Richard M. Stallman Isn’t My Problem

Apparently I’m supposed to care that Richard M. Stallman has returned to the board of the Free Software Foundation after being cancelled because he stuck up for a dead friend who happened to be one of Jeffrey Epstein’s guests. I mean, the guy’s autistic, and you expect him to not occasionally misread the room and say offensive shit in public? Talk about ableism.

People relatively close to him at MIT dismissed it as RMS being himself as usual, but a grad student found this dismissal offensive, decided to dredge up all the other times RMS put his foot in his mouth, and demanded that he be forced into retirement. The student soon found plenty of allies, and RMS stepped down in 2019, but now he’s back.

As a result, there are lots of self-righteous people arguing for and against RMS returning to the FSF, and I’ve had people try to figure out where I stand. So, for the record: my stance is one of militant indifference. I refuse to give a shit, as is my inalienable right as a human being.

I might use Free Software, particularly GNU Emacs, but I got into UNIX and FOSS via BSD-derived systems, not GNU/Linux, so RMS is no more my concern than Eric S. Raymond (who makes RMS look like Fred Rogers). If you try to pressure me into taking your side—whether you support RMS or oppose him—I will oppose you on principle. Your cause is nothing to me until I claim it as my own.

I’m not in this for your revolution, and I don’t exist to be your ally. If this offends you: fuck you; you had it coming.

What Happened to Free Enterprise?

TL;DR: conservatives and Republicans should try actually governing while they still have seats in Congress with which to do so, instead of wasting time on culture-war posturing in the middle of a pandemic to distract from their repeated votes against economic stimulus and minimum wage increases that would actually help their constituents by putting money in the hands of American workers.


What happened to the long-running conservative love affair with free enterprise lately? Conservatives used to defend businesses whose owners refused to serve black customers, bake cakes for gay weddings, or sell books they considered “immoral”. But apparently it’s not OK for Amazon to stop selling a book attacking “transgender ideology”?

I’m asking a serious question here. “Free enterprise”, aka letting business owners do whatever they like, used to be a fundamental principle of conservatism in the US. It used to be an article of faith, right up there with the (mistaken) belief that the US is a Christian nation and the (equally mistaken) belief that America is what the rest of the world wants to be when it grows up. Conservative belief in “free enterprise” is why we have the FAANG cartel (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) in the tech industry. It’s why we have Disney when we used to have an actual entertainment industry. It’s also why you can have three different rock radio stations in your area that all have the same playlist.

Thanks for nothing, Republicans. If letting megacorporations run amok is your idea of free enterprise, you godless reds deserve the consequences and I hope you damned well choke on them.

credit: Austin Daily Herald (2019)

However, between repeated grillings by congressional Republicans of Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, the CEOs of the social media corporations that have done for conservatism in the 2010s what the late and undeservedly lamented Rush Limbaugh did on AM talk radio in the 1990s, Amazon Web Services refusing to host Parler, and the latest furor over Amazon refusing to continue selling When Henry Became Sally, a book criticizing “transgender ideology”, it seems time to ask why Republicans are suddenly so concerned about how private citizens run their businesses. Is this just posturing to distract ordinary Americans from congressional Republicans’ repeated refusal to vote for economic stimulus or a long-overdue Federal minimum wage increase? I suspect it is, because Republicans only want one thing, and it’s fucking disgusting.

Let’s make a few things clear, though:

  1. I’m OK with regulating corporations like Amazon to within an inch of their lives. Congress has the authority to do so under the Commerce Clause since Amazon operates across state lines.
  2. I’m equally OK with doing to the FAANG cartel what we did to Standard Oil, AT&T, and many other corporations. Hell, we ought to break up AT&T again since they don’t seem to have learned their lesson from last time.
  3. I’m also OK with the Federal government leaving small businesses that do not cross state lines alone and leaving the regulation of such businesses to the states under the Tenth Amendment.
  4. I don’t really give a shit about transgender people one way or the other. As Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have written: “If it does not break my leg or pick my pocket, what business is it of mine?”
  5. Because I don’t give a shit about transgender people in general, I address trans people by their preferred names and pronouns because it’s less hassle that way. It’s not my job to police your body or your identity.

