of like carbon. The free market is a powerful tool for improving lives and addressing climate change. But as long as the right continues to stick to the fiction that climate change isn’t real, it isn’t going to happen. Western civilization needs you. Will the right rise to the challenge or let the left run the show?

          Sorry for any typos. Have to get to work.

      • Oh please… KAD. For Pete’s sake. The whole point of peddling Global Warming/Climate Change is political/economic control, who are you trying to kid? In the state where I live they’ve transformed the power delivery systems by changing over to clean natural gas – fine, wonderful, great – win win win. Prices are down, pollution is down, air is cleaner, less C02. Not good enough for the radical AGW crowd. You see natural gas is still a fossil fuel and it’s effing evil.

        But wait C02 emissions are down! Isn’t that the goal? Isn’t that what the indisputable, gospel truth science says? So who really are the science deniers… Wake up.

        • Right — there’s a massive conspiracy comprised of climate scientists and government bureaucrats who are trying to destroy capitalism for some mysterious reason. They’ve been lying in wait since the late 19th century, when the basic science underlying climate change (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases retain heat) was first understood. Sounds completely plausible!

          Radicals comprise a tiny percentage of the environmental movement, so I can only assume you’re focusing on them because they provide a convenient straw man for you to knock over.
          Most mainstream environmentalists celebrate the fact that CO2 emissions have declined and regard natural gas as a bridge fuel to a carbon-free future.

          • neoteny says

            there’s a massive conspiracy comprised of climate scientists and government bureaucrats who are trying to destroy capitalism for some mysterious reason

            Nothing mysterious about it — it even has a name: socialism.

          • @ KAD wait a minute… Those so-called radicals are persuading politicians and energy industry execs that wind mills and solar farms will be all we need. Public policy (and tax money) is being set and future rates will be set because of what these radicals are doing. They have no more of a crystal ball than you or I do. There’s no telling that wind and solar will magically progress to a potential like natural gas and nuclear have today. Also my friend C02 is not pollution!!! It’s an essential element for life. Why the over emphasis on one so-called greenhouse gas and next to none on any of the others.

            You know, never mind. It’s pointless to even discuss this issue with religious zealots such as yourself. ta ta.

        • Congrats! You’ve cherry-picked an article by an economist who questions the methodology of the study that arrived at the 97% figure, while admitting that the number may still be correct and acknowledging that “climate change is real and human-made.” Next, you can “refute” evolutionary theory by finding an article written by a creationist that disputes the overwhelming consensus of biologists. “Your understanding” is evidently based on Google searches guided by motivated reasoning. If you’re actually interested in the science of climate change — which I sincerely doubt — there are numerous resources available.

          • “Congrats! You’ve cherry-picked an article by an economist who questions the methodology of the study that arrived at the 97% figure, while admitting that the number may still be correct and acknowledging that “climate change is real and human-made.” ”

            K, and? The crux of the Tol article was that 12,000 papers was a strange number to use for this topic, many of the people involved dropped out and many authors of various studies didnt agree with the said conclusions of 97%. Ive only glanced at the article you posted, but so far I havnt seen the author tackle these criticisms.

            “Your understanding” is evidently based on Google searches guided by motivated reasoning.”

            Did you read my post? the first sentance was “My understanding about GW is practically nonexistent.” I was just pointing to an article I heard about to add to the discussion. Its not a topic I care much about other than the drama surrounding it.

            “The author’s of the original study have responded to Tol’s critique:. roundedpeaks, can’t help but notice you didn’t include that link in your post.”

            No shit. I didnt know it existed. Its like you completely ignored what I said. Decided to build a strawman where I claimied to have any real knowledge on climate science, and began to monkey fuck the shit out of said strawman.

      • Peter from Oz says

        And do any of the climate scientists have the necessary legal qualifications to evaluate evidence?
        Scientists are not trained to come to conclusions of fact so much as to be advisors to those who are so trained.

        • I simply ask why, if you pull the NOAA graphs off archive.org from 10 years ago and compare to now, the data in the past was reshaped. NOAA even admits they “adjusted” the historical data. If you ask “why” you are suddenly a unenlightened heretic asking too many questions about the man behind the curtain. You ask why actual, physical measures are removed and replaced by extrapolated, calculated values — you are branded a denier with chants of “shame! shame!”

  6. Sargon completely destroyed the guy against whom he debated last year at MythCon. It was embarrassing for the SJWs. I note that this year no SJW turned up to debate him. I note that SJWs rarely debate against anyone.

    I’ve been jokingly calling myself “alt-centre” for a few months now. The Left think that I’m Hitler, of course, because anyone to the left of Marx is Hitler nowadays. The Right think I’m one of them apart from being an Atheist.

    • I disagree. He was interviewed by Thomas Smith, a very reasonable person who hosts the “Serious Inquiries Only” and “Opening Arguments” podcasts. Progressives don’t debate Sargon for the same reason that evolutionary biologists don’t debate creationists: he’s a trollish provocateur who’s not worth taking seriously.

