Tag Archive | Talking Points Memo

What Do We Do Now?

Former FBI Director James Comey testifying before a Congressional Committee

It’s one of my favorite moments in one of my favorite movies: Delta Chi fraternity has just had its charter revoked; the members are expelled with their draft boards being notified they are now eligible. Shocked and stunned, they wonder what, exactly, they can do now that they have nothing left. Someone says, “We have to do something!” One member pipes up, “What the hell we s’posed to do, you moron?”

I feel a bit like that guy in Delta House right now. Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly for how he handled the release of information regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails (actually, it was Weiner’s emails, which included emails to Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin, who happens to be Anthony Weiner’s ex-wife). I largely agree with Josh Marshall’s assessment that, in the abstract, the arguments made in the letter to the President make some kind of sense. In the current context, however, in which the President and much of his campaign staff (who are now members of the Administration) are under investigation for their ties to the already-established Russian interference in our previous general election, this abstract argument is worthless precisely because it looks as if the President has something he does not want coming to light. Indeed, in the six months since the election, both Presidents Obama and Trump could have fired Comey for these very reasons. They chose not to do so for sensible if not necessarily good political reasons. Since the man who wrote the legal rationale for Comey’s firing was only confirmed two weeks ago with enormous bipartisan support, it looks clear both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were waiting for a person with a reputation for integrity, who had support among both Republicans and Democrats, to enter the Justice Department so that, on the surface, it wouldn’t appear as if either Trump was acting impulsively or Sessions – who has slightly more political sense than Trump, which isn’t saying much – was acting on standing orders. It gives them both the appearance of distance. Sadly for them, neither are adept enough to make such an appearance stick.

And so we are now in the strange position of witnessing a clear abuse of Presidential power – as much a political matter as a legal matter – and we all wait and wonder, What do we do now? I know people are contacting their elected representatives. I applaud the sense of civic duty. With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for an end to investigations into the possible collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians, and the House Republicans both spineless and hyperpartisan, the necessary political will for the submission of articles of impeachment just isn’t present. Both the House and the Senate have demonstrated their lack of any interest in the questions, comments, and other input from their constituents. Particularly the Republicans have often closed down their phone lines, their email, and refused to hold meetings in order to avoid feedback they won’t like. They have worked on passing legislation the public neither wants nor needs, particularly their “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of Americans oppose. To further demonstrate the Trump Administration’s contempt for the Constitution, a West Virginia reporter was arrested yesterday afternoon after asking HHS Secretary Tom Price a question.

Impeachment is far more a political than a legal action. While it certainly involves matters of lawbreaking, most Presidents, at least since James Monroe, have violated one or another statute or Constitutional provision. The first President who faced an impeachment trial in the Senate, Andrew Johnson, did so because the Radical Republicans (they were the good guys back then) felt Johnson wasn’t pushing hard enough on their agenda for reforming the Southern States (Johnson was a former Democratic Senator from Tennessee who refused to join his state in seceding from the Union). Richard Nixon’s string of corrupt acts would most assuredly not only forced him from office had he not resigned, but landed him in federal prison had President Ford not pardoned him. Bill Clinton faced impeachment for the rather narrow and arguable crime of lying under oath. Precisely because the larger matters surrounding the question involved Clinton’s personal rather than professional conduct, the Senate found no reason to find Clinton guilty of anything. Just because a person may (or may not) have broken the law doesn’t mean they should be removed from office.*

Now we face a moment during which the question of the survival of our Constitutional order might very well hang in the balance. I know this sounds melodramatic. I happen to believe it’s true. That the Russians intruded themselves into our last election is a matter of fact, not of opinion. That there appeared, even at the time, to be some kind of links between the Trump campaign and the Russians is also a fact. Russian interference was discussed mid-summer, 2016, both publicly and far more extensively in meetings with members of the Obama Administration, senior Congressional leadership, and the Intelligence Community. None of this is arguable. What needs to be done is a thorough investigation into whether or not Trump or his campaign had any knowledge of, contact with, or cooperation with these Russian efforts to undermine our last election. Rather than not investigate, one would think an investigations in to matters of such profound importance would be welcome. That members both of the Administration and senior Republicans are now calling for an end into such investigations demonstrates that there is no political will to curtail abuses of power by this Administration.

