Not OK With Losing OK


Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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380 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Well, he’s either calling out to the void, or trolling the media and Twitter mobs for an extra 2 minutes of notice.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    The OK symbol was also part of the ‘proof’ that Covington Catholic was a den of secret racists. Turned out to be the 3-pointer symbol at a basketball game.

    Shame on 4chan for starting this and shame on the internet outrage machine for being so easily duped.Report

  3. Avatar JoeSal says:

    Well I guess one upside is we don’t get to signal everything is OK anymore.

    Good stuff MichaelReport

  4. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I really like Norse /Germanic mythology. I want to make a lawn display of Odin’s wild hunt for Yule. If I got a tattoo I’d love for it to come from that base of mythology.

    But the fucking Nazis are busily dibs-ing Norse myth. Our most prominent local white supremacist gang is the “wolves of Odin” Someone with a Viking avi on Twitter is undoubtedly a white supremacist.

    The hammer of Thor is for sure out as a tattoo, jewelry element, etc. If I picked a non-Nazified norse symbol for a tattoo, the risk of it changing significance in my lifetime would be far too great. I’s have to consider carefully how to do that lawn display in a way that wouldn’t make people of colour, and of good conscience generally, very uncomfortable.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      I feel your pain. I’ve been digging very deep into Norse/Germanic paganism for a while now and one of the things that is very clear when you start to lurk around their online communities is that they mostly fall into three camps: One are the folks that are basically LARPing the whole thing (if I see them at a gathering in traditional costumes, I cross them off my list). The second camp are the military types. They like the warrior mystique associated with Vikings. I don’t know how sincere they are on the spiritual side of things and I don’t really have a problem with what they are doing, but they are also pretty exclusionary for people that aren’t from that culture (soldiers, cops, etc). The third group are the people that are either blatantly white nationalists or at least flirting with it. They usually don’t subscribe to white supremacy but they do believe that non-white, non-Northern Europeans should be excluded from heathenry.

      The last item is a tough one because on one hand, as a folk religion they sort of have a point. American Indians have pushed back against whites appropriating their spiritual beliefs for the same reason. I think the reason I feel so uncomfortable about it is because of the Nazi linkage that you are talking about. Granted, Hitler himself didn’t subscribe to the religious aspects of Germanic paganism and thought it was actually regressive to exalt them, but many of his followers felt differently and pagan symbology had a significant role in the Third Reich. So…what to do?Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @mike-dwyer I doubt you want my advice, but in case you do, or someone else does – and speaking as someone whose first memory of praying to Iduna predates elementary school – I’d revisit the LARPer-esque group. Some of them are silly and unserious, but some of them are very serious, and very spiritual, in fannish clothing. (The discussion of whether fans can have significant gravitas is of course a side one.)

        I think the best “norse revival” things I have come across in the last decade have almost all come from a loose constellation of SFF fans, most notably Ada Palmer:

  5. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    I’m really not certain why we’re assuming that conservatism is not synonymous with white supremacy given Donald Trump’s wholesale embrace of it coupled with conservatism’s wholesale embrace of him. The idea that it was being thrown purely as trolling doesn’t withstand the scrutiny of looking at what those who were throwing it publicly advocate for and support.

    That doesn’t mean there won’t be false positives, but the possibility of a connection shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, especially now that the Christchurch shooter has thrown the symbol while writing a treatise that mirror’s conservative politics as we currently are witnessing them.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      So you just want to surrender the gesture to them? Am I reading this right?

      “Well, a handful of well known racists have used the gesture in a way that was clearly not just a simple ‘OK’, so I guess it’s a WP symbol now. Too bad. Hope those guys never learn ASL, or we’ll have to assume every deaf person is a racist.”Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        American school children used to do the Bellamy salute; now they don’t (except for the racist ones in Wisconsin). Do we really mourn it being gone from our lives?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          As Michael notes in the OP, there is a marked difference between the symbols and gestures adopted by a nationalist regime that slaughtered millions and dragged a large chunk of the world into a war on conquest, and the actions of internet trolls and other assorted shit-posters.

          Holding up one as equivalent to the other either grants the trolls too much power, or marks you as someone we probably should not be taking seriously because you’ve lost perspective. Which is it?Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            Why is Sam’s lack of perspective so much more important than the lack of perspective exhibited by Rightward commenters who insist that Trump isn’t racist?Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              What are we talking about here? Oh, right, the appropriation of common symbols by trolls for the lulz. Please explain how that is related to whatever point you are trying make?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Whatever sorry I think I was misreading you.

                But the fact that so many people in these comments insist that Sam and I (and chip, and the like) are completely wrong for thinking Trump and the political party he leads are racist without getting half the push back we get is really tiresome.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Right now, I don’t care about Trump and his racist shitheels. I care about letting those shitheels appropriate common symbols and gestures for their own purposes, and causing the rest of us to scramble in some kind of response.

                Fuck that.

                I like the OK gesture, and if I use it, and someone decides I’m a racist for it, I can curl two of those upright fingers down and give them a gesture that communicates what I think of their assumptions.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Sam and I do care!

                And we increasingly are faced with a world where people are constantly pissing on our legs and telling us it’s raining and then we get splashed with actual rainwater and our trust (and for that matter ability to distinguish the two) has been somewhat degraded.

                And it’s happening here, too. You are very reasonably telling us, “Hey, this is actually water!” because it’s water, but a bunch of other people are insisting that nobody has ever pissed on us, or if people have pissed on us it’s irrelevant because there’s nothing wrong with being pissed on.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                It’s not that I don’t care, or even necessarily disagree with you, but in this discussion, I am focused on a singular thing.

                What you and Sam are doing is, IMHO, a problem with such discourse. We have topic A being brought up for discussion, and you guys are dragging in topic A’ ‘ ‘ (topic is related but separated by a number of derivations). Doing so can derail any actual discussion of the original topic.

                So I get that you guys care, I care too. But I don’t care in this context, and if you really want me to care, you are going to have to draw a line in DayGlo paint from A to A’ ‘ ‘ and show your work.

                Otherwise, it’s me talking about what is going on with the 737-MAX and someone else demanding I talk about the chemicals in the contrails.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                I think I explained fairly clearly why I believe it’s relevant here. If you disagree that this is a sufficiently bright line (basically both trolls and GOP partisan non-trolls have degraded trust to the point where basic shared assumptions about what things mean fall apart, leading to fights like this one), I’d love to hear why.

                And, like, maybe even have suggestions about how we might go about solving it in a way that’s convincing to the people on the Left who see white supremacists using a symbol widely and are somehow not supposed to conclude it’s associated with white supremacists.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                See my reply to Sam about who boosted the signal here.

                Part of fighting against these kinds of dickheads is knowing when you are being baited and NOT taking the bait.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                How do we tell when we’re being baited? Who are we supposed to ask?

                Because a lot of the people insisting the symbol was innocent were also doing so in bad faith, or insisting other things that weren’t innocent were innocent in bad faith?

                How do we determine who to trust, not only this time, but next time?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But “taking the bait” doesn’t imply culpability equal to the bait dangler, right?

                This gets tiresome, to be honest. Dickheads on the right do X, liberals on the left react, and the focus is *always* on the reaction and not the action, as if it’s just *assumed as normal* that eg., a group of people will advocate for white supremacy in the US and that *that* is considered the baseline.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                If it’s being dangled in your face and it’s hitting all your outrage points, chances are it’s bait. At this point, if it’s going round Twitter, chances are it’s bait. If it’s on the local evening news, chances are it’s bait (or some other hoax, local news is so bad for falling for patently stupid shit).



                Oh no, the dangler is even more culpable. But the fact that people like Milo were dangling the bait should have been a big red flag. You wouldn’t trust the guy to go outside and tell you if it’s raining, but the fact that he’s telling you the OK gesture is a WP sign is totes legit?


                When I first heard about this, during the Kavanaugh hearings, it sounded like bait. It sounded like the “What stupid shit are teens doing today?” stories. You know, alcohol enemas, alcohol soaked tampons, etc. Oh, the Momo hoax! That was a classic.

                Am I the only one who gave the OK WP sign a sniff and found it stunk?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                And as our conversation shows, while the anti-white supremacists are bickering about bait-taking the actual white supremacists are snickering in glee that their opponents are wasting time and attention fighting with themselves.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Milo was using the symbol and then he was denying that it was a white supremacist symbol (and that he was a white supremacist).

                So the guy who lied a bunch, and lied about being a white supremacist, said the opposite. Your argument seems backwards.

                As for the “dangling”/”outrage points” thing, that would suggest that things that we would both agree are overtly white supremacist would count, so it’s not very helpful.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Well, you guys are arguing about it. I never thought it was anything but trolling behavior and refused to give it any heed.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                This isn’t a game of “Everything I say is a lie. except this” (or whatever the logic puzzle is).

                If you don’t trust Milo, it’s not opposite day, it’s either you ignore him, or you investigate and verify all of his claims.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I never thought it was anything but trolling behavior and refused to give it any heed.

                Weird that you have so many opinions about how the left overreacted to it then. It’s almost like you’re primed to think the left over-reacts to stuff. 🙂Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                OK, but a) Milo was using the symbol and b) Milo is a white supremacist.

                That is, in and of itself, evidence that it’s a white supremacist symbol. Not conclusive evidence, of course, and you’re right it merits further investigation.

                But further investigation will turn up more white supremacists using it as a signal to white supremacists! We’re far away from something that’s clearly a hoax, and it’s not even clear that it’s a lie.

                It’s ambiguous. But a lot of the signals we might otherwise trust to remove ambiguity are absolutely gone. For instance the assumptopn “No high level staffer or politician would be a white supremacist!” has been badly degraded by Trump (and the people he’s hired, like Miller, Bannon, Michael Anton, et c.), which muddies the waters further,Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Not the left in general. I know far too many very level headed lefties.

                But the media is primed to over-react, because it’s clickbait.
                And twitter is famous for over-reacting.
                And young people who are not sufficiently jaded tend to over-react.

                And guess who over-reacted with this?

                Us older folks? We should be more skeptical and aware of such shenanigans.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                If the water is muddy, why are you trying to get a clear view of whats in there?

                What is the value you are seeking?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                There are two reasons. Sometimes we don’t know if someone in a given context is racist, but we have other pieces of evidence that tend to suggest they are. In that case an ambiguous signal can still provide some evidence of whether they are or not.

                The other instance is that we have evidence that convinces us that the person is racist, but someone disagrees, so we want more evidence! Stuff that seems perfectly clear to us is not enough for them, so we start trying to build our case based n things that we find in murkier waters.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Us older folks? We should be more skeptical and aware of such shenanigans.

                I’m older folk and I think the NZ shooter used the OK sign as a symbol of white supremacy. What am I supposed to be savvier about?Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy, I’m pretty sure Milo isn’t a white supremacist.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Did you need further evidence that he’s a racist?

                If not, what is the value in letting the racists have the symbol?Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy, I said “pretty sure” because even though I’ve never heard MIlo say anything racist, I knew there was this article out there. Now I’ve read the article, and I’m even more confident that he’s not a white nationalist. Seriously, that was 9000 words and it never even accused Milo of being a white nationalist. Communicating with some, having some creepy passwords, and hanging around with some in a bar, yes, but at no point does it depict him espousing any white nationalist beliefs. I wouldn’t – and haven’t – had any dealings with the alt-right. I think they’re mostly dumb, and the smarter ones are scary. I’ve never liked the edgy, almost-anti-Semitic sense of “humor”. I don’t think I’d like Milo as a person. But that’s not the same thing as being a white nationalist. It’s like Doctor Jay’s comment below; you need to back up charges or it just looks like you’re flailing.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Yeah see this is exactly the problem here.

                If you don’t agree that Milo is a white nationalist, despite the clearly documentation that he communicated with the most frank Nazis on the alt-right for a story while concealing their involvement and sanitizing the overall picture of their movement, I believe your standards of evidence are unreasonably high.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Unlike you I don’t view it as “giving them the symbol”. I look at is as at t1 they tried to appropriate the symbol and and t2 we find out how that shakes out. I could really give a rats ass about the symbol. I’m more interested in the implications at a societal level of white supremacists having co-opted that symbol than anything about the symbol itself. (Nerds will exist til the end of time, and they’ll “well actually” that symbols’ origin story. Have faith bro. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy – We agree on the evidence; we’re disagreeing on the charge. I’d vote to convict on the charge of “Breitbart editor”. That’s a pretty serious charge. To convict on the charge of “white nationalist”, though, you’d have to present me with some proof that he’d espoused white nationalism. And, again, being an online alt-right-sympathetic troll is not an honorable thing. But you argued that Milo ok’ed the ok sign, and Milo is a white nationalist, so the ok sign is white nationalist. I can’t make that jump. I think the rightward side of this thread would probably agree with the argument that Milo ok’ed the ok sign, and Milo is an online alt-right-sympathetic troll, so the ok sign is online alt-right-sympathetic trollery.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                This jumped out at me as something utterly damning. We have white nationalists (including Richard Spencer, who’s one of their most prominent leaders) going to a party with him and giving him Nazi salutes while he sang.

                I just can’t wrap my mind around the suggestion that this isn’t incredibly strong evidence.

                It’s a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings “America the Beautiful” in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes.


              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy – Here’s the conversation that took place in my head when I read that:

                “He’s a white nationalist.”
                “No, he was just singing ‘America the Beautiful.'”
                “Yeah, while Richard Spenser was making a Nazi salute.”
                “OK, well, if you were singing ‘America the Beautiful’ and Richard Spenser started making a Nazi salute, what would you do? Would you keep singing?”
                “Me? I wouldn’t be at the bar with Richard Spenser.”

                And that’s about where I’m stuck. Being at a bar with Richard Spenser makes you guilty of something. Finding yourself in a situation where four people in the room make a Nazi salute while you’re singing “America the Beautiful” shows that you’ve made a lot of really stupid decisions in the previous few hours (at a minimum). I’d find him guilty of being a Breitbart editor. I just don’t see the evidence to prove anything more than that.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                That’s helpful!

                And where I am is if that happened to me, I’d be like, “What the hell is happening? I’m getting out of here right now because clearly I’ve made a series of horrible choices. Time to rethink my plans for the evening, if not every choice I’ve ever made in my life.”

                And he didn’t even pause.

                Looks really bad to me. (And it’s just one really bad story of many.)Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy – To use the old Kevin Bacon meme, Milo is clearly 1-3 degrees of Richard Spenser.

                There’s a moment when you’re kissing a goat, and everyone around you is chanting, “kiss that goat! kiss that goat!”, and you’ve got to be *really* confident that everyone around you is just as clever and ironic as you are. Only trolls are that gullible.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                I wrote a long comment here where I went into some more detail about the evidence in the article.

                The key thing is that it’s (IMO) a lot more damning when you see the info in the BF article alongside the Breitbart article Milo wrote about the alt-right.

                And it all starts piling up. The more wacky coincidences and ill-advised bouts of trolling and dishonesty on behalf of white nationalists….Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy – There’s an ad for an online poekr class featuring Daniel Negreanu saying “everything you do at the poekr table conveys information”. I remember reading a book by a criminal profiler who said that all the actions that a criminal takes during the commission of a crime communicate information about him, including the things he does to try to cover up the crime. I think that’s all true about trolling. I think you and I have the same level of “esteem” for a person who thinks that any situation can be made funnier with a Holocaust joke. Yeah, dude, I get it, you’re a provocateur. But why do you always provoke about the same thing? Even when it stops getting a reaction? And what about the people around you who really, really enjoy it, and keep asking you to go back and tell the dead Jews part of the joke again? There is such a thing as a useful idiot. There’s also a fellow traveler. In Milo’s case, he may have literally been a fellow traveler, jumping into the same car and bar-hopping with Nazis.

                Milo has done a lot of talking over the years. To my knowledge, he has never professed the superiority of, or even a non-sexual preference for, any race. If there were evidence that he had, it would have been in that article. Dr. Phil once said that, as a rule, people present their strongest argument first. Anything they present afterwards is going to be weaker. I think there are exceptions to this, such as if you’re laying out a full case chronologically or you want to close a presentation with a punch. A thousand venial sins don’t make a mortal sin, and this article doesn’t make a stronger case than the video and the close business contact.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                I see a deliberate attempt at entryism and mainstreaming of extremist ideas for an audience made up of what Mike Dwyer would call “old man” racists where you see trolling and fellow-traveling.

                But hey that’s what it is.

                I guess in the past I’ve been using stuff like “acknowledges Milo is a WN” as a proxy for “really took the available evidence seriously”. But this conversation has been a good reminder that it’s actually not a good proxy for that.

                So I’ll have another reason to take a deep breath and reply normally in the future.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Pillsy – “I see a deliberate attempt at entryism and mainstreaming of extremist ideas”

                I don’t deny that as wel.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            *and at least one mass murderer who wanted the world to know who he was allied with.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Oh, ok then, I guess we just let the white nationalists own that symbol.

