Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#StopGamerGate2014: Threat of Terrorist Massacre Against Anita Sarkeesian, or This "GamerGate" Thing Has Gone Too Far

The article: "'Massacre' threat forces Anita Sarkeesian to cancel university talk" (The Verge)

Related post: "Anita Sarkeesian Cancels Talk at Utah State After Receiving Threat of Another “Montreal Massacre.” (We Hunted The Mammoth)

Right-wing videogamers connected with the so-called "Men's Rights Movement" (sic; they really mean "Man's Right") or MRM have been on a campaign to purge female developers and players from videogames. Yes, I mean "purge" in the Stalinist sense. Particular targets include Anita Sarkeesian, who has a series of videos on YouTube called "Tropes vs. Women" about sexist and misogynist tropes in popular media with an emphasis on videogames, and Zoe Quinn, an indie game developer most famous for a largely autobiographical interactive fiction called Depression Quest. They called this "#GamerGate.

But then the death threats began. Now a right-wing extremist, likely a militia type and probably a "Men's Rights Activist" or MRA, is threatening actual terrorism because Sarkeesian was going to hold a talk at Utah State University. She had to cancel because Utah is such an "open carry" gun-rights state that not even universities can prevent people from openly carrying entire arsenals, much less ban guns from campus.

Hence I broke my silence and posted the following tweet:
Re last RT: This is enough. I can't keep quiet about it anymore. #StopGamerGate2014 because "GamerGate" is now officially a terrorist jihad.
This GamerGate thing has become so offensive, and so potentially violent, that enough people are now tweeting against it to trend #StopGamerGate2014.

Here's the political background on this: The American right wing have suffered a crushing defeat in its attempt to stop same-sex marriage from being made fully legal nationwide. Their response, as always, is to double down; but since they can no longer criminalize homosexuality, they've escalated the War on Women to increasingly hysterical extremes. Meanwhile, some of the most malicious trolls on 4chan, many or most of them belonging or connected to the MRM, got mortally offended as only wingnuts do over their favorite games (the military FPSes and gangland "murder simulators") being called out for misogynist tropes on "Tropes vs. Women", and then by the release of Depression Quest, which apparently embodies everything the Right hates in "political correctness". The MRM term for feminists is "SJWs", for "Social Justice Warriors", after their left-wing nemeses on sites like Tumblr and Reddit.

Thus plotted, the harassment campaign began, like a right-wing version of Anonymous, which also began at 4chan. GamerGate has since gotten so vicious that the Gaters (or "Gits") even got themselves banned from 4chan. Naturally, they founded their own "chan", 8chan, specifically as a home for GamerGate and other causes dear to the Internet's extreme right.

Now it has gone all the way to terrorism. As I tweeted, it is now officially a terrorist jihad. And I am now openly against not only GamerGate but the entire MRM. As a matter of fact, I've been working this opposition into my still incomplete novel Chaos Angel Spanner, even before I heard of the MRM. Oh, and that blog post I linked to at the top, from the anti-MRM blog We Hunted The Mammoth? I'm commenting there.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Real Issue in the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate, or What Creationism Is Really About

Two days ago as I write this, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and Ken Ham of the creationist group Answers in Genesis held a televised debate. Some of their supporters on both sides declared victory, while others declared Ham automatically won by having the debate in the first place. Me, I suspect that not many people on either side were convinced by the other. Nye was of course arguing against creationism. But Ham was really arguing for something else. That something else happens to be what creationism is really about. It's not about science, dead science, or pseudoscience; it's not about the origin of the world.

Creationism is really about the immortality of the soul.

I know this because I grew up partly in Ham's world and am familiar with the entire context in which creationism exists. Ham, you see, is a "dispensationalist". Science concerns itself with the nature of the real world, but dispensationalism is about the beginning, the end, and the fate of the soul. Creationism is only the beginning. The end consists of the Rapture, the seven-year Tribulation, the Antichrist, and the Last Judgment. To the dispensationalist, all of existence, including the origin of the world, is merely a prelude to the Last Judgment, the importance of which is that bible-believing Christians will become immortal residents of Heaven and infidels (including all scientists) will burn forever in Hell and suffer eternal torment dwarfing Hitler's holocaust and Stalin's terror combined.

