Pluralistic: 04 Feb 2021

Originally published at: https://pluralistic.net/2021/02/04/vote-machine-tankies/


Today's links



Organic fascism (permalink)

Remember the "urban farming" wave, whose most prominent proponent was the youtuber Curtis Stone, author of "The Urban Farmer?"

Stone is now a covid-denying trumpist who believes in impending civilizational collapse and rails against SJWs.

Writing about Stone's transformation for his Farm Worker Bulletin, Luke Carneal explores the connections between heterodox food-movements (especially organicism) and far-right ideology.

https://lukecarneal.substack.com/p/why-are-some-organic-farmers-turning

In Carneal's telling, Stone's turn against urban farming (lest you find yourself in proximity to antifa supersoldiers and BLM mobs) does not represent a conflict with Stone's ideology – rather, it's always been a tendency in pastoralist movements.

https://lukecarneal.substack.com/p/why-are-some-organic-farmers-turning

There's a zone where preppers and back-to-the-landers cross over, where suspicion of capitalism and elites can be part of a yearning towards a fair and humane future or a reactionary turn back to some imaginary state of human grace.

It's an idea I first encountered in Leigh Phillips's "Austerity Ecology and the Collapse Porn Addicts," which described how the German Agrarian Conservativism movement became a critical part of the Nazi vision.

https://memex.craphound.com/2016/01/12/keep-your-scythe-the-real-green-future-is-high-tech-democratic-and-radical/

It's a vision of pastoral extermination that sees off teeming millions to make room for a kind of Shire living, where we are all returned to a mythological state of leather-apron-clad bourgeois shopkeeping and smallhold farming.

That tendency lurks in the history of environmentalism in the form of "ecofascism," which marries eugenics to ecology, insisting that Earth has exceeded its "capacity" and balance can only be restored by despatching billions of unnecessary people.

https://memex.craphound.com/2019/10/01/the-tragedy-of-the-commons-how-ecofascism-was-smuggled-into-mainstream-thought/

Ecofascism is on a spectrum with Pastel Q, the name for the intersection of the "wellness" movement and far-right conspiratorialism.

https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/31/rhymes-with-pastel-q/#paranoid-style

Pastel Q is a cross between the true understanding that health science has been corrupted by monied interests (see, e.g. the food pyramid's emphasis on industrial carbs) and false claims that the corruption extends to vaccines, elections, and pedophile rings.

In other words, Pastel Q and other right wing movements have some sound epistemology – an understanding that expert truth-seeking enterprises are actually an auction that sells the official truth to the highest bidder.

But this isn't so much an epistemology as the absence of an epistemology. If expert truth-seeking exercises can't be trusted, then how can we know what's true? The epistemological void created by corruption is fertile soil for the ravings of paranoid, right-wing huxters.

This is how you find yourself at the organic farmer's market chatting with a lovely person who turns out to be armed to the teeth and prepping for the end-times, who shelves their Whole Earth Catalogs next to their copy of the Turner Diaries.

I remember being in a hipster coffee shop in east London while reading Ben Goldacre's indispensable "Bad Pharma," a brutal indictment of the scientific fraud and profiteering of the pharmacy industry.

https://memex.craphound.com/2012/11/06/bad-pharma-account-of-the-bottomless-corruption-of-the-pharma-industry-is-a-stirring-call-to-arms/

The barista asked me about the book and when I described it to him, he voiced his complete agreement and explained that this was why he wouldn't get vaccinated and practiced only homeopathic medicine.

He really needed to read Goldacre's followup, Bad Science, which gave the same treatment to the "alternative medicine" movement, exposing the lethal quackery behind the Paltrow-Industrial complex.

https://memex.craphound.com/2010/10/19/bad-science-comes-to-the-usa-ben-goldacres-tremendous-woo-fighting-book-in-print-in-the-states/

Those two books – Bad Pharma and Bad Science – reveal such an important tension, the idea that corrupted science doesn't militate against science itself – rather, it demands an anticorruption movement.

But a superficial reading of critiques of science leads people badly astray (and given how busy people are and how impossible it would be to acquire fluency in all the implicated disciplines, these readings will inevitably be superficial.

It's not ridiculous to read critiques of industrial agriculture and food processing and conclude that "adulterants" are the problem – that "natural" processes are superior but are hamstrung because they're universal, non-proprietary, and impossible to monopolize.

Not least because adulterants and admixture can trigger an instinctive, toddler's revulsion – the "my carrots are touching my peas, uggggh" instinct – the same infantile revulsion behind Lovecraftian white supremacy:

https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/09/the-old-crow-is-getting-slow/#i-love-ny

As Carneal says, "The worldview of the reactionary small farmer/homesteader places him squarely within the long history of self-victimization found commonly amongst conservatives."