              Way to cave without even so much as a hand raised to signal “STOP!” in defiance (oh, wait, can’t do that, might be mistaken as a Bellamy salute).

              Man, I feel bad for everyone who works in jobs where hearing protection is required, gonna have to come up with a new way to communicate that kind of sentiment when you can’t hear anything.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                Dude, if you still want to use “okay” finger symbol, nobody is gonna stop you. It’s still legal. But there’s no pretending the symbol hasn’t been appropriated by dickheads as part of a larger effort to mainline white supremacy, and whether or not you want to deal with that reality, it plainly exists.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                And this is the crux of our disagreement. Because I refuse to accept that such dickheads have, or even can, appropriate such a gesture without people like you giving them the power to do so.

                Do you not get that? You (and others) took them seriously, and now if you are giving them the ability and the power to own that symbol.

                Not them, you. The power they had, prior to the Twitter Mobs and media dipshits running with this as if it was serious, was pretty close to zero. Their signal was a cheap ass pirate radio running off a car battery. You folks have blasted it with 50K Watts to everyone out there.

                Way to go…Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                If I can noodle around a bit with one of my pet theories here…

                So let’s assume that SJW is in fact a secular religion and a particularly fundamental one. Religions need both heretics and heretical symbols in order to motivate the faithful. Think about all of the crazy stuff that came from the Religious Right during the 80s. It spawned an entire genre of pop culture memes that ridiculed over-zealous cultural crusaders.

                Seriously, at this point the SJW Left might be best represented by the minister from Footloose or Mary, Mary.


                So I’m not particularly surprised they are empowering this symbol. People do crazy things in the name of religion. The first album I ever purchased was Quiet Riot’s Metal Health because I thought the cover was badass. My mom, who is normally a sane woman, literally broke it over her knee when I brought it home and declared it was ‘devil music’.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

                “empowering this symbol” is certainly one way to describe looking at a group of people using it and declare that they’re white supremacists winking at each other, what with it plainly being that.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


              As a basketball fan, and with March Madness about to start, whay does that say about every player that flashes the symbol during the tournament?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        He’s fought hard to keep the fashy haircut something neutral. There’s only so much we can ask from one man.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      “I’m really not certain why we’re assuming that conservatism is not synonymous with white supremacy given Donald Trump’s wholesale embrace of it coupled with conservatism’s wholesale embrace of him.”

      The sad thing is, I don’t even find myself motivated to pushback against this statement. Not because I agree with it, but just because it’s such obvious flamebait that it feels like you wrote it while you were still half-asleep this morning.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        What is incorrect about Sam’s statement here?

        Trump has embraced racism, and the conservative movement has embraced Trump.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        There’s nothing “flamebait” about making an obvious connection that conservatives continue to make themselves. Maybe it is the case that you don’t like conservatism’s embrace of white supremacy – good – but that does not mean it isn’t out in the open for all to see.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          So if we could get every one of the 40% of Americans that identify as conservatives in a room, how many would you say consciously embrace white supremacy vs how many defacto embrace it because they support Trump? Or would you say they are one in the same?Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            Oh, it’s probably a huge split – lots of people don’t like to publicly identify themselves as racists, after all – but if they’re voting for Trump, they’re saying, at the bare minimum, that they don’t mind his explicit racism. And at that point, what is the meaningful difference? If you’re endorsing politicians who endorse the state treating some people different than others based upon their skin color, that’s a distinction without a difference.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              But you do realize that lots of Trump supporters don’t actually believe his policies are racist and just because you do it doesn’t necessarily make them wrong?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                I can’t even begin to follow the logic of how this works.

                “A lot of Stalin fans believe his actions aren’t evil, and just because you do doesn’t make them wrong.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                So now you’re comparing him to Stalin?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                {{MIke, engage the substance,not the word choice.}}

                {{ {{ Ask yourself: what is Chip trying to highlight with this Stalin reference… Hmmm….}} }}Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Well the word choice is deeply concerning but…

                The problem with ‘racism’ is that it’s pretty subjective these days. I mean, we could all hop in the time machine and go back to 1925 Mississippi and probably all agree, “Wow, that is really racist!” Today, because of identity politics and progressive overreach, we’re really having to parse out intentions. So I think it’s pretty fair to say that while Trump’s racism may be obvious to Sam, it’s not necessarily obvious to everyone else.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                I mean that seriously too. People disagree about stuff and it isn’t *always* (as the above the fray bullshitters with their own agenda would have us believe) because we’re all tribal animals who can’t see past our partisan noses.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                So I think it’s pretty fair to say that while Trump’s racism may be obvious to Sam, it’s not necessarily obvious to everyone else.

                Is it obvious to you?

                If it’s not, why not make that argument?

                If it is, why are you arguing with Sam about it?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                So then isn’t it fair to say that ‘conservatism hasn’t actually embraced white supremacy’ if we can’t even agree that Trump is a white supremacist?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Mike. Pillsy asked you about your thoughts on Trump’s racism. Not partisan isms in dynamic existential tension.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I don’t actually think Trump is a racist in the organized sense. Maybe in the old person sense, but if I held that against people I literally would have to stop talking to 90% of the people I know that are older than 65.

                I think he’s an opportunist that sometimes uses race to advance his agenda, but in that sense he’s not really that much different than the identity politics crowd. But also, when we’re talking about playing up xenophobia, it’s more complicated than fear of brown people.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Since we’re coming clean, I think Trump’s a racist in the old and new sense, and that his inclinations towards policies which are controversially viewed as racist stem from that racist center. But obviously lots of Americans like those policies, so … here we are.Report

              • Avatar Philip H says:

                How do you square that with his long history of mistreating people of color, whether contractors working for him, or tenants in his apartment holdings? The Justice Department doesn’t fine you for violating fair housing laws just cause . . . .Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Mike, one of the man’s central campaign promises was banning Muslims from entering the country. I don’t know what it will take to convince you at this point but I know I don’t have the patience to find out.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                OK, let’s say we revise the question.

                You think it’s important to parse out xenophobia from racism. I think it’s difficult if not impossible to actually do that in the context of American politics, but why don’t we agree to meet each other half way.

                Do you think it’s wrong to think Trump is profoundly and virulently xenophobic?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I can absolutely live with us disagreeing over his racism, because I don’t let it factor into my assessment of his policies. We are probably very close on our views of his actual policies surrounding immigration, for example. I just find it an unnecessary distraction to focus so much on his motivations.

                When Pillsy says that ing that we must declare his racism as an entry point to the conversation is basically guaranteed to make sure we don’t have that conversation. I don’t know if it’s a gotcha thing or something else, but I don’t find it helpful, especially in a forum where talking is literally all we have.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                When Pillsy says that ing that we must declare his racism as an entry point to the conversation

                This is – I submit! – where conservative’s legalistic view of normal language gets in the way of communication. Trump’s racism is revealed by his policy preferences (some enacted), so the question of whether Trump’s a racist really does devolve to whether his policies are racist or not. I don’t think there’s any question at this point that they are. The next question is why do people support/defend/advocate for those policies. The role racism plays passes through frictionlessly.

                (I wrote a OT post about racism and psychological intent a long time ago. Did you know that? 🙂Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I don’t have enough knowledge about his housing issue to have an opinion on it. As I said, I’m open to just saying he’s racist, but it still doesn’t change how I approach his policies.

                An interesting thought experiment would be for liberals to pretend he is NOT racist and assess his policies in that context. Does your opinion change? If so, that’s bias. If not, then is a debate over his racism actually productive?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                See my reply to Phillip. I just don’t see the utility of debating motivations for policies in any forum. Again, you and I probably agree on our opposition to Trump’s immigration policies (I might even be left of you on the finer points). If you think it’s because he’s a white supremacist and I think it’s because he’s an old dumbass…does it really matter? We agree! Let’s go have a beer and make a list of the fact-based reasons he is wrong and send it to our Congresspeople.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I just don’t see the utility of debating motivations for policies in any forum.

                This is the most bizarre comment I think I’ve ever read from an intelligent person. Where do you think these policies come from Mike if not individual motives?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Politics is not psychology. While it might be helpful for me to understand my wife’s Myers-Briggs type or if I have unresolved issues with my mother that affects my parenting…when we’re talking about federal-level policies there are LOTS of different motivations even within the WH. I have no choice but to confront the actual policy.

                It comes back to Arguing About Arguments. It’s not interesting for you and I to agree on the wrongheadedness of Trump’s immigration policies. Instead we argue about his motivations. Such a waste of time…Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                If you think it’s a waste of time why participate?

                If you think Sam’s statement about Trump being a racist is wrong, but you also don’t care, why not let it go?

                (Also, I have to say you seem to spend an awful lot of time arguing about motivations when it’s Sam talking about police violence.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Politics is not psychology.

                Politics is 100% psychology. Policy isn’t. The gap is where lies enter the calculus.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Fair enough. I don’t care about the psychology behind Trump’s policy positions.

                I remain perplexed as to why the Left wouldn’t want allies. You literally have someone screaming that we agree and we should resist those policies together and the response is, “I can only accept you as an ally if we agree on the motivations of our common enemy.” Bonkers…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Mike, you’re not an ally-in-waiting of the left. You don’t like Trump, just like millions of other anti-Trumpers who wanna remake the Democratic party into their own image.

                Christ, Dennis wrote a whole post about the Dems saving conservatism from Trump. You do the same. LolReport

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                We could play political position bingo and probably land on the same square on over half of our answers. If you want to put me in the enemy camp primarily based on A3s, that’s just a good argument for why a parliamentary system is better so everyone doesn’t feel the need to be on teams quite so much.

                As for wanting to remake the Left, I think it’s probably too late for that. I’d love to be proven wrong in this next election cycle but the eventual nominee will tell me everything I need to know. Looking forward to the rise of the Center and I look forward to moderate liberals joining me there.Report

            • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


              The fact that you think Trump’s racism isn’t obvious speaks volumes. That your standard for racism is “Mississippi in 1925” does too. If you want to draw the lines in such a way as to exclude you from having to think poorly about the majority of people that you know that are older than 65, so be it, but why is anybody else obliged to go along for that ride? And why SHOULD anybody else be obliged to go along for that ride?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “The fact that you think Trump’s racism isn’t obvious speaks volumes.”

                You are correct. It speaks to me not being part of the Progressive Left, which is the smallest and whitest of all political tribes in the United States. It’s also a group that is so woke that they actually think racism is more of a problem than African Americans do. So you are correct that I do not have those biases.

                I’m not asking anyone to go along for the ride with me, but I do get lonely, so thankfully there are a LOT more people on my bus than there are on yours. Maybe, just maybe, we heretics can still avoid the Inquisition.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                It’s a bit of an old poll, but the AP had 57% of the country thinking Trump is racist.

                That’s much more than just the Progressive Left as you’ve defined it in the past; wasn’t it like 19% or something?

                Oh, and it’s not just a white liberal thing, either. The poll found 8 in 10 African Americans and 3 in four Hispanics believed he was racist, too.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                What I said is that I don’t think Trump is a racist in an organized sense. I don’t think he’s a secret white nationalist. I don’t think he’s coordinating with the OK-sign folks on the (poorly defined) alt-right. I think he’s just a boring old man racist…kind of like LBJ or Nixon.

                And when I’m talking about the 8% of Americans in the progressive camp, what i am talking about is the white folks that see the threat of racism in so many places that even black folks are like, “Calm down white people.” That’s what drives so much of this stuff. I get that you all want to prove your wokeness, but geez.Report

              • Mike,

                You are correct that Trump is not a “secret” white supremacist. He is right out in the open being one – his comments about Muslims and Hispanics and African-Americans are not secret – while people insist that because he is not burning crosses on front lawns, he surely cannot be racist.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I’m really not certain why we’re assuming that conservatism is not synonymous with white supremacy given Donald Trump’s wholesale embrace of it coupled with conservatism’s wholesale embrace of him.

      This is an important issue, though I don’t think the focus on the OK symbol is a useful approach. What it is, instead, is a symptom of the fact that so many people, including but hardly limited to Rightward partisans, refuse to acknowledge what the nomination and election of Donald Trump have made glaringly clear:

      The conservative movement has an incredibly powerful white nationalist faction, and indeed that faction is currently the dominant one.

      In the face of endless willful ignorance and bad-faith denials of this really obvious fact, a lot of Leftward types start grasping at straws. Sometimes pretty dumb straws, like this one.

      Maybe we could start cutting dynamic off by, I dunno, not pretending that Trump’s GOP isn’t a profoundly racist enterprise.

      And maybe if mainstream conservatives, centrists, and people who attempt to be evenhanded and non-partisan would stop fighting the Left every step of the way on really obvious questions like, “Is Trump a racist and Islamophobe?” or, “Is Tucker Carlson a white nationalist?” we wouldn’t end up in increasingly deep and trivial weeds like this one.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        In one way it is better that Trump is white. It saved us all the Rube Goldberg identity gymnastics that would have occurred if he was a POC.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Am I really supposed to do this thing where I field a bunch of replies insisting that Trump isn’t racist for another set of OT comments?

          Because it’s getting old folks.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            Not at all, carry on!Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            Is it possible to continue the conversation without agreeing on this? That’s not asked as a leading question. I’m wondering if this is one of those things that we can note and move on from.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              No, it isn’t.

              Seriously, without an underlying agreement that Trump is racist I don’t see how we can possibly have a useful conversation about something like this, because (best case but plausible scenario) we simply have such a different perspective on what it means to be racist that we won’t be able to have further conversations without resolving it.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “I don’t think the focus on the OK symbol is a useful approach. ”

        tell that to everyfuckingbody on Twitter then

        “Maybe we could start cutting dynamic off by, I dunno, not pretending that Trump’s GOP isn’t a profoundly racist enterprise.”


        “okay maybe we’re a bunch of complete idiots who got baited like flounders but believe us when we say that this OTHER guy is DEFINITELY a REAL problem”

        it’s like when my cat tries to jump on a table and slips off and then walks around all “i, uh, i meant to do it that way”Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          tell that to everyfuckingbody on Twitter then

          I’m all for judging our respective positions based on what our co-partisans say on Twitter. Wanna go for that?

          “okay maybe we’re a bunch of complete idiots who got baited like flounders but believe us when we say that this OTHER guy is DEFINITELY a REAL problem”

          The racist guy who lies all the time and whose supporters insist that nothing he ever says is racist, and that the actual white nationalists flashing the OK sign aren’t also racist?

          Yeah, clearly they have nothing to do with this.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            the OK sign

            was not a racist symbol

            that was a joke

            which people believed

            because THEY WERE DUMB

            and that’s what this conversation is about

            saying “BUT TRUMP RACISM” does not make them not dumbReport

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              People believed it because racist people said it was a racist signal, started using it as such, and than a lot of people denied it was a racist people, but substantial numbers of the people doing the denying had an extremely long history of of making bad faith denials that all kinds things were racist, including that the racists flashing the OK symbol were racists at all.

              So you have the trolls undermining the previous uncontroversial shared meaning of the OK symbol for lulz and also to actually signal they were racists to people who get the context, and then a lot of alleged non-trolls assisting them in their campaign by insisting that the context wasn’t there for other reasons.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “People believed it because racist people said it was a racist signal”

                you are saying that you are exactly as stupid as the 4chan trolls believed you to be








              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Are you accusing Pillsy of being stupid because he believes in evidence and facts?

                You’ve become a parody of yourself.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                @DensityDuck: is it your contention that the 4chan “trolls” were not white supremacists?

                Because if a bunch of white supremacists start using something as a symbol and saying that thing is a white supremacist symbol, the idea that this is somehow a hoax seems like weird hairsplitting.

                That doesn’t mean we should just give up the symbol, but it does mean that people on the Left aren’t being “fooled”, because they’re believing something that is true, rather than a lie.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Are you accusing Pillsy of being stupid because he believes in evidence and facts?”

                he’s insisting that we should have taken some bullshit from 4chan seriously because TRUUUUUUUUUUMP, TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMP


                yeah, i am

                “Because if a bunch of white supremacists start using something as a symbol and saying that thing is a white supremacist symbol,”

                they said flat out in the post that they were doing it as a joke because they though the left was stupid enough to believe it AND YOU DID

                YOU DIDReport

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                A counterpoint: actual white supremacists use it as a symbol of white supremacy.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Counter-counter point. After 9/11, there were actual structural engineers, some with PhDs and tenured faculty positions, who swore up and down that a jet fuel fire could not have melted steel and brought the towers down.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Huh? I don’t get your analogy.

                At this point the argument seems to be that these white supremacists were lying (sure, they’re completely terrible people), and the argument is over which statement they were lying about.

                And of course, they do exploit the ambiguity, but that exploitation cuts both ways.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And I think they were and are correct.* But that’s apples to oranges. In the case of the NZ shooter we have direct, unmediated evidence of him flashing the OK sign.

