Category Archives: America

Beyond Genocide

bad cell zone

As some of you may’ve noticed, I’ve been on a very strong AmNat vibe for the past few months. This hypochondriac psy-op we’re living through has given me a greater appreciation than ever for the American Revolution and the U.S. Bill of Rights. But as Evola said, “What really counts is to be faithful not to past forms and institutions, but rather to principles of which such forms and institutions have been particular expressions.” America was founded by mercantile elites, and mercantile elites are always aspirational. But “the poetic fancy of gentlemen” (as Mencken phrased it) is not for everyone.

In my last post I decried the Chinese persecution of the Uyghur people. In alt-right circles (and certainly in liberal ones, though liberals aren’t free to say it) this issue is seen as a tu quoque predilection of feckless conservatives, and certainly that is how I came off because that is exactly how I framed the argument, i.e., “AOC says #MeToo, but she doesn’t care about muh females because Xinjiang.” Very sloppy stuff, I admit. But my heart genuinely goes out to the Uyghurs, as does the part of me that prefers the ancient and mysterious to the modern and irreverent. Their destruction is emblematic of something larger than Great Game geopolitics and lowbrow domestic jingoism.

In any case, because I compared the U.S. government favorably to its Chinese counterpart with regard to genocide, James Lawrence took me to task in the comments by pointing out that genocide is not the special province of the Chinese. He was referring specifically not to Yemen or to Syria but to white genocide (though he didn’t quite use the term.) Obviously, I’m not afraid of associating with marginalized ideas, and I have no problem with the proposition that whites, as a race, are under serious attack from organized, clandestine forces. Yet something about this idea feels unavoidably silly, and it isn’t just the fact that Yemenis are being starved to death while Whole Foods is full of white people.

An old Marxist cliché has it that the Jews are canaries in the coal mine, i.e., that any sudden uptick in anti-semitism is a harbinger of war and wider persecution. Regardless of how true this is, the vulnerability of Jews as a group is not difficult to comprehend. The same cannot be said about white people. This certainly isn’t because white people aren’t vulnerable to non-white aggression and criminality. Rather, it’s because white supremacy is an objective fact that is viscerally understood by everyone at an evolutionary level. The preference for whiteness is a human universal, evidenced by the most ancient and diverse societies. If it wasn’t, there’d be no need for the strained and dishonest discourse around this topic that we are perennially subject to in modern life. The long arc of history does not bend toward a mocha-hued utopia or a colorblind meritocracy, because the two possibilities are mutually exclusive. So what would it mean for humanity as a whole if white people were ever in serious danger of being neutered and marginalized? God help the coal mine where Aryans are the canary!

My defensive response to James Lawrence was essentially to point out that, unlike anything being done to European peoples, the bluntness of China’s assault on the Uyghurs resembles a classic genocide, with the boot of a highly centralized and expansionist ethnostate stamping on the face of a hapless national minority—box cars, prison camps and all. But that doesn’t really capture the whole of the difference, does it? Because the question must be asked whether, in the face of a precipitous and universal moral decay abetted by rapidly advancing technology, the word “genocide” still means anything. In the 20th century, Camus asked whether it was possible to live without committing murder; in the 21st, we must ask whether it is possible to live without murdering nature.

Viewed in that context, Rotherham, Mitrovica, Kashgar, Desmond is Amazing and the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex are all just dots on a map. As a species, our capacity for memory is deteriorating, on an evolutionary scale, at a rate that is observable in real time. Where public discourse is not the purest, most tenebrous premonition of apocalypse and dread of shadows and clandestine sicarii, it is vacuous to the point of dementia or characterized by the darkest and most demoralizing absurdism. These are not just the lights of Rome flickering out, but the onset of the utmost conceivable perdition, everywhere. I won’t belabor the comparatively miniscule point that based China is no more standing in the way of this than the Bill of Rights is.

I have some solutions to suggest, but I’ll save them for a subsequent post.

First World Problems

I’m a sexual assault survivor. I’m here to rape you. Please remove your clothing, it’s making me feel extremely unsafe.

“Sexual assault” is a deliberately nebulous term, and believing someone as obviously mercenary and opportunistic as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is highly counter-intuitive. It borders on the irremediable stupidity one tends to find among undergrad Daily Show revolutionaries. For one thing, there’s simply no risk to saying anything AOC says out loud in public—the media isn’t going to scrutinize her, and claiming entree to a sanctified victim class only enhances the teflon, as e.g.:

So I don’t actually mean to pick on AOC with this. We could be talking about any number of habitual personalities in American public life. Grifters nowadays are actually less believable when they have names and faces. What needs to be questioned isn’t the particular performer but the entire genre. AOC just happens to be its best contemporary exemplar. 

Okay, so AOC claims to be a sexual assault survivor and likens the former experience to the latter one of being forced to hide in a bathroom from Capitol rioters. Some evidence may have recently come to light that she is lying about this:

I’m not sure how true this evidence is (UPDATE: it’s true ROFL); but at least for the sake of argument, I have no problem taking her claims entirely at face value. Nothing that a contender for power says is devoid of political calculation. So the point is not the authenticity of the person’s subjective impressions. “I was raped,” “I was disenprivilegized,” “I was abducted by aliens.” Fine. Whatever. I believe you. Qui bono? Let’s first understand exactly what AOC is calling for here, and (momentarily) what she isn’t, because those things are a lot more apropos than the verity or falsehood underlying her rationale. 

The Capitol rioters committed trespass; they committed vandalism; and (if we’re to take AOC’s claims at face value) they assaulted (in the legal sense of making a threat) numerous members of Congress. Perhaps it’s too obvious to point out that when you thrust yourself into the public limelight by pursuing power over the lives of strangers, it isn’t far-fetched to conceive of this possibility. Exactly how reprehensible a prospect it is depends on the kind of power we’re talking about. A local school board voting on a measure to purchase a swing-set probably shouldn’t be obliged to hide in a water closet from marauders, no matter how toothless and pathetic they are. But congressmen…?

I’ll leave the answer to that question to your own private opinion; suffice it to say that for well-known reasons the U.S. Congress is not very popular. But the nature and extent of AOC’s (or any congressman’s) power can be gauged by the consequences meted out to the people who allegedly threatened her. Because when AOC likens the Capitol riot to rape, what she’s calling for—what she’s rationalizing in this particular case—is for trespass, vandalism, and assault to be charged in this particular case as the absolute most serious violent crimes that United States law recognizes (e.g., sedition and terrorism with hate crimes enhancements) and for those charged to be jailed potentially for the rest of their lives. She’s calling for justice with respect to persons.

And this shows what AOC is decidedly not calling for, which is the dismantling of the federal police state. Now, AOC is probably a lot better on so-called national security issues than many other members of Congress. It may all be cosmetic, but assuming it isn’t, what we can see now is that she does believe there is a category of Americans to whom the police state’s darkest, most unaccountable powers ought to apply.

