Newspaper Cartels: When the Media Combine

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Last Thursday, led by the Boston Globe, about 350 newspapers ran coordinated editorials to criticise Donald Trump.

Despite the breathless, celebratory reporting by the liberal media who tried to make it sound like a tsunami wave of dissent was washing across the American landscape, this campaign did not involve the majority of newspapers in the United States. According to Wikipedia – whose lists are usually credible – the United States has more than 1,300 newspapers. This means that only around a quarter of the United State’s print media participated in this protest.

For the most part, the participants and their shtick were predictable. The Guardian, for instance, reported it as a “defence of press freedom”, despite there being absolutely zero legislative effort to curtail the freedom of the press. In amongst its story, it added:

The Guardian has also joined the effort and has published an editorial alongside outlets around the United States.

Which is laughably redundant. Was there ever any doubt? Just as a manure seller goes in search of dung, and a jackal is drawn to rancid carrion, so the Guardian is irresistibly drawn to any fashionable liberal shibboleth and any anti-Trump crusade.

This mass media protest appears to be the brainchild of the Deputy Editor of the Boston Globe, Marjorie Pritchard, who “put out the call” to other newspapers. Most newspaper ignored the campaign and a few reacted by strongly distancing themselves from the project. It seems likely that Pritchard hoped this would be a watershed moment of media solidarity.

As Geoff Caldwell of the Joplin Globe wryly observed:

I’m sure when she dreamed it up, she thought it one of those “Yes, that’ll show ’em!” moments.

In an interview with NPR, Marjorie Pritchard emblemised the problem with the modern media. Her remarks demonstrate an extreme narrowness of thought and a worldview that is built over the rubble of mere assumptions.

One gets the impression from listening to her comments that many modern journalists are not very bright and, as a profession, have experienced tragic decline from the trailblazers who went before them. Gone are the trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-capped stalwarts skulking around dark alleys armed only with a notebook and pencil. The sun has set on the days when telling the truth to the public – and properly informing them – was the high calling of the profession.

In the NPR interview, Marjorie Pritchard insisted:

This editorial project is not against the Trump administration’s agenda. It’s a response to put us into the public discourse and defend the First Amendment.

Pritchard simply assumes that the First Amendment is critically endangered in the United States but she never explains why. If an alien beamed down and heard this comment he might justly wonder, “Is there some law being proposed to squelch the freedom of expression?” The answer is no.

Despite the liberal media’s persistent demand for other people’s opinions to be criminalised or marginalised, neither the United States Congress nor the United States President has even hinted that they would yank on the levers of power to trammel the freedom of the press.

It seems in Pritchard’s ivory tower, scrutiny and criticism of the massed media is a form of unconstitutional attack. There is no other way to interpret her remark here.

She goes on:

He’s calling the press a domestic enemy. And we are fellow countrymen. And our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.

The self-indulgence is off-the-charts. Now that the liberal media has had a taste of public excoriation, it suddenly wants to be accorded respect as “fellow countrymen”. Pritchard argues that the media should not be subject to pillory and savage rhetoric because, after all, they are fellow citizens too. They are citizens who just happen to have a different view.

Hypocrisy rises from these words like dust clouds from a third world mining operation.

This is the same liberal media that through their poisonous writings have mercilessly persecuted Christian bakers, florists, teachers, CEOs, and marriage certificate issuers.

This is the same liberal media that fanned the flames of racial tension by uncritically supporting narratives that later proved to to be false.

This is the liberal media that has subjected both the President and his supporters to violent pillory from the moment he was elected. The Guardian, for example, commended the actions of the Red Hen restaurant that threw out Sarah Sanders.

This is the same liberal media that showed a Vaticanesque reluctance to publicly expose horrific instances of child abuse and predatory sexual harassment within their own profession, even when the perpetrators were widely known.

And on it goes.

The media have been a toxic influence on the culture for decades. To now tremulously hold out the hands that have bloodied others and plead for cordiality as “fellow countrymen” is to ask for the sort of civility that the liberal media has never accorded its victims. For all his faults (and they are numerous) Donald Trump represents a justifiable outpouring of disinfectant upon this whole cartel. He has opened it up to the sunshine of scrutiny, factual critique, and overdue scepticism. In other words, journalists are discovering they are not immune from being judged and weighed in the balances.

But the delusions of grandeur get even worse.

In the NPR interview, Pritchard tries to suggest that the media must “hold the powerful accountable” as if they were latter-day John the Baptists denouncing a modern Herod.

But Geoff Caldwell rightly points out that the reason the public is unimpressed with the liberal media is precisely because it does not tell the truth. Instead it lies in order to service its own narratives and agendas.

Neither does it hold all powerful people accountable. It only holds some of them accountable, those it does not like. A good many powerful people get a free ride in the press. Genuinely shocking evils are left hidden even when they would be easily discoverable, simply because liberal journalists have no desire to find them.

Caldwell writes:

It wasn’t Trump who spread the Michael Brown, “Hands up; don’t shoot,” lie around the world from Ferguson, Missouri.

It was The Washington Post, not Trump that falsely reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the nation’s electrical grid via a Vermont Utility.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago Saturday night, NBC News reporter Cal Perry and crew were attacked by radical left antifa protesters in an event Perry documented on Twitter as it happened.

Yet the next morning, on NBC’s own “Sunday Today” show, none of Perry’s footage of the attack was shown and reporter Garrett Haake referred to it as but “tense moments in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with far-left protesters heckling the media and chanting anti-police slogans.”

He goes on to add:

Where was that accountability for eight years of a Barack Obama administration? Where was that “truth to power” as Hillary Clinton and staff erased servers, destroyed phones and refused to turn over information duly requested by investigators?

Where is that dedication at this very moment regarding the glaring amount of questionable activities by a multitude of FBI, Department of Justice and intelligence figures that let Clinton skate and brought a sledgehammer to the ice pond against Trump and crew?

Not surprisingly, many of the protesting newspapers looked faintly farcical in the end.

The Morehead News in Kentucky ran a piece that began with a quotation from Josef Goebbels, the minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany. It was all downhill from there with the editor invoking Hitler and Nazis left and centre.

At one point it was asserted:

We believe the Nazi tactic of “the big lie” is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump’s continuing “fake news” claims since the 2016 presidential campaign.

It should be clear to most Americans that Trump is relying on another Goebbels’ principle of propaganda:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The glaring disanalogy seems to have passed over the top of the editor’s head.

In Nazi Germany the state tightly controlled the media. The example of Goebbels only has any relevance in a system where journalists are coerced by force to be complicit with the state. But this is 21st century America. In contrast to Goebbels, poor Donald Trump has no capacity to dictate to the media at all. If anyone needed proof of this, you need only look at this selfsame vanity project where editors pretend the President of the United States is a clear and present danger to the press freedom!

When Trump criticises the press, he is not angling to control it. So spouting off about Nazis and Goebbels is merely a crude editorial effort to manipulate its readers.

But, the editors at the Morehead News are not only illogical, they are also wrong.

The above statement – apparently written with a high school generalist level of historical knowledge and perhaps a Facebook meme as a source –  is a misquotation.

There is no record that Goebbels ever said what the Morehead News claims. The statement was first attributed to Goebbels in Publications Relating to Various Aspects of Communism (1946), by the United States Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Issues 1-15, p. 19. But no reliable source has been found in which this attribution can be credibly said to have originated from Goebbels.

Furthermore, when Hitler wrote about “big lies” in the opening chapter of Mein Kampf, he did not recommend it as a political strategy but instead argued that this was the methodology of Jewish Marxists and their alleged 1918 “stab in the back” of the German army and General Ludendorff. The Jews, Hitler claimed, were widely believed because their lie about the weakness of the German army was so incredible nobody would ever dream it could possibly be false.

Goebbels also wrote about “big lies” but he directed his comments toward the English:

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

(Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik, published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel on 12 January 1941.)

The Morehead News‘ historiography is flatly wrong. It may not be a big error, but it is a falsehood all the same. It also shows precious little fact checking. Five minutes of Googling would have yielded the above information. Moreover, the tormented application to an inverse modern situation makes for a dizzying display of irrationality.

This, then, is the quality of a journalistic rebuke in 2018 against the term “fake news”: a rebuke that includes demonstrable fakery. You really could not make it up.

Meanwhile, the Guardian adopted the standard liberal stratagem of arguing that viewpoints and opinions it detests are potentially dangerous to society. Not for the first time, the Guardian virtually suggests that Trump’s comments about the media is putting journalists at risk of being murdered:

The anti-media mood at some Trump rallies has been intimidating. Social media trolling, violent abuse and threats to journalists (especially sexual threats to women journalists) have reached unprecedented levels. The United Nations human rights commissioner warned this week that Mr Trump’s attacks on the press are “very close to incitement to violence”. In June, five staff members at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were shot dead by a local man with a local grievance. They may not be the last.

As the Prophet Hosea warned, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). And likewise St. Paul cautions, “Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap in return” (Galatians 6:7). If is true that the liberal media now feel the pressure of public opprobrium, they must examine themselves to find the cause. For it is the liberal media that have sown the wind.

It is the liberal media that have long published reams of material that can only be viewed as a calculated (and at times cynical) effort to create fear and division. They have sought to manipulate social outcomes by sacrificing truth. They have even tacitly tried to inflame segments of society and aim them against others.

They have emboldened violent and intimidating movements (like Antifa) with soft soap reporting. They have attacked law enforcement over one-sided BLM narratives. Many liberal media outlets have approvingly promoted every nonsensical, shrieking, finger-pointing movement that comes down the insane pipeline of the left wing. They attempt to silence or delegitimise people who speak against the liberal agenda (e.g. Dr. Jordan Peterson, Lauren Southern, or Stefan Molyneux). They support speech codes and advocate for censorship in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Now they are reaping a taste of the whirlwind.

It is simply stupid to imagine that Trump has created a resentment toward the media out of whole cloth. Of course he has not. But he is a convenient scapegoat for a profession that knows it is under siege. On the one hand it is frightened by declining circulation as the New Media displaces the Old (hence their desire to censor the social media space). On the other hand they are battling fresh outbreaks of public contempt.

Donald Trump has tapped into this existing wellspring of anger. He has given that attitude a voice. Even some of the dissenting newspapers recognise this to be true. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined:

Just as his lack of restraint has often been the president’s self-inflicted wound, the bias of some of the press has hurt journalism, at the very moment when it is most needed to save itself… It is time for a truce.

The Horn News was even more cutting in its analysis:

Polls show Republicans have grown more negative toward the news media in recent years: Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in June 2017 that the news media has a negative effect on the country, up from 68 percent in 2010.

When is the “fake news” going to wake up to the damage their rhetoric is causing this country — and their own professional integrity?

One must ask some questions.

Who do these 350 newspapers think they are appealing to and what do they really hope to achieve? Certainly, there is an obvious profit motive. Many of the newspapers implored readers to subscribe to their papers in order to “defend a free press”. As a stunt, this does have the potential to give the bottom line of the account books a bit of a bounce.

But are these coordinated editorials going to persuade Trump supporters or even Trump-opposing conservatives? Highly unlikely. Conservatives of every sort have long decried the liberal media. That’s one of the reasons Fox News exists and survives. Is it going to appeal to the young to buy newspapers so as to fight the power? Hardly. Young people do not read newspapers, neither do they typically pay for their news. The media can channel the vibe of the French Revolution all they like, but it is not going to save their papers from the inevitable end.

Even critics of the current President think this gesture is a grand form of virtue signalling to fellow liberals that highlights the groupthink of the media class. Jack Shafer at Politico writes:

Another problem with a nationally coordinated pro-press catechism is that the audience likely to reap the greatest benefit from the haranguing—Trump and many in his base—tends not to read newspapers in the first place. While there’s always value in preaching to the choir—that’s why churches hold services every Sunday—the combined weight of 200 pro-press editorials is not likely to move the opinion needle or deter Trump from defaming and threatening reporters.

Most newspaper editorials are already a watered-down product of groupthink. It’s unlikely that expanding the size of the group and encouraging everybody to bake and serve a tuna-fish casserole on the same day will produce editorials that are more interesting and persuasive than the normal fare.

But maybe I’m wrong. If a single day of pro-press editorials is a good idea for a collective assignment, then maybe newspapers should set aside next Saturday for 200 editorials on tariffs and next Sunday for 200 editorials on global warming and next Monday for 200 editorials on Afghanistan. Surely these issues are as compelling and urgent as press freedom.

If anything, this stunt has proven that a large segment of the media really is an ideological cartel – a kind of informational mafioso – that is largely isolated from the grit of the wider society. It shows what a slanted view of the world they have; what disrespect they have for opposing viewpoints; and a chronic over-estimation of their own importance to democracy. It shows what microscopic interest they have in perspectives that differ from the liberal buzz. They have become propagandists.

Fortunately, newspapers are doomed to largely vanish within a generation. Liberal journalists already stand in the centre of the small shrinking islands of their readership. They wish to salvage their credibility without any material change to their stinking methodology. As a result, each time they attack they end up injuring themselves. Like a bumbling knight who falls in his armour and spears himself with his sword or an inept soldier who accidentally shoots his fingers off, the liberal media seem intent on ever-more grievously wounding themselves.

I can remember shortly after Trump’s election, the Guardian (and many other liberal media outlets) started to bitterly report on “fake news”. I could hardly believe that such a term was getting such circulation within the media. If an organisation of heart surgeons exists somewhere, I am very sure they would be careful never to popularise the concept of “fake heart surgeries”. They would avoid any such suggestion because the slightest doubt regarding the efficacy and value of surgery would do irreparable harm to their profession as a whole. Yet though it runs contrary to all common sense, the liberal media promoted such a concept and in the process, effectively undermined their own franchise.

The media confidently assumed that the “fake news” terminology could be safely quarantined. It would be a spear that would be thrown only at conservatives, social media news, or other sources of information that they disliked.

But the term would never remain static. Overnight, it was weaponised against the liberal media, and because of the super-abundance of double-standards and transparent agendas, has become irrevocably associated with the liberal media. They kicked a goal for the opposition.

It is not difficult to see that the Boston Globe and the 350 news outlets have done the same thing here. Again. They have lent fuel to Trump’s fire. He accuses the media of being in cahoots against him. They are the “opposition party”, says Trump, who are working together to destabilise the presidency, torpedo our agenda, and spread misinformation. Thanks to the Boston Globe, the liberal media have just handed him a perfect exhibit for his case. He will forever be able to point to the 350.

They have also just confirmed in the minds of sceptical people that large and disparate media companies will band together to forward a common agenda when they sense that their survival is at stake, or when their politics is threatened. Pritchard’s project will promote the popular anxiety that media groups are merely different branches that spring from the same root. Can any be trusted? For there are few things that so greatly arouses concern among the public than coordinated efforts by big industries, powerful people, influential institutions.

Lastly, the hyper-ventilating and hand-wringing from a profession that are not widely respected will only magnify the impression that the media are worried. They are weakened. They are fighting for survival. In the minds of many people, if the liberal media is worried it is surely because they have something to be worried about. Moreover, it will reinforce the view that whatever is going on with this presidency, it is significant, even historically unprecedented. Unlike anything in living memory. After all, you only get special denunciations from special events, from unparalleled developments, and personalities hitherto not seen before in high office.

Whatever happens, people will be able to point to the participating newspapers and say, “There’s the collusion. There’s the groupthink. There’s the fake news.”

From the Mailbag: Enemies of the Cross of Christ

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Dear Agnes,

Thank you for your message and for taking the time to express your feelings about Rick Genest. I want to respond to your message with both respect and depth. So I have chosen to break your post down into its major points and to include my response to each.

Hopefully this will help you to understand my perspective a bit better.

You wrote: 

Hi. Rick Genest touched with his smile much more lives for the better than these words will ever.

Perhaps you are being hyperbolic here for effect, but history shows us that words tend to outlive smiles.

With gentleness and respect, I must point out that the above statement is emotional but not very logical. You are really only stating that you held Rick Genest in high regard and have a corresponding disregard for my article.

But likes and dislikes are irrelevant to theological truth. I notice that you never point out errors of fact or logic in the article. That is because there were no such errors. I research my topics carefully. Rather, your basic complaint is that you did not like the article. You did not enjoy the way the article made you feel. 

