We Are Through the Map and Off the Looking Glass: Ammon Bundy Edition!

These are, indeed, strange days!

Salvador Hernandez at Buzzfeed has the story (emphasis mine):

Bundy led two armed standoffs against the feds in Nevada and Oregon, and his family quickly became the face of a growing militia movement, bringing a national spotlight to armed groups eager for a conflict with what they believed to be an overreaching government.

So when he logged on to Facebook last week to speak to his supporters in defense of the caravan of Central American migrants gathered at the southern border, a frequent target of President Trump, he figured he’d face some criticism.

“To group them all up like, frankly, our president has done — you know, trying to speak respectfully — but he has basically called them all criminals and said they’re not coming in here,” Bundy said in the video. “What about individuals, those who have come for reasons of need for their families, you know, the fathers and mothers and children that come here and were willing to go through the process to apply for asylum so they can come into this country and benefit from not having to be oppressed continually?”

Bundy went on, dispelling conspiracy theories that billionaire George Soros was behind the caravan or that terrorists were using the group to sneak into the US.

But the backlash from his supporters was immediate, with many repudiating Bundy for his views. Followers who had traveled to his father’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014 during an armed standoff with federal agents over unpaid cattle grazing fees said they regretted doing so. Others claimed Bundy was being paid by left-wing “globalists” to switch sides. Some told him they wished he was dead, or that militias had never supported his family.

Bundy was shocked by the swift reaction.

“I expected to get a decent amount of pushback, but I also believed that I could explain to them why I’d taken those positions and why,” he told BuzzFeed News. “But you know, I’ve always had these kinds of thoughts that people were not really listening to the principles of things, that they had aligned with me for some other reasons, and that some of those [reasons] are good and some of those might not be, but this last video kind of confirmed that.”

So on Tuesday, Bundy shut down his social media accounts and said he was stepping away from the public light and the “patriot groups” that had gained national attention while supporting the Nevada ranching family. The decision to quit wasn’t an easy one, Bundy said, but the movement’s unforgiving opposition to the migrant caravan and what he called a dangerous and blinding support of President Trump left him with no choice.

“It’s like being in a room full of people in here, trying to teach, and no one is listening,” he said. “The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don’t want to associate myself with warmongers.”

Much, much more at the link!

We are well and truly off the looking glass and through the map.

Also, obligatory:


Chew Hard!

Open thread!

Love And Death In The Incel World

When incels started shooting women, it seemed to me that I had read an analysis of something similar. It took me a while, but I recalled Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, from the early 1960s. Seems like now might be a good time to look at that book.

In the early 1960s, second-wave feminism was just getting started in the United States. Birth control pills were new. The civil rights movement was ramping up. AIDS and public recognition of gay issues were in the future. I wondered whether Love and Death could still be relevant. I hadn’t read it in a long time and didn’t remember much of it.

I looked it up and bought a copy of the revised edition from 1966. The original was 1960, before Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, although after Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex. I skimmed the sections about earlier literature, but the critique of 19th century literature, particularly James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, and Mark Twain was clearly relevant.

My recall of the general themes was correct. Fiedler’s treatment of race and gender issues was careful and, I think, acceptable in today’s environment. A bit heavy on Freudianism, perhaps.

What I recalled was that Fiedler showed that male friendship was at the center of much American literature, often with a man of color as sidekick to the main character. Relationships with women were onerous, but few if any adult sexual relationships with either gender. Fiedler also notes that these novels do not contain well-written female characters. The female characters are a few poorly written stereotypes.

We see the same themes in today’s buddy films. But how do we go from a largely asexual plot line to the sense of injury incels feel at their lack of sexual partners?

Fiedler finds in 19th century literature a simple division of women into two types, as are non-white males: Good and Evil. The Fair Maiden is slender, virginal, very white-skinned (often milk-white!), blonde and blue-eyed. The Dark Lady is a sexy brunette, representating poison and danger, sex and death.