      • Sargon wasn’t interviewed by Smith; it was a discussion/debate. Obviously we watched different YouTube videos, because Sargon completely owned Smith. You need to watch the video again. Smith didn’t win a single exchange in over an hour.

        You made my point. Instead of dealing with any of Sargon’s ideas/points from the discussion/debate, you went straight to a personal attack. That’s SJW 101, and it won’t sit well on Quillette.

        • I wish that were true. Personal attacks against SJWs outnumber substantive critiques of their views by a large margin in the Quillette commment sections. That’s anti-SJW 101: sweeping and hyperbolic assertions about the “Left” which shut down any possibility of constructive dialogue. Here are some examples from “The Preachers of the Great Awokening” article:

          SJWs are called “vile little humans” who want to “co-opt others’ property, lives and freedom of thought” (i.e., they’re totalitarians); they’re compared to “Bolsheviks …, Stalin, Gulags et. al., Pol Pot, Chairmen Mao, Castro”; they’re judged to be either “ignorant or evil”; they lack any “moral foundation for their beliefs” and use “lies and propaganda” in the “perversion of existing moral concerns”; they “literally do not care about causes, … they care only about preserving corrupt power for themselves”; and, finally, are “narcissists and sociopaths” who should be eliminated from society.

          You’re entitled to your opinion that Sargon “owned” Smith, but it’s just that: an opinion. One of the main points of contention was a tweet Sargon sent to a member of Parliament: “I wouldn’t even rape you, Jess Phillips.” Again, that’s anti-SJW 101: own the libs by making outrageous and intentionally offensive statements. If they show emotion, you win.

          • breathnumber: I know, I’m tilting at windmills. It’s probably pointless: I’m not going to convince anyone that they’re wrong, nor am I likely to change my mind about issues about which I have well-formed opinions. At the very least, these discussions provide an interesting example of tribalism in action. I belong to what might be called the “reasonable moderate” tribe, which regards SJWs and anti-SJWs with equal disdain. Some of Quillette’s authors share this perspective, but very few commenters seem to. Oh well. I’m currently on sabbatical from my teaching job so I have time to kill.

          • Circuses and Bread says

            @KAD

            Tilting? Windmills? Why wasn’t I invited!

            Being overtly antipolitical on a largely political website is the very definition of tilting. Or perhaps masochism. But I remind myself that comments/ debate are less about the participants and more about the (usually silent) audience. If I see my comments/views being paraphrased elsewhere a year from now, I succeeded.

            BTW thanks for the book recommendation. I plan to read it.

        • Alistair says

          Yeah, that was mistake, KAD.

          Stupid name calling doesn’t work around here.

      • Northern Observer says

        Now now now. Sargon can be a troll but even his trollings are quite enlightening. Some of those streams on Anita Sarkeesian are some of the must lucid anti Marxist feminist polemics ever spoken. I also liked his videos on Falguni Sheth and Bell Hooks.
        He open mindedness and plain speaking make him a great popularizer of anti Marxist opinion, which is probably why he has so many enemies.

      • Karen Straughan says

        @KAD “I disagree. He was interviewed by Thomas Smith, a very reasonable person”

        Oh dear. This is the very reasonable person who flounced off the stage before the event had concluded?

        I will concede, Sargon is not the best debater, and not as deep a thinker as he could be at times, but he’s neither a troll nor a provocateur. Both titles imply insincerity–taking positions you don’t genuinely hold just to annoy or trigger other people, or to get notoriety for yourself. That’s not Sargon. I’m convinced he believes everything he says, and has rational reasons for believing and saying it.

        “for the same reason that evolutionary biologists don’t debate creationists”

        Lord knows why they bother debating feminists and SJWs then. Those two groups are just as dogmatic and just as full of unfalsifiable, unscientific woo as any creationist.

  7. Quizno St. FobNickel says

    You know what grinds my gears? Well I’ll tell you …

    I don’t believe in atheists.

    It’s true. I know I’m going to catch there-is-no-hell from the atheists, that I’ll probably be tossed out of the science department and be forced to go join a church or something, but I can’t hide my skepticism about their skepticism any longer.

    The truth is, they are just Judeo-Christians whose brains have tricked them into believing they can transcend their socio-cultural programming. But then they burn their toast and it’s “Jesus Christ! God damn it!”

    Why can’t they just admit that they are non-practicing, disgruntled Christians who go more for the New Testament Golden Rule love-thy-neighbor god-given human rights stuff and not so much for the Old Testament Jehovah-gonna-kick-yo-ass-if-you-eat-shrimp-or-wear-cotton/poly-blend stuff? It’s okay to just phone it in and be selective or even downright contradictory in what you apply. That’s what Catholicism is for!

    • Stefan says

      What about ex-muslim atheists? Are they also just self-deluding Judeo-Christians? Or self-deluding muslims? Do you think ex-muslims and ex-christians can never shake off the cultural dogmas they were raised in, and will always be shackled to their culture?