But Christianity tells us things about ourselves (and others) that we do not always enjoy hearing. It offers tough truths about the human condition. That is why genuine Christianity is unpopular and that is why most people have no interest in a daily commitment to following Jesus. People never want their idols dethroned.

In the light of Christianity, it does not really matter whether a person “touched lives” with their smile. It does not matter whether a person is nice to others sometimes. Remember, the greatest villains in history have had a kindly side. Hitler was very fond of children and played games with them. Stalin is reported to have once stopped his chauffeured car and offered people a ride home. Stalin’s smiling visage could be seen everywhere in the Soviet Union.

Smiles and personalities mean a lot to mankind but very little to God. What really matters to God is the inner life. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is important is a person’s true standing before a holy God. This is revealed in the honest answer to the question: is Jesus the Lord of my whole person?

You say that Genest “touched with his smile more lives for the better”. I find myself puzzling about what this means. How did he “touch lives”? What does it mean to “touch a life”? It’s a common phrase but one that is seldom explained. And what make Genest’s smiles more special than anyone else’s?

He was a pure and beautiful soul. Please look one of his interviews not just his pictures.

This is the very opposite to how God sees mankind.

If the Bible teaches us one thing about the human condition, it teaches us that mankind is sinful. This is such a prevalent teaching in scripture that you really only need to read a few pages to encounter it. It is underlined. Highlighted. Over and over again. And nobody is exempt. The Bible says that the sinful nature is transmitted to every single human being through their parents. Consequently, the entire human race consists of sinners. Exclusively. Not one person is pure. Not one person is righteous.

This does not mean that all human beings are as bad as possible neither does it mean that all human beings are sinful in the same way. Some people are more tempted to steal. Others are more tempted toward sexual sins. No matter where our weakness is found, the scriptures teach that sin has affected every part of our being to one degree or another. Our mind, affections, will, relationships, and even our bodies are corrupted on some level.

The message of the Christian gospel is that only one human being had a “pure and beautiful” soul. His name was Jesus Christ and he is mankind’s Redeemer and King.

The universal sinfulness of mankind is an essential component for a Christian worldview. In other words, if a person rejects this truth, he cannot really be a Christian. For scripture says:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)

And in another place:

“There is no one righteous, not even one,
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

Jesus teaches that the human heart is the source of evils and miseries:

Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

And Eliphaz rhetorically asks:

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?

No Christian could accept your verdict that Genest was a “pure and beautiful soul”. Not because he was especially evil. But because inwardly, all human beings are ugly and wild, and that is why everyone needs the purity and beauty of Jesus.

Yes, he was not a Christian, he might have lost the track but we never judge where somebody goes.

To the best of my knowledge Rick Genest was never a Christian. He did not attempt to live out Christian teachings. He did not promote Christ’s kingdom. Never once in his life did he ever profess Christian beliefs. In fact, his interviews and life suggests that he rejected everything about Christianity down to brass tacks.

Now the Christian gospel is very clear about what happens to people who do not believe in Christ. It says that unbelievers are forever lost.

Yet here you seem to leave open the possibility that an unrepentant unbeliever will be found worthy of everlasting life. The problem is that your viewpoint is a direct contradiction of the entire Christian religion and what Christ himself teaches.

We do not need to judge where unbelievers go after death because God has judged this matter already and has rendered his verdict. Hell is real. Repentance is urgent. Faith in Jesus is the desperate priority of life. Because when a man dies without a Saviour, he is separated forever from God. What’s more, hell has no exits.

This is why evangelism is so vital. There is only one hope for mankind and it is the cross of Christ. 

St. John tells us:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 

Let’s use the words of St. John here to evaluate Rick Genest’s situation.

Did Rick Genest believe in Christ?

No.

Did Rick Genest live by the truth of God’s word?

No.

Did Rick Genest come into the “light” and publicly display his Christianity?

No.

Is a person matching this description under the condemnation of God?

Yes.

I am a christian, I believe in Jesus and I say that I hope the best for Rick.

I hope you would agree that being a Christian is not merely a matter of self-identity.

I grew lemon trees once. Their flowers had a citrus fragrance. When it was time for fruiting, they grew lemons. I could have stuck a label onto them that said “oranges”. I could have scotch-taped flowers to them and called them “roses”. But the labels would not have changed the truth. It was still a lemon tree.

Likewise, with religion. It is quite easy for people to take a name to themselves. A person can call themselves a Muslim, for example. But if he does not read the Qur’an, eats pork, never go to mosque, does not live up to the Five Pillars, has no idea about the Hadith, and no interest in Muhammad, is he really a Muslim?

Of course not. Nobody would accept that as valid. Religious identity is more than a label.

The same goes for Christianity.

One of the most important criteria for being a Christian is fidelity to the words of Jesus. The Lord said, “Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24). Part of that teaching is that people who reject God’s salvation in Christ are damned.

Thus, when you say that you “hope for the best for Rick” what you are really doing is disagreeing with God. When you suggest that a person can go to heaven without any faith in Jesus, without love for Christ, without repentance, and without any humble submission to God, you are really denying the core teachings of Jesus.

Bottom line: if you do not like the words of Jesus and refuse to live by them, then you need to be honest and admit that deep down you just don’t like Him.

He touched my life with his genuinity and death and I think that this article could have been written with love and not hate.

Your message demonstrates the frightening tendency of the 21st century millennial to describe any contrary opinion, viewpoint, or idea as a form of “hatred”. I encourage you to think more deeply about that term and how it is used. To simply claim that a particular view is “hate” without any knowledge of the motivation is dangerous and even bigoted.

What you regard as hatred is an opinion that is directly shaped and formed by the Christianity you claim to espouse. No Bible-believing Christian would find anything especially controversial in my article. Yet you see it as a form of hatred because for you Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ, or the Bible, or living out a life in humble obedience to God’s word that is very different to the culture around us.

I am quite sure the day will come when the New Testament and the words of Jesus will be described as “hate speech”. Should that day arrive in the near future, I am equally sure you will forsake your Christianity with little pain, since it seems not to be the bedrock of your worldview or moral compass.

Those who were on the edge of suicide because of pain are never judgemental. We can not judge somebody else’s struggles. I have been there, I know what am I speaking about.

Of course we can judge other people’s struggles! To claim otherwise is a raw demonstration of the silly moralising that has now become the vogue in the West.

Exactly the opposite is true.

With a bit of common sense and a level head, we can often judge other people’s struggles with a fair degree of insight. For example, picture a person who repeatedly takes drugs, commits crimes, and is imprisoned multiple times. With very little effort we can judge that such a person would be better off not taking drugs and that their drug-taking is the source of misery for themselves and for everyone around them.

We may even be able to judge the reason they chose a self-destructive course. Maybe they had bad friends. Maybe they ignored their parents’ counsel. We can analyse their situation, judge the rightness or wrongness of their choices, and see where things went wrong. We can do this because we are not doomed to solipsism, and because God has given us the ability to observe, to learn, and to evaluate the evidence before us.  

Judgement can even be professionalised. There are a range of occupations which involve making a judgement about other people’s struggles – determining whether they are genuine, what sort of help is required, or whether the struggles are merely excuses for bad behaviour.

It always astonishes me when I hear this moral assumption being confidently asserted. Oh, we cannot judge someone else! What astonishes me is just how irrational it is. It is impossible to consistently apply such a philosophy. For instance, in your short post you certainly judged me. According to you I am writing from the vantage point of “hate”. Why are you not pleading that my struggles be taken into account as justifications of my writing? 

The reality is, when people disclaim judgement, they are judging. Human beings cannot function without making judgement about other people, their words, actions, and values. So it is a form of radical hypocrisy to demand that other people suspend their opinions – to “stop judging” – because we happen to not like what those opinions are and want instead our own judgement to prevail.

Nor life, nor death can apart us from the love of God, though I know that we should never give up. God bless You !

St. Paul did not say this. He said that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). The context and terminology tells us that the apostle was speaking to professed Christians about the special redeeming love that God has for his chosen people – for the people who have bowed the knee to Christ Jesus their Lord.

Although God loves all of his creation he does not love everybody in the same way. He has a general love for all people and he shows this by sending the rain and the sun, and giving blessings to all. On the other hand, he loves his own people – his Church – with an everlasting and saving love. Although his Church are unworthy sinners like everyone else, God predestined them and saved them through his Son.

This verse should never be used to falsely offer hope in the cases of people who have died in an unrepentant and sinful condition. It is a sobering and serious reality that those who die without faith in Christ are lost for all eternity. It is for this reason that a serious Christian will regularly meditate on the “Four Last Things”: death, judgement, heaven and hell so that having received from God the promise of everlasting life, he will not be found to have fallen short of it (Hebrews 4:1).

St. Paul warned the Church about “enemies of the cross of Christ”:

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ… Their mind is set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)

What does it mean to live as an enemy of the cross of Christ? There are different views among orthodox theologians and commentators, but all would agree that in essence it involves a denial of the necessity and power of the cross. An enemy of the cross does not need to be a fanatic wielding a Kalashnikov or someone burning churches with their hands dripping with blood.

An enemy of the cross can be quite mild mannered and civilised. They can be softly-spoken and even ostensibly gentle. All one needs to do is advance the possibility that the cross of Christ is an optional extra, and they have set themselves up in opposition to it. To suggest that a person can go to heaven without Christ is to deny the Lord, invalidate the gospel, nullify the Faith, and blaspheme the cross.

Given the impossibility of escape from judgement without a firm anchoring in Christ and the forgiveness of sins that comes only through his cross, it behooves us all in this generation to take more seriously – in humility – both our staggering need and God’s great gift of mercy in the Most High Jesus Christ and his cross.

Free Speech and Mr Jones: The Old Media Resorts to Censorship

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If you have not heard of Alex Jones by now, you certainly will before too long.

Articles about Jones have appeared seemingly everywhere over the last few days.

His name has appeared in every media outlet from the Daily Telegraph to Breitbart; from the Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Even international outlets like the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have referenced Jones.

He has been at the centre of countless opinion pieces published over the past few days. In the process, he has become a symbol of the precarious future of free speech. The Empire of the Old Media is striking back. They want to dictate your content choices.

But let’s start at the beginning: who is Alex Jones and why is he suddenly noteworthy?

Well, frankly, Alex Jones is a bit of a nutter. He is a conspiracy theorist who rides a white horse at the head of the pack of the international conspiracy sub-culture – now involving millions of people – that reject established historical and scientific facts.

Sociologically, he is grit in the machine for he reveals one of the great paradoxes of an unrighteous age: that just as mankind gets a super-abundance of easily accessible information, we also get bizarre conspiracy theories by the truckload. Our culture now pumps out spittle-flecked nuttiness faster than a bicycle factory in China. And within this irrational world, Mr Jones is a star in the firmament. An information-age Stakhanovite.

Alex Jones promotes so much paranoia he practically sweats.

He says that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. He maintains that a shadowy “new world order” is taking over the planet. He argues the moon landings were falsified. He criticises vaccinations. He has claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates secret concentration camps. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he said the shooting was a false flag operation by supporters of gun control. The survivors of school shootings, he declared, were “crisis actors”.

Selecting a broadcast at random, and clicking to a random time index, immediately yielded the following quotation:

Do you understand the grave danger of the Jacobins? We are in grave danger of total Illuminati revolution. And what does the Illuminati call for in their own writings? That are in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Murder; death; mayhem; a boot stomping on the human face; human sacrifice; fires; burning cities; slaughter; death! Because that’s what they like. The journey is the destination for these people.

It seems there is scarcely a single anti-government, anti-authority, anti-science narrative in existence that Jones does not uncritically embrace. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone magazine titled him “the most paranoid man in America”.

One feels a bit sorry for the Mr Jones. It must be exhausting to live in a world so full of malevolent schemes. It must be terrifying to see the long hand of sinister people at work in every joint and fold of the social structure.

It’s tragic that any man’s life could end up in low orbit around such ideas. But this is where Jones has ended up. One wonders what life experiences led him to such a mental void, because Alex Jones gives himself mind and soul to this stuff. He lives and breathes conspiracy. Conspiracy is his life mission. Conspiracy is his consuming passion. He is inextricably deep in the sub-culture, like a miner buried under a hundred feet of rock. You get the impression that Alex Jones will not return to the land of the clear-headed any time soon. For Jones and his legion of disciples, conspiracies serve as substitute religions.

For those who tune into his radio show, he is regarded as a latter-day prophet from whom comes a steady trickle of truth. He commands a following in the hundreds of thousands. But despite his big fan club, Alex Jones has been booted off Facebook, Spotify and Youtube. He still has his website, radio show, and other means of communication so it is not quite the same thing as the smashing of Protestant printing presses by the counter-Reformation. Yet, there is a deeply unsettling dimension to this.

The silencing of Alex Jones on these platforms was greeted with thinly-disguised triumph by a range of commentators who work in Old Media outlets like the Guardian and CNN.  In fact, it has been quite remarkable to witness the degree of collusion among the Old Media against the operators of the New Media.

This is because the New Media is a threat to the Old. Its power is growing.

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Part of the attraction of the New Media is that anyone can be a journalist. If you have worthwhile and interesting things to say, you can get a loyal following that would be the envy of many newspapers. But even more disconcerting (from the viewpoint of the Old Media) is that the content produced by “amateur” journalists is mostly free. It is also mostly uncontrolled. People can say anything, and they do. There are no corporate bean counters; no bottom line; no CEO; no bosses; and no “party line” that needs to be followed. The New Media has remarkable independence.

As a result, the New Media reflects a true diversity of opinion – far more so than any of the Old Media organisations. In other words, thanks to tools like Facebook, Youtube and delivery systems like Spotify, what has emerged is an exercise in true democracy. It is the creation of an open marketplace of ideas where the best ideas gain traction, and the worst ideas are pilloried and ridiculed. It is wild and untamed land, but reflects the rational democratic ideal far better than any Old Media news organisation can possibly do with their rigid, simplistic, stuffy command-style approach.

The attacks on the stars of the New Media follow the failures of the Old Media to really tap into the online world and get a loyal following. Mind you, they tried once. A lot of news organisations built online websites, created new content streams, published apps, and tried to “buzzify” their news stories so they sounded hip, edgy, and too-cool-for-school. But this was always doomed to fail. The social environment has changed. At the rate things are going, Old Media influence will wane within a generation.

But worse than all of this – again, from the view of the Old Media – is the disintegration of their social power. These vast media empires once could break politicians. Like Pope Gregory VII who left the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow for three days in penance, the Old Media establishment could leave leaders sweating and grovelling too. They could ruin the lives of celebrities and commoners alike. They could break men like twigs. They could call the shots of social policy.

But those days are passing and the empires are collapsing. Increasingly, the Old Media is being heavily scrutinised, criticised, and at other times completely by-passed. The most powerful man in the world – Donald Trump – has identified the Old Media establishment as the “opposition party” and he goes for the jugular. Other Republican politicians have adopted the same tactics. Internationally, other politicians are using the same approach. A minister in the Hungarian government recently openly rebuked the BBC for their ideological interview methods.

Brilliant new thinkers appear on Old Media talk shows and make the journalists look wooden-headed and deeply unintelligent – one only needs to consider the fate of Cathy Newman and Patrick Gower whose names are forever linked to disastrous, self-righteous interviews that went very sour. Other media organisations are embattled from their own readership. The frequent rift between the readers and the opinion pieces in “quality newspapers” like the Guardian is striking.

As our Lord once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And a left-wing news organisation that cannot even count on the affirmation of its own left-wing readers cannot surely endure for long.

Throughout the world, media organisations continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars of advertising, and thousands of readers, fans, and consumers. Time and again, cash strapped news organisations announce rounds of job cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and efficiency shuffles. Each time they streamline they promise this will make their organisation “leaner” and better able to “meet needs going forward”. And yet, no organisational change seems to prevent the decline of circulation – the New York Times, for example, has seen a 50% decline in print circulation in the last 12 years. Readers may click onto the websites and even pay subscription for iconic boutique news, but digital subscribers are nowhere near as profitable as print news consumers. Furthermore, like other Old Media companies, the New York Times share price in 2018 is about half of what it was in 2002 which means the market does not consider the company to be anywhere near as worthwhile as it was at the turn of the millennium.

As for the Guardian, in April of this year it published a financial update in which it reported that its losses were less than expected. They only made a 19,000,000 pound loss in the year to the end of March. This is distinct from the 38,000,000 pound loss they made in the previous financial year.

