Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump and the /b/tards

Towards the end of 2006 I began playing a simple text based MMO that I ended up playing for about nine years. A few months after I started on Alpha server they opened up a new server, Beta. Myself and a bunch of my Alpha guildmates started another branch of our Alpha guild on the new server. After a while I ended up the leader of my guild which meant I was often involved in behind-the-scenes diplomacy and planning with our allies. It was in the context of this experience that I first met the group of internet trolls originating from the infamous 4chan website. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this strange group of people would become politically relevant.

Sometimes calling themselves /b/tards after one of the 4chan forums they used and now more widely known as the alt-right, these people are rather difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't directly experienced their peculiar form of social interaction. For a long time I assumed they were radical leftists just because of their irreverent behavior. I had to revise my assessment after spending a few days as a guest in one of their guilds. Sandwiched between all the porn and uncensored pictures of people who had lost half of their face from a motorcycle accident and the like, I saw what they all called "gunporn", basically glamour shots of guns. It was one of the very few things they appeared to be serious about. No modern leftist would be caught dead entertaining "gunporn". I simply thought, "Huh?" and got the hell out of there which is, as I will show, exactly the sort of reaction they are attempting to provoke.

Early on Beta server was dominated by daughter guilds of Alpha server guilds who wanted the same basic rules of engagement standard on Alpha server. These rules were very simple and made sense: don't attack a member of our guild or we will contact your guild leadership. If your guild leadership is defiant and/or refuses to restrain its members, there will be war. War is declared openly and formally on the game forum and concluded in the same manner. The first set of ten galaxies, B00-B09 were populated mostly by this type of guild. When the second set opened however we observed a massive influx of new players. They formed a series of guilds with clever names centering around a guild with the tag "GOON", ostensibly an acronym for something but probably not, and they all together became known as GOONs.

For a very long time the GOONs kept mostly to themselves in the B10-B13 area. Frankly they sucked and didn't know what they were doing in-game. This was not the case however with the game forums. The GOONs invaded the forms and were constantly posting porn and other crap which had to be blocked and taken down by the forum admins. The effort was complete with multiple fake accounts to get around account blocking and all the other sorts of scurrilous behavior used by online trolls. Everything they did was designed to make a mockery of the rules regardless of what they were. They posted fake war declarations all the time and invaded legitimate war threads with all manner of nonsense, often starting fake flamewars with each other by taking sides in conflicts in which they were not involved. In the early days the GOONs spent far more time on the forums then they did playing the actual game. Mostly people tried to ignore them, conduct their business and get back to playing the game. Others joined in the fun. But some of the older players such as my own guild leader at the time could not let it go.

Their actual playing of the game, while limited and relatively inconsequential, was designed just as their forum antics were. They attacked indiscriminately and when challenged they loudly proclaimed they did it for the "lulz" or "profit" or whatever silly nonsensical thing they could think of. When asked to discipline or restrain their members they laughed in our faces and told us to go fuck ourselves. When faced with reprisals they laughed in our faces and told us to go fuck ourselves. As often as not they made fun of their own members who got attacked in such reprisals.

Our guild in particular encouraged newer members from the second set of galaxies, B10-B19 to join us and taught them to play. As a result we were often dealing with random acts of GOONness visited upon our newer members. Our guild leader got so fed up with them he decided to wipe them out and started planning a full-scale invasion of their home galaxies. At the time we were orders of magnitude stronger than the GOONs and certainly would have succeeded, but server politics got in the way and we ended up involved in a much larger server war. Our invasion plans were scrapped and never taken up again. With bigger problems on our plate, we and everybody else realized the GOONs were not a serious in-game power and could just be ignored. In fact, it was usually better to just ignore them as they fed on attention, especially negative attention.

Fast forward a few years and my guild's coalition was in the process of being wiped out in what became the norm for Beta server: a server-wide war of annihilation quite unlike the more civilized Alpha server wars. Our opponents were led by an oligarchy of Alpha server rejects who took out their frustrations against Alpha style politics on Beta server. They were rumored to be led by a notorious figure known as "Alcibiades" on Alpha who had been blacklisted by every major Alpha guild for role-playing his namesake and betraying every guild he ever joined, switching sides whenever he could gain an advantage. He responded by collecting other malcontents and formed the RAGE coalition on Beta which again lived up to its name and was driven primarily by Alci's hatred of the various Alpha leaders who operated on Beta server. The hatred inspired by Alci was intentional, explicit and infinitely malleable as most of the other RAGE leaders were easily manipulated kids. In time RAGE adopted much of GOON's modus operandi both in-game and on the Forum with the notable exception of exceptional in-game competence and purpose, mostly, we assumed, provided by Alci himself. The RAGE coalition acted like GOONs but weren't because Alci was something of a strategic genius and knew how to manipulate people to act together towards his aims, whereas the GOONs were disorganized at best. However the GOONs largely escaped RAGE's tender mercies since they were not the object of Alci's hate, that being reserved for the alliance of guilds I belonged to.