                *Anyone who thinks Building 7 collapsed due to backup generator diesel fires is a person unwilling to see what’s right in front of their nose. But I’ve got a long nose bro.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And of course, they do exploit the ambiguity,

                The ambiguity is the point.(Internally.)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Right, but at this point, is he signalling to his peeps, or trolling the media? Both? Neither (maybe he’s telling mom he’s OK)?

                And at the end of the day what does this get us? Does it mean that the OK sign is now only a WP sign, and if we flash it in the wrong neighborhood, we’ll get a cap in popped in our ass by the local Twitter mob, even if we are just telling someone we are doing alright?

                This is what keeps going around:

                A) It’s a harmless gesture people have been using for centuries.
                B) But racists have used it!
                C) But it’s still a harmless gesture in every other context.

                Do we cede the gesture to racists, knowing that they are half serious and half trolling their opponents? Or do we ignore them, take away the power that has been granted to them, and retain a harmless and very useful gesture*.

                I’m not letting the bastards have it.

                *Unless there is other context supporting that it’s actually being used as a WP signal.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


              This entire discussion is Arguing About an Argument (A3). You’re right that it is just being used as another litmus test and it’s a fairly uninteresting debate, but maybe we should be happy this is the most serious thing to discuss?Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Well, it depends. They are making claims. Some of these claims are supposedly based on facts and evidence. So if we were to drill down on the empirical framework you would hope to see that they did resolve the truth component on the empirical side.

                It appears the issue started out of a hoax on 4chan. Someone would have had to start it. As far as I know, no one has been identified as the exact person that originated the hoax.(Someone please correct me if I’m wrong)

                If their claim is to be valid that it is white supremacist all the way back to that person, then they would have to know that person was a white supremacist instead of some rando of random race.

                If they don’t know the person of origin and it could be just anyone of random race that did start the original hoax, then they don’t have a claim that goes to the source.

                It could be a hoax by a non-white supremacist. Then their claim of the origins are invalid.

                That would leave only the social objectivity framework in which they would have to prove that the social truth is that the continuation of the hoax some how was perpetuated/repeated in to truth by the fertile ground of white supremacy as social truth.

                Note that proof would have to be separated from a secondary parameter that there are people who do prefer to troll the left that aren’t white supremacist.

                And your right Mike it isn’t that interesting that they would make a argument about an argument.

                The part that I am interested in is why they would make unsubstantiated claims to themselves.

                Why is it that the only social truth that can possibly exist is their own?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                That would leave only the social objectivity framework in which they would have to prove that the social truth is that the continuation of the hoax some how was perpetuated/repeated in to truth by the fertile ground of white supremacy as social truth.

                What sort of evidence would you accept?

                Because no matter who was involved in starting it, a lot of white supremacists have used it to signal each other… including (in this instance) the Christchurch shooter.

                But I think maybe we aren’t actually talking about whether it’s a white supremacist signal. We’re actually arguing something else, which is whether someone making the OK sign is providing evidence that they’re a white supremacist.

                And “evidence” isn’t really an all or nothing thing. It often takes many pieces of evidence to make a determination to a given degree of certainty.

                So one possibility is that it’s evidence, but not terribly strong evidence. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody address this possibility (myself included) because we haven’t really been discussing the issue in those terms.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “a lot of white supremacists have used it to signal each other… including (in this instance) the Christchurch shooter.”

                it has been a full year–more, actually–since this bullshit joke got started.

                plenty of time for idiots to actualize so widespread a meme

                how, i wonder, did it get to be so widespread

                i guess those Evil Secret Racist Conspiracies are pretty common

                surely it couldn’t possible have been all the liberals yelling about how the OK sign is a White Power gesture, searching diligently through public appearances looking for people making the OK sign, screaming like cockatoos when they thought they’d spotted one

                “I think maybe we aren’t actually talking about whether it’s a white supremacist signal. ”

                no i think that is what we’re actually talking about, at least based on the OPReport

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                What is your claim?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I guess my claim is the precise details of the origin aren’t actually tremendously useful for answering questions we actually have.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                I don’t know if that is a particularly useful claim.

                The way you were going after Duck made it look like you had some unassailable social truth to smack down with.

                Even the post that started this was like “lets not make this social truth”, which hedges that it is not whole cloth social truth yet.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        So pillsy, what’s the next straightforward communication meme you’d be good with approving us having to surrender in your quest to get people we don’t control to recite a political script we agree with and are willing to recite (because it, yes, has the benefit of reflecting truth), who don’t agree with it?

        I’ve felt fairly confident that 👍 is as good as gone, it’s just a matter of time. Do you draw the line somewhere before that? That would be cool. Or are they just all equally arbitrary, so whatever is next is next?Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Any attempt to get people to say, “Oh, yeah, it’s silly to argue that 👌 is a white supremacist gesture,” is clearly a fruitless attempt to get people we don’t control to recite a political script we agree with and are willing to recite (because it reflects the truth), so I guess we’re screwed either way.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            So you’re saying you’re just giving up; we should do what we want with our hands now?I guess I’m glad of the hand thing.

            As to the giving up, I would suggest there are still ways to left to persuade people (some, many; nothing will persuade everyone of anything) that “Donald Trump is racist” (fill in what we actually want to persuade them of, because I don’t think that’s really the main key concept) while dropping the hand symbol issue entirely.

            But I can’t make you not give up all those other ways, you have to be willing to keep trying, or else …you’ve given up.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              Dude I said the hand thing was grasping at straws (and dumb straws) in the comment you’re replying to.

              It’s dumb as hell.

              But if we want a world where you can convince people that it’s dumb and to drop it, it’s not enough to just say it’s dumb to people who are never gonna believe you. You actually have to give them reason to believe you.

              And the institutional Right and a lot of the “mainstream” media and center, with their endless covering for and enabling of racist trash, including a lot of racist trash who use the 👌gesture “ironically” , have seriously degraded the trust necessary to convince people of really simple things like this OK hand symbol stuff.

              Want this to go away? Fix that.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Sorry, I thought you were saying that it is fruitless to try to get people to say what we want on [whether Trump is racist etc] *in general* – basically, that you were throwing up your hands on that *period*, using any methods, because you are so dismayed about not succeeding at that here, or etc.

                Look, I know that I am not going to convince Amanda Marcotte to drop the OK sign fight until I get every last person on Twitter to be willing to let her say who they should say is racist (aka, never).

                But *you* say the hand symbol thing is dumb. So you’ve been given reason to believe us. So I’d like to just get you to agree to drop it, that’s all I’m doing here. But instead, you seem to be kind of saying, “It’s dumb, but I sort of want to get Marcotte’s back on that until… at least more more people say what we want. While also getting the rationality points for agreeing it’s dumb.”

                Which is just sort of holding dumb irrationality over our heads until things happen that we have no control over.

                You control you. So how about you agree to drop it – just you? Amanda is going to do what Amanda is going to do. Let me worry about her.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                @Michael Drew

                The reason that’s not enough is that people are saying stuff like, “Hey, the Left made a big mistake and it’s important to learn from it so this doesn’t happen again!” or, like with you, worrying about what the next innocuous hand gesture will be the next to go…

                …which is fine, but if you want to prevent something from going wrong again, it’s important to talk about what went wrong and why.

                And what went wrong here wasn’t a bunch of Leftwards deciding the OK thing was racist for either no reason or because they were fooled by a bunch of puckish but otherwise innocent pranksters.

                Look, if all you want to hear is that the OK symbol is dumb, that’s fine. But… it seems like it isn’t. And if it isn’t, maybe what we need is building some trust on the Social Justice Left.

                And that means fewer people broadcasting or defending really obvious falsehoods about racism.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                If some internet dummies created the hoax and then some white nationalists made it much more serious then it seems like we have two options: 1) Let them have the symbol. 2) Not let them have the symbol.

                Conservatives are suggesting we not let them have the symbol by continuing to use it in the same way we always have. The SJ Left seems to be saying that they can’t do that because conservatives are actually just using that as cover for their white nationalist allies (Sam’s suggestion is that Ok symbol at b-ball game is okay, but OK symbol at Trump rally is R-A-C-I-S-T. )

                Do I have that right? And if it’s not this huge assumption of ill-intent from the Right, is it simply that you all don’t want to ally with us to not let the white nationalist win?

                …and as I typed that last sentence I realized just how insane this entire conversation is. At this point, we have ALL been trolled.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                What do you want? Do you just want to be able to use the 👌signal without people drawing unsavory conclusions?

                If so, fine. I agree you should be able to do that.

                Or do you want to actually not have this happen again and maybe not have the SJ Left similarly swindled in the future?

                Because if you want that, I don’t think just pointing and laughing at how dumb they are is going to be helpful. Hell, I don’t think it will even do much to persuade them that they’re wrong about the 👌.

                If you do want some kind of positive future change, having Rightward institutions investing substantial effort into defending, deflecting, and mainstreaming racism is extremely counterproductive.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I know I am going to keep using it. As for this:

                “Or do you want to actually not have this happen again and maybe not have the SJ Left similarly swindled in the future?”

                I honestly believe that the dam may have broken here. I think you are going to see the trolling of the SJ Left become more frequent, not less so. And while I think silly pranks are just that, I also think intelligent trolling meant to expose biases and bad positions is in fact valuable.

                What I would REALLY like to see is an SJ Left that wasn’t essentially a big outrage machine, but unfortunately that seems to be asking too much.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                The problem is you keep framing this as either a “silly” prank, or “intelligent trolling”.

                It wasn’t. It was a malicious prank instigated by vicious people who are either outright racists themselves, or wanted to make it to have ties to outright relationships for corrupt reasons.

                The reason I keep pushing back is that you seem to be so completely uninterested in that part, and without acknowledging that part, I don’t how it’s actually possible to derive useful lessons for this.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I think others in this thread have gone to great lengths to explain that we really don’t know anything about the person(s) that started the hoax. You seem to have some insight into their motivations that many of us don’t. Do you have some special inside knowledge or is this just an inference?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                We don’t know for sure who started it, but we know that, from very early on, actual alt-right/WN types like Milo and Richard Spencer were in on the “joke”.

                And it was much more effective because they were in on it.

                And we know have a guy here claiming that the guy who just murdered 50 people in New Zealand was also doing it as a troll. I’m certain you’d agree that isn’t just “silly” or “intelligent” or intended to probe and expose biases.Report

    • Avatar DHW says:

      “I’m really not certain why we’re assuming that conservatism is not synonymous with white supremacy.”

      I’m certain why we’re assuming it: because it’s insane nonsense and you need to stop and think about who is trying to whip you into a lather of paranoia and what they gain from it.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    Don’t care.

    That’s not short for “I don’t care”. It’s my answer to something silly like this. There’s some point (usually after high school) that you look at the thermometer and it’s 69 degrees and you resolve not to giggle. There’s always going to be someone named Dick or a carpenter wearing knee pads. Some percentage of people will be inclined to make a joke about it. You have to resolve not to be one of them. It’s the same thing with trolling. You have to resolve to use the OK sign as often as you would have before. You may not win the day but you’ll be moving the needle in the right direction.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      This. My boss, who is also a good friend, is one of those people that can’t help but make the obvious, dumb joke when someone says something like that. Whenever he does I usually respond, “Okay Beavis,” and then continue my conversation. I honestly can’t believe anyone is seriously considering trying to do-away with this one, but people need causes. Maybe we can take some guidance from this:

  7. Avatar Aaron David says:

    “Since 2012, white liberals have moved considerably left on questions related to race, reflecting both a campus- and online-driven cultural awakening that has accelerated in response to Mr. Trump. On the American National Election Study’s scale measuring how respondents feel about a group — white liberals are warmer toward minorities than their own racial group. . . . For example, support for immigration among Democrats has broadly risen, but that rise is much more pronounced for white Democrats than for black Democrats. . . .

    Yet Trump voters rate minorities relatively warmly. Racial ideology rather than race accounts for their differences with white Democrats: White Republicans reject affirmative action, the notion of white privilege and the idea that racial discrimination continues to hold minorities back.”

    At this point, if someone on the left makes a statement about racism or racial issues, I pretty much discount it entirely. I don’t care what the left thinks about these issues, as I am not of the Left. And in fact, I think much of what is propounded by the left is harmful to the discourse that the country needs.

    It is sad to see them falling into the same hole that devoured the right.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      Yet we’re supposed to be critically concerned about what you say about the issue, because we have absolutely no evidence for the contention that Trump is a racist?

      Or is it somehow supposed to be irrelevant that the leader of the GOP is racist?Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      “rate minorities relatively warmly” but then vote for candidates that absolutely do not. You can choose the claimed positions or the political realities, but you can’t choose both.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      Well, a guy like Stephan Miller thinks, as best I can tell, that my daughter, a trans woman, is an abomination. The Vice President thinks my gay friends are degenerate perverts who should be converted back to heterosexuals. The president characterizes all the Mexican-Americans in my life as “rapists and murderers”, and the Muslims I work with and do business with are terrorists and heathen and should excluded from America, or deported, just on the basis of their religious affiliation.

      There’s no way I can not take this personally. You can call this a “hole” if you like, that just continues the smear perpetrated in my previous paragraph. This is not a discussion I’m going to have. My humanity, and the humanity of my friends and neighbors is not up for debate.

      I honestly don’t give a rip about the “OK” sign, and whether people are over, or under reacting.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        – Has Stephen Miller ever spoken out about transsexuality? A quick search didn’t yield anything.
        – Pence once made a statement in support of conversion therapy. I don’t think he’s ever gone beyond that, say as describing gays as degenerate perverts.
        – Trump didn’t characterize all Mexican-Americans as “rapists and murderers”.
        – Trump hasn’t said that Muslims are terrorists or should be deported.

        You may not like Miller, Pence, and Trump, but that doesn’t give you the right to exaggerate in your accusations. If you can support the above accusations, then I’m wrong. If you can’t, then you’re wrong.Report

  8. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    When I was in middle school, there was a game. You would make a symbol with your hand, usually down around the waist like the NZ shooter, and try to get the person you were talking to to look at it. If they did you could punch them in the shoulder. That symbol was the OK symbol, and when I see it being shown discretely like in that picture, that game is all I can think of.Report

  9. Avatar Stillwater says:

    The alt-right trolls were “pretending” to be racist but there’s not a lot of difference in “pretending” to be racist and being racist, especially if you’re in one of the groups the racists don’t like. And it’s not like the alt-right figures have ever shied away from “ironically” using genuinely racist gestures like Nazi salutes.

    But then it got even dumber.

    Your scare quotes around “pretending” and “ironically” give the game away, even on your own terms. Folks with a particular agenda intentionally and consciously re-purposed the symbol to communicate something non-standard, something insidious. I find it bizarre that you think “both sides” deserve equal blame for … the demise of the OK hand gesture.

    Add: “It’s true that members of the right took a big ole stinking shit in the dining room, but the left just keeps pointing fingers and won’t clean it up. Both sides are responsible for our screwed up dinner arrangements this evening.”Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      While I don’t condone the hoax from 4chan, is does remain telling that there were people on the Left willing to embrace it, right?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        The anti-insidious community embraces the idea that insidious people use the symbol to communicate insidious things.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          But at the time of the hoax, it wasn’t actually a thing among white supremacists. It was just a silly thing that the Left was inclined to believe for…reasons. Right?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Mike, your reasoning here is eerily similar to blaming the victim rather than the perp. And then there’s a reminder of popehat’s goatf***ing rule.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              I don’t think the Left was the victim there. Hoaxes are a good way of exposing biases.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “your reasoning here is eerily similar to blaming the victim rather than the perp.”

              in the sense that we’re blaming the victim of a three-card monte game for getting rooked, sure, you can say we’re blaming the victim hereReport

            • Avatar DHW says:

              It’s more like blaming the guy who insists on falling for an obvious hoax while the hoaxer is laughing in his face and everyone around him is screaming “IT’S A HOAX, YOU IDIOT, DON’T FALL FOR IT.”Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            No, Mike, it was, because a lot (if not all) of the “trolls” doing this were actually white supremacists.Report

  10. Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

    I live in an area where there are KKK chapters and members. We have a store in a local “Downtown” that sells “Confederate” memorabilia, and the owner is a certified KKK member (they’ve said they no longer are after being outed).

    Just south of us there was a billboard promoting the KKK for years. Media attention finally pressured the owner of the billboard to remove it, or more likely not extend the contract to renew it. So, while it’s easy to dismiss it that doesn’t change a thing in regards to the reality of it.

    Everyone who lives here is aware of that hand signal. It’s not uncommon to have someone flash that sign at you when driving the backroads here.

    The truth is truth and opinions don’t change it.

