A Discussion of Minor Interest

A few polytheist tumblr users have angered and terrified the anti-tumblr polytheist crowd again – what else is new?

A few bitter young leftists are preparing themselves for a fight and using typical radical tactics to do so – again, what else is new?

Tumblr is talking the tough guy talk but the odds of actually accomplishing anything beyond maybe getting someone fired are not in their favor – you get the idea.

I am not a third positionist, a centrist, or someone so confused that I can see the “validity” in any and every sort of position so long as it at least approaches coherence. I know what I want for the world, but I also know enough to accept things that I do not want to happen. Violence, anger, and ignorance are some of those things.

And from where I’m standing, I see both sides of this debacle exhibiting a lot of anger and a lot of ignorance. Whether it is excusable or not is irrelevant to this post, because this post is about things I find interesting.

  1. I find it interesting that bloggers who have previously advocated enlistment in the armed forces for spiritual reasons (let’s call a spade a spade here: the army/navy/AF/marines is a demographic of state-sanctioned murderers and accessories to murder) are appalled in that these polytheists aren’t calling for murder, or air striking, or carpet bombing, or aiding in coups of democratically elected foreign leaders, but because they are advocating for… what? Making some noise? Being irritating and disrespectful? For “starting a war” in which no one is probably going to get killed? Here, I see certain kinds of violence being praised as Good and Necessary and others as Heinous and Senseless. Here, I see hypocrisy. (See also how white supremacists use the US military to their advantage.)
  2. I find it interesting that the tactics in question are seen as supposedly originating with G&R or Tumblr, when in fact they are as old as fucking dirt, and that they have been used by every political flavor under the sun at some point or another to accomplish what they feel necessary to accomplish. “Our enemies do this” is a pitifully weak excuse to denounce an action that scares you. Our enemies don’t cannibalize their own children either, but you don’t see anyone waxing political about reevaluating our stance on baby-eating because of it. I can turn my head right now and look at a book on my shelf called The Failure of Nonviolence by Peter Gelderloos, a man much smarter than I, and if your knee-jerk reaction to violent political action is horror and disgust, then I suggest you read this book and familiarize yourself with some real, actual history of what political action looks like, because it is rarely pretty, rarely painless, and rarely blood-free. Moreover, those calling for a more peaceful, less agitative approach because it might inspire violent retaliation: MLK was as peaceful as they came, and he was still murdered. Pacifism is no shield against hate; it never has been, and it never will be. To recommend pacifism as a survival tactic is patronizing and ignorant.
  3. I find it interesting that the reaction to this tiny handful of proponents –  forgetting that an even tinier fraction of those proponents will actualize any of those recommendations, and an even smaller fraction still will be successful in making any sort of impact – at times approaches the very sort of political purity mindset that G&R has been accused of perpetuating. More hypocrisy.
  4. I find it interesting that a few randos on Tumblr terrify and anger polytheists more than the actual right-wing extremists do – while their ubiquity might be a little overblown recently, their existence is not up for debate. The fact that words on a screen have a way of raising the blood pressure more than this or this or this, frankly, confuses me. (These are the least violent pictures of violence I could find – I wasn’t about to link to pictures of charred or beheaded bodies, though there were a few of those too.) I encourage everyone to weather ten minutes of reading on Stormfront before they take to their keyboards to rebuke the methods of anti-racists.
  5. I find it interesting that there appears to be an assumption that the leftists calling for the implementation of these (rather pedestrian, in the scheme of things) tactics are immature, bloodthirsty, or otherwise not as cognitively robust as their detractors. And you know what? That may very well be true. But what nobody seems to understand – nobody who has more than a cursory knowledge of history and politics – is that violence just doesn’t come from nowhere. This sort of violence is perpetuated by people who either have a lot to gain, like despots, or people who perceive that they have nothing left to lose. And in the current political climate, more and more people are falling into the latter category whether you or I agree with them or not. Should we be reprimanding a cornered animal when it lashes out? Or should we try to figure out how to not make the animal feel cornered and so vitally threatened? Or should we accept that the animal does not want to be here at all, whether truly cornered or only perceiving such, and that it is going to do what it feels is in its best interest to do irrespective of what we want?

I leave you all with an excerpt from Gelderloos to maybe ponder or maybe grumble at:

Many of the proponents of nonviolence were drawing on a rich if somewhat flawed history of peaceful movements for change, like the Latin American solidarity movement in the US or the anti-militarist and anti-nuclear movements in Europe. […] In the face of its defeats, nonviolence nourished itself not in the experience of social movements, which repeatedly counseled against it, but rather anchored itself with the support of the mass media, the universities, wealthy benefactors, and governments themselves.