      What grinds your gears is – in your world view, the religious foundation of your morality is the only real basis for morality, and when you are confronted with the possibility that a lot of people also have a fine tuned moral compass you are faced with a conundrum:

      1. either there is nothing uniquely meaningful in my take on morality, there are other valid ones
      2. my way is the only possible way, the other people are deluding themselves.

      Which I don’t condemn; I have a similar problem, just the other way round, I instinctively feel only insane people are “really” religious, and a vast majority just feel comfort and meaning in religion, and apply religion to their lives to the extent to which it suits their needs.

      Nevertheless, I respect well meaning sincerely held religious views.

    • Wentworth Horton says

      Supposing belief and thought on people is easy enough. I guess. And there’s no point doing that if it doesn’t affirm your personal narrative. S’ok, I get it. So did you just happen to to find, among the infinite possibilities, a stack of paper that precisely aligned what you’ve personally thought out? That’s amazing.

    • “whose brains have tricked them into believing they can transcend their socio-cultural programming”

      Your brain, however, is a perfect reflection of absolute comsic reality at all levels, amirite?

      At least atheists are minimally coherent.

  8. So Mythcon V- a gathering of “the atheist community”[sic] involved “a room full of people passionately engaged in the world of ideas” who nevertheless don’t read books.

    Of course if they did read books they would probably have the capacity to think beyond the occasional clever “gotcha” that apparently constitutes an “idea” and they would recognize that the notion of an “atheist community” has all the validity of “the white community” or “the trans community”, those faux-formulations much beloved of the intersectionalist SJW community this community thinks it “owns” because they saw it on YouTube.

    And the 112.000 folks who have now viewed Mr Akkad’s video have, like me, wasted almost 12 minutes of their lives listening to Akkad express amazement that he and his fellow YouTube celebs are so “ego-free” while almost all of the video is Akkad letting all of us know what a brilliant famous fellow he is in the most “ego-free” way possible.

    I have tried to engage seriously with the YouTubers of the New Right That Pretends To Be Something Else ever since I encountered Jordo’s wonderful stand against the shrieking harpies of the “trans community” but ultimately these are shallow shallow people.

    I confess I have failed.

    The revolution will still not be televised and the “world of ideas” is never going to be contained in 2-hour wanks by bearded momma’s boys on YouTube.

    I highly recommend reading the actual book Why Liberalism Failed and thinking about what it proposes. This is different from Akkad’s recommending Kill All Normies after listening to the audio book (no doubt while gazing into a mirror). Nagle’s book is good but needs the larger context provided by Deneen.

    That context is still only approachable in books.

    • Karen Straughan says

      “and they would recognize that the notion of an “atheist community” has all the validity of “the white community” or “the trans community”, those faux-formulations much beloved of the intersectionalist SJW community this community thinks it “owns” because they saw it on YouTube.”

      Ah yes. A group of people whose only commonality is skin color is EXACTLY the same as one whose only commonality is a lack of belief in god(s), or adherence to a methodological practice.

      “I confess I have failed.” Perhaps the failing is indeed with you.

      “and the “world of ideas” is never going to be contained in 2-hour wanks by bearded momma’s boys on YouTube.”

      Yep, I’m thinking the failing is with you.

      “That context is still only approachable in books.”

      Ridiculous. Might as well say people are incapable of thinking through a problem without having the entire thing written down for them in advance.

      “(no doubt while gazing into a mirror).”

      Thomas Smith, is that you?

  9. Morgan says

    “reality really does have a left-wing bias”

    A fair definition of delusion.

  10. Jack B Nimble says

    When J. Kay mentioned the name ‘Sargon,’ I thought of the classic Trek episode ‘Return to Tomorrow.’ But ‘Sargon of Akkad’? Nada, until I remembered that Rebecca Lewis had just uploaded a 60-page report on ‘Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube’. Here’s an excerpt:

    To understand the importance of links in this graph*, consider the role that Dave Rubin plays. Rubin is a comedian-turned-pundit who hosts a YouTube talk show called The Rubin Report, which has over 750,000 channel subscribers. Rubin describes himself as a “classical liberal,” a variation on a libertarian embrace of small government and individual liberty. As the host of a number of public intellectuals and influencers, Rubin has become a focal point in a community that calls itself the “Intellectual Dark Web.” Rubin describes this group not in terms of ideology, but rather as an “eclectic mix of people” devoted to having “the important and often dangerous conversations that are completely ignored by the mainstream.” His most frequent guests are the other self-identified members of this “Intellectual Dark Web” group, including the psychology professor Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, a conservative media pundit. However, Rubin also hosts a range of influencers outside of this subcommunity, including those with more openly extremist views. These guests include Stefan Molyneux, a talk show host who promotes scientific racism, and Lauren Southern, a Canadian citizen journalist who has since been barred from entering England because of her vehement anti-Islam and anti-immigration activism.