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Excellent comment. (And by saying that I intend to convey that it doesn’t *entirely* confirms my priors …) White nationalism exists in the open. JSometimes that’s just a fact. But when anti-white nationalism folks (who’ve somehow become categorized as SJW leftists or something) observe that fact or criticize it they’re accused of falling for the bait. (Where “bait” = evidence of for-realsies white supremacism??)Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        you’re accused of falling for the bait because if you hadn’t fallen for the bait then this






        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Good thing there isn’t a history of white supremacy in the US, DD, or you’d look like a f***ing fool.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            just to be clear here you’re telling us that the OK sign was ALWAYS A RACIST GESTURE ALL ALONG

            (you do remember that’s what this conversation is about, right?)

            Like, if you want to show how you’re so much better at this than I am then maybe this is not the arena to do it inReport

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      it didn’t exist before 4chan made a joke and everyone was so stoked to have Evidence of the Secret Racist Conspiracy that they spread it all over the universe

      i mean, sure, you’re right that people are doing it NOW, but it’s not like it always and forever has been a symbol

      taking it back does require some awareness of how it got that way and trying to make the conversation about Those God Damn Dirty Racists is not a meaningful contributionReport

      • Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

        I moved here in the 1995 and first noticed people flashing that sign shortly after I’d had spent time driving the backroads. It was someone here who told me what it meant after I’d commented on people doing it. I though they were just being friendly, and that’s true. I was told about the sign and then started looking for it. Not everyone waving on those backroads flashes that sign, but enough did to see it was intentional pretty quickly.

        If 4chan existed then I’d never heard of it and I’m sure none of my neighbors had either. We didn’t even have internet here until AOL and this is still not a tech savvy area.

        I don’t know anything about the 4chan rumor, never even heard of it until reading the comments here, but that’s all that is.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          This would fundamentally change the assumptions behind this entire discussion, and I think the entire discussion nationally, where as far as I am aware there has been a general stipulation that the entire idea did begin as a from-whole-cloth prank (or, if you prefer, attempt in earnest to appropriate an gesture with absolutely zero pre-existing white nationalist connotations as a symbol of white nationalism) on 4chan.

          This might actually be a good thing, since, while it might annoy some people to have to stop using the gesture, there would be a good argument as to why we don’t have to worry that conceding that would concede any gesture they randomly decide to claim as an expression of their ideology, prominently in my mind “thumbs up.”

          Do you know of anyone else who corroborates this?

          Or am I mistaken that it has been stipulated? Does anyone know anti-gesture people have said the same – that “OK” actually did have pre-existing connotations?Report

          • I can’t find any corroboration. Even this article by the SPLC, which seeks to bind the two, doesn’t have anything of the sort. (It does have a few cases of it happening before 2017, however, but 2015 at the earliest.) And this is SPLC, who is neither meek about such things, nor ignorant of the ways of white supremacists. If it were a thing with any wings, I think we could agree SPLC would know about it and wouldn’t hesitate to report on it. Or, at the least, I would need more confirmation of the contrary than what we’ve seen so far.

            It’s a big country with a lot of pockets and perhaps some pocket of it somewhere did adopt the symbol some time back, but not in the sense which it has more recently become a more normalized subject of debate.

            I’ll ask Twitter if anyone knows anything.

            • Avatar InMD says:

              No one can find any corroboration because there isn’t any. It’s a nonsensical conspiracy theory based on unverifiable evidence and deductive reasoning.

              ‘I think I saw something while driving and some unnamed third party said it was this particular thing therefore it must be that thing.’ If the thing in question was bigfoot what would our response be?

              That’s the thing about deductive reasoning though. I bet if you actually do put it out on twitter you will get some people saying they’ve seen it. It’s the power of suggestion and a little motivated reasoning towards conclusions people are already inclined towards.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I drive a lot of rural country roads on hunting trips. I also drive through farms that i hunt on and often will drive past one of the guys that work there. Because I don’t feel comfortable taking my hands off the wheel on wonky paved roads or gravel farm roads, I usually keep my hand on the wheel and extend three fingers. Often I get that same wave back. I always thought it was just being safe and polite at the same time. Now I am wondering how many people I passed thought I was giving them the WP salute?Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                I am also familiar with that and have probably given it myself. Especially when I’m driving off in the boonies for a camping trip and don’t want to send my city-slicker vehicle careening into a ravine or down the side of a mountain.Report

              • Well, if the right person (someone I know whose judgment I trust) says that it was totally a thing I’ll probably believe that. But I’m hoping for someone to offer up something independent. You would think there would be pictures. As we have learned, we have pictures of blackface!Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                @Will Truman

                If you do find anything compelling please post it. I have no qualms about owning it if I’m wrong.Report

              • Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

                I didn’t say I “think”. I said I “was told”.

                I started doing business here shortly after “60 Minutes” did a feature story on Branson, MO, around 1995.

                Hwy 65 from Springfield to Branson was a 2 lane road. All the motels were small “mom & pop” run with maybe 10-20 rooms.

                There was no “internet” back then, and it didn’t come here until around 2000. I built one of the very first websites promoting the area as a tourist destination. By then I already knew about this.

                Back then no one was talking about KKK in a national conversation and they’d mostly been relegated to history. It wasn’t like anyone was getting lynched here and they’re weren’t making a lot noise.

                Just because you cannot find earlier references to this on the internet means nothing except no one published anything about it there.

                Since it was a “secret sign” used only by the KKK looking for references to it and not finding any only means they kept the secret pretty well for a long time, and nothing else.

                For perspective, no one talked about where the Monarch butterflies migrated until the 1980s and when the 1st American came back from Mexico and said he was shown by the “locals” there he was dismiss too.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Bill Stephenson,

                I don’t know why your comment isn’t the end of this discussion, but I can see that it’s not.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                1) We don’t know him from Adam. Well, most of us don’t. He could literally be anyone saying what he’s saying for any reason, and while I presume he’s *not*, in the absence of corroboration, most people here aren’t going to take him very seriously.
                2) We’re skeptical about the accuracy of what he was told considering all the people who give partial waves without taking their hands off the wheel while driving that we know for certain aren’t communicating any secret racism thereby.
                3) Moving the drama over an ambiguous hand signal and what it does or doesn’t mean back to the 90s instead of making it an immediate stupidity of the late teens doesn’t actually change the meat of what Siegel is trying to get at, I don’t think.

                I mean, does no one else remember how many rumors went around in middle school about what signals did or didn’t mean what offensive and shameful things? And how they proliferated and how they got used by all kinds of people for all kinds of shitty reasons? How incendiary ambiguity is in a social group of *any kind*?

                Some of those signals I would still agree now are intensely offensive – white power being one of those intensely offensive things. (Some I didn’t agree with shaming people about then, like “tugging your earlobe means you’re gay” – though come to think of it I *was* gay – well, bisexual – but anyway….).

                “X means Y terrible thing” is, in all three of its forms —
                a) accurate description
                b) inaccurate means of othering
                c) self-fulfilling prophecy started mostly but not exclusively by proponents of a) —

                about as old as there being humans.

                People getting upset about it is also as old as there being humans, mostly because of a) and c). Those are reasonable things to be angry about. (So is b, something reasonable to be angry about, but b is also something that a and c use for cover all the fishing time….)

                People knowing that people are awful, when said people are frustratingly and deceptively charismatic, and getting tired of trying to convince other people it’s true until they give up and start throwing anything they can at the wall to see if it sticks is also as old as humans.

                As is the destructive fad.

                As are people who’ll use whatever cover is most convenient to justify all kinds of inhumane behavior.

                As are people who’ll see that last group of people as their excuse to BSDI until the cows come home (or one of the sides has been genocided).

                Why on earth would you think one person’s experience would stem a tide of behaviors and reactions that is older than the hills?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, we have no reason to doubt him, do we?

                What reason do we have to doubt him? (answer: the cynicism we’re primed for.)Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                1) I already said I don’t doubt him, though my 2nd and 3rd points apply even if one doesn’t doubt him.
                2) Most people will doubt contradictory hearsay evidence from someone they don’t know. The question of why that is, is an interesting one, but perhaps rather far afield from the original conversation. It’s certainly a far older tendency than any modern or postmodern leaning toward cynicism. Older than the leaning of those ancient Greeks who leaned toward cynicism, I’d wager.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Testimony alone isn’t the sole criterion, Maribou. I mean, on this site alone we have people testifying that universities have become recruitment centers for progressives.

                Surely the words don’t mean all that much on their own. It’s in a context that words can be trusted as reflecting an experienced reality. That’s the case for all testimony, is it not? Otherwise, why believe anyone when they tell you anything?

                Saying that, I’m not suggesting we should believe Bill’s testimony with 100% certainty. Us skeptical types don’t do that with anyone, do we?Report

            • Avatar Maribou says:

              @stillwater I don’t think you’re engaging with what I was trying to say.
              Regretfully, I don’t know how to say it more clearly than I already have.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And I don’t know how to respond more clearly than I have. People recount experiences which we evaluate based on the entire context in which they speak. I recently heard a pretty famous writer recount her experiences in a church with a history of sexual assault. She recounted hearing children’s voices while doing her work late at night, voices that began by laughing and ended by singing choral hymns. No one was in the building but her. Do I have any reason to doubt her testimony? Can’t think of one.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @stillwater But you were saying that you didn’t know why Mr Stephenson’s comment wouldn’t have *ended the discussion*. As in made people stop talking about all these things that people have been talking about since time immemorial…

                I was answering that (implied) question. I’ve already said (repeatedly!!) I don’t personally doubt the accuracy of his report, that in fact I presume he’s telling the truth. It’s just that most people in a group with a great degree of context and opinions about each other’s veracity, when someone unknown introduces a contradictory *hearsay* claim, will not be impacted much by that claim. At all. Because human, not because late 20teens human.

                You seem to be arguing with something I wasn’t claiming, and ignoring the rest of what I said in favor of arguing with said thing I wasn’t claiming.

                My honest, immediate response to that is something like “yeah, that’s why you should quit trying to answer rhetorical statements of not knowing things, Maribou”.

                But yet the project continues to have its appeals.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, Maribou, I’m disagreeing with what I thought you were disagreeing with.

                If I thouight you were actually agreeing with me I wouldn’t have written as I did.

                So, cyncism reigns. No one can trust anything. All we have are gut intuitions about the truth. Fox News has the highest ratings. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @stillwater So are you saying that you do believe you know why it didn’t end the discussion and it’s that cynicism reigns?

                Because if you’d just said that, I wouldn’t have bothered commenting at all.

                I wouldn’t have agreed with you about the why, but I wouldn’t have thought you were flashing the librarian batsignal of not knowing why something is and wanting to work toward figuring it out, either.

                So I would’ve gone back to doing other things.

                As I will, if that is what you were originally intending to say.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Honestly, I can’t decipher the content of that comment. But my position isn’t all that complicated: believe people when they tell you things unless you have reason to think they’re lying. I have no reason to think Bill’s lying (other than general cynicism about human beings…which I think I already mentioned).

                Add, fwiw: the possibility that he’s lying doesn’t entail that he is lying. I mean, that shouldn’t have to be stated but maybe it does.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Maybe this is helpful:

                Bills comment didn’t end the discussion because some people think Bill’s lying.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @stillwater And him not lying does not in any way indicate in and of itself that people would therefore stop this discussion; the reasons for which (at least the reasons I think there are) were covered by the 90 percent of my original response that you didn’t engage with.

                Heck, as far as I can tell, you mistook the original 10 percent you did engage with as me saying “most people will think he’s lying” as opposed to me saying (at the risk of really badly shortering myself) “humans rarely listen to strangers about things they’ve already formed opinions about”.

                But that’s okay; if you think you know why they/we didn’t stop, and it’s cynicism, it’s unlikely that me having an enthusiasm for discussing all the other reasons they/we didn’t stop will have much impact on you.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yeah, I’m still not getting the 90% I’m not getting. People say stuff. We evaluate what they say in the context of what they say, and in our priors. If the context is weird, red lights start flashing. If our priors are weird, red lights start flashing. But what constitute our accepted priors matters, no?, especially wrt determining context. Other than that, I’m not sure what else is going on here.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And him not lying does not in any way indicate in and of itself that people would therefore stop this discussion

                OK. I think I’m seeing through the fog.

                If the conversation is about when the OK sign became appropriated by the right, then it surely should stop the discussion. And as it so happens, that was the discussion. (or, atleast, I thought it was…)Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                @stillwater I believe Bill was in fact told what he is recounting. And maybe it is true, that on a stretch of road in Missouri in the 90s people were signaling KKK affiliation with each other using this sign.

                I can’t disprove it. But it also has the telltale signs of urban legends or the middle school stuff @maribou mentioned. Random, mundane things people see all the time given sinister or offensive meaning as a campfire story. It reminds me of a crummy old bar near where I grew up rumored to be a KKK hang out. This isn’t totally impossible, but if they were in fact there, nothing much seems to come of it.

                I also think Maribou’s reference to CS Lewis’ faulty apologetics is appropriate. Just because someone believes an urban legend and recounts it does not make them a liar or crazy or stupid. It makes them human, and we all do it.

                Somewhere else in this long post Oscar made the point that the racists out there aren’t hard to spot by their words and deeds. No need for all this cloak and dagger stuff. I think thats pretty much right.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Somewhere else in this long post Oscar made the point that the racists out there aren’t hard to spot by their words and deeds. No need for all this cloak and dagger stuff. I think thats pretty much right.

                The problem is that they evidently are hard to spot, at least if you take the Rightward political-entertainment complex’s word for it.Report

            • Avatar Maribou says:

              @stillwater OK, I don’t think it was ever mostly about that, and not because I’m a cynic, but because I’m expansivist or something.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, people can keep saying that the appropriation of the OK symbol is recent and cynically motivated, but we have testimony undermining that view.

                Unless we think Bill’s lying.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @stillwater that was only one of about 8 different strands that I perceive going on in this discussion. it seemed to me then (and does not now) that you were expressing mostly sincere bafflement as to why the entire discussion would not screech to a halt as soon as Bill said what he did.

                PS If I said I couldn’t help but read your last sentence as “Unless we think Bill’s lying, mistaken, or a fool.” and be both amused and protesting against that resonance, would you have the context to know what I was referring to, or would it just muddy the waters? I can’t tell if I’m picking up what you’re putting down, there, or if it’s just my own distracted and rhizomatic (i pretty much had to find a way to use that word, as soon as y’all started talking about post-modernism as purely deconstructive) way of thought….Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oh no. I was talking about the absurd notion that the “faux” white nationalists appropriated the symbol only recently to expose the {_______} of the hysterical left. (I’m not sure what to fill in the blank with.)

                White nationalism as a movement isn’t going to be defeated by pointing out an error in their timeline. The felt need is too profound. I just thought people at this site would be more responsive, ya know? (alas, no…)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No idea what you mean with the addendum. People can believe Bill or not, based on their own preconceptions of what constitutes reliable testimony. My own supposition, based on how this thread has gone, is that lots of people don’t want to believe Bill, so they think he’s a liar (or offering incorrect evidence, etc and so on).

                I invite you to make up your own mind about what Bill said!Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                Ah, don’t worry about it then. But – only if you’re curious – your argument was strangely resonant with a CS Lewis argument about Jesus (that he was “liar, lunatic, or lord”, because apparently a false trilemma is more fun than a false dilemma…) that gets an awful lot of traction in evangelical circles mostly because of Josh McDowell. I love CS Lewis very much but I think the same quote that the evangelicals love to cite as some kind of conclusive argument is quite a good example of what was wrong with his apologetics overall (and touches with what’s wrong with most apologetics).

                but that’s a complete tangent since you weren’t deliberately invoking it, which i thought you might have playfully been doing. Once someone says they haven’t been being literal in what they say in a particular conversation, it’s hard for me to figure out how many layers of allusion they’re deliberately bringing in, or aren’t.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That’s all very interesting. My default position is to believe people when the say things unless I have reason not to. CS Lewis may have interesting theories about that phenomenon, and honestly, more power to him for that if he does. Being reminded of the obvious is sometimes a worthwhile endeavor.Report

  11. Avatar North says:

    Can we just use this for twitter itself? Like using twitter is a sign of one being an irredeemable racist? Does one have to go on 4chan to suggest this or something? Is there a form we fill out at some intersectional website?Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      You could, but you’d miss out on a whole lot of really great stuff because not all of twitter is awful.

      Which might be your point?

      But I think it’s just that you hate twitter.

      (Which I kind of can relate to. Despite constantly reminding myself that it’s not all bad. To the point where I like to daydream that if we got rid of twitter the great twitter-native stuff would just migrate.
      While telling myself that of course the bad stuff would not.)Report

  12. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    @pillsy, et. al.

    Down here for more room.

    Regarding this as Evidence, here is the problem.

    It’s a gesture designed, specifically, to generate copious false positives. The social justice left already has a widely acknowledged problem of over-reacting and attacking people it views as counter to their movement. They are not known for considering nuance, and context, and subtext that runs counter to their biases.

    I’m sure they don’t view themselves as doing so, but this center-left guy does, and so do most of my peers. So does damn near everyone on the alt-right.

