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I am not a big fan of Alex Berenson. I don't like journalists because they don't understand population statistics. They are interested mostly in anecdotal cases and their duty is to write about them in an interesting and viral way. And yet, that is an important service to identify targets that are worth of deeper analysis.

In Alex case while he missed many times, he also hit some good targets.

  1. vaccine effectiveness against infection is lost withing 3-4 months

  2. prior infection provides stronger immunity than vaccination

The second was always suspected but the evidence was always lacking. Now it turns out that twitter supressed tweets that announced the first real evidence (even if not very strong) that it is the case. I believe that this suppression likely extended wider than just twitter and ultimately influenced the US policy to not recognise immunity from infection when vaccine mandates were put in place. In contrast, most European countries with mandates recognised immunity from prior infection in one way or another as inferior or equal to immunity from vaccination.

There might be some practical considerations – vaccination is easy to register and provide proof. Prior infection is more nebulous, requires expensive testing, some tests are less reliable. The whole idea casts shadow how reasonable vaccine mandates are in the first place. Some would worry that the recognition of immunity from prior infection could also encourage vaccine hesitant to seek getting infected.

Such policies however are very risky because they are conditional on us never finding out the truth. It was always more likely that prior infection confers stronger immunity than vaccination. It was stupid to try to supress the evidence at any time. Eventually it surfaced (as it was bound to) and made those attempts to control narrative look evil.

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3

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

SS: Americans are rather ignorant about history. Moral reasoning by historical analogy is bad. Historical examples can be misleading for making predictions. These facts suggest that the utility of history courses is overestimated. In fact, they are mostly useless.

Highlights:

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Welcome back. Previously, we discussed a selective version of transgender medical history. I say selective because Joyce picked out the parts she wanted and wasn’t interested in a long drawn-out section in her book about that. She does, however, cite the book How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States for much of the history she does reference, and I heartily recommend that book if you want something that looks more at the history of the topic in the US.

With that said, let’s get into Joyce’s depiction of the causes and rationalization of transgenderism. I apologize to everyone for when I said that we’d discuss the harms that Joyce has noted, I want to do this first.

“Mommy, I’m a girl.”

Joyce brings us into the life of Richard Green, an American doctor/lawyer who spent many years in gender medicine. In the 1960s, he grew curious about whether the men who said they were really women and aware of this were always this way. In other words, were they little boys insisting they were girls, who would go on to be transsexuals? Note that at the time, gender clinics did not see children as patients.

Anyways, Green did a landmark 15-year study whose results were published in 1987 under the title The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality. The title, as you might imagine, gave away the conclusion. Joyce details the results as follows.

Green turned to the gold standard for investigating the origins of a condition: a prospective study, which follows people who seem likely to develop it to see what happens...He recruited around sixty ‘sissy boys’ and a similar number of ‘controls’: ordinarily masculine boys matched for age and socio-economic situation. He interviewed them and their parents every year or two. Of the forty-four in the first group whom he managed to stay in touch with, eighteen were unambiguously homosexual as young adults, fourteen fantasised about or engaged in homosexual activity with some frequency, and just twelve were exclusively, or nearly exclusively, heterosexual. Just one said he felt like a woman.

Of course, one study by itself is not particularly telling. Joyce argues that many studies have come forth since then, and all confirm what Green was saying. She cites a study from a Toronto clinic in March 2021 that followed 139 boys from 1975 to 2009 which found nearly 90% of dysphoric boys desisted. 82 of these boys ended up biphilic or androphilic.

“Ah,” you might reply, “but the ones who are most likely to be trans must feel it the strongest!” No, Joyce argues. We don’t know what makes someone a “persister” (opposite of desister), and the strength of the feeling isn’t necessarily a good indicator. As evidence, she points to Todd, the only one who persisted in Green’s study. By 17, Todd seemed to be settled into his desire to be a woman, but he didn’t stick out as unusually effeminate or dysphoric.

Joyce portrays Green as someone trying hard to get the parents of the boys to accept their sons as who they were and failed ultimately. The boys knew they were embarrassing to their parents, and some parents tried to remove the “sissiness” from their children.

This was not the only study at the time which suggested this. A survey of 21 male-to-female trans women found that 17 were transsexuals and previously regarded themselves as gay men.

So what did the two groups in the survey have in common? Joyce’s answer is androphilia. She cites the work of Paul Vasey, a Canadian psychologist and professor. According to him, your culture determined whether highly feminine boy would grow up to be a gay man, a trans woman, or some other cultural equivalent. Vasey points to the fa’afafine, a “third gender” in Samoan culture. These boys were not regarded as men or women, but still as undoubtedly male. He also references similar groups like the Zapotec muxes in Mexico.

Androphilic males were not, however, the only ones to go to these clinics, and the question would now concern why.

An “Aha” Moment

Picture a man. Married, having kids, in a conventionally masculine job with conventionally masculine pastime interests. Why would such a man go to a gender clinic?

This was the puzzle for Ray Blanchard, a famous (or infamous) name in the history of transgenderism in the West. You have likely heard the term “Blanchard’s typology” in other discussions about trans topics, but if you have not or don’t know it that well, keep reading.

Blanchard is a clinical psychologist who was working in a Toronto institute in the 1980s. When he came across such patients, he started working out a categorization, eventually settling on two broad groups.

Group 1 was androphilic males, a minority of the relevant people. They were Green’s “persisters” and highly feminine in presentation and interests.

Group 2 was varied and far more interesting. Many were like the man I asked you to picture above. Others reported imagining themselves as women with their wives penetrating them or as a woman in a lesbian relationship with their wives. Some were bisexual or asexual.

The sole cross-sex behavior that many reported was “erotic transvestism”. This is not that uncommon of a fetish in heterosexual men, a Swedish study found that nearly 3% of males experienced sexual arousal in response to cross-dressing. But this wasn’t enough for Blanchard. What was the link between wearing a woman’s clothing to help with masturbating and wanting to be a woman?

And then he met Philip.

Philip was a 38-year-old with severe gender dysphoria. He reported sexual experiences with women, but he also said that he imagined himself as a woman as well. His sexual fantasies involved imagining himself as a woman, with emphasis on his breasts, vagina, and soft skin. Sometimes, Joyce reports, Philip imagined himself being penetrated vaginally by a man.

The kicker? Philip said he never cross-dressed after childhood because he got nothing from it.

For Blanchard, this was the moment it made sense. The clothing was not these men were obsessing over. Instead, the clothes were how they brought life to themselves in female form.