At present, the Guardian is in the midst of a three year plan to reach their grand objective of “breaking even”. That is to say, to make a profit of exactly nothing, while at the same time adding nothing to their debt. “Breaking even” is usually only ever a goal for a business that is so derelict that the investors one forlorn hope is to be able to walk away without a loss. If “breaking even” is the operating goal of a media organisation, it suggests severe stagnation.

The Guardian is now principally supported by donations from its readership as if it were a charity. It trumpets that reader contributions now earn it more money than advertising, as if this is a good thing. What it really means is that advertisers know which way their bread is buttered. With additional costs, the Guardian will make a total loss of around 24,000,000 for the year. Another rousing success story for the Old Media.

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The Old Media – and the left-wing professional class that is allied to them – have responded to the ground-level revolution of the New Media by making the case for censorship. It is truly staggering to read articles in the Guardian and other liberal media outlets that use sophistry and pretended-rationality to argue, at basic, for a person to be unable to use social media platforms – although they try to re-badge this as “corporate responsibility”. In their view, social media corporations that host so much of the New Media have the responsibility to monitor and regulate the opinions that circulate so that nothing they find objectionable will ever be encountered in that social space.

They argue – usually without a shred of evidence – that people like Alex Jones produce “hate speech” and therefore ought to be de-platformed. This is a chilling precedent indeed, and can be understood as a protective measure by the Old Media in response to the fundamental shift that is occurring in regard to their social status.

It was heartening to read on the Guardian website this morning the sheer number of readers who were able to express disdain for Alex Jones and yet vehemently support his right to express his opinion untrammeled by politically-correct tyranny. Many recognise, (despite the fog of progressivism), that free speech should be a value enshrined in any democratic practice; and to the greatest extent possible in the arts, pursuits, and behaviours of a democratic people. It should be expanded and guarded. And the inverse – censorship – should not be celebrated and promoted.

But the Old Media is not a consistent beast. It will howl against the alleged censorship of bakers refusing to make cakes for same-sex couples, yet demand its use against people they dislike. And we may be certain it has not finished its assault yet. Some predators are most dangerous when they are wounded, and we can predict with some confidence that the Old Media establishment will champion censorship and the control of information more aggressively and zealously before their sun finally sinks below the horizon.

If Alex Jones has performed a service to the age, it is the demonstration of how fragile free speech is becoming. If a relatively harmless nutter cannot be allowed to broadcast his preposterous beliefs in peace; if a conspiracy theorist is referenced by a CNN journalist at a Facebook press conference as if this was a pressing concern, it will surely not be long before any one else with views that do not fit the cultural orthodoxy (like Christians!) will find themselves fighting for a voice too.

The Death of a Minor Celebrity

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It was reported this week that a young Canadian by the name of Rick Genest killed himself (although some of his friends and associates have claimed his death was an accident).

Rick Genest wanted to be a freak.

He set out to achieve this distinction by covering himself with tattoos of bones and insects. The top of his head was shaved and tattooed with exposed brains. His eye sockets and tip of his nose was black (whether this was tattooed or aided by cosmetics is uncertain). Around his mouth and over his lips were tattoos of teeth. Over his torso were tattoos of ribs with fragments of skin tissue hanging between the bones, and insects scuttling around the illusion of a cavity. Metal piercings in his nose and ears completed the image of a living Frankenstein’s monster.

Genest wanted to look as if he were in a partial state of decomposition like a zombie. Indeed, his nickname was “zombie boy”, an title he gladly adopted as part of his public signature. To say that he succeeded in his aim to look horrific is an understatement. The tattoos are repellent. Yet the New York Times reported that Genest had been proud of his appearance. “Please do stare,” he was quoted, “I like it.”

Unsurprisingly, the Guardian reported that Genest had a long history of depression. In May of this year, for example, he posted a photograph of himself in a hospital bed wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Kill Me” and a tongue depressor hanging from his mouth. The article mentioned that he frequently wore this shirt for media interviews. The shirt was referred to with the definite article – “the Kill Me shirt” – since it had appeared so often in photographic shoots. The use of the definite article accords the shirt an iconic status, although it never seemed to occur to the Guardian writer that a shirt that invites people to murder the wearer – even if worn only for shock value – points to the real source of Genest’s problems and does not at all deserve a celebrated status.

Genest made both money and fame from his appearance. He displayed uncanny instinct in generating an income from his repugnant appearance. Even the sympathetic eulogising of the left-wing press cannot disguise Genest’s evident eye for career development and industry shrewdness.

For example, the New York Times mentions that he was named in the Guinness World Records in 2011 for having the most insects tattooed on a human body. Setting aside the complete lack of merit inherent in such a title, it is noteworthy that to get a mention in the Guinness World Records would require Genest to apply for a record title.

The Guinness process is exhaustive, requiring several witnesses, authenticated evidence, and detailed photographs. Genest could only have received his title by being an initiator and driver of the process. Depending on how much personal effort he was willing to invest in his application, it may have cost him a large amount of money. An official Guinness consultant – marketed by the Guinness organisation to people who wish to obtain notoriety; in other words, people exactly like Genest – would have cost thousands of dollars and still required him to be painstakingly photographed from head to foot.

Genest was also aware of the value of victimhood. He ascribed forms of victimhood to himself publicly on several occasions. He claimed to have run afoul (among other things) of school bullying and religious parents. Both of these alleged forms of “oppression” are quite commonplace, and most people successfully move past the memory of difficult childhood experiences when they reach maturity. But with a horrific visage to illustrate the supposed depth of his angst, Genest was able to weave a narrative fabric out of humdrum teenage experiences and thereby elicit the needed pathos for forging fame. Victimhood is the coin that makes the coffer sing in the 21st century.

When asked about other people’s reaction to his appearance, Genest expertly coloured his life with a sparkling beatific quality worthy of a Greek Orthodox iconostasis. His self-appraisal is highly suggestive of a self-indulgent and narcissistic personality.

What changed was the masses’ reaction to me. Prior, I had my place amongst those who understood me and had the luxury of privacy. Now I often feel that every walk of life either has a question or an opinion about the way I breathe air – although I do seize this opportunity to raise awareness for tolerance, acceptance and embracing our differences.

Here, other people are merely “the masses” who did not understand him. For Genest, the ignorance of “the masses” was both an indictment against them – for they lacked broadness of vision – and evident proof of the enlightened complexity of his existence. To be unconventional is a sign of moral superiority. This is the internal narrative of the entertainment world in which he swum. Aberration is sophistication. Revolution is evolution. Normality is boring.

Genest also hinted at his frustration that the people around him had the temerity to hold an opinion on the repellent tattoos he chose to inflict on the world at large. But fortunately for everyone, their narrow-mindedness only produced more virtue in his beneficent heart. It gave him an opportunity to “raise awareness” for the liberal shibboleths of “tolerance”, “acceptance” and “embracing differences”. By this he meant that, contrary to all appearances, his tattoos performed a public service. By making himself so horrendous and ghastly to look at, other people must (and ought) to accept and tolerate him. This caused them to grow to be as broadminded as he was.

At times his hypocrisy was staggering, yet no interviewer ever pressured him to explain the incongruity between his words and his life choices. For example when asked “what is the philosophy behind your tattoos”, he answered:

The zombie concept is also often used as a metaphor for runaway consumerism. Rebelling from this notion is the very meaning of punk. The origins of the zombie creature came about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crises; that would come out the other side ‘transformed’. Zombies, to many, represent a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood.

Genest answered by pointed out that within his subculture, his tattoos serve as a metaphor for “runaway consumerism”. It is surprising that Genest was not perspiring from the sheer effort to sound deep and meaningful at this point in the interview.

Despite his concern about “runway consumerism”, Genest’s most publicised employment involved working as a model for the fashion label Rocawear and performing in high end fashion shows in Berlin and Paris. He also appeared in a music video with Lady Gaga (the stage name adopted by Stefani Germanotta) in the performance of her song Born This Way. Typical of the zeitgeist, the song begins with a long, disturbing prologue followed by an uptempo song in which Germanotta sings in her underwear.

Surely, in all the pages of history, there have been few industries which better exemplify rank consumerism than the pop music and fashion industries of the 21st century. Over and over, Genest appeared in slick photographic presentations wearing designer gear. In one photograph, he is turning somersaults on red leather couch positioned against an expertly arranged tapestry, set against a mottled wooden floor. The image appears to be extensively photoshopped, light-filtered, and edited until it is more artificial than real. In another marketing photograph he huddles in a bed glaring up from underneath his labelled attire.

After insinuating to his interviewer that his tattoos were a cry against runaway consumerism, Genest is asked for more details about being “the face” of the fashion label Rocawear. One cannot help wondering whether the interviewer was asking tongue-in-cheek because it is such a naked inconsistency.

To this Genest replies with an burst of enthusiasm:

Growing up in the city as a teenager, I have always embraced urban culture and style. It is a great honor to represent what I live, breathe, and bleed for as long as I have. I’m excited to be involved with Rocawear’s re-launch across Europe for Spring Summer ’13.

Urban style and urban culture, says Genest, is what he lives, breathes and bleeds for. What, then, is urban style and culture? This is not defined by Genest, but presumably Rocawear’s designer hoodies, oversized caps, and ridiculously baggy trousers permits us some insight into what Genest believed urban style to be. In short, it “urban style” is a carefully cultivated shtick that permits the safe and comfortable middle-classes to ape some of the grittiness of the city, so that they might feel a little more “authentic”.

Elaborately torn and disfigured garments are essential to this image. One line of jeans features imitation paint splotches down the front of the legs while others are purposefully cut and ripped. Others billow around the wearer’s limbs like prison garments, utilising fabric far in excess of what is necessary to cover the person sensibly. Apparently this is what Genest meant when he spoke of “urban style”. In other words, “urban style” is ghetto chic for people who will almost certainly be safely insulated from ever experiencing the horrors of poverty in an urban slum.

Genest also had roles in a few films and was busily working on a music album. The entertainment industry, like the fashion industry, are not exactly bywords for frugality and material restraint. To the contrary. One can think of few industries that symbolise the “runaway consumerism” against which Genest submitted his tattoos as a living protest, than the very industries he sought to make a career within.

Rick Genest was a man who spent his life living in an unreal bubble. Most of his tattoos were completed before his was out of his teenage years. For nearly half of his life he drew people’s gaze and riveted their attention. Whether walking down a street or attending a party, his visage was blatant. His tattoos extruded into the world around him and gave him the limelight he so evidently wanted. The desire to be noticed, to catch people’s gaze, to gain notoriety, to be the most obvious person in a room are all symptomatic of a person who is either profoundly insecure or profoundly narcissistic.

But something of the person is always lost by such self-seeking. Thus, it is impossible for anyone to tell what Genest really looked like. The tattoos functioned as a mask, concealing the person beneath. One is left to wonder whether even Genest himself could really peer beneath the inking to see his adult self. In any case, they would have served as a daily reminder as he stood at the bathroom mirror that he had rendered himself different. He had turned himself into a macabre character. The horror they resembled was an inescapable feature of his life and must surely have leaked into his perception of the world around him. How could any person find simple and unadulterated delight in a blue sky or a flower when their life was both swaddled and imprinted with horror?

It shows how full body tattoos can take on a life of their own. For although these morbid tattoos arose initially from Genest’s teenage personality, upon being tattooed, they in turn contributed to forging his character and his career. For instance, few things shape a person quite as much as the company they keep and the social circles in which they move. Genest’s tattoos would surely have alienated him from much of conventional society, forcing him to walk among the bizarre and freakish individuals that inhabit the moral wasteland of the entertainment industry. By tattooing himself in this way, he deliberately isolated himself from the very relationships that might have helped him to surmount his depression and find a meaningful and manly existence.

It is with extreme difficulty, for example, that one could imagine him ever having a settled marriage, being a dedicated father of children, or enjoying the comforting routine of a family life. Yet God has so created human beings that we discover purpose and comfort in fixed and permanent relationships, and in the nurture of children. Genest’s tattoos largely precluded him from the possibility of relating to the sort of woman that might have helped him to discover God’s intention for his creatures.

Even of his self-professed friends, now busily eulogising him in overblown language, there were many who personally profited from his tattoos. He was their marketing gimmick; their gritty freak to bestow their wares with some element of novelty. This makes it uncertain whether his closest associates truly valued him as anything other than a mobile stage fitting. Certainly without his tattoos, would they have given him a second glance?

Whether it was suicide – as has been reported by the press – or an unexpected accident as claimed by his friends and manager, we know only that Genest spoke to his girlfriend, went out onto a balcony for a cigarette, and fell to his death. Nobody witnessed his death. We have only his girlfriend’s word about the lead up to it, although there is no good reason to speculate that she is not being truthful.

Whatever the case, the death of an unbeliever has eternal repercussions, as death does for us all. Our Lord teaches us that there is no hope for souls who part this life without having repented and believed in the salvation of the cross through Christ. The future of the wicked is fixed and no rays of a new dawn will lighten their eternity. For this reason,  the Bible urges men, “Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”, for the day of salvation is today. Each day is our opportunity to find our shelter in the Rock from the deluge of judgement that will surely come.

It is bitterly ironic that after Genest’s death, a poem he wrote was posted to Instagram. It has been suggested this post was automatically sent by a posting app. Perhaps Genest had planned for this poem to be his final work before his death? The poem is dark. It references a pagan god and uses the tawdry and boring themes so beloved by those who think the darkness of the goth subculture is “deep”. He writes about flesh being cut, and the cold, the moonlight, and howling under the stars. The image that accompanied the poem featured darkness interrupted only by a circle of light.

In one sense, this is chillingly symbolic of his soul’s trajectory. Having quite literally loved darkness rather than light, Genest’s final word to the world – whether by design or happenstance – is also about the things of the night. Little did he realise that there is a darkness more terrible than that of his subculture and imagination. Our Lord called it “outer darkness”, a lonely wilderness everlastingly submerged in blackness, where the souls who refused to submit to Christ will wander in torment forever.

Genest was a wicked man. He did not commit murder or violent crimes, but he set himself against God and the imago Dei imprinted on his humanity nonetheless. By his own confession he lived a life that purposefully sought to normalise the aberrant and ungodly. He took his body and disfigured it into a grotesque death mask thereby claiming his ownership over it and pretending that it was not God’s. His very flesh which was meant to reflect the glory of God became a canvass upon which he could feature the horror of death, desecration of the sacred, and to turn people’s minds to devilish themes.

The death of this minor celebrity will make no difference to the vast majority of mankind. Like a candle snuffed out, he will be quickly forgotten. As so many before him have done, he has stepped suddenly over the parapet into an eternity he spent little time considering. For him, his short existence here is over; his time is up. Far sooner, perhaps, than he may have ever expected.

We may find little (or more accurately, nothing) to commend in the central, consuming passion of his life, or the empty and frivolous nature of his work. But the death of an unconverted sinner should at least remind us of the urgency of repentance and the hope that exists in Christ Jesus alone. By faith, we can make ourselves ready for eternity.

St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Romans are apt. They contradict Genest’s glamorisation of darkness, with an unshakeable and towering authority:

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make no provision for the flesh… (Romans 13:11-14)

 

Deus Ex Machina: The Substitute gods of Secularism

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Voltaire famously observed that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

In the letter written in verse Épître à l’Auteur du Livre des Trois Imposteurs, Voltaire addresses the secularist who desires to abolish God:

But you, faulty logician, whose sad foolishness,
Dares to reassure them in the path of crime,
What fruit do you expect to reap from your fine arguments?
Will your children be more obedient to your voice?
Your friends, at time of need, more useful and reliable?
Your wife more honest? And your new renter,
For not believing in God, will he pay you better?
Alas! let’s leave intact human belief in fear and hope.

In these pithy and energetic lines, Voltaire argues that an absence of faith in God does nothing to enhance the moral quality of either society or the individual relationships that make it up. To the contrary. Voltaire claims that the moral condition of society would decay. Without hesitation he lays at the feet of the secularist (the “faulty logician”) the moral culpability for the disintegration of familial harmony, fiscal honesty, and even spousal fidelity. Any man who desires to rid the masses of faith in God, implies Voltaire, is essentially encouraging them down a path of crime, both petty and criminal.

Voltaire was, of course, a deist, not an outright atheist despite the New Atheists often seeking to claim him as one of their own. His views, therefore, are typical of the popular deism of his time. Deists saw value of faith primarily in its the utilitarian value, and this attitude is certainly reflected in Voltaire’s epistle.

