You are currently viewing the aggregator for the Distributed Republic reader blogs. You can surf to any author's blog by clicking on the link at the bottom of one of his/her posts. If you wish to participate, feel free to register (at the top of the right sidebar) and start blogging.

The main page of the blog can be found here.

Jesus Fucking Christ

Anonymous is legion. Anonymous never forgives. And now, apparently, Anonymous has made it into the mainstream.

[Title image snipped and hidden below the fold at end of post]

On July 9th, Time Magazine's Lev Grossman did an exposé on 20 year old college student moot, the founder of 4chan. What is 4chan, you ask?

You may not realize it, but 4chan has probably touched your life. Possibly inappropriately. 4chan is unusual in several ways. It's extremely large and active; it gets 8.5 million page views a day and 3.3 million visitors a month. Since moot started it in 2003, those visitors have put up 145 million posts. By some metrics, 4chan is the fourth largest bulletin board on the Net.

moot founded 4chan when he was 15 as a space where he and his friends could talk about manga and anime; it's based on a popular Japanese site called 2channel. Like 2channel, 4chan is an imageboard: you're supposed to post pictures—snapshots, found images, original artwork, altered or defaced photos—rather than words. 4chan is divided into 43 different boards, ranging from video games to origami to food to "random." The most popular board on 4chan, by far, is random.

There are few rules on 4chan. Child pornography is off limits, but not much else is. Unlike most boards, 4chan doesn't require posters to register, which means they can post anonymously, which leads to a lot of uninhibited behavior. If you're looking for obscenity, blasphemy, homophobia, misogyny and racial insults, you don't have to dig too deep. [...]

Like a lot of unsanitary places, 4chan is gloriously fertile. What grows there is memes—ideas and jokes and fads that spread across the Net. [...]

Coarse as it is, 4chan has no rival as a hothouse for memes; they're bred and refined, and then they can escape and run amuck through the culture at large. For better or for worse, this is what the counterculture looks like today: raw, sarcastic, bare of any social or political agenda but frequently funny as hell.

Then, this month's Maxim did a four page piece ([1][2][3][4]) on Anonymous' battle with Scientology, a more beautiful and appropriate gutter death match no greater than which can be conceived. It seems that terrorizing those who belittle your religion-cum-multi-level-marketing-cum-pyramid scheme with the threat of a defamation lawsuit doesn't work very well when your intended targets are anonymous.

And now, lo and behold, the paper of record has decided to grace /b/ with its coverage in an in depth 10 page magazine piece.

The Grey Lady rightly characterizes /b/tards - the denizens of /b/, 4chan's random and most trafficked board - as classic internet trolls, who exist for the sole purpose of ruining other people's days, provoking them through rude and offensive practical jokes, and savoring the sweet, sweet schadenfreude that inevitably insues.

But, surprisingly, 4chan also demonstrates that trolling is a form of creative destruction for culture. Its inherent cynicism is often taken to ridiculous extremes, but in the process this cynicism acts as a universal acid, forcing us to stop taking our collective sacred cows too seriously, or at least be willing to examine them with a bit more skepticism, if not full out adopting the cynical position.

Through the destruction - the endless molesting, raping, and lynching of sacred cows, comes the creation of new cultural memes, new forms of humor, call backs, and cultural touchstones, many of which originated in /b/, but spread to the rest of Internet, and beyond: lolcats, Rickrolling, Goatse, 2girls1cup, to name a few.

Humor is essentially a cleanser of culture, culling the stale shibboleths of the previous generation and replacing them anew. This has typically been the role of the court jester, the class clown, the professional stand up comedian, all of whom are typically given special dispensation to discuss those touchy subjects that we couldn't get away with talking about in other contexts.

Now, with the power of these Intertubes, anyone and everyone can participate in destructively creative humor and cultural production, anonymously.

/inb4 Post Tits or GTFO


Catallarchy: Moving stuff that could potentially be construed as gay porn below the fold so you don't get fired since 2003. Read more »

Quote Of The Day

From a comment thread discussing the Fannie and Freddie bailout:

When Microsoft sends a SWAT team to my house for running Linux, I will give your arguments some credence. Bill Gates in his whole life has never committed the amount [of] casual brutality a small city vice squad gets through in one month.