So there’s that.

But there are things that the U.S. federal police state is not especially guilty of in the modern era, e.g., mass sexual enslavement secondary to genocide. If there was a government on the planet that was guilty of that, one would think it should concern the U.S. Congress, particularly those members who are “survivors of sexual assault” and especially those sex assault surviving congresspersons who are willing to speak out about their experiences as a way of rationalizing policy.

I don’t care what you think about China, or about Muslims, or about the moral pretensions of U.S. foreign policy. Opposition to genocide of the God-fearing by the godless is a cause that is dear to my heart. If it isn’t dear to yours, shame on you. Yes, Xinjiang is an old story; that life goes on in spite of it is the worst possible indictment of capitalism’s supposed democratizing tendencies.

As a member of Congress, AOC has public standing and arguably the obligation to place any number of concerns before the American public. As one of a relatively small number of congresspeople who has a household name, her capabilities and obligations in this regard are well above average. And of course, China is not a nation of marginal interest to America. It is our number one global adversary, the largest (or second largest, depending on how it’s measured) economy in the world, and our largest trading partner.

Genocide is also not a topic of marginal interest to Congress. America makes large and deeply moralistic claims for its imperatives beyond its borders, to the extent that the commission of genocide anywhere on the planet in some sense shames the United States. And the prevention or mitigation of genocide has been a key public rationale for numerous highly destructive U.S. military interventions abroad. The fact that in Xinjiang we find genocide with a generous helping of “sexual assault” (of the variety that is actual rape, in case anyone still wonders just what we’re referring to anymore when we say “sexual assault”) is par for the course.

If I had 1/1000th of AOC’s following I’d be banging on about Xinjiang day and night. But just what has AOC had to say about it? Well, nothing. Exactly zero racial justice warriors in Congress and the Fortune 100 have, because they’re profiting from it. The Trump administration waited until January 19th to call it what it is. The only sexual assault survivor in Congress who has done anything to position the U.S. opposite the horrors being inflicted by Beijing is Marco Rubio. His colleagues’ eventual pronouncements were as DOA (and immediately forgotten) as Pompeo’s were, because it’s highly uncomfortable for the beneficiaries of misplaced power to oppose the misplaced power of others. These types much prefer to coexist with one another, as China does with America. When war must be waged, the rationale is always the same: these people aren’t like us.

They’re rapists.

Unlike Chinese prison camp guards.

Little Reichstag Fires Everywhere

the 8-ball fears the cueball

Swarms of federal troops guard a nervous capitol from invisible enemies. Apparatchiks herald the emergence of a police state from the shadows. An inaugural address that reads like an enemies list. A nationalized, one-party press, dedicated to ideological inquests and denunciations. But beware the ides of March: flush with vulgar, terminal authority, this gerontocracy has unwittingly climbed the hill it will die on. Its diktats and ultimatums are nothing but a high flag of hubristic fragility. A system that muzzles dissent is loudly declaring its vulnerability to words and thoughts. 

The first black DefSec, first woman VP, first native Interior Secretary, first transgender Assistant Secretary of Health, the TikTok vote, wise Latinas and aging celebrities: the beast grasps for fresh blood at the low cost it has bargained. A totalitarian system is a universal menace by definition. If this ever dawns on the narcissists, kleptocrats and inferiority complexes frolicking in the shadow of its aegis, it will be too late for them.

blazing tattles

But for the time being, multiculturalism is on the march. It is the whole ambiance, the paramount public rationale for power and the central conceptual frame of our day. You may not be thinking about it, but it is thinking about you. Various in-depth analyses of how this came to pass are just intellectual masturbation at this point. Power corrupts, and what we’re dealing with is corrupt power. This works the same in every country, in all times and places. The enemy’s self-image is irrelevant. Given its current rationale for power, it wants you to focus on that. Focus instead on the reality: the ruling class has a definite agenda—a utopian vision rooted in peculiar ontological assumptions. It’s not keeping them secret. It’s veritably pouring them in your ears 24/7. Identify the underlying syllogism (again, it’s right in front of you) and all you have to do is keep pointing out its obvious flaws until the whole golem whose DNA it is croaks unceremoniously.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (D.I.E.) is not something amorphous. It’s a definite party program, a thought system with catechisms, luminaries, canonical texts, financial backers, professional networks, procedural manuals, etc. It boils down to a handful of basic propositions. They’re either true or they’re not.

Its most characteristic sub-genre is the small-town racial reckoning saga:

NBC News: “A racist video sparked change in a wealthy Texas suburb. Then a ‘silent majority’ fought back.”

Essentially, a group of black parents in a Dallas suburb say their kids have been subject to occasional racist remarks from white children over a period of decades. They found a receptive ear on the local school board, which proposed sensitivity training from K through 12. And then….

Within days, outraged parents — most of them white — formed a political action committee and began packing school board meetings to voice their strong opposition. Some denounced the diversity plan as “Marxist” and “leftist indoctrination” designed to “fix a problem that doesn’t exist.” The opponents said they, too, wanted all students to feel safe at Carroll, but they argued that the district’s plan would instead create “diversity police” and amounted to “reverse racism” against white children.

Let’s assume that this is entirely accurate, not in the sense that it captures the basic tenor of events without glaring omissions or invidious shading, but in the sense that the quoted portions are words that actual people involved in these events actually said out loud, in public, which is entirely plausible. In that case, I see a couple of problems.

First, the for-lack-of-better terminology: marxist, leftist, indoctrination, reverse racism.

When you’re being gaslit, you’re basically being called crazy. An emotional reaction only feeds into this game. If you’re not careful with the way you describe things, you out yourself as an adversary and give the other side every pretext to disregard you and rat you out to NBC News—who would avoid this story like gonorrhea if they thought the other side was organized behind a single, sober, eloquent spokesman; in which case things would play out locally, and the majority would carry the day. 

Second, the “problem that doesn’t exist.” The problem does exist. These rich black families may be looking at it through a high-powered microscope, but if you need their claims to be untrue you’ve forfeited the argument. I’m not saying you need to genuflect to these people or compromise with them. On the contrary: you have to give a cold, surgical demonstration that their tactics have no effect, which requires contempt; and you cannot show contempt for something you’re not taking at face value. 

A diversity push in a community you’ve invested $1.5 million of pre-tax, post-interest money in is highly insidious. Even if you’re trailer trash, it means there’s no escaping these puritans. If the diversity industrial complex proves one thing, it’s that no matter your color, creed or female penis, you literally have to be brainwashed to not comprehend how noxious and dangerous blacks and mestizos are on average when compared to whites and Asians in this country, and how unfailingly open and polite white people are in spite of this. If every single adult member of the black community of Southlake, Texas did not understand this with perfect clarity, they wouldn’t be living in Southlake, Texas. And no, I’m not worried about getting doxxed because quoting me would require a journalist to say something true. 