So . . . what the hell are we supposed to do? Call, write, be vocal about the insistence this matter not rest: these are, I suppose, important things. I doubt their efficacy, even in the long run. So we are faced with an increasing dictatorial Executive Branch with  Legislative Branch unwilling to protest abuses or power or assert their primary prerogatives as overseers of the Executive. The Judicial Branch can only do so much, and they certainly cannot bring action on their own that gets Trump and his Administration out of office.

What? Do? We? Do?

*I think the authors of the Constitution, particularly James Madison, couldn’t imagine someone holding the office of President who had so little personal integrity they would willy-nilly violate their oath of office. Alas, honor is a republican rather than democratic value.



Part of what makes chess so difficult is never completely knowing how one's opponent will react to a move.

Part of what makes chess so difficult is never completely knowing how one’s opponent will react to a move.

Yesterday, quite a few people on my Facebook feed were upset over Pres. Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. Six years ago, while we as a country were far more heavily involved in wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan, Manning – then Pvt. Bradley Manning – handed over thousands of pages of classified documents to Australian Julian Assange. Assange, who ran a little website called “Wikileaks”, proceeded to dump these classified papers on the Internet. Ratted out by a friend, Manning was arrested, spent three years held in atrocious conditions (two suicide attempts), and sentenced to 35 years for violation of the Espionage Act.

At the time, Manning was arrested, a civilian grand jury was empaneled and Assange may or may not have been indicted (an Australian security company employee was sent by anarchist hackers Anonymous what he claims to be a sealed indictment). Assange, living in London, sought refuge in various embassies, finally landing in Ecuador’s. That’s where he’s stayed, living and running Wikileaks all on Ecuador’s dime while being indicted for rape in Sweden and becoming a funnel for Russian hackers during the 2016 American Presidential election.

A few days before Manning’s commutation, Assange – in the immortal words of Bryan Menegus of Gizmodo – “tripped over his own dick.”  He had tweeted that if Manning were set free, he’d allow himself to be extradited. Now, the original wording of Manning’s . . . what shall we call it? Dare? Challenge? Stupid drunk-tweet? – says that Manning had to be given “clemency”. Does that mean formal pardon? Clearly, President Obama couldn’t go that far, for good reasons. Sure enough, the above-linked article confirms, through Assange’s lawyers, he will stand by his promise and face charges.

Now, I have seriously mixed feelings about what Manning did. Unlike Josh Marshall, I do not believe she deserves a pardon. I don’t believe her treatment passes any kind of Constitutional muster, but since no Court has ruled that way, apparently that isn’t the case. Some of what she leaked certainly does rise to the level, if not of war crimes then at the very least questionable actions on the part of US military forces (calling in an airstrike to cover up the murder of civilians is a tad over the top, in my opinion). On the other hand, much of the information released included after-action reports, with information on unit locations and personnel; actions that were and are perfectly lawful; and the normal communications between command and field operations during a time of war (that’s why I’m not all that upset over a black-ops unit that, apparently, was taking out Taliban sympathizers in Afghanistan; war is dirty and ugly and sometimes dirty and ugly things have to be done). She had no business handing over three-quarter million pages of material knowing it was going public, even though some of the material clearly could lead to attacks on US troops. The Army has a chain of command. She could have gone first to her Sargeant, then Lieutenant, then on up the line if she felt some of the information she had indicated criminal actions on the part of US troops. Her actions endangered the lives of US troops during a time of war. Ugly business.