Over and over, Voltaire argues that with no God to obey, and thus no inward conscience to speak to a man about his duties toward others, no matter how bad the man might be now, he will be all the worse for God’s absence. Widespread belief in God, whomever that God might be (deists tended to be more agnostic on that score; Voltaire himself admired Hinduism), must be regarded as a social good by the mere virtue that faith in God serves to elevate man’s conduct.

He goes on to argue:

My lodging is filled with lizards and rats;
But the architect exists, and anyone who denies it,
Is touched with madness under the guise of wisdom.
Consult Zoroaster, and Minos, and Solon,
And the martyr Socrates, and the great Cicero:
They all adored a master, a judge, a father.
This sublime system is necessary to man.
It is the sacred tie that binds society,
The first foundation of holy equity,
The bridle to the wicked, the hope of the just.

The national fabric (and even religions themselves) may be pockmarked with rogues and evildoers – the “lizards and rats” – but the Architect of the system exists nonetheless. Voltaire points out that the greatest thinkers, most significant reformers, and the best legislators of history each recognised the importance a “sublime system” to forward the enlightenment of society. Cicero and the others would have taken extreme umbrage with the New Atheists who argue that religion darkens society.

God is necessary, says Voltaire, because faith in him accomplishes two important tasks. First, it serves to reign in wickedness, and secondly, it serves to provide courage and motivation to those who want justice to prevail. Faith in God has driven the most profound reforms in history, from Wilberforce’s emancipation of slaves in the British Empire, to Amy Carmichael’s struggle against child temple prostitution in India, to the prosecution of war criminals following the Second World War. Most of the greatest charities have been founded by principled, deeply religious people. Thus, faith in God is doubly positive for society.

The first task – putting a brake on criminality – is self-evidently worthwhile and good, because it results in less evil. The second task of faith is not as obvious, but just as vital. Indeed, it may even be more vital than the first. People need reasons to believe in justice; they need to have grounds for hope so that they can transform their moral environment for the better. Faith in God provides that impetus.

Voltaire builds on this theme more in a subsequent verse:

If the heavens, stripped of his noble imprint,
Could ever cease to attest to his being,
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
Let the wise man announce him and kings fear him.
Kings, if you oppress me, if your eminences disdain,
The tears of the innocent that you cause to flow,
My avenger is in the heavens: learn to tremble.
Such, at least, is the fruit of a useful creed.

God is the refuge of the powerless, says Voltaire. When tyrants oppress their weaker fellow creatures, God is the ultimate source of consolation. Where else may a man go? In what else may he trust when confronted with human weakness, evil, hostility, persecution, or aggression? What other hope does the oppressed and dispossessed have, except that his injustice will be avenged by the divine Judge? When a man has nothing, he can at least avoid total spiritual breakdown in the sure knowledge that his tears contain inherent value in the eyes of his Creator.

History illustrates Voltaire’s observation rendered in flesh. Myriad are the stories of oppressed people finding their solace in God, from the Hebrew slaves who cried out to God to deliver them from Egypt, to St. Paul singing hymns in prison. Or the slaves on the cotton plantations, beaten mercilessly and worked on the end of a lash for sixteen hours of the day or more. Had they sought their hope in the material world alone they might have succumbed to abject despair. Or the men and women starving in German concentration camps, surrounded by death and barbarity. These might have been brutalised beyond recovery if not for trusting in the final justice and redemption God would surely bring upon their tormentors, in both this world and the world to come.

For these reasons (and others), Voltaire argues that God is so fundamental and necessary to human existence that should humankind ever find itself without deity above them, they would soon have to create a simulacrum of God just to fill the gaping void. Looking back over the bloodiest century in human history, an age of atheism, Darwinism, and the generalised corrosion of faith, one cannot help see considerable prescience in Voltaire’s observations. From beginning to end of the last century, history has witnessed ideologies venerated like religious creeds; political parties proclaimed as infallible products of destiny; and political leaders elevated to the status of demigods.

Throughout it all, armies of humanists, secularists and atheists have tried hard to promote the idea that God is unnecessary and faith is toxic. Richard Dawkins has ascribed faith the properties of being dangerous and suggested that religious institutions do wicked things to people’s minds (how those institutions should be deemed “wicked” in a godless universe where one man’s principles are not objectively better than another’s, is anyone’s guess). Christopher Hitchens frequently spoke about his discomfort with the idea that God should be constantly watching over human lives. He thundered that the biblical God was nothing more than a celestial dictator. Get rid of him, and live free.

The secularists have offered lovingly painted word pictures of a future without religion, which often have the character of a Utopia in which humanity lives out an endless college experience of learning, engaging in creative pursuits like playing music, and having polite and reasoned interactions with people of other ethnicity and cultures. Scientific solutions could be found to the problem of crime. And soon society would flourish with high-tech answers to all of society’s deepest conundrums. They have argued that without God, human beings would finally be able to proximate to their full potential and nobility. People would be no longer bound in the mental prison of superstition. To paraphrase Stalin, life would be better; life would be happier, with more resources for the material needs of the people instead of the wastage of religion.

In the light of the effects of militant atheism in the Soviet Union and other regimes, such claims practically constitute an article of faith in their own right, if not a new and horrible form of delusion. Still, such a sentiment – and that is all it is, for it is neither rooted in historical nor present reality – is widespread in this age of declining faith.

Yet, for all of the hubris and confidence of the New Atheism, Voltaire’s dicta is finding an almost poetic fulfilment in the modern world. Societies are discovering that the best means of regulating human behaviour is through widespread surveillance, and this is being provided by the technology of mass observation and, more recently, the algorithms to judge human activity. Since most people no longer believe themselves accountable to God, and those who do seldom take their accountability seriously, it is necessary to fill the vacuum with a surveillance system that has some of the characteristics of deity. It is necessary to invent God, although since it is the work of human engineering, it is a cold, impersonal and ultimately merciless transposition.

CCTV cameras are nearly ubiquitous in the United Kingdom, with Londoners being watched by more cameras than virtually any other population in the world. The United Kingdom has embraced politically correct secularism with a degree of enthusiasm that exceeds anything found virtually anywhere else. The subsequent levels of criminality, entitlement, social discord, and crude behaviour have made Britain a true outlier even in Western Europe. This is made it necessary to convert the nation into a monitored state, worthy of the Big Brother regime one of Britain’s native authors dreamt about, not yet a full century ago.

There are 5.9 million CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom, or 1 for every 11 people. Moreover, in an effort to protect themselves from antisocial behaviour, home CCTV cameras are purchased in great numbers by private residents for monitoring their yards and streets. Predictably, this has led to new forms of conflict between neighbours. Some neighbourhoods bristle with cameras as warring neighbours seek to capture each other on film engaging in actionable offences. The volume of such material is staggering. There is now enough CCTV footage captured of neighbourhood disputes for entire TV shows to construct episodes largely around privately captured CCTV footage.

But technology is evolving beyond the old school cameras filming in isolation. A new technology, aptly named “Eye in the Sky” is being trialled in India. This programme uses floating cameras mounted on drones to monitor large crowds in festival settings. The programme will be capable of identifying fights, knife attacks and other altercations through the use of complex algorithms. It will then alert authorities who will be able to respond.

China is going even further in its pursuit of social excellence, by creating a “social credit system” that is not just meant to deter ne’er-do-wells from breaking the law but also exert positive pressure upon their citizen body to be virtuous. Within this system of massive interlinked databases, a person’s every action is monitored by a vast array of interconnected cameras, facial recognition software, online ID tracking and the tracking of personal activities like work and study.

A person’s actions are ascribed positive or negative points. Thus, jaywalking, losing a defamation lawsuit, or not working enough hours will lower a person’s social credit score, while benevolent acts like donating blood or volunteering in the community would boost the social credit score. Only people with a high enough score receive social rewards like foreign travel and access to other benefits.

The potential for governments to shape people’s behaviour and thinking through the means of such a vast apparatus is frightening. Governments – even in democratic countries – already exercise a high degree of control over people’s moral and behavioural comportment, but a social credit system would raise the degree of influence to near total control.

And yet, despite its implications for democracy and its totalitarian character, it is undeniably attractive in the sense that we instinctively recognise that social virtues are far too hit-and-miss in the modern world. In the West, at least, there are very few penalties for objectionable, anti-social behaviours. Whatever the popular view to the contrary, in Western countries people are seldom incarcerated and seldom fined, yet antisocial behaviour (loud music late at night, public urination, casual assaults) is on the increase for which there are few remedies. If the law exercises restraint in the West, it is only because of a residue of the majesty with which it was once invested. And of course, as Voltaire implied, if people think they can get away with something, they will do it.

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. It is a tragic irony that this statement should be fulfilled in the most concrete and material terms in the modern world. No doubt Voltaire pictured a collective of godless men inventing a spiritual deity in order to finally bring some order, inspiration, hope, and self-restraint to themselves. He probably did not imagine that humankind would literally turn to machines, computers, mathematical algorithms, and ranking indexes to make people accountable and virtuous. Such is the bitter fruit of godlessness.

Sex for Breakfast, Death For Lunch: The Incel Movement (Part II.)

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This is the second article in a three part feature series written in response to the van attack in Toronto which killed 10 people. Part I. considered the PUA and MGTOW identity groups that have appeared in the last decade. In Part II. the “incel” movement is explored in significant depth. Part III. finishes the feature series with a demonstration of how orthodox Christian theology offers renewal to the damaged, and the lens by which to properly interpret the sociological forces at work in our time.

  1. An Overview of the Incel Movement
  2. Black Pills, Red Pills, Chads and Staceys
  3. Hypergamy and Misogyny
  4. Racist, Right-Wing, and Rebellious
  5. The Empty Self and Authoritarianism
  6. A Online Colony of the Morally Deranged
  7. Making Sense of the Subculture

AN OVERVIEW OF THE INCEL MOVEMENT

The “involuntarily celibate” movement – “incel” for short – consists of men who have very limited sexual intercourse. But unlike MGTOW, incels want sexual fulfilment and many regard its absence as a criteria for victimhood. They are celibate against their will, they argue, and celibacy does them harm. Yet, most incels would further argue that their celibacy is not a mere accident or the happenstance of their situation. It is the grim product of a conspiracy against them by genetics, society, and above all, by women.

Given the premise of their worldview, it is unsurprising to discover that the incel subculture tends to be simultaneously dark and childish. Such a combination tends to yield an alarming propensity toward violence and hatred. Where the rhetoric is not grotesque or borderline criminal, the views they express and the solutions they propose are suggestive of a deep personal dysfunction. Certainly no mentally healthy person, no matter how sexually frustrated, could ever arrive at their conclusions. Like the MGTOW movement, the true source of their misery is brightly revealed within the sheer unprincipled irrationality of the philosophy they push.

It is important to recognise that incels are not all alike. Some are genuine in their despair. They really do feel like outcasts and cannot understand why they have seemingly missed one of life’s great rites: the formation of a meaningful relationship. Others are celibate due to physical disabilities (although many within the disabled community hotly reject being associated with incels). Still others describe social impediments that look strikingly similar to high-functioning autism. Autism can make forming relationships very difficult, as this incel explains:

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know what’s holding me back either. I have high-functioning autism, which has been my go-to explanation for a while. A lot of people with autism struggle to find partners and deal with late-stage virginity, so it’s probably not a coincidence, but it can be hard to tell the precise ways it impacts me.

For a while, I’ve assumed that little autistic behaviors like stimming, talking to myself etc. make women subconsciously categorize me as either a creepy weirdo or a pitiful, childlike sexless being. My current therapist challenged that a bit, saying that it sounded like the cognitive distortion of mind reading. I don’t know if I completely buy that, since it’s pretty well documented that women are always on high alert for potential creeps and awkward guys can get unwittingly categorized as such, but it may be worth thinking about.

Aside from that, there’s the fact that social rituals generally aren’t as intuitive to people on the spectrum as they are to neurotypicals. I can look back at my first few pursuits in late high school/early college and see that I went about it pretty clumsily, so I may’ve just learned the ropes of both reading and displaying signs of attraction a little too late to capitalize on the dating market in college, and now find myself thrust into the decidedly narrower mid-20s dating market.

Such men are clearly intelligent and competent within their sphere, yet uncomprehending. For these, the incel movement provides an explanation that makes sense of their frustrations with the subtleties of human relationships.

The incel movement is also heavily colonised with men who exhibit a grab bag of disturbed sexual and relational behaviours. Already the incel subculture has bred at least three mass murderers, two of whom explicitly described their actions as a service to the incel philosophy. Quite apart from the lethal violence that has flowed from its bowels, incel forums are loaded with men whose self-described behaviour is not merely “creepy” but deviant. The behaviours they record represent the classic precursors to rape, sexual violence, destructive paraphilias, or other criminal perversions.

In between these extremes are a vast mass of men who are intensely lonely, anxious and sad. They have entered the subculture and embraced its misogynistic narrative as an explanatory device for their personal inadequacies and frustrations. In fact, within most incel circles, women are blamed for practically every problem in contemporary society. Women are routinely denigrated. Violence toward them is often celebrated. Yet at the same time incels are consumed with the thought of sexual intercourse.

Regardless of the motives behind each individual person’s involvement with the movement, in virtually all cases they are highly depressed and their participation in the subculture only aggravates their condition into outright despair. One moderator of a popular incel forum told the Washington Post that three members of his forum have attempted suicide. This gives some inkling into the mental state of the people gravitating toward the movement. A single suicide attempt would be rare for an online group, but three is a statistical tsunami.

An investigation into the subculture by researchers from Georgia State University found:

…involuntary celibacy is part of a self-sustaining package of psychological issues: depression, neuroticism, anxiety, autistic disorders. Those problems prevent incels from forming relationships — which in turn makes their depression and anxiety more extreme.

Clearly incels suffer with relational disorders. This becomes dangerous when it is united to a sense of victimhood and oppression. Indeed, incel forums tend to get shut down precisely because they descend into vicious bigotry, racism, violent rape fantasies and credible threats of doing harm to others.

This article was written to expose how the movement’s premises are deeply inimical to Christianity. This is only to be expected. Whenever large numbers of perverted, unhappy, or dysfunctional people collaborate, they build extensive online manufactories of hatred. Many incels certainly hate women, but there is also a deep vein of religious and racial bigotry within the incel subculture. In other words, the typical incel is not a Christian and is disdainful of Christianity. I found nearly inexhaustible examples like this:

Christianity is based on a series of transparent and idiotic falsehoods, beginning with its central premise:

There is a heavenly magical Jew in the sky who loves and cares for you.

Talk about mind-boggling stupidity. How do you even go about proving any of that nonsense? And no, your magical book does not count as evidence. Not to mention the other problems with the religion, such as nearly destroying western civilization, retarding scientific and technological progress, promoting hundreds of years of bloody internecine conflict among Europeans, and giving rise to liberalism and communism (yes, these are of Christian origin).

If Christianity is a dying religion in the west, it is because of science and mass literacy. No need to explain things with god doing this or that, like they did during the Dark Ages. Only an idiot would believe in Christianity these days, which is why it’s growing so rapidly in places like Africa and Latin America.

Groups which exist to share hatred with each other – even as a coping mechanism – are lethal to human flourishing. They provide disturbed people with plausible-sounding justifications for perversion. They encourage the dismantling of boundaries that would not otherwise be breached. And they plunge the vulnerable, hurt and isolated further into despair.

Despite this, they represent the mission field of the Christian Church.

BLACK PILLS, RED PILLS, CHADS AND STACEYS

Nailing down the incel worldview is difficult because we are dealing with a large number of men who have built a common identity around a single characteristic: the lack of sexual relations. Aside from this one characteristic, there are numerous subdivisions within the subculture.

Its most extreme manifestation is the “black pill” stream. The term is derived from The Matrix movie in which the protagonist is given the choice between a blue and red pill. If he swallows the blue pill, he returns to a life of simulated delusion. If he swallows the red pill, he embraces reality which will be much less comfortable. When incels talk about the “black pill” they mean that the “true reality” is far more savage than most people could ever believe. Thus, only the bravest and most honest incels take the “black pill”.

To “take the black pill” is to embrace a package of beliefs that include elements of social Darwinism, biological determinism, pessimism, dystopianism, and thoroughgoing nihilism. Black pill incels vehemently affirm that their fate is sealed; their future is fixed, and it consists of nothing but a grey, colourless blur.