That said, I don’t believe for a second that if Amazon refused to sell a book advocating masturbation, recreational sex, legalized sex work, and pornography called I’m a Sodomite and I’m OK the Republicans would object or accuse Amazon of censorship. Instead, they would probably praise Amazon for upholding “standards of decency”.

However, I would strongly caution Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) about the precedents they seek to set, because forcing Amazon to sell books that appeal to conservatives can also be used to force Amazon to sell books unfriendly to conservative ideology. Hawley in particular should know better than to think that “liberal” big businesses control everything; when Simon & Schuster cancelled his book it was Regnery that stepped up to offer a publication deal.

Instead of trying to force Amazon and the rest of the FAANG cartel to kowtow to conservative interests, conservatives would do better to do everything in their power to help make big business irrelevant. Admittedly, this would go against the habit of decades, but it would be more in line with the rest of their stated ideals. Letting a few megacorporations have the lion’s share of American commerce does not serve the cause of local control or help small business.

Nobody would care if Buckley’s Books of Intercourse, PA sold nothing but books published by conservative-friendly houses such as Regnery and Baen—even by mail order—as long as Buckley’s didn’t hold a monopoly. But because it’s Amazon deciding which books it will or will not stock, everybody’s losing their minds? It would seem that the obvious solution is to break out the century’s worth of antitrust statute and precedent that progressive Republicans led by Theodore Roosevelt started and start reclaiming the old GOP legacy as a party of progress.

In any case, it’s not like people can’t buy When Harry Became Sally directly from the publisher. Encounter Books has its own internet storefront, as does Regnery Publishing and many others.

The real question is whether modern Republicans have the backbone to stand up for a higher principle than power by any means or profit über alles. If so, they can start by supporting efforts by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google under the relevant Federal antitrust laws—starting with the Sherman and Clayton Acts—and put their influence behind breaking up the megacorporations that have come to dominate commerce in the US and abroad.

Memo to Republicans: stop crybullying about censorship when you’re fine with it as long as it’s artists you don’t like getting censored. Remember Robert Mappelthorpe and the PMRC? Remember Bob Dole condemning movies he had not seen as “nightmares of depravity”? Remember Ed Meese and Phyllis Schafly? Likewise with cancel culture. Remember the Dixie Chicks? I do, and I haven’t forgiven the Republicans their censoriousness any more than I’ve forgiven that asshole Tipper Gore. You’ve got more pressing concerns than “transgender ideology”, because conservative ideas are becoming increasingly and deservedly unwelcome as people realize the full extent of your moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

In fact, stop posturing about censorship in the middle of a pandemic when you’ve repeatedly voted as a party against approporiations bills that would put money in the hands of ordinary Americans and help them weather a plague that has been ravaging the country for a year thanks in large part to your utter refusal to govern. There are reasons that conservative ideas are no longer welcome. If you need help finding them, start by ducking into the men’s room and looking at a fucking mirror.

The fundamental tenet of conservatism is that existing traditions and institutions are somehow inherently deserving of preservation, that profitable enterprises deserve to remain profitable, and that any change—no matter how trivial—must somehow be justified. That’s not how reality works. In the real world, change is inevitable and it is the preservation of traditions and institutions that must be justified.

Conservatives need to accept that the world is going to move on with or without them. Transgender and bisexual people today are where gay and lesbian people were in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They are going to keep demanding the acceptance that is their rightful due, and if conservatives can’t accept that then nobody will mourn their exile from the mainstream.

Demography is destiny, and the gulags that await American conservatives are already built, in operation, and run for profit by private corporations. We just call them “nursing homes”.

person holding a stress ball
A Baby Boomer in the conservatives’ gulag. Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

I will happily dance on conservatism’s grave. And my urination upon it will be the only libation this misbegotten movement of apologists for tyranny deserves.