    So moving forward from this position, an effective way to further diminish and degrade the power of the SJ left is to cause them so many false positives that they either can’t respond to them all, or they wind up attacking innocent people. Giving them the symbol, even if only among the SJ left, is giving them power. Not only does it give them a symbol they didn’t have before, it gives them a way to cause the SJ left to damage themselves, and should the OK gesture decline as a tool, they just need to come up with another one. And they will, until either the SJ left become irrelevant, or until the tactic stops being effective. I mean, what’s next, the Vulcan ‘Live Long & Prosper’ hand gesture (it looks like a W, right). So then every Trek fan is a closet racist?

    I vote for not letting it be effective now, and that means ignoring it.

    If you are looking for evidence in water this murky, you need to stop.

    PS It doesn’t matter how many obvious racists use it, it’s a useless metric by which to gauge the beliefs of someone who has not already clearly expressed their racism in other ways.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      It’s a gesture designed, specifically, to generate copious false positives.

      If you know that, isn’t the decoding complete? Why are we (or more specifically you) debating this issue since the purposeful misdirection has been exposed?

      But again, as I said upthread, even your analysis views anyone who opposes or reacts to white supremacist symbology and language as if they are the SJW left. My criticism here is that by your own analysis anyone who reacts negatively to white supremacist symbology and rhetoric is part of the problem *driving white supremacy*.

      Which is fucking absurd.

      Add: it’s a parallel to the debate we had a while ago that anti-racist viulence actually made people become racists. I mean, of all the stupid fucking ideas…Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        You have it backwards. It doesn’t drive white nationalism, it damages the credibility of a movement that could counter white nationalism, if it wasn’t so over-zealous.

        This is my point. The OK gesture is not evidence of racism or white nationalism, any more than a birthmark or supernumerary nipple is evidence of witchcraft. Or a flat seeming horizon is evidence of a flat earth. It might be a confirming data point on a stack of other, more compelling evidence, but that’s should be the only extent of it.

        But yes, the misdirection is exposed, so anybody who puts forward the OK gesture as evidence of white nationalism without some other body of corroborating evidence to support the claim should be resoundingly discounted.

        And that is, quite honestly, the end of it.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          You have it backwards. It doesn’t drive white nationalism, it damages the credibility of a movement that could counter white nationalism, if it wasn’t so over-zealous

          Christ on a crutch, I’m the one saying BOO to white nationalism and you f***ing guys are arguing that sayinjg BOO is driving white nationalism. That’s your whole f***ing argument.

          More to the point, how could the “credibility” of anti-white nationalism “movement” ever be in doubt unless you f***ing guys didn’t hyperventilate about the left seeing effing ghosts when they’re right in front of our eyes?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            The OK symbol nonsense was claimed (and retracted) about Convington Catholic. The SJW Left has already misstepped once on this exact topic. How many more times do you all want to look silly before you admit you got played by the internet?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              I think white nationalism is on the rise, Mike. I see what the GOP is doing at the state level, and with federal judges. I don’t think I’m getting played at all.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’ve already stated the rise in white nationalism is a problem we should be mindful of. No argument there.

                With regards to a long-used benign hand-gesture that the alt-right and SWJ agreed now means something different…? It seems like you are. Or you are in agreement with both.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Terms and symbols don’t “mean something different”, as you should know from your studies in anthropology. Symbols and terms mean something *in addition to* as a function of use.

                The word “blue” refers to a color as well as a mood, right?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Also, the NZ shooter flashed the OK symbol. The play was pretty obvious there.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                If we’re talking about symbols, let’s discuss two:

                – the swastika was used by cultures all over the world for millennia and it took a World War/holocaust for people to sour on it.

                – rhe Confederate flag has really just finally passed into no-go territory in the last couple of years and even still it isn’t as universally hated as the swastika

                So we have two symbols that took a LOT of cultural weight to change perceptions on

                Meanwhile, according to the SWJ Left the OK symbol is now problematic and MAGA hats are ‘the equivalent to a white hood’.

                Eirher the internet has really accelerated the process on symbols going bad or progressive hyperbole has really become the force they wanted it to be.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I never said A THING about anything driving white nationalism. Never. I dare you to find a quote of me saying that.

            As for the SJ left (I am intentionally keeping this narrow), they cry wolf all the damn time. Google is full of examples. Some are legit, but most are over-zealous attacks where the justification is over-stated, or non-existent, or only relevant to people with that specific viewpoint or bias. And the tactics employed often result in consequences that far exceed whatever ‘crime’ was committed.

            So yes, I ‘hyperventilate’ at the idea of mob justice in whatever form it takes. They want credibility, they can stop employing mob tactics.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              As for the SJ left (I am intentionally keeping this narrow), they cry wolf all the damn time.

              I’d say it a bit differently (also clumsily): the academically-oriented left accepts an institutional critique of racism (bigotry, etc) which reveals (to them) racism where folks like you don’t see it. Could they be wrong about some of their specific claims? Of course they could. But showing that they are requires teasing out premises, evaluating them on the merits, etc and so on. One thing that doesn’t refute their views, in my mind anyway, is to assert that they “cry wolf” all the time. From where I’m sitting, I think they’re right much more often than they’re wrong.

              I think the better criticism of those folks’ methods and arguments is to focus on their predisposition to explain states of affairs through only a single ideologically-based theory. Eg, sometimes when a man holds the door open for a woman he’s just being nice and not actively reinforcing the patriarchy.

              The last point I’d make, again, is that the discussion we’re involved in right now, on this post, is to criticize the left for “taking the bait” presented by rightwing miscreants and blame the bait-takers for destroying the much-loved OK symbol rather than the miscreants who intentionally corrupted it. I say that fully realizing that you and others hold this view *because* you think the left consistently over-reaches and over-reacts. And while that may be true (I’ll concede it for the sake of this one point) it doesn’t matter in ascribing blame for the destruction of a hallowed symbol of good will. (If nothing else has been achieved on this thread at least I have become woke to how profoundly people love the OK symbol and desire that it remain pure!)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I get that the 4chan OK hoax was not as well-intentioned as this one:


                …but I still think it speaks to the same problem. It exposes the over-reactive tendencies of progressives, especially concerning matters of race.

                In my business we do something called ‘SALTing’ our operation. Basically, we intentionally introduce an error upstream to test if our quality controls are tight enough to catch it. I believe in computer programming they call it a ‘fault injection’. When an error makes it through to the end, we don’t get mad at the person that introduced the error, we fix our processes. Where this gets dodgy is that in the case of the sokal hoax I linked to above and the 4chan hoax, the participants in the experiment were not aware they were in the experiment. Especially with the sokal hoax, this violates some ethical stuff and indeed one of the participants is facing administrative punishment from his university. 4chan didn’t have ethical obligations but it could be argued by progressives that they had moral ones. I’m pretty meh on that, but I see both sides.

                My point is, there’s a lot of value in these sanity checks, especially when it concerns the Left because they claim to be the side of science and reason. Postmodernism has made that claim less believable, which is why I like seeing their biases exposed. It’s ultimately good for them, even if it feels gross in the moment.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                If my dog craps in the house, I’m gonna be upset with my dog.

                If my kid picks up the crap and runs through the house with it while shouting for me that the dog crapped in the house, and scattering bits of crap all along the route…

                I don’t hold the 4Chan folks blameless. They are terrible people and they are at fault for this. But so is everyone on the left who gave the hoax legs it otherwise would not have had.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But so is everyone on the left who gave the hoax legs it otherwise would not have had.


              • Avatar pillsy says:


                The problem isn’t that they were trying to show that the Left overreacted; the problem is that they were deliberately trying to create a bunch of false positives so people would ignore future true positives because they were white nationalists and fellow travelers who want more freedom to spread their poison.

                They weren’t trying to make people smarter, they were trying to make people dumber. Not only the ones on the Left who were fooled, but the ones, downstream, on the Right, who would be more inclined to ignore the Left.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Exactly. I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone could view this stuff any other way while claiming they’re objectively neutral. (Which is the source of my, and I think your, irritation at how this convo has evolved.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “The problem isn’t that they were trying to show that the Left overreacted; the problem is that they were deliberately trying to create a bunch of false positives so people would ignore future true positives because they were white nationalists and fellow travelers who want more freedom to spread their poison.”

                Let me get this straight… White supremacists or their sympathizers created a hoax on 4chan so that the Left would overreact and then they could freely use this new symbol without fear of serious criticism because the Left had muddied the waters with their overreaction.

                Is that right?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                No, they weren’t trying to make it so they could freely use the symbol as far as I know.

                But look, you know the crying wolf thing?

                If you want to discredit someone, wouldn’t a good way to do it be getting them to cry wolf more, so that in the future when they say wolf—for whatever reason—they’re more likely to be ignored?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                So they leveraged the tendency of progressives to over-react to anything that might remotely be perceived as racist, make them look silly, so in the future they could do real racist things and get a pass?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So they leveraged the tendency of progressives to over-react to anything that might remotely be perceived as racist, make them look silly

                The alt-righters apparently made the NZ shooter look silly too, since he, in addition to the progressive left, thought the OK sign was a symbol of white-supremacy. What a bunch of fools.

                I mean, who couldn’t find the humor in this?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Assuming he is at least a bit mentally unstable but the progressives who have now accepted the symbol as racist are NOT unstable…I don’t know if it counts as silly to trick a crazy person. Non-crazy people? Perhaps.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                If you want to look at it that way, I suppose.

                Though what with them having actual racists (Milo, Spencer, et c.) out there with the symbol, I think maybe there was more to the trick than simply “perceiving something as racist”.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Dude was obviously a leftist, Mike. Haven’t you been paying attention to the talking points?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Here’s another way to say the same thing:

              The arguments I’m seeing on this thread seem to be something to the effect of “well, how can you blame the alt-right for needling a hyper-sensitive and over-reactive left? And predictably, the left took the bait.” And my response is bewilderment that people accept the motivations of the alt-right as perfectly sound and justifiable even tho *we all agree* that the alt-right is the source of the symbols initial corruption!Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Yeah, also, I reject the idea that the Left’s tendency to over-react is entirely the fault of the Left. The Right has contributed immensely by…

                …well, you know how we’re talking about crying wolf?

                The Right does this all the time when it accuses people on the Left of “smearing” actual racists by pointing out that they’re racists. And they get considerable assistance from people outside the Right but who believe themselves to be, and/or want to appear, “mainstream” or “responsible” or “bipartisan”.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Jewish people just need to toughen up, and not view anti-semitic trolling as an expression of anti-semitism.”

                And then I wonder: what the fuck are these people suggesting Jewish people do in this context? Accept anti-semitism as *not* anti-semitism? I mean, everyone agrees that the views expressed are anti-semitic, but the criticism is restricted to Jews over-reacting to anti-semitism “because it’s just trolling*. ???

                Makes my fucking head spin.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Literally Milo on the alt-right from Breitbart:

                Meanwhile, the alt-right openly crack jokes about the Holocaust, loudly — albeit almost entirely satirically — expresses its horror at “race-mixing,” and denounces the “degeneracy” of homosexuals… while inviting Jewish gays and mixed-race Breitbart reporters to their secret dinner parties. What gives?

                If you’re this far down the article, you’ll know some of the answers already. For the meme brigade, it’s just about having fun. They have no real problem with race-mixing, homosexuality, or even diverse societies: it’s just fun to watch the mayhem and outrage that erupts when those secular shibboleths are openly mocked. These younger mischief-makers instinctively understand who the authoritarians are and why and how to poke fun at them.

                Whatever else may be true about this trolling, many if not all of the trolls were absolute pices of garbage. Just shitty, shitty people.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “If ever there was a topic ripe for making jokes about it’s the Holocaust. Come on people. Are you with me?”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Never said they weren’t assholes, sir.

                Them being assholes doesn’t make you not dumb.

                You got baited. Take the L. Be more careful next time.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Right. The purpose of the hoax wasn’t to provide a secret sign for white supremacists. It was to demonstrate how batshit crazy the left is, by getting them to start reacting to a common, benign hand gesture as if it were a secret sign for white supremacists. This isn’t speculation; it’s all stated explicitly in the original post that started it all.

          And here we see it working perfectly.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I’m sure they don’t view themselves as doing so, but this center-left guy does, and so do most of my peers. So does damn near everyone on the alt-right.

      OK, so you see them as over-reacting constantly and reacting to a lot of false positives. You want them to stop using a test that generates false positives. The one follows from the other.

      But they disagree. And one of the reasons they disagree is that they think everybody else is getting a ton of false negatives. Now, there are many reasons they believe this, but one reason is that… lots of people outside the SJ Left get a lot of false negatives. Really.

      There were, I think, two cited specific false positives here. One was the Covington kids who were using the sign at basketball games, and the other is the Kavanaugh Staffer. But they can point to important true positives (like Milo) that people missed.

      So we’re at a bit of an impasse.

      In order to get past that, maybe we do need to move to clearer waters, but if you’re trying to get people to accompany you, you need to convince them that the waters are actually clear and you can tell the difference. And that means avoiding false negatives yourself.

      And that’s why Trump et al. come up: because they’re a way of establishing a common baseline. If someone isn’t ready to acknowledge Trump as a racist, that baseline is not going to be there.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        So your point is that if a person ignores ALL the other evidence that someone like Milo or the NZ shooter is racist, somehow the flashing of an OK gesture is going to make the difference?

        Regardless, it’s a shit metric. We might as well seize the cash of random motorists because the drug dog smelled something funny on the money.

        Oh, wait…Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          No, I’m saying if someone ignores all the evidence that Milo is racist, I doubt anyone on the SJ Left is going to pay a shred of attention to their opinion on how to judge whether someone’s racist, and I don’t see why they should.

          Hence, common baseline. And maybe a better set of alternative tests. That would be nice too.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Sure, I get that. I don’t know that I’d agree with the SJ person as to the compelling nature of the evidence, but then I’d love a better set of tests for such things.

            Take your evidence for Milo that you are discussing with Pinky. I don’t think it gets you all the way there (I think you are taking a leap at some point), but I agree it paints a picture of a person who, at the very least, is far too comfortable with avowed White Nationalists for my tastes.

            So in the end, either you have to help explain that leap you took, or you have to be satisfied with the fact that you have lowered my opinion of a person like Milo (and thus reduced his ability to influence me). And if you choose to explain further… well, that can be a tricky thing, depending on how good you are at explaining yourself*, and whatever my mood is to go another round on the topic. Push too hard, and while I probably won’t think better of Milo, I’ll probably start thinking less of you as well.

            Luckily, those of us here are usually up for another round or ten.

            *And let’s be honest, most people, especially those who are convinced of the rightness of their opinions, are really bad at this.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              And I think Pinky is kind of splitting some hairs that don’t make a ton of sense to me. But that’s what it is and we’re at least approaching something like the common baseline I was talking about.

              But here’s the thing: Milo in his Breitbart [article about the alt-right [1] makes a single, brief mention to weev/Auernheimer(who’s a Nazi with a big fucking swastika tattooed on him) only quotes him saying this:

              Hacker and white nationalist Andrew Auernheimer, better known as weev, responded in typically jaw-dropping fashion to our enquiries: “The tireless attempts of you Jews to smear us decent Nazis is shameful.”

              But the BuzzFeed article says this:

              “Finally doing my big feature on the alt right,” Yiannopoulos wrote in a March 9, 2016, email to Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a hacker who is the system administrator of the neo-Nazi hub the Daily Stormer, and who would later ask his followers to disrupt the funeral of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer. “Fancy braindumping some thoughts for me.”
              The three responded at length: Weev about the Daily Stormer and a podcast called The Daily Shoah,

              Milo was at best obfuscating Weev’s role, and at worst was lying about it outright. It’s one thing to seek input from a guy like that; it’s another to get input from him and then make it look like you didn’t.

              That’s not just being “too friendly” with white nationalists as far as I see it.

              There’s more where that came from, but I’m stopping here for now. The amount of time I spent looking at Milo’s piece on the alt-right so far already makes me want to take a shower.

              [1] Which I’m extremely reluctant to link because ugh.Report

  13. Avatar CJColucci says:

    I’m trying hard, but without success, to recall a recent image of someone who is not operating in a white supremacist context using the OK sign in a context where it would make normal, non-white-supremacist sense. I have seen it used in contexts where it seems to make no sense at all, which makes one wonderReport

    • Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

      It’s not the same as the “OK” sign. It’s done exactly as that photo of that NZ guy shows, with the fingers pointing down, not up. When driving the backroads it’s done with the hands on the steering wheel with one’s three outside fingers lifted on either hand. Everyone else just waves as normal.

      I don’t expect to convince anyone here, I’m just telling you what I’ve learned from living here.Report

    • Avatar JoeSal says:


      We used to do this in scuba all the time. Also there is a signalling in the sub-culture of tokers that used it.Report

  14. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    The entire premise of this piece seems flawed to me. As @Bill Stephenson notes above, the alleged white power sign is not the same as the OK sign. The WP sign is both backwards and either upside down or sideways compared to the OK sign. It’s not just about the configuration of the fingers; the placement and orientation matter as well.