The starting point of creationism, therefore, is the fear of death. Believe that existence is only six thousand years old, and you've made the second step to personal immortality, the first being to jettison your reason and surrender your soul to Christ. Hence, all of Ham's arguments were moral. Thus, if I had been debating him, my counterarguments would be moral too. The simple fact of evolution would be my starting point for a moral argument based on evolutionary psychology — that is, on the evolution of human morality throughout history from primitive tribalism to the universal humanism that serves as the foundation of today's global civilization. So let's take on a couple core creationist arguments:

  • Belief in evolution undermines morality: This assumes that the world is by definition empty of value because values are by definition supernatural. Live for this world instead of the next, and you too are without value like the world; ergo, you have no grounds to criticize Hitler for eating Jews. The fact blanked out: morality itself is evolving, from a jealous god's supernatural commandments that must be obeyed Or Else to the practical science by which large concentrations of people can live together peacefully. All the atrocities of the last century or so were committed by left-behind people who were nostalgic for the traditional world that was lost and unable to tolerate the new world we live in.
  • People must believe in God in order to be moral: in other words, a stern supernatural sky father must tempt us with the carrot of Heaven and threaten us with the stick of Hell, or otherwise we're by definition a race of made slashers compelled to eat each other. This is of course the famous Christian doctrine of Original Sin, which if you look at it carefully constitutes a monstrous slander against the human species. Humans are evil by definition, and morality is thus defined as obedience to the sky father's stern commandments. Never mind that the horrors of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and the Islamic terror were all committed by fanatical believers in God who obeyed his commandments without question; but then, they also defined killing infidels as moral.
Every point of evolutionary theory against which creationist debaters argue come down to the assertion that to not follow religion, especially dispensationalist Evangelical Christianity, is by definition nihilism. Here's where we believers in reality set ourselves apart: we are not nihilists. Whether or not we believe in a supernatural world, we believe that if we must live in the material world, it's our responsibility to live the best we can. This includes being good to each other and take care of the world in which we live. We can always be better; we can always improve ourselves and our society. To reject all this, to reject the world and society in which we humans exist, is the true nihilism, rejecting reality for a dream world that exists only in our fantasies and wishful thinking.

My point is: the reality behind creationism, the urge that drives it, is purely egoistic: it is the fear of death. The urge for salvation is ultimately the selfish desire for an immortal ego, a desire that can drive people to the most immoral extremes. For a non-nihilistic realist like me, it doesn't matter whether or not the soul survives the death of the body; all that matters is that we do our best to make the world a better place to live in, and not just for us humans. Science may be historically burdened with ethical problems, but at least it gives us the means to change ourselves for the better, ethically and otherwise. Evolutionary psychology can give powerful justification for a humanist ethics, especially once it recognizes our modern moral and cultural evolution. For after all, it really does come down to morality. But what kind of morality: the traditional one based obeying the commandments of a jealous god written down in a 2,000-year-old holy book, or one based in the requirements of living in the world with our fellow humans? That is what scientists and secular humanists should really be debating in the evolution/creationism issue, so it's what I'm debating right now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On the Latest School Shooting: Guns and Mental Health

A follow-up to yesterday's more emotional post. I've seen the reactions to yesterday's school shooting in which yet another unmedicated psychotic used an assault rifle to massacre innocent children and their teachers. This being America, the automatic first response is: ban guns! or expand gun rights! My position on that, as a generally pro-gun liberal, is: you can't ban guns anymore, since not only is it the kind of prohibition that enables criminal gangs but 3D printers are making it easy to make guns in your home workshop; but civilians don't really need the right to buy combat weaponry at will. But though guns are one of the great American obsessions, what with the Wild West and all, the usual pro-gun/anti-gun screaming match hides what I'm convinced is the greater issue: the almost complete lack of a mental health system in America. Americans raised in a religious environment emphasizing sin and retribution have a hard time believing that there's any such thing as mental illness at all, and they have disproportionate power in this country. In fact, too many Christians are blaming the absence of God from public schools (and the constitutional separation of church and state in as such) for all school shootings: make God our dictator and stone the infidels, they insist, and America will be at absolute peace by definition. Also, we tend to have a raging hostility to government support of anything. As for the "crazies": lock 'em up in squalid old-fashioned madhouses and leave 'em to die! Did I mention that civilization tends to be lacking here in America? I'm supposed to be this anarchist, but I was a Buddhist for many years, so I believe in "expedient means" to establish, in this case, social peace. Karl Marx, though neither Buddhist nor anarchist, insisted that the expedient means of "dictatorship of the proletariat" (over the bourgeois aristocracy, he meant, not the protofascist perversion that destroyed the name of Marxism in the 20th century) had to be established before the State could wither away to anarchy. The expedient means required in this case is to use government to build a strong mental health system that will take in mentally ill people and help them at least start to heal before they can take out their frustrations and delusions on the general public. Nearly all these spree killers are mentally ill. So are their counterparts in China responsible for the wave of mass-stabbing incidents with knives over there. China too has a corporatist government, and it has no mental health system at all, since its Stalinist brand of corporatism, like our vulgar-Calvinist variety, denies that mental illness exists. We need to help these people before they turn on us — again.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The War Comes Home: Another School Shooting, Another Normal Day in America