    Rubin has also hosted Carl Benjamin, himself a heavily connected node of the AIN*. Benjamin first made content in the early 2010s focused on criticizing feminist game critics and feminism more broadly. He grew his popularity in 2014 by broadcasting throughout Gamergate, a movement of coordinated harassment against women game critics and designers. Since then, he has continued to grow his following with more anti-feminist, anti-social justice content; his main channel now has over 800,000 subscribers, and a secondary channel has an additional 250,000. Benjamin calls himself a “skeptic,” a term originally used to refer to a group of YouTube atheists. Like Rubin, Benjamin has also embraced the image of a “classical liberal,” and often discusses his views in terms of social theory. Indeed, it is just as common for Benjamin to partake in intellectual discussions with popular libertarians and conservatives as it is for him to live stream himself “shooting the shit” and making fun of feminists with other gamers.

    At the same time, Benjamin frequently collaborates with openly white nationalist YouTubers. In his video with Spencer, Benjamin was presumably debating against scientific racism, a stance he frequently echoes. However, by participating in the debate, he was building a shared audience—and thus, a symbiotic relationship—with white nationalists. In fact, Benjamin has become a frequent guest on channels that host such “debates,” which often function as group entertainment as much as genuine disagreements.

    Furthermore, Benjamin’s collaborations with white nationalists often eschew the debate format entirely. He has hosted Jared Taylor, the white nationalist founder of American Renaissance, and he has appeared on the channel of Colin Robertson, a white nationalist, “alt-right” vlogger who goes by the pseudonym Millennial Woes. In fact, Robertson was one of several influencers to join in on Benjamin’s debate with Richard Spencer, arguing in favor of Spencer’s ideas of scientific racism. While in that context, they were presumably on opposite sides of the debate, Benjamin’s multiple guest appearances on Robertson’s channel reveal a friendly working dynamic between the two. Benjamin discussed this in one of his conversations with Robertson, saying that even though he does not embrace white nationalist ideas, “In many ways, we do have similar objectives. . . . We have the same enemies, right? I mean, you guys hate the SJWs, I hate the SJWs. I want to see the complete destruction of social justice. . . . If the alt-right took the place of the SJWs, I would have a lot less to fear.”

    Source: https://datasociety.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/DS_Alternative_Influence.pdf
    *See her Fig. 1 (detail)

    Bottom Line: Sargon/Benjamin can label himself anyway he wants, but when he says that he has the same enemies as white nationalists, that is the tell.

    • That Data Society bullshit is basically just Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It goes to great lengths (often outright wrong, a la basically everything they said about Tim Pool) to draw connections between “fascists” and dissendent liberal youtube personalities .Ol Lewis here wants us to think that she has uncovered some web of the alt right sphere of influence, but the inclusion of Some Black Guy, Bunty King and Candice Owens makes her graph more racially diverse than Buzzfeeds editorial board.

      Hell, I dont think a single, actual reactionary is mentioned. One need only search around to find a website called Social Matter that does a weekly instalment called “This Week In Reaction” in which they collect the musings of online reactionaries. Guess how many times Sargon of Akkad, Tim Pool or Blonde is mentioned? Somewhere in the ballpark of none. Protip: anytime a journalist/activist calls someone a reactionary who doesnt self-identify as a reactionary, they are simply taking a play from Mao.

      As far as Sargon having similar enimies with white nationalists, we yeah. Anyone who doesnt care more for communists (and Sargon has had persoan run in with Antifa), is going to have common enemies with white nationalists. That shouldnt be a suprise. Nor should it be a tell that Sargon is some secret white nationalist simply because he agrees to debate them (and win, mind you.)

      • Jack B Nimble says

        @roundedpeaks

        ‘Networks’ are a standard trope of the right. There’s D. Horowitz’s ‘Discover the Networks’ [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discover_the_Networks], so memorably parodied by John Holbo as ‘Discover the Nutwork.’ Sadly the parody has vanished while the original still stands. And let’s not forget the diagrams linking email-gate, pizza-gate and server-gate, so much loved by Hannity and Glenn Beck [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton_email_controversy] . Plus the attempts to link Pres. Obama to Rev. Wright, W. C. ‘Bill’ Ayers, Farrakhan, Sharpton, etc.

        I think it’s great to see right-wingers hoist with their own petards. But we shouldn’t lose sight of Lewis’ main point–that right-wing Youtubers are monetizing hate* and creating online communities of extremists that bypass social media AND the traditional media.

        *Remember Sargon/Benjamin’s comment that he ‘hates’ SJWs.

        • If Lewis’ main point is that “right-wing Youtubers are monetizing hate and creating online communities of extremists that bypass social media AND the traditional media.” Then she would do well to point out more hate and extremists, given that the majority of people listed in her chart are neither right wing, particularly hateful or extremist. As stated before, none are reactionary, as her title notes. A solid chunk of them are simply video game nerds who make slightly political comedy videos. Others are boomer-esque talking heads. Richard Spencer is perhaps the only real “extremist” and he is harmless, being that his fame was brought about by being assaulted by a communist.

