Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News Editorials & Other Articles General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search

True Blue Door

True Blue Door's Journal
True Blue Door's Journal
September 8, 2014

A Conservative Shitizens' Guide to Civics

The 10 core political principles by which conservatives live:

1. Taxpayer money going to anyone other than the rich is Socialism.

2. Taxpayer money being denied to the rich is the worst kind of Socialism.

3. The only racism lies in seeing racism in anyone other than its victims.

4. The only treason lies in seeing treason in anyone other than its targets.

5. Freedom is the impunity of the powerful to enslave the weak.

6. Slavery is imposing equal rights on those who consider themselves gods.

7. Morality is making up excuses for doing whatever you want while finding infinite fault in your prey.

8. Democracy is the process by which dollars vote for their representatives.

9. A family is a man and his list of possessions.

10. A country is a king and his list of possessions.

September 7, 2014

Why Texans Dress Like Cowboys

Something has always bothered me about the State of Texas - and I mean something more subtle than the naked fascism, Orwellian moral inversion, and Satanic cruelty that are otherwise synonymous with it. It's something most people never think about or mention, because it seems so innocuous: In Texas, it's considered normal (i.e., not at all insane) for fully-grown adults to dress like people from the 19th century (cowboys) on days that aren't Halloween and in places other than a ComicCon.

Moreover, they don't do this in a whimsical, being-weird-is-cool sort of hipster way, but in the same way you decide to wear a t-shirt and jeans, as if they have no comprehension that this is utterly bizarre and out of whack with reality. See, there's a word for cowboy clothes in the 21st century: Costume. These countless people walk around their communities and jobs wearing a costume - one denoting a profession they don't have, have never had, and never intend to have - and no one sees anything awkward or cock-eyed about it.

And their motive is readily identifiable, as far as it goes: They see the cowboy costume as an expression of cultural identity. But let's think about that in the context of the rest of the United States of America - who else does this? Do millions of Californians walk around dressed like 1840s gold miners?

Can't say I've seen a lot of these guys in daily life in 21st century California:


Have you seen many of these guys on the streets of Miami lately:


And, of course, Massachusetts is just swarming with these:


Can't even throw a brick without hitting someone dressed like this in Chicago:


And good ole New York, with its vast and deep cultural history, surely its streets in the 21st century are swarming with these guys:


Seen many 18th century French fur trappers lately in Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, etc.? Do people walk around Minnesota dressed like 19th century Scandinavians?

If we go worldwide, one would expect to find Tokyo full of people dressed either partially or completely like Edo samurai; the streets of London brimming with medieval peasant garb; France with Merovingian Franks; and normal people in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden going about their everyday lives in Viking battle armor with not a single askance look cast in their direction.

But of course, that doesn't happen, because pretty much everywhere on Earth with a developed economy, people dress like the century they're in. Because their culture is not batshit insane. They might put on a traditional outfit for ceremonial holidays, but that's it. And within the United States, even that is pretty rare.

And it isn't like Texas is generally open-minded to all forms of anachronism: People would definitely stare if you walked around Dallas looking like a Roman centurion or a medieval knight. In fact, it isn't even really an option to dress like any other period from Texas' own history. Looking like Davy Crockett would be extremely conspicuous. And dressing like someone from after the cowboy era, like say the 1920s, would also be extremely conspicuous.

No: Texas has simply chosen this costume to aggressively express its sense of group identity, which no other place in the country does. So you wear boots evolved for horse riding even though you've never even touched a horse, put on that douchebaggy, facepunch-worthy hat designed to protect a person from the elements on the Open Range even though you live in suburbia and work in an office, and that's considered normal, everyday, non-psychiatric-referral behavior.

Is it Texas' massive inferiority complex that clings to every superficial method of holding itself apart, desperately highlighting even the flimsiest, most fictionalized idea of past cultural merit to contrast with the ugly reality of its character repeated over, and over, and over in modern American history?

See, Texas never thought much of cowboys when they actually existed in any numbers. Why would they? Cowboys were poor (and we know what Texas thinks of poor people). They were also overwhelmingly Mexicans and blacks (and we know how Texas feels about them too) - nothing more than bottom-rung hired hands from the underclasses doing shitty work in a time before the minimum wage. They were basically hobos with a few skills, drifting from one area to the next and one greedy, sociopathic employer to the next.

But now the useless nth-generation spawn of the landowners walk around in plastic facsimiles of what they imagine their former serfs wore, pretending to possess the idealized virtues they fantasize were created in their ancestors' victims by the terrible circumstances imposed on them. They try to turn the ugly, degrading, sadistic reality of their state's cultural roots into some kind of noble mythology that makes them noble by association - a fantasy past they can channel by partly or fully wearing Halloween costumes year-round.

Nowhere in America is free from ugly history, and nowhere is entirely free from self-gratifying illusions, but nowhere other than Texas in this country is such an impenetrable thicket of neurotic cultural perversions, destructive lies, and ass-backwards attitudes to every single thing in life. Dressing like 1950s Western TV characters in normal life is just one of the more bizarre and conspicuous signals of that general asshattery.