Autogynephilia, meaning love for oneself as a woman. This was the term Blanchard settled on to describe these people.

Joyce emphasizes to us that Blanchard never intended to raise obstacles in the way of transitioning, only to understand and help his patients. Not all were entirely okay with transitioning, recognizing the harm it might cause their families or careers. She describes the generally high levels of gate-keeping at the time around physical transitioning as follows.

When patients were eventually seen, the personal crises that led to referral were past. And central to assessment was ensuring that they fully understood the goal of castration and bodily remodelling. They had to confront a tough question: was their desire to transition strong enough?... At [Blanchard’s institute], four-fifths of patients abandoned the idea of transition before surgery. Some did not show up for the initial assessment. Others never returned, perhaps having concluded that living with gender dysphoria was preferable to proceeding. Even after that, referral for surgery depended on the ‘real-life test’: changing name, pronouns and clothing, and maintaining a cross-sex presentation for two years.

I had heard stories in passing from trans people complaining about how doctors required humiliating and absurd demonstrations of transgenderism before allowing physical transition, and I would have to agree after reading this. I think only the most determined could reasonably conceive of going forward with this. Those who went the full course, however, did generally report being happier after the surgery.

There is still, however, one more piece to the puzzle of explaining this.

Exit Rights

Those who follow transgender news may recall a particular case from 2021: Bell v. Tavistock.

The plaintiff was Keira Bell, a former patient at Tavistock (a gender clinic in the UK). Bell had previously come out as a trans man and received puberty blockers from the clinic before eventually getting a double mastectomy. Eventually, she regretted her choice and went back to identifying as a woman (though it doesn’t seem like she got more surgery – I don’t even know if you could).

I won’t go deep into the story of Bell at this time, that’s probably for another post. But for Joyce, Bell was the case that forced gender clinicians to start examining what the hell was going on with gender-dysphoric minors. In 1989, Tavistock clinic opened and had two referrals, both young boys. In 2020, there were over 2300 referrals, with nearly 75% being girls (most of them being teenagers). This is a pattern, Joyce says, that is replicated worldwide. I can’t find any sources to confirm this, but I’ve heard Destiny argue the same (that trans men are more commonplace than trans women), and he seems like he has a pretty good grasp of trans issues and facts.

In any case, Joyce attempts to diagnose why there has been such a large growth in girls choosing to come out as boys, or even just describing themselves with terms like gender-fluid, non-binary, etc.

Her answer? Sexuality, modern feminism, and social contagion.

Sexuality

After his initial study of his male patients, Blanchard turned his attention eventually to his minority of female patients. All of them were homosexual and masculine in presentation/interests. A rare few were autoandrophiles. Note that Blanchard did not describe them that way, I’m using the term because it fits what he seems to be getting at, but his term was “autohomoerotics”.

Modern Feminism

Joyce starts with the story of Margaret Bulkley. Bulkley was an Irish woman born in 1789 who took the name of her dead uncle to train as a doctor. She was ultimately forced by circumstance to live the fake identity permanently.

This story it not, by itself, that important, but the reaction to how it has been portrayed is telling for Joyce. She compares the responses to two biographies: * Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time* and The Cape Doctor. The first was published in 2016 and was well-received, the second in 2019 and trashed in some places as “transphobic”. Joyce thus places the moment when gender identity eclipsed biological sex amongst intellectuals somewhere between the two publication dates.

Personally, I think this is shoddy argumentation. Joyce is pointing to reviews by randoms online for a book that was probably only of interest to a small number of people and claims that this is how you know when this happened for intellectuals at large. I think this would be better proof of gender identity reaching far enough into the public that such reviews would be posted.

If anything, I would place gender identity as already having taken over biological sex amongst intellectuals prior to 2016, but probably not too long before that. The Great Awokening was just a few years prior and Obergefell was decided in 2015. However, it’s worth acknowledging that many ideas that became publicly acceptable in the middle of the 2010s had long-since been brewing and arguably dominating academic circles for much longer. CRT was a product of the 1980s, it just didn’t get attention until a few years ago when its tenets entered the Overton Window.

Going past this, Joyce argues that the reception to the second biography and subsequent transgendering of Bulkley illustrate the issue of modern feminism. Where previously a woman challenged the oppression of her sex, a trans man simply opted out while leaving that oppression untouched. Women in the past had lived as men for multiple reasons, but their reasons were typically not that they had been born in the wrong bodies. Economics, sexuality, and even desires for personal freedom all intermingled into why a woman might defend her decision to live as a man.

Social Contagion

In 2015, Lisa Littman, an American physician and public health specialist, began to notice teenagers in her community announcing their transgender status in quick succession. When it hit six (all from the same group), Littman grew suspicious. The research did not suggest clusters at all. So she embarked upon a terrible quest to gaze into the abyss that would surely see her crack in the face of a cold and uncaring universe - going to Tumblr and Reddit.

What she found was teenagers giving idiotic advice and telling each other to stop listening to parents and doctors. Littman quickly decided to start gathering survey data and published it in 2018, which Joyce details below.

Most of the 256 parents who completed Littman’s anonymised ninety-question survey reported that their children had announced they were trans after spending more time online, after several friends had done so, or both. Almost two-thirds of these parents’ children had previously been diagnosed with at least one psychiatric or developmental condition; many had self-harmed.

Littman came up with another term you’ve probably heard of to describe this: rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD).

Still, the causal chain lacked explanation. Why was having trans friends or spending time online making kids identify as trans?

Susan Bradley, formerly head of Toronto’s first paediatric gender clinic, argues that it has to do with autism and low self-esteem. For the first, she said that young people with autism or related disorders reject nuance and prefer rigid thinking. If they feel discomfort, they might conclude misclassification.

Where the online component comes in is what we might call the WebMD Effect. A child finding discomfort in their gender would search up symptoms, be told by other people or by the webpages of institutions that they are trans, and less-than-critically accept this.

The internet component has seen a great deal of discussion in recent years, reasonably so if this idea only came out in 2018. Joyce relates stories about girls who are anxious or lonely and perhaps have unpleasant experiences where their female status plays a role – sexualized harassment, rejection by a crush, etc. They turn to social media for explanations and get told they are trans and that they are valid. A powerful feeling of acceptance drowns out any skepticism in the mind. Tumblr gets some blame for this; Joyce implies that its culture made being white/straight/cis or any combination of those factors a sign of evil. Being non-straight gives social status, and what teenager (let alone teenage girls) can resist that?