          Hell, if Sargon saying he “hates” SJW’s is enough to warrent right-wing extremism then right wing extremism is less of a problem than a head cold. The most influential person on that list is Joe Rogan for God’s sake. Second is maybe Gavin McGinnes, founder of the not-so-reactionary Vice Media. Warski is a pothead. Styx is a pegan libertarian. Crowder and Shapiro are run of the mill conservatives. Practically everyone on that list is less hatefull than Sarah Jeong, and basically none of their money is made off being hateful.

          She could have went to Counter Currents publishing, or some other alt right or white nationalist publication, but that would mean that she would have to admit that all of the members of the alt right could stand inside the ring of a quater. Such a lack of drama doesnt sell very well.

          • Jack B Nimble says

            @roundedpeaks

            I’m not entirely comfortable with Lewis’ analysis, mainly because she doesn’t attempt any independent taxonomy of YouTubers’ political or social views, apart from their placement in the network. See also https://medium.com/@kevinshau/a-far-left-conspiracy-theory-the-alternative-influence-network-of-rebecca-lewis-5955ad3b9e3b for a harsh review of her work. I don’t agree that Richard Spencer can be marginalized and ignored, however.

            I found Lewis’ work interesting mostly as an entrance to a YouTube world I rarely visit. In her Fig. 1, only Damore, O’Keefe, Cernovich, C. Owens, L. Southern, Shapiro, Prager, Rubin and Spencer were familiar to me, but not through YouTube, only via mention in online ‘blogs and ‘zines.

            I would also like to defend network analysis as a powerful but descriptive meta-tool that can be used to:

            Reveal scientific research clusters through journal citation analysis, something that Eugene Garfield was doing back in the 1960s
            Identify networks of genetic relationships, either of individual DNA sequences or of populations
            Identify social media ‘influencers’
            Identify putative terrorist cells from phone records of who is calling whom….

            and so on.

        • RB Glennie says

          Very interesting that you would promote this `research’ study by the Data Society… by promoting `networks’ as a `standard right-wing trope…’. So, you don’t find analysis so-called `networks’ valid or, are you just admitting that this Data Society `report’ is political propaganda which is intended to malign truly centrist Youtubers as `far-right’ or (in the language of the report) `reactionary’? There is no hidden agenda therein, after all, and it is one which in a comment below you say that you agree with – that is, to get the people described as being part of `alternative influencers network’ kicked off YouTube. It is heartening to see that someone with `SJW’ leanings – whether this is Rebecca Lewis or yourself – openly declare themselves in favour of censorship and authoritarianism. It is what you believe in of course, but usually it is hidden under thick layers of sophistry. And then of course, you don’t provide any further examples of the `right-wing trope’ of `discovering the networks’, except for Horowitz’s project. The Wikipedia page that you linked to doesn’t even mention either Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity and contains no graphs that you have described… Also the Rev. Jeremiah Wright *was* Obama’s pastor for two decades, I believe, you don’t have to much searching to find that out, and the Obamas were professionally and personally close to the Ayres. Again, that doesn’t take any investigative power. Please keep being lame, madam or sir, it is the best defence against your noxious philosophy.

      • Alistair says

        I have professional expertise in network analysis. And I call bullshit too. It’s a mess of undefined, incommensurate, and non-directional relationships; you can get anything you want out of this kind of rubbish.

        From his posts, I’m guessing Jack doesn’t really understand the Network Analysis; he drops buzzwords but not jargon; they’re just a “cool science thing” he chanced upon that reinforces his prejudices. Amusing.

    • Reader says

      Becca Lewis’s Twitter included her saying Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was a white supremacist for not banning Alex Jones fast enough and that anyone vaguely linked to the IDW (say, Pinker) was just a racist.

      C’mon man, that report wasn’t substantive. It’s something for Huffington Post bloggers to cite while calling for YouTube to censor Joe Rogan or something, and those kind of “networks” could be drawn with just about any large group of people with talk shows. You can from Ezra Klein to Richard Spencer in two moves, per Ezra Klein.

      • Jack B Nimble says

        @Reader

        I’m encouraged that Twitter will now work harder to keep haters and abusers off line, while allowing those banned to appeal:

        ‘The spokesperson said Twitter plans on enforcing the policy in ways similar to its current hateful conduct policy, using automated tools and human moderators to review content and enforce rules. “Additionally, we’re working to improve our appeals process so that when we enforce incorrectly, people have a robust process to help us correct and improve,” the spokesperson said.

        The current hateful conduct policy is meant to prevent users from harassing or threatening people on basis of gender, sexual orientation, or race. But the company is often blasted for not properly enforcing these rules.’ Source: https://gizmodo.com/twitters-new-ban-on-dehumanizing-speech-may-finally-shu-1829303706

        YouTube would do well to implement a similar policy, preferably with the same promptness as DMCA takedowns.

