September 23, 2020

To My Critics: My Own Peculiar Albatross

To My Critics: My Own Peculiar Albatross

From Bellamy Fitzpatrick dot com

Under different circumstances, I would not have brought this issue up so early in my blog, and perhaps would never have brought it up, but the recent mention of me on The Solecast has made me think it is necessary to lay this issue to rest once and for all. My hope is that I will never have to comment on it again, but will be able to reference this blog entry and the podcast links associated with it to any and all future critics.

I was alerted to the mention of my publication Backwoods in the December 13th, 2019, episode of Solecast entitled “A Conversation about Desert w/ Alfredo of Occupied Southwest Distro” by a frequent correspondent of mine who expressed amusement at the continuing unfolding (over five years now) of subcultural micro-drama over statements I have made related to the ITS/RS (usually translated from Spanish to English as Individualists Tending Toward the Wild/Wild Reaction) phenomena and the way these are usually taken with a total lack of nuance or sympathy.

To be clear, I have no ill-will toward Sole. In fact, we have lightly corresponded in a friendly manner and have friends in common – from what little I know of him, he seems by all accounts to be a solid guy. I am not familiar with his oeuvre but have no reason currently to think he is a bad faith actor, and I do not believe he maliciously threw me under the bus. In fact, he has invited me to speak on his show, and I will probably soon take him up on the offer. Even so, I had to sardonically grin at the fact that he apparently felt it necessary, even as he positively referenced my writing, to disavow me as a human in a circumspect manner, which I assume is all but obligatory in the It’s Going Down/CrimethInc./Submedia/Channel Zero milieux. I will unpack this in the following entry, though I will save his apparent grievances with my use of the term “slavery” for a future entry, since it needs its own, full discussion.

To further ensure clarity and good faith communication, I will clarify here that Sole made no explicit mention of ITS/RS in carefully distancing himself from me, but his vague referral to the fact that I was a somehow controversial figure leaves little doubt in my mind that that is, at minimum, to what he is referring.

I feel I already have made my position on the ITS/RS phenomenon exhaustively, even ridiculously clear, but I am a creature of the Eternal Present, who lives in a world of five-second talking points, mass illiteracy, and thoroughgoing lack of nuance. Thus, I have been heavily criticized for supposedly endorsing or at least apologizing for ITS/RS and their policy of “indiscriminate attack,” not only by goofball anonymous Internet commenters but by well-known personalities in the subculture like the anarcho-primitivists John Zerzan and Kevin Tucker as well as William Gillis of Center for a Stateless Society. None of these absurd claims could ever meet my simple, oft-repeated challenge of ‘Find me one, single quote from anything I have podcasted or written that can justify the claim that I endorsed eco-extremism or championed their policy of indiscriminate attack.’ Not one of my critics could ever do this, but that did not stop them from persisting in manufacturing pointless, fractious drama – whether this was motivated by purity spiraling, Manichaeism, pointless scene-feuding, or la drama pour la drama is unclear to me.

Zerzan, who was the most frequent high-profile critic, and I have since made amends, and I have no quarrel with him – in fact, we had a recent productive conversation on the audiozine Oak, which I understand will be published soon. That said, I responded to Zerzan’s criticisms of me exhaustively in episode 91 of The Brilliant. Tucker has (as far as I know) assiduously avoided discussing me since I published my small-book-length critique of anarcho-primitivism, Corrosive Consciousness, after having previously personally informed me that his strategy of dealing with critics is to entirely avoid discussing them. I address the eco-extremist issue within the book as well as offer other criticisms (I since completely disagree with the nihilist-existentialist positive view put forward by me the book, see my previous blog post opening this blog). The worst and most dishonest critic, however, has been Gillis, whom I will address in a moment.