So the sensitivity training that’s being proposed in suburban Dallas is not simply about “learning to respect other cultures” or teaching everybody to show mutual respect. No. It’s about instructing white children to tiptoe around the minutest and most peculiar sensitivities of the most irremediably miserable and megalomaniacal non-white adults (take another glance at that Don Lemon tweet if you don’t believe me) at a time when whites are the vast majority of violent crime victims, and blacks are the vast majority of perpetrators. And it isn’t just a matter of putting this perspective in front of schoolchildren. There’ll no doubt be review and follow-up, performance indicators and remedial measures, all at the broad discretion of a few dozen miserable yentas who need the appearance of a problem to justify their allocation of public resources. D.I.E. is a humorless, morally inquisitory and highly censorious thought regimen that seeks to redress the endemic inferiority complex of the most intellectually warped and behaviorally crippled people in society by deconstructing the psyches of unassuming normies and replacing them with obsequious anxiety. D.I.E. necessarily exacerbates its own problems. It metastasizes narcissism by making contrived victim classes in first world countries the center of the moral universe. It opportunistically racializes mundane social intercourse and places the onus for the bulk of the world’s problems right down to the most subjective takeaways from the pettiest conceivable interactions entirely on one race of people, including their tiniest children under circumstances where those children are the actual victims of horrific non-white aggression. It’s malevolent. Period. It has to be fought. If it didn’t have to be fought, they wouldn’t be calling you a terrorist for not being their chatbot.

But it has to be fought wisely. And this is how: all you have to do is calmly and boldly state facts, out loud, in public. Recognize counterarguments. Couch your own in magnanimity toward the humanity of your opponents. “Never let them see you ruffled,” as Jefferson once said. But state the facts without qualification, and always remember that no matter what anyone tells you, you’re not doing anything wrong.

Once people see that you can do that, it’s emboldening and cathartic. Then NBC News and The Daily Show can trot out all the Punisher skull Emmanuel Goldsteins they can dream up. The President can declare a few broken windows a terrorist incident, the FBI can log my browser history, and EvilCorp can erase me from the internet. But they can’t make it a crime to casually state facts out loud—not for long, anyway. Because before too long, that’s all it’s going to take. In the end, that’s all it ever takes.

Deconstructing Zionism, Pt. II

discount handjob

(Part I here)

I am fond of a quote from Orwell, where he observed that “Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought.” Assuming that a “crippling effect upon the mind” is something undesirable, this is the best rationale for intellectual freedom that I’ve ever heard.

Of course, taboos will always be with us, and any ideology will tend to narrow the parameters of cognition, behavior, and decency. But Zionism is one of those perennially beleaguered creeds that one can hardly scrutinize without earning its anathema. All cultures work through cognitive frames, but at their best they do not invite this extent of paranoia.

Then again, paranoia is a feature of all sorts of ideologies, some of which pose far greater threats to human freedom than Zionism does. And polemics could just as easily be launched against anti-Zionism, a peculiar ideological commitment centered on the proposition that a nation state with a high human development index and a decent human rights record (within its internationally recognized borders, at least) should be dismantled and abolished. So why single Zionism out for criticism? Well… where no double standards are being imposed, the retort that some sacred cow is being “singled out” by criticism is special pleading. But it is true that I have polemicized about Zionism at least as much as I’ve defended it. Why?

First of all, because Zionism was a big part of my formative years. I lived in Israel for four years in my early twenties and did a stint in the Israeli army. So if I wanted to make a case study of intellectual horse-blinders, Zionism is close at hand. My focusing on the subject no more “singles out” Israel than Ma’ariv or Adi Ashkenazi does. But there is a second reason: because Zionism’s intellectual horse-blinders are perhaps more insidious than others, in that it claims with considerable justification to be liberal.

am love freedoms

There’s no question that Zionism operates on a lot of liberal software, but its mainframe is not only not liberal; it implicitly rejects universal reason. It inculcates an extremely active sympathetic nervous system by strongly suggesting to adherents that Jews (not just e.g., the Mossad, but Jews as a people) have peculiar imperatives that transcend morality—and that if someone accuses you of wrongdoing, chances are you’re being hounded by Amalek. Certainly, the persistence of violent, irrational anti-semitism muddies the waters in favor of this mentality, but if evil is embodied in whoever casts doubt on your arbitrary imperatives, then your concept of the good is totally subjective. There are other ideologies like this—various kinds of fascism, nihilism, postmodernism—but for any of them to earnestly make the astounding claim that they are fundamentally liberal cannot go unchallenged without tacit concurrence.

In my previous post on this topic, I considered and rejected the idea that Israel is an anachronism (racist, colonialist, theocratic, etc.) in a liberalizing world, in favor of the inimical proposition that Israel is in fact a spearhead of global liberalism. This doesn’t mean that Israel is not racist, colonialist, etc., or that it is a force for human freedom. Rather, it means that Israel has become a powerful force for late-stage liberal democracy’s worst excesses, e.g., indefinite rule by emergency powers; repression of ideas in the name of fighting “hate”; innovation in the field of biometrics and mass surveillance; and the cloaking of ruthless self-interest in the language of universalism.

According to Glenn Greenwald in No Place to Hide, intelligence sharing between Israel and the U.S. tends to one-sidedly benefit Israel:

Despite the close relationship between American and Israeli intelligence agencies, the extensive information provided to Israel by the United States produced little in return…. As the NSA complained, the partnership was geared ‘almost totally’ to Israel’s needs.

The same might be said of America’s famous friendship with Israel more generally. It is completely one-sided. I’ve written before that contrary to conventional wisdom, the financial advantage in the relationship is America’s, while Israel takes on the bulk of the military risk. I stand by this admittedly counter-intuitive argument. But in terms of which party is signing off on the other’s values and enabling the other’s behavior, the relationship entirely favors Israel. (In fact, without U.S. protection, Israel would behave very differently.) In a bizarre, recurring spectacle, ranking American politicians effusively pledge fidelity (if not fealty, exactly) to the fatherland of their billionaire donors (who also control the media which determines their electoral prospects.) Where is the analogue for this in Israeli public life? Americans are regularly treated to rapt oratory about the importance of this relationship for America’s values, but those have got to be the most unrequited values in the world—Israel couldn’t care less about them:

Nietzsche said a good fight justifies any cause, and Israel’s national pugnacity is justifiably admired. Even so, justification and relative worthiness to prevail are two different things. America, for example, stands for fundamental decency, whereas Israel stands for the most parochial interests of Jews—which is fair enough, but liable to conflict with fundamental decency in a million different ways. Netanyahu’s tweet (above) is just one illustration. When America falls short of decency, it is betraying itself. The same cannot be said of Israel.

