The Empowered Nerd.

Corpsey

call me big papa
I read the book about Breivik, 'One of Us'. It connected the general social/political conditions of Norway during his life to his actions (e.g. the revolt against feminism and immigration/Islam), but it was also about a man who seemingly never managed to make any really significant friendships or relationships work, who was shunned and ridiculed within the graffiti community, then the online Warcraft community, even within the radical right wing. It is actually a rather sad book (and that includes, of course, the fate of his innocent victims) - perhaps you'd like it luka?

The point of this was that yes there were social forces at play, including that Breivik probably felt entitled to things as a relatively affluent white man in that society, but also that he was somebody with significant mental health issues and character flaws which went untreated. White supremacy, like World of Warcraft, gave him something to feel superior about.

ANYWAY, perhaps this has derailed things away from a discussion of the nerd in political form. I can see Shkreli massacring a classroom of colleagues if he'd never made a success of his business ventures.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Alienated youths are not the casualties of liberalism, they are causalities of toxic social conservatism...
I'm not so sure of this. I think you're not considering the importance that self-hatred surely plays in these kinds of cases.

Consider: what you might call economic or right-liberalism, or alternatively neoliberalism, insists on the illusion of meritocracy, so that the successful deserve to be successful, and conversely, if you're dissatisfied with your life, you've no-one to blame but yourself. You're either not trying hard enough, or you're just not clever and resourceful enough, or both. Meanwhile social or left-liberalism is forever demanding that white guys check their privilege, and acknowledge that whatever problems they may have, they're nothing compared to racism, misogyny and so on. So now our furious, lonely basement-dweller feels like he's being made to feel bad for feeling bad about himself! And of course, the doctrine of privilege and disprivilege is essentially true: being white, this guy isn't going to get shot dead by a cop for basically no reason; being male, he isn't getting barraged with abuse by strangers if he ever ventures online outside of a secure group of close friends, and he's vastly less at risk of actual sexual assault. He's not going to get spat or yelled at for being visibly non-Christian. He's more likely to get any given job he goes for but it by no means guarantees he has a job, or a worthwhile job. It certainly doesn't guarantee him a hot girlfriend, or any girlfriend, or a solid group of friends or a decent family life. So if he lacks some or all of these things, he feels even more of a failure. Perhaps there's an unwitting confluence of social conservatism here (he feels it's his right to earn loads of money and get hot chicks, because that's just how it ought to be - and perhaps was, for his dad/uncles/grandfathers) and social liberalism (he feels even worse about his lack of achievement because, really, there's less standing in his way than the majority of other people).
 
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vimothy

yurp
That's a good point. The word "meritocracy" actually derives from a book called The Rise of the Meritocracy which imagines a future "meritocratic" society where the poor are judged to be without merit, moral failures who deserve their fate as social detritus:

I have been sadly disappointed by my 1958 book, The Rise of the Meritocracy. I coined a word which has gone into general circulation... The book was a satire meant to be a warning (which needless to say has not been heeded)...

Underpinning my argument was a non-controversial historical analysis of what had been happening to society for more than a century before 1958, and most emphatically since the 1870s, when schooling was made compulsory and competitive entry to the civil service became the rule.

Until that time status was generally ascribed by birth. But irrespective of people's birth, status has gradually become more achievable.

It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.

Ability of a conventional kind, which used to be distributed between the classes more or less at random, has become much more highly concentrated by the engine of education.

A social revolution has been accomplished by harnessing schools and universities to the task of sieving people according to education's narrow band of values.

With an amazing battery of certificates and degrees at its disposal, education has put its seal of approval on a minority, and its seal of disapproval on the many who fail to shine from the time they are relegated to the bottom streams at the age of seven or before.

The new class has the means at hand, and largely under its control, by which it reproduces itself.

The more controversial prediction and the warning followed from the historical analysis. I expected that the poor and the disadvantaged would be done down, and in fact they have been. If branded at school they are more vulnerable for later unemployment.

They can easily become demoralised by being looked down on so woundingly by people who have done well for themselves.

It is hard indeed in a society that makes so much of merit to be judged as having none. No underclass has ever been left as morally naked as that.

They have been deprived by educational selection of many of those who would have been their natural leaders, the able spokesmen and spokeswomen from the working class who continued to identify with the class from which they came.