Root Causes

Joyce has given us three reasons she thinks explains many, perhaps most, trans cases. But do you notice something about all three? Let’s recap these motivations:

  1. Androphilia – love of men.

  2. Autogynephilia – love for oneself as a woman

  3. Social Contagion – being influenced by people online or by peers

Perhaps some of you have caught on, but if not, let me now reveal something. Recall that I discussed the case of George Jorgensen in the previous post, a man who went to Europe to physically transition in 1950. Did you at all wonder what his motivation was?

Take it away, Joyce.

As a boy, George had seemed quite ordinary. But inwardly, he was miserable, hating masculine clothes and games, and developing crushes on other boys. As an adult, he had homosexual experiences, which he regarded as immoral. He longed to ‘relate to men as a woman, not another man’, he wrote later.

And no, Joyce is most certainly not arguing that he is trans on the basis of that last line. No, Jorgensen was just another historical example of a man who was androphilic. A gay man who, unable to accept that he was gay, decided to become a woman so he didn’t violate his own morality.

Joyce’s chosen motivations are highly insulting, I imagine, to many trans people. If you are a man, you are either a homosexual in denial or someone with a fetish. If you are a young woman in 2023, you are likely being swayed by peers or social media. Some of these trans men and women are genuinely trans, but many would probably not get approval in Joyce’s eyes as truly being transgender.

To her credit, Joyce does not blame those who choose to come out as trans, depicting them as victims of the societies around them. Society and government did not allow gay men to exist in public, while pro-trans feminism actively turned women from a sex-based category to a gender-identity category. What was once a communal definition turned into one that placed highest validation of whatever an individual desired.

The Red Pill

Please see the comments for this part, the mods are mean 'cause they won't let me have more than 20k characters in my body.

That’s all for this post. Next time, we’ll get into some of the impacts Joyce attributes to the version of pro-trans ideology that has come to define what it means in 2023 to be supportive, I promise. I hope you enjoyed!

4

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

19

This is the Quality Contributions Roundup. It showcases interesting and well-written comments and posts from the period covered. If you want to get an idea of what this community is about or how we want you to participate, look no further (except the rules maybe--those might be important too).

As a reminder, you can nominate Quality Contributions by hitting the report button and selecting the "Actually A Quality Contribution!" option. Additionally, links to all of the roundups can be found in the wiki of /r/theThread which can be found here. For a list of other great community content, see here.

A few comments from the editor: first, sorry this is a little late, but you know--holidays and all. Furthermore, the number of quality contribution nominations seems to have grown a fair bit since moving to the new site. In fact, as I write this on January 5, there are already 37 distinct nominations in the hopper for January 2023. While we do occasionally get obviously insincere or "super upvote" nominations, the clear majority of these are all plausible AAQCs, and often quite a lot of text to sift through.

Second, this month we have special AAQC recognition for @drmanhattan16. This readthrough of Paul Gottfried’s Fascism: Career of a Concept began in the Old Country, and has continued to garner AAQC nominations here. It is a great example of the kind of effort and thoughtfulness we like to see. Also judging by reports and upvotes, a great many of us are junkies for good book reviews. The final analysis was actually posted in January, but it contains links to all the previous entries as well, so that's what I'll put here:

Now: on with the show!


Quality Contributions Outside the CW Thread

@Tollund_Man4:

@naraburns:

@Bernd:

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Contributions for the week of December 5, 2022

@zeke5123:

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@FiveHourMarathon:

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Sexulation

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Coloniazism

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Contributions for the week of December 12, 2022

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20

A couple people had expressed interest in this topic, and I have a bit of extra time for a couple days, so here goes:

Bona fides: I am a former infantry NCO and sniper, hunter, competitive shooter, reloader, hobby gunsmith, sometimes firearms trainer and currently work in a gun shop, mostly on the paperwork/compliance side. Back in the day, was a qualified expert with every standard small arm in the US inventory circa 2003 (M2, 4, 9, 16, 19, 249, 240B, 21, 24, 82 etc.), and today hang around the 75th percentile of USPSA classifications. I've shot Cap-and-Ball, Trap and Sporting Clays badly; Bullseye and PRS somewhat better and IDPA/USPSA/UML/Two-gun with some local success. Been active in the 2A community since the mid-90s, got my first instructor cert in high school, and have held a CPL for almost twenty years now.

I certainly don't claim to be an expert in every aspect of firearms, there's huge areas that escape my knowledge base, but if you've got questions I'll do my best to answer.

Technical questions

Gun control proposals for feasibility

Industry

Training

Wacky opinions

General geekery

Some competition links (not my own) just for the interested.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=U5IhsWamaLY&t=173

https://youtube.com/watch?v=93nEEINflXE

https://youtube.com/watch?v=utcky0zq10E

https://youtube.com/watch?v=xVh4CjbgK7s

https://youtube.com/watch?v=0IK2RUxVq3A

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported, themotte.org

I had said in my last post that I wished to review a book that promised to be more red meat for the people here. But I had not expected to be posting this so soon, I thought I might find my book of choice boring enough to last me a month. Instead, I found myself engaged so deeply that I binged the entire work in a few days.

Helen Joyce is an Irish journalist and executive editor for “events business” at the Economist. She’s currently on sabbatical to do some work for Sex Matters, a UK non-profit that advises the public on the importance of biological sex as a category when making policy. In July of 2021, she published Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality. It purports to be a general book about the history of transgenderism, trans activism, and the issues that trans women pose to cis women.

It is the first one that we will focus on this post.

The Girl From Denmark

For Joyce, the story begins with Einar Wegener. Wegener was a Danish man born in 1882. He was an artist and married to Gerda Wegener. As the story goes, Gerda was convinced by Anna Larssen to have Einar take Larssen’s place for some modeling because the latter was running late. Wegener’s modeling for his wife was kept a secret for years. “Hardly anyone knew that Gerda’s sultry, sloe-eyed model was her cross-dressing husband,” Joyce writes. Eventually, the couple moved to Paris, but Einar was not the only person involved now. A new figure, named Lili, began to introduce herself as Gerda’s sister.

It was, you may have guessed, Einar. Over time, he seems to have grown weaker compared to the “woman in this body”, suggesting a battle in the mind over which identity was the real one. Doctors at the time diagnosed him as mad or homosexual. But this did nothing to resolve the conflict, and Einar was determined to either make Lili a reality or simply end his own persona.