By episode 41, January 2017 of The Brilliant, I unequivocally said that eco-extremism was not an anarchist tendency – this was on top of previous instances of Free Radical Radio in which I had criticized the tendency and had, again, never endorsed it. My great and terrible crime had been to say two things, which I will reiterate here, and with which I still agree:

  1. Given that the eco-extremists were previously green anarchists, it is interesting, relevant, and valuable for current anarchists to learn about them and to understand why they shifted to a terroristic, misanthropic mode of being.
  2. The anarchists with Marxist and/or insurrectionary tendencies – that is, those who advocate for an abrupt, violent overturning of the current order – are, depending on their particular political orientation, more or less hypocritical for condemning a set of groups who have committed violence that has injured or killed a relatively small number of persons when the sudden insurrection-cum-revolution advocated by these anarcho-communists or insurrectionary anarchists would almost certainly result in the death and injury of enormous numbers of people. I suggested that they consider what their ethics around violence really are.

None of my critics has specifically responded to either of these claims with the exception of #2 being addressed by Gills, who, as a brief aside in condemning me in a full-length feature on his defunct podcast, vaguely referenced a partial admittance of the fact that perhaps some people during his fantasized revolution would not be reached by medical first-responders in time, as though only some small number of unfortunates would unintentionally be allowed to die by all those involved in overthrowing the existent, a response so shallow, cursory, and unserious that I find it difficult to believe that he himself could truly think what he is saying without considerable cognitive dissonance.

In episode 50 of The Brilliant, in June 2017, I responded with neurasthenic exhaustiveness to the meandering-yet-malicious critique given on episode #4 of Gillis’ podcast Horizontal Hostility, no mean feat given that it was 92 minutes almost entirely devoted to how apparently awful Aragorn! and I are. By then, I had already written a piece called “Revolutionary Dissonance” for Black Seed #5, which would be published a few weeks later, which reiterates in detail the two points made above while also specifying, yet again, that I in no way endorsed ITS/RS’s analysis or actions.

As I emphasized in my podcast response, these critics from Horizontal Hostility, quote literally nothing, not one single line of writing or podcast episode or timestamp is referenced. Instead, strawman after strawman is erected and knocked down. I find this kind of citationless critique not only dishonest and cowardly in that it evades a real intellectual clash in favor of battling one’s own sockpuppet, but also incredibly disrespectful to one’s audience. The audience is not only misled and kept from the real debate, but they are further denied the opportunity to look up the original sources themselves without having to do some digging. There is nothing either intellectually or morally honest about behaving this way.

Indeed, this criticism was so goofballish and hackneyed that, within the same episode, William Gillis claimed both that Aragorn and I had previously claimed that we had problems with the exo-extremist analysis but applauded the fact that they were at least doing something actively, and that we were for the eco-extremism analysis and yet against their actions, separated by about 45 minutes in the podcast. You cannot make up this sort of nonsense. This obvious self-contradiction, both arms of which are false (since I have clearly critiqued and rejected both the analysis and the actions of the eco-extremists, both in writing and in speech), demonstrates that Gillis is either sufficiently incompetent as to not actually know what I believe or even notice what he himself says across the space of 45 minutes and is instead merely hyperventilating in public, or that he is a bad faith actor who is deliberately throwing shrapnel to see what sticks – or, perhaps, some combination is the case. Does he really disrespect his own audience so much that he thinks they are too foolish or ideological to notice this contradiction, or does he not notice it himself for the same reasons?

Moreover, I have shown throughout everything I have done in media that I am obviously against the commonplace shut up and do something approach to anarchism – indeed, the most consistent criticism of The Brilliant podcast during my stay there was that Aragorn! and I were armchair intellectuals who lambasted everyone who was attempting real action – so the idea that I would cheerlead eco-extremists because At Least They’re Doin’ Somethin’ is laughable. My consistent refrain since the Free Radical Radio days has been, as opinion polls in the U.S. clearly show, that there is plenty of discontent toward the status quo, but that people are very misguided and confused in how they express it.

To put icing on the cake, the Horizontal Hostility cast of pseudo-liberationists engaged in reprehensible smearing. They attempted to associate Aragorn! and me both with an apparent schizophrenic who, among a whole hodgepodge of ideologies, called himself a nihilist and also committed a random stabbing incident against people who intervened in his alleged harassment of Muslim women on public transportation – after all, the absurdity of these slanderers goes, we all advocated nihilism. They further connected us with a then-recent communiqué by ITS advocating indiscriminate attack and therefore, de facto, random murder. They implied Aragorn! and I would somehow support both of these actions, and they even had the audacity to call us straight-up quasi-psychopaths in the last statement of their show.