Batman As Agorist Hero?

I'm flying to Chicago this morning to attend an IHS seminar on Liberty, Communication & Change, starring friend-of-the-blog lecturer Glen Whitman. I will probably not have much Internet access for the next few days. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch The Dark Night while I'm there in the city of windbag politicians. So I'm putting this idea out there for any of you to riff on, since I may not have time to write about it until I get back.

What should libertarians think about vigilantism? Is vigilantism incompatible with a liberal order and the rule of law? Or are vigilante crime fighters such as Batman agorist heroes?

Robert Nozick takes the anti-Batman position, arguing that it is legitimate for Gotham police to monopolize the law enforcement market and punish any costumed crusaders who attempt to compete with it, on the grounds that vigilantism is too risky, and that it can be legitimately prohibited, so long as the potential vigilantes are compensated for their loss of freedom.

Randy Barnett takes the pro-Batman position, arguing that:

For practical and moral reasons, procedural fairness and knowledge by enforcers of the guilt of their suspects are moral goals to be striven for. Our efforts to achieve them, however, cannot violate the rights of any individual. To punish a victim for taking restitution from his actual aggressor just because he wasn't sure it really was his aggressor is a violation of that victim's right of self-defense and, therefore, a violation of our moral side-constraint. The right of self-defense, then, dictates that procedural fairness and epistemic certainty are goals, not constraints.

- Randy Barnett, "Wither Anarchy? Has Robert Nozick Justified The State?" Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1. pp 15-21 Pergamon Press, 1977

What say you, dear reader?

Edit: While I'm asking what libertarians should think about Batman, it's worth mentioning that Batman is a Misesian.

Preemptive Redistribution

Maybe I'm missing something here, but there seems to be a disconnect between two consecutive Fly Bottle posts. First, Will argues:

The argument on offer here is an argument for preemptive redistribution. We have to redistribute so that injustice doesn’t occur. But this kind of argument, like arguments for preemptive war, face a high bar. You need to be pretty convincing that in the absence of preemptive action, something bad will occur. I think egalitarians almost never get over that bar.

But then he follows up in the very next post with:

I also like mandatory retirement accounts for paternalistic reasons that are also sort of libertarian. Means-tested benefits for old people is a better idea than our stupid current system, but would encourage too little retirement savings. Why? Old people are so politically powerful that these benefits will be too high to make saving rational. So forcing people to transfer their own money to their future selves prevents them from later forcing others to transfer them money when old.

How is this not also a case of preemptive redistribution? We forcibly transfer money from people's past selves to their future selves so that they don't later predate on other people's past selves. But how is "old people stealing from young people using their superior political power" any different than "rich people stealing from poor people using their superior political power"? Is it that old people are more of a monolithic voting bloc than rich people?

While that may be true, surely many more government transfers -- trade barriers, restrictions on labor mobility, publicly financed institutions of higher education, professional licensing, intellectual property privileges, etc. -- are a transfer from the relatively poor to the relatively rich, compared to the number of government transfers from the relatively young to the relatively old. Hell, the costs of restrictions on labor mobility alone arguably swamp Medicare and Social Security combined, and those who most suffer from those restrictions do not have the ability to vote them down, since they are not U.S. citizens.

Incidentally, it always amuses me when people suggest that the solution to government capture by the wealthy is government capture by the poor, as if playing what has always been a losing man's game is going to one day, miraculously, turn into a winner. The only way to win a losing game is to stop playing.

Are You Down With UPPP?

So I just had a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty three weeks ago to deal with my sleep apnea, with an interesting result:

I can no longer correctly pronounce my own name.

While I generally introduce myself to non-Hebrew speakers as "my-kah", like the mineral, my name is actually pronounced "mee-cha", with a guttural "ch", like in the German "Bach" or Scottish "Loch." Without a uvula, I can no longer make this sound.

On the bright side, at least I have a new cocktail party icebreaker.

One Way To Solve The Immigration "Problem"

Tough Questions About Racism

Julian Sanchez asks them.

