Ian Danskin, (Danskin 2019)

This is an entry in the Alt-right Playbook.

Summary

Performative irony (see For the lulz) for the dual goals of winning arguments and obfuscating your true beliefs. That is, pretending (and possibly believing, at least at some level) that you just want to watch the world burn and the hiding, from others and yourself, the fact that you only ever seem to go after the Left and what the targets of your ire imply about your underlying beliefs.

Notes

“See, I don’t take you at your word because I cannot form a coherent worldview out of the things you say. So, forgive me if, when you tell me what you believe, I don’t think you’re being candid with me. It kinda seems like you’re playing games, and I’m the opposing team, and anyone who’s against me is your ally. And you’re not really taking a position, but claiming to believe in whatever would need to be true to score points against me, like we’re in that one episode of Seinfeld.”

There’s a certain Beat-You-At-Your-Own-Gaminess to the Card Says Moops maneuver. “Safe spaces are bullshit, but, if you get one, I get one too.” “There’s no such thing as systemic oppression, but, if there were, I’d be oppressed.” It’s dismissing the rhetoric of social justice while also trying to use it against you. Claiming “the Card Says Moops” does not, so much, mean, “I believe the people who invaded Spain in the 8th Century were literally called The Moops,” but, rather, “You can’t prove I don’t believe it.” Not a statement of sincere belief, simply moving a piece across the board. All in the game, yo.

If they could be so nakedly honest with you and themselves to answer “what do you actually believe” truthfully, one suspects the answer would be, “What difference does it make? We’re right either way.”

This has come to be known as “postmodern conservatism,” a fact I find hilarious, because, in The Discourse, “postmodernism” is a dogwhistle for everything the Right hates about the Left. (…it also means “Jews.") Postmodern conservatism is the thinking that, at least for the purpose of argument, the truth of who invaded Spain is immaterial. You have your facts, I have alternative facts. What is true? Who’s to say?

Sincerity is unprovable and open to interpretation. Decide someone is sincere if you want to make fun of them, decide they’re trolling if you want to make fun of someone else. What is true? What do you want to be true? It’s easy enough to start thinking of one’s own opinions the same way: What do I believe? What is it advantageous to believe? Your answer isn’t binding. You’ll change it later if you need to.

The thing is, Bob, it’s not that they’re lying, it’s that they just don’t care. I’ll say that again for the cheap seats: When they make these kinds of arguments, they legitimately do not care whether the words coming out of their mouths are true. It is a deeply held belief for precisely as long as it wins arguments.

You might now conclude the internet reactionary believes in nothing except winning arguments with liberals. And, like Newtonian physics, if you assume this framing, you will get highly useful results. If you enter conversation with Engelbert and Charlemagne believing they do not mean what they say, they are only entertaining notions, and, on a long enough timeline, they will eventually defend a position fundamentally incompatible with the one they defended earlier in the same argument, you will navigate that conversation much more effectively!

But, like Newtonian physics, this framing is lowercase-a accurate without being capital-T True.

In reality, nihilism isn’t that popular. People will tell you, “I don’t care about anything, I just like triggering the libs,” but why is it always libs? It is piss easy (and also hilarious) to upset conservatives, why only go after the SJWs? The easy answer is, well, if you upset a feminist, you might make her cry; if you upset a Nazi, he might stab you, and that has a cooling effect. But the more obvious answer is that they actually agree with the racist, MRA, and TERF talking points they repeat, but would rather not think about it.

So much of conservative rhetoric is about maintaining ignorance of one’s own beliefs. To uphold the institution of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy while thinking you are none of those things. (Well, OK, knowing you’re a capitalist, but thinking it’s a good thing.) Most people have a baseline of fairly conventional, kindergarten morality, and conservatism often clashes with it. You can rationalize these contradictions - “I’m not a bigot, I just believe in states' rights” - but, as American conservatism gets more radical, it gets harder to square one’s politics with what one assumes to be one’s beliefs. So you learn, when someone challenges you, to cycle through beliefs until something sticks, just play your hand and trust that you’re right, or, in extreme cases, insist you have no beliefs at all, you’re just here to watch the world burn.

But they’re not. They are willing participants in the burning of only certain parts. They don’t care what they believe, but they know what they hate, and they don’t want to think about why they hate it. On paper, they believe in freedom of religion and freedom of expression, but they also hang out in communities where Muslims and trans women are punching bags. And, like a sixth grader who believes one thing in Sunday school and another thing in biology class, they believe different things at different times.

If you operate as though there is no truth, just competing opinions, and as though opinions aren’t sincere, just tools to be picked up and dropped depending on their utility, then what are you operating under? Self-interest. The desire to win. You’ll defend the Holocaust just to feel smarter than someone, superior. Think about how beautifully that maps onto the in-group/out-group mentality of dominance and bigotry. Think how incompatible it is with liberal ideas of tolerance. I think this is why we don’t see a lot of these “I’m just here to fuck shit up” types on the Left. Don’t get me wrong, the Left has gotten on some bullshit, but (excepting politicians, whom you should never assume to mean anything they say) it’s sincerely-believed bullshit! We don’t build identities around saying things just to piss people off.

References

Danskin, Ian. 2019. “The Card Says Moops.” Tumblr. Innuendo Studios. https://innuendostudios.tumblr.com/post/182302598987/new-video-essay-internet-reactionaries-argue-as.