A rant concerning this latest incident: Twenty schoolchildren, eight others dead in Connecticut massacre One sign that your country is dying is that massacres of innocents by heavily armed psychopaths become normal. Now, America's fighting several blithely genocidal wars abroad, and trying to start several more, for the profits of the military-industrial complex that rules its empire. Sure, Barack Obama, blithe mass murderer of Muslims by drone and super soldier, cries for twenty innocent children in Connecticut. But none of us cries for the millions of innocent children in the countries America's conquering in order to steal their oil. This is utterly nihilistic — but Social Darwinism is our national faith, so this kind of thing is what our nation stands for! We call it the Wild West, or American values (e.g., God-given gun rights, "stand your ground", etc.). The civilized world, to which America has always refused to belong, calls it barbarism. Back in the 1920s, the general opinion of civilized Americans was that there is no such thing as "American civilization"; that phrase is, by definition, a contradiction in terms. America went directly from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization. Sure, there's pockets of civilization scattered around here and there, primarily in the more liberal big cities and college towns. But this massacre of innocent children in a small New England town is a reminder of America's true nature — i.e. no different from those other jihadis — and that barbarism will hunt civilized people down and slaughter them anywhere. Even worse: the killer was a local who went to that school and whose mother — his first victim — was a teacher! I don't ever expect anything to be done to help the mentally ill in America; after all, Social Darwinism is the national faith, and the victims are eugenically inferior because they died and the killer proved himself inferior by killing himself. I don't expect anybody in power to call for restoring the ban on civilian ownership of assault weapons, either; after all, the right to bear combat weaponry was given to Real Americans by GOD!!! and is too much a part of the national faith. This is the empire of capitalistic Christian Egoism, after all. Instead, I expect America to share the fate of its symbiotic enemy, the Soviet Union. The Cold War never ended; only one of its evil empires went away. It won't end until the other empire — ours — falls too. Need more proof that American conservatism and Corporatism have gone completely insane? Just wait till the terrorist insurrections begin — and they will, believe me. The Götterdämmerung of Conservative America is at hand. A disclaimer: I'm not even pretending to be an objective analyst in this post. The blood of twenty innocent children murdered by a psychopath won't let me. I need to vent my outrage before I punch out any of my conservative relatives, who aren't enemies. Now that it's out of my system, I can finally be objective: After several decades of devotion to drug prohibition, some American voters in Western states (including my own) have started to rebel against it. Will massacre after massacre of innocent civilians wake Americans up to the danger of guns in the hands of psychos, or to the dire need for the kind of mental-health system genuinely civilized countries consider an absolute necessity? How many American civilians have to die like their "enemy" Muslim counterparts before Americans start to wake up? My hope is that it won't take many more. But there's a class-war element to this, too. Note that the most conservative states dominated by the richest conservatives are the ones with the laxest gun (and even murder) laws and the highest murder rates. The 19th-century robber baron Jay Gould bragged that he could hire half the working class to kill the other half. He meant right-wing terrorism, championed in his day by the Ku Klux Klan. This kind of thing is exactly what he was talking about. Just wait till the real terrorism begins...