    Consider another common sign: flipping someone the bird. The middle finger is extended upwards with the back of the hand facing the “flippee”. Change the direction or orientation of the sign — point the middle finger down or turn the hand around so the palm faces forward — and the sign means… nothing really, at least that I’m aware of. Or the Black Power fist of olde; raised, with the fingers forward. Any other orientation and it’s just… a fist.

    So good news! You can still use the OK sign like in the photo George linked. Every example of the WP sign that I’ve seen had the hand low, across the chest or down by the belt, three fingers very deliberately splayed out to form a W, pointed either sideways or down, and the back of the hand displayed instead of the front. Pretty much the exact opposite of the photo George supplied.

    And I don’t think it really matters at rhis point what the original intention behind it all was. Whether hoax, troll, or sincere signal, the person flashing it is part of that loathsome tribe.Report

    • If that’s the distinction, it hasn’t entirely made its way into the public consciousness. That wasn’t the “three point” symbol of the Covington kids. Or the white house intern. Zina Bash’s was somewhere in between the typical “okay” and what you’re describing. And not just the false positives: Supremacists and Would-be trollers and miscreants are doing the okay sign with the typical orientation.

      So I understand the distinction you’re making, but I’m not sure how many people in the media debate are making it.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        It doesn’t even matter.

        It’s been made resoundingly clear that nobody is going to believe us Leftwards no matter how much evidence we cite, and that everybody will just accept that the Left is lying about racism without any evidence at all.

        Nothing matters.

        Look, that was a bridge too far but I’m really sick about how everybody wants to litigate basic statements like “Trump is a racist” to death when Sam or I say it, but nobody gives a shit when people just say that everything anybody to the Left says about racism is a lie that should be disregarded.Report

        • I don’t think anything in my comment even hinted that I do, but I don’t believe that everything (or most things) the left says about racism is a lie.

          I question the premise of the rest of your comment (both struck and unstruck) and we can get into it if you want to get into it, but wanted to make that first part clear at least.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            No, I don’t think you do think that.

            I don’t know if most people here think that.

            But I know that when people do hint at that or say it outright, basically everybody who isn’t specifically a partisan member of Team Blue seems to let it slide, and I really don’t know what to make of it.

            But it makes conversations like this one really hard to take.Report

            • People say that the left is untrustworthy on racial issues. Other people say the right is untrustworthy on racial issues. People take issue with people saying both things and arguments are had. It’s the nature of the site.

              I can see why it might seem really tilted to one side (or the other, really), but on the whole I don’t think it is at present.

              Personally, on racial issues right now I don’t think either side can be evaluated uncritically and there are people on both sides and in the middle here whose opinions I pretty much ignore.

              But what do I know? I’m a BSDI centrist whose views can be dismissed on that basis. And have been. In this site’s comment section. By people who are commenting on this thread. It’s the nature of the site.

              It’s not the site’s most attractive feature, to be sure, but it’s the nature of the site.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Yeah.That’s fair.

                I’ve been getting frustrated for the last few threads where the subject has come up, but that happens..

                A lot of it is that I felt like I was having a solid conversation with Pinky and Oscar, but along the way I ended up reading through a lot of Milo’s Breitbart piece and it just completely ruined my mood because it’s just so grotesquely slimy, dishonest, and not at all subtly bigoted.

                Not your fault or Mike’s fault or anybody else’s fault but gods am I just sick of the way this stuff keeps on rolling by and feeling like nobody else is really noticing itReport

              • I don’t say this lightly, but Milo is the worst.

                There may have been some people tied with him, but there was nobody more irredeemable on all of Twitter when he was on Twitter.

                I plan to do a post on him and Tucker at some point. Probably not a good idea to do it right now.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          You have proposed, numerous times (including this thread) that conservatives have to make a general statement of Trump’s racism as the entry-point for a dialogue with the Left. Now you are whining about how people don’t believe you about racism and that no one is coming to your defense.

          Maybe if you weren’t so obsessed with race in the first place you wouldn’t find yourself in this predicament. You have a whole bunch of people that fall in various places to the right of you , willing to talk. Let us know when we can do that without paying your admission price first.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            Now you are whining about how people don’t believe you about racism and that no one is coming to your defense.

            It’s not just me, it’s the Left in general. Well, the “progressive left” in your case. You strongly implied that members of the progressive left, at least white ones, are being dishonest when we say that Trump is racist, right here:

            EDIT: I quoted the wrong thing here now it’s fixed.

            That’s what drives so much of this stuff. I get that you all want to prove your wokeness, but geez.

            That’s not just me personally.

            Aaron David also made a blanket statement about how all the Left’s statements about racism are worthless.

            Again, not just me.

            If it were just me, fine.

            But it’s not.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


              It’s this simple; the SJW Left has become the boy that cried wolf on race. I don’t know what the motivations are here, but I can speculate. Competitive wokeness, a profession of faith to a secular religion, brainwashing by liberal professors…we could go on and on. But also, Sam made a comment earlier where he said:

              “I’m really not certain why we’re assuming that conservatism is not synonymous with white supremacy given Donald Trump’s wholesale embrace of it coupled with conservatism’s wholesale embrace of him.”

              I didn’t see you asking him to dial back that blanket statement – but now you are complaining that the shoe is on the other foot. This is almost too ironic to believe. Do you have any idea how many times I have been called a racist on this site, no doubt several times by you? And now you are mad that the non-progressives are pushing back a bit. Again, the irony.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I don’t remember ever once seen you ask a single Rightward to dial back their accusations of bad faith on the part of the Left with regards to race.

                And it’s not just you, Mike, it’s pretty much everyone here who isn’t explicitly a part of the Left will endlessly say that the Left is acting in bad faith.

                And after a few years of that, and the fact that even straight up racists just get ignored by Rightwards, I finally got worn down by all the bullshit and decided that no, I need to see some signs of good faith here because frankly I haven’t seen a whole lot of that in the past from you or many others.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Arghghh this is not what I meant to say:

                And it’s not just you, Mike, it’s pretty much everyone here who isn’t explicitly a part of the Left will endlessly say that the Left is acting in bad faith.

                What I meant to say is this:

                And it’s not just you, Mike, it’s pretty much everyone here who isn’t explicitly a part of the Left will endlessly let it slide when people say that the Left is acting in bad faith.


              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Race is a tough one. It means a lot to charge people with it.
                Social truth really only goes so far. No one really knows how tangible the individual construct of race is in someone else.
                I have heard a lot in the past that the right and conservatives are blind to race.

                I can’t speak for others, but I continue to think there is a kernel of something there.

                For some reason there is not the profound demand to observe society in social groupings and possibly aversion to be forced to look at it that way.

                I think racism makes the left uncomfortable. It is represents a profound flaw in society that must be fixed.

                In my on going furniture thing, it appears you want the correct furniture, of the correct quality, in the correct place in the room.

                Even the leftist anarchists have to have the furniture, and have preferences on it being just so.

                I could never recruit a leftist to the right because there appears to be this internal pull.

                I think what I am starting to here is that ‘my world is not complete without this problem being fixed’. Or maybe ‘my world will be so much better with this problem fixed’.

                I can hear that, i might even start to understand the underlying feeling of it.

                The problem is, i will look at the people in the world and see that your problem doesn’t get fixed with the people we have.

                I may even get a little testy or unforgiving if most of what I see is you tilting at imperfect people in a faction while your own faction contains as many sinners to the cause.

                Not whole cloth, i know.


              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I have said repeatedly that I don’t believe the Left is acting in bad faith. I absolutely believe that you all believe what you are saying. I just think you are misguided in the same way a deeply devout religious person might believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old. It doesn’t make them a bad person to have arrived at a bad religious conviction. I see the SWJ Left as no different.

                On the flip side, I see a lot of accusations from the Left that the conservatives are trolling (one of Sam’s favorite accusations). That means that they believe that conservatives are A) purposely stating a position they know is wrong and B) pretending they have no idea. That’s ascribing nefarious motives and I think a subtle difference between the two sides. To grossly generalize, liberals think conservatives are evil, conservatives think liberals are silly. Key differences there.

                And I’m being honest when i don’t see the right side of the debate making accusations of bad faith. I don’t see the right side of the debate name-calling, which seems to be the exclusive territory of the Left, at least on this site. Do we still behave badly? Absolutely, and I am guilty, especially when it comes to a couple specific people that crank my gears…but it just feels different. IMO a conservative will debate an issue until the end of the earth. It’s just what we do. A liberal will usually nope out at a certain point and that’s usually when they tell the other person to go fuck themselves.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Sam’s right about the trolling. Conservatives around here have been trolling for the entire time I’ve been here.

                Not all of them, but way more than zero.

                Most of them are currently suspended either indefinitely or for extremely long periods of time, but at least one of them is still around, still trolling, still having his trolling ignored by other Rightwards, and, so far as I know, still not suspended from the site.

                His last bit of trolling was removed hastily by the mods, but I got a screenshot of it if you’re interested.

                What I’m trying to say here is that Sam, myself, and other Leftwards who’ve been here for a few years have seen a lot of trolling from the Rightwards, the non-troll Rightwards for whatever reason didn’t engage with it, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there and as a result I think we have different perspectives on this.

                As for the Right not trolling in general, this whole thing started because the Right was trolling and some people on the Left fell for it, right?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Also, despite what I said last night when I was in a very foul mood after I deliberately exposed myself to Milo’s oeuvre to support my points about him, I just think people engage with and pay attention to who they engage with and pay attention to around here, but it means that we actually have different pictures of what the other side is like.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Maybe think of it less as trolling and more of generated discourse to filter assumptions in social truth.Report

              • If you’re referring to Mr Turner, he’s on indefinite probation. Basically his comments are sent to moderation and then let out or not depending on the nature of the content.

                The comment you’re probably referring to was a product of my failing to have set that up when the site got transferred.

                Anyway, the challenge is how to deal with someone that alternates between making really good points and entirely unacceptable ones. This is a temporary solution to hopefully block the latter. It’s not sustainable in the long term – just from a personal standpoint I can’t keep going with the micromanagement – but right now I am focused on other big-picture aspects of site management and that’s the holding pattern. Please do inform me if anything that shouldn’t get through gets through.

                If it’s referring to the comment you brought my attention to the other day, that guy does not appear to be a regular visitor. If that turns out not to be the case, it’ll be another matter to deal with.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Yeah, I mean George Turner. Didn’t realize that was his moderation situation.

                Thanks for clarifying.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:


                You can’t believably say at one and the same time that you have never accused anyone – least of all the SJ Left – of acting in bad faith *at the same time* you say ” SJW Left has become the boy that cried wolf on race”.

                Calling someone or a group of people “the boy who cried wolf” is pretty much *specifically* a type of accusation of a specific type of bad faith. The boy who cried wolf was crying wolf (the times when there wasn’t one) *specifically* for disingenuous, self-serving means – his own amusement in the face of boredom at being expected to do some hard work. (

                Calling someone the boy who cried wolf is calling them someone who has deliberately lied for their own shallow amusement so often that no one will believe them anymore even when they’re telling the truth.

                If you don’t want to be taken as insulting, perhaps you should insult people less often.

                If you don’t want to be taken as disingenuous, perhaps you shouldn’t protest that you believe a group is sincere in their beliefs on the *same day* and in the same comment threads that you refer to them as the boy who cried wolf.

                I mean, that would at least be a start.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Metaphor correcton: “The SJW Left has become chicken little on race”.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar says:

                And some other people are ostriches, just to play with avian metaphors.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                @Road Scholar,

                And some people are very reluctant to grant that if it looks like a goose, honks like a goose, and steps like a goose, it’s probably a goose.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          ” I’m really sick about how everybody wants to litigate basic statements like “Trump is a racist” to death ”

          I’ve never said he is not, sir

          That’s not what THIS PARTICULAR CONVERSATION is about

          If you say “but we THOUGHT there was a giant secret racist conspiracy and that’s why we THOUGHT the OK sign was a secret message of a giant secret racist conspiracy”, sure, I recognize your reasoning, but that doesn’t mean that the OK sign is actually a secret message of a giant secret racist conspiracy, and it is not Denying Trump’s Obvious Racism to suggest this.

          Also? Protip, hoss, “I disagree with you” is not “trolling”.Report

  15. Avatar JoeSal says:

    [There was a big chunk of this comment section that disappeared. Typically there is good reason and a sentence or two why. I have seen singular comments disappear before, but nothing like this.]Report

  16. While we’re talking about things that don’t and do cause us to tune people out, I should throw this out there: I become less responsive to what someone has to say when they use the SJW acronym (or if they spell it out). It’s not a bias that can’t be overcome if the person is making a good point or the person has a decent track record of making good points, but in my mind it’s more-or-less associated with Ian Miles Cheong types and a degree of rhetorical autopilot when used casually or regularly.

    Anyway, use it or don’t, but in my mind it contraindicates good and thoughtful discussion.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      Not important to any evaluation of the use of the term today, but is there a firm sense of whether it was one of those terms initially used by those who now have it used against them (almost?) as a slur, or was coined originally as a term of disparagement?

      For example, my sense is that for a very brief moment, someone did refer to students in this era as snowflakes in a way earnestly meant to suggest that they deserve individualized understanding and attention – but that doesn’t mean that today its use anything other than a clear indication of malice and bad faith.Report

      • I thought it was always meant as an attack, but you could be correct.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @michael-drew It began as an insult, was attempted to be reclaimed by some people, other people doubled-down on it as insult, and currently exists in a mess of those two states, but generally can be assumed to be an insult unless clearly affectionate or self-identifying (and sometimes even then… there are plenty of self-deprecating and/or communicating-affection-through-insult people in the world).

        I don’t have cites at the moment but I’ve researched it three or four times because the same question comes up here from time to time, and that’s the chronology.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      Would SJ Left be better? I think the ‘warrior’ thing is probably a bit antagonistic but the SJ thing is a fairly accurate description, right?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Agreed. And one thing I’d note is that almost everyone on this thread has defaulted to referring to this ominous and ill-defined threat to freedom and liberty as SJWism. (“What is SJWism exactly” “I dunno, but it’s some bad shit man…”) I think it’s intellectually lazy but serves an important propaganda function as well. And while it actually *is* a convenient shorthand to refer to a type of thinking embraced by factions in the left in certain contexts, as a general term it obscures more than it reveals. Seems to me anyway.Report

      • Avatar InMD says:

        I had my knuckles wrapped here months ago for this. I have since used the term ‘post modern identitarian’ left or ‘intersectionalist’ left which I (hope) is less loaded.
        I also think it is more specific to what I think we’re usually talking about.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I agree. It’s clumsy language and feels awkward to write, but doing so demonstrates a familiarity with the topic and locates the debate in the correct arena (so to speak).Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Even though it is accurate, postmodern is practically a trigger word for me. A lot of my anthropology professors were obsessed with Foucault and I had to read so much of that nonsense that I may have some kind of low-level PTSD from it.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Madness and Civilization is a great book, yo!Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Whether the word “postmodern” is a trigger word for you or not, Mike, your negative critique of “SJWism” amounts to a negative critique of postmodern thought in general. Try as you might, you can’t escape the reality of our postmodern reality.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Postmodernism had benefit in that it recognized biases…but unfortunately like progressivism itself, it vastly overreached and its adherents have bastardized it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                “The anti-SJW factions vastly over-reached and its adherents have bastardized it.” ????

                You’re skipping right past all the stuff that would make your point, Mike. Eg., asserting that post-modern social thinking is a religion doesn’t accomplish anything, especially when the argument against SJWism is ultimately based on articles of faith.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I read that comment like 5 times and I still don’t follow your point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You have a frustrating propensity to *not* address views you disagree with on the merits. Focus on the substance of the views you reject rather than merely (re)asserting that you disagree with their conclusions.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                You do realize I acknowledged the benefit of postmodernism in recognizing biases like, two comments ago?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Mike, if you think I’m confused about what you’re arguing, and attribute that to a lack of good will on my part, I’d suggest you do a better job of articulating your own views. This whole game where you crawl in people’s heads is really frustrating.*

                Make your argument. Let it stand or fall on its own.

                *I still think, even tho I’m debating with you right now, that you’re the most disingenuous interlocutor on this site.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Oh for christake – I don’t understand your argument simply because I don’t understand your argument. I don’t attribute anything to it other than either A) I’m being dense or B) You aren’t explaining things very well.

                I think the whole idea of good faith/bad faith and ingenious/disingenuous is really just an excuse for people to put their fingers in their ears. Despite claims to the contrary, I really do try to consider other viewpoints and see where they are coming from (one of the benefits from having started out on the Left – also one of the benefits of just trying to be a human). If you want to keep believing I am being disingenuous then I urge you to stop interacting. Really, I will be fine.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Good to know! All I can say is that I’m engaging with you in a discussion and that I’m pointing out areas where you fail to be a good interlocutor. That’s an expression of good faith, as far as I can tell.