September 6, 2014

TV Shows I'd Like to See

Just some idle thoughts about TV shows / miniseries I'd like to see:

1. (The complete) Rome. HBO/BBC did a superb job with its all-of-2-season show "Rome," so I was disappointed when it ended. I want that series to be resurrected and to live up to its lofty title. I want to see pretty much all of Roman history represented, from a realistic interpretation of the Romulus myth all the way to the Ottoman Turks taking Constantinople. Don't care how much it would cost or how long it would take to play out. And I want every single minute to be as historically accurate as it's humanly possible to be and still make an engaging drama.

2. Qin. Entire history of Imperial China from deepest historical roots all the way to The Last Emperor, just like the Rome series I suggest. (My interest has been peaked by reading in more depth about the Opium Wars, and about the imperial exam system - fascinating stuff)

2. The Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars). Epic science fiction literature, would be perfect for an epic TV miniseries in the current golden age - and represents an awe-inspiring but still totally realistic vision of medium-term future events. Could probably hit up SpaceX for sponsorships or something.

4. Foundation series. I have no clue why this still has never been adapted. Such an epic work, and yet hardly the kind that's opaque enough to make showing it visually difficult.

5. Peloponnesus. Epic miniseries depicting the Peloponnesian War, based on the contemporary historical work of Thucydides. Brilliant, fascinating stuff. It was like an ancient, smaller-scale version of the Cold War and the World Wars all rolled into one. Titanic clash of ideologies between Athens and Sparta. Epic individuals on both sides. War crimes on both sides. Spies and maneuvers. Again, must be realistic - no "300" bullshit, and no brain-dead anachronism a la "Gladiator."

As much as I enjoy seeing popular works of fantasy being adapted into epic miniseries before the ink is even dry on the literature, I find it ludicrous that actual history is being neglected as well as works of immortal genius and insight confirmed by decades of opinion.

September 2, 2014

3 Crazy Ideas for a Better Society

1. Guarantee every person 1 year in ten or twenty where food, utilities, rent, parking, and transportation are reimbursed by the government, and are exempted from all taxes for this period. But the bills you submit to taxpayers to cover will be published next to your name and photo, so everyone will know about it if you're a douchebag on their dime.

2. Give juries near-absolute power over criminal trials: They can ask questions whenever they feel like it, request new information at any point in the process, find the judge or either side's attorney(s) in contempt, and can award financial damages to an acquitted defendant whom they feel should never have been brought to trial.

3. Universal, free, unlimited public transportation within the United States. The whole country belongs to each and every one of us, so let each and every one of us have full, perpetual, and equal access to all of it.

September 2, 2014

Would a federal version of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend increase destructive business?

Alaska has a shockingly progressive system in its Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend - a direct annual payment of hundreds or even a few thousands of dollars to Alaska residents out of revenues from oil drilling in their state. Nearly every other place in the country (and in the world) with such natural resources to offer, the local residents have no share at all in the profits that come from exploiting their lands, so it's pretty amazing that Alaska of all places has such a system.

However, it's also true that spreading the wealth around so liberally from a patently illiberal economic model - environmentally destructive, rape-and-pillage industries - tends to make the citizenry a lot more tolerant of outrageously criminal behavior on the part of those industries. This is why the State of Alaska more less is a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil when it comes to politics: Because every single Alaskan is essentially an investor.

On the other hand, not having the dividend wouldn't necessarily change that. So is it better for the people to share in the profits of their collective property being pillaged and become eager accomplices to it, or to not share in it and have the possibility (not remotely a guarantee) of evolving into a more responsible state while lots of money is still being made at their expense?

Suppose we implemented a federal dividend, encompassing not just resource exploitation but general profitable usage of public properties and services: Would it further corrupt the public into becoming accomplices in horror shows like private prisons, military no-bid contracts, fracking, and coastal oil drilling, or would the net benefit in the form of economic stimulus and a stronger safety net outweigh any such negative effects?

September 1, 2014

Online media should treat Kremlin troll army comments like what they are: Spamming

When a foreign dictatorship organizes an army of paid trolls to hammer every single English-language news and political website on the web with 24/7 scripted propaganda, that's not people expressing an outrageous opinion - that's spam. Unfortunately, most website comment moderators don't appear to have caught on, and it's really gotten out of hand: Sites as diverse as Bloomberg.com, the Guardian, and liberal blogs are being inundated with unhinged Kremlin talking points, and they're being allowed to stink up the joint with little or no intervention.

It's surreal, like if late 1930s Nazi Germany were just suddenly right here in the 21st century, suddenly in control of the world's largest spam operation, and suddenly flooding the entire internet with deranged screeds promoting fascism and demonizing Western civilization and democracy. But it's been going on for months and these websites do nothing whatsoever about it. A dozen different usernames may post "Death to the enemies of Novorossiya!" or some similarly psychotic slogan in the span of five minutes, and still be left up in the comments of a "mainstream" news organization site.