It’s certainly true that Israel offers robust democratic protections to its citizens, that Israeli citizenship confers great advantages on those Palestine Arabs who enjoy it, and that Israel has been compelled to take certain repressive measures against those in the occupied territories, who don’t. But a great deal of Israel’s treatment of Arabs (on both sides of the line) is purely aggressive, and when Israel violates their rights it tends to do so not e.g., as a temporary symptom of an election result, but as a matter of its most intrinsic policies and values. Of course, many accusations against Israel are pure fiction, but a great many are not. I won’t go down the list of Israel’s alleged and not-so-alleged (fast-forward to 1:59) crimes against Arabs. What I’m interested in here is why we do it, because that might explain why Israel can be so entitled and disdainful in its attitude toward Americans.

First things first: Zionism is the proposition that the Jews should enjoy national sovereignty in their historic fatherland. While I’m not convinced that this is a universal moral imperative, I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all—where I depart from Zionism is in its reasons why. Basically, there are two: (1) because it is necessary to ensure the physical safety of Jews; and (2) because it is necessary to ensure the continuation of Jewish culture. 

The first of these reasons is debatable. Jews have physically survived in the diaspora for over 2,000 years; poorly in some places, but quite well in others. It’s true that pogroms still take place, but no fewer (and probably more) take place inside Israel than they do abroad. So it seems to me that the real reason for Zionism (at least in terms of physicality, security, etc.) is not simply to defend Jews from clear and present danger, but to vindicate Jews as self-reliant fighters in spite of traditionally being disarmed and enfeebled. It’s overcompensation arising out of an inferiority complex; nothing could be more obvious. There was a time when this resonated with me (if not exactly in those terms.) But eventually I had to ask myself whether an inferiority complex is something worth hanging onto, and whether vindicating myself as a man has any necessary connection with Jewishness. And it does—just not much.

Clearly, the second reason (to ensure the continuation of Jewish culture) weighs more in favor of Zionism, because of assimilation in the diaspora. As an American mischling, I’m not the best-qualified person to defend this line of reasoning. The most I can say is that I support a Jewish state as an option for people whose Jewishness is more important to them than mine is for me. But can Zionism afford to agree with me there? As the self-proclaimed state of all the Jewish people, Israel must insist that Jews and even half-breeds belong in Israel; ergo they live outside of Israel because of some defect or inadvertence. But if I belong in Israel, that would have to mean that my most intrinsic wellbeing is dependent on Jewishness. I see no problem with that as a religious belief; but as civics, or teleology? It’s hard to see how all but the most obstreperous, shrunken-headed fanatics could entirely believe it—about themselves or anyone else.

On the other hand, it is very easy to see how my most intrinsic wellbeing depends on fundamental decency, ordered liberty, and intellectual freedom. Granted, we don’t entirely have those things in America. But they aren’t subordinate values here. There is no America without them.

The Alt-Right: Je Ne Regrette Rien

If, God forbid, I ever find myself on the news for any reason, there is a good chance someone will dredge up this blog, and my involvement with the alt-right. Although I was never an alt-right ideologue or activist, I did follow the movement with interest and have written for an alt-right webzine, Affirmative Right. So, it is fitting that I should clearly state my reasons for this involvement.

First of all, the rise of the alt-right from 2011-2015 coincided with a period of dramatic change in mass media, when big tech effectively became the conduit for what had previously been a much freer internet. In this context, the alt-right was the first true insurgent subculture of the internet age. For that reason alone it is valuable. Whatever you may think of what it stood for, a lot of what it stood against was objectively bad.

Second, the alt-right was deeply transgressive. Diversity is a sacred cow in the modern world, and racism a cardinal sin. Assuming this is a welcome development, it is still worth noticing that the power of reason is not, for the most part, what has overcome the various forms of traditional chauvinism. The power of mass persuasion has. We no more reason about these topics today than we did at any time in the past; in our brains, they still inhabit the fear centers. This is not progress.

The alt-right was never concerned with progress—at least not in the sense of egalitarianism—but it did break these taboos, which is a service in itself. As Orwell said, “Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought.” You can’t have intellectual freedom without transgressing piety and consensus.

But these are matters of principle; there are practical reasons as well, because a lot of what the alt-right was saying is true, and in the present denouement from the Trump era, we’re starting to see liberal pundits come out and repeat these ideas as if they’ve just been discovered. Here, for example, is a promotional blurb for one Christopher Ryan’s 2019 Simon and Schuster release for the middlebrow set:

Civilized to Death counters the idea that progress is inherently good, arguing that the “progress” defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease. Prehistoric life, of course, was not without serious dangers and disadvantages. Many babies died in infancy. A broken bone, infected wound, snakebite, or difficult pregnancy could be life-threatening. But ultimately, Ryan argues, were these pre-civilized dangers more murderous than modern scourges, such as car accidents, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and a technologically prolonged dying process? At a time when our ecology, our society, and our own sense of selves feels increasingly imperiled, an accurate understanding of our species’ long prelude to civilization is vital to a clear sense of the ultimate value of civilization—and its costs. In Civilized to Death, Ryan makes the claim that we should start looking backwards to find our way into a better future.

This easily could’ve been written by Jack Donovan. It’s basically the ideology of Fight Club, which was not only influential on the early alt-right, but whose author has praised the alt-right specifically for its willingness to transgress current-year pieties.

Then there’s Glenn Greenwald, whose recent banishment from his comfortable perch at The Intercept precipitated a fiery Substack campaign against establishment shills and big tech. To wit:

The most prolific activism demanding more Silicon Valley censorship is found in the nation’s largest news outlets: the media reporters of CNNthe “disinformation” unit of NBC News, and especially the tech reporters of The New York Times

Due in part to a self-interested desire to re-establish their monopoly on discourse by crushing any independent or dissenting voices, and in part by a censorious and arrogant mindset which convinces them that only those of their worldview and pedigree have a right to be heard, they largely devote themselves to complaining that Facebook, Google and Twitter are not suppressing enough speech. It is hall-monitor tattletale whining masquerading as journalism: petulantly complaining that tech platforms are permitting speech that, in their view, ought instead be silenced…

Then there is the question of who does and does not spread “misinformation.” It is rather astonishing that the news outlets that did more than anyone to convince Americans to believe the most destructive misinformation of this generation—that Saddam had WMDs and was in an alliance with Al Qaeda—have the audacity to prance around as the bulwarks against misinformation rather than what they are: the primary purveyors of it.

This could easily pass for alt-right boilerplate. In its current incarnation the phenomenon Greenwald is describing dates back a decade, and until 2016, only the alt-right was ringing the alarm bell. That a resurgence of fascism—literal fascism—was needed for this is the height of irony. You didn’t have to be a fascist to be impressed by this—and to condone it.