In the process, he touches on one of my pet peeves, which I discussed previously; the lack of gradations in discussions of bigotry:

Just follow me for a second here: What image springs to mind when you think of “racism”? A Klansman burning a cross? Adolf Hitler? George Wallace barring the schoolhouse door? Images like these are iconic, easy to invoke, and extreme. They remain current because they are potent illustrations of where racism leads; their ugliness, their repugnance, is manifest.

There are still, of course, sectors of American society where the crude racism of the epithet and the noose is casually accepted. But, happily, this sort of thing is largely beyond the pale in polite company now. And this makes it beguilingly easy to conclude: “Well, I don’t go around slinging racial epithets or fuming with hatred at this or that group. Therefore I can’t be one of those awful people. Why, some of my best friends…”

But the variety of racism more common today is more subtle than that, and in a way more pernicious for it, since the overt bigot is unlikely to wield much social power. It’s the subliminal reaction of the manager looking for a new cashier who, for some reason he can’t articulate, just doesn’t think the minority candidate seems quite trustworthy enough. It’s this person who we most want examining his own attitudes. But to do that means being prepared to start from the difficult premise that even he—educated, urbane, kind, and so on—may indeed harbor racial biases. Like Hitler! Like a Klansman!

Fashion Critic, Critique Thyself

Rachael Ray Scarf Says Terrorist, But Michelle Malkin Jacket Says Gay:

A Leather Jacket, for the clueless, is the traditional jacket of Gay leather men that has come to symbolize the homosexual jihad against our values. Popularized by Glen Hughes of the Village People and a regular adornment of Gay liberationists appearing in pride parades and Queen videos, leather has been been mainstreamed by both ignorant and not-so-ignorant fashion designers, celebrities, and RIGHT WING INTERNMENT OF JAPANESE-AMERICANS-DEFENDING PUNDITS.

Regulated Markets Lead To Monopoly

Jacob Sullum on the menthol exception to cigarette flavor prohibitions:

The front-page article reported that "some public health experts are questioning why menthol, the most widely used cigarette flavoring and the most popular cigarette choice of African-American smokers, is receiving special protection as Congress tries to regulate tobacco for the first time." (Here's why: Because Philip Morris, the only major cigarette manufacturer supporting the bill, does not want to give up the money it makes from Marlboro Menthol, the No. 2 brand in this category.)

Or see BK Marcus on Sarbanes-Oxley and going public:

This is the pattern with all such regulations. The bigger corporations support them, quietly or not, because they can bear the costs and thereby eliminate competition from "below." And the Marxoids say that unregulated capitalism has a natural tendency toward monopoly…

The Left loves small markets, small merchants, small businesses, but then does everything they can to promote the bigness of business — in the name of fighting Big Business.

Remember this the next time someone accuses "market fundamentalists" of being apologists for big business. Proponents of more government regulation knowingly or unknowingly promote centralization of markets, protecting existing firms from the regulatory effects of competition. More regulation from government means less regulation from market competition.

Degrees Of Sexual Neuroses

Note to Will, Julian, and Jim:

If you think comparing watching porn to having an affair is batshit crazy (and it is, of course), just be glad you didn't have to grow up learning that masturbation "is the most severe of all Torah forbidden sins", including not just murder, but "when one emits sperm to waste it is as if he destroys the earth." Which is, of course, "punishable by death."

So give Ross Douthat some credit here; at least he is only comparing masturbation to having an affair. His analogy could have been a whole lot batshit crazier.

The Animal House Theory of Military Leadership

On the one hand, I agree with Julian Sanchez:

People who join the military, of course, surrender a great deal autonomy to their superior officers and, ultimately, their commander in chief. It should be obvious why this is necessary for them to serve effectively, but it should be seen as part of a bargain that comes with a profound obligation not to abuse the enormous trust the enlisted must place in the political leadership by sending them into battle, or keeping them in the field, except when victory is achievable and the cause is vital. You can’t just brush away concerns about whether our leaders are taking their end of the deal sufficiently seriously, or exercising that trust with sound judgement, by suggesting that the troops deserve whatever they get because, hey, they signed up. This is the Animal House theory of military leadership: “You fucked up! You trusted us!”