And it's not like it's hard to notice this trolling - it's painfully conspicuous, utterly brazen, and unfolds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Moreover, we know it's not people within Russia merely expressing their spontaneous opinions, because the Russian internet has been cut off behind a China-style national censor net, and the opinions expressed by these trolls are 100% pro-Putin and anti-Western. This is, frankly, an attack by the Russian state on the global free internet they deny their own citizens.

The people who bear responsibility for their sites' commenting systems need to actually exercise that responsibility, and stop tolerating 24/7 spam attacks by a hostile foreign government that shouts down actual people trying to communicate with each other. It's totally out of control, to the point where fascist troll-spam can outnumber real comments 10-to-1 or even 100-to-1. What are these websites thinking, allowing that? Are they being threatened with hacking if they try to stop it? What's going on?

August 31, 2014

President Obama is Right About Social Media Warping Historical Context

Recently, the President said the following, and was roundly (and rather defensively) attacked for it in the media:

“In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through,” he said.

“It feels like the world is falling apart,” he added. “So we’ve seen the barbarity of an organisation like Isil…We’ve seen divisions within the Muslim community between the Shia and Sunni.

“All of that makes things pretty frightening. And then, you turn your eyes to Europe and you see the President of Russia making a decision to look backwards instead of forward.”

Nevertheless, he added, American military superiority has “never been greater”, the economy was doing well, and the current global situation compared favourably to the deprivations of the Great Depression.

What he said is simply true - a set of objectively demonstrable facts, however deep in detail you want to take it. While there is the potential for genuine global cataclysm (there rarely isn't, frankly), there is no sane argument that anything presently happening in the world today is worse than or even on par with the Vietnam War and its ancillary conflicts like Cambodia, let alone catastrophes like the Cultural Revolution in China, and certainly neither of the World Wars.

This is how a President is supposed to talk, frankly and concerned more with reality than pandering to illusions - because this is the only kind of leadership that actually leads to something constructive. The message is simple: Concern and considered action are justified, but pretending the world is sinking into nightmare is a self-indulgent fantasy perpetrated by the media and exacerbated by our much greater awareness of events worldwide than ever before.

Western audiences knew of the Killing Fields of Cambodia (1975-79), in which millions died in the span of a few years, only through a handful of relatively vague print news articles and a few brilliant photographs by inhumanly brave photojournalists. Can you imagine what the late 1970s would have seemed like if that horror had unfolded in full global view with social media? Let alone all the other tragedies unfolding in the world at the time? Most likely the late 1970s would not be associated in our minds with awful music and tacky clothes if that had happened - it would be known as "The Time of Horrors" or something equally Wagnerian.

Conversely, if the ISIS phenomenon and the Ukraine-Russia situation were unfolding in 1975, what kind of public perception would there be of them? In the latter case, we already know - the Soviet Union invaded recalcitrant Warsaw Pact states on a pretty regular basis when their leaders got out of line with the agenda in Moscow, and far further West than Ukraine. Hungary revolted against Communist rule in 1956, and the rebellion was crushed when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. The West wasn't exactly happy about it, but there was nothing we could do - Hungary was inside the Iron Curtain, and we weren't going to start WW3 by being the ones to cross it first. The USSR then invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 when its government instituted liberal reforms that the Soviet Politburo decided not to tolerate - again, we couldn't do anything about it.

Most likely the events in Ukraine today would have simply been seen through that lens, and shrugged off, particularly as news coverage within the Iron Curtain was generally sparse and relied heavily on nth-hand accounts and speculation. The fact that we have detailed coverage and will not be shrugging these crimes off is a good thing, of course, but shouldn't color our perception of current events in historical context. In other words, the situation in Eastern Europe is better than it's ever been. Repeat: Better than it's ever been. Ukraine was so far under the Soviet umbrella that there was literally no possibility of something like the Hungarian uprising or the Prague Spring happening there - it was Russia's patio, nothing more. That isn't to pooh-pooh the risk of global war, but the dangers are certainly less potent than at any time during the Cold War.

As to ISIS, let's understand that phenomenon in the context of the global Marxist and Maoist militant groups that had terrorized much of the world in the 20th century. The latter was a phenomenon directly funded and armed by the USSR - the world's dominent superpower (people forget we were only #2 until like 1985), and there was no possibility of directly stopping them from promulgating these cancerous phenomena. It could only be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, leading to all sorts of stupid actions and outright crimes on our part, falsely identifying liberal groups as Marxist and propping up fascist dictatorships just so they would crush the Communist elements.

In other words, it sucked all around. It was a terrible, general massacre unfolding on a routine basis throughout Asia, Africa, South America, and even in a few cases in Western Europe with groups like the Red Army Faction and the Red Brigades. We forget that because of the Cold War, countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain were allowed to remain brutal right-wing dictatorships practically until the 1980s or 1990s. And Marx/Maoist militant groups were a major force everywhere on Earth except a few highly stable countries, and on a relatively regular basis overthrew governments and became their own (often quite bloodthirsty) states. Much of the Earth was in a routine state of murderous chaos as a result.

