site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of March 11, 2024

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

An obscure figure from the old Alt Right takes the Hanania Pill.

The main reason I am posting this is not that, but to highlight his insider's history of the 2015-2017 era Alt Right which makes up much of an accompanying article.

1: Hanania's apparent survival of cancellation for past extremism via telling his story and disavowing his most extreme past views may have been quietly influential. This is the 2nd guy I've seen do it without even being forced to by exposure.

2: This guy claims to have been a quietly very influential figure and tells a story where his actions had a very outsized effect on the world. Maybe truly, maybe not. But his general account of events besides his own part in them is an insider's history of that much-mythologized period of the Alt Right, which was very influential and did have have a very outsized effect on the world, and his account seems to be a reasonably well-calibrated explanation of how their influence rippled into events.

In the Midwest I encountered a different kind of White person that honestly seemed quasi-Asian to me. They had no will to power. They were not Romans. They seemed more like the Chinese of the Ming era, or like modern Europeans. But there wasn’t a Faustian spirit to be found anywhere [...]

Compared to my early 20s self, I am a lot less prone to ingrouping with the kind of White people who deliberately shut themselves off from the world by retreating to the ‘burbs—people who just want to be comfortable and don’t have a burning desire to change the world. I’ve also lost any protective instinct toward people who stay in a shitty poor area with no opportunities just because they have a sentimental attachment to their podunk hometown. My experiences have taught me that these people want nothing to do with my vision for the world and aren’t my volk in any meaningful sense.

They have no destiny except under the [boot].

The Hanania pill seems to consist of arrogant shitstirrers realising that they loathe most white people just like they loathe everyone else.

They seemed more like ... modern Europeans.

God forbid.

He has no idea that those white Midwesterners have won. Why are their towns so homogeneous? Why are they all the same type of person, with the same type of culture? Why are they not Diverse?

He wants the hustle'n'bustle of the coastal cities, where he will triumph in competition as iron sharpens iron, but he also wants to be protected from competition for his labour by H1B immigrants. Well, are those Midwesterners worried about "sustained immigration of high IQ and ethnically nepotist immigrants from India into highly paid tech jobs, blocking the sons of the American middle class from the possibility of upward social advancement and leaving them stranded in five figure wagecuck hell"? I'm getting the impression that the answer there is "no".

This guy wants to be pampered, but also have the illusion that he's a rough-n-tough descendant of adventurers who dukes it out with equals and wins by virtue of his bigger brain. He has no idea where those "adventurer" ancestors come from, he doesn't want the actual adversity of fighting for a job against cheaper labour which is where the self-interest of the business owners leads them, but he still thinks that the five contradictory viewpoints he espouses can be reconciled, as long as he always comes out on top of the pile.

If a midwestern town is homogenous it's for the same reason that rural areas are homogenous anywhere in the western world: they are poor and isolated enough that migrants don't want to move there. The great cities that midwesterners built (St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago etc.) have been handed over to outsiders where they now have some of the highest murder rates in the developed world.

Yes, and in general the depiction of small town midwestern USA as some kind of paradise is ridiculous. Stripmallville with a dying main street, Applebees as the best restaurant, no organic spontaneous community because you have to drive everywhere (even to somewhere a half mile away because there’s either no sidewalk or you’re separated by an interstate that goes right through the middle of town), no beautiful architecture, and the same slowly declining social trends (birthrates, single motherhood, drug addiction) as the rest of the country, just 20 years behind is not some bucolic garden of eden.

Indeed, if one lived in the Midwest and actually wanted the kind of comfortable, pastoral, low risk existence @Walterodim described they’d be best off getting their proof of German ancestry in order, applying for a visa and moving to some little village in Bavaria or Baden Württemberg with zero immigrants; at least there the scenery is much better, the architecture is better, the schools are probably better, the buses are both more frequent and more timely and you’re actually in (or nearer to, certainly) the homeland of your ancestors.

Your portrayal of most American small towns is at least 10 years out of date.

I’ve been to many wonderful small towns in the US, but they were all in New England or in the outer suburbs of wealthy cities and the residents all had some source of external wealth, either from commuting into highly-paid PMC jobs in the nearest major city or from tourism. And again, if it’s a low variance rural lifestyle in a pretty, walkable, homogenous locale, much of Western Europe easily vastly outdoes the US and the US’ advantages (like much higher salaries) are less necessary.