The alt-right may also have been right about race, at least in part. Again, what’s noteworthy here is not just the facts, but who’s saying them, i.e., not just the alt-right. Here is David Reich, the world’s leading geneticist, writing in the world’s leading newspaper:

I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. I am also worried that whatever discoveries are made — and we truly have no idea yet what they will be — will be cited as “scientific proof” that racist prejudices and agendas have been correct all along, and that those well-meaning people will not understand the science well enough to push back against these claims.

This is why it is important, even urgent, that we develop a candid and scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences, instead of sticking our heads in the sand and being caught unprepared when they are found.

Did you catch that? The world’s foremost geneticist says that in order to avoid vindicating scientific racism, we need to invent entirely new ways of speaking. In itself, that is a minor vindication of scientific racism. One would think that if Reich (who is in an excellent position to know) truly has no idea what “the onslaught of science” will show, there’d be no need for this commentary.

But even if there was no objective basis for racism (and Reich doesn’t say that there isn’t): that scientific discourse and inquiry should be so politically fraught and needful of gatekeeping has chilling implications for intellectual freedom. Contra Mr. Reich and the New York Times, I am far less concerned about racism than I am about the possibility of living in a world where objective truth is subject to these caveats.

Whatever else it may be, racism is a subjective preference and a matter of private conscience that generally does not implicate sanity. That it manages to persist despite all we think we know might as readily cast doubt upon the regimen as upon the patient. Yet it is so singularly perturbing to professional and managerial elites that it is increasingly viewed not merely as a misapprehension and a vice to be expunged from law and mass culture (a view which is itself quite subjectively preferential), but as a policy obstacle to be extirpated from the human mind, no matter its factual or evolutionary basis. Responsible authorities now blithely discuss the possibilities for brainwashing and re-education in this area.

Again, I don’t care about your views on racism: please understand what the stakes are here. We’re not talking about gravity or germ theory, we’re talking about a hegemonic moral philosophy with no scientific basis, and unparalleled powers of censorship. Sanctioning the medical and tech establishments to supervise and manipulate the most intrinsic prerogatives of conscience represents a death sentence over the human personality—one that has only to be or not to be carried out. In the world of 1984, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” Today, governments and evil corporations are able to remedy that, and will not stop at unpopular opinions or marginalized ideologies.

This brings us to the issue of anti-semitism. The alt-right, as a species of fascism, is indeed quite anti-semitic. (The fact that I am half-Jewish has a great deal to do with why I never really fell into the alt-right.) But a great deal of the alt-right view of Jews is based around misgivings about Jewish political power. When a tiny handful of people own huge proportions of national economies, their motives, including their ethnicity, should be fair game for criticism. In itself, that isn’t anti-semitism. Rather, anti-semitism is one of two things: an unfavorable opinion of Jews generally, and a theory about the way the world fundamentally works. The fact that the latter of these phenomena works a deleterious effect on the intellect doesn’t make it any less a matter of private conscience and free expression. But the percentage of billionaires who are Jewish, or whether Jews control the media, are questions of objective fact that can be resolved objectively. Why they matter is a more subjective question to which I can only speak for myself: essentially, Judaism has a uniquely troubled relationship with other cultures. That doesn’t mean I think Judaism is bad. On the contrary, I think it’s great; it’s a huge part of who I am. But when it is made into a sacred cow, and anti-semitism into a sin (as opposed to a personal opinion, a matter of free speech and association, as permissible as all others), this relationship cannot be examined freely. So alt-right discourse on Jews and Judaism, though warped and febrile, is freer than discourse on the topic tends to be in the mainstream. There is an inherent value to this that transcends its pitfalls—which isn’t so much a favorable commentary on the alt-right as it is an unfavorable commentary on the predominating public morality that the alt-right stood opposed to.

Other than communist China, the capabilities of today’s liberal democracy are more totalitarian than any system the world has known before. This isn’t to say that life in the U.S. is less free at the moment than in China or Russia or anywhere else. But that’s the point: national and geographic barriers no longer make much difference. And even if life is much freer in the U.S. than in China, is life in China freer than in the U.K., America’s closest ally? So we can see where this is going. For a unique moment in time, only the alt-right perceived this acutely, and for that reason I do not regret engaging with the movement and taking it seriously. Intellectual freedom is paramount. As long as I have it, I’ll go wherever it takes me.

Don’t Repeal 230

hur dur its achilles heel is §230

Everyone knows the story by now, but let’s recap for context: sometime during the Obama administration, VP Biden’s shitbag son Hunter was appointed to a handsomely paid position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas conglomerate, in exchange for access to his father. Biden has always denied knowledge of his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. This week, however, the NY Post presented detailed evidence of Hunter’s influence-peddling, and Joe Biden’s complicity in the scam. Twitter then locked the Post’s account, and both Twitter and Facebook blocked users from sharing the story’s URL.

Everyone knows that in ways both surreptitious and brazen, big tech censors dissenting voices, particularly right-wing ones. But this is a watershed moment, a huge slip of the mask of liberal democratic pretenses. Here was President Trump’s response:

Justice Thomas even got in on the act, releasing a statement this week suggesting that section 230 is being applied too broadly. But Thomas and Trump could not be more wrong here: if you’re against big tech censorship, repealing or adulterating section 230 is a terrible idea.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act indemnifies content-sharing platforms against certain tort claims faced by traditional publishers. The idea is that sites like Twitter and Facebook where users upload content don’t exercise editorial discretion the way newspapers do, and so shouldn’t be held liable for defamation, incitement, and falsehood. But fighting defamation, incitement and falsehood is exactly the rationale these companies hide behind when censoring dissidents. There’s simply no violation of section 230 taking place when Twitter and Facebook engage in censorship.

In fact, Section 230 does not afford big tech any pretext whatsoever for censorship. On the contrary: it incentivizes access to platforms that facilitate speech, and its benefits transcend ideological boundaries and even political cronyism, which is why 4Chan can’t be held liable in U.S. courts for publishing content like shooter manifestos. Repealing it won’t impose legal liability for censorship on big tech. It won’t even disincentivize censorship. On the contrary, it would require greater policing of user content by these platforms, and this increased policing would be carried out by the same actors and with the same biases that are behind the censorship we’re living with today.

Like it or not, with or without section 230 there is literally no theory under the First Amendment that would prompt a court to issue an injunction against a private company censoring user content on social media. There’s no question that big tech censorship is a huge threat to free expression generally, but it isn’t a First Amendment issue. Congress and the courts just aren’t the panacea here. 

we can’t expect God to do all the violence for us Tim

The standard for proving a defamation claim (in the U.S., at least) is likewise precipitous, and if you look at the history of these claims, you’ll see that right-wingers and dissidents have a harder time defending against them than mainstream liberals do. So maybe big tech would prefer to have 230 protection, but they won’t suffer much without it. Internet users will, however, and the first casualties will be dissidents of every stripe, not the heads and commissars of companies like Twitter and Facebook. The minute 230 gets repealed, thousands of websites hosted on Blogspot and WordPress will become far more vulnerable to erasure. Anything that Silicon Valley dislikes ideologically can then be deemed a legal liability and nuked, and no one will be able to point to 230 to accuse big tech of censorship. But while Silicon Valley has a bigger litigation budget than USG, independent content sharing platforms like Minds, Bitchute, LBRY and the Chans will be in danger of folding if they don’t censor even more zealously than Facebook and Twitter, whose monopolies will only become further entrenched. That’s probably why Silicon Valley’s presidential candidate is calling for 230’s repeal just like Trump is. 