        • Northern Observer says

          @ Jack B Nimble

          I find the way you think terrifying. I don’t know why you don’t see your shadow self or the shadow side of your ideals.

          Tell me, does denying the feminist cock count as dehumanizing speech?
          Inquiring minds want to know.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqee6C7svk8

          The entire problem with the hate speech paradigm, and this has been true from the beginning in Canada when we allowed holocaust denial to become a crime rather than an idea to be refuted and ridiculed,… the entire problem with the hate speech paradigm is that it is ripe for abuse and institutional capture by minorities with intransigent positions. (See Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game where he discusses kosher labeling or burkas) Society is forced on pain of death (for what is un-employing someone but an attempt to starve someone to death at a distance, what is a regime of unlimited fines but the same attempt to starve to death) to accept ideas and propositions (trans pronouns, the feminist cock, always peaceful Islam, etc… ) despite the unfinished nature of reality surrounding these dogmas. In short a political definition is forced on the population at the expense of a social or an organic definition. A rigid definition replaces a fluid one. It can only endure by force and like all regimes of force it will eventually fall, the question is how much damage will be done in the interim.

          Speech and Thought need to be returned to the people and the society of the western democracies. The totalitarian temptation that is our hate speech laws must be seen for what they are and set aside as “well meaning errors” This will be one of the great political arguments of the next 30 years. But it is an open question as to who will win the argument, it should not be hard for the freedom argument to prevail but when you can indoctrinate generation after generation in our Universities …. I have met these minds and the deprogramming of these poor young people is not a given. It is such a shame.

          • Jack B Nimble says

            @Northern Observer

            “…..The totalitarian temptation that is our hate speech laws must be seen for what they are……”

            As someone who has been banned for life at TheAmericanConservative website, I know and accept that privately-owned online spaces are NOT public utilities and do not have to accept all persons, regardless of motivation or ideology. In the US, these private spaces are still subject to Civil Rights laws, of course, but the important point is that these laws do not mention viewpoint discrimination.

            Why can’t you understand all this, and admit that this issue has nothing to do with actual laws against hate speech? I’m against efforts by governmental officials to regulate or ban controversial speech, which is a point I used to make regularly over at TAC, before I was banned.

            I do NOT support France’s effort to criminalize pro-BDS demonstrations [ https://www.france24.com/en/20160120-france-boycott-israel-bds-law-free-speech-antisemitism ] for example, but ultimately that is a battle that the French people will have to fight among themselves. Ditto for Canadians, Brits, Germans, etc.

            Bottom line: private entities [should] have the right to block unwanted speech–it is no different than people using Caller ID to block unwanted phone calls.

        • ” I don’t agree that Richard Spencer can be marginalized and ignored, however.”

          Not to harp on this too much, but its odd that you say this. Richard Spencer is ignored on a regular basis. Sargon debated Spencer and won. Sargon is banned from Twitter, Spencer isnt. In reality Twitter is more likely to lead people to extremism than Sargon.

          “I would also like to defend network analysis as a powerful but descriptive meta-tool ”

          I dont doubt that at all, if said network actually contains people that make sense together. People who expouse terrorist apologetics to say low level terror conspiritors to actual terrorists would work. It draws an actual link. Someone who has nothing to do with white nationalism being interviewed by someone who once hosted a debate between a white nationalist and a liberal doesnt draw that link.

        • I’m not encouraged at all when you see the uncovered videos of the lack of intellectual diversity within the companies. That pretty much means the banning will simply be biased quelling of speech turning the social media enclaves into an echo chamber like the news media became during the 2008-2016 timeframe when one group would echo the story planted by the Adminstration, and the other group would echo the minority counterpoints — with neither providing a true reflections of what was going on but merely amplifying their clickbait based ad revenue.

    • Northern Observer says

      The left believes the right is inter-sectional because the left is inter-sectional, they think that because the public sector union leadership supports the LGBT advocacy group that libertarian activists support Stormfront and Richard Spencer. This simply is not the case and there is an added hypocrisy in that the left has mocked libertarians and classical liberals for not taking on the far right but when these same centrists host debates with the far right where they outline their differences the left then claims the centrists are tainted by association. Nice trick.

      Bottom Line: The current left is inter sectional. The current right is not. Hence the centrist You-tubers are not cloaked Nazis, Nazi adjacent or Nazi sympathizers.

      • I would say Amen, but that might come across poorly in the comments for an article about an Atheist gathering.

    • Alistair says

      >> Bottom Line: Sargon/Benjamin can label himself anyway he wants, but when he says that he has the same enemies as white nationalists, that is the tell.

      Oh, so “Nazi’s hate communists. You hate communists, therefore you are a Nazi.” Brilliant syllogism. Fallacies of undistributed middles don’t bother the SJW crowd, I see.