When You OD on Nietzsche Pops

The problem with having an internet-connected mobile phone and bringing it into the bathroom with you to play with while defecating—instead of doing the sensible thing and grabbing a paperback—is that you’re likely to find yourself doomscrolling. I made this mistake, and found myself reading a rant called On the Infestation of Small-Souled Bugmen by somebody named Adam Winfield. Here’s a sample:

A consequence of a perilously overpopulated, brutally capitalistic, shamelessly hedonistic, morally decaying society, the humble bugman has come to define an age of technological dystopia in which everyone has everything — their gadgets, their fast foods, their fashion accessories — but somehow everyone also has nothing — no community, no natural spirit, no substance of mind. He is a zombified consumer, an emasculated wage slave, a vessel emptied of meaning and refilled with plastic, pixels and silicone.

He is what a sterile corporate wasteland spews out. Millions of him, almost exact replicas who are relentlessly told they are unique by clever marketers, and who believe it. He is a personality defined by brands, a blue-checkmarked Twitter user. Bugmen are what we get when a culture is infantilized, watered down and stripped of the very intellectual, philosophical and honourable fibre that once made it great. Totally dependent on the compromised support of his nanny state and high-tech devices, the bugman has been reduced to the status of a domestic animal. A 200-pound child.

I’ve seen this movie before. I think it was on MTV in the 1990s…

Ready to stare into the abyss? Click the image above.

The rest of Winfield’s screed is more of the same, and it reads like the work of a man who has overdosed on Nietzsche Pops while reading Fight Club and missing the point. These are the words of a Last Man who mistakes himself for an übermensch (overman or superior man) and proceeds to lambaste his fellow Last Men for being what their families, culture, and society taught them to be.

While Winfield occasionally links to leftist critiques of capitalist society like Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and David Graeber’s “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” he is equally prone to linking to the Unabomber’s manifesto or to op-eds blaming the erosion of “traditional masculinity” for declining sperm counts in the late 20th century. Never mind that we have thousands of photographs of manly men from the 19th century doing things that people like Winfield would denounce as unmanly: hugging their friends, for example, or even having friends in the first place.

  • Does the society in which we live suck? Yes.
  • Are most jobs pointless, thankless, and soul-crushing? Yes.
  • Do we deserve better than a life spent further enriching the already wealthy? Yes.
  • Is our government corrupt and unresponsive to the concerns of people who aren’t billionaires? Yes.

However, the reactionary material with which Winfield supplements his reading of leftist critiques of late-stage capitalism won’t lead him to anything resembling a constructive solution. Griping about “SJWs” won’t help; either. Most of them are just angry, self-righteous young idealists ripping into anybody slightly more successful than them because they don’t have the means or the guts to go after the people who benefit most from the status quo—who just happen the same people abetting if not outright bankrolling the resurgence of right-wing populism.

I think “Bugmen” is the work of somebody who hasn’t read Nietzsche, let alone Fukuyama (in fairness I haven’t read this book either, just the essay it expands upon), and is trying to make sense of the world in which he finds himself. He thinks he’s “red-pilled”, but he’s another blind man grabbing an elephant by the tail and thinking that because he’s touched part of the elephant he understands the whole. Unfortunately for him, his effort to extrapolate the whole picture from the puzzle pieces he has handy leads him astray because many of the pieces don’t form a picture of reality, but of the fantasy world with which the alt-reich would like to replace reality.

This is why techies need better liberal arts education, particularly in history, the humanities, and philosophy. Without this background, we’re too easily taken in by any con-artist capable of boldly claiming to have rediscovered the answer to our existential woes in dead ideologies we left behind for good reason.

Then again, this might just be how he goes about promoting his dystopian sf novella Under Toronto, and he admits that his voice while writing online is mostly a pose in the same blog post in which he brags about being “a lean 6 ft 2 in, have a beautiful, feminine wife, a 6-month old son, my own house and a good-paying job” lest people mistake him for “a fat, basement-dwelling incel behind the keyboard”. Winfield is just begging to be trolled with a few good “masculinity so fragile” jokes, but I don’t think it would actually help.