And Assange? He’s a creepy dude, to say the least, less a hero-warrior for the truth than a smug, over-confident self-aggrandizer who has been indicted in Sweden for rape. Staking a place as a truth-teller, he and his site Wikileaks were again in the news this past summer and fall, funneling information hacked by Russian intelligence to the public. At one point he even claimed an upcoming document dump would contain information to indict Hillary Clinton. Of course, there was nothing of the sort. It was these kinds of sensationalistic interventions that did real damage to Clinton’s campaign, however. Pretty much all of the American security establishment is quite ready to make Assange pay for what he did.

So Assange has said that if Manning is released, he’ll allow himself to be extradited. Except, of course, he never said to where. Will he go to Sweden, where he faces rape charges, hoping he can beat that rap? Will he come to the US, arriving of course after Trump is inaugurated? If it’s the latter, people need to be paying very careful attention. I’m guessing that, as of this moment, Trump has no idea who Assange is. Should he arrive in the US, be formally indicted, and if convicted go to prison all without any interference from a Pres. Trump, all is good and well. What if, however, this is a fait accompli? Doing this at the very end of Pres. Obama’s time in office, is Assange gambling that his Russian connections will protect him from any serious legal consequences in the US? Will Trump pardon him? Will Trump tweet-storm about how “unfair” the prosecution is, putting pressure on any federal prosecutor to go easy? As we have no idea how Trump will act in office, at this moment anything and everything is possible. Were I a betting man, however, I would place even odds at the very least upon Trump coming to Assange’s defense. While this will certainly piss off the Army and intelligence community, Trump has already shown he doesn’t care one way or another how they feel. While not likely (in the sense that cloud cover and high humidity are likely to bring rain), it is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump will simply force the Justice Department either to dismiss any current indictments or not pursue legal action. Of course, if he does that, he’ll enrage a whole lot of his supporters.

And Pres. Obama? He’s taking an awfully big risk. While certainly not pleasing a whole lot of people by commuting Manning’s sentence, he’s gambling that Trump will not interfere and allow the legal process against Assange to run its course. I’m guessing the only reason Manning got hit so hard by military prosecutors is they had no one else to punish; had Assange managed to be extradited to face charges, Manning would in all likelihood faced reduced charges, time served, and be free. Just like any such prosecution of an illegal conspiracy, the goal is always to get the top guy; Assange was the target all along. They couldn’t get him, so they threw the book at Manning. With Assange now, it seems, willing to face the consequences of his actions, the US doesn’t need Chelsea Manning.

I think folks should pay very close attention to all that happens in ensuing weeks and months around this matter. It will, I think, be very telling about many things, not the least of them the amount of real influence the Russian government might well have over a Trump Presidency.

UPDATE: So now it seems Assange has changed his mind. Which tells me he thought Obama would never do it. Not sure who’s the worse poker player here, Assange or Obama.

The New Normal

The Trump transition team sent a questionnaire to the department that circulated last week, asking for a list of employees and contractors who attended United Nations meetings on climate as well as a list of staffers and contractors who attended meetings for the interagency working group on the social cost of carbon, a metric used by the Obama administration to determine how carbon pollution would impact the economy.

The questionnaire also asked which programs at the Energy Department are “essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.” – Caitlin MacNeal, “Energy Dept. Rejects Trump Team’s Request To ID Climate Staffers”, Talking Points Memo, Dec. 13, 2016

In Donald Trump’s America, you might have to wave good-bye to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with budget given as an excuse—not the best of news for the rural people who voted for him.

But there is also another possible danger: McCarthy-style witch huntsagainst librarians, along with the questioning of the need for the current number of them.