How either Aragorn or I could possibly be seen to endorse random stabbing (ostensibly racially/religiously motivated, but it is hard to say since this person appeared to have no coherent ideology whatsoever, probably due to his schizophrenia) or indiscriminate attack is left entirely unexplained, precisely because it is entirely inexplicable; it was not an intellectually sincere critique aimed at bettering anarchism, but only a moronic slur directed at a worldview that they either struggle to understand or are intentionally misrepresenting.

I have never had either the gall or desire to claim any theoretical opponent of mine is depraved, murderous, or psychopathic, even when I think their ideologies necessarily imply oppression and violence, both because I do not claim to have the ability to read minds and because I believe in the realism and importance of logical fallacies and therefore the fact that personal smearing is a fallacious distraction from the issue of whether a given idea is good or bad. I actually believe that logical coherence and intellectual honesty matter, and I bellieve my record of engaging with critique and critics shows this fact. I don’t viciously smear people whom I have never met simply because I disagree with them, because I consider doing so to be dishonest, cowardly, malicious, and generally destructive to human decency and intellectual discourse. I don’t avoid citing people and strawman them. When you cannot honestly debate, when you cannot cite or quote your opponents, and when you cannot even keep your own arguments straight across the course of an hour, you resort to vile, dishonest, incoherent slander.

Predictably, the same personage of William Gillis had occasion to outdo himself around the same time in writing with his essay On No Platform and ITS. Gillis slightly lessened his previous ambiguous dishonesty and/or incompetence by at least quoting one brief passage of my piece, but he failed (deliberately or not) to even remotely display my main points with his extremely decontextualized quotation. Gillis is untroubled by any scholarly concerns of trying to honestly steelman your opponent before critiquing them.

Worse yet, in a remarkably slimy manner, he followed my decontextualized quotation immediately with an entirely imaginary, hypothetical quotation of mine (complete with quotation marks) referring to people criticizing opponents of ITS as “cucks.” He then momentarily self-identifies as a “cuck” a few sentences later in positioning himself as opposing me. Gillis appears much more concerned with cuckery than I, as someone who has never used that word in even one single instance of my hundreds of hours of podcasting and many thousands of words of published writing. To be fair, Gillis never explicitly claims that I used this language, but by engaging in this mind-reading in which he imaginatively put words in my mouth, using quotation marks immediately following an actual quotation by me, a careless or gullible reader might come away with the impression that I actually referred to, or might believably hypothetically refer to, critics of ITS with the alt-right shibboleth of “cucks.” I can reasonably confidently speculate that it was precisely Gillis’ intention to indirectly associate me with the alt-right by using this language, which he must know is tantamount to unpersoning someone in post-2010, heavily Woke/Antifa-influenced anarchism in which moral panics and denunciations are common.

When Gillis posted his essay on the forum anarchistnews.org, I responded exhaustively in the comments section (now lost to time on anarchistnews.org). The response was largely similar to the above and so does not bear repeating in what is already a long post about petty drama from either ideologically blind or dishonest people with whom I already lament having to deal. I cited the fact that he had not responded in any way to my systematic response to his previous podcast criticism. He similarly responded not at all to my lengthy comment. In spite of his willful unaccountability to engagement, this essay of Gillis’ is still available in full form on his website. Given that Gillis chose not to respond to either my critical response to his podcast or his writing – in both of which I pointed out his bad faith misquotes or misinterpretations of me – I have to conclude (in spite of not knowing him at all personally) that he is an unserious critic motivated by brute, realpolitik ideological concerns and pointless scene-infighting rather than intellectual and ethical concerns of improving American anarchism and moving us all toward freedom and dignity.

Having considered this issue now at length, I do not see anything that should leave room for lingering doubts here regarding either my personal ethics as regards eco-extremism or my circumspection in responding to my critics.

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