Instead, I feel sorry for this guy despite his flirtation with ideology I associate with the alt-reich, neo-reaction, and the soi-disant “grey enlightenment”. He seems desperately frightened that he might be one of the small-souled bugmen himself, and somebody really ought to point him toward Discordianism or the Church of the SubGenius. Or maybe Bokononism?

PS

I’ve also noticed that a lot of techies like Adam Winfield tend to be obsessed with 20th century Japanese poet, playwright, actor, novelist, and nationalist Yukio Mishima, a man so obsessed with tradition, masculinity, and making a grand artistic statement of his own life that he participated in a failed fascist coup and then killed himself by committing seppuku. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from this, but I must admit it’s tempting to seek meaning through grand gestures when one’s own life seems devoid of purpose.

Unpleasant Truths About Culture Fit

Here’s something I’ve learned about “culture fit” from having done more job interviews than I’d prefer. If you were rejected because you’re “not a culture fit”, even though you’re qualified and nailed every aspect of the interview, it probably means one of the following:

  • you’re not young enough
  • you’re not white enough
  • you’re not the right kind of Asian
  • you’re not masculine enough
  • you’re too neurodiverse
  • you didn’t go to the right college

However, if a hiring manager gave one of these reasons, they could get their employer crucified in civil court for discrimination or (in the US) crucified by the EEOC. However, there’s no law that says they can’t select for “culture fit”.

Regardless, hiring for culture fit is increasingly seen as a bad idea. If you only hire people who share your background and interests, you’re likely to have problems with groupthink, and you can get enough of that on social media. You don’t need it in the workplace.

In fact, I’m going to go a bit further since it should be obvious to a reasonably intelligent person that I’m not speaking for anybody but myself here. Any manager who hires for culture fit should be fired, publicly named, and debarred from consideration for positions with hiring authority because they expose their employers to groupthink and legal liability.

PS: If you’re not familiar with the word ‘debar’, I’m using it because it lacks the racist connotations that have recently come to be associated with the more familiar term ‘blacklist‘.

Gina Carano Will Be Fine

MMA champion and actor Gina Carano got thrown under a bus by Disney/LucasFilm because she pointed out that before the Nazi regime started murdering Jews en masse, ordinary German citizens were doing it piecemeal and then implied that being a conservative in 21st century America is like being a Jew in the Weimar Republic.

Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?

—Gina Carano on TikTok

She might have been fine if she hadn’t implied that conservatives like her suffered similar persecution. Sure, I’ve heard of neo-Nazis getting their asses kicked, but that’s what you get for being a neo-Nazi, and you should be grateful you aren’t getting a fuckin’ swastika carved into your forehead.

But conservatives being murdered for trying to preserve unearned privilege and power at the expense of the poor and powerless? As much as I wish it were true, I realize that making martyrs out of morons is not a winning strategy. It didn’t work when polytheistic Rome tried to suppress Christianity, and it won’t work against 21st century reactionaries. I’ll just have to settle for the conservative movement being recognized as an organized crime syndicate and prosecuted accordingly.

Let’s be honest here: neither the government nor the media have to do anything to make people hate conservatives. Conservatives are perfectly capable of making people hate them on their own. Just talking with them is enough, unless you find yourself buying into their bullshit. If you can’t bear to talk to them, just watch them “govern”.

Of course, this isn’t the first time actors have publicly displayed their ignorance, but ignorant actors talking shit in public are usually further to the left than Ms. Carano. Nevertheless, I’m not surprised by her behavior. If you read The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin, you’ll find that conservative crybullying is a tradition dating all the way back to the French Revolution—and possibly even earlier if you acknowledge Leviathan author Thomas Hobbes as the OG reactionary.

While I don’t think people deserve to lose their jobs just because they said stupid and offensive shit on social media, and I have no patience whatsofuckinever with internet McCarthyism, I don’t really give a fuck about Gina Carano.