Today a New York Post columnist named Naomi Schaefer Riley took potshots at librarians worried about about the Trump administration’s threat to such trifles as free expression and diversity. – David Rothman, “New McCarthyism starts against librarians in Trump’s America?”, Teleread.org, Dec. 11, 2016

This afternoon on Fox News, in an interview with Eric Shawn, John Bolton, the expected incoming Deputy Secretary of State suggested that reports of Russia hacking intervention in the 2016 election may actually be a false flag operation. On first read it certainly appears that he is saying such an operation may have been hatched by the current administration. He does not quite say that in so many words. – Josh Marshall, “Bolton Suggests ‘False Flag’ Operation Behind Alleged Russian Hacks”, Talking Points Memo, Dec. 11, 2016

Alice In Wonderland has always been a horror story for me. A place where there are no rules, where cause does not follow effect, where just as it seems you figure out what's going on, everything changes and yet again you're left wondering how to get from point "A" to "B"

Alice In Wonderland has always been a horror story for me. A place where there are no rules, where cause does not follow effect, where just as it seems you figure out what’s going on, everything changes and yet again you’re left wondering how to get from point “A” to “B”

Were I the only to have said it, the words could be dismissed as the hyperbole of a hyperpartisan. I wasn’t the only one who said them, though. Many others, with far more insistence and clarity, said the same simple thing: We had no idea how bad things could be in Trump’s America, but they would certainly be far worse than we had imagined up to that time.

Like nightmares coming to life, before Trump even takes the oath of office – an oath whose words he already disregards – we are seeing the stirrings of frightful things, awful things, things un-American to the core. Whether it’s creating lists of scientist civil servants (and contractors) who have worked on climate change’s impact on our economy, rumblings among far-right writers about the need for libraries and the apparently horrid reality that librarians care about the social and cultural climate in which they operate, or a future senior Trump Administration official using the words “false flag” to speak about the Intelligence Community’s assessment of Russian interference in the recent election, we should all be quite frightened about what else we might yet see even before January 20 arrives.

Creating lists of people assigned specific tasks, including dealing with interagency task forces on climate change, writing scholarly articles and attending international conferences on climate change, is chilling. We either deal with the reality of climate change in an intelligent informed manner, or we eliminate any and all references to what even the Defense Department calls the greatest long-term strategic threat facing our country. Is Trump going to remove senior military officials, too?

The attack on librarians isn’t coming from official channels. It is, however, something that seems will become far more common in Trump’s America. That the American Library Association has particular political and social views should be neither surprising nor a cause for concern. Every organization does. Our public libraries, guardians as they are of our collective memory and guides for our future, must surely be able to have a voice in determining the kind of society within which they operate. The belief that libraries are passe in some manner due to changes in technology is absurd precisely because libraries are different than easy access to books, periodicals, and other sources of information. Libraries are organized, with librarians serving as our guides through the mass of available information, helping us to know the difference between truth and falsehood, what is best from what is worst; they are our public moral guides, helping us all learn how to be better. To insist that because someone somewhere might disagree with the political position of the ALA means that libraries need to go the way of Village Squares and other public institutions is the depth of political depravity.

As for Bolton, we have heard the words “false flag” before. The execrable Alex Jones shouted it in the hours and days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Since that time, families of those killed, including the parents who lost children, have been harassed and threatened by the demented who really, sincerely, and truly believe the shooting never took place. There is something more than a little horrifying about an incoming senior Administration official claiming the United States government would create a scenario for the sole purpose of partisan politics. That the CIA’s record on such matters is hardly stellar – they have a history of disinformation campaigns; they managed to miss the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, to take two examples – certainly doesn’t help their credibility. Yet, the question before us isn’t the veracity of the claims; the question before us is why senior Republicans dismissed the claims at the time and insist they are false, part of an apparent CIA plot to get Hillary Clinton into the White House.

We have already plunged down the rabbit hole, and now are seeing that we cannot trust either senior official or our fellow Americans to act in the best interests of our nation. Like the woman in the movie Gaslight, we must find something upon which we can focus our attention to keep ourselves from entering fully into this Wonderlessland filled with nothing that seems familiar.

In Defense Of Scottie Nell Hughes

[The sum total of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial is that] no one except four people—one duly executed by lethal injection, another in jail for the rest of his life, a third sentenced to 12 years and a fourth granted immunity—had anything to do with creating the political context of antigovernment rage that made the bombing possible.