Their leaders were a standing opposition to the rich and the powerful in the never-ending competition in parliament and industry between the haves and the have-nots.

With the coming of the meritocracy, the now leaderless masses were partially disfranchised; as time has gone by, more and more of them have been disengaged, and disaffected to the extent of not even bothering to vote. They no longer have their own people to represent them.
 

firefinga

New member
I thought "entitled nerd" got it pretty well. I've also heard "internet man-babies", particularly for the sub-class who act like they're the victims of Stalinist oppression if the latest edition of their favorite game franchise doesn't have bouncy enough tits in it.
Sure enough but a direct consequence of the "the world is supposed to let my voice be heard" dogma. They are structurally another sub-set of the Special Snowflake
 

you

New member
Oh no I get it. I know this argument. It goes like this
Why are poor people in England always moaning. They got iPhone, sky TV, lager, skunk, air max. People in Ethiopia only eat one grain of rice a day and look at them, always happy and dancing and making the best of things.
This is not my argument. My argument is that I feel acting out teens, in particular the typically male, white, middle-american ilk, receive a disproportionate level of attention - attention that rightly sees them and their mis-behaviour as symptomatic, but incorrectly grants them a level of significance that is unfair. Spree-killers are a most prominent example. Sandy Hook is a great example highlighted in a book I'm currently reviewing. More children were murdered in Chicago in the same year than the death total of Lanza's Sandy Hook shooting. But the 'big event' warranted a lot of hand wringing and 'where have we gone wrong' column inches etc. But where are the opinion pieces for the just as symptomatic problem of the Chicago murder rate? People that commit crime are damaged people, they are all causalities on some level. I do not believe in people being born bad or evil or any of that nonsense. My gripe is that there seems to be a certain empowered nerd gravity that distorts responses that examine the larger social issues. I'm not arguing on the basis of a hierarchy of hardship - I just feel social reflection is skewed by spectacle and privileges the nerd's cry for help.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Yeah that's true, I guess the disparity of coverage is down to the middle classes not feeling threatened by inner city gun violence in the same way. It's the same reason I (shamefully) don't really blink if I see there's been a terrorist attack in Iraq. but the merest hint of one in London or Paris hypnotises me. 'It could be you' is what that says. Definitely agree that there's an inherent racism in the ease with which violence in poverty stricken areas is accepted and dismissed.

I guess what makes the rampaging nerd seem more psychologically interesting is that drug related violence seems somehow (terribly) 'rational', whereas a person who has all the material comforts in the world going postal defies our expectations of what financial security and education provides us with. In fact it's the very violation of that security which connects the postal loner with the ISIS militant. (And Breivik was probably the best example of somebody who combined angry loner nerdiness with militant ideological fervour).
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I don't think it's really that surprising if people pay more attention when someone commits a dozen murders all in one go than when a single killing occurs, or if the victims are chosen entirely at random than when they're involved in crime themselves and therefore a 'legitimate' target in the killer's mind. (Edit: or indeed 'rational', as you say, Corpsey - in a sense it's nothing more than the business rules of that particular world.)
 
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you

New member
Yeah that's true, I guess the disparity of coverage is down to the middle classes not feeling threatened by inner city gun violence in the same way. It's the same reason I (shamefully) don't really blink if I see there's been a terrorist attack in Iraq. but the merest hint of one in London or Paris hypnotises me. 'It could be you' is what that says. Definitely agree that there's an inherent racism in the ease with which violence in poverty stricken areas is accepted and dismissed.

I guess what makes the rampaging nerd seem more psychologically interesting is that drug related violence seems somehow (terribly) 'rational', whereas a person who has all the material comforts in the world going postal defies our expectations of what financial security and education provides us with. In fact it's the very violation of that security which connects the postal loner with the ISIS militant. (And Breivik was probably the best example of somebody who combined angry loner nerdiness with militant ideological fervour).
Without wanting to put too much onus on the particular individuals' problems (and privileging the more privileged, as I've said I have a problem with), the worrisome difference between deaths and crime that relates obviously to poverty and deaths and crime that are caused by an individual's ideological issues or social isolation is that the latter is somehow not solved by prosperity.