Red pill incels, by contrast, are less pessimistic. Red pill incels have awoken to the “truth” that society is rigged against men and all women operate in certain ways for their own advantage. But whereas black pill incels conclude that hopelessness and passivity is the only response to this truth, red pill incels retain hope. They believe that they can take action. They can improve their confidence, work on their “game”, utilise some Pick Up Artist techniques, and improve their looks (something called “looksmaxxing”). In other words, this variety of incel do not forfeit the individual responsibility to improve themselves.

One incel explains the difference in this way:

Red-pill is focused on average-looking dudes to improve their looks and help them gain confidence to date women. A 5/10 guy can become a 6-7/10 after working on all of these things[:]

  • Working out regularly and building muscle, getting lean, dressing well, having nice haircuts etc.

Black-pill is for dudes who are just downright ugly and will never really find true love or be in a relationship. Think bottom of the bell-curve genetics. No amount of self-improvement will ever make them conventionally attractive[.]

To which another forum member replies:

Sometimes incels post pictures of who is an incel according to them, whether it’s some ugly celebrity, some random picture of a somebody found online, or a picture of themselves. Most of the time the caption says the person is a subhuman incel, and most of the time they’re just average looking person, not the scum of humanity, not the biggest loser of the “genetic lottery”.

Really ugly people do exist, but most incels are rather delusional when it comes to their own look.

The latter post correctly illustrates the twin beliefs which tend to result in the utter despair that is common among a broad cross-section of incels. On the one hand they are rigidly fixated on looks, yet concurrently have an unrealistic self-appraisal of their own appearance.

The narratives about appearance result in twisted exemplars. Incels commonly label the most romantically successful people as “Chads” (or sometimes “Brads”) and “Staceys”. The name comes from an imaginary man called “Chad”. Chad is a hypothetical “alpha male” who is the ultimate sexual machine. Incels theorise that this man would reflect the highest levels of romantic competence. He would be handsome, athletic, intelligent, wealthy, have irresistible sexual allure for women, and have an unparalleled degree of social mobility and independence. Chad could happily rub shoulders with the Manhattan elite and then flourish just as well in a dockside mafia gang.

Incels will often refer to Chad as if he were a real person. On incel forums they write laudatory biographies of him, with graphic details about his prowess with women (one incel wrote that Chad would have lost his virginity at 12). These biographies shower superlative adjectives upon Chad as if he were an object of religious veneration.

Here is a typical incel post:

Chad is a man who automatically and naturally turns girls on due to his appearance and demeanor [sic], in much the same way that your typical FA [Forever Alone] automatically and naturally turns girls off.

Chad feels and exudes confidence, in part because of his privileged upbringing but mainly because he has had positive feedback his entire life.

Girls don’t play games with or flake on Chad, because they know he can instantly replace them. They wouldn’t dream of answering their mobile phones while out on a date with him.

Conduct which is considered “creepy” or “mysoginistic” [sic] or “harassment” when done by average guys is excused or even celebrated when Chad does it. If Chad playfully pats a girl on the rear end she will admire his courage for having done so. She will hope he does the same again, or more.

Girls think carefully about what sexy clothes they can wear to catch Chad’s eye. At clubs and parties, they will try to sit in his lap or grab at his crotch in hopes that it will lead to the opportunity to perform fellatio on him.

When Chad cheats on his girlfriend, she invents excuses for it and puts all the blame on the girl he cheated with. To do otherwise would be to risk losing Chad as a boyfriend.

It is significant that part of this fantasy includes socioeconomic factors. Chad is not poor and underprivileged but enjoys wealth and educational opportunities from an early age, turning him into a confident adult who enjoys access to power. In other incel posts, race and age are mentioned as a key part of Chad’s character. He is almost always described as young and white, although there is a black counterpart who is given the name “Tyrone”. As these qualities stack up it becomes apparent that Chad represents for incels a totem of power which they feel is absent within their own masculinity.

Chad illustrates the recessional nature of incel profiling. As time goes on, the characteristics he is said to possess become more narrow. The narrative turns upon itself in ever-decreasing circles. Most of Chad’s characteristics relate to looks. This reflects the incel obsession with attractiveness as the prime mover of a sexual relationship. Since incels are rigidly fixated on a collection of exterior female characteristics as sexual triggers, they assume that all relationships work on the same basis.

Crude illustrations of “Chad” circulate within incel forums. He is usually depicted with luxuriant blonde hair, ripped muscles, strong profile and a chiselled jawline – jawlines being a physical feature that incels discuss frequently. It has been noted (not unfairly) that there is a definite element of homoeroticism in the “Chad” phenomenon. Incels who write about him adopt the angle of a female viewer and psychologically feminise themselves. Some incels openly admit to wanting to have sex with Chad.

On the other hand, a “Stacey” is an attractive “high value” woman who is only interested in one thing: getting an “alpha bad boy” who is powerful and competent – in other words, a “Chad”. This places “Staceys” beyond the reach of incels since they do not have the attributes they associate with masculine power. Stacey is therefore highly desirable to incels but at the same time completely unattainable. This inflames a deep resentment because incels think attractive women will readily have sexual intercourse with many Chad-like men but will not, of course, ever have sexual relations with them.

HYPERGAMY AND MISOGYNY

With few exceptions, incels are unremittingly misogynistic.

This is a true textbook-definition of misogyny not merely a flippant label. There is hardly a negative stereotype of women that has not been ram-packed into their philosophy. Incels believe that women are fickle, disloyal, treacherous, gold-digging, and callous. The full personhood of women is routinely denied. Instead women are viewed mostly as an assemblage of body parts or as mobile genitals. It is normal for them to be called “sluts”, “whores”, or terms even more repellent to a normal person.

Neither is this hatred just idle chatter. Three incels: Elliot Rodgers (2014), Chris Harper-Mercer (2015) and Alek Minassian (2018) have each committed acts of massed murder, targeting women. In two cases, lengthy manifestos were left by the killers with elaborate justifications for their actions. These men have become icons within the incel subculture. They are often referred to as “saints”. The anniversary of their massacres are celebrated on many online forums. Incels literally celebrate these men as folk-heroes and revolutionaries, as if they were latter-day Robin Hoods standing up for the sexually oppressed.

The murders are constantly discussed on incel forums and a lot of incel humour involves references to the killings. Some incels reject violence, but there is a troubling ambivalence among the majority.

Violence and suicide are frequently encouraged on incel forums. A BBC reporter, Johnathan Griffin, writes:

I saw one forum thread where someone was saying they wanted to take their own life, and various commenters suggested violence.

One said: “DON’T be selfish. Go to an elementary school and kill some children before you commit suicide. Please!?!”

Messages like that aren’t unusual in the incel community. When someone mentions that they have suicidal thoughts, they’re often egged on by other posters.

As we speak, Liam, the 19-year-old UK incel, tries to joke about Rodger’s murder spree.

“I don’t think it was even that wrong,” he says, laughing nervously. When I push, he does say: “It’s common sense, it’s wrong to kill people.”

Incels believe that society is “gynocentric”. By this they mean that women are favoured to the detriment of men. They argue that feminism caused this. Feminism has not only allowed women to be more assertive about their rights but also fortressed female values and concerns in modern politics. Some incels blame their sexless condition on feminism. They see themselves as victims of women (and gynocentric society) and they speak the language of victimhood.

Incels also claim that women are naturally “hypergamous”. (Less pretentious incels use the term “gold-diggers”.) They argue that women have an instinct to seek higher status sexual partners than themselves.

Hypergamy is a legitimate sociological concept for a pairing where one partner does have higher status in a measurable variable like wealth or education. Nonetheless, hypergamy does not define female behaviour, and it is not isolated only to women. Sometimes women “marry down” too, a practice termed “hypogamy”. These behaviours are most common in stratified societies where social mobility is limited and marriage is governed by complex rules of kinship, caste, tradition and status. In modern egalitarian societies, neither hypergamy or hypogamy are a mainstream aspect of romance. Most people tend to marry someone who is their educational or class equal.

To incels, however, hypergamy (or at least their interpretation of hypergamy) is a fixed law of human relationships. Since they see themselves as being at the bottom of the heap – “ugly, semi-educated, and poor” – and since no woman is going to partner with someone with less status than herself, they have no chance at having sex. Not ever. Lots of incels genuinely think this is the reason they are celibate. They blame female “hypergamy” or “gold digging”. Having no “gold” they are not being “dug” by cold, calculating women.

Incels have an utter obsession with physical attractiveness as the main ingredient for romantic fulfilment. It comes up time and time again on incel forums. Not a forum exists where looks are not discussed. Any suggestion that personality, behaviour, or intelligence plays an equally important part in attraction is viciously disparaged.

Another equally fixed belief is that women are naturally do not describe their own desires truthfully. Women are “naturally” dishonest or indirect, so they cannot be listened to as a guide to romance! Incels routinely malign the idea that women could be attracted to inward qualities, even when women themselves say they are.

Incels – particularly black pill incels – typically employ a morose selection of junk science titbits to support their case, of which the following is a standard example:

The results showed that as long as a man was considered attractive or moderately attractive, both mothers and daughters would pick the guy who had the most desirable personality traits. But when an unattractive male was paired with the most highly desirable personality profile, neither daughters nor mothers rated him as favorably as a potential romantic partner, compared with better-looking men with less desirable personalities.

Both young women looking for men and mothers seeking boyfriends for their daughters consider a minimum level of attractiveness to be an important criterion in a potential mate, the researchers concluded.

One incel replied:

Everything a woman says they are attracted to only applies if the man is good looking.

Comments like these betray a fundamental inability to make commonsense deductions from a rational observation of how the world works. Or, it is a sullen determination to argue for an untruth because of a sense of enjoyment in being vengefully dishonest.

A normal person learns very early in life that while looks are important to some people, relative attractiveness does not determine a person’s fate. Looks are not destiny. Yet incels insist that women superimpose attractiveness over every other consideration despite what women themselves say.

Female dishonesty and treachery is thus an omnipresent theme in incel dialogue:

This is what kills me about women they are never honest. When a woman makes an effort to compliment a man you should know that man is a chad even if they don’t admit. I remember one woman was talking about how that waiter in some restaurant is kind and professional when I went to that restaurant guess what? he was a [profanity deleted] chad and she didn’t mention that.

To which another incel replied:

Yeah because they aren’t aware they are grading looks. They think a good personality is good looks subconciously [sic]

Finally, another poster commented:

Women are naturally wired to do and say things indirectly.

This is a convenient way of dismissing women’s views and forcibly impressing incel beliefs upon all contrary data. So, whenever a woman comments about romantic attraction being more than a sum of body parts for her, it is normal on incel forums for her to receive sharp disdain and contradiction. If her comments do not fit the incel philosophy, then she is either consciously lying because she does not want to admit the truth, or she is being coy. Or perhaps, she does not really know her own mind and simply repeats socially acceptable lines like a human tape recorder on playback.

RACIST, RIGHT-WING, AND REBELLIOUS

Subcultures often have interesting overlaps with other currents active within the cultural mix. The overlaps provide clues about the dynamics within the subculture, where it has come from, where it is going, and what gives it impetus. In the case of the incel subculture, there is a heavy correlation between incels and racism, extreme right-wing views, degrees of financial difficulties, and a generalised iconoclastic tendency that permeates the movement. This latter characteristic is nearly universal. Sacred cows are slain on incel altars. Cultural heresy is enthusiastically celebrated. Anything that is politically correct is pilloried with rhetorical tomatoes soon following after. The other characteristics may not be descriptive of every incel – for example, some incels appear to come from privileged, progressive backgrounds while others incels are certainly not racist – but judging from the sort of posts found on forums, incels are more likely to fit into these categories than they are to belong to the inverse.

The overlap between racism and misogyny is noticeable to anyone who takes an investigative or anthropological interest in this subculture. The Toronto Star made this very observation in a recent expose on the incel movement published shortly after the Toronto van attack:

In all the discussions around Incels or involuntary celibates — a term violently wrested out of an obscure internet subculture and thrown into mainstream lexicon after last week’s van rampage in Toronto — a less talked about aspect is the overlap of its foundational misogyny with racism.

There’s a reason for that. It’s complicated.

“When you have these communities that don’t have coherent ideologies on a lot of things, they’re united in their misogyny, not necessarily united on the racial stuff,” says Arshy Mann, a reporter for Xtra, a Toronto-based LGBTQ magazine, who has been surfing the larger “manosphere” subculture for a decade and researching Incels for the past six months.

For the sake of fairness, it must be underscored that not all incels are racist. Such a disparate movement united primarily by misogyny will naturally have texture in relation to its various attitudes toward race. In fact, there are many non-white participants within the subculture and this is reflected by a blend of ethnic backgrounds represented on incel forums – for example, the so-called “currycels” and “ricecels” (incels of south Asian and east Asian extraction). There are black incels too – “blackcels” – with their own bête noire in the form of “Tyrone”, the black counterpart of “Chad”.

Nonetheless, racism is endemic within the movement. It is found everywhere on incel forums; racist viewpoints are discussed in a laudatory manner by the so-called nazicel subgroup; and racist adjectives are casually employed within normative forum discussion apparently without thought. There appears to be no concerted effort to delegitimise this behaviour by most forum administrators.

Virulent racism flowed in nearly equal proportions to his misogyny from the icon of incel angst, serial killer Elliot Rodgers. Rodgers was crystal clear in classifying people of different ethnic backgrounds on a sliding hierarchy of value:

Rodger, the half-Asian 22-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif., killer of six people (and then himself) in 2014, hailed as some sort of patron saint for the Incels, was so fixated on whiteness he bleached his hair and fantasized about tall, blonde girls. He saw their rejection as a rejection of his non-white parts. So he reserved in his so-called manifesto particular venom for boys of colour who got attention from white girls.

“How could an inferior, ugly Black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more …”

Rodger’s rage wasn’t reserved just for Black people, though.

“How could an inferior Mexican guy be able to date a white blonde girl, while I was still suffering as a lonely virgin?”

“How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them?”

On one black pill forum the question was asked: “What’s your opinion of Hitler and National Socialism?”. The fact that this question was raised is significant. It is not a question that is usually raised within a normative social setting, although it is sometimes posed by adolescents wanting to test the boundaries of decency.

A poll was taken on the forum. Although its sample size was restricted only to a self-selecting group of online participants, nearly half of the respondents – 47% – indicated they were “neutral” concerning Nazism. Meanwhile, 35% of those surveyed selected options to indicate that Hitler “did nothing wrong” or was “a good person”. Only 17% of the respondents thought Nazism was an evil ideology.

The subsequent comments quickly descended into historical and moral derangement. Some incels praised Hitler; others denied the Holocaust; and still others indicated that Jews needed to be monitored and isolated within societies.

One incel wrote:

The holocaust did not happen. They were work camps, not death camps.

Another agreed:

Honestly he was the best leader in all of mankind’s history.

Anti-Semitism quickly appeared:

…war does not help anyone and neither does removing the juden [sic]. the juden [sic] race must be isolated within countries and controlled.

Another incel claimed that Hitler’s vicious anti-Semitism constitute the very grounds for according them admiration:

Adolf Hitler and many in the NSDAP were great men, up holders and defenders of traditionalism and steadfast soldiers against Jewish Tyranny. They took on the Jews and they deserve all the admiration and respect we can give them.

This thread continued to dozens of posts, with many incels contributing their anthems of praise for Hitler and Nazism, along with sickening remarks about Jews. It demonstrates how any ideology of hatred eventually combines with extreme right-wing persuasions. Indeed, in recent months there has been an increasing segue between the incel subculture and the alt-right movement, now generally accepted as a basket of immature iconoclasts who not only hold virtually fascist viewpoints – in the truest sense of the term – but work to rehabilitate the legitimacy of such viewpoints in mainstream culture.

In one sense a lot of this type of discussion is simply designed to be nonconformist and shocking. Part of the internal dynamic of the incel movement – and the related MGTOW movement – is a reaction against politically-correct opinions and the people who tend to uphold them. It is a form of rebellion against all that is deemed by respectable people to be “safe”, “sensible” and “normal”. Perhaps some of this attitude among incels arises from the feeling of being outcast.