[…]

[U]nscrupulous supporters of nonviolence have spread the accusation, often without any evidence, that [violent] members of a social movement are police provocateurs, and they have done this precisely because they are afraid to debate. They have to rob their opponents of any legitimacy and prevent bystanders to the debate from realizing that there is indeed any debate going on, and that the social movements contain conflicting beliefs and practices. And by spreading false rumors of infiltration and dividing the movement, they expose those they accuse to violence, whether that is the violence of arrest of the violence of fellow protesters.

And:

Once we accept that a struggle has different moods, we can create spaces for distinct forms of struggle by restroring and further elaborating these traditions of resistance. This won’t work if confrontational people never go to vigils and peaceful people never go to noise demos or May Day celebrations. […] There will always be others in a struggle whose politics we find despicable, and often with good reason. But it speaks volumes about our own weaknesses if the only people we respect are those we share a perfect affinity with.

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5 thoughts on “A Discussion of Minor Interest

  1. You make some good and fair points here, and just wanted to weigh in with a few things from my own perspective, as someone who did get quite upset by this recent Tumblr post, is an advocate for standards and traditions in polytheism, but until recently would have said I was on the left of most social issues (until that became synonymous with the SJW crowd, which I don’t want to be affiliated with at all).

    “Tumblr is talking the tough guy talk but the odds of actually accomplishing anything beyond maybe getting someone fired are not in their favor – you get the idea.”

    Yeah, I’m not particularly worried that a bunch of Tumblr-ites are going to show up at my door with guns or knives. However, I don’t think we should be too quick to dismiss threats like being fired from a job. That could destroy someone’s life. And that kind of thing, which only requires a series of phone calls or emails to the right people saying the right things, is not at all beyond the ability of these folks.

    “I find it interesting that the reaction to this tiny handful of proponents – forgetting that an even tinier fraction of those proponents will actualize any of those recommendations, and an even smaller fraction still will be successful in making any sort of impact – at times approaches the very sort of political purity mindset that G&R has been accused of perpetuating. More hypocrisy.”

    I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to here, but I do think that we can’t just ignore calls to action like this on the belief that the people won’t really end up doing anything – the call is disturbing on its own, the mindset it reveals, the fact that in all this back-and-forth words on the internet, only certain people are calling for the fight to be taken into the “real world” with serious repercussions for those they don’t agree with. I can talk all day about how I think polytheism should be, even that I think certain people shouldn’t call themselves polytheists, but that’s a far cry from saying we should sabotage their rituals, turn them into the authorities, etc. That’s an outright attempt to stop others, through threats and coercion, from expressing their opinions, and it’s a slippery slope from there. I’m not sure how that approaches the political purity mindset. They can have whatever political beliefs they want, even if I find them totally wrong, I just don’t want to be attacked – offline, in more than words – for my own. Is that unreasonable?

    “I find it interesting that a few randos on Tumblr terrify and anger polytheists more than the actual right-wing extremists do – while their ubiquity might be a little overblown recently, their existence is not up for debate. The fact that words on a screen have a way of raising the blood pressure more than this or this or this, frankly, confuses me.”

    I’m not sure what those images are from, but unless they have to do with polytheism, they are not part of what I blog about. I am not a particularly political person, and my blog is entirely spiritual in nature – I blog about my religion, mostly the actual gods/spirits part of it, and occasionally the human part of it. The fact that atrocities are being committed around the globe by all sorts of horrible people – some but not all being “right wing” – is indeed awful, but why would I comment on it on my polytheist blog? However, when people in my own community start threatening me and people I know, that seems much more directly relevant.

    And yes, Stormfront is horrible. But does that somehow make what these Tumblr SJWs are advocating any less awful? Are we really at a point where it’s okay to destroy people’s lives because of thought crimes? And what about the fact that they aren’t exactly discriminating in their identification of the “enemy” who should be destroyed?

    “Should we be reprimanding a cornered animal when it lashes out? Or should we try to figure out how to not make the animal feel cornered and so vitally threatened?”

    I’m truly sorry if these people feel so hopeless that they are lashing out like this. But (a) I wasn’t the one who put them in that position, I have absolutely no power in this society and (b) I am not going to stand for being personally threatened because I happen to say some words that sound, to their ignorant ears, like some other words that worse people have said, or because they feel oppressed simply because I’m expressing a strong opinion (with absolutely no ability to or intention of trying to enforce my opinions in any actual real life context). Feeling traumatized does not give them a free pass to act aggressively toward every perceived enemy.

    I may be missing some larger context of all of this precisely because I don’t participate in politics, but going by just the wording in that Tumblr post, I feel this could be the beginning of a much darker chapter of online polytheist debates. When we stop being able to freely discourse for fear of such actions, we really will have no hope left.