                Alternately, I *could* resort to ignoring your comments as expressions of irrational fear and hyper-partisanship. I’m open to it. It’s a live option.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I know you are trying to point them out, but your message isn’t getting through. Let me try to highlight a couple of sentences that I literally can’t parse out and maybe you can take another run at them (or don’t – it’s a live option).

                1) “…asserting that post-modern social thinking is a religion doesn’t accomplish anything, especially when the argument against SJWism is ultimately based on articles of faith.”

                I can’t figure this one since I don’t think I have ever asserted postmodernism is a religion. What am I missing?

                2) “Mike, if you think I’m confused about what you’re arguing, and attribute that to a lack of good will on my part, I’d suggest you do a better job of articulating your own views. This whole game where you crawl in people’s heads is really frustrating.*”

                Also don’t understand the point you are making here. I’ve been clear that I do NOT attribute bad faith the other side. And I don’t follow the ‘crawl inside people’s heads’ part at all.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                My answer is that you should inform yourself about what the arguments on both sides actually are. I mean, if I say that your criticism doesn’t impugn the legitimacy of post-modern thought and give the reasons why, and you object by saying I’m wrong, we’re at an impasse.

                The weird thing here is that I’m not a fan of PM intellectualism. Yet when I indicate to you that your criticisms don’t hit the target you think I’m attacking you personally, or that I’m a “true believer”, or something. Bizarre.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “Yet when I indicate to you that your criticisms don’t hit the target you think I’m attacking you personally, or that I’m a “true believer”, or something. Bizarre.”

                I didn’t say any of those things. Are we participating in the same conversation.

                I don’t like PM because as a someone who leans to the right, I like structure and tradition. PM messes with that way too much. That it is so easily misused is also a relevant criticism IMO (sort of like communism). I’m not sure why those views are so off the mark.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I don’t like PM because as a someone who leans to the right, I like structure and tradition. PM messes with that way too much.

                Good. So you’ve admitted that you aren’t a neutral person in the middle but actually a person on the right. That’s progress! (In the intellectual honesty department.)

                Second, whether or not you think it “messes with too much” is irrelevant to the arguments made by people who are messing with yer stuff. Address the arguments. The premises, the logic, the unstated assumptions. But I’ll note that you’ve effectively admitted what I said above (which you apparently objected to): that you reject the conclusions of those arguments rather arguing against the arguments themselves.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “…that you reject the conclusions of those arguments rather arguing against the arguments themselves.”

                Um…yeah. I thought I made it pretty clear that I think in most cases we should look at the actual conclusions and not the premise (argument). If the conclusions are bad then that reflects poor methodology. Bias may be a driving factor but also much harder to prove. Do you think the argument has more value than the conclusions?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If the conclusions are bad then that reflects poor methodology.


          • Avatar InMD says:

            It’s funny but despite having my undergrad in history and taking a bunch of literature courses just because I’m a dork like that my official exposure to post modernism was very limited. In retrospect I recognize some of the concepts being thrown around in one of the seminars but it came off as really goofy to me (and to a lot of others) in the context.

            My wife who went to the same school says she got a little bit more of it as a sociology major but she’s also said the department was really statistics driven. The implicit rejection of verifiable reality and post-truth aspects of the popular version practiced online tend to make her head spin.

            But this was early aughts at a huge state school so maybe it just hadn’t trickled down yet, or maybe the place is too big for it to dominate the way it seems to at smaller liberal arts schools.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              My experience was a bit jarring to say the least. Because I took forever to finish my undergraduate work (10 years) and because I did a dual-degree program I kind of got both ends of things. When I started my History degree our department was very conservative. We had one old professor that taught military history and still referred to the Civil War as ‘the War of Northern Aggression’. So I had this very straight-forward college experience where we didn’t get into all of that postmodern stuff.

              That all changed when I started my Anthropology degree. Postmodernism was all the rage in that department and it was a very, very different experience. I remember arguing about it a lot with my coworkers when we were in the field.

              Sociology has perhaps been ruined the most by progressivism, so your wife was lucky. My wife was also a Sociology major but did hers at a small southern college that is better known for educating bluebloods than for radical thought.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                The faculty in the history department I was in was what I’d call self-deprecatingly liberal. You’d get the very occasional ironic comment about George W. Bush but I don’t remember any kind of preaching. Most of those profs were at least in their 40s and good humored. The hints of post modernist stuff, the handful of times I recall it seemed to come from grad student adjuncts. Maybe it’s generational.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Post-modern wokeness in general is part-and-parcel of libertarian wokeness regarding the criminal justice system. Seems to me, anyway. IT’s a matter of where you get off the bus, or how far down the rabbit hole you’re willing to go.

              That woke-folk push the limits of the *intellectual* tenability such critiques present doesn’t impugn the integrity of the project, despite the fact that some adherents view that tentative probing as conclusive or determinative.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                My only real experience with libertarian criminal justice views is Jaybird, so if he is a representative sample I see a bright line between the two. I mean, even Sam, when pushed, is usually not willing to go as far as Jaybird towards burning it all down.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Jaybird doesn’t *want* to burn it all down, tho. Jaybird’s critiques are almost always forward looking: that given where we’re at *right now* instituting policy X will lead to worse outcomes than we have *right now*.

                Jaybird’s wokeness about criminal justice is that every stake-holder in the game has something to lose and something to gain from every policy proposal. His view is of cops and the role cops play in “social justice” is radically different than your own.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I started my actual History major in 1996 (after three years of Gen Ed) and didn’t start my Anthro degree until 2001, so perhaps there was a shift along the way. A lot of it was also the professors. We had stuffy history professors in tweed jackets while our anthro professors were very different.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                Well I actually disagree with you somewhat on this WRT the ‘project.’ When I was prepping myself for the criminal defense career I thought I’d have I took classes where we read up on the policy aspects, the disproportionate impacts, etc. They were a sign of the problems in the system but the conclusion was never the system is bad because of the disparities full stop.

                None of those prawfs ever suggested the kind of anti-due process and distinctions between defendants I now see. Maybe it’s because my law alma mater was mostly staffed by people who actually practiced and so the folly was obvious. Of course now some of the crap I see on their facebook page makes me wonder if they aren’t getting soft too.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I was blessed to be going to college during the so-called “Science Wars” and I graduated just before the Sokal Affair.

              I didn’t have a lot of intellectual distance at the time (having very recently gotten off the Young Earth Creationist ride and recognizing most of the tools used by the postmodernists) but, as I look back now, I see that, yeah, the postmodernists had a point, if you were willing to give them a steelmanned version of their point, and that was one hell of a motte that they had.

              However, you’d see them wander out into the Bailey whenever they got an opportunity and said stuff that was dumb. Like, magnificently dumb. Like, stuff that is so dumb that the people who said the dumb things back then are now saying “yes, I should not have said that” (or merely “I regret my wording”).

              Postmodernism is a set of tools, little more. It dismantles. When it takes apart bad things, it’s good. When it takes apart good things, it’s bad. If you mostly just want the power to dismantle, you should dig into it. You’ll find that power there.

              And little more.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Excellent comment Jaybird. “Deconstruction” is an inherently negative project.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I was on the other end of that (the Sokal Hoax was freshman year and I found it delightful).

                I was at a campus that was renowned at the time (and still) for being a hotbed of progressive student activism -and critical theory. In both cases I thought it was easily avoided silliness that was very overblown, despite histrionics in both the respectable and Rightward press.

                It took me years to get past the brain damage of having a clearly inexperienced TA try convince me science was socially constructed.

                Another effect is that I just assume every concern about Campus Culture Wars is hugely overblown.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Yeah, right around that time my then girlfriend was a doctoral candidate working towards a Critical Theory PhD. She mostly worked around the concept of the sublime, but man, every once and a while she would fall into that (w)hole.

                But then again, her mantra was “I will only use my powers for good, I will…” so I get the feeling she knew how it could go.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                It took me years to get past the brain damage of having a clearly inexperienced TA try convince me science was socially constructed.

                I don’t mean I was convinced that science was socially constructed. I mean I was absolutely convinced that it was not at all socially constructed.

                It took quite a while—and some conversations with some patient people I knew who had backgrounds in critical theory and philosophy—to get what this was really about, and understand that it’s actually an accurate, if partial, description.

                (And I’ve become more convinced of its accuracy after spending most of my adult life working as one sort of scientist or another.)Report

  17. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    “Sam’s right about the trolling. Conservatives around here have been trolling for the entire time I’ve been here.”

    The problem I have always had with ‘trolling’ is that it is usually a code word for “I cannot believe that someone would have honestly and rationally arrived at that opinion so you must be messing with me.” For me it usually demonstrates a lack of ability to think bigger or sympathetically.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I routinely saw notme argue contradictory positions in ways that I’m sure were intended to anger liberals. Most of you all seemed to ignore him but nonetheless.

      He’s gone now which is good. But he was definitely a troll.

      Turner does a lot of gross, deliberately offensive hyperbole which gets redacted now. But for a long time it wasn’t.

      That is also trolling.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I’m probably not the right person to complain to about George. I actually really enjoy his comments and find them interesting. I should say that more often.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          His serious comments are fine.

          Some of his funny comments are really funny.

          Some of his “funny” comments are actually just grotesquely offensive and either hyperbole are purely facetious (it’s hard to tell). Either way I don’t see how the trolling label doesn’t apply.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I think sometimes people just have weird ways of stating things that seem nefarious to the rest of us. I’ve been trying to understand Jaybird for a decade now and feel no closer than I was in 2009. And seriously, everytime OTers talk about music I am convinced they are all trolling me.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            George is a troller, masking his “unseriousness” in ambiguity. If he was actually serious about the substance rather than the politics he’d not say some of the shit he actually says.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        When I came back after the year, I could tell things had gone a little slack without notme running yall through the paces. I know you probably don’t like gritty adversaries, but it does keep you sharp.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Trolling is the escape hatch offered by the right on white-supremacist appropriation of the OK symbol. If you wanna close that hatch you’ve basically conceded the argument to the left.*

      *where “the left” means people with eyes to see and ears to hear.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It’s weird to me, given the intellectual honesty of the right, that “righties” aren’t responding to the above comment. It undermines their basic claims about the dynamic in play.

        Hmmm. I don’t know what to make of it……Report

    • Mike,

      Fortunately, that is not the case here.Report

  18. So, I’ve been watching the comments but staying out (been busy with other stuff). I did want to refer you to this NYT piece:

    It argues that the division in the country is less about race than about racial ideology. i.e., Republicans and Democrats don’t really differ on how they see black people; they differ on whether certain policies are racist or not. I’ve noticed this showing up a LOT in the debate lately:

    1) The wall is racist
    2) Therefore anyone who supports the wall is racist
    3) Therefore Republicans are racist.

    But this seems to leave out huge sections of debate. It starts out with the assumption that the wall is racist and everything flows from that. It does not allow for an honest disagreement about whether the wall is a good idea or a bad idea. And so we end up talking past each other yet again.


  19. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Comment rescue for Michael Siegel (it seems the site is deleting them again)

    So, I’ve been watching the comments but staying out (been busy with other stuff). I did not want to refer you to this NYT piece:

    It argues that the division in the country is less about race than about racial ideology. i.e., Republicans and Democrats don’t really differ on how they see black people; they differ on whether certain policies are racist or not. I’ve noticed this showing up a LOT in the debate lately:

    1) The wall is racist
    2) Therefore anyone who supports the wall is racist
    3) Therefore Republicans are racist.

    But this seems to leave out huge sections of debate. It starts out with the assumption that the wall is racist and everything flows from that. It does not allow for an honest disagreement about whether the wall is a good idea or a bad idea. And so we end up talking past each other yet again.


    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      ” division in the country is less about race than about racial ideology. i.e., Republicans and Democrats don’t really differ on how they see black people; they differ on whether certain policies are racist or not.”

      Agreed on this. Polling demonstrates this. When they ask people about positive or negatives feelings towards a particular racial group, conservatives are usually very high. That number drops when they talk about policy. Another interesting thing to consider is that when minorities are asked something generic like, “Are you in favor of Affirmative Action?” they will generally answer yes. if you ask them something more specific like, ‘Do you think certain racial or ethnic groups should be given preference in college admissions?” those numbers will go down.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        Part of that difference has to do with who is on what side of the question, and whether you think the people who are most directly hurt by racism are more likely to recognize it accurately, or not. And I know you think the study you keep citing demolishes the idea that people who aren’t white are mostly on one side of the “is given policy or entity X racist?” questions, but @pillsy rather effectively demolished your misunderstanding of some of the data from that study in a comment several weeks ago, and you have yet to properly address that demolishment, or factor it into your claims.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Also, policy isn’t the only relevant question. On the question of whether Trump is racist, for instance, I pointed out elsewhere that an large majority of PoC believe he is.

          And as much as Mike has argued here that it’s only policy that matters, not motivation, when it comes to the President, he seems to have a different view when it comes to undergraduate SJ activists and HR managers.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Actually, that is incorrect. An HR rep or judge or whatever can be a rabid SJ liberal and I could care less. When that trickles over into activism on their job, that’s when i have a problem. Motivations vs. policy. that’s where I draw the line.Report

            • Avatar JoeSal says:

              @ Mike
              Have you ever seen a SJ liberal ever not inject the policy with the activism of their own ideology?

              Why would you expect them not too? This is somewhat like what i was talking about yesterday, it flows into every social construct like water into sand. I expect half the time they are not even aware that they do it. Because it just ‘looks right, or feels right’.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              But you assume there’s a much bigger danger of unsavory motivations creeping into the job of some midlevel manager somewhere than the Executive in charge of one of the largest and most powerful bureaucracies in the world…

              …when that Executive clearly has terrible impulse control, no respect for any sort of traditional boundaries on the powers or ethical constraints people holding that office are supposed to respect, and a habit of nominating political appointees who are completely unfit for the offices they hold.[1]

              You clearly think these are internally consistent positions but I really, really don’t know how you got there.

              [1] Most have resigned in disgrace over self-dealing and other corruption scandals, but at least one has had to quit over being a huge stonking racist.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I honestly believe there are a LOT more checks and balances on the president than the average low-level bureaucrat, judge, HR rep, etc. I mean, Trump talks a good game, but so far he hasn’t really been able to DO very much along the lines of his agenda (still waiting for that wall!) A judge can do LOTS of activism in his courtroom, within the letter of the law, and not really experience much blowback (if any). And we haven’t even talked about a public school system. Holy crap can they do a lot of damage there.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                I mean, Trump talks a good game, but so far he hasn’t really been able to DO very much along the lines of his agenda (still waiting for that wall!)

                Trade war. CBP kidnapping kids and then losing them. Muslim ban.

                The Constitutionality of the last, by the way, hinged on whether it was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. Bizarrely, SCOTUS concluded it didn’t.

                A judge can do LOTS of activism in his courtroom, within the letter of the law, and not really experience much blowback (if any).

                Hmm. Its a good thing the Racist Garbage Baby-In-Chief can’t appoint any judges. Otherwise there might be a problem.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Just out of curiosity, why is there a need for this:

                ‘Racist Garbage Baby-In-Chief’

                I mean, you’re typing this out. You can step away from your device and collect yourself for a minute. Do you feel name-calling advances the conversation? I don’t like the guy either, but I’m also a grownup.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Do you feel name-calling advances the conversation?

                Yes, in that it makes participating in it more engaging for me if I’m not self-censoring without any sort of compelling reason.

                Trump’s not a participant in this conversation, so I’m not particularly worried about hurting his feelings. You have said on multiple occasions the you dislike him, so I’m pretty sure I’m not hurting your feelings, either.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Yeah, but you also name-call your fellow commenters too. I guess if it is therapeutic for you, we should all just play along?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                I admit calling fellow commenters names is a pretty bad habit, and rarely advances the conversation. I fell into it in my early days on the board, and thought it served a purpose then.

                These days it doesn’t, really. But I don’t always catch myself.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Fair enough.

                I do agree we should be concerned about what judges are appointed but I’m almost never concerned about who goes on SCOTUS. I believe it’s the most ideological-disrupting part of our government. Remember how worried people were about Roberts? He has become a swing vote.

                But also, those decisions are very much in the public eye. We have a post today discussing the current session. An activist judge in a lower court mostly operates in a silo.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I’m not super-concerned about racists getting on the SCOTUS. I have a ton of problems with the Gorsuch [1] and Kavanaugh appointments, but that isn’t among them.

                With appointments of judges to the lower courts? I am much, much less sanguine. There’s less scrutiny, and people can generally get on earlier in their careers with less of a paper trail.

                The same goes for a lot of appointed positions where there’s a lot of discretion (consider the AG and his various appointed subordinates).