This denial is how a childlike nation gets past trauma. It demonstrates how unprepared our nation is for the trauma about to be visited upon it. – Rick Perlstein, “The Rush To Normalize Trump”, In These Times, Dec. 2, 2016

“I’m sure you’ve heard James Fallows talk about lies that Donald Trump has put out there in tweets, in things he’s said. What do you think about that?” [NPR radio host Dianne] Rehm asked.

Hughes responded that the existence of truth itself was dubious, and that the veracity of Trump’s tweets depended upon whether the person assessing them liked Trump. – Matt Shuham, “Trump Surogate’s Jaw-Dropping Claim: ‘No Such Thing’ As Facts Anymore,” Talking Points Memo, Dec. 2, 2016

It was Jacques Ellul, French sociologist and radical/anrachist Christian, who first drew attention to the idolatry of facts in the post-WWII era. No one, it seems, paid much attention to him.

It was Jacques Ellul, French sociologist and radical/anarchist Christian, who first drew attention to the idolatry of facts in the post-WWII era. No one, it seems, paid much attention to him.

It was a story that passed among liberals, with the usual clueless commentary. For example, on the original TPM post, daveyjones64 wrote in part, “And we all better believe that this is indeed going to be their playbook for the entirety of his time in the White House.” How sad would this commenter be if I pointed out that every Presidential Administration uses this same “playbook”. Usually, we call it by other names like “spin” or “just politics”. What it really is, however, is placing more faith in how people perceive and understand the world than anything “real” like “facts”.

Then, of course, there’s the inevitable recollection of Karl Rove’s “Empire’s create their own reality” statement, dutifully recalled by commenter 26degrees rising. It’s almost as if Rove’s clear-eyed statement of Imperial Truth that’s as old as humanity were some horrible incantation of the devil.

I’ve avoided most news and commentary since the election for a variety of reasons both private and otherwise. There is so much noise out there and I had zero interest in adding to it. Seeing this story linked in a FB friend’s timeline (the above-quoted historian, Rick Perlstein, to be exact) that piqued my interest. It was the headline, with it’s “I’m heading for the fainting couch” business calling Hughes statement “jaw-dropping”. It is neither jaw-dropping nor even new. Of course facts are malleable things, visible only from where one chooses to see and hear. This entire election season was an object lesson in how two incompatible views of the world, when meeting, talk past one another, treating the one another both with contempt and disdain.

As a for instance, let us consider some of the “big” facts governing our national life on social, cultural, and political planes. White supremacy – is it true or false? There is no doubt it has been part of our founding and expanding creed; it’s even enshrined in the original language of the Constitution.  Is it or is it not a fact? That a particular species of capitalism is not only a preferable socio-economic organizing principle, but superior in principle to any and all others. Gotta tell ya, folks, I’ve never bought this one, and I know lots of other people who don’t either. Yet at least since the decade or so after the Civil War up until today, this was unquestioned and unquestionable. Even the socialist and communist revolutions did nothing to sway America from its insistence on its own inherent superiority; to be a true-believing socialist or communist was to be incoherent. It still is, particularly since the Establishment has decreed the anti-Soviet counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 marked the end of communism as a viable socio-economic alternative.

Those are just two examples of “facts” that have been part of our national ethos for decades, even centuries. Is it at all possible to be shocked when someone says that “facts” really don’t exist? Much of this election season, people spent entirely too much time showing one another “facts” that fit their own ideological preferences, with no one quite realizing just how futile a practice it really was. Whether it was the “fact” that Hillary Clinton was personally responsible for the deaths of four diplomats and support staff in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on our consulate, or the “fact” that Donald Trump was a misogynist demonstrated by his many demeaning comments about women, we posted them on social media, demanding others respond to what the poster’s clearly believed was an unanswerable charge. Thus it is that we Americans became a people divided by a common language; while ostensibly sounding the same, it was clear there were many words that meant very different things depending upon where one chose to sit.