On the other hand, I agree with Herbert Spencer:

Some years ago I gave my expression to my own feeling – anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called – in a somewhat startling way. It was at the time of the second Afghan war, when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenæum Club a well-known military man – then a captain but now a general – drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying – “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”

I foresee the exclamation which will be called forth. Such a principle, it will be said, would make an army impossible and a government powerless. It would never do to have each soldier use his judgment about the purpose for which a battle is waged. Military organization would be paralyzed and our country would be a prey to the first invader.

Not so fast, is the reply. For one war an army would remain just as available as now – a war of national defence. In such a war every soldier would be conscious of the justice of his cause. He would not be engaged in dealing death among men about whose doings, good or ill, he knew nothing, but among men who were manifest transgressors against himself and his compatriots. Only aggressive war would be negatived, not defensive war.

Both the political leadership as well as the military volunteers are (to varying degrees) morally responsible. The deaths that result from the war are both the result of a political decision to engage in war and an individual volunteer's decision to fight in one. Without both parties playing their roles, the deaths would not have occurred.

Electoral politics is the black hole of moral responsibility. Just as in a frat house eventually devolves into a finger-pointing circle-jerk regarding whose turn it is to wash the dishes, politically-induced wars of aggression eventually devolve into the military volunteers blaming the politicians, the politicians blaming the electorate, and the electorate blaming the military volunteers, and all the various other combinations in between. Around and around we go, but it's never anyone's fault, the dirty dishes remain stacked in the sink, and the bodies continue to pile up.

Shoot The Doctors

Nasikabatrachus, the author of the weblog The Amphibious Anarchist, makes a fresh (to me, at least) argument against coerced health care, and coerced provision of goods in general, in the comment thread to this post by my recently discovered bizarro clone:

You say there's a right to live "at any cost". Doesn't that lend itself more towards the enslavement of doctors than taking money from people to pay doctors? After all, it's the doctors who refuse to work below a certain amount of money who are denying people treatment, not the people who aren't paying the doctors on behalf of others.

Imagine, for instance, that someone has just beaten you up. Who do you go to to seek restitution? Do you steal money from your neighbor down the street, or go to the one who beat you up?

Similarly, if the fact that a doctor is allowed to choose not to treat you is a violation of your rights, who do you go to? The doctor who doesn't want to treat someone for less than X dollars, or do you go stick up some random guy down the block and make him pay? Obviously, the latter is a sheer absurdity.

Don't make an argument from morality if you don't like the consequences.

We Need More And Better Democrats

I Have Discovered Bizzaro Micha

[crossposted in a comment thread at AotP]

Wow. I vaguely remember coming across mnuez before in some other comment thread, and vaguely remember visiting his blog and learning that he is a recovering Orthodox Jew, just like me. But it wasn't until following TGGP's link back to his blog and his conversation at Overcoming Bias that I went back, reread some of his blog posts, and realized how similar he and I truly are in terms of life experience, and yet how vastly different we are in socio/political/economic outlook. This post in particular struck a nerve; I've had nearly identical conversations with old Yeshiva buddies. And yet, and yet, and yet...

I think the one major outlook he and I share is athiesm. And that's where it ends. He seems to be an economic welfare-statist populist of the Naomi Klein variety, a genetic determinist with respect to race (but not sexuality, apparently), an immigration restrictionist, and, as demonstrated in the AotP thread, has some personal hang-ups with homosexuality. I haven't read enough of his blog to discern his foreign policy views -- specifically Israel and the war in Iraq -- but my initial guess would be Weekly Standard-esque. That might be unfair, but it was one of the last major changes in my world view, and given my personal experience I think it's pretty damned difficult for someone brought up in America as an Orthodox Jew and who has spent time in Israel to adopt what would be for them a most radical heterodox position.

And yet, and yet, and yet...... there are still some signs of hope. His willingness to defend the FLDS even though he pretty clearly finds their practices repugnant is... inspiring, to say the least, from this radical pluralist libertarian's perspective. Consider the following snippets taken from that post:

The simple fact is that Freedom Kills.


Allowing human beings as much Freedom as a functioning society possibly can offer them is still the best system that we've got for ensuring human happiness.

