Update: Large portions of the book appear to be plagiarized. My respect for the author has, as a result dwindled drastically. I have not changed the rest of this post however.

This is a review of “Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right” by Angela Nagle and a shorter version has been posted on Amazon.

TL;DR worth reading, limited, ignores Jordan Peterson (probably because it was written slightly too soon), skip to the end for some non-review bits

The author, Angela Nagle, appears to be a British feminist and this colors her book. According to her bio on her publisher’s webiste:

Angela Nagle’s work has appeared in the Baffler, Jacobin, Current Affairs, the Irish Times and many other journals. She has been interviewed on Channel 4, on the Chapo Trap House podcast and a host of US and international radio shows. Her book Kill All Normies: the online culture wars from 4chan and tumblr to Trump and the alt-right has earned her the title “an old leftist’s idea of what a young leftist should be” by her detractors and “one of the brightest lights in a new generation of left writers who have declared independence from intellectual conformity’ by her champions.

The good news, IMHO, is that she seems to be both aware of her potential biases and does a fairly good job of writing in an objective style that avoids a lot of potential for bias. This is a short book about a topical subject. The author does a decent job of taking one for the team by visiting the more insalubrious, mysogynistic and racist parts of the Internet and describing what she sees. While she mostly concentrates on the male and “right” side of the internet, she also gives a reasonable overview of the unpleasantness of the crab-bucket SJW left and its purity spirals.

The book also provides a certain amount of context for what we are currently seeing comparing it to past movements and seeing how the balance of power and rebellion has moved over the last couple of decades. I thought there might have been a bit too much Nietsche but in many ways his writings do seem appropriate to the subject.

All that is good. And it is well worth paying the $7.something for it in kindle format. Unfortunately the subject cries out for more.

Firstly it seems to me that while everything the author reports is undoubtedly true she is somewhat selective and she hardly talks about twitter and other more well-known/public social media sites. I can see the argument for reporting on what is written in the less well-traveled corners but it seems to me that skipping twitter and facebook means some of the commentary loses context. One other thing that jumped out was her failure to mention the anti-zionist left that shades into antisemitism in, IMHO, at least as unpleasant a manner as that on the right. That isn’t the only lack but it is symptomatic, she concentrates much more on the “right” than on the “left”, which I feel is a lack because when she does focus on the left she is acute in her observations and criticism. It would, IMHO, be better if she could have delved further into the intersectionalist “grievance studies” parts of the Internet to provide a counterbalance and an illustration of what the misogynist, racist right is reacting to.

Secondly it would have been useful if she could have given an estimate of numbers. 10 racist misogynists are annoying, 1000 slightly more worrying, but 1 million is far more concerning and so on. She does make a useful distinction between the “alt-light” and the “alt-right” (disclosure in her terminology I’m probably one of the former) but she doesn’t make any attempt to quantify how many alt-lighters there are vs alt-righters and whether there is a significant trend of radicalization. Ditto for the left BTW

Thirdly I think her background – as far as I can tell she’s a moderately traditional British feminist – means she misses a few points about the “right”. Specifically the “right” has become very good at creating short-term transient alliances between disparate groups of people who may share certain beliefs and desires but not others. Gamergate – a topic she gives a fairly good but abbreviated leftish summary of – is a good example of this. There were lots of gamers with a whole spectrum of political views who felt upset at the behavior of the games journalists and developers who seemed to be pushing one particular sort of game on the world. I think it is fair to say that many disliked the tactics of some of their fellow gamergaters but that didn’t stop them from preferring to ally with them to facing a future with SJW only games. Since she misses this she also fails to grok why traditional religious conservatives are willing ally with the transgressive 4channers – essentially both are threatened by the all powerful “liberal” statism and its requirement that all conform or else.

A greater lack is not so much in the coverage as in a general failure to identify of what the root causes are and thus what a potential solution might be. As far as root causes the author seems to dance towards stating what she sees them to be and then skate away. She presents absolutely no suggestion about how to reduce the vileness or how to reduce the number of young men (and women, but her focus is more on the men) who find the racist and misogynistic parts of the internet to be attractive.