Way back in 1948, French sociologist Jacques Ellul wrote what is really quite an unbelievable little book. Entitled The Presence Of The Kingdom, it was a kind of radical Christian manifesto, marking off up and coming ideological and material threats to true freedom. Listing propaganda a the rise of “technics” (Ellul would go on to write two well-received books on both these topics), the rise and spread of Islam, and the creation of institutions titularly  for social betterment but rather to be used for social control. Among the things he wrote was a marvelous musing on “the fact”:

Now, however, we have the right to ask: “What is the general motive which – at the present time – leads man to this blindness about the world in which he lives?” There is no doubt the most powerful motive – which weighs upon us like an interdict, the motive which prevents us from questioning the elements of this civilization, and from starting on the road leading to this necessary revolution – is our respect for facts. It is well known that in other civilizations men did not respect facts to the same extent, nor did they conceive facts in the same way. At the present time the fact – whatever it is – the established fact, is the final reason, the criterion of truth. All that is a fact is justified, because it is a fact. People think that they have no right to judge a fact – all they have to do is to accept it.

Thus from the moment that technics, the State, or production, are facts, we must worship the as facts, and we must try to adapt ourselves to them. This is the very heart of modern religion, the religion of the established fact, the religion on which depend the lesser religions of the dollar, race, or the proletariat which are only expressions of the great modern divinity, the Moloch of fact. (p.27, emphases in original)

As long as people knew they had the facts on their side – Hillary Clinton is a lying crook; Donald Trump is a lying pig – there was little else others should do except acquiesce in the face of the facts. That this didn’t happen isn’t because one group or another is stupid, uneducated, delusional, or otherwise impaired from judging the “correctness” of the facts presented, although far too often that’s how we tend to speak of these things. On the contrary, facts were and continue to be irrelevant for the same reasons facts have never been all that interesting: One person’s fact is another person’s statement of something so “jaw-dropping” it’s impossible to believe anyone could believe and act upon such a ludicrous statement. Except, of course, name for me a single social group in human history that didn’t act upon what we now consider the most “dubious” of “facts”.

One example that always comes to my mind is one described by T. S. Kuhn. After inventing the telescope and seeing, among other things, far more stars than were visible to the naked eye, the four large moons of Jupiter and their revolutions about it, and much else, he was challenged by ecclesiastical authority as to the truthfulness of his claims. First, Galileo’s theory of optics, upon which the workings of his telescope were based, were both relatively new and hardly accepted by most people for whom such things were known. For every claim of what Galileo said he saw through his telescope, there was a perfectly reasonable, coherent, and – this is most important – accepted set of facts that explained them without overthrowing the church-preferred earth-centered cosmos. We may insist that Galileo was right because he had facts on his side; the truth is, however, the Church had far more facts on its side, facts accepted within a time-worn and well-tested set of physical assumptions about the Universe God had created. Thus Galileo was not only “wrong”; he had no “real facts” to support his claims.

We are far too entranced by our own sense of ourselves as sensible people for whom facts determine what is and is not real to realize just how fragile is that “reality”, just how contingent and malleable are those facts upon which we confidently rest our minds, and that when distinct views of the world clash – clashes far more dangerous than between any religion or political ideology – we wind up with incommensurable realities living side by side.

Which one survives? That’s a question of power, now isn’t it. It certainly doesn’t depend upon any facts.

Donald Trump, the Men’s Rights and Pick-Up Artist Movements, And Our Degenerate Gender Discourse

N.B>: Throughout this post, when I quote MRA and PUA websites, I will NOT be linking to the original posts. I have no desire to swim in cesspools. I will, rather, be using the website We Hunted The Mammoth as my main source for such quotes. If you have never read it, I highly recommend it as a source for all sorts of information on the seedier side of American “manliness”.