In 1930, that opportunity would come at the hands of the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin and its founder Magnus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld believed that people were all bisexual, but not in the sense that they were attracted to both, rather that they were both. This was naturally attractive to the ailing model because it allowed for the possibility that you could move from one sex to the other with enough work. He was willing to operate on Einar.

The surgeries were grueling and saw the removal of testicles and penis, then insertion of ovaries, and finally the construction of a “natural outlet”. This last part is not necessarily clear as the Nazis burned the institute’s records in 1933, leaving only Lili's memoir Man Into Woman. it would probably have been a neovagina or attempted womb transplant.

In any case, Einar ceased to exist in the operating room, and Lili was manifested into reality. Things could not have been better after the surgery, it seemed. The King of Denmark gave Lili a new passport that defined her sex as female and annulled her marriage to Gerda. She went on to get engaged to an art dealer.

Sadly, Lili would die before the marriage in September 1931 due to heart failure. But she wrote that she had found her 14 months of life as Lili to be a “whole and happy human life”.

Joyce commends Hirschfeld for his forward-thinking nature and willingness to support franchising women and supported decriminalizing homosexual relationships between men (he was himself gay), but excoriates his views on what it means to be a female. She suggests that his views had a conspicuously shaped hole named Charles Darwin. For Joyce, Darwin had conclusively demonstrated that there was no meaningful definition of sex apart from that about reproduction. She accuses believers in Hirschfeld’s model as being sexist and simply accommodating the existence of women scientists, poets and leaders by claiming they were simply being less womanly.

Lili does not get off scott-free either, Joyce relates passages from her memoir that suggest some unconscious sexism in her mind. Lili believed her validation as a woman would come about by having a child. She self-described as the character opposite to Einar: thoughtless to his thoughtfulness, illogical to his ingenuity, superficial to his sagacity. The last fulfilment of being a real woman, according to Lili, was to have a “sterner being, the husband” to protect her in life.

Lili's importance to this topic will become clear eventually, I promise.

“What American Woman Wouldn’t Be Happy?”

Following this lengthy account come yet another, this time about Christine Jorgensen, formerly known as George Jorgensen. Jorgensen was a 26-year-old New Yorker who went to Europe in 1950 to get treatment for “men like him”. The 1930s and 40s had seen the rise of synthetic sex hormones and antibiotics, with some doctors now claiming it was possible to move males to the female end of the spectrum. Jorgensen would return in 1952 having undergone castration, penectomy, and plastic surgery for his external female genitalia.

Crucially, however, the doctors who treated him did not regard themselves as making him the opposite sex. They saw him as a man so beset by “transvestism” as to be unable to live without presenting as a woman. Christine was the one who claimed to be a woman to the media (the title of this section is a paraphrasing of what she told reporters). The media that covered the story, and their readers, ate it up. They praised the results and cast no doubt on Jorgensen’s claims about what sex was or about her own intersex condition.

But for all the many requests that the doctors who did the operation received, all were turned down. Instead, Joyce argues, an enterprising fraud and German endocrinologist would take up this task. That man’s name? Harry Benjamin.

To be clear, I don’t see any evidence that Benjamin didn’t believe what he said, and Joyce doesn’t directly argue this either. But the references to his quack background seem chosen to imply as much.

In any case, Benjamin was an outspoken advocate for using hormones and surgery to treat “transsexualists” as opposed to most doctors of the time who would have use electric shocks or mega-doses of the original sex’s hormones to “cure” the desire. In 1963, he took on a patient named Rita Erickson and transitioned her into Reed Erickson. Erickson was grateful and funded him for several research symposia. Erickson also went on to fund the Erickson Educational Foundation, which primarily focused on funding studies into transsexualism, as well as the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic.

In the following decade, other major medical centers would open up programs of a similar sort. Thus began a slow but continuous effort by doctors and researchers who would go on to be authorities and gatekeepers. They did their best to accommodate their patients. In 1979, they would all get together and found their own professional association, the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association.

Or, as you may know it after 2006, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Putting Your Money Where Your Benjamin Is

The history of transgenderism cannot be explained without talking about the man who coined the term “gender”. John Money was a Harvard psychologist from New Zealand who popularized the sex-gender distinction that people use even to this day.

Briefly, Money is the reason we talk about gender at all and make the distinction between sex and gender. For him, a woman or man was defined by taking on certain roles, which they were socialized (taught by others) into accepting. But some people were atypical for their sex and took on the roles of the other sex more easily/naturally. In other words, gender was what your roles were, and sex was your body.

Joyce describes their meeting as a moment when the stars aligned. You had Benjamin on one hand who believed that sex was a spectrum and people could move between the two ends, and Money on the other who believed that men and women were defined by what roles they took on, not by their bodies. Combined in a manner akin to Dragon Ball Z’s Fusion Dance, they created a powerful new theory of what caused cross-sex identification, what it meant, and what to do about it.

This can be found in Bejamin’s work The Transsexual Phenomenon. In it, he gave Hirschfeld’s depiction of a sex spectrum and described transsexuals as people suffering from a mind-body mismatch. He would also nod to Money’s ideas about “gender feeling” (a collection of feelings, attitudes, and desires). If this feeling was settled and mismatched to the body, then the body had to give.

We will discuss Money, his work, and his impact in a later post.

Handling Edge Cases

I mentioned previously that Lili Elbe had been granted a new passport by the Kingdom of Denmark that stated her sex as female. But, as Helen Joyce asks, what did this really mean to the people who made such decisions?

She relates the case of Corbett v. Corbett as a telling example in far more detail than really necessary. Arthur Corbett wanted his marriage to April Ashley annulled on the grounds that she was a trans woman. Corbett did not look totally good in this case, to be clear, as he was someone who broke up his previous marriage because he was obsessed with Ashley and only demanded an annulment when she started asking for the deeds to their house. The judge in that case delivered the following remarks (somewhat paraphrased) to a devastated Ashley.

Intercourse using the completely artificially constructed cavity could never constitute true intercourse…the respondent is not, and was not, a woman at the date of the ceremony of marriage, but was, at all times, a male.

Joyce characterizes the response by officials and governments in the first half of the 20th century as trying to resolve some small number of anomalous cases with varying amounts of compassion and logic. The British government of Ashley’s time (the 1960s) believed that no operation could change sex, so even if the NHS would perform sex-change operations, it would not allow the recipient to go about being treated as a woman by the government.

But why said governments went about it how they did is an important question, and Joyce attributes this to two factors: the rise of bureaucracy and the shift in what defined womanhood.