It's inefficient, wrong as often as it's right, harm and suffering-causing in ways too varied and too horrible to list or describe - but it's still the best massive system (that I know of) that humans have ever created.

Allowing children to be indoctrinated by the ridiculous beliefs of their local "authorities" (their Rabbis, teachers, cultural icons, prophets or parents) and then allowing them to continue to believe what they will and to "worship" as and what they will and to DO as they wish (provided the fist comes to a stop before the bulb of the nose, of course) is stomach-churning stuff. More than 1 out of every hundred of these people will END THEIR OWN LIFE(!) or at least make an attempt of some sort to do so. That's pretty bad statistics for a species. But as Churchill famously is said to have said regarding Democracy, it's still the best system we've got.

So until such a (seemingly mythical) Utopian Era shall dawn I believe that we should do every single thing in our power to REBEL against any utopian attempt to curtail human freedoms. [...]

I believe in justice for THEM for the solitary and selfish reason that I desire justice for ME. Their religions are all worthless (in my view) but until we humans get around to figuring out the ideal way to raise our children and to live in absolute happiness and joy (something which is likely never to happen [unless we computerize ourselves or something similar]) we're best off not allowing any totalitarianism to gain a foothold. The world of ideas requires competition which is why we demand liberty for all and why we have a Bill of Rights.

Now, if he could just take these same insights and apply them to economics, ala Nozick's capitalist acts between consenting adults, I think we'd have a genuine libertarian on our hands.

For example, consider his economic objection to libertarianism here:

Laissez Faire is violent. When a credit card company is allowed to utilize decades worth of academic research into exactly how best to get some inner-city suffering single-mother to sign up for one of their new cards with exorbitant fees so that they can rape what last pennies she has, they are engaging in violence.

How is this any different than a self-interested cult-leader brainwashing his uneducated followers to engage in behavior that is harmful to their own interests? Answer: it isn't. But yet in the case of the brainwashing cult leader, mnuez recognizes that the cure is more dangerous than the disease. As much as we may despise the religious cult for doing intellectual (and often very real) violence to its own members, mnuez understands that granting government officials the power to live other people's lives for them is more likely to lead to harm, not help. Now he just needs to extend this same insight to pay-day lenders and he'll be set.

Incidentally, in that same post mnuez requested (for reasons that escape me given his professed religious views), "Find me laissez faire in the Bible please." I am more than happy to oblige. See: I Samuel, Chapter 8. A more poetic encapsulation of laissez faire I cannot fathom. (I'm assuming, of course, that by Bible mnuez is cool with referencing the entire Tanach, and not just the first five books.)

Now on to the homosexuality. I have no idea if homosexuality is biologically or culturally determined. It doesn't really much matter (or shouldn't really much matter) for questions on how gay people should be treated. So I am very much perplexed when he writes,

What disturbs me is the Big Lie regarding how these people came to be classified thusly. The general consensus in all polite company is that “they were born that way” such that they are a class of human beings akin to Jews, Blacks or Women and thus there are particular “human rights” that they are morally entitled to in the same manner as the aforementioned groups of people whose societal status is innate.

My own view is that it’s most likely that the majority of self-identified gay people would likely not be as interested in exclusive homosexuality were they raised in different environments (though of course a few other people might be interested in just such a sort of sexual relationship were they raised in said “other” environments).

For this reason I believe that Christian mommies have every moral right to ask that their sons not be influenced by the likely-untrue belief that homosexuality is innate.

There is much to unpack here. What does innateness have to do with human rights? For example, being a member of a particular religious belief system is certainly not innate (even if holding a generic religious belief is innate), and yet mnuez seems to be willing to defend the human rights of strange Mormon sects to practice their wacky beliefs. Why should the same not be true of homosexuals?

I'm also not sure what he means by his last sentence. If Christian mommies want to live without a television in their house (as my Orthodox married sister does) so as not to be exposed to the evils of Will and Grace, more power to them. If they went to further restrict themselves and their children from exposure to not just television, but modern secular culture in general (as my many Chareidi aunts, uncles, and cousins living in Israel do), more power to them as well.