If you ever wanted to know why I’m not a conservative or a Republican, this craven pandering to women pretty much sums it up. I’m not sickened by Trump’s locker room talk. I’m sickened by the fact that weak little gamma males like Ryan … have any influence in Western society at all. The only correct response to this “scandal” should have been a single question: “so the f*ck what?”

Never trust a moderate, a Churchian, or a cuckservative. Never. They will stab you in the back in order to virtue-signal every single time. – Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, quoted in “Theodore “Vox Day” Beale defends Trump’s “Alpha talk about women””, We Hunted The Mammoth, October 8, 2016

“I think it’s locker room banter,” the younger Trump said. “I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence.” Jenavieve Hatch, “Eric Trump: Bragging About Sexual Assault Is ‘What Happens’ When Alpha Males Are Together”, The Huffington Post, October 11, 2016

On the blog of the rabidly racist pickup artist James “Heartiste” Weidmann — you may recall his recent attacks on Paul Ryan — one of the regular commenters has a rather creative new theory about Hillary . . .

Hillary wants to send your sons off to war so your daughters will get their jobs. It’s a deliberate attempt to kill off large segments of the male population.

Maybe it’s conscious on her part; maybe it’s unconscious, but the end result is that lots of men will be pulled from the labor force making way for women. I’m surprised no one else has picked up on this. To me it perfectly explains why she’d be gunning for a war with Russia before she’s even in office. Has she been pushing for a female draft? No. Therefore, a large-scale war would be the ultimate “full employment” program for women.

The final solution for feminists, so to speak. – Hillary wants to kill men and give their jobs to women, Alt-Right Trump fans charge”, We Hunted The Mammoth, October 11, 2016

Men's Rights Activist, rape-promoter, and self-proclaimed Alpha Male Roosh Valizadeh.

Men’s Rights Activist, rape-promoter, and self-proclaimed Alpha Male Roosh Valizadeh.

I first learned about the whole Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) and Pick-Up Artist (PUA) movements a couple years back, at the depth of the Gamergate  controversy. For those who have never heard of it, Gamergate actually occurred in two stages. First, game developer Zoe Quinn had a game she produced reviewed favorably in an online magazine. Some people thought the game was receiving more attention than it deserved, apparently; for some reason this turned into a concerted attack upon Quinn, including emailed rape and death threats, doxing (publication online of personal information, including telephone numbers and addresses). In August of 2014, one of Quinn’s former boyfriends published a very long blog post in which, for all intents and purposes, he claimed the initial good press Depression Quest received was due to a personal relationship between Quinn and gamer journalist Nathan Grayson. At this point, many started carrying on about “journalistic ethics” as the root cause of “Gamergate” rather than simple sexual harassment and threats of violence. An early vocal supporter of Quinn, game developer Phil Fish, was attacked so viciously he quit the industry and sold his company.

Media critic Anita Sarkeesian produced a YouTube video about the controversy and soon came under attack, facing the same rape and death threats, doxing, and other harassment. Through it all, a particular vocabulary among MRA/PUA folks emerged, including using the epithet “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW) as an insult and attack. It became clear to me as I followed these goings-on at a distance (I’m not a gamer, and I don’t follow gamer discussions online; I am, however, someone interested in things like the whole MRA/PUA movement and its utter degeneracy), it became clear the attacks were coming from seriously sick individuals.

It wasn’t long after I discovered the website We Hunted The Mammoth, a kind of clearinghouse for those interested in learning about MRA/PUA culture without having to dirty oneself too much. Blog writer and editor David Futrelle keeps tabs on the Alt-Right in general (white nationalism), Neo-Nazis, and the vocal MRA/PUA movement. A typical article, “Do women really enjoy sex, men who hate women ask”, from September 16 reads in part:

Ladies! Do you feel a bit twitchy? Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up? Don’t worry — that just means that Reddit’s MGTOWs are talking about you again.

On the Men Going Their Own Way subreddit the regulars are trying to figure out whether women enjoy sex as much as men. Or at all.