Our alliance tried for a very long time to convince the GOONs to join forces with us. Their neutrality allowed them time to build up, learn the game and become a legitimate power. As our plight became desperate we needed GOON more and more and spent hours of chatroom time attempting to gain their help, bringing me to the point of this post. For months, maybe even years, we warned the GOONs that if we were defeated RAGE would eventually come for them.  But the GOONs simply did not care. Most of the time they responded to us with the chat room equivalent of a blank stare and steered the conversation toward small talk or their typical trolling which our leadership endured in the vain hope of gaining their friendship and trust. Whenever our alliance leader wanted to move beyond the small talk he would almost invariably be reduced to asking over and over who the GOON leader was or at least who could speak for them on serious in-game matters.  He was always met with the chat room equivalent of a blank stare.

The GOONs of course knew what we wanted. They may even have known our warnings about RAGE were sincere. But their peculiar ethic precluded them from taking a position or making a serious move in any direction. If any of them did, they would be instantly subjected to mockery from their peers. Over and over when our side broached the subject, they would clam up. I could almost see their sideways glances at each other, each one thinking, "If I say anything, all my friends will make fun of me. Better just to post a clever meme." And so the GOONs never lifted a finger to help until it was too late.

Over time, our side was beaten and reduced to combat ineffectiveness. Those who remained survived by running away whenever RAGE came around. Some of RAGE's leaders, including one named Kham and someone we suspected of being Alci though he never took that name on Beta, grew to respect me and my merry band of outlaws. My guild had staged the last successful raid on the lower galaxies, after which RAGE effectively locked them down. I used to talk with some of the RAGE leaders now and then. As the winners I could at least respect their skill at the game, something I could not respect in GOON. RAGE did not know the GOONs as well as I did and feared them, since by this time GOON had built up comparable numbers. But I didn't fear GOON because I knew them, and in one conversation with Kham I told them why. I told him they had no leadership, and all he had to do to beat them was force them into a difficult decision and they would freeze, unable to make a unified decision.

A few months later, that's exactly what happened. RAGE invaded B10 in full force, nearly equal in numbers to what GOON had in B12. GOON was faced with a simple decision quite common in this situation: move to defend the beachhead, or stay in a more prepared defensive position. Each strategy had its positives and negatives. But GOON could not decide what to do because they had no leadership structure. Eventually half of them moved to the RAGE beachhead and were crushed. The other half stayed put or ran away, and were crushed later. And that was that. RAGE had its way with the server for some years after that.

What I have described here bears a striking resemblance to what is currently happening politically in the United States. RAGE are the leftists. My alliance are the conservatives and GOON are Trump and the so-called alt-right. In fact, the alt-right literally came from internet groups like 4chan and the /b/tards. Who are these people? What do they want? Are they a legitimate or powerful political movement? The /b/tards, now known as the alt-right, are made up of young men bound together only by a hatred of boundaries. They arose in an age where over 50% of children are now born into single-parent homes, usually lacking a father figure. The lack of fatherhood has created a subculture which despises boundaries and laughs at consequences for their behavior. As a result they are directionless, purposeless and meaningless. Their lives have devolved into a constant desperate search for boundaries to destroy, driven by their fear of mockery from their fellows. What happened in the inner city black community a few decades ago is now happening in online white communities with similar explosive results.

The /b/tards purpose and reason for being has nothing to do with policy, politics, elections or even opposing political correctness. It is a confused and lost population flailing around in the dark searching for an identity. They are confused relativists who find solace in confusing everybody else. They themselves do not believe in anything, and they reflexively tear down anything believed by anybody else. They quite literally did not and would not exist without the internet and a particular style of conversation that evolved with it based on quickly grabbing the audience's attention by being as offensive as possible. It's no surprise they've become associated with Nazis, since Nazis are about the most offensive group anybody could be associated with. Well, that and pictures of naked porn stars eating shit right out of somebody's anus.

But they aren't Nazis. They aren't nationalists. They are not racists or white supremacists. They aren't communists or socialists. They aren't conservative, liberal or progressive. They are the inventors and players of a game they have become adept at tricking people into playing. In this game the only losing position is to believe in something real, and the first to get offended or stand for any sort of morals or boundaries at all loses by definition. Even the positive things they want to do are only attractive to them because of how it will tick somebody off. Talk to them about anything serious, or really anything at all, and they will respond with vitriol, not because they disagree with you, but because they are trying to offend you and win the game. They will find your buttons and push them because it makes them feel like they have power over you. They follow only one rule: Never rise from the seat of the mocker. They invented a game that exists only in their own heads where the only winning move is not to play.

Now that's whack.