Ms. Carano comes from casino money. She got a nice paycheck from playing Cara Dune in The Mandalorian (aka Lone Wolf and Cub in a Galaxy Far, Far Away). She can still count on support from MMA fans. And she’s already landed on her feet by lining up a new gig with the Daily Wire, a right-wing propaganda outfit operated by alt-reich impresario Ben Shapiro. She’s finally gonna make her own movie.

Trust me: Gina Carano is gonna be just fine. Which is why I think call-out culture (or cancel culture) is a right-wing shaming tactic that leftists should have known better than to adopt—except it isn’t necessarily something leftists picked up after conservatives threw the Dixie Chicks under a bus. It’s just that back in the 1970s they called it trashing.

Regardless of whether you call it cancellation or trashing, it doesn’t work—and it doesn’t help. The people who deserve to be cancelled have no reason to fear cancellation because they have fuck you money. It only harms people who aren’t rich enough or powerful enough to actually matter—aka working-class people that leftists alienate by being as self-righteous as they are ineffectual.

Goddammit, Jon Schaffer

I’ve been listening to Iced Earth since the late 1990s, and I had hoped that its founder and lead guitarist—Jon Schaffer—would be smarter than this.

According to Blabbermouth, Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth has been identified as one of the participants in the attempt to force the US Senate by insurrection to challenge the electoral college’s vote in the 2020 Presidential election, and faces six Federal charges:

  1. Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority
  2. Disrupting the Orderly Conduct of Government Business
  3. Knowingly Engaging in an Act of Physical Violence Against any Person or Property in any Restricted Building or Grounds
  4. Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building
  5. Engaging in an Act of Physical Violence in a Capitol Building
  6. Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building

This disappoints me. I’ve been listening to Iced Earth since I got a copy of their 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes. Many of their classic songs helped inspire my Starbreaker stories, and it was via Iced Earth that I discovered Blind Guardian.

While I had noticed a shift in lyrical themes when they released The Glorious Burden, I didn’t suspect anything because heavy metal bands write songs about history fairly often. Hell, every Sabaton has ever made has been in the same vein as The Glorious Burden. Does the militarism in their lyrics mean they’re a bunch of right-wing nutjobs too?

I’m not going to throw out the Iced Earth albums I already have, but if Schaffer goes free and releases another album, I don’t know if I’ll buy it. It isn’t easy to separate the art from the artist, or to admit that somebody who created art that resonates with you might be an asshole.

I think the situation’s more complicated because Iced Earth isn’t just Jon Schaffer. Sure, he founded the band and writes the songs, but the rest of the band didn’t participate in the January 6 insurrection, and it doesn’t seem fair to throw them under the bus because of their bandmate’s involvement.

Finally, I suspect a lot of people are going to condemn Schaffer on the basis of photos and surveillance footage identifying him. I admit it’s pretty damning evidence if it hasn’t been doctored1, but that’s all it is: evidence to be used at Schaffer’s trial2 as the US Department of Justice attempts to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I’ve never liked the court of public opinion and I’ve never bought into the notion that merely arresting somebody proves their guilt. Nor do I accept that photos and videos alone are enough to condemn somebody.

Click to watch on YouTube. Content Warning: Right-Wing Crank Talk

I think due process is especially important when prosecuting those who participated in the insurrection. Cutting corners or treating them as guilty until proven innocent will only make martyrs out of morons. America can’t afford to keep proving right those who insist the system is irredeemably rotten and ought to be burned to the ground. That’s how we ended up with 74 million people using their vote to say “fuck you” to the establishment in the first place.

As damning as Schaffer’s video might be, in which Jon Schaffer denounces “thugs”, “criminals”, and “globalists” for having hijacked the country “a long time ago”, I still think this guy ought to get a fair trial. Giving accused criminals a fair trial, presenting the evidence against them and giving them the chance to tell their side of the story, is how we prove that we are the “good guys”.