And for right-wingers, there’s a deeper issue with the repeal 230 mantra, which is its implication that spending your uncompensated time and cognition forking over huge chunks of your most intimate personal information to bajillion dollar DoD contractors led by mad scientists who are building a detailed psychological profile on you is basically fine, so long as the massive flow of online content through their gates isn’t misused politically, in order to weight the scales in favor of the Democrats. That’s really as far as e.g. Tucker Carlson’s argument against big tech’s inordinate power goes, and you’re not going to get a more trenchant critique than his in the mainstream. So if they were constrained in the slightest to care what the public thinks, the smartest move Silicon Valley could make at this point would be to allow their bought-and-paid for minions in Congress to grandstand by repealing 230. The impassioned publicity from all the litigation this generates would all but ensure that real issues like the death of privacy are never discussed again.

The Republic

Mencius Moldbug is having a bit of a moment lately. Or he was, until a moment ago. He kept popping up on YouTube this summer, very openly panhandling. After a riveting half-podcast the word-count smoke seemed to dissipate, and I remembered what a one-trick pony he is. He never gets to the point. He just leads you around by the nose.

What I liked about Moldbug was the very thorough way he diagnosed liberalism as an aggressive anti-social disorder, using primary sources—I don’t entirely agree with this notion, but the way he presented it was entertaining. What I disliked about him was his dismissal (by turns high-handed and skittish) of conspiracy theory. Ironically, given his fondness for Carlyle, Moldbuggery turns out to be the opposite of Great Man theory—it’s all de-personified trends and tendencies and undercurrents. Which is fine, except that that isn’t mutually exclusive of “names and addresses” acting in secret (and not so secret) concert. In any case, no honest reader can claim that Moldbug’s attempt to draw a straight-line between Calvinism and NWA is not a great deal more circuitous and fluff-inference laden than Loose Change is.

Precisely nothing in Moldbug is original. It’s all been said before by any number of tenebrously self-conscious would-be criminals fishing their whole lives for excuses why they’re aren’t half the man granddaddy was. The fact that decadence is a human universal found like trace elements in varying degrees of latency or metastasis is a thin straw for such capacious lamentations to be grasping at. Better to think of decadence the way Hemingway described the process of going broke—at first gradual, then all at once. The alternative is to believe, with Moldbug, that George Washington is the ideological progenitor of Ibrahim X. Kendi.

Indeed, Moldbug’s most black-pilling feat by far is his critique of the American Revolution. His case that the Founders were rabble-rousing charlatans, and that King George did nothing wrong, is based on a small and cherry-picked selection of primary sources. Even if he’s right—so what? You don’t have to tell me things are bad, but I’m armed to the teeth here in America. Land is cheap—for the time being, anyway—and I can’t be prosecuted for what I write on Twitter. Contrast this with life under the British monarchy, where the government can literally murder your kid.

So I fail to see the need for this huge blackpill. “The spider is curtain-bearer in the palace of Chosros/The Owl sounds relief in the palace of Afrasiab.” The problem with America is not form, but function. Personnel is policy. In the last installment of his “Gentle Introduction,” Moldbug essentially says that a worthy alternative only needs to exist, and when America implodes, this alternative will fill the vacuum, because people will just roll over and accept it. How very inspirational. Call me cuckoo for conspiracy puffs, but that’s exactly what Klaus Schwab thinks.

In The Republic, Socrates used the allegory of the ship’s captain to suggest that only the wise should rule. But the unwise (both the shrewd and the misguidedly fervent) are fully capable of overthrowing the wise. Might I suggest the alternative criterion of virtue? Only those who have a real investment in the future have the right to decide the future course of state, and determining who they are is far easier than determining who is wise. Obviously, they are people with biological children, who have treated their investment (their kids) with the consideration and care it deserves, i.e., by maintaining a functional marriage to the other biological parent.

Of course, I’m just sticking wishful gum to the wall here: America is undead, and limiting the franchise, or getting corporate money out of politics or whatever one might think the big cathartic reform is going to be, is never going to happen. (At least Ozymandias wasn’t crawling with maggots.) But where does that leave Moldbug? Forgive my simplicity, but a joint stock corporation is exactly what we have now. At least Andrew Yang spoke in sound bites. But if history teaches us anything, it’s that a yeoman’s republic of limited powers, with a limited franchise, a free-holding citizenry and a Bill of Rights was the only desirable system the world has ever seen.

Conspiracy Tales

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the new normal

(STORY UPDATE, 01/03/2021: https://www.zerohedge.com/political/theres-something-peculiar-about-vandalism-pelosis-house)

The town where I grew up is a hotbed of effete radicalism and low-grade mental illness. I came back in my mid-twenties to finish community college. There’s this hipster coffee shop downtown where I used to do all my homework—I’ll call it Café Tangier. One day I noticed a girl there reading a Hebrew novel. Let’s call her Shirley. We hit it off. She was going to university and working in a mall kiosk with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend—all Israelis.

None of these three were bad people. However, they had a friend who was. We’ll call him Lior. Lior had a friend named Jake. They claimed to be working for some kind of IT start-up, but the two of them were always just down at the Tangier, scoping people out, or hanging around the various student co-ops around town: the Caesar Chavez Co-op, Food Not Bombs House, etc. They gave the impression of a couple of con-men with a traveling act, like there was an invisible mist between them that only the two of them could see.

A cell of would-be ecoterrorists had been uncovered—entrapped, really—at the Tangier by an undercover FBI agent about a year before. At the nearby anarchist co-op (which had a neat little bookstore I would occasionally peruse) there was a flyer on the corkboard denouncing the cafe’s owners for allegedly cooperating with the FBI from the get-go of the case, denouncing Tangier hipsters as sell-outs, and warning people to stay away from the place. But it was a hopping little place, lots of coeds, good music, good conversation.

There were other odd characters around the Tangier, too. One of them looked like Bruce Willis—cue-ball bald, mid-forties, in decent shape (but bedraggled in a way that wasn’t convincing) and constantly at the Tangier as if he had nothing else going on. He had this shady gregariousness about him. I’d watch him befriend impressionable looking loners and overhear him shit-test them by peppering them with the most astounding BS.