Stop the "Stop the Steal" steal (permalink)

I've got an op-ed in today's Washington Post, about the legal threats that ES&S – the litigious, private-equity-backed voting machine monopolist – sent to SMART Elections, a citizen group that criticized ES&S products to NY election officials.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/02/03/voting-machines-election-steal-conspiracy-flaws/

I blogged the story in Jan, after reading Princeton's Andrew Appel's defense of SMART; Appel has done important, careful, peer-reviewed research on defects in ES&S's Expressvote XL, and he defended the claims that ES&S was threatening to sue over.

https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/11/seeing-things/#ess

The point that Appel made, that really struck home with me, was that the timing and character of ES&S's claims echoed the claims of Dominion Voting Systems against trumpland's most unhinged conspiratorialists, like Rudy Giuliani.

https://freedom-to-tinker.com/2021/01/11/ess-voting-machine-company-sends-threats/

Dominion was the target of baseless conspiracy claims that were part of a plot to overthrow American democracy. ES&S's threats made it sound like anyone who criticized voting machines was part of the same movement.

This is a cynical ploy straight out of the Trump playbook, as when he took the term "fake news" (coined to describe fraudulent anti-Clinton stories) and used it to dismiss all media criticism of his regime.

The conclusion Trump wanted us to draw from the fact that some political scandals are ginned-up hoaxes is that ALL political scandals are frauds.

Likewise, I read ES&S's as saying that anyone who criticizes voting machines is pulling a Giuliani.

It's a devastating attack on the truth itself, a challenge to our ability to ever know anything. And it's especially grave to wield this weapon against voting-machine critics, because voting machines are, in fact, garbage (including ES&S's).

For that matter, Dominion's machines are also trash, just not for the idiotic reasons that Giuliani and co came up with. Appel followed up his post on the Expressvote XL with an equally damning post about Dominion's devices.

https://freedom-to-tinker.com/2021/02/01/georgias-election-certification-avoided-an-even-worse-nightmare-thats-just-waiting-to-happen-next-time/

The takeaway here isn't that Giuliani made baseless accusations against Dominion, therefore Dominion (and its competitors) are great. Indeed, the fact that Giuliani didn't even bother to base his (lying) accusations on the real defects in Dominion just proves he's an idiot.

ES&S's gambit reminds me of the "tankies" who deny the Chinese Uyghur genocide. After publishing on Intercepted's primary source docs on the human rights atrocities yesterday, I was inundated with accusations of aiding US imperialism.

https://pluralistic.net/2021/02/03/never-again/#never-again

The argument goes, "The US has historically ginned up cases against its economic adversaries by inventing or exaggerating their flaws (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, etc), and the US right wants a new cold war with China, therefore anything bad you hear about China is an op."

As one source put it to me, our media is about affect, "picking what you believe is correct or not based on if it makes you feel good."

Once you arrive at the (actually correct) shortcut belief that US state claims about human rights abuses overseas are pretexts for aggression, then it's easy to fall into the trap of defending anyone the US criticizes as blameless or at least not as bad as they seem.

But your enemy's enemy is not your friend. The reason the US is able to sell claims about its adversaries' bad human rights records is that…they have bad human rights records.

The issue isn't that the US fails to identify human rights abusers – it's that it only takes action to defend human rights when it serves its political interests, and the rest of the time, it's happy to collaborate on the abuses.

Likewise, the reason that Giuliani and co were able to sell their unhinged conspiracy about Dominion's voting machines is that voting machines are and always have been garbage, and the companies that make them are profiteering bullies who use the law to silence critics.

The problem with Giuliani's conspiracy theory isn't that voting machines aren't garbage – it's that he's wrong about how they're garbage, and what that means for election integrity.

Giuliani's targeting of voting machines isn't a signal that they're good because he's an idiot who's wrong about everything – it's that he's so wrong that he's even wrong about the things that he's wrong about.

Meanwhile, ES&S gets to look like an aggrieved target of Trumpist election interference – rather than as the monopolists who have sold their unsound products up and down the country.



This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago BMW cheats search-engines, Google removes it from search results http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2006-02-04-n60.html

#15yrsago AOL/Yahoo: our email tax will make the net as good as the post office! https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/05/technology/postage-is-due-for-companies-sending-email.html

#10yrsago Dread clicks and whirs: the sounds of hard drives failing http://datacent.com/hard_drive_sounds.php

#5yrsago Who funds the “Millennials Rising” Super PAC? Rich old men. https://theintercept.com/2016/02/04/millennials-rising-super-pac-is-95-funded-by-old-men/

#5yrsago Videos of this year’s Shmoocon talks, starting with Gershenfeld’s talk on nonbinary computing https://archive.org/details/shmoocon-2016

#5yrsago Laura Poitras’s Astro Noise: indispensable book and gallery show about mass surveillance https://www.wired.com/2016/02/snowdens-chronicler-reveals-her-own-life-under-surveillance/

#1yrago Upright Women Wanted: be gay, do crimes, circulate books https://memex.craphound.com/2020/02/04/upright-women-wanted-be-gay-do-crimes-circulate-books/



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/).

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Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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1 Like

Hi Cory
A minor correction to a very interesting post - Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science wasn’t the followup to Bad Pharma, but its predecessor. For a good while in the early 2000s Ben wrote a Bad Science column in the Guardian debunking dodgy science (and dodgy media coverage of science), a rich vein with some very easy targets (e.g. ‘The awful poo lady’). That column (and the associated website) led to the book Bad Science, and Bad Pharma was the followup to that.

Right you are!

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