Now, the ideology of ISIS is far darker than anything perpetrated by Marx, Stalin, or Mao: They are essentially an apocalyptic cult that sees murder as an end in itself, in some ways like the more abstract elements of Nazism that glorified warfare as the "purest expression of life." But the fact is they cannot threaten the existence of Western civilization. There is no plausible scenario in which a marauding militia of chaotic bigots overtakes the economic power, military power, and survival of complex democratic states with over a billion people and a military superpower between them. China and Russia certainly aren't going to strike up any kind of alliance with ISIS, because they're both regular targets of jihadis themselves. In fact, no state on Earth will or can ally itself with ISIS.

It may do considerable damage, and may at an extreme end up perpetrating mass-casualty terrorist attacks on Western targets, but the "Islamic State" cannot exist for very long as such. Its days as an organized, territory-controlling entity are numbered. So it is a major and imminent threat in terms of terrorism, but not even close to an existential threat to Western civilization, and has no plausible pathway to becoming one.

The world is better than it's ever been, and that shouldn't even be a controversial statement -it should be obvious. The fact that we can now see and empathize so quickly, in such detail, with the problems that do occur in the world is part of the reason why it's better than ever. The horrors of the past were hidden until they grew so massive that they exploded in World War or continent-spanning totalitarian nightmare states. Now, we watch horrors grow from seedlings, and see them coming miles away.

There will be war and peace, but the wars will be less extreme and more self-aware, and the peace more fundamental and less merely quiet interludes between storms. There will be outbursts of murderous hate, but they will be seen sooner for what they are, have less support, and bring people of good will more powerfully together in human community. There will be heinous Orwellian dictators, but more isolated and their tactics necessarily more devious.

This is what it means to be an optimist: Not to ignore the bad, but simply allowing yourself to acknowledge that it always loses in time. Evil bleeds away while the light of humanity grows and grows. The murderous ideology that tore apart continents in the 1940s and comprises our definition of Absolute Evil today was simply the normal state of governance in the ancient world. The Putin Imperium's most outrageous behaviors were Tuesday under the Soviet Union. And the daily or weekly terror-chaos of ISIS felt by Iraqis (or Afghans under their predecessors the taliban) was the suffocating second-to-second reality of life under the Khmer Rouge for Cambodians. And unlike the Khmer Rouge, ISIS will not bathe in blood while the world yawns.

Humanity is good and getting better. As far as any moral judgment can be, this is a fact.
August 25, 2014

Is The Guardian "fauxgressive"?

Clearly there are limits to the professional integrity and ethical depth of any for-profit news organization, so we should be realistic about the sort of content the media generates. For instance, we can't blame them for covering irrelevant trivia while giving short shrift to highly significant events that maybe don't have a lot of sex appeal or emotional gravity. After all, people don't freely choose to bore themselves, and simply won't read that latter content in any major numbers.

That's pragmatic and acceptable, though still a problem. But it's much harder to defend choices that seem to be almost joyously corrupt - beyond any bounds of pragmatic strategy. Behaviors that eviscerate the very meaning of information and turn it into a hollow set of button-pushing words and phrases to titillate and feed egos, compulsively seeking out the lowest common denominator and always plumbing the lowest depths of the human condition.

I've found the Guardian (online version) to be a useful source of information for quite some time, and had thought it was an example of a pragmatic news outfit that wasn't immune to media shallowness but still had a more or less journalistic agenda. But I'm finding that opinion harder to justify lately, the farther its editorial coverage of events strays from reality and reason - specifically where it concerns the Middle East, the United States, and President Obama.

I can laugh at my own country's foibles when overseas media focus (a little too defensively) on various US cultural failings, and I get where they're coming from when they argue from a US-skeptic position on foreign policy, but it starts to seem a little perverse when they boil down every question to binary extremes and then treat "counterpoints" as arguing the exact same indefensible positions using different rationalizations. In other words, to treat debates not as questions of substance, but of finding excuses for predetermined positions that may not be deviated from. "I think Barack Obama is evil because he's too tall!" "Well, I strongly disagree - I think Barack Obama is evil because he's too short!" I find that attitude to be frankly insane, illiberal, and light-years away from what I'd thought Guardian was about.

One day it's arguing that the US should not be involved in the Middle East because we're an imperialist hell-machine operated by Nazi death-monkeys who can't be trusted to breathe air outside the accursed realm from whence we came, and the next day it's arguing that our failure to be involved in the Middle East enough proves we're a society of Marie Antoinettes fat-assedly lounging on our platinum furniture, completely aloof as the world burns down around us, and we should get off our asses and rescue the world. And these are the two acceptable positions on foreign policy in the Guardian editorial board, not even reached as conclusions of analysis, but treated as premises from which all other "facts" are to be derived. The same goes for President Obama, of course - the editorialists are concerned with debating whether he is a contemptible bastard for intervening in the world, or a contemptible bastard for not intervening in the world, and no finer distinctions are acknowledged. I certainly don't recall the last time there was a "He's doing the right thing" option bubble on the implied multiple-choice.