Somewhere between Henry James and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Fair Maiden and Dark Lady are merged into one character. In Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, the snow maiden becomes the gold-digger. During the 20’s, another shift takes place. The Good Bad Girl is the assertive one who gets ahead; the passive Good Good Girl is likely to be raped.

Fiedler’s analysis of the novels written in the 1950s is, not surprisingly, more limited. We’ve had a little more than 50 years since that revised version of Love and Death. Let me outline how those themes have continued through novels and popular media.

Fiedler barely mentions Norman Mailer, who both wrote and lived these themes, having stabbed his wife and almost killed her. John Updike wrote of the men of suburbia and their appended wives. Johnathan Franzen continues to write of suburban male malaise.

Buddy films are a popular genre, with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” blending into the western genre in a way that would have made James Fenimore Cooper proud.

Computer games, coming out of a masculine-identified computer culture, perpetuate the negatively dichotomous view of women. Gamergate, in which male gamers vilified and attacked women criticizing and trying to change the game culture, was a direct predecessor to the incel phenomenon.

Incels posit two kinds of woman: Stacy, who is buxom and fertile, and Becky, who is skinny and wears yoga pants. This illustration, including commentary (and spelling errors), seems to come from an incel website, but I let Vox do the looking for me. The commentary seems to see both women as undesirable. Stacy lines up in many ways with Fiedler’s Dark Lady stereotype.

Stacy is unavailable to incels; she prefers the more aggressive and masculine Chad. Evolutionary psychology in the form of sexual just-so stories is part of incel thought. The sexual revolution, which was only beginning in 1966, allowed men to expect unlimited access to women for sex. It is the thwarting of those expectations that the incel shootings act out. Fiedler points out with respect to Hemingway’s Catherine in Farewell to Arms that “Only the dead woman becomes neither a bore nor a mother”.

There’s a book to be written about why these themes are so attractive to Americans. Fiedler didn’t say much about that; it’s sociological rather than literary criticism. But his analysis shows a historical misogyny that long precedes the incel movement.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Late-Night Pundtwit Open Thread: But If Political Scientists Get to Use the (Other) N-Word…

Trump and his hardcore base are making it very difficult for the Maestros of Bothsiderism to blanket the Repubs’ hate speech in a warm fuzzy cloud of pap, but give Ross Doubthat and his fellow Very Serious Opinioneers full marks for trying!

Ari Fleischer, once again a shonda fur die goyim:

GOP: How Can You Call Us Anti-Semites When We’re So Careful Not to Use the K-Word?

Editor of the National Review, promoter of Sarah Palin, Rich “Sparklepants” Lowry:

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Taking Stock After This Week’s Domestic Terrorism Incidents: Where We Are and What Comes Next

In the wake of the mail bombing campaign of the past week and the synagogue attack today, I think we all need to be prepared for a seriously increased threat level. Not necessarily from any specific person or group, but in what we generally refer to as stochastic terrorism. We know attacks will happen, we may even have a general idea of who and/or what the targets may be, but we can’t identity/specify specific targets, nor can we identity/specify when the attacks will happen, how they will be carried out, or who will undertake them. This increase is the result of several things. The first is that the President has decided to double down on not trying to lead the entire country, but rather rule on behalf of the 26% or so of the country that is his hard base/the Republican base, as well as another 13% or so consisting of Republicans who are willing to go along with this. The second is that the President’s most fervent supporters, the hard base of the Republican Party, have become so radicalized because of Fox News, talk radio, conservative social media and other conservative news and information sources, and frankly the Russian psychological and information warfare that seeks to leverage this for Putin’s own objectives of ripping American civil society apart, that they are now all in for an American version of herrenvolkism. Specifically, a herrenvolk system of white supremacy where white, (evangelical and some traditionalist Catholic*) Christians rule and everyone else is either tolerated in a less than first class citizenship status or is removed from American society. The third is the result that because of the President and his fervent base of supporters who are the base of the Republican Party, the official Republican Party institutions and structures, as well as the conservative movement institutions and structures that support and comprise it, have gone all in with the President’s and the President’s base’s vision of America.** Just today one of the official Republican Party campaign arms released another anti-George Soros/anti-globalist campaign ad negatively targeting a Democratic candidate.