How do outcasts form a bond? How do outcasts construct a group identity? To understand incel group psychology we should consider the behaviour of adolescent males who experience persistent failure in school. Every message they receive tells them that education is valuable and important. It is a message reinforced by teachers, parents, television, and government leaders yet they are equally conscious of their academic inability. They cannot attain success. But they see that their peers can.

Young males frequently cope with these circumstances by openly (or clandestinely if they have a weaker personality) rejecting authority, sabotaging others, writing demeaning notes, finding people to bully, and by embracing maverick opinions that are purposefully intended to be shocking. The more shocking the better because it distinguishes them from the crowd and gives them notoriety when they may have little else that is deserving of attention. In the same way, many incels bond in a fellowship of iconoclasm to the extent that incel forums often seem to be a contest in who can write the most derogatory, bizarre, and disturbing things. It is doubtful that all incels necessarily believe what they write.

Moreover, incels are increasingly aware that they have become media villains, associated with danger, with racism, terrorism, and with a movement commonly described as dark and subversive. Some of the incel forums have featured in stories published by serious media outlets. This is quite a satisfying payoff for any person who feels disempowered and disenfranchised. By merely participating on some forums, they have become part of a subculture that has sparked a minor moral panic.

Long time observers of incel forums have come to this conclusion as well:

That’s what makes this postmodern form of extremism so interesting. Everything is a half joke. It’s like that Simpsons… episode where the dude says “He’s cool….” and the other guys goes, “Dude, are you being sarcastic?” and he responds with “I don’t even know anymore…

The “movement” is consistently sexist, racist, sadistic and ridiculous to the point where it seems like it’s just everyone being edge lords…

Another commentator in close contact with some incels writes:

…if you examine the way they openly sh*tpost outside of their preferred safe spaces and domains, you realize they seem to be actively drawing attention to themselves and their outrageously edgy OMG you can’t say that! beliefs in a very specific way.

Don’t believe me, go look at some of the incel advice threads on here in the past month or two. Several of them have an underlying tone of “I’m afraid I’m going to turn into a racist if I don’t get laid,” or “look what women made me do” (also evident in several PMs I have received…).

They are aware that a lot of people are starting to think this way, that the incel / soft-right is a gateway into extremism, terrorism and ethno-nationalism, and they’re making attempts to leverage that belief because they honestly think it will get them laid. They’re saying to you, on this sub, “Look if I don’t get [sex] then I’m going to turn Nazi.” Like that’s an ultimatum.

It’s the same type of logic they use on actual women, in actual social situations, even if just online, and it’s exactly consistent with the rhetoric they use “in private” when they think nobody is watching – “if women don’t give us what we want then we’ll destroy ourselves and do everything we can to destroy society, because if we can’t have what we want then nobody can have anything!” It’s the ultimate exercise in petulance.

THE EMPTY SELF AND AUTHORITARIANISM

Setting aside the incels who spout politically-incorrect views for sport, other incels are very serious about their extremism and hatred. They hate women with a seismic vengeance; they hate people of other races; and they even hate each other (solidarity in the incel world only goes so far; their forums are permeated with incivility and rage). It is precisely these sorts of venomous incels who tend to hold the frightening Nazi-style opinions and show an uncomfortable interest in violence – for example, animations on their forum profile of teenagers cocking rifles in their bedrooms.

At the same time as writing streams of blood-curdling slurs and slanders – casually talking about the extermination of Jews or referring to women’s genitalia, breasts, and buttocks in graphic terms – incels also commonly embrace a highly distorted conception of men and women in which the fundamental dynamic is power and authority. They see the two genders in Darwinian terms where biology determines that men ought to be domineering and women slavishly submissive. For instance, some incels will insist a man has a right to sexual intercourse with his wife even when she does not want it, and as he is the stronger he has a right to take what he desires. Given such a worldview it is perhaps inevitable that rape is routinely glorified in incel circles since it serves as a symbol (to them) of male potency, authority, and control.

The topic of Islam often results in an collision of authoritarian extremes among incels. Some incels find the religious subjugation of women compelling while others are repulsed by the religion due to the ethnicity of its adherents. This results in one of the many internecine squabbles that are characteristic of incel forums, in this instance conflict between incels who prioritise male supremacist fantasies above racial ones and other incels for whom the fantasy of white racial supremacy is more important:

The women are separated from the men. They have to wear burkas to cover their faces. So, in fact, Islam is very much agreeable with reason and the physics of the universe. Who in their right mind could object to a religion where a holy man will receive as his property 72 virgins in paradise?

Similarly:

Society determines male status, and if society lowers male status, the males already on the lower end of the ladder feel it the heaviest. Spandrell argued that this is why Islam is so successful: Islam raises the status of men. The downgrade in status that drives Muslim males to terrorism in the West is the same that drove Alek Minassian to kill pedestrians, [and] 4 years ago drove Elliot Rodger to kill 6 people.

Other incels disagree. For these men, cultural bigotry exercises the greater imperative and outweighs even their interest in domineering women:

I see the sandn*gger masses across the world, have read the Qu’uran [sic] and spoke to many [M]uslims at college. They were primitive cultureless low IQ [profanity]. I have enough experience with it to know it[‘s] nonsense. Maybe Islam was relevant back before the dark ages when Persia was a major power, but now its just a bunch of paedo worshipping neckbeards (literal neckbeards) who move around in herds like sheep because they are too [vulgarity deleted] to go it alone.

The authoritarianism expressed by this type of incel manifests a psychological need for control. It is particularly obvious from the “black pill” forums that these men keenly feel that a sense of control is missing from their lives. Unfortunately the incel philosophy heightens the despair and fear that comes from being out of control by magnifying their supposed powerlessness to change their circumstances and reinforcing a viewpoint in which life is significantly directed by a whirlwind of vast, impersonal biological forces.

The sense of being small and powerless comes up in many aspects of incel conversation. For example, money is a frequent topic on many incel forums. Although some incels come from privileged backgrounds, there is abundant evidence that a majority come from lower socioeconomic strata. This can be seen in the frequency with which money is discussed on incel forms; the advice on squeezing government benefits from the system; the low standards of education revealed in many posts; and the poor living conditions that incels describe. Being relatively poor in a consumerist culture is both a frightening and emasculating experience for these men. It is even more galling when the media regularly shows them examples of women or people of non-white ethnicity, who earn more than they do.

Despite this package of inadequacy, for many of these incels the chief locus of powerlessness – the very definition of their lack of control – is their physical appearance. Perhaps they lack the strong jawline, or a muscular build, or a manly nose and thus they conclude that they can never have sexual intercourse or a meaningful relationship with women. Short of plastic surgery – too expensive and risky for most incels – they can do nothing to change themselves. Of all the issues of their lives, physical appearance overshadows everything else. It is the thing that they most wish they could change.

This profound feeling of inadequacy requires a compensatory mechanism or otherwise the individual incel would have no choice but to confront the empty self. For this is surely what lies at the root of the behaviour of many incels. It is evident from reading numerous incel forums that many not only suffer from extreme depression and anxiety, but from any number of personality disorders. The most obsessive show clinical traits of Body Dysphoric Disorder. For these incels, the gravitation to online forums and to shrill, threatening, militant, and aggressive behaviour is nothing short of an effort to medicate an empty self.

An empty self results in a fragile personality that must be sustained by outward resources. In a consumerist society this means products, approval, flattery, status, pleasure, and power. It means aligning with the images that are presented in advertising and movies. An empty self is maintained by validation from the world outside. When that validation is lacking, the true empty self is exposed.

When incels are drawn out on their feelings they often describe this in despairing terms:

I feel like I get caught in a cycle. Like I hate most everything about me, I want the external validation so badly, which causes me to be even less confident.

Like I wanna be sure of myself and be confident around women, and just people in general. I get that’s a more attractive quality. I just can’t figure out how to break the cycle and stop thinking like this.

Maybe it’s oversimplification on incels part, but to get these traits that people want, you’ve got to experience this sorta approval that comes with physical attraction

Incels primarily seek outside validation through sexual intercourse or a romantic partnership. To these they attach a supreme importance because in a sexualised culture there can be no greater fulfilment for an empty self than sexual satisfaction with a willing partner (sexual activity with a prostitute does not count for most incels). The absence of such sexual validation engenders a profound (and painful) inadequacy. This in turn often leads to the development of either an authoritarian personality or the embrace of authoritarian beliefs and attitudes like misogyny, Nazism, and racism.

Such beliefs provide two necessary scaffolds for a fragile personality seeking validation. Firstly, it grants a much-coveted feeling of control – even if it is completely illusionary. Secondly, because these beliefs are shockingly counter-cultural (like Nazism) they provide perverse validation. By identifying with despised authoritarian beliefs, incels feel that significance is conferred on them from the outside world. This occurs when the world reacts with horror and fear. To the incel, this translates to respect, power, and significance. “I am feared,” they reason, “because I espouse Nazi beliefs, therefore I am significant“. Or, “The horror expressed at my beliefs reassures me that I am seen as dangerous to the status quo, therefore I have power.” All of this is small potatoes – the fourth place ribbon – but it is at least something flowing from the outside world that can soothe an empty self.

Control and validation are the keys to understanding such men. The most hostile and despairing incels desperately want the feeling of control. Not only because they lack significant control over the things that matter to them, but also because control is a critical part of their conception of masculinity. Control is an attribute incels universally associate with their male fantasy figure “Chad”. Lacking this feeling of control and power themselves, they seek compensation in the embrace of beliefs or fantasies that have historically permitted males to control others. They may have no control in their own lives but they can vicariously experience the thrill of control through projection and fantasy. By tapping into beliefs that have conferred power on other men in the past, they discover a compensatory authoritarianism that corresponds to their powerlessness.

Thus they constantly articulate rape fantasies (projection to a past when men used to control women); use racist slurs (to project to a past when white men controlled blacks); talk admiringly about Nazism (when white men were able to control Jews and other ethnicities), and so on. This explains the explosive misogyny and the prevalence “rape talk” among incels. These things are spoken about so ubiquitously precisely because they confer a feeling of control over women whom they intensely desire, yet cannot control.

Neither is the thirst for control merely rhetoric for this stripe of incel. For when they have the opportunity to exercise genuine control over women, they do so. This is vividly illustrated in an interview conducted with an incel by French journalism student Jean-Gabriel Fernandez. The interview was conducted in April 2018 and published on an incel blog which describes itself as:

Anti-modernist, anti-feminist, anti-liberal, anti-MRA [Men’s Rights Activist], anti-seduction, pro-patriarchy/reactionary, pro-Islam…

Incidentally, this self-description is a handy summary of the political and social opinions that tend to rinse around the sprawling online communities of incels and MGTOW groups. The third part in this series of articles will discuss this in more detail.

Fernandez asked the incel operator of this blog about his views of women and he was brutally forthcoming:

Since around 2014 I have become a reactionary anti-feminist who believes that that women should be married off as virgins and not be allowed to vote while males should only be using prostitutes before and during marriage.

I believe that four key traits of a good society are 1. monogamy, 2. good religion, 3. female premarital chastity, and 4. widely available prostitution. Number 1 and 4 aren’t contradictory, because sleeping with prostitutes isn’t considered actual cheating in sane societies. Actual cheating is having a lover you invest in.

I see most modern Western women as sluts one should have no moral qualms about raping and as completely incapable of a committed relationship or marriage.

The incel blogger then went on to describe his chequered romantic history. When he was younger (he is presently 28 years old), he had the opportunity to have a sexual relationship with several women – one of which, by his own admission “aggressively” offered him sex. Nonetheless, he was too skittish to pursue them.

Later he had multiple sexual encounters with women he deemed “slutty” and had ongoing sex with a “friend with benefits”. Later, the friend with benefits asked him to father a child with her because she wanted to be a mother. At the time the incel blogger had been stinging from insults he had received on a forum in which other participants had taunted that he would never reproduce. Thus, in order to prove that he could easily reproduce and that, in fact, reproduction was no great accomplishment, he agreed to have unprotected intercourse. When his sexual partner fell pregnant she moved away with his daughter whom the blogger admitted that he had never seen and does not have any interest in meeting. In his own words, “I do not care about this daughter” and having had a child, he has demonstrated “it isn’t so hard to breed”.

He describes making threats to kill one woman and later being charged by the police. He also admits to doing “illegal things” which he did not wish to elaborate on. However, he has found happiness within a world where he can exercise control:

In early 2017 I became a Muslim and moved to [place deleted in original] for a while. There I was introduced into their Muslim community. I met my girlfriend via Tinder. She claimed to be 18 years old but was in fact just 17 (she lied about her age at the time). This relationship is different than the ones I had before. I now know how women are dealt with in the current non-patriarchal rotten society. My girlfriend is tightly controlled by me and my Muslim community, and she is available to them in every way. I realize now that good relationships are only possible in a patriarchal, coalpha society.

Also, I’d like to mention one more thing. The leftists/liberals say that incels promote violence etc. But you must understand what the liberal definition of violence is to understand just how hollow that is. Liberalism is hatred of the whites. An act of rape is a crime of rape only when a white rapes. Other acts defined as rape by liberals are whites having consensual sex, whites asking a girl on a date, and every other act a white does to get a relationship and sex.

When asked by Fernandez if he had ever raped someone, the blogger replied:

I obviously won’t/can’t say if I practiced it myself but it is quite obvious from my posts. I believe it isn’t morally reprehensible if the raped ones are modern Western women who feminism turned into worthless scum. This doesn’t mean that all women everywhere deserve to be raped. Women in non-feminist places shouldn’t be raped and even some women in feminist places (like Amish or Mormon women in America) don’t deserve to be raped.

On a related note, many of my enemies have this fallacy that because I hate modern Western women I must hate all women. This is a basic misunderstanding of my positions. I don’t like women on location x (Western world) and time period y (modern time) and even then there are exceptions like the ones I mentioned

The incel blogger clearly articulates his view that the subjugation of women to male authority and control is a prerequisite for him to respect them enough not to regard them as candidates for rape. He singles out a few women within the Western world who are exempt from being targets of justifiable rape, all of these being women who exist largely in traditionalist collectives (although his assumptions about Mormon women seem a bit out of date since Mormon women can and do hold feminist viewpoints too).

He hastens to indicate that he only hates some women in some places in some time periods. He has no grudge against pre-modern women or the women who live in places where the law does not treat people equally, without regard for gender.

In the same interview – and in a dazzling display of moral and intellectual malformation – the incel laments:

My blog has a somewhat low reputation but only because those criticizing it are leftist scum that oppose my reactionary views, just like they oppose [anything] that I write… humanizing incels in the first place.

There is a constant view that incels are “entitled”, ie believing they are owed something, when this simply isn’t true for most of them. This “entitlement” is a leftist buzzword to attack all white males and nothing else.

However, current anti-intellectual incels sites… have a deservingly bad reputation, as they are filled with crazy people and ideas.

It apparently does not occur to the incel blogger that he is also a crazy person with extremely sick ideas, and that the people who criticise his blog very astutely recognise the absurdly entitled and narcissistic individual at work. A person who can develop an apologia for rape with a straight face and argue that the targets of sexual assault are fair game, suffers (at best) from a delusion of his own supreme importance, which may be satisfied at the expense, pain, and suffering of others. He is an “entitled” young man by any stretch of the language.

In this interview, the incel all but admits that he has raped women. This behaviour is consistent with his clear desire for control over others and his authoritarian beliefs. He thinks his masculinity entitles him to domineer women and have sexual access at his whim. He thus finds his Shangri-La in a community where his teenage girlfriend, ten years his junior, can be continually monitored and controlled by a team of “alpha males”. This, in the incel blogger’s judgement, is “a good relationship”.

If ever a person demonstrated the Freudian concept of the “narcissistic wound”, it is this deeply disturbed young man. And if ever there was a young woman for whose safety one may rightly fear, it is the girlfriend of the operator of this blog.

AN ONLINE COLONY OF THE MORALLY DERANGED

The incel community is heavily colonised by perverts. The subculture acts like a magnet, pulling into its black hole a motley assortment of morally deranged men. Their perversions range from the grotesque to the criminal; from fetishes to bizarre fixations, but in nearly all cases such interests could only arise from dysfunctional personalities.

In the incel subculture, men with perverted appetites find an environment that not only refuses to judge their conduct, but accepts it as a natural part of the background colour of incel culture. It is taken for granted among many incels that the community is an enlightened Gomorrah for the sexually crippled, welcoming migrants from whatever cesspit they happen to originate from. There is a spirit of invitation, “We’re all friends here, and no matter how morally deranged you may be, we’ve all suffered at the hands of perfidious women and we’re all in this together.