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    1. You have valid concerns, and I hope that my admonishment of the reaction to this incident doesn’t convey an endorsement of the people in question. My larger point was that both sides seem to be seizing up into rigidity, and that neither is allowing for, in Gelderloos’ words, a diversity of tactics to a problem that (I hope) most of us recognize as real. On the one side I see a witch hunt, and the other, I see a clinging to a comforting status quo – neither of which I want much to do with.

      My suspicion is that the post in question was percolating for a while, but spurred on mostly by the recent AFA announcement on facebook that openly glorified the white nuclear family, a position that, IIRC, has not been so openly and explicitly stated by the organization until now. Or something like that. If there’s more going on, I’m not aware of it.

      However, I don’t think we should be too quick to dismiss threats like being fired from a job. That could destroy someone’s life. And that kind of thing, which only requires a series of phone calls or emails to the right people saying the right things, is not at all beyond the ability of these folks.

      I’ve seen the Tumblr SJW machine at work for about 5 years now, and I have to say, if they do manage to get someone dismissed from a job, it’s almost always with good reason: these people are usually racist doxxers themselves (doxxing being the practice of finding the personal information about victims and posting it online, like addresses, phone numbers, names and contact info of family members, etc), or people who actively harass or send death threats and so on. I, personally, have no problem with those.

      I can talk all day about how I think polytheism should be, even that I think certain people shouldn’t call themselves polytheists, but that’s a far cry from saying we should sabotage their rituals, turn them into the authorities, etc. That’s an outright attempt to stop others, through threats and coercion, from expressing their opinions, and it’s a slippery slope from there. I’m not sure how that approaches the political purity mindset. They can have whatever political beliefs they want, even if I find them totally wrong, I just don’t want to be attacked – offline, in more than words – for my own. Is that unreasonable?

      I agree, it’s a slippery slope, and one that’s often bungled. I’ve thought long and hard about this question for a few years, as it’s definitely not just a polytheist thing, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no way to make it less slippery. No way to make one side of the blade less sharp while keeping the edge of the other – more careful handling of the sword is all we can do, or put down the sword altogether and walk away. That’s just not an option for some, and that is something I have to respect, even if under certain circumstances I disagree. Self-defense is always that double-edged sword, and I believe that we collectively need to accept the risks inherent in exercising this necessary aspect of autonomy.

      The political purity thing has to do with both “thoughtcrime” and hostility toward a diversity of tactics – either orthodox thought or orthoprax action. The one being the realm of SJWs, and the other being the realm of authoritarian policy-thumpers. So the relevant question here is, are other polytheists off-limits by virtue of being polytheists or not? Or their rituals off-limits or not? Why? If they aren’t, is that effective political action or is it merely catharsis? Neither side is asking these questions, which is disappointing but not in the least surprising. My gut instinct says that most attacks on religious practitioners and their space is merely cathartic, but it has proven an effective tactic historically, so I will not give a blanket denunciation.

      The desire not to be attacked is perfectly valid also. Nobody wants to be attacked – however, viewing it through the lens of self-defense gives the question more nuance. I have no answers, suffice to say that many targets of right-wing extremists and more casual racists/homophobes/etc are being attacked already, and so far all typical routes of recourse have failed them. What else do they do? Is it fair to sacrifice one person for the safety of another? No, and I encourage everyone to defend themselves in the case of an attack. And yet, the problem persists. So what do we do?

      I’ve done a lot of reading and have yet to find someone with a satisfactory answer. I don’t think there is one.

      I’m in the same boat you are – apparently being interested in Spengler makes me a fascist – so I’d be just as liable to attack if I had the audience you did. I choose not to begrudge them much, though, and for a few reasons: One, I can defend myself if necessary. Two, I’m familiar with how those groups tend to function, what their MO is, and how high the adrenaline runs – this usually means they are easily burnt out. Three, these groups don’t ever last long because they eventually turn inward and start attacking each other for thoughtcrime until there’s nothing left. All in all, I have a higher chance of being dragged into an alley and sexually assaulted or getting hit by a bus than being negatively impacted by these people, so I choose to ignore them and focus on the things that I know for a fact can actually harm me. The risk of harm may be higher for you because of your reputation, so I encourage to speak out if you feel more threatened than I do.

      At the end of the day, all I want – from my fellow polytheists, anti-authoritarians, and anti-capitalists – is for us to gain a greater appreciation and tolerance for the diversity of struggle, survival, and political tactics and whatever that may look like (so long as it produces more gains than losses, and I do not count catharsis as a particularly meaningful gain), whether that means hermeticism or throwing molotov cocktails. We must protect ourselves first before we can protect others, and apparently that rule of thumb is incredibly difficult to get right.

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      1. “My larger point was that both sides seem to be seizing up into rigidity”

        I do agree with you there. And it’s not going to help anything for that to happen.