Firstly, there was always a legal significance to being a man or woman: voting, inheriting, or even controlling money was dependent upon this. But no laws defined sex because it seemed pointless. Everyone could just see and make an accurate assessment, and the few who cross-dressed or passed as the other sex could be seen by their naked body.

This obviously changed with Lili Elbe, who would not appear male under nudity. But the less obvious influence was the rise of government documentation that listed sex. If you showed these, they would count as proof that you were a man or woman. To someone who was trans, these documents were sought after as another bit of proof to help get society to validate the new identity. Persuading bureaucrats was now a useful goal.

Secondly, what it meant to have womanhood, or be a woman, changed significantly between Jorgensen’s return in 1952 and her death in 1989. For doctors, journalists, and lawyers who were involved with this topic, it was no longer about having a body that could under normal circumstances get pregnant. Now it was about being able to “receive” in heterosexual sex and an inner sense of being “female”.

At first glance, this does not sound too bad, but without reference to reproduction, Joyce argues that being a woman became more individualistic over communal. Reproductive service was about your role in your species, sexual service was about your role to your husband.

This, she argues, was the birth of “gender identity”.

The Role Of Leftist Thought

Joyce, surprisingly enough, does not really delve deeply into the role played by broader left-wing ideology in supporting and even promoting transgenderism. She does spend some effort to address what she calls “social justice” or “applied postmodernism” (AP). As she tells it, AP rejects objectivity, logic, and reason. Here, language prescribes instead of describes, meaning oppression springs from discourse. The focus on letting individuals reign supreme in defining themselves fits mind-body dualism perfectly, since it means being a man or woman can never be gatekept.

But to convince others of this, you have to deny the objectivity of sex and instead insist that gender identities are the real thing. Judith Butler, described as the most influential gender theorist, has argued that sex and gender are not distinct and are both socially constructed. Tellingly, Butler defines transness as the mismatch between what society tells you to act as and what you know about yourself (notice the framing of society oppressing individual expression). Doctors, she argues, engage in performance when they register a baby’s sex, changing social reality by their very words.

Joyce discusses the terms AFAB/AMAB (assigned female at birth, assigned male at birth) and argues that they deny any argument that man/woman might be gender and male/female can be kept for sex. Instead, she argues, TRA ideology takes these terms to mean you are female or male should you define yourself that way.

This was a bold claim to me. I had even recently argued, among other things, that I did not know how many TRAs (trans rights activists) believed that a trans person was by nature the sex they identified as. Joyce would tell me that my definition of “sex” includes immutability, and I think that it a good definition of my position. I do not think we should define sex as anything other than what your natal body’s reproductive pathways are, but I remain open to arguments to the contrary.

With that said, I think Joyce has pointed to a gap in my own thinking. I had assumed that when terms like AFAB and AMAB are used, TRAs understood sex mostly as I did. But if they follow ideas like Butler’s, then sex and gender are both malleable to the extent that yes, TRAs would tell you they are actually the same in terms of body as people of the sex they identify as.

As for how widespread this idea is, I’ve found the following.

  1. Here are 3 studies published in 2017 and 2018 that use male/female as one would traditionally use man/woman.

  2. Wikipedia defines trans women as having a “female gender identity”.

  3. A 700 person Twitter poll from 2018 where about 50% said that trans women are female.

There is more, of course, but I think these at least suggest the idea sex and gender are to some people mutable. I’m still not clear on how prevalent this view of sex is, but I think it is at least not insignificant.

I’m a bit frustrated that Joyce doesn’t go further into the role of left-wing thought in the intellectual and ideological support for transgenderism. I think it would be worthwhile to discuss what drove, and arguable drives, left-wing support for glorifying all forms of individual expression. I myself covered one such motivation here.

That’s all for this post. Next time, we’ll go over the harm Joyce attributes to the version of pro-trans ideology that has come to define what it means in 2023 to be supportive, and maybe some other stuff as well. I hope you enjoyed!

3

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

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PCA did not produce correct and\or consistent results across all the design schemes, whether even-sampling was used or not, and whether for unmixed or admixed populations. We have shown that the distances between the samples are biased and can be easily manipulated to create the illusion of closely or distantly related populations. Whereas the clustering of populations between other populations in the scatter plot has been regarded as “decisive proof” or “very strong evidence” of their admixture, we demonstrated that such patterns are artifacts of the sampling scheme and meaningless for any bio historical purposes. Sample clustering, a subject that received much attention in the literature, e.g., Ref., is another artifact of the sampling scheme and likewise biologically meaningless (e.g., Figs. 12, 13, 14, 15), which is unsurprising if the distances are distorted. PCA violations of the true distances and clusters between samples limit its usability as a dimensional reduction tool for genetic analyses. Excepting PC1, where the distribution patterns may (e.g., Fig. 5a) or may not (e.g., Fig. 9) bear some geographical resemblance, most of the other PCs are mirages (e.g., Fig. 16). The axes of variation may also change unexpectedly when a few samples are added, altering the interpretation.

Specifically, in analyzing real populations, we showed that PCA could be used to generate contradictory results and lead to absurd conclusions (reductio ad absurdum), that “correct” conclusions cannot be derived without a priori knowledge and that cherry-picking or circular reasoning are always needed to interpret PCA results. This means that the difference between the a posteriori knowledge obtained from PCA and a priori knowledge rests solely on belief. The conflicting PCA outcomes shown here via over 200 figures demonstrate the high experimenter’s control over PCA’s outcome. By manipulating the choice of populations, sample sizes, and markers, experimenters can create multiple conflicting scenarios with real or imaginary historical interpretations, cherry-pick the one they like, and adopt circular reasoning to argue that PCA results support their explanation.

...

Indeed, after “exploring” 200 figures generated in this study, we obtained no a posteriori wisdom about the population structure of colors or human populations. We showed that the inferences that followed the standard interpretation in the literature were wrong. PCA is highly subjected to minor alterations in the allele frequencies (Fig. 12), study design (e.g., Fig. 9), or choice of markers (Fig. 22) (see also Refs.57,68). PCA results also cannot be reproduced (e.g., Fig. 13) unless an identical dataset is used, which defeats the usefulness of this tool. In that, our findings thereby join similar reports on PCA’s unexpected and arbitrary behavior. Note that variations in the implementations of PCA (e.g., PCA, singular value decomposition [SVD], and recursive PCA), as well as various flags, as implemented in EIGENSOFT, yield major differences in the results—none more biologically correct than the other. That the same mathematical procedure produces biologically conflicting and false results proves that bio historical inferences drawn only from PCA are fictitious.