But my disagreements with these positions aren't even really the central issue, because one could always rationalize mind-numbingly stupid or outrageous editorials as "clickbait" intended to stir controversy and generate more business. That alone is actually pretty hard to justify when the issues being trolled are so important, but it's at least rationally possible to say that the discussions being engendered are useful to some decent purpose. But - and maybe this isn't new, but I'm just now running into it - these kinds of articles in particular appear to be jealously guarded from audience criticism, with critical comments on the website removed from them as quickly and diligently as if you were posting them in China.

Not even sarcastic, snide, dismissively critical comments, but even straightforward point-by-point factual criticisms of the content. Which raises the question (which apparently also cannot be asked in Guardian comments) what the point of having comments is if they're going to have that attitude. It also raises the question of what the Guardian is if that's what they're now up to - posting blatantly propagandistic, morally bankrupt and factually vacuous troll articles pandering to the basest instincts of audiences and then denying even the token recognition of a socially-oriented mission that would come from letting it be criticized.

The only conclusion I can come to is that Guardian is, and maybe has been for a while, fauxgressive - basically a camouflaged parasite organization that skims the most trivial face elements of progressive politics off the top and pastes them Jeepers Creepers-style over a generically corrupt or even deeply hostile agenda. I'm sure British people would chuckle at my naivete for even having thought in the first place that Guardian was for real, but there aren't a lot of options out there for global journalism these days, and I'm disappointed to be so rudely disillusioned.

Update: I would add that Guardian attitude toward criticism is especially galling given how it lets Putinbots run roughshod throughout its online content, spreading conspiracy theories and bigoted rants just shy of something you'd see on Stormfront or Infowars. It really raises a lot of urgent questions, but they won't tolerate those questions being asked on their website.

August 25, 2014

Infuriating media trope: The "Obama Looking Downward" photo.

During the course of a speech or press conference involving the President, all possible angles and ordinary facial expressions will be photographed. So it's been a little...conspicuous...that practically since Barack Obama became a presidential candidate in 2008, the single most overwhelmingly-used image of his face in the media has been of him looking downward, head lowered, appearing weak and defeated.

Which is a bit, well, strange considering that when you watch actual video of these events he speaks in a normal tone, assertively and clearly, facing forward and addressing the audience as you would expect, and you'd practically have to be deliberately sifting through dozens to hundreds of images to find ones that are as negative as possible to use. It's gotten frankly cartoonish lately. The practice of showing Obama with head and eyes down has gotten so consistent in the media that you have to ask what the everloving fuck is going through the minds of these people making these editorial choices, because journalism seems to be pretty far down on their list of priorities.

It's gotten so egregious that these media outlets are starting to seem like they're taking some kind of prurient pleasure out of being so ridiculously propagandistic. Some of you will recognize instantly what I'm talking about, but if you don't, keep an eye out. Whenever you see an article on a news website about the President, pay attention to whatever photos if any they show in the banner headline.

For a while they seemed to be more enamored of the "Finger-wagging Obama" photos, I guess projecting their silly-ass right-wing feelings about the President as some kind of authoritarian figure despite his bending over backward to accommodate them. Now that the news is filled with foreign policy, they seem to have shifted gears back to promoting the "Obama as weakling" Big Lie through the cheapest available chicanery.

The fact that media are right-wing sockpuppets is hardly news in itself, but the blatantness of it - the mind-numbing obviousness and constant drumbeat of their tactics - really gets on my damn nerves. They love to just rub in your face that the truth plays no role in what they do. And it happens even in ostensibly "liberal" publications, such as the Guardian. Two articles within two days doing exactly this were the last straw for me:



The entire media does this constantly, and it doesn't even matter whether there is some objective thematic reason for it. If something bad is happening, Downward Looking Obama visually announces that he is powerless to stop it. If something good is happening, Downward Looking Obama visually announces that he is sad that his nefarious schemes have been thwarted by the forces of righteousness. Who are these people that have been doing this for years, and what the hell is their problem?

(I'm now having fun in the Guardian comments section of one of those articles trying to keep a comment up criticizing their photo, but it keeps being removed - gotta love those right-honorable members of the "liberal media&quot

(Welp, now I'm pre-moderated on Guardian for reposting the criticism, so it won't get through anymore. Scumbags.)

(Guardian pulls a lot of shit, but it was tolerable because of some of its better work. But now I think I have to classify it under "fauxgressive" over this - there's just no excuse for having a public comments section on its website and then removing any and all criticism of it in any topic that's not something trivial like pop culture).

August 23, 2014

Trollmanac: A Guide to Identifying Invasive Fauna on Liberal Websites

Most of us have been politically active on the internet long enough to have a modest understanding of troll phenomena. The most obvious - right-wingers dropping in to post some idiotic insult, not caring about concealing themselves or their intentions - is so easy to guard against, and so easy to remedy once it occurs, that we don't really have to concern ourselves with that. But that fact has merely served as a selective pressure, breeding hardier and more cunning forms of information saboteur. I would like to explore a few of those forms below, from least to most sophisticated.