Such tolerance of perversion is an inevitable phenomenon in a world where women are targets of hatred and disdain, and where the participants drink so heavily from the toxic fountain of violent pornography.  There are no limits on many incel forums to how depraved a man may become. There are no boundaries; no rules; and no limits. This is a Wild West of sexual anarchy.

The online forums function as connective hubs not only for sharing their ideas but also for trading the sorts of digital goods that have value in the incel world: photographs, videos, vicious memes, and graphics. In online discussions, sexual behaviours are described in lurid detail, and techniques are shared for effectively pursuing disturbed behaviour. In the process of sharing this material, the forums serve to normalise aberrant behaviour. The pseudo-scientific nature of the discussion clothes their fantasies in the robes of plausibility (at least to their minds), and thus rationalises their behaviour.

It serves to explain precisely why a sizeable segment of the incel community do not have sexual relationships with women: women avoid men who have sub-normal sexuality. Neither can it be argued – as some incels will argue – that a lack of sexual expression causes the sexual perversion, and thus women are to blame for making them the predators and creeps that many of them surely are. Examples abound of incels admitting that they had opportunities for sexual intercourse but turned it down because it was the wrong sort of woman who was making the offer. The woman did not align with the fixations and obsessions of the incel, and therefore did not count.

We have already witnessed the omnipresent rape fantasies which soak the forums ceaselessly. Many of these are accompanied by rubbish evolutionary psychological explanations which tells us that the search for scientific legitimacy is widespread among incels even if their theories are scientifically illiterate. The following is typical:

Incel01

Other incels get the thrill of power and control in other ways. The following is an incel’s description of stalking a young teenage girl, and doubtless terrifying her. He recommends other incels try stalking women as a form of “harmless psychological fun”, but cautions that they should only do so if they know their limits. Given the frequent correlation between stalking and sexual assault, this is a very cold comfort:

Incel02

The incel writes that he enjoys stalking women. It gives him “a good feeling”. He explains that this is a gratifying activity for him because the fear shown by his victim confers a significance and importance on him which he would otherwise lack. Neither is this an isolated event. It is apparent from his post that he has experimented with stalking women often enough to know that following them at night produces the same result with less effort than following them in the daylight.

To say that this is disturbed conduct is an understatement. This incel is a deeply disturbed individual and what he describes is the sort of scenario that results in the making of a sexual predator. We may safely surmise that when the thrill of stalking women wears thin, this man may seek further gratification with more violent or forceful encounters. If not escalation, his description manifests a nexus of symptoms that demands continuation in the future: it is habitual behaviour, it excites him, it is dependent on a degraded view of women as prey (as in the description of the girl as a “fawn”), and it demonstrates strikingly malformed moral regulation. The fact this incel describes this as “low-level behaviour” indicates that he has already travelled a very great distance down the rabbit hole of sexual pathology.

Other incels describe fixations that are less dangerous but still subnormal. One incel, whose profile bears the message “remember the dead shooters” and a rant about a “final solution for the entire human race” whom he hates, wrote:

i wanna sniff the chair she is sitting in

To which another incel wrote:

I also have this fetish but only on hot women…. Have u ever sniffed a chair after a girl leaved the chair tbh

The original writer replied:

i thought about it alot in high school when attractive young girls got up out their chairs never did it because i didnt need another label on me..

The other incel admitted:

I actually did it 1x but i wont do its cuz its too risky.

Stomach-churning discussions on incel forums abound. Some researchers have noted, for instance, that there is a significant interest among incels in incestuous relationships. One woman posted a screenshot of a message she received from an incel who asked her whether she had “ever been penetrated by her father”. When she reacted with understandable anger, the incel apologised for his forwardness and then messaged again, “But has this ever happened to you?”

The number of examples of aberrant sexual interests are practically inexhaustible. Many demonstrate the imprint that pornography has made on young men, since it is apparent that the primary sexual experience and education for many of these incels has come through the channel of pornography. Their reliance on this source for knowledge and experience of sexuality means they only experience sexual arousal at stimuli that is repellent to a psychologically healthy, sexually normal male. For instance, there is a substantial interest among incels in the topic of sexual degradation and sexual domination. Both of these are standard themes in modern pornography, which is not chiefly about the human body, but rather about the interplay of power. Therefore it is not surprising that so many incels associate sex with force. Neither is it surprising that so many incels harbour preposterous fixations on the size of genitals, and have notions about the sexual act worthy of adolescent gossip in the corners of a schoolyard. For instance, one incel wrote a post in which he insisted that a woman’s vagina will grow in length the more often she has sexual relations with a man with longer genitals.

In contradistinction to this poisonous stew of sexual deviance, the sexual intercourse practised by normal people (“normies”) is often presented as boring, “vanilla”, and of secondary value compared to the grotesque appetites they have developed. All of this goes a great distance toward explaining why these men do not (and cannot) form normal relationships with women and cannot have healthy sexual intercourse. It explains precisely why they are celibate. For in the first place, women tend to avoid men with subnormal sexual interests such as smelling chairs or violent fetishes. In the second place, a healthy and normal sexual interest is a prerequisite to forming a healthy and normal gendered relationship.

The fact that such fantasies are largely accepted within the incel subculture as a natural part of the rich tapestry of sexuality, confers legitimacy upon them in the minds of their practitioners, and perversely reinforces the very behaviours, imaginations, fantasies and appetites that cause a large number of incels to be repellent to women. They are conscious that their sexuality is freakish, but their subculture reassures them that freakish sexuality is okay. They are continually reassured that their isolation is the fault of women, or the fault of biological determination, or genetics, and not the fault of a disordered mind or a unhealthy imagination which could be remedied (as so many things in life can be) with a refinement of their moral sense.

When incels do exist in a relationship with a woman, they tend to sabotage the relationship. Below is an account from one young woman who dated an incel. This story provides ample witness to the inadequacy of the incel theory that behind their sexless state lurks a complex of female injustice. This, and other accounts just like it, proves that in many cases the problem really does lie with the incel himself; within his psychology, his habits, his appetites, or his character. As Shakespeare wisely observed from the mouth of Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves…“, a citation that seems a particularly apt backdrop for this testimony:

A lot of people seem to think if these guys had women in their life they would be better. I’m here to tell you that’s wrong.

So when I first met the dude I had no idea. I thought he was cute and we seemed to have a lot in common. As our relationship progressed he started using all these terms I hadn’t heard before. “Cuck” [cuckold] and “beta” [“beta male”] were thrown around all the time. He was also obsessed with Redit [one of the main forums where incels connect].

Then came his weird obsession with my sexual history. I was a 21 year old girl at the time and had lost my virginity at 19. Apparently this was totally scandalous to him and even though he had feelings for me, he wanted a virgin. He seriously never shut up about how he could only be with a girl who’s a virgin. Everyday he went on and on about how he was an outcast and the world treated him so badly, especially women.

He actually had other girlfriends in the past so it’s really strange that he disliked women. Then I found out that when one of his former girlfriends wanted to break up with him, he threatened to kill her. Yet somehow throughout this story it was still her fault. He also had girls who wanted to be intimate with him in the past and he rejected them. Only once, when the girl he was dating was a virgin, he wanted to have sex. He kept pressuring her so much that she broke up with him. Again this was somehow her fault.

I can’t even begin to describe the delusions this dude had. He was obsessed with being cuckolded, especially by black guys. He even said I wore certain things just to get ploughed by dudes. He was also super-obsessed with race and anti-Semitism. I’m half-black but he reassured me it was OK because I “looked” more white.

There’s so much more I could go into but it would take forever. Basically access to women isn’t going to help these men at all. They love playing the victim and it all comes down to entitlement.

This is a fairly humdrum account. Many similar examples exist in which the young men exhibit traits of a deep-seated neurosis. Here, the young man displays an unhealthy idealisation of female virginity. Multiple sources of testimony indicate that this is very common among incels who are prone to attachment anxieties. The young man in this account was fixated on female virginity probably from a fear of a negative comparison being made between himself and another sexual partner.

In this account, the incel also made threats to kill a previous partner. This aggressive behaviour appears with monotonous regularity in the online record. Lashing out with such anger demonstrates a severe inability to self-regulate emotion and demonstrates the paranoia of relational breakdown, which the incel subculture tends only to exacerbate. In the minds of neurotic incels romantic relationships end when another male swoops in and seduces the woman away. Since they believe that a woman’s behaviour is biologically determined, they are certain that she will embrace a “higher status” male whenever the opportunity is presented.

Many of these neuroses probably arise from childhood relational trauma. In other words, these are men who have experienced avoidant or dismissive parenting styles, and possibly witnessed one, or multiple, relationship breakdowns. Even so, this does not explain the origin of insecurities for every incel, and whatever insecurities a man may have internalised, the subculture itself actively reinforces and inflates them through constant prattle about the unreliability of women, the supposedly promiscuous character of “Chads” and “Staceys”, and puerile speculation about which man any given woman may be sleeping with.

More than anything it is basic misogyny that feeds these incels’ habitual lack of regard for women as people. Note that throughout the above (admittedly abbreviated) account, the young man treated his girlfriend with disdain and viewed her feelings as secondary to his own. His sexual desires and emotional needs were vastly more important than hers. It is clear that he was not relating to her as a person but as a collection of characteristics. This kind of perversity is common among incels. They do not have romantic relationships because they cannot (and do not) relate to women as if they were complete persons.

Instead, over and over again, it is evident that many incels relate only to women as if they were assemblages of discrete characteristics. They relate to a woman’s race; the size of her breasts; her status as a virgin; her attractiveness out of ten; or her weight. The presence or absence of such characteristics becomes the central concern for the incel such that these characteristics assume the nature of an all-consuming passion. These incels do not want to have sexual fulfilment; they want to have sexual fulfilment with a white, virgin number ten. In many – if not most – instances, this kind of thinking is probably the result of long-term exposure to pornography.

So far, these are all instances of sexual paraphilias. It is not fair to say that all incels exhibit paraphilias although there is unquestionably a high incidence of abnormal sexual interest within the culture. In the search for a social patterns, it is not accurate to say that a paraphilia or even a neurosis is a conclusive necessity for identifying as an incel. But there is one characteristic that can be singled out as practically emblematic. It is a characteristic that is shared by the overwhelming majority of incels to the extent that it nearly deserves the status of being predictive, and that characteristic is anger.

The raw anger that is exhibited by incels – both toward others and themselves – is surely the most definitive feature of the subculture. The omnipresence of anger is noted repeatedly by academic researchers, investigative journalists, psychologists treating incels, and virtually anyone who has ever had anything to do with incels. It is even acknowledged by thoughtful incels themselves:

I had a LOT of internalised anger [after high school]. I wouldn’t really consider myself “happy” today but I’m definitely FAR from being an incel…

…the thing is.. if I had been on Reddit then and stumbled upon that community, I really think my life would have been worst. I would have ended like them [incels on the forums] to the worst level. It’s the thing that makes me the angriest about them, how they make young boys keep that anger and never get better. And that’s why I’m happy to see the media is now talking about them and denouncing them.

The anger displayed by incels is explosive, toxic, and murderous. It is almost always expressed in self-pitying terms as if the incel were a genuine victim, is very frequently interlaced with hatred and contempt for groups of people, and sometimes finds expression in dark, sinister revenge narratives.

Revenge narratives range from the plausible to the preposterous. Some narratives are formulated with a degree of rationality (if such a term is applicable), while others are sheer fantasy, weaving in imagery and concepts of the Final Solution, wars, rape and other miseries to be visited upon the world at large. In most instances these narratives include mass murder, specific torments for attractive men and women, with a special arrangement of grotesque “punishments” reserved for attractive women.

The following is a typical example:

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Neither is the anger merely theatrical. The subculture has already given birth to multiple serial killers whose anger translated to violent action. In the case of Elliot Rodger, the methodology he employed to murder his victims amply reveals his dark inner state. His three roommates were stabbed to death as they entered their shared apartment. The autopsy report noted the high number of stab wounds sustained by each victim. One victim, George Chen, was stabbed 94 times, indicating that the attack had continued long after the victim had died. In similar fashion, the two women Rodger killed each respectively sustained seven and eight gunshot wounds. Once again, Rodger had continued to shoot at them even after it would have become apparent that his victims were dead.

In the killing spree at Umpqua Community College, in October 2015 had many more fatalities and (if it is possible) is more disturbed than the random nature of Rodger’s murders. The incel Chris Harper-Mercer corralled a group in a classroom at gunpoint. There he unleashed his rage (one victim was shot multiple times), but also contempt for his victims and evident pleasure at acting out his revenge scenario. Victims were forced to beg for their lives before being shot; one person was forced to watch as others were killed; and one victim was shot trying to get back into her wheelchair at his order. Survivors said that Harper-Mercer smiling during his killing spree. Like Rodger, he finally shot himself to death when the police wounded him in an exchange of gunfire.

Anger and hatred have destructive consequences when they are left unchecked and nourished by a narrative of victimhood.

MAKING SENSE OF THE SUBCULTURE

The incel subculture is both disparate and unstable, held together by very thin threads of commonality. It is also riven with contradictions. For example, although many of its participants are fascinated by order, control, and authoritarian ideologies, it is a fundamentally anarchic movement that has atomised very quickly into a plethora of subgroups that turn in ever-tighter circles. Incels within different these subgroups denounce other incels. One division centres on the incel principle of “lookism”, which is the idea that involuntary celibacy is mostly the result of physical ugliness. This belief is common among “black pill” incels but not necessarily within other incel groupings who may regard feminism as a more primary cause of their plight.

The fragmented nature of the community keeps it neutered when it comes to any kind of mass action, even though incels often fantasise about revolutionary schemes that would punish and humiliate with graphic enthusiasm. But although these men may daydream about channelling Lenin, the average incel resembles more a sexually frustrated Mr Bean whose incompetence and solitariness keep him from being too much a threat.

Not that all incels are conscious of this. Alek Minassian, the Toronto van murderer, wrote about an “incel rebellion” and referred to a grand uprising in which incels would “overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!”. Unwittingly, this was a savagely ironic statement because the anarchic and solipsistic properties of the incel subculture render it absolutely incapable of coordinated action. Point blank. For all the talk of rebellions and uprisings; for all the discussion about changing the world, the subculture has produced no political, social or cultural action outside of its own circuit. Even its serial killers were lone-wolfs whose murder sprees were self-consciously performed (either wholly or in part) for an audience of fellow incels.

Online surveys indicate that the largest cohort of incels are young men between the ages of 18 and 29. Many of these men are broken by difficult life experiences, and sadly the onset of cynicism and the feeling of hopelessness has occurred early in their lives. No carefree youth for these. Some incels have grown up in undeniably traumatic circumstances, or in conditions of poverty, family breakdown, and mental illness. Others have been bullied at school, or are autistic, misunderstood, depressed, or haunted by feelings of deep unworthiness. Others still are clinical neurotics and have a need of affirmation and love from the world greater than the world is able to give them. The brokenness of this community cannot be understated. It consists of human wreckage, self-confessed outcasts, adrift on the sea of life with no idea how they got into their current predicament, why things went wrong, or how they can possibly make things better again. Their lack of a relationship is the capstone on a miserable life.

One cannot help but be moved when these young men describe the tragedy of their lives. For example, one former incel wrote:

I’m not incel anymore, but I am still sympathetic to some of the struggles that other self-identified incels go through. Misogyny, threats of violence, racism are absolutely reprehensible, but underneath that anger are some really broken people.

At the same time it is undeniable that incels are frequently unpleasant individuals, immature, disproportionately resentful, prone to exhibitions of entitlement, narcissism, and practitioners of deviant sexual interests. In turn, this gives rise to the group construction of a pretend world in which they paint themselves as victims or as the human detritus of a cruel and capricious society. Yet they also like to see themselves as special, either as great martyrs (“my life is hell” is a common expression) or as overlooked heroes chronically misunderstood by the “normies”. In this sense the narratives and theories of the subculture, no matter how preposterous they might actually be, are an unconscious attempt to compensate for deep feelings of inadequacy, abnormality, and usually a diminished set of social skills.