I highly recommend reading the entire article. It is quite detailed. They do PCA analyses with a toy model using colors with admixture and show that choice of inputs can yield an admixed population (the color Black) arbitrarily close to any of its component mixtures (Blue, Green, or Red) on a scatter plot of their principle components. They also go through data sets of some other population genetics studies and show how using those data sets can generate conflicting PCA results depending heavily on the researchers choice of inputs.

Part 1 – Defining Fascism

Part 2 – Fascism and Totalitarianism

Part 3 – Fascism as the Unconquered Past

Part 4 – Fascism as a Movement of the Left

Part 5 – The Failure of Fascist Internationalism

Part 6 – The Search for a Fascist Utopia

Part 7 – A Vanished Revolutionary Right and Addendum – Fascism and Modernization

Part 8 - Discussion and Conclusion (You are here)

Making sense of Gottfried

When I started this series, I said that I wanted to understand what fascism actually means beyond shallow political jabs at one’s enemies. I was concerned that Gottfried might be another Jonah Goldberg, a conservative trying to throw the charge back at the people who originally levied it.

To my surprise, however, Gottfried was not that shallow, and seemed to be earnest in discussing the topic at hand. This is obvious just from the topics he selected. While it’s true that he ultimately rejects many of the claims more mainstream and often silly takes public intellectuals, even some historians, give, he isn’t interested in just saying “no u” at every stage. Well, he kind of is, but he’s not being annoying about it.

In every chapter of this book, there’s an argument being made that is typically historically contextualized and with multiple believers in those viewpoints being cited. Gottfried doesn’t appear to be citing random people or those who aren’t even engaging with the subject seriously, he’s bringing up people who intentionally chose to speak about these things from their standpoint as public thinkers and intellectuals.

The contextualization is inherently necessary, Gottfried needs it when he’s trying to explain how the meaning of the term has changed and how its use has evolved. That he also wants to refute these people is a different thread running through this book.

Accuracy

We need to consider how correct Gottfried is. He’s gone over a seemingly-disconnected list of debates regarding fascism as an idea, citing many people while not being necessarily kinder/harsher to people on/against his side. But he might still be incorrect in one or more areas, perhaps even his whole thesis.

A good place to start might be chapter 3, which covers the Frankfurt School. As Gottfried tells it, the Frankfurt School was supported by the OSS in WW2 and post-WW2 so that the US government could understand what led the Nazis to power. The FS members all being Marxist, they argued that many seemingly normal (or within the Overton Window) behaviors were symptoms of being fascist/authoritarian/right-wing. Their influence is said to have created the modern understanding of what is or is not fascist, with Germany bearing the brunt of their attempts to assert their ideology as reality.

But there is some reason to be skeptical here. For one thing, understanding how the Nazis came to power was a broad project involving countless WW2 and post-WW2 researchers, political scientists, psychologists, and others. This chapter has been discussed prior to my own posts on themotte, with some pointing out that people of different ideologies all tried to understand the Nazi and totalitarian phenomenon and Gottfried doesn’t really demonstrate that an enduring legacy of the FS was its work on fascism. Consider, for example, this article from 2016 by Vox.

This study of authoritarianism began shortly after World War II, as political scientists and psychologists in the US and Europe tried to figure out how the Nazis had managed to win such wide public support for such an extreme and hateful ideology.

That was a worthy field of study, but the early work wasn't particularly rigorous by today's standards. The critical theorist Theodor Adorno, for instance, developed what he called the "F-scale," which sought to measure "fascist" tendencies. The test wasn't accurate. Sophisticated respondents would quickly discover what the "right" answers were and game the test. And there was no proof that the personality type it purportedly measured actually supported fascism.

More than that, this early research seemed to assume that a certain subset of people were inherently evil or dangerous — an idea that Hetherington and Weiler say is simplistic and wrong, and that they resist in their work. (They acknowledge the label "authoritarians" doesn't do much to dispel this, but their efforts to replace it with a less pejorative-sounding term were unsuccessful.)

If, as Gottfried seems to argue, it was the FS that created the modern academic view of fascism as a lurking threat, then Vox’s description of the F-scale and Adorno is evidence against this field’s mainstream position being part of the FS legacy. To be clear, there are still problems with how these researchers are doing what they do, but that’s irrelevant to whether Gottfried accurately depicted the influence of the FS.

A defense of the book despite possible inaccuracies about the FS is that Gottfried might be like Wikipedia – excellent at history that isn’t highly salient to modern politics. Maybe he’s entirely correct in how he describes the inevitable failure of fascist internationalism or the various types of fascist utopias. But I had a moment where I seriously pondered if this was correct. In chapter 7, Gottfried writes the following.

Ever since the defeat of Nazi Germany, and even during the struggle against Soviet communism, what were once deemed leftist ideas have been in the ascendant, and Americans and western Europeans have constructed parliamentary polarities on the basis of this given. Only the German government has been totally honest about this process. Chancellor Merkel’s chief advisor, Volker Kauder has indicated that after the horrors of the Nazi experience, Germany refuses to have a Right.5 Its parties must all come out of the Left or else out of a center that presumably tends in a leftist direction. To whatever extent the present Christian Democrats are “Christian,” Kauder explains, they are committed to social change of a non-rightist type.

When you go to the citation, it links to this article. Maybe Gottfried just has a better understanding of Kauder, the CDU, and Germany than I do (very likely), but I don’t see how you can interpret what Kauder said in the way Gottfried does. Kauder doesn’t seem to reference the Nazis at all, nor does he argue that all parties should only come out of the left. He does argue that “Bible faithful Christians” should not fragment the party and should work within it instead, but that’s about it.

I’m hesitant to argue that my reading is correct (I’m using Google Translate to read it and I have a superficial understanding of Germany), but if I am, then Gottfried at best is not always citing what he means to, and at worse, is using his own beliefs to convince himself of the strength of a citation.

Lingering points of confusion

Perhaps I’ll fully realize what all the points are that I found confusing in this book, but for now, I have just two.

The first is about the odd placement of Gottfried’s grappling with Roger Griffin. Griffin is a famed historian of fascism, having written several books and articles on the topic. I’m not entirely sure what his position on this is, but I’d hazard a guess and say that he doesn’t agree with Gottfried that it is something uniquely confined to the interwar era or WW2. But even if he did, it’s really odd that you don’t really see him cite or reference the man in the main book at all, only in an appendix and on the topic of modernism of all things.