Anyway, this Lior and Jake—there was something off about them, too. They couldn’t have been younger than 27. Lior was Israeli, in the States (according to him) since adolescence. Jake was a regular American. Their back story kept changing, not in the sense of glaring inconsistencies, but in the sense that it seemed improvised. We used to go out with Shirley and her sister and the sister’s boyfriend, and these two weasels—this Lior and Jake—would hone in on the youngest, most vulnerable looking girls they could find at the bars. One night, Lior showed up at Shirley’s place with a girl who was obviously a high schooler, painfully shy, homely… The whole thing looked very bad.

Now, if you’re thinking I’m a POS for not intervening, what can I tell you? Degeneracy is a triage situation. It was a boisterous house party and I had my own concerns. If I’d walked in on him fucking her, that might’ve been different.

Anyway, I used to ride my bike around town a lot, and one day I started seeing these flyers all over, on lampposts and bus benches: “We are anarchists. We are everywhere.” There was additional text. All I remember was that it contained some threat of violence, but the grievance wasn’t too clear. This was odd, considering not only that the campus radicals and cat-lady activists around town never threatened anyone, but were always very specific about what they were advocating. But this “We are anarchists” business just looked like a vacuous art project from some out-patient rehab.

One day I was on a foot path beneath a bridge when I got a flat tire. I used to do these road trips in the summer, by bicycle, from the coast up into the Sierras, and I was very proficient with all aspects of bike repair. So I knelt down to patch my tire. Once I had it patched and the glue was drying, I cast my gaze up the path. It ran along a river, but there was a park on the other side. Basically, I’m in the shadow under this bridge, looking up the path, with the river on the left side of my vision, and the park on the right. In the distance, I notice the Bruce Willis-looking guy from the Tangier. He had on a white t-shirt tucked into cargo pants, with this pair of absolutely autistic looking bus station urchins, half his age at most, straggling along behind him. He also had a stack of paper in one hand and a roll of packing tape in the other.

It was mid-morning on a weekday. The park was empty, but I was in the shadow of the bridge, so they couldn’t see me. I watched as this guy directed these two mouth breathers to post flyers on the park benches, and (with no one around to see him) his bearing was just unmistakably military. I went back later to the park, and just as I’d suspected, it was those dumb-fuck “We are anarchists” flyers, all over the playground and picnic tables.

Less than a week later, there was a little kristallnacht along the main downtown drag. Someone smashed up the windows of about a dozen shops late one night and spray-painted a bunch of menacing slogans, “We are anarchists” among them. After that, the city council passed emergency regulations, applied for (and received) federal grants to blanket the downtown in surveillance cameras, and the FBI permanently stationed a squadron of some kind at the local police station.

A month or so later, Occupy Wall Street broke out. Hippy liberalville being what it is, a camp mushroomed up at that park where I’d gotten my flat tire. Meanwhile, Lior was the ringleader of a cadre that broke into and holed up in a vacant storefront across from the county courthouse. He ran their Facebook page, and throughout their “occupation” he was constantly on Facebook posting appeals for food and blankets and for people to join in—a rather odd commitment for someone who was supposedly working full-time at a start-up. His rather benign LARP-sesh was broken up after a week, and four of the participants—all American Apparel shopper college students—got hit with serious federal charges, including “terrorism” shit.

But Lior never faced any consequences.

I didn’t like the guy, nor respect him, but before that I’d at least have greeted him when he saw me. But afterwards? No way. I stayed the fuck away from that dude from then on, and I never went back to Café Tangier.

Wear the Mask, Bigot

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“TRS retweeted”

I had an instructor in professional school, a black woman, who used to arbitrarily hand out low grades to smart white students. (No—not just to me.) She would always gerrymander the topic of race into her lectures, too. It was very annoying. Essentially, this person lived and breathed negritude. She had a software system in her brain that not only scanned constantly for certain signs, but could make totally unrelated signs fit the patterns her software was designed to uncover. This is the kind of thing I have always seen going on with the JQ on the alt-right:

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You’re more than welcome to take a look at the thread that Enoch here is retweeting from. You may notice a few things. First, Zach Goldberg does not have a blue checkmark. He’s not a public personality. For a private person, 12.9K followers is nothing to sneeze at, but his word is no more consequential than Enoch’s is at 14.3K. Second, where does Zach Goldberg “blame whites for the problem”? I don’t see it. Third—who is “everybody clapping”? The reactions to Goldberg’s thread seem to mostly be from Joe Rogan bro types. For them, the information presented is novel indeed. So what’s more likely? That Goldberg is appropriating white nationalist narratives because he’s a Jew who wants to co-opt pro-white audiences? But that would be Mike Enoch’s job. Zach Goldberg, on the other hand, is obviously just a derpy centrist who’s late to these insights.

When you commit yourself to narrow activism, you have to die on that hill, and there will be times that you have to make a lawyerly argument, to obfuscate, to filibuster and demagogue. It takes no great powers of perception to pick up on the fact that Mike Enoch is a master of this. But what this little example with the Zach Goldberg retweet reveals is that Enoch also has no problem concocting the purest, most blatant lies and putting them in front of his audience.

A couple weeks ago I was listening to an FTN podcast, and within the first ten minutes, one of the presenters, referring disdainfully to conspiracy theories about COVID-19, says, “If you can convince me that Bill Gates is Jewish, I’ll believe this conspiracy.”

Putting aside the fact that in the current year, of course Jewish plutocrats are involved in a ruling class conspiracy, FTN here encapsulates my whole problem with alt-right JQ memes. Bill Gates is fucking shady. COVID-19 is shady. The government’s whole response to it is shady. It’s obviously a huge psyop. Yet in the (apparent) absence of Jews ex machina, none of this interests FTN. Months after they happened, TRS podcasters are still disparaging the anti-lockdown protests (~45:10) in terms resembling those used by liberal pundits. NPI/Radix is likewise still treating COVID-conspiracy theory dismissively (~38:00). This isn’t just a difference of opinion about the numbers. It’s moral support for a plutocrat agenda from people who brand themselves as dissidents.

Here’s another example, this one from James Allsup: “Easily Falsifiable 5G Conspiracies are a Hamster Wheel for White People.” Well of course an “easily falsifiable” conspiracy theory is a trap—for anyone who falls for it. But that’s not what Allsup means. TRS has internalized MSM tactics, which (again) they have an obvious talent for. So the point of an article like this is not to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to 5G conspiracy theories. It’s to plant a suggestive seed in the minds of unwary followers that some (pretend) authority says you’re a moron if you’re giving consideration to any 5G conspiracy theories. Yet 5G is a critical tool of an incoming system of totalitarian control. You only have to look at the facts. Why would these self-styled dissidents want to discourage that?

They do the same thing with 9/11—not just to their audience, but to their colleagues. A few years ago on a podcast (~50:00), podcaster “The Mad Wop” starts in with a bit of trutherism. Promptly, and with a lot of pretentious sighs and awkward pauses, Enoch and McNabb start steering him away like a couple of boardwalk con-men, claiming there’s no hard evidence for dissenting theories, blaming Saudi Arabia and “bureaucratic incompetence.” McNabb then asks, supposing it was an inside job, “what does it get us” to promote 9/11 truth?