This is all the result of a closed feedback loop of ideas have been created that encompasses the President, the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and their structures and institutions, Republican elected and appointed officials, conservative movement leaders, conservative news and social media, and the base of the Republican Party. That feedback loop inculcates and reinforces a belief that white, (evangelical and some traditionalist Catholic) Christians are the only actual victims in the US. That they’re oppressed. That ethnic and religious minorities, as well as other white Christians who are race traitors, seek to take away their rights and privileges as part of a nefarious, organized plan to destroy America. An America which they define as a white, Christian nation. Moreover, this closed informational loop is pulling the extremist right – the hard core white nationalist and supremacists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, homophobes, xenophobes, and nativists – from the extreme fringes fully within the mainstream of conservative and Republican thought, action, and politics.

Because of the social learning dynamic of imitation, Sayoc’s bombing campaign and Bowers’ shooting spree, as well as the President’s blaming the victim this morning will provide permission for others to act. The President’s comments regarding both Sayoc’s and Bower’s acts of terrorism are classic examples of what criminologists call neutralization and drift. Specifically: 1) denial of responsibility; 2) denial of injury; 3) denial of victim; 4) condemnation of the condemners; and the 5) appeal to higher loyalties. The first three justifications all deal with denial. They allow the offender to rationalize his behavior as outside of his control. He or she is not really hurting anyone. And even if someone is hurt they may have deserved it. The fourth justification allows the offender to invert the knowledge of her wrongdoing back upon those criticizing it by asserting that the condemners are hypocrites, do equally bad things, or are out to get him. Finally, the fifth rationalization allows for the justification of behavior on the basis of loyalty to one’s group rather than one’s society. 

The elections in two weeks will only make things worse. If the Democrats take at least the House and a number of state governorships and state legislatures as is currently forecast, let alone if they thread the needle and take the Senate, the terrorism will increase. It will be taken as actual evidence of the victimization of white, Christian (evangelical and some traditional Catholic) Christians. Conversely, and unfortunately, the President and his supporters who are the base of the Republican Party are the sorest winners since the southern slave power in the 1850s and 1860s kept refusing to take yes for an answer. So if the Republicans are able to maintain or expand their majorities in the House and the Senate, as well as in state governments, I fully expect that the terrorism and low intensity political violence will increase. Winning will be taken as a sign that the American people want more of what has been building for the past two years. As a result, the President, an even more extremist, radical, and revanchist set of Republican congressional majorities, the Republican Party and conservative movement, conservative news and social media, and the actual base of the Republican party will simply accelerate what we’ve been observing and responding to since January 2017. 

Stay alert! Stay focused! And vote! Vote like your life and America’s life depends on it! Make sure everyone you know votes like their lives and America’s life depends on it. And prepare yourself for what’s coming regardless of the outcome of the mid-term elections.

Open thread!

* I fully expect that this marriage of convenience over a few theologically aligned political issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, will completely unravel where the Republican base get what it wants. At that point I expect that the evangelical community will turn first on the Catholics as papist apostates and then on each other as none of the three major divisions among white evangelicals in the US – evangelicals, charismatics, and fundamentalists – actually agree on how to apply their sectarian and denominational views to everyday life.

** I want to make it very clear that I take no pleasure in writing this. It is both a shame and a tragedy that we have reached a point where the President of the United States and one of the only two political parties we allow ourselves, as well as the political, social, and religious movements and communities that support both the President and the Republican Party, not only can be described this way, but need to be described this way. We are, unfortunately, no longer in a place where we are, as Americans, dealing with partisan disagreements over marginal tax rates or which level of government is best to oversee education policy. If we are very, very fortunate, we may once again get through this, establish a new normal, and find ourselves back in such a reality.