The second has to do with why Gottfried exactly rejects Stanley Payne. Payne assigns the fascists to the revolutionary right, says that they cobbled together their ideology, and says they aren’t like the traditional right or even authoritarian nationalist parties. As far as I can tell, Gottfried would broadly agree with most of these. But he says the following about one of Payne’s books.

Payne reconstructs a fascist world view that looks like a grab bag of ideas borrowed from different sources. In Fascism: Comparison and Definition, the readers are given characteristics that Payne deemed common to fascist movements everywhere: they are all marked by a “permanent nationalistic one-party authoritarianism,” “the search for a synthetic ethnicist ideology,” a charismatic leader, a corporatist political economy, and “a philosophical principle of voluntarist activism unbounded by any philosophical determinism.

I can see why he would call it a grab bag, but what I don’t grasp is what the more serious distinctions between Payne and Gottfried’s positions are because this book doesn’t seem to explain it more explicitly. To the extent that Stanley Payne is more mainstream, it seems like a depiction of fascism that is mostly accurate and not confined to a specific period as Gottfried would argue. But he barely gets much attention, only a bit more than Griffin.

Final Thoughts

I had a great deal of fun reading this book. Gottfried writes in a way designed to illustrate what he thinks are the differences in views of fascism, which makes for a more engaging reading than simply stating his case without consideration for what other scholars think. At least, it does if you’re interested in getting some kind of map of the field/topic itself.

I lack the ability, of course, to critically look at depth into the sources he’s citing. I have neither time nor intellectual framework to really even do that. If you want to see someone more scholarly tackle the subject, I’ve found a startlingly barren field of reviews for this book. There’s only one that I can find, but it’s a short one.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested. At the very least, it does provide a more coherent argument for why you might be skeptical of the Frankfurt School and Marxist ideologies in general (read chapter 3 if you just want this). At least two people (1, 2) seem to agree with me that it’s much more convincing than hearing someone rant about Jewish Marxists more angrily.

As for me, I don’t think I’m going to jump into further books just yet, or perhaps never again. My interest in this subject has waned a bit, and I plan to start reading and eventually reviewing another book, one that should be more proverbial red meat for some of you.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed!

10

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2

Happy New Year!

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

The nootropics spaces online (notably /r/nootropics, among others) contain references to compounds like semax or noopept which seem to have unclear support from the literature, or in the case of semax have hundreds of studies from russian labs, and only a single one from a western lab (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acschemneuro.1c00707).

After having little success with the headache meds my doctors have been prescribing me, I was thinking of trying some of these compounds. I was curious what your guys' thoughts are on these compounds. Is there a good reason they haven't been studied much in the west yet, or is it just inertia?

Open to any thoughts.

Thanks.

This is the first intermission of 👯, listed as season 1 episode 7 for filing purposes. In this episode, TracingWoodgrains, MasterThief, The Sultan Of Swing, XantosCell, and Unsaying discuss religious community.

This discussion was originally slated to be released as an episode of the The Bailey podcast, but eventually it was decided that it should be published elsewhere instead, and so it finds its home here, at 👯.

The image used in the video is Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld's Pentecost woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bildern", 1860:

https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_226.png

Show notes:

36:00 Unsaying's superintelligence of deity post: https://old.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/a54d99/the_compression_problem/

39:47 Despite instructions made in the moment, this tangent was not cut out, as it turned out to be relevant. Normally, any requests to cut something out would be honored, but everyone involved assented to this edit of the episode.

47:03 Xantos's snake-handling video: https://youtube.com/watch?v=2dlnqRDmmds

Extended show notes:

(Discussing unsuitability for marriage and the path of monasticism) https://old.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/hkesjh/comment/fwy8ofv/

https://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/watching-spotlight-young-priest

https://babylonbee.com/news/dozens-of-bible-verses-come-forward-to-accuse-joel-osteen-of-abuse

(If people want more BG on heresies, i dunno) https://old.reddit.com/r/Catholicism/comments/4ihgog/extra_history_on_early_christian_schisms_pt_2/

This is just a quick-and-dirty thought I had while browsing the roundup thread tonight, and I figured I'd just dash it out here since I want to post something else in the big thread and not clutter it up.

Part of what spurred this was a recent video by Rimmy Downunder, who you might recognize as the Australian guy who uploads a lot of edited videos about Arma 3 and other kinds of simulationist-type games. It's an hour-long video, so to quickly summarize: if you are a big creator on YouTube, you should never ask Team YouTube for help on Twitter whenever one of your videos gets demonetized or age-restricted, because in the name of consistency, they will just go through your channel and do the same thing to all of your videos, making your algorithm performance and monetization drop even further. Contained within this video is discussion of new rules for advertiser-friendliness--specifically, the guidelines around profanity and the severity, frequency, and latency with which it is uttered in a video--changes that weren't exactly announced by YouTube, along with new policies for how YouTube reviews creators' appeals against the dings they get.

This post isn't about recent drama on a social media platform so big that it should really be regulated as a common carrier, or even about the constant frustration with inconsistent enforcement of rules, but instead, it's about the degree to which our modern society seems to be drilling down on making things all sanitized and offense-free.

Just to talk about YouTube a little more, I've been aware for a while that the entire design of YouTube--what is allowed, what is punished, and what is incentivized, whether that be through the algorithm or the automated content-policing systems they almost certainly have deployed--is set up to push creators into making the absolute safest content possible. I don't feel like digging up all the videos that talk about this phenomenon, but as an example: if you want to maximize your potential ad revenue on YouTube as a gaming channel, you need to play kid-friendly games (like Minecraft and Fortnite), say absolutely no swear words (at most, you might get away with TV-friendly minced oaths), and basically treat any copyrighted material (or even anything that could plausibly get claimed by some anonymous third party) like the plague. Add on sponsorships and upsells of patronage sites, and it makes for content you or I might consider...banal.

But again, this is about the direction we're all being pushed in. I could ramble here about how excellence and hard work aren't rewarded on a particular website, but this goes beyond YouTube and all social media platforms. Why is it that we've moved from a culture that was permissive with expression (to put it a certain way) to one where something even slightly outre is left to wither on the vine? (Okay, sure, you can find weird and shocking modern art, but probably a lot of said modern art is made to help sell people on the idea of Marxism or whatever, as opposed to something like Dilbert 3 [NSFW] which presumably isn't trying to push any message and just exists, well, because.)