1. Liar-loos

Variants: Rumorbots / Meme Monkeys

Behavior: At its most basic, a Liar-loo is a troll who repeatedly and consistently makes unsubstantiated claims to the detriment of liberal Democratic politics, values, and public figures, ignores or side-steps requests for evidence, and performs a propaganda function for right-wing agendas in this way.

Analysis: Deliberate Liar-loos can be identified over the medium-term by the overwhelmingly negative significance of their claims toward liberal Democratic agendas over time, but it becomes more complicated when they are clever enough to engage in camouflage or else are actually not self-aware and have some kind of narcissistic belief that their idiosyncratic set of bigotries and irrational conspiracy theories are the "progressive agenda" despite being objectively quite far from it. This is where the "Rumorbot" and "Meme Monkey" variants of Liar-loo come into the picture.

We can define a Rumorbot as a deliberate Liar-loo that engages in camouflage in order to increase the effective penetration of the false claims they wish to disseminate. For instance, they may build up credibility as members of unrelated, social-oriented groups on a liberal site while regularly injecting right-wing propaganda on their target issues. Their intent is to be accepted as contributors to a community, and thus their false claims to be more readily accepted at face value by other members who are lazy about critical thinking. If a Rumorbot does a good enough camouflage job, that's exactly what will happen, and some of their false narratives will be accepted and repeated by weaker minds, who then become the third-tier variant - Meme Monkeys.

A Meme Monkey doesn't necessarily intend to lie, but their emotions play far more of a role in what they believe than any rational analysis of facts, and once they're fed something that plays to their prejudices, they may just uncritically repeat it, becoming a conduit for the Liar-loo's propaganda. Such intellectual failings can occur in any direction, but when the prejudices involved are anti-liberal, anti-Democratic, and anti-Progressive - possibly even subconsciously - the result is a Meme Monkey who spreads right-wing propaganda while self-righteously believing themselves to be doing the opposite.

The narcissism and unaccountability of a Meme Monkey borders on total - you cannot pop their bubble of denial about what they're doing, because from root to stem their entire behavior is predicated on their own moral infallibility. So, for instance, if they hate Barack Obama, and they hear some Liar-loo make an unsubstantiated claim that Obama is, let's say, planning to approve some egregious oil company plan, they will instantly believe and repeat the claim as fact, and interpret any challenge to their repeating it as an attack on environmentalism rather than a defense of fundamental liberal values of reality and truth-telling. Usually they can't be reasoned with, so regardless of their own self-image as progressives, a Meme Monkey is basically a Typhoid Mary of right-wing propaganda - not necessarily deliberately out to sabotage us, but so reckless and self-involved they really don't care if that's the result of their actions.

Fortunately, Obama Derangement Syndrome is such an overwhelming feature of all three variants, that their behavior tends to be highly compulsive and conspicuous at least some of the time, making it easier to identify them. The following examples give some taste of that:

Hypothetical samples:

Ex. 1:

(Article about a mailman somewhere shooting a dog)

Liar-loo: More glorious "freedom" in Obama's militarized America, just like what he did to Libya and Iraq.

X: What the hell does the President have to do with a mailman shooting a dog? And what do you mean "Obama's" militarization? You saying he gave an Executive Order or signed legislation that logically resulted in this shooting? And what do you mean "what he did to Libya and Iraq"? WTF are you talking about?

Liar-loo: Oh, I suppose the buck stops somewhere else, huh? Typical. (Note the trivially obtuse and cavalier attitude toward rational argument)

Ex. 2:

Rumorbot: I always love fishing at Tahoe, it's a beautiful place. Unfortunately, I had to cancel this year's trip because of all the added expenses that Obamacare put into my budget, and the President's tax increases didn't help. But, you know, I can manage, there's a nice river near where I live.

X: Umm...what expenses? And what tax increases are you talking about?

Rumorbot: I'm a small business owner, and Obama has really been squeezing us. And it's sad because I voted for him.

X: Again, what Obamacare expenses? What tax increases? What are you talking about?

Rumorbot: Just this year my taxes went up 5%. (Notice how the entire subject of Obamacare quietly disappears)

X: Which taxes? Are you talking about your entire combined tax bill, or only federal taxes? You do know the President of the United States can't control state taxes, right?

Rumorbot: Frankly, that's a private matter. I'm happy to have a civil discussion about taxes in general, but you really shouldn't be prying into my private finances demanding detailed information about my income. We need more privacy in this country, as Obama's NSA totalitarianism shows. (The subject became too hot for him, so he changed it to some other hot-button)

Ex. 3:

(Same article about mailman shooting dog from Ex. 1)

Meme Monkey (replying to Liar-loo): I know, it's so frustrating how this President is doing nothing to protect people and promote freedom in this country, and instead helping murdering totalitarians run roughshod over all of us.

X: Umm...huh? This is still an article about a mailman shooting a dog, right? And you do know your statement is factually false, right? That I could cite dozens of examples over the past year alone of this President standing up for liberal, humane values?