Besides, he’s not entirely wrong. The United States was hijacked a long time ago. It was hijacked by moneyed interests who realized that broadening the scope of democracy and extending the franchise to more people would erode their power and eventually see them stripped of their unearned wealth and privilege. Billionaires are behind the fiat currency, the wars, the occupations of foreign countries, and all the other shit people like Jon Schaffer claim to oppose. What Schaffer and millions like him don’t understand is that they’re working for their own oppressors.

PS

I’m going to be really disappointed if it turns out Dave Mustaine of Megadeth was involved, too, but not surprised. I’ve known him for a right-wing crank ever since the release of United Abominations in 2007. “Washington is Next” wasn’t exactly subtle.


  1. This raises the question of who would benefit from doctoring photos to implicate the founder of a fairly popular US power metal band. As far as I know, there’s no percentage in it, so while I admit it’s possible I don’t think it’s likely. 
  2. Assuming Schaffer and his lawyer don’t cave and go for a plea bargain, as many facing Federal charges do. 

Moderation Notes

I’m not in the mood for any reactionary bullshit. If I see comments that look like they belong on Gab, Parler, 4chan, or Stormfront I will censor them and their authors with extreme fucking prejudice.

This is my soapbox. Get your own.

Thoughts on the Insurrection

This article concerns current events, US politics, and political violence in the wake of the insurrection attempt on January 6, 2021. The opinions within are entirely my own, and not necessarily those of my employer or any of their clients.

washington state capitol facade reflecting in pond under white sky
Photo by Bryant’s Juarez on Pexels.com
Continue reading “Thoughts on the Insurrection”

The Cop In My Head

The following article may not be appropriate for all readers.

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Call it conscience if you like. Or get Freudian and call it the superego. But there’s a cop living rent-free in the back of my head, and he’s a bastard. He’s always judging me, policing every stray notion that comes to mind.

Most of the time he sounds like a frightened child, sure that if I do what I want or speak from the heart I’ll be punished.

  • It’s the reason I had refrained from approaching so many women I found attractive when I was a young bachelor.
  • It’s the reason I never experimented with sex or drugs when I had the chance.
  • It’s the reason I couldn’t admit to myself that I might not be straight until I had been married to a woman for several years.
  • It’s the reason I tolerated my mother’s emotional abuse well into middle age.
  • It’s the reason I kept staying in shitty jobs that neither pay especially well, offer challenging and meaningful work, or allow me to find a sense of autonomy and mastery.
  • It’s the reason I’ve been afraid to share my thoughts and feelings online for so long.

Frankly, I feel like I’ve lived a “good Christian life” despite thinking Christianity is a crock of shit. How is this fair? It isn’t, but the world is neither just nor unjust. “Fairness” is just another spook, like my conscience. But this is what I get for periodically rereading Max Stirner…

What is not supposed to be my concern! First and foremost, the good cause, then God’s cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of Mind, and a thousand other causes. Only my cause is never to be my concern. Shame on the egoist who thinks only of himself!

—Max Stirner: The Ego and His Own (1845)

Or perhaps the elder Alexandre Dumas?

Perhaps what I am about to say will appear strange to you gentlemen, socialists, progressives, humanitarians as you are, but I never worry about my neighbor, I never try to protect society which does not protect me — indeed, I might add, which generally takes no heed of me except to do me harm — and, since I hold them low in my esteem and remain neutral towards them, I believe that society and my neighbor are in my debt.

—Alexandre Dumas, père: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

Your politics are boring as fuck, and your morality is of no greater interest. I don’t want to live for anybody but myself. I don’t want to serve any cause but my own. I don’t give a fuck about “society”, “my country”, “the economy”, “future generations”, “the planet”, “the common good”, “humanity”, or anybody who doesn’t love and value me for who I am. I shouldn’t have to.

You shouldn’t have to, either. We all deserve better than live in fear of being shamed because we had the effrontery to be ourselves and seek the fulfillment of our desires. As long as we harm none, do what thou wilt should be the whole of the law.

Click this image to watch on YouTube…

If being myself leaves me friendless, so be it. I’ll wear my independence like a crown…