The strong overlap between the incel subculture and the alt-right is also highly significant. If there were no correlation then we could correctly deduce that the political values, beliefs and experiences of incels were irrelevant to the subculture and understanding the motives of the people involved in it. Or, put another way, an absent correlation between these factors would show that being an incel made no difference to the political views that person was likely to hold. But this is not so. The opposite is true. The relationship between incels and the alt-right movement is so strong that the former is virtually a fail safe predictor of the latter. Incels can be reliably predicted to hold alt-right beliefs. Of course, the reverse is not true. The entirety of the alt-right movement are not incels. But most incels hold alt-right views, to some degree or another.

This relationship is largely built around the alt-right’s gleeful image of being the ugly stepchild of politics that prides itself on stepping outside the square of political correctness to “speak the truth”. It presents itself as edgy, but also as the misunderstood and marginalised political affiliation that is deplored by the elite because it challenges prevailing orthodoxy with views amounting to cultural heresy. Heresy in any age, whether political or religious, has always had a particular allure for a particular sort of person. In this case, the draw for incels probably has much to do with the alt-right’s opposition to feminism and its enthusiastic destruction of feminist shibboleths, like the “wage gap” and the “#Metoo” movement.

Feminism is the arch-enemy for incels. It is their nemesis whose idols must be energetically smashed in order to destroy its cultural and social power. When mentioned among incels, feminism is almost ubiquitously referenced in the bitterest terms. Incels regard themselves as both a demonstration of the collateral damage of feminism, and they also view themselves as a pocket of resistance against it.

There is some validity to their grievances. In fact, the emergence of the incel subculture itself as a distinct entity should be viewed, at least partially, as a peculiar reaction against feminism and its radical excesses. This can be missed in the welter of condemnation from feminist blogs, news organisations and researchers who typically write about incels in monochromatic terms. Many articles have been written in contemptuous tones about the “fragile masculinity” of these young men or the “aggrieved entitlement” they display. The following is just one example:

Hegemonic masculinity dictates that men are expected to have sex; not having sex as a straight (white) man is deviant. Most other demographics are stigmatized in some manner for having or expressing interest in sex. Celibate women are more likely to be successful compared to celibate men. In general, celibate men tend to be in lower socioeconomic classes or unemployed, whereas celibate women tend to be of high status. Celibate men, while being marginalized for being celibate, blame women for their emasculation, not the powers that be (the patriarchy). They thus believe that their emasculation is justification for revenge violence against women, which they believe will restore their masculinity.

These sorts of analyses about the causes of involuntary celibacy and the attendant beliefs and attitudes found within incel circles are too simplistic and general, and are often blinkered by the assumption that the ideology of feminism is always an intrinsic good, that its suppositions are self-evidently true, and the perspectives of those who think otherwise are worthless. As this article has sought to show, the causes of involuntary celibacy are varied. It is difficult to capture the texture of this movement because it is highly diverse, highly disparate in its proposed reactions (e.g. the “red pill” stream versus the “black pill” stream), and highly unstable. Involuntary celibacy generally arises from an insecure identity. The insecure identity is created by a range of factors. These factors include childhood trauma, depression, sexually abnormal interest, autism, a defective view of women, an empty self, anxiety, socioeconomic marginalisation, a neurotic temperament, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

The anger among incels is part of a complex coping mechanism that cannot be easily boiled down to a gravy of simple interpretations. Their anger necessarily intersects with the system of beliefs they embrace in which the world is dominated by “Chads and Staceys” who live out a hypergamous dynamic. Yet, no matter how ridiculous, this an effort by damaged people to resuscitate a sense of self-value and belonging.

This is the keystone to really grasping the subculture. Sexual fulfilment for incels has nothing to do with slaking a burning sexual appetite that leaves them frustrated and miserable. Or put another way, they are not driven by a biological need for orgasm. Instead the desire for sexual intercourse masks a craving for status. Some Incels see sexual intercourse as a transition that advances them from one life condition to another and often feel depressed because they seem unable to make the transition that others easily can. They want the status of sexual activity and hope it will give them feelings of acceptance, connection, normality, and confidence. Other incels want the status that comes from having sexual intercourse with a specific type of woman under specific circumstances. For these incels, it is not that they cannot find willing partners. Rather the partners they find are not good enough for them. They will not settle for a “6” when they “know” they deserve a “9”. Finally, other incels want the status that comes from having real control over a women as a means to fulfil their construct of masculinity.

Their silly theories serve as both an explanatory framework that alleviates incels from the responsibility for their predicament, and also positions incels as victims of powerful forces over which they have little control. Many incels readily accept this premise because it confirms their preexisting feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. Yet, at the same time they urgently desire control. Perversely, taking a regular bath in dismal thoughts encourages them to see themselves as martyrs and this provides a compensatory sense of significance. It is better to belong to an underground movement of oppressed and misunderstood victims – who gather to lament and tear their shirts at their hellish lot – than it is to be a solitary weirdo in a world of people who are having sexual intercourse and forming romantic attachments.

An intelligent grasp of the subculture must see all of its nuances. It consists of both dangerous and harmless men. It consists of men who are childish and unworthy, and others who are damaged and socially untutored. But whoever they are, the subculture they have created offers nothing. It may be an effort to medicate their sorrows, but ultimately it twists, destroys, and is self-defeating.

Book Review: “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions”

The long read: a review of David Berlinski’s book, and his treatment of the arguments of militant atheists.

TDD

(Book Reviewed: THE DEVIL’S DELUSION, By David Berlinski.)

David Berlinski has the distinction of being both an educated and intelligent man which is not at all the same thing. Neither has his long march through academia sandpapered away his sense of intellectual curiosity. In this book, he investigates with an uncompromising independence of mind the nonsense so often breathed by militant atheists in the name of “science”. It is too easy to accept atheistic claims because their views now circulate through our environment like the thin fumes of an odourless gas. Berlinski’s book is an excellent antidote to this intellectual numbness.

He writes what he knows. Berlinski holds a PhD in philosophy and also has engaged in molecular biological research at world-class universities, so he possesses worthy academic credentials for the book he has chosen to write.

Berlinski is a critic of evolution and maintains a sunny disposition toward intelligent design – the theory that biological life shows unmistakable evidence of creative purpose. To criticise evolution is almost enough to render him a leper among the academic community regardless of his impressive intellectual accomplishments. It is axiomatic that he who criticises evolution will find it progressively harder to be unsympathetic to God or “religion”. And to allow “religion” – or worse, God himself – to enter into the airless box of the secular empire is a nightmare of such proportions that atheist writers like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins can scarcely describe it without resorting to apocalyptic language.

Both Dawkins and Harris (et al) come in for scathing rebuke in this book. Whatever Dawkins and his ilk may think of themselves, Berlinski is deeply unimpressed with the vacuity of their arguments especially those that appeal to “science” to establish their atheism. In fact, the title of the book is a none-so-subtle stab at Dawkin’s own magnum opus of polemic atheism, “The God Delusion“.

But whereas Dawkins’ work is exceedingly poor, Belinski’s is exceedingly good. Berlinski crafts solid and logical expositions while Dawkins draws liberally upon nearly every irrational argument ever discovered by humankind over the literate portion of its history. Reading “The God Delusion” is an exercise in frustration for this very reason. Rarely have I ever wanted to hurl a book so forcefully against the wall.

For people who can spot rhetorical fallacies, Dawkins amply illustrates the danger of presuming ourselves to be wiser than our craft. Like nearly all celebrity atheists, Dawkins writes as an amateur philosopher, historian, textual critic and theologian. Unsurprisingly, his iconic book – be it ever so thick – is emblazoned with the author’s ignorance from cover to cover. In contradistinction, Berlinski writes to his strength. Trained in philosophy and systems analysis, Berlinski deftly places his finger on the weak points of atheist rhetoric and crumbles their contentions into a finely-ground powder.

The thrust of Berlinski’s argument is that atheists misapply science in order to give atheism a legitimacy it does not deserve. He argues that atheism consists of a mass of conclusions without the slightest shred of evidence. In other words, the brand of militant atheism pushed by the likes of Dawkins and Harris are based on twaddle – it is sophisticated twaddle that many people struggle to penetrate in our educationally deficient age, but it is still twaddle. In fact, early in The Devil’s Delusion, Berlinski suggests that is every bit as much a pseudoscience as mumbo-jumbo ideologies that have circulated through human minds over the last century, and perhaps also destined be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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Any student of history will recognise that similar “scientific” pretensions arose in the 19th century within the radical left. Their “scientific ideas” obtained the status of inviolable fact even when the implementation of them caused incalculable harm. The originators of communism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, boasted that their Utopian ideology was thoroughly scientific in nature. Likewise, the more extreme anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin also supposed that their theories were somehow underpinned by a foundation of science.

Berlinski challenges this by pointing out that appealing to “science” is a little like a leader of a People’s Republic appealing to “democracy”. It is a principle that can be used to give a justification for practically anything. Berlinski wryly points out that atheists refer to science share an uncanny similarity to the claims of spiritualists to be receiving messages from the other world:

The title of Victor Stenger’s recent book is: God: The Failed Hypothesis – How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Stenger is a professor of physics. He may have written the book, but it is science, we are to understand, that has provided the requisite demonstration. Like a nineteenth-century spirit medium, Stenger has simply taken dictation. [Emphasis in the original].

Importantly, Berlinski invites the reader to consider atheism as if it were a piece of flotsam or jetsam floating down the crowded river of human history.

Although militant atheists like to suppose that “atheistic science” is objective truth – the only truth indeed and therefore a license to bulldoze any other belief – Berlinski suggests that militant atheism is actually a reaction to social and political events within the modern world. Unwittingly, militant atheists are merely reactionary puppets:

Does any of this represent anything more than yet another foolish intellectual fad, a successor to academic Marxism, feminism, or various doctrines of multicultural tranquillity? Not in the world in which religious beliefs overflow into action. For Islamic radicals, “the sword is more telling than the book,” as the Arab poet Abu Tammam wrote with menacing authority some eight hundred years ago. The advent of militant atheism marks a reaction – a lurid but natural reaction –  to the violence of the Islamic world.

But the efflorescence of atheism involves more than atheism itself. Of course it does. Atheism is the schwerpunkt, as German military theorists used to say with satisfaction, the place where force is concentrated and applied; and what lies behind is a doctrinal system, a way of looking at the world, and so an ideology. It is an ideology with no truly distinct centre and the fuzziest of boundaries. For the purposes of propaganda it hardly matters.

Berlinski goes on to puncture the bizarrely self-congratulatory attitudes taken by militant atheists, shown in the galloping ego that runs through their work. Militant atheism often seems a kind of club for schoolboy toffs who award each other grandiose titles and share an unreal bubble where they can snicker at others less fortunate than themselves while lunching on mother’s sandwiches. One example is their predilection to calling themselves as “the Brights”, presumably in contrast to the rest of us who must be “the Dims”.

Oddly enough, militant atheists find it very difficult to understand why the Dims do not share their elevated self-evaluation. Berlinski writes:

…members of the scientific community are often dismayed to discover, like policemen, that they are not better loved. Indeed, they are widely considered self-righteous, vain, politically immature, and arrogant. This last is considered a special injustice. “Contrary to what many anti-intellectuals maintain,” the biologist Massimo Pigiucci has written, science is “a much more humble enterprise than any religion or other ideology.” Yet despite the outstanding humility of the scientific community, anti-intellectuals persist in their sullen suspicions.

Scientists are hardly helped when one of their champions immerses himself in the emollient of his own enthusiasm. Thus Richard Dawkins recounts the story of his professor of zoology at Oxford, a man who had “for years… passionately believed that the Golgi apparatus was not real.” On hearing during a lecture by a visiting American that his views were in error, “he strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand, and said – with passion – ‘My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.'” The story, Dawkins avows, still has the power “to bring a lump to my throat.”

It could not have been a very considerable lump. No similar story has ever been recounted about Richard Dawkins. Quite the contrary. He is as responsive to criticism as a black hole in space. “It is absolutely safe to say,” he has remarked, “that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution that person is ignorant, stupid or insane.”

There are multiple examples of this sort of hubris lampooned by Berlinski. Of course, in addition to the vast storehouse of material drawn upon in the book, one could readily add the moralising articles that appear in publications like the Scientific American.

Over and over again, militant atheists claim (despite examples to the contrary, like the infamous Piltdown Man hoax) that scientists are honour bound to respond to evidence. Scientists accept that they are in error when there is proof. This represents an extraordinary nobility possessed by scientists alone.

Yet, an uncompromising submission to truth is a virtue that has been known to ordinary people and to scholars in many disciplines – including theology – for several millennia. To salute the practice of intellectual humility as if it were historically recent and isolated to practitioners of the scientific method, (or worse, to believers in atheism), is to demonstrate profound self-preoccupation.

As Berlinski notes, militant atheists transit from reasonable claims into the territory of dogmatism. They assert that science is a good thing, a claim to which nobody would object because the scientific process has undeniably produced many good discoveries.

But they cannot stop at that point. They thunderingly declare science to be the only good thing, superior to every other human endeavour, with the power to confer upon scientists themselves a moral quality unknown to the Dims. They then assert that scientists are the premier good people because they are the most intellectually honest vessels. And then, as if the balloon of their pomposity were not inflated to grotesque dimensions already, they then point the collective finger at religion and blame the sum of human evils upon it.

Berlinski succinctly deals with this:

The physicist Steven Weinberg delivered an address [at the “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival” conference]. As one of the authors of the theory of electroweak unification, the work for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize, he is a figure of great stature. “Religion,” he affirmed, “in an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

In speaking thus, Weinberg was warmly applauded, not one one member of his audience asking the question one might have thought pertinent: Just who has imposed on the suffering human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in eugenics, the formula for Zyklon B, heavy artillery, pseudo-scientific justifications for mass murder, cluster bombs, attack submarines, napalm, intercontinental ballistic missiles, military space platforms, and nuclear weapons?

If memory serves, it was not the Vatican.

Every morally sensible creature accepts that religion can be a force for evil, and frequently is. None of this surprises knowledgeable Christians. This is precisely what the Christian religion predicts. There really should be an inexhaustible kaleidoscope of quarrelling religions, each tailored to the various predilections of mankind’s evil heart, because the devil is the father of lies and many men are eager to be deceived.  Religion gives a thin glaze of respectability to impulses that are barbaric, greedy and cruel.

But the conclusion that science must always be an unadulterated good and that scientists are of sanctified character, always honest and always pure, is sheer claptrap. Anyone with regard for history will know that scientists have participated enthusiastically in atrocities and horrors, equal to the most fanatical scimitar wielding religious extremist. The most odious regimes have produced scientists who violated the laws of man and God in experimenting on people. Scientists have engineered nightmarish weapons and developed theories, like eugenics, that thinking people find abhorrent.

This discussion really crosses into moral theology, and Berlinski takes the time to address the concepts of good and evil. Militant atheists enjoy tossing these words around like confetti, but studiously avoid explaining why their definition should be accepted by anyone else.

Berlinski cites Dawkins:

“Perhaps,” Richard Dawkins speculates, “I… am a Pollyanna to believe that people would remain good when unobserved and unpoliced by God.”

To which Berlinski cynically responds:

Why should people remain good when unobserved and unpoliced by God? Do people remain good when unpoliced by the police? If Dawkins believes that they do, he must explain the existence of the criminal law, and if he believes that they do not, then he must explain why moral enforcement is not needed at the place where law enforcement ends.

Understandably, Berlinski cannot resist quoting Sam Harris on the issue of morality since Harris veers, like a car driven by a drunkard, from arrogance to fatuous philosophy:

Sam Harris has no anxieties whatsoever about presenting his own views on human morality… “Everything about the human experience,” he writes, “suggests that love is more conducive to human happiness than hate is.” It goes without saying, of course, that Harris believes that this is an objective claim about the human mind.

If this is so, it is astonishing with what eagerness men have traditionally fled happiness.

The book is packed with a rich vein of these observations, as Berlinski proceeds to deconstruct one argument after another, never stopping for too long at any one place.

He uses words sparingly. He has trimmed nearly all the textual fat from his writing, leaving the reader only worthy substance. The book is therefore pithy, with a lot of material packed into every short section.

The attentive reading will find himself re-reading sections, and pondering over them long afterwards. Indeed, The Devil’s Delusion is a book that warrants being read multiple times, if only as a refresher into the unutterable absurdity that is atheism, notwithstanding the sophistic lipstick smeared awkwardly upon its pompous features, as it tries to cavort on the dance floor, flaunting the tattered boa of “science”.