Our Failed Media Open Thread:Both Sides!, They Bleat, Frantically

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This Morning in Domestic Terrorism

The Pittsburgh Police Department has responded to an active shooter in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh near one of the synagogues.

The local CBS News affiliate, KDKA News, is reporting that at least eight people have been killed, three police officers wounded, and that the shooter who is wounded and has now surrendered, was barricaded on the third floor of the synagogue.

Here’s the quick briefing the police commander on the scene provided:

It is important to remember that almost no Jews who are observing the sabbath this morning at synagogue will actually know about them because they’re in services,

Mara Gay, of The New York Times editorial board, has this exactly right:

I’d go further. Every one of the President’s most retrogade, most revanchist, neo-nationalist, neo-fascist, and/or neo-NAZI supporters know exactly what it means when he bad mouths the globalists or when he declares himself a nationalist. Despite his disingenuous statements the day after calling himself a nationalist, the President clearly knows what it means as well, which is why he said “we’re not supposed to use the word”.

MSNBC is reporting that the shooter was screaming anti-Semitic slurs during the attack and that the police are checking a suspicious package to ensure it isn’t an improvised explosive device. So the message that the President, his enablers, and his fellow travelers are transmitting is being received.

I understand that the President is, at best, oblivious to anyone who isn’t him or isn’t doing something he perceives as in his interest in any moment. He appears to be inherently and innately transactional. However, his inherent racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, whether rooted in his transactional nature or something else, is a continuing clear and present danger to American citizens, those non-citizens legally residing in the US, and those visiting the US. If he is unable or unwilling to bring himself to publicly address the country, denounce this in no uncertain terms, then it is further evidence he is unfit for the office that he currently occupies. And if no other elite or notable Republican officials or former officials will do so for fear of crossing their base, who are the President’s most fervent supporters, or for fear of receiving a mean tweet, they too are unfit. They are unfit for the offices they hold or have held and their are unfit to claim the mantle American.

This will be a fast moving story and new information will be coming out over the next 24 to 48 hours, but the real worry right now is for copycats. Given that services will be ending soon on the east coast, the threat shifts to the intermountain west and west coasts. Churches whose congregants are predominantly people of color or LBTQ need to lay on extra security for tomorrow. Especially for those churches doing souls to the polls early voting!

I leave the final words to President Washington, which should be the template for how elected officials in the US speak on these matters:

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

Update at 12:40 PM EDT

They have identified the domestic terrorist who attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA this morning.

From KDKA:

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Police say a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh Synagogue yelling “All Jews must die.”

KDKA-TV sources say the shooting suspect is Robert Bowers.

Eight people have been killed and a number of others injured after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.

Bowers is described as a white male, heavy set, with a beard. He surrendered to police after opening fire on police officers. Police say he was injured and crawling when he was taken into custody.

Three police officers were also shot, their conditions are not currently known.

When officers arrived, the gunman reportedly shot at them, forcing officers to use their vehicles as a shield.

Police sources tell KDKA’s Andy Sheehan the gunman walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews Must die.”

Sheehan confirmed that eight people were confirmed dead. Others had been shot but the extent of their injuries in unknown at this time.

The shooting happened during weekly Shabbat services at the conservative Jewish Synagogue, the building was full was full of people for a Saturday service.

The President is also making a brief statement from the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews and has indicated he will make a more significant statement at his scheduled appearance with the Future Farmers of America conference later today.

Of course, the President couldn’t help himself and had to have a Q&A. He’s now blamed the synagogue for this because he says “the temple didn’t have an armed guard inside”. We’re right back to neutralization and drift. He just denied the victimization of the victims. This has to be seen and heard to be believed:

Updated at 1:10 PM EDT

And here’s your social learning link back to the President’s rhetoric:

Stay alert! And vote!

Open thread.