The general consensus? Women aren’t really into sex  — unless it’s with the mythical Chad Thunderc*ck.

There follows C&P’d comments from a subreddit for “Men Going Their Own Way” (MGTOW; men who have given up on dating women because they insist women don’t actually want relationships with good, decent men such as themselves, proving that lack of self-awareness leads people to some pretty strange palces) that make it clear most of the men writing on this subreddit have never spoken to, let along kissed or had sex with, an actual human female. As the post concludes, “The MGTOW subreddit really is one of the saddest places on planet earth.”

Part of the MRA/PUA vocabulary and worldview is the nonsensical “Alpha Male” trope. To these men, they are actually “Alpha Males” who have been dismissed by women (usually women who are attractive by conventional standards) because of feminism. Somehow, feminism seem to have taught these women they no longer need the physical and financial protection of “Alpha Males” like themselves, allowing them the opportunity to pursue quickie, no-commitment sexual relationship with “Betas”, men who treat these women solely as sexual objects. There is something sad and desperate about all this. Clearly men who think this way have been hurt by life, perhaps even a woman, in their lives. It might have been a mother, it might have been an unrequited teenage crush, or perhaps these men never escaped the general angst and low self-esteem of adolescence. In any case, while certainly nonsensical, and often a projection of their own beliefs about women combining with their own massive insecurities, it is this particular bit of MRA/PUA discourse that suddenly rose to the top of the sewer with the release last Friday of a tape in which Donald Trump spoke with a casualness and comfort of sexual assault.

I already wrote about this a bit. Having given this background and context, I think it’s important to understand the source of all this “Alpha Male” talk. Besides being nonsense of the first order, it seems to me pretty obvious that self-proclaimed “Alpha Males” are anything but, given their own descriptions of the type. Is Donald Trump an Alpha? I think the answer to that is clear enough: A man who believes he has both the ability and the right, given his financial and social status, to sexually assault random women is no more an “Alpha Male” than are the sad “MGTOW” who insist they are giving up trying to date women because women seem only to be attracted to “Beta” men. The characteristics of “Betas” is a disregard for the women as people; they treat women as sexual objects only, sometimes going so far as to physically or emotionally abuse the women with whom they form attachments. The Alphas consider themselves the “good guys” women are always complaining they can’t find: men who appreciate women for who they are, will treat them well and properly, as a man should, offering both physical and financial protection, which is what women really want. That their entire approach to women is highly sexual; their major complaint that women won’t have sex with them; that the men they call “Betas” are more attractive, successful, and desirable than they are; that they presume to know what women want rather than listening to women and finding out what it is they want; all this demonstrates pretty clearly the whole “Alpha Male” nonsense is little more than a complex psychological defense against their own sense of their lack of self-worth, and their basic belief that women are nothing other than sexual objects.

Please recall the many times Donald Trump has said that no one respects women more than he does. Regardless of the emerging parade of women coming forward accusing Trump of unwanted attention and even sexual assault, I’m convinced that Trump himself actually really believes he respects women. Like the sad MGTOW men, his entire campaign has been an object lesson in how all sorts of personality disorders present themselves, whether it’s narcissism, megalomania, or the kind of lack of self-esteem that has men preoccupied with the size of their penises and their ability to seduce women. The particular traits with which I’m concerned here aren’t unfamiliar to anyone whose been or spent time with teenage boys. Part of figuring out what it means to be a man is spending time jostling one another not so much for a place near the top of the pack as much as going through a phase in which each one really is a man. Most of us leave this nonsense behind us after the age of 16 or so; some, alas, never emerge from adolescence, for any number of reasons. These men tend to post on MGTOW subreddits, declare themselves Alphas who aren’t recognized for their greatness, and Republican candidates for President in 2016. Rather than the “real men” somehow both powerful yet victimized by an over-feminized society, these guys are sad, pitiable individuals who occasionally engage in deplorable, even violent, behavior to make up for their own inadequacies.

I will be so glad when November 9 comes.