                [1] Gorsuch himself seems like an OK guy and and an OK Justice but the way he was installed was grotesque.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                So we are in agreement about the lower courts. At the same time though, it feels like there are more protections against overt racism than against progressive activism. To be sure, as Em points out in her SCOTUS post, it’s not perfect, but the legal system seems to be determined to keep tightening the controls. Progressive stuff is a lot less easy to address with policy.

                And that last sentence may speak to the bigger problem. There are a lot of Far Right racists who are pretty dumb. As a few people pointed out in this thread, they are pretty obvious. Progressives are typically much better educated and were trained within a system (university academics). So they know to work within the legal system to advance their agenda. That’s what we need to be vigilant against but also the hardest thing to legally pushback against.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                At the same time though, it feels like there are more protections against overt racism than against progressive activism.

                Possibly (though I’m unsure and it probably boils down to the meaning of “overt”) but nonetheless, I think people need more protection from overt racism than progressive activism.

                Overt racism is axiomatically bad.

                Progressive activism is a mixed bag.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Have you seen the trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? There’s a part where Bruce Lee is telling Brad Pitt’s character that his hands are registered as lethal weapons and if he accidentally kills him in a fight he could be arrested. Pitt responds, “If anyone is accidentally killed in a fight they go to jail. It’s called manslaughter.”

                My clumsy analogy here is that overt racism is already illegal. There are imperfect but legal protections in place for hate crimes, racism in the courts, etc. Can you point to any laws that protect us from progressive activism?

                And I’m not suggesting there should be laws for that, but we should at least acknowledge that we have an increasingly radical movement on the Left that is highly-trained to pursue activism within the system, which could absolutely have terrible trickle down effects that would affect millions. It’s arguably more risk than the tragic shooting of a few people by a deranged white supremacist.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Right but the reason we have for laws against many forms of overt racism is that there’s a broad societal norm against overt racism [1], because people generally think it’s bad. I know we have our differences on the subject of racism, but we agree on that.

                And though I know we also disagree about progressive activism, I’m pretty sure neither one of us thinks it’s categorically bad. So when you ask about safeguards, I’m wondering what specific things you’re talking about.

                [1] We didn’t always have this norm, and establishing it was a real triumph of the Civil Rights movement. It was not easy, and one of the reasons I’m so angry/frightened/depressed by Trump’s racism is I think it is both a reflection of that norm decaying, and is making that norm decay faster in a vicious cycle.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I think the safeguards are re-establishing peer review and the scientific method. Suing colleges that are not giving heretics due process and supporting the professors fighting those fights. It’s easier on the political side because we can vote out AOC or Omar (fingers crossed). But it’s definitely harder.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:


                Did they get rid of peer review and the scientific method recently? I’ve been so busy trying to respond to Reviewer #2’s comments that I might have missed it.

                Less facetiously, one of the things I’ve noticed in my conversations about the dangers posed by progressive activism, especially on college campuses, is that they cite things that extremely inconsistent with my experience in any number of areas.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I think it has been demonstrated that peer review and the scientific method serve an agenda (see sokal hoax, etc).Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                The Sokal Hoax was over 20 years ago and the journal involved (Social Text) was not, IIRC, peer-reviewed at all. In any even it wasn’t a scientific journal, which is part of why Sokal was able to snow them so effectively.Report

  20. Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

    I’m including a link to a photo of three police officers in Jasper, Alabama making that hand signal exactly as I described earlier. You may have seen it already and dismissed it, but do take another look if that’s the case.

    Consider the odds of three police officers making the exact same hand sign I described and getting suspended for it. And consider the odds of a rural Mayor who grew up in Alabama suspending them because “heard about” it on 4chan or the nightly News.

    So, why wasn’t this hand sign known previously to “city slickers” and corporate media or well documented on the internet before 2016?

    Because the Klan had been avoiding attention until Trump emboldened them and they’ve gotten a lot more active since he was elected, and that is very easy to prove with just a bit of research.

    Most everyone here where I live in Taney County Missouri, which is named after the SCOTUS Judge (look him up if you don’t already know about him), knows the difference, knows what that gesture means, and no one here ever mistakes it for the “OK” sign.

    I don’t expect all of you to believe me, but the truth is truth and you can’t change it by refusing to accept it. But if you come here and ask locals what that hand sign means it won’t take you long to confirm what I’ve told you. If you ask them if they’ve ever heard of “4chan” I don’t think you’ll find even one in a thousand that will say “yes” and if I were a betting man I’d bet the farm you won’t find one in five hundred that will say they learned about first on TV or the internet.

    I never saw anything at all about it on the News or the internet until the past couple years.

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      I’m left wondering why the origin story is even all that important at this point. If people are now using it as a genuine… gang sign, I guess… how does it starting as a hoax on 4-chan even matter? Of course you have to be careful of false positives, but context is a real thing.

      Hand raised, pointer and middle finger spread and raised. V for victory or peace sign? Context.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “how does it starting as a hoax on 4-chan even matter?”

        It matters the same way that the misunderstood (or outright faked) information about Iraqi WMD matters.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar says:

          Srsly? You’re going to equate clowns on 4-chan with the administration of the most powerful country on the planet?? And some false positive WP id’s by some SJ types with a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and cost trillions of $??Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            Also for his analogy to work, Saddam Hussein would have been faking the data to own the libs by tricking them into invading Iraq.

            But hey.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:


            I mean, maybe I could cite the TANG memo, you’d prefer that instead? Doesn’t make your side look much better. I figured I’d go for something that the other bastards did, but apparently your attitude is that I can take my olive branch and jam it up my ass sideways.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      I’m not sure the link is useful for you, because the incident happened in 2018, and the article quotes the ADL (not exactly a hotbed of alt-right sentiment) regarding the message-board origins of the gesture.Report

  21. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I mean, you guys, this whole thing seems like “the ship on the Snapple bottle is actually a slave ship because the guys who made it are RACIST” or “the Marlboro cigarette pack design actually says ‘KKK’ and ‘Marlboro’ partly backward and partly upside-down says ‘horrible Jew’ because Philip Morris are RACIST”

    It’s about the glorious nihilistic frisson of finding that there’s a secret evil conspiracy in the world, so bold as to put its signs right there in plain sight, and only the truly enlightened can see them and understand just how far-reaching the conspiracy spreads and just how fucked we are.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Hey, it’s not like the right doesn’t fall for this kind of crap. I mean, who would believe that Hillary is running a secret child sex slave ring through the secret basement of a pizza shop, am I right?

      People is stupid all over.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        And even more on point, regardless of the origin story, a non-zero number of actual white supremacists/separatists/nationalists are for real using this sign non-ironically. A lot? A little? Dunno – “some”. And since it’s pretty clear that they self-identify as “Right”, as much as that may pain some to admit, that means at least some folks on “the Right” got pwned as hard as anybody.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          To date, the alt-right getting ‘pwned’ by stupid shite seems to less of a bug and more of an undocumented feature. Especially since they get ‘pwned’ by their own pundits.

          My whole point has been, admit it was a hoax, admit you fell for it, and stop acting as if it’s a legit thing just because you don’t want to admit you got suckered.

          Just because some knuckleheads on the alt-right either fell for it, or use it ironically (or whatever) doesn’t mean it is a thing, nor that we should allow it to be a thing.

          And at no point should it be taken as evidence that someone is a super-secret racist.

          Seriously, these days, the racists are loud and proud. You don’t need a hand gesture, just wait for them to open their mouths. Most of them can’t help but make it obvious that they are fully gone, or otherwise sympathetic.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Co-signing all of this.Report

          • Avatar Bill Stephenson says:

            It is a “thing”, and it’s not “hoax”.

            Like I pointed out earlier with the “Monarch butterfly” analogy, just because you’ve not been there to observe it doesn’t mean it does not exist.

            And here, it’s a growing thing, though probably not faster as a percent of the population overall.

            That said, I completely agree with “You don’t need a hand gesture, just wait for them to open their mouths. Most of them can’t help but make it obvious that they are fully gone, or otherwise sympathetic.”

            That is truer today than it was 25 years ago when I moved here though. Back then they were not near as willing to “come out”.

            I need to make clear that most of my neighbors are not Klan members and they’re not racist. They are overwhelmingly conservative though.

            It does the left no good to paint everyone right of them as racists, just as it does the right no good to paint the left as “socialists”. I refuse to partake in any of that, but I won’t ignore it when it’s in my face either.

            I live here. It’s fair to say those Klan members are not the brightest kids on the block, but for the most part they’re harmless. They’re not all plotting mass murders.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        The problem with this analogy is it would be like if a bunch of pedophiles started a hoax about how “cheese pizza” and the like are codewords they use to talk with each other, and deliberately started talking about cheese pizza in a context where it actually is a codeword, and then people who worried about pedophiles and noticed this started seeing “cheese pizza” as a sign that someone was a pedophile in other contexts.

        Is this a mistake? Yes.

        Were those people fooled? Yes.

        Are they being dumb? Sorta .

        Is it remotely the same universe as dumb and crazy as Pizzagate or Q? No, it isn’t, because the trick is much better, and involved actual pedophiles deliberately muddying the waters, and succeeding in large part because they are pedophiles.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Sure, but when the right does it it’s Obviously Stupid Crap, and when the left does it we get commentors going to the mattresses over “well yeah sure maybe it was wrong but it’s not like WRONG wrong, I mean racism exists so it’s SORTA LIKE we were RIGHT, I mean you can I mean I mean you can understand how we would have like would have like how we would have THOUGHT it was for real, right, like, right?”Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Dude if you want me to cry into my beer because, as much as Rightwards are coddled around here, they could be coddled even more, you should get used to disappointment.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Just out of curiosity, when you say ‘coddled’ what do you mean by that?Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              Really most of the board (basically the folks who don’t explicitly rep Team Blue) tends to be very forgiving of, and curious about, Rightwards in the broader world doing weird, dumb, or outright bad things.

              So we get a lot of explanations about why people would vote for Trump for reasons other than just being racist dicks, say. Indeed, many actual articles have been written on exactly that topic. Sometimes (OK, routinely) I think this gets a little old, but it’s not inherently illegitimate.

              At the same time, if members of the SJ Left does something dumb or bad, there isn’t remotely the same sort of forgiveness or even curiosity. Even the original article here just assumed that the Left were being dumb partisan hacks without giving a second thought to why they might have been fooled.

              It’s always like that. There’s always an immediate, conversation-terminating knee-jerk that the SJWs are at it with their virtue signaling and being chicken littles and trying to silence conservatives and whatever other nefarious motive they might have.

              You’re probably ready to say, “Hey, what about the way you insist an asserting that the GOP is racist, et c., which also damages conversation?”

              Well, the thing is I fell into this habit because I don’t really have any interest in perpetuating the lopsided norm that assumes they aren’t. So I consciously don’t perpetuate it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I can’t speak for the rest of us not on Team Blue but…for myself I have tried to explain numerous times that I am very sympathetic to progressives in the sense that their heart is in the right place. I don’t think of them as bad people. On the other hand, it’s fairly clear to me that liberals in general think of conservatives as Bad People. That little avatar I have? I chose that years ago because it’s a nod to how the much of the Left sees conservatives. Mean little white men twirling their mustaches.

                My big complaint about the SJ Left can be boiled down to really two things. The first is the whole woke religion thing. It’s crazy and I don’t understand it and it causes them to make terrible decisions and manipulate facts in support of a certain narrative. Don’t like it.

                The other thing is just how angry the SJ Left is. And I say that as the father of a hipster, vegan, Bernie supporting daughter who is one of my favorite people in the whole world, but who also (along with her husband) seems to have chosen recreational outrage as a hobby. This is a kid who in her heart knows her dad supports her, has always respected her beliefs and yet a simple political discussion has her go from 0 to 60 in about 3 minutes. And I have seen that on this site more times than I can count.

                So that’s my position. But I also don’t think you have actually explained how the ‘Rightwards’ on this site are coddled, unless you mean we are coddling each other.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                I’m curious also, who are you seeing as Rightward versus barely right of center here?Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “as much as Rightwards are coddled around here”

            haw. “Allowed to post without instantly being hellbanned” is not exactly coddling.

            I mean, it’s pretty clear here that you consider disagreement to be trolling and permission-to-exist with be coddling, so I can’t help but wonder what you’re even doing here. Balloon Juice exists, dude, and I think it’s more to your taste.Report

  22. I don’t think you’re correct. The killer has not been duped. He knows the OK sign is not a white-supremacist symbol, and is surely smiling as the media predictably makes it one. He called himself an accelerationist in his “manifesto,” and his enemies seem more than happy to help him in his cause.Report

  23. Avatar pillsy says:

    @Mike, JoeSal,

    Moving out here to have some more space.

    . On the other hand, it’s fairly clear to me that liberals in general think of conservatives as Bad People. That little avatar I have?

    We often do, Mike, but have you ever wondered why we think that way? Have you considered it’s not just us, but there might be something about the way the conservative movement behaves and is structured that drives it?

    It’s crazy and I don’t understand it and it causes them to make terrible decisions and manipulate facts in support of a certain narrative.

    When Sam or I or veronica d or Chip [1] think conservatives are crazy because they believe things that we don’t understand, usually people try to get us to understand, in more or less effective, and more or less irksome, ways. There doesn’t seem to be a similar desire to understand where SJWs or “the intersectional left” or whatever you want to call ’em is coming from. Not just whether they’re right or wrong [2] but if there might be more informing their perspective than, say, “woke religion”.

    This is a kid who in her heart knows her dad supports her, has always respected her beliefs and yet a simple political discussion has her go from 0 to 60 in about 3 minutes.

    Some people are just like that, and I don’t think it’s a left/right or SJ/not-so-SJ thing. I’ve always had that habit (which I’m sure comes as a massive shock to you) and it’s gotten way better as I’ve grown older. It was at its worst when I was in my late teens, and hadn’t really been exposed to the SJ stuff yet.[3,4]

    And it’s less about Rightwards coddling each other on this site, and more about how people on this site tend to think about Rightwards in the broader world.


    It’s not really a left/right thing exactly. It’s more an affect or maybe cultural affiliation thing.

    [1] A partial list of who I think of as “Team Blue”, though that’s not entirely accurate, and the partisanship is probably overstated.

    [2] Like any movement/group/faction, they are not immune to making mistakes, getting caught up in weird ideological tangles, or harboring complete assholes.

    [3] It was out there but less popular and a lot of it seemed really dumb to me. Less of it seems really dumb to me now.

    [4] And my parents usually bore the brunt of it and my mom is often the same way. We still have a big fight about Israel every time I go down to see them for Christmas/Hanukkah; it’s practically a family tradition at this point.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      Again, I can only speak for myself but I go to great lengths to understand the other side. I just find it very, very hard. That’s why the religion analogy seems so fitting because when you consider the SJ Left in that context, suddenly the pieces fall into place. It also explains the good/evil thing.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        I’m not saying it’s not hard. Sometimes it’s hard for members of the SJ Left, too.[1] At the same time, though, religion isn’t just a crazy thing that weird people believe for no reason.[2] It usually addresses some needs and desires they have. Not everyone has the same needs, and for some of us religion mostly seems like an odd waste of time.

        I tend not to think of the SJ Left as religious per se, but they sometimes ping the same sorts of things in my mind that social conservatives do. Like SoCons, they tend to have a thicker view of community, and place more emphasis on/demand more from their communities than more traditional (broadly speaking) liberals.

        Some of that means they have sacred values and a believe in purity and solidarity that a lot of liberals tend not to.[3]

        Overall (and obviously), I think they channel these impulses in much better directions than their counterparts on the Right, but one of the things that I sometimes remember that lets me pause and take a breath when dealing with SoCons is thinking of them as the SJWs of the Right.

        [1] This is actually one of my biggest criticisms of it. It can be incredibly draining and stressful for people who participate in it, which is not good.

        [2] I used to believe it, and this was what would touch of my angry rants during my early adulthood. Oddly, if I’d stayed on that path I’d probably be really antagonistic towards the SJ Left now.

        [3] I have very little use for most people associated with the IDW, but Haidt is one I make an exception for, even if I don’t think he really gets how his own “Moral Tribes” stuff plays out with the SJL.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          The religion description mostly comes in with regards to painting policy positions as moral choices. For example, if I say that I disagree with your position on affirmative action, I just believe we see the data differently. I don’t make a moral judgement of you. You might say my position is based in racism. That’s a moral judgement that stays with me. And you’re right to compare it to the SoCons. The only issue I have ever strayed into that area on ia abortion. Beyond that, I try to be hyper vigilant of any moral judgements on my part. I can tell you with 100% sincerity, even when I disagree most strongly with you, it’s not a moral judgement. I think often SJ liberals assume it is which is why they get so huffy with us.Report

  24. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Something I’m amazed that I forgot in all of this: Trash Doves, which was the same thing as “OK” only with an actual person’s artwork.

    And the fake meat feeds both sides:

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