Meme Monkey: I'm sure those trivial, token anecdotes of Obama making a nice speech here and there really mean something to the families of his police state's victims.

X: What are you talking about? Specifically now - what are you talking about?

Meme Monkey: (Lists litany of events with no connection to the President whatsoever). Don't you care about any of that, or are you a police state apologist?

X: One, none of that has anything to do with the President. Two, this article has nothing to do with the President either. Three, this article has nothing to do with any of the things you just mentioned. Four, half the things you mentioned never happened. Five, you haven't even tried to argue otherwise, just tried to name-drop as many hot-button issues as possible without actually connecting them to any kind of argument. What exactly is your intention?

Meme Monkey: Police state apologists like you make this country worse and worse. I hope you enjoy your Glorious Leader Obama's totalitarian hell. (Notice how the person's mind bends inexorably back to the central motivator of their political existence, Evil Obama - they don't actually care about any other issue, only if they think it gives them an excuse to expound on that one agenda)


2. Hysterrorists

Behavior: A Hysterrorist is a particularly sadistic right-wing troll who identifies matters of sensitivity within a liberal community and tries to whip up hysterical reactions out of the ether to divide and conquer, and also to make fools out of those who follow their cues.

Analysis: They're basically the equivalent of the person yelling "She's a witch!" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only if that person knew for a fact their accusation was nonsense and they're just trying to stir people up for shits and giggles. I've seen it happen in many places around the internet over the years, and it's particularly galling watching otherwise reasonable people compromise their sanity to get along with a crazed mob whipped up by an obvious troll. The results are often shameful and gut-wrenching, and leave everyone involved with a lower opinion of their community for being so easily manipulated, and make people afraid to constructively pursue the issues that had been thus perverted. It also provides popcorn-fodder for right-wing troll observers to then post the episode in their own websites for entertainment.

I've noticed that several issues are particularly effective for Hysterrorist exploitation: Most notably the NSA, but also gender and racial politics. If they tune their accusations and lies just right, they can whip up a perfect storm including all the various forms of Liar-loo as well. They can sort of recreate a Jacobin-like environment where people are terrified to say anything lest the tiniest inflection or the most outlandish lunatic interpretation of what they say be denounced as evidence of witchcraft, or treason, or whatever the Thing is that's whipping up paranoia. That's basically why I call them Hysterrorists, and don't think the second half of the term is an exaggeration: They make people afraid to speak their minds in communities that exist specifically to let them do so, and even make the weaker ones afraid not to participate in the mob's silencing of others.

Hypothetical samples

Ex. 1 (this is based on actual experience a few years ago)

Meme Monkey: (bilious, unhinged rant denouncing Barack Obama over the NSA scandals, equating him with Hitler and his defenders with Holocaust deniers)

X: That's utterly insane. (Long, point-by-point dissection of claims made in OP)

Hysterrorist: "That's utterly insane." You know, every authoritarian state from the Soviet Union to the MK Ultra program used accusations of insanity to silence its critics, locking them away to suffer unspeakable torments in psychiatric hospitals. And now you've contributed to that tradition. Your unconscionable slanders not only echo those horrors, but malign everyone in America - in the world, really - who suffers from mental illness. And that you do so in defense of a murderous police state, you sicken me. You really are worse than Hitler.

X: (Sigh). The claims made in the OP are irrational, illogical, and counterfactual. They're basically lies. And those that aren't lies, are nonsensical gibberish based on just randomly namedropping events with no logical connection to the subject. That was my point, and you know that was my point, so please stop playing make-believe and just deal with the facts concerning the administration and its disposition relative to the NSA - you know, the ostensible subject of this discussion.

Hysterrorist: There you go again, "irrational." You're questioning the OP's sanity again. Won't someone please stop this troll asshole from spewing his hate against the mentally ill?

X: (Long, carefully-worded logical rebuttal.....fails to post because account has been banned)

Ex. 2:

X: (OP)...I've read extensively about organized crime history, and I see quite a few parallels with the way Republican groups operate on the ground, particularly their approach to financing. Specifically, there was this anecdote in (book title) about Whitey Bulger in Boston, the way that he ran his criminal enterprises...(several page discussion of the analogies of organized crime groups to Tea Party and GOP organizations)

Hysterrorist: Whoa, whoa, whoa...."Whitey" Bulger? Whitey? You just drop a racial epithet in the middle of that like it's nothing?

X: ???? James Bulger - "Whitey" was his street name. That's what the guy called himself, and how he's generally known to history.

Hysterrorist: So if his "street name" were the N word, would you just casually drop that into conversation? Are you that dense and insensitive?

X: (jaw drops) ...M'kay, I'm a little flummoxed here. I wrote about the way organized crime money laundering resembles GOP fundraising tactics. I don't know why you're seizing on this random thing, but I'd rather talk about the actual point of my post.

Meme Monkey chimes in: Come on, you really didn't think people would have a problem with that? Why did you say "Whitey Bulger" instead of "James 'Whitey' Bulger" to indicate clearly that you were referring to a street alias?