      I’m glad you’re here, Jack. You are cogent, educated, intelligent, passionate, confident, and utterly, totally incapable of any introspection, charity, intellectual curiosity, self-doubt, or metacognitive skills. You are a very well-made fanatic in your righteousness.

      And yet, you appear to be the very best your side has to offer. Interesting.

  11. Jimmy H says

    I always enjoy it when Jonathan Kay stops acting like a twidiot long enough to write something intelligent.

  12. Jamie Karl says

    People mingle classic liberalism, social conservatism and left leaning social policy and find there’s no politicians to speak of (because there isn’t any, heck the new right hardly has any). This is an emerging political landscape.

    And people have begun to develop and refine ideas online, via social media for quite some time now. The men’s rights movement formulated some of the earliest arguments against intersectionality and for men’s rights. From there, gamergate brought new audiences, and when the right entered further ideas were developed around national sovereignty. This was the split, initially the millenial counterculture was nonpartisan. Men’s rights was a split of liberals values and social conservatives. And so was the atheist “community” and those that joined in gamergate.

    I can understand being confused by it, the new centre, the new right. Essentially it began as a minority of fairly deep thinking dissidents analysing the faults of orthodoxy as relates to their own plight. But seemingly tiny sparks, spread that fire online rapidly. Things like progressive propaganda in video games, films, and comics, became a call to oppose the excesses of the left, brought the masses into what is called the culture war.

    But then the presence of this opposition, everything from the centre, to the tiny far right, increased the passion of the far left – bringing in calls for censorship, and overreaches capitalised by sympathetic corporations and states.

    And now we seem to be in a period of escalation. Where any critique results in further escalation from the left, further brining in more people, to well, who knows what end.

    And to an academic, who is used to conventional politics, this all might seem very odd. Until you consider one – the internet. The internet is a cultural accelerant. It gives voices to people who would otherwise be silence. It spreads ideas faster than they would ordinarily spread. It puts people who disagree right next to each other, and doubles their antagonism.

    The internet makes something as trivial as a video game scandal, a watershed moment in modern politics. And yes, I get that this is strange. And I don’t know where it leads. I hope it can eventually lead to cooler heads prevailing, instead of witch hunts for imaginary communists and imaginary Nazis.

    But while this little new centrist group is a niche. It might actually be modern politics greatest hope. With the left “doubling down” on authoritarianism and the reactionary far right, picking up energy from every such move – the thing that will benefit us most is if we can synthesize them. You only need to look at the energy of politics in Europe or the united states to know that things MUST change, somehow, someway, or they will get worse.

    • Reader says

      This post gets a lot of the dynamics right, I think. The impact of highly motivated online ideological movements, often composed of the Very Online Internet Citizen, is largely covered by the media as some combo of 4chan nazis and Russian bots, but it’s way more complicated and substantive than that.

      If this MythCon group truly wants to be some kind of “new center”, avoiding the nationalist right and the postmodern left:
      – their biggest obstacle is that, as you imply, this mindset is still emerging and grew out of a very niche culture which, in a sense, “dodged” the current frontlines of the culture war that seems to be eating up everyone else. The intellectual nexis of the alt-right types is probably something like neoreactionary bloggers, but Trump’s online appeal is less about that than about Pepe memes and YouTube ranters. The intellectual nexis of the postmodern left is in the academy and specialized disciplines, but it’s Huffington Post clickbait and woke marketing for the masses. MythCon shows this mindset is enough to win over a specific crowd, but how do you get this into a bite-size format for normal people?

      – their biggest opportunity is that the mere existence of a “new center” has the potential to upset the balance. There’s a reason why websites like Vox are furious that Quillette even exists and is financially stable, it’s an implicit rebuke to the drawing of discourse boundaries that they attempted to set in the late Obama years. The creation of a center sphere could be rhetorically useful, especially if people can be perceived as culture war referees – Eric Weinstein tries to lean into this kind of thing a lot. Then again, so does Dave Rubin, albeit not as convincingly in his case.

      Sometimes I worry the IDW will wind up as a branch of the right (especially when people like Candace Owens use the label), but the latter position should be its long-term goal. But we’re in very weird territory here, so who knows.

  13. Hamilton sunshine says

    How on any planet is Sargon an extreme conservative? Because he called out feminists on their shit as well as the far right?

  14. All of the topics presented came from a leftist framework – the discussion of racism, intersectionality, social justice. Similar to what you said, I wish there was more talk about the role of government, like the welfare state, and of morality. Most likely because these are youtubers, not academics, per se. Overall, I didn’t get much out of the conversations, my mind didn’t feel enlightened just annoyed by the cheering of the audience.

    • I don’t feel like many of these people were centrist at all although no one has every described centrism to me to my satisfaction ever. Apparently having a hodge podge of views from all over the political spectrum (although most of them being center left views) as long as they are backed up by scientific “consensus” Voila you are a centrist!