It seems to me that her book was possibly slightly too early because she missed the Jordan Peterson phenomenon and how that might answer some of these questions. Perhaps there will be a sequel that talks about him and about how he might manage to provide a less extreme philosophy than either the SJW left or the alt-right

Anyway, read this book. Then ponder it and come up with some answers.

OK that’s the review. Now how about some answers to the root causes and fixes?

When the author discusses the irony of Milo’s visit to Beserkely she touches on the likely root cause – namely the 1960s. I think the world is better for some of the 1960s revolutions but as someone sympathetic to Mr Chesterton and his fence, I think that a lot of the societal taboos about sex were actually useful for more reasons than “patriarchy”. Likewise the concept of being a gentleman (and its converse, being a lady). What we are seeing in the whole set of PUAs, incels, genderfluids and the whole LGBTWFTBBQ is the end state of the removal of norms of sexual behavior that persisted for millennia in cultures and civilizations all over the world. There is no doubt that many of the previous sexual mores hid any number of cheaters and that, in particular, the stigmatization of out of wedlock births hurt the mothers far more than the (equally complicit) fathers. However it is not clear to me that removing them helped the vast majority of women, let alone men. In fact I think the free love movement’s principles that essentially claim that everyone is entitled to, nay required to, have satisfying sex all the time without any commitment or emotional strings are particularly dangerous because of how they go counter to what seems to be human nature. Moreover they cause anyone who doesn’t get that sexual satisfaction to assume that something is wrong and, thanks to human nature, the natural next step is to look for someone else to blame for this. Hence misogynistic “beta” males and increasingly angry “feminists”.

Similarly the Mainstream Media bemoans how it is no longer trusted and how the result is a general spread of #fakenews from unreliable sources (hi Infowars) without reflecting on why. The saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” applies. The media has repeatedly shown itself to be corrupt and biased. Why should people trust them specifically? This is in fact a problem because we (as civilization) benefit greatly from having a trusted source of basic information. Otherwise we find ourselves either spending far too long verifying fundamental events and facts or spending our lives in bubbles of “facts” that omit critical information.

Overall it seems to me that the 1960s urge to be non-judgmental regarding everything is causing any number of societal problems even as it appeared to help specific individuals or groups. It is actually important that we realize that some things are better than others. That 2+2 is always 4 (except when it’s 11 for trinarians 🙂 ) and no intersectionalist rhetoric can change this. Further more wrapping children in cotton wool may keep them safe but it also keeps them from maturing. Safe spaces are one side of the coin, the other is the lack of consequences for acts from acting out to bullying to petty and not so petty crime. I’m reminded strongly of RA Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Mr Dubois’ lesson on puppy training.

Anyway the fix seems to be to reverse some of this non-judgmental BS and to also celebrate competitiveness in a positive way (as opposed to seeing how many victim strikes you get). Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules seems like a pretty good start – something that I agree with this Atlantic writer about:

In the midst of this death rattle has come a group of thinkers, Peterson foremost among them, offering an alternative means of understanding the world to a very large group of people who have been starved for one. His audience is huge and ever more diverse, but a significant number of his fans are white men. The automatic assumption of the left is that this is therefore a red-pilled army, but the opposite is true. The alt-right venerates identity politics just as fervently as the left, as the title of a recent essay reproduced on the alt-right website Counter-Currents reveals: “Jordan Peterson’s Rejection of Identity Politics Allows White Ethnocide.”

If you think that a backlash to the kind of philosophy that resulted in The Nation’s poetry implosion; the Times’ hire; and Obama’s distress call isn’t at least partly responsible for the election of Donald Trump, you’re dreaming. And if you think the only kind of people who would reject such madness are Republicans, you are similarly deluded. All across the country, there are people as repelled by the current White House as they are by the countless and increasingly baroque expressions of identity politics that dominate so much of the culture. These are people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad. The Democratic Party reviles them at its peril; the Republican Party takes them for granted in folly.

Perhaps, then, the most dangerous piece of “common sense” in Peterson’s new book comes at the very beginning, when he imparts the essential piece of wisdom for anyone interested in fighting a powerful, existing order. “Stand up straight,” begins Rule No. 1, “with your shoulders back.”