        “I’ve seen the Tumblr SJW machine at work for about 5 years now, and I have to say, if they do manage to get someone dismissed from a job, it’s almost always with good reason”

        Maybe. I hope so. But I’ll point out that some SJWs were, just a few months ago, threatening to call the FBI on someone for posting a satire on his blog. They clearly think it’s acceptable to get the authorities involved just because they feel bad and that’s not really the same thing at all as being actually threatened.

        “I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no way to make it less slippery.”

        Well, how about just not taking real-world action against things that are only words on a screen? It’s not self-defense if you’re not actually being attacked in any way other than verbally, by someone on a blog that no one is forcing you to read. The problem I see here is that people can no longer distinguish between the two, because they get so “triggered” by everything they don’t agree with. If someone is, say, burning a cross on your lawn, or trying to get you fired because of your race/gender/etc., that person is an actual threat to you. If a person is, say, expressing racist opinions on their blog, but limiting it to their thoughts alone and not commenting on what anyone else should do or proposing any particular action (like the recent AFA statement), that sucks, and I disagree vehemently, and it would be appropriate to publicly denounce that position, but they are not actually a threat to anyone at that point, and it wouldn’t be okay for me to escalate to actual real-world violence or sabotage just because I don’t like what they’re saying.

        “I have no answers, suffice to say that many targets of right-wing extremists and more casual racists/homophobes/etc are being attacked already, and so far all typical routes of recourse have failed them. What else do they do?”

        That’s an awful situation to be sure, but I just don’t see how a reasonable or moral person would find it acceptable for the answer to be to start lashing out at everyone who even associates with or vaguely resembles your oppressors in any way, and be willing to destroy their lives if they even express an opinion that sounds the same as those who hurt you.

        “The risk of harm may be higher for you because of your reputation, so I encourage to speak out if you feel more threatened than I do.”

        And I have. I don’t know if I’m at higher risk because of any reputation – I don’t really have that many dedicated readers anymore – but unlike most polytheist bloggers I have been public with enough details of my life, including my actual legal name, that I’m more vulnerable in that sense. I am now feeling – for the first time in 15 years – like I misplaced my trust in the polytheist community by doing that. Which is a pretty shitty feeling.

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    2. Maybe. I hope so. But I’ll point out that some SJWs were, just a few months ago, threatening to call the FBI on someone for posting a satire on his blog. They clearly think it’s acceptable to get the authorities involved just because they feel bad and that’s not really the same thing at all as being actually threatened.

      I agree. Getting the state involved never ends well, it’s completely hypocritical from a radical leftist perspective, and it’s just plain cowardly most of the time.

      Well, how about just not taking real-world action against things that are only words on a screen? It’s not self-defense if you’re not actually being attacked in any way other than verbally, by someone on a blog that no one is forcing you to read. The problem I see here is that people can no longer distinguish between the two, because they get so “triggered” by everything they don’t agree with.

      Again, agreed. But I should note that the post in question was also merely words on a screen – there’s been no proof that anyone’s actually acted on that call to action yet. No one’s been harmed yet. How is that different than the AFA’s white supremacist endorsement? While threatening, both are merely creating space for action, and are not directly harming anyone.

      That is the slippery slope. At what point does endorsement of harm become active perpetration of harm? When does inaction become complicity? Moreover, when does self-defense become a preemptive attack? Or a statement of intent become a threat? In a world where it is possible to hurt someone in so many indirect and non-physical ways, this is the very definition of a blurred line. In another culture this may not be so, but it is in ours – and we’re left for the worse for it. A truly Common Sense would go far to eliminate much of this ambiguity, but it’s been a while since Americans, in particular, had any.

      All I can see is right for me to do is to denounce them once they’ve targeted and taken action against someone whom I like or someone whom I do not see as a threat. I cannot personally accommodate all worldviews – I can only give voice to my own, and it is my opinion that I have no leg to stand on until they’ve crossed a line and gone into territory I find deplorable or counter-productive, and I do not feel that they are there yet.

      I know it’s not what you want to hear, and I’m sorry – but it’s the best I know how to do while accepting what I feel is a constructive diversity of opinion and tactics.

      TL;DR: I think their manifesto is bunk, their effectiveness will be dubious, but their tactics (aside from getting the police involved) are effective. This piece was mostly written in response to the criticisms levels against the list of tactics – and I hoped to point out that that’s all it is: a list of tactics. I cannot critique their actions since there are none to critique yet.

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      1. I should also note, for whatever it’s worth, is that this blog is also directly linked to my public and “professional” life – the My Projects section on the sidebar does so – and that it would be very easy for certain folks to find out all they want about me. So I’m in a similar boat in that regard.

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