      • @Kevin Herman

        Centrism doesnt really exist. It just gets used because we cant decide what is far left or far right anymore. Centrism, as they use it, just means liberal in the broad sense. Democratic liberalism that includes both the mainstream liberal and conservative in American terminology.

        I mean, shit, if we take all of history into account, where absolute monarchism is far right and Stalinism is far left, then Hitler is a centrist.

  15. No one serious on the right has ever argued for anything closely resembling the caricature of supply side economics progs like Creationist Cat call trickle down economics. Any left weft garbage he would gargle out as the proper economic replacement for capitalism as currently conducted in the United States would surely be a disaster. Has Keynsian economics been discredited? Has socialism been discredited? Id like to ask him those questions.

  16. Robin Whittle says

    I like Reader’s list of concerns and what A New Radical Centrism wrote: “. . . opposed to illegal immigration and most race-based affirmative action (like much of the American political right), but would, at the same time, also seek to remove virtually all money from politics and introduce elements of a more direct democracy (like much of the political left).” I think affirmative action of any kind is really dodgy – in part because anyone in the class of people who are preferentially appointed or given a job due to such a scheme is automatically suspected of being less competent than someone outside this group who was appointed without any such bias.

    Regarding global warming, the ocean holds most of the heat of the Earth’s surface and is rising due to thermal expansion. To argue that the greatly increased levels of CO2 and methane are not a significant contributor to this would require some pretty extraordinary arguments. Even if the atmosphere’s temperature didn’t change, the ocean expanding is a serious matter.

    Even if there was no global warming from CO2, ocean acidification is a very serious concern. A graph https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/ocean-acidification shows the correlation between atmospheric and oceanic CO2 levels and the resulting drop in pH, which is 0.1pH since the start of the industrial revolution. This is a 25.8% increase in hydrogen ion concentration, AKA acidity.

  17. Great article! I think you captured the essence of the exasperation of centrists. We like to be left alone and speak as we please. But that is constantly under threat, it was the religious right before and now it’s the quasi-religious progressive left today.

  18. “Radical Centrism”

    Funny, any resistance at all to extreme leftist idea’s is now “radical”?

  19. MythCon? For atheists and “skeptics”? Sargon of Akkad?

    Every such person I’ve encountered seems oblivious to rudimentary logic. This is combined with an indestructible belief that they are far more intelligent and wise than they actually are. Jonathan Kay is a lovely man, however it surprises me not at all that he’d attend such a dreary and benighted festival.

  20. I knew this was going to be a good comment thread. Thx for not disappointing, y’all.
    Most deserving of a meme ‘award’, goes to…
    KAD!
    For the classic….”I’m not going to convince anyone that they’re wrong, nor am I likely to change my mind about issues about which I have well-formed opinions.”

    • conrad1on says

      I was also going to mention this, as while it’s not exactly my biggest goal in life to help send traffic to intersectionalists, they did at least have the stones to turn up and debate, so for that reason alone chrisiousity deserves a working link to their YouTube channel, so here you go:

      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn1bhOC69Z4TplynafVv7ng

      (Somewhat hilariously, her latest video at the time of writing is titled ‘Why the Platform Debate is Anti-Democratic and Bad for Speech’).

      Also, Sargon may be, “often described as a radical conservative,” but by that token all sorts of people are often described as all sorts of things, and it doesn’t mean any of it is remotely accurate. How about describing him in the way he consistently describes *himself*, ie as a centre-left liberal?

      I particularly like how he’s described as, “disdain[ing] the alt-right label.” Yes, a man who isn’t a white nationalist doesn’t like being referred to as one. Imagine that.

  21. estepheavfm says

    Centrism is Colbert and Stewart? Strange! Trump is centrist, it seems to me. Neither Grab-the-Cash, culture-be-damned Globalist, pure-bottom-line-Cato of the “right,” nor the post-modernist, nanny state, identity politics “believe-her” anti-reason authoritarian left.

  22. Area Man says

    I was a scientific skeptic before I knew what that even was. Subscribing to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast 10+ years ago was the first external expression of this. (Adding a bookmark to Quillette is my most recent.) Despite the fact that, like many skeptics, I’m not a “joiner,” I became somewhat involved in the online community. That involvement came to an abrupt end in the wake of “Elevatorgate”, which was my first up-close experience with SJW activism gone awry. After that, Rebecca Watson’s insidious nature came to light & I stopped listening to the SGU. “Atheism Plus” swam out the muck created by the schism and I was finally driven away from the atheist/skeptic community all together. I’m very pleased to see it has rebounded, that rational minds have prevented the SJWs from controlling the narrative.

  23. This sounds like a fascinating meeting and I wish I could have been there. My only quibble with the article would be that, while perhaps the label “centrist” fits most of those who attended, it’s perfectly possible to be far from the political center and still be for liberal intellectual values and against ideological tribalism. That is my own position as a libertarian Marxist and I know I’m not alone in it.

  24. Pingback: What YouTube Offers Right-Wingers | TrumpsMinutemen

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