IDK, what does it get you to promote Goebbels and Himmler? TFOH.

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First they say al-Qaeda did it, then they say they’ve “always been skeptical” (~20:00) of the official narrative. Then they say the Jews did 9/11 at the same time (~20:00) they say the Jews “created the whole 9/11 truth movement.” None of this makes sense. Noticers aren’t supposed to not notice things. Professional noticers are not supposed to run a sideline in telling their audience, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

So what am I saying? Am I saying that TRS are feds or that you shouldn’t be listening to them? Look: when they’re right, they’re right—amen. When they’re entertaining, they’re entertaining—bravo. And when they’re lying, they’re lying. I frankly couldn’t care less about their identities, or their real motivations. I don’t really know who anybody is on the internet. The only barometer of honesty is whether the things you say are true. TRS says many true things, and they also have a propensity for obscurantism that’s very odd considering the boldness of their worldview in other areas.

There’s a name for this kind of thing. It’s called gatekeeping. Beyond that, I won’t speculate. I don’t have to.

Boatman’s Bluff

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spare me

The year after college I was an ambulance EMT. I started in July, and it wasn’t until September that I was assigned a steady shift with a partner. Before that I just bounced around between paramedics, snoozing, reading, and writing this blog on my cellphone between inventory and 911 calls.

My first code blue was an OD, on my first day of work. We arrived on scene before fire to find a supine fat kid unresponsive on a back driveway, with a gaggle of bleary-eyed teenagers who’d obviously waited too long to call, and were real quiet and vague about what happened to their friend.

I attached the EKG nodes and started bagging while my paramedic trainer pounded on his chest. No cardio activity. Fire arrived and they started banging on his chest in a rotation. Still no activity. Then someone offered to bag while I pumped, and I went to town so hard on this kid that I cracked his sternum. The snapping sound was horrific, but the moment it happened the heart monitor gave a beep and started going.

The thing about it was, everything happened in under ten minutes, and although he died later that day, when we dropped him in the ER the kid was still alive—unconscious and intubated, but alive. It wasn’t until November that year that I actually witnessed a death.

Now, I’m an omega, a contrarian loner who hates rules and rarely strikes up a lasting friendship. I’m also fairly tall and large-framed. My first paramedic partner, Tommy Gonzales, was a medic second lieutenant in the National Guard, the kind of beta-simp who joins the service to compensate. He looked like Eugene Levy—gaunt, about 5’6″, and very uptight, but highly intelligent, which necessitated bending the rules as often as they got in the way of logic. I respected him for that.

One night just about dusk as I was driving Tommy around the Sonic drive-thru, we got coded to a trailer park. Again, we got there before fire. Again, the patient was supine, this time on a shabby carpet. It was a double-wide with fake wood paneling and a bunch of taxidermied elk heads on the walls. The guy must’ve been in his mid-sixties. He was shirtless and barefoot in a pair of jeans that hadn’t been washed in a coon’s age, skinny-fat like alcoholics often are, and covered in a half-inch layer of wooly grey body hair that went all the way up his neck to an untrimmed beard. The place was strewn with empty pint bottles and crushed-up Coors cans.

The family was all assembled—son, daughter, daughter-in-law, adult grandkid. They said they’d found him the way he appeared, unresponsive, not breathing. They thought he’d choked on a turkey sandwich he’d been eating lying down, and that he must’ve rolled off the couch onto the floor. That was what it looked like. I had to shave him to place the EKG nodes, then Tommy and I started doing our thing.

It was a long night. The monitor gave just enough activity after a minute of CPR that we had to keep going even though the guy’s chances were very slim. Fire got on scene and Tommy started trying to intubate, but the laryngoscope kept bringing up turkey sandwich. The firefighters and I rotated doing CPR while Tommy smeared gob after gob of partly digested food like pâté onto the inner lining of a red haz bag. Eventually we got the guy tubed. His cardio kept flopping and starting back up with just enough activity for hope.

At one point I stood up to stretch my legs. Across the room, the family was piled around a card table in the corner, faces downcast, their arms draped around one another, watching their patriarch recede into eternity past indifferent, knee-jerk bureaucracy—past us, with two forms of state-issued ID over his eyes. We were the boatmen.

Above the family on the wall was a framed and faded portrait of a proud and fearsome Marine with a flag half-draped across the background. That was the guy we were trying to save. The two of them couldn’t have looked more different. He wasn’t in his body anyway, yet he might not’ve been further away than that portrait. I felt this sudden sense of reverent foreboding in the pit of my stomach, that this man lying dead at my feet was witnessing his family’s despair, and screaming desperately from just out of reach of them.

After three hours, Tommy advised the family that things weren’t going to turn around. They nodded stoically. We called up to the hospital and signed the necessary forms. Then we packed up our equipment in haz bags and debriefed with the firefighters before leaving them to wait for the coroner.

That shift went long. We went back to base, cleaned up, and tried to get a nap, but the calls just kept coming. The 24-hour shift that had begun just before that code in the Sonic drive-thru turned into 35, 36, then 40, and topped out at 51.

At one point we dropped someone at the ER. It was about 9 in the morning. I was sitting in the driver’s seat of the ambulance waiting for Tommy to snag Graham crackers and juice boxes from inside at the nurse’s station, when all of a sudden I started sobbing maniacally, just huge choking sobs without any kind of buildup or anticipation whatsoever. It was so primal. There was no reflection, no social pressure (I was completely alone) and no reason to feel anything. I hadn’t known the guy, the Marine—I hadn’t known him. I’d run plenty of codes, seen lots of pitiable people in sorry states and felt bad for them, and I’d gone hours by then without it occurring to me that I’d been impacted at all. It was just a job, I was just exhausted, I just wanted to go home to my family, I just wanted a burrito. This is America—nobody has real feelings. I remember that I’ve had them, back when I was a kid, but I don’t even remember what real feelings feel like. It’s been six years since that 911 call and in all that time I haven’t experienced a comparably spontaneous and authentic emotion. And yet it happened, in spite of every social pressure militating against it.

It’s strange how things incubate in us when we thought they didn’t matter, or that we’d forgotten them. Sometimes when I discipline our kids, my wife gets on me and says, “This isn’t the army, you know!” On the one hand, when I hear this it sounds odd, because the army is the furthest thing from my memory and my motivations. On the other hand, my first reaction is to feel she’s being unreasonable, because life is rough, and it’s better they learn it first from their dad. But what she sees me doing that I can’t see myself is sublimating an experience that’s constantly with me in ways I’m almost never aware of. Sublimating the untold humiliations and death by a thousand cuts of being a king, and a piece of shit, all at the same time.