I don't see how any of this turns on the question of the innateness of homosexuality. Why is the belief that homosexuality is innate any more dangerous or influential to the Christian mommies than the belief that homosexuality is environmental but also unobjectionable and perfectly compatible with a happy, healthy, moral, flourishing, satisfying life? The Modern Orthodox consensus among American Jews seems to accept the claim that homosexuality is biologically innate (at least for the sake of argument), but still rejects it on the grounds that it violates Halacha. So it would seem to me that the second belief -- that it is environmentally determined but perfectly acceptable, would be more at odds with socially conservative religious views than the first belief.

I'm inclined to agree with mnuez's claim that "it’s most likely that the majority of self-identified gay people would likely not be as interested in exclusive homosexuality were they raised in different environments." Not that this impinges on the question of whether homosexuality is biologically innate or culturally influenced. It could be a combination of both. Some people might be more inclined than others to pursue exclusive homosexuality under certain cultural conditions, and less so under other cultural conditions. So too, some people who really like the taste of bacon might be more inclined than others to satisfy this taste if they were brought up Christian in contemporary America than if they were brought up Muslim or Jewish in a culture where eating bacon might result in severe social ostracism or legal punishment.

For what it's worth, one piece of evidence that homosexuality is a bit more than just an aberrant taste is the lengths and risks some people will go to engage in homosexual relationships. A personal example: I attended an Orthodox Yeshiva in Israel the year after high school, just as mnuez did. (Ohr Yerushalayim - I'm sure mnuez has heard of it; it is one of the larger and well known Yeshivas in this demographic.) A few years later, I found out that one of the boys that attended the same year I did came out of the closet while attending Yeshiva University. Now, I didn't know this guy very well, and I don't really know the culture of YU, so it's possible he wasn't really interested in living a halachic lifestyle anyway, but what about those who are so interested? There are certainly many cases of people who seem to be genuinely conflicted over both their commitment to Orthodox Judaism (or, for that matter, their commitment to the more socially conservative denominations of Christianity that do not tolerate homosexuality) and their desire to remain part of that community, but at the same time feel that they are deeply homosexual, and that leading a purely heterosexual life would be a life devoid of romantic and sexual meaning, a life lacking something very basic and very important to most of us.

If homosexuality is purely a result of cultural influences, why in the world would a small but significant minority of people brought up in socially conservative cultures, who otherwise appreciate those cultures and want to live their lives within them, choose to squander their relationship with friends, family, and community over an easily modifiable whim or preference? If the only problems I had with being halachically observant were the inconveniences of keeping kosher and shabbos, I'm sure I would still be observant. Those were small prices to pay to remain within the culture; openly violating those laws (and any widely-practiced halacha) meant placing myself outside the community, distancing myself from friends and family, and giving up on whatever cultural benefits I may have previously enjoyed from being an observant Jew. There were many reasons I ultimately decided to separate myself from that community, but no longer having to deal with the inconveniences of kashrus and shabbos were mere side-benefits, afterthoughts, way down on the list of reasons to depart. If human sexuality were as easy to ignore and modify as mnuez seems to think, I don't understand why we would see so many cases of people genuinely conflicted, who want to remain in the community and are willing to bear whatever other costs are asked of them, but not this one.

Something Is Happening Here / But You Don't Know What It Is

While we're on the topic of funny movie reviews more entertaining than their subject matter, here's Christopher Orr on The Happening:

Since the threat driving the movie is a colorless agent in the air, Shyamalan has nothing, really, to dramatize visually. He solves this by showing a strong wind every time the deadly agent appears. There are two problems with this: No matter how biochemically sophisticated the trees have become, it seems rather unlikely that they'd be able to control the weather. And, insofar as wind could represent anything in the context of the movie, it would be hope, not danger, as strong winds would disperse the airborne toxin rather than, as Shyamalan somehow imagines, intensify it. Still, we gets leaves blowing every time people are going to die, and a hilarious scene where Elliot et al. are running across a field trying to outrace the wind. It's like the climax of Twister, without the twister.

It almost makes me want to see it, just to appreciate how truly terrible it is. Almost.

In other news, Zohan was friggin' sweet. Though I might be biased; much of what I found engaging might be lost to someone with less familiarity with contemporary Israeli culture, which seems to be perpetually stuck in the '70s.