Likely, you're already aware of how the modern Culture War has had its effects on pop culture and media, where any work that gets advertised on TV or pushed to the front shelves of your local bookstore or recommended online often has to fit in with modern sensibilities, so I won't rehash the history of that here. Creators often subscribe to various versions and formulations of progressive ideals, people will judge past works through the lens of today, and what was perfectly acceptable within the tits-n'-beer liberalism milieu of old is often scrutinized today.

There's also the other cultural aspects of this coddling/infantilization/whatever-you-want-to-call-it memeplex. Many Americans are becoming more and more like the hikikomori of Japan, one of the less-inflammatory ways of describing the current state of the battle of the sexes is that the male gender role has been razed and not rebuilt (this was the post that spurred this one, but this topic has come up before), and we may have accidentally re-invented segregation because it's easier to not interact with those outside our specific demographics rather than trying to interact with them and risk reputational homicide.

So, the question I have is: where did all this come from, and why? Is it what some call "safetyism," the impulse to prevent harm at all costs and take no risks whatsoever? Relatedly, is it because legal liability is treated as a mortal risk, because lawsuits can be a punishment in themselves? Is it because of the unkillable zombie Boomers who, even in their old age, and with all of the pains they've suffered in their long lives, keenly remember the trauma of troubled childhoods the most, and have used their power as the current generation of power-holders to make sure that no child ever grows up feeling hardship?* Is it some combination of all three things, where nobody really complains about the effect it has on the broader culture so long as some politician's (grand)kids are doing okay?

I'm not necessarily advocating for edginess for edginess' sake (though I think that could have value), but I think American society has somehow forgotten how to masterfully blend novelty, maturity, and creativity, and right now, it seems like the only people who take risks are the same people who can't handle them (or, at least, they tend to make a poor showing once they start doing whatever it is they do).

*Granted, some of the people responsible might be Gen Xers instead, such as YT's current CEO and possibly their content moderation team, too.

4

Welcome to the final regular thread of 2022!

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

4

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Part 1 – Defining Fascism

Part 2 – Fascism and Totalitarianism

Part 3 – Fascism as the Unconquered Past

Part 4 – Fascism as a Movement of the Left

Part 5 – The Failure of Fascist Internationalism

Part 6 – The Search for a Fascist Utopia

Part 7 – A Vanished Revolutionary Right and Addendum – Fascism and Modernization (You are here)

Part 8 - Discussion and Conclusion

Chapter 7

The final chapter of this book is short. It starts with a summation of his views, but dedicates a great deal of words to criticizing a whole host of people who Gottfried seems to dislike.

We’ll start with mainstream US Republicans. In particular, Gottfried argues that Republicans claim to be on the right, but they “privilege in their discourse” things like human rights and equality. There’s no move to destroy the welfare state from Republicans, who are more than willing to preserve/expand these programs for themselves. It’s not even necessarily right-wing to dismantle the welfare state, Gottfried argues. As for talk about “traditional values”, Gottfried credits the fascists as at the very least honest about how they were constantly redefining their movement compared to American Republicans.

Gottfried details similar circumstances in Canada and Western Europe, but he describes Germany as unique being honest about a refusal to allow a genuine right-wing movement. Some, like sociologist Niklas Luhmann, have argued that insofar as there is a “right”, it should be Burkean in nature and defend the status quo, while the “left” should pursue emancipation even for those that don’t necessarily want it.

As for the left, Gottfried accuses them of trying to pigeonhole anti-Enligtenment thinkers into being the logical forefathers of the fascist and Nazi movements. He points to Zeev Sternhell, a historian of fascism as clear example of this. Sternhell’s book Les anti-Lumières du XVllle siècle à la guerre froide supposedly makes many errors, like trying to associate all Enlightenment critics into the same house or doing the same with Nazism and far less destructive forms like Mussolini’s Italy or Salazars’ Portugal.

But Gottfried isn’t content to leave it at this, and instead accuses Sternhell of hypocrisy. Why? Because Sternhell is a Jew and self-described “super-Zionist”. When it comes to Israel, he believes that Jews have the right to control their own fates and future. But he gets angry at people like Joseph de Maistre for saying the following.

There is no man as such; I have only encountered Frenchmen, Italians and Russians and from reading Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, I now know that Persians exist. As for mankind, I have yet to find such a thing.

Sternhell, Gottfried argues, essentially proves the truth in the Enlightenment’s critics’ philosophy – that things which are concrete, particularistic, and communal are what shape human identities.

Addendum

There’s one additional part to this book, which is about fascism and how it relates to modernization.

For Roger Griffin (a famous historian of fascism), modernity is the “localized emergence in…Europe of the reflexive mode of historical consciousness” that started in the late 18th century that ultimately legitimated the French revolutionaries and their fundamentalist war against tradition to replace it with something new. He notes here that there are two different definitions of modernism: one is about the artistic/philosophical movement, the other about “pedestrian” modernity that its critics (called modernists) would complain about. The latter are the people being discussed.

In any case, there was not really an alternative society modernists could point to, and they weren’t eager to retreat to the past either. Griffin argued that these people arose to combat the threat of nihilism as Western myths of progress lost credibility and modernity entered a period of liminality. The most prominent modernists were on the far left, but Gottfried argues that this is natural – modernism was overall optimistic about the future. That said, you could find a strain of modernism that led inexorably to the right – the literary modernists.

That said, Gottfried criticizes Griffin for trying to attempt, among other things, to convince the reader that right-wing sensibilities in reactionary modernism might jump out from 1945 into the present. For Gottfried, this is silly and assumes that fascism came to power due to no small influence by reactionary modernist artists and others like them.

There is more to this section, namely about to whether the Nazis were really traditionalists following their forefathers, but it’s largely uninteresting. Briefly, Gottfried reviews the work of historian Rainer Zitelmann. Gottfried commends him for his accurate depiction of the Nazis as “radically antitraditional” and trying to jump to the future but criticizes him over some arguments where he’s at pain to explain reality away.

To summarize, modern US Republicans are not as right-wing in the historical sense, having adopted important left-wing ideas and words into their minds. The left is politically motivated to inaccurately cast thinkers who rejected the Enlightenment as straight-line ancestors of the fascists and Nazis, with some people hypocritical as they reserve exceptions for particular groups to decide their own fates at the group level. There was absolutely a strain of modernist thinking that led to the right, found particularly among literary modernists, but the idea that their influence in the past or even in the present leads to fascism is entirely misguided.

That’s all for this book. I’ll have a follow-up post where I discuss my own thoughts, as I need time to reflect on everything as a whole.

11

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