X: ...This is starting to get a little too Twilight Zone for me, folks. Does anyone want to talk about the subject of my post?

Hysterrorist: Don't try and change the subject, Bull Connor.

X: (jaw drops even farther)...Excuse me, you are changing the subject. That's all you've done since your first comment is ignore the subject of the post and make this shit up out of nowhere. You seem to be kind of obsessing on it and trying to exploit real racial issues. What exactly are you up to?

Hysterrorist: Oh, so now you're playing "I know you are, but what am I," huh? I'm the racist for defending against racial slurs? Well, I accused you first, so nyeh! You Klan-loving troll poopypants!

X: Okay, you're acting like a troll. Or a child. Or a troll who is a child. (Comment removed by moderators: Stay civil!)

X: (deep breaths...deep breaths) Okay, let's try this again. No, your comment is utter nonsense. You're making these nonsensical accusations because you're trying to disrupt our conversation about GOP organized crime, and your doing so rather transparently. (Comment removed by moderators: Do not accuse other users of being trolls!)

Hysterrorist: HAHAHAHA, look at the racist loser troll, can't even respond when he's called out on his racism!


3. Deflecticons

Behavior: Attempt to distract liberals from important issues by creating a lot of emotional ferment around trivial or peripheral ones.

Analysis: A lot of elected Democratic politicians are actually Deflecticons - e.g., the DLC types (like Hillary Clinton) who try to play off marginal Culture War issues to distract attention from being flamingly conservative on economics and/or foreign policy. They may utilize Liar-loo or Hysterrorist tactics to achieve this objective. However, most Deflecticons tend to be Tea Party types and Libertarians.

The most prominent issue ecosystem they appear in is surveillance, where they utilize unhinged rhetoric to speak in sweeping terms about "the police state" not because of cops shooting and terrorizing people - such people couldn't care less about poor black people being gunned down in the street for being in the wrong neighborhood - but because the thought of a Washington bureaucrat knowing things about them invokes their most fevered and self-important apocalyptic fantasies. You can sort of tell them apart from people with real concerns because people with sincere objections are worried about what the government would do with their information - Libertarian trolls are just ideologically outraged about the abstract fact that "gubmint" knows stuff about them.

And, of course, since all right-wing trolls ultimately tie into the same agenda, they will usually prioritize attacking Barack Obama for being in any way associated with the NSA over actually articulating ways to deal with the NSA's activities. Like Liar-loos, though, not all Deflecticons are actually conservative - some of them are just serving the right-wing agenda by default because they prioritize some ideological fantasy or puritanical vision existing only in their own head over the reality that other people have to deal with.

So, for instance, you get people who have decided that Obamacare is The Enemy, not because of its specific shortcomings, but because it's not a utopian single-payer system paid for by liquidating Wall Street or whatever. And this is sufficient in such people's minds to distract attention from The Problem - people not having healthcare - toward focusing on every petty way that the people who are being served by the new system experience issues with it. But more broadly, and going back to Republicans, it's people who try to make you forget what the issue is and instead focus only on whatever level is most divisive on our side of things.

They will rail on and on about the President not accomplishing something, but will never acknowledge that the only reason is because of Republican Congressional obstruction - which itself is only possible because of Republican corruption of the electoral process through gerrymandering and prison-districting. They don't want you thinking about the millions of people who now have healthcare that didn't before - they want you focused on the website for providing it being temporarily dysfunctional (until the White House fixed it). They don't want you discussing ways to improve the environment, and celebrating victories - they want you focused on vague fears and suspicions against the administration, against other Democrats.

They want to turn liberal values against themselves: To make you tolerant of intolerance, and intolerant of tolerance. To make you more afraid of and angry at each other than focused on moving forward. They want you questioning the motives and haggling over the trivia of a Democratic administration's liberal policies while Republicans conduct a campaign of unyielding obstruction against all progress, and hold the entire nation hostage for years on end.

So ultimately it's not hard to identify trolls: They're the ones telling you to ignore the overall point to focus on some fabricated trivia. They're the ones telling you to stop seeing the Big Picture and only look at the next instant, the next fad, the next nincompoop Buzzfeed article. They're the ones telling you not to be concerned with facts, only with memes and emotions. But hopefully this guide will help someone, at some time identify these patterns early and not let them become cancerous on their blogs and communities they participate in.

Basically just look out for people who persistently try to change the subject. If they change the subject to something completely crazy and hysterical that divides people and tries to attack other liberals, they might be a Hysterrorist. If they change it to something more innocuous and less central to the issue, they might be a Deflecticon.

Profile Information

Name: Brian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Southern California
Member since: Mon Oct 28, 2013, 05:48 PM
Number of posts: 2,969

About True Blue Door

Primary issue interests: Science, technology, history, infrastructure, restoring the public sector, and promoting a fair, honorable, optimistic, and inquisitive society. Personal interests: Science fiction (mainly literature, but also films and TV), pop culture, and humor.
Latest Discussions»True Blue Door's Journal