Idk, what actually rural small Midwestern towns very far from the nearest major city are you thinking of? Happy to take a look on Streetview.

For nice, liveable midwestern towns I would put Madison IN, Granville OH and Bardstown KY as examples. Not saying they beat western Europe for the small town lifestyle, but I think they'd be perfectly fine places to live. The problem isn't so much that they look like Mordor it's just that they have no real economy or job opportunities beyond providing services for retirees to spend their social security on, stuff like insurance agent, nurse at the local clinic, auto mechanic etc. I assume that's probably similar in Europe but idk.

My deep experience is admittedly more in northern Appalachia than in the plains, but right off the bat:

-- Any market big enough to support an Applebee's has at least three (3) microbreweries/distilleries run by local boys. I grew up on road trips, and time was that you really did have the choice of stopping at Cracker Barrel or playing roadside diner roulette. In the age of Yelp and the Smartphone with Data Connection, you can find an interesting high-effort place to eat in some real tiny places. When I go on a trip to a tiny rust-belt town four hours from a major city and get local pickle-beer and pick from a well considered menu, it's such a sea-change from when I was a kid.

-- I drove through three towns, admittedly not that far from a major city, over the weekend where I saw ~1500sqft row homes available under $200k, reasonably walkable to a bar, a church, an elementary school, and a convenience store (in addition, of course, to many other homes). You will need a car to go to work, in all likelihood, or to most other places. You're never going to get the walkable variety you do in the big city, it's not a big city, you're going to get one bar and two churches.

-- RE: spontaneous community, I grew up in a small town exurb to a small city, geographically the very last place on the East Coast before the Midwest starts. I've since moved back after wandering around a bit. Most of my high achieving friends from the local high school couldn't wait to leave, and most of us did, some of us stayed, some of us came back. The proverb I've proved from reunions is this: only boring people are bored. The high schoolers who used to bitch about how much our town sucked and how there was nothing to do and how they couldn't wait to move to NYC/LA/Paris/Tokyo where Real Life was going on, well a lot of them moved to NYC/LA/Paris/Tokyo (or at least Chicago or Boston or SF) and now they bitch about how they can't afford to do anything and really the scene is dead for years and how the neighborhoods are either too gentrified or too dangerous or too touristy and there's nothing fun to do here anymore and the rent is too high and they work too much and they never get out and do anything. The people who used to drag me to sit on old couches and watch Noise Punk shows in the basement of a warehouse at Jeff the Pigeon's, who tried to put together abortive little local art shows and gave terrible slam poetry, who knew whenever a decent band was within an hour's drive and wanted to drive out to see it together, who threw barn parties and bonfires and smoked weed and read Ginsberg and Kerouac, who had tons of fun in our little town, some of them moved away, and some of them stayed, but they're all still doing cool things somewhere. Only boring people are bored, and only losers lack friends, wherever they are. There can be value in moving to shake up a hierarchy or to pursue a professional opportunity, but people are the same wherever you put them.

So when I read the OP article saying

But these Midwesterners aren’t descended from entrepreneurial adventurers like the rest of us. Their forebears were conflict averse and probably low testosterone German Catholics who fled Bismarck’s kulturkampf to acquire cheap land under the Homestead Act. These people mostly settled areas where aggro Scotch Irish types had driven off the Injun decades ago, so they never had to embrace the risk-tolerant, enterprising, itinerant mindset that had once fueled Manifest Destiny. Instead they produced families that became weirdly attached to their generic little plot of fungible prairie dirt, and as a result we now have huge pockets of the country full of overcivilized and effete Teutons with no conquering spirit who treat outsiders like shit.

These people think of themselves as “Real America”, but they are in fact the least American in their outlook of all the country’s regions. They are the least individualistic, the least ambitious, the most inclined to prioritize comfort and safety over everything else in life. America has left barely any mark on them—in temperament they’re just a bunch of stodgy Rhinelanders.

It's really easy to diagnose the problem: the dude sounds like a fucking asshole. Just an absolute prick, dripping with disdain and a superiority complex. He didn't make a ton of friends in the midwest, but I'd bet he wouldn't make any friends anywhere you dropped him. Who would want to be his friend? He couldn't manage to get a date in the midwest, but I doubt he's much in the city either, outside of low-commitment trickery-based hookup culture.

A lot of people dream of living in a different context, but absent a causal mechanism for why they'd be better off I tend towards: it'll be the same for you.