It is an unnerving prospect. Death and crime rates linked to economic inequality are an easy reconcile for many. 'Well, it is a poor area...y'know'. But death and crime caused by a middle-class sleeper-cell cannot be reconciled in the same fashion. I think this is part of why privileged violent criminals (especially those from a traditional family, with education and wealth) are so fascinating to many.

Of course, this economic or family based view of crime is wrong. It is myopic. People are complex and commit crimes for many reasons. This view also prejudices the poor by disallowing a nuanced understanding of their problems whilst affording that to the acting-out boy from a 'good home'.

Surely this is why ruminating about the impetus of Kaczynski or McVeigh is more troubling than considering Pedro Lopez's?

A note on terrorism. I've often thought the parallel between young ('Muslim') men who go to Syria to fight for ISIS and their (mostly white British) counter parts, those wannabe soldiers, who also went to such regions to fight against ISIS are indicative of the same ideological and cultural poverty. That the UK offers young men nothing, no social support (try actively supporting a premier league football team on Jobseekers allowance, or even going out at all) - no sense of identity, purpose or value. I'm not really saying a crisis of masculinity is the issue, more that notions of masculinity are narrower today than before (oddly).
 

you

New member
Going to expand on that last line before you flame me. The dismantling of masculinity since the 80's was a good thing. It is good thing. But I now feel that there is a rampant return of gender binaries - but in much more acute terms. Whereas before each role was diverse (to a point) now each mode is limited. Machismo is about money and muscle... gone are the trade and industry senses of identity, worth and pride. Also dwindling are access to social pursuits that provide any sense of belonging. Mercedes on instagram and pump sessions beneath TV's that depict lavish always-summer lifestyles are the contemporary surrogates - at a time when gender binaries are returning. I caught a moment of the apprentice last night, a young man was being told to be more aggressive and forceful - told to be strong (this is laughable 80's bro-economics, all about boardroom tigers and that shit). But think of the disjunct between that scene what is expected of him outside the shiny boardroom spaces - shopping, selfies 'reality' TV are all that is left. Surely this is why certain fantasy TV is so successful - the crass fantasy machismo or Game of Thrones stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous equality depicted/staged in Bake Off or Made in Chelsea.
 

you

New member
I really dislike it. It is regressive in almost every way. Feudal hierarchies, suffering women and powerful and/or violent men. Even in terms of fantasy and sci-fi (that has always had a dodgy side with unequal gender representations) it is poor. The retort I hear most is that 'ah yes, but the character development and depth of emotion...' what? So this outdated sexist machismo is OK if it is elaborated in great detail? Pur-leeze. It is precisely this type of stuff that is the soft propagation of unequal values. As bad as Barbie and Ken, or worse.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
I think GoT is a bit more complicated than that, although that's an interesting POV on why it should be so popular right now. It's an interesting point re: suffering women, but OTOH that seems to have been the condition women have historically had to live with and continue to live with in many societies, and even in our society, though perhaps in subtler forms.

The 'strong' and violent men in GoT tend to be depicted unsympathetically (one of the few likeable characters in it is Tyrion Lannister, who generally avoids violence wherever possible and gets it in the neck on several occasions for treating women as more than objects... whereas the arch-villain is Joffrey, who sees everybody, and especially women, as objects). There's also female characters in powerful roles, and they tend to be among the only characters we are encouraged to root for. (Cersei and the Red Woman are two obvious exceptions.)

Of course this is all belied by the show's regrettable insistence on having women take their tops off. A large part of the show's appeal is the sex and violence. Even so, I don't think the violence in GOT, as gratuitous as it might be, tends to be the sort you cheer along with. It's closer to watching a horror film, and enjoying the shock and stimulation of being repulsed.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I really dislike it. It is regressive in almost every way. Feudal hierarchies, suffering women and powerful and/or violent men. Even in terms of fantasy and sci-fi (that has always had a dodgy side with unequal gender representations) it is poor. The retort I hear most is that 'ah yes, but the character development and depth of emotion...' what? So this outdated sexist machismo is OK if it is elaborated in great detail? Pur-leeze. It is precisely this type of stuff that is the soft propagation of unequal values. As bad as Barbie and Ken, or worse.
At the end of the last series, the fate of basically the entire world lies in the hands of about eight women. Seriously.
 
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