Monday, September 17, 2012

His Name Was Willard Romney, Incorporated (Part 2)

Vulture capitalist turned presidential candidate Willard Romney, Inc. speaks his true opinion of the American electorate in an unguarded moment. In the language of Paul Ryan's guru Ayn Rand, that means nearly half the voters are moochers who exist only to loot the Producers i.e. the plutocratic class of Romney and Ryan. In the mountain tunnel scene of Atlas Shrugged (called "The Moratorium on Brains"), Rand blew a trainful of such people up. But what Romney and Ryan don't know is that corporatists like them are the villains of Atlas Shrugged — in fact, arguably worse: at least Orren Boyle was an industrialist, though an incompetent one whose company continued to exist because of government support. It's Boyle's kind that are behind protectionist laws. Romney himself is in fact worse: he got his fortune from destroying companies and exporting jobs to China. Apparently the vulture capitalist was too horrific a concept for Rand. But now we're stuck with an aristocracy of them. And Willard Romney, Inc. is their standard bearer, their point man in their Social Darwinist crusade against democracy and the common man.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Republican Party Is Over

I've said previously that the Republicans have lost this election. The Mitt Romney campaign, it is said, are secretly conceding. But I wasn't confident enough to go one step further. But Laura Ingraham has. Even Rush Limbaugh has. The Republican Party is over. Of course, the conservative pundits add one caveat: "if Obama wins this election" (which they think is impossible unless Americans' faith is lacking). I'm saying Obama has already won it. Fact: The Democrats got a "bounce" in the polls from their convention. The Republicans got nothing. Not that polls are scientific or anything, but this is a bad sign. Fact: The Republican presidential ticket was upstaged at their own convention by an old man raving dementedly at an empty chair. (The chair became an instant star. Watch out, inanimate carbon rod!) Fact: This election the Republicans face not one but two spoiler parties (the Libertarian Party, which has picked up the Ron Paul libertarian vote; and the Constitution Party, which aims to be the party of the Christian Right); the Democrats face none, not even the Greens that helped cost them the 2000 election. Obama now has Clinton's spoiler advantage. Fact: There are five upcoming debates, two between the presidential candidates and two vice-presidential. So far, Willard Romney Inc. and Paul Ryan have not shown that they are ready to take on Obama and Biden. But these are reasons why the current Republican presidential ticket will lose the 2012 election. But here's some signs that the GOP may not survive this election at all:
  1. Demographics. The older the generation, the whiter and more conservative, and the more likely voters will vote Republican. Also, in the wake of the Crash of 2008, the nation is becoming more urban, and cities are far more diverse and liberal than the suburbs and exurbs that are the traditional base of conservative power.
  2. The libertarian wing was in effect purged. It is no longer part of the Republican coalition at all. It has its own party: the Libertarian Party. After 2012, not even conservative libertarians will vote Republican ever again.
  3. Another major wing of the GOP, the Christian Right, has a third party of its own competing for Republican votes: the Constitution Party. In this election the CP is in perfect position to suck up votes from white Evangelical fundamentalists that would otherwise go Republican if only the GOP candidate were not Mammon-worshipping Mormon plutocrat Willard Romney Inc. More on the CP below.
  4. At the Republican National Convention, the party establishment pushed through a rule change that would in effect eliminate any more populist "insurrections" like those behind Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Ron Paul. The Republican National Committee, in effect, established a dictatorship within the party, like that of the Communist Party to which so many neocons in the party establishment used to belong. The Sovietization of the GOP is now complete.
  5. The plutocrats who currently control the GOP are not loyal to any political party; rather, they buy parties. The coming Republican Massacre will convince them that the GOP is now a failed investment, so they'll abandon their losses and shift their attention to the Democrats.
I've previously predicted that the Republicans would shrink into a sectional religious party. But the Constitution Party is already that; a religious GOP is redundant. So I am now confident enough to take that one step further: It's not just the end of an era of Republican dominance. It's the end of the Republican Party, period. It's about to join its predecessors, the Federalists and Whigs, to oblivion. And after that? Consider that the Constitution Party is the existing sectional religious of the South, and the main base of Libertarian popularity is the West. That would make the Democrats the only remaining national party in 2016. You know the corporatists who now own the GOP will attempt a hostile takeover of the Democrats, complete with a purge of the liberal base and

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Republicans Have Already Lost; or, Barry Goldwater All Over Again

Willard Romney, Incorporated was already losing in the political polls. Then on Saturday the 11th, he made what he thought was the winningest pick for vice president: Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Romney-Ryan has already lost. Here's why. In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona ran his Republican presidential campaign on a more or less ideologically pure platform and got his butt handed to him by President Lyndon Johnson, who proceeded to sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Paul Ryan is the architect of this year's GOP platform. His plan ends Medicare, privatizes Social Security, raises taxes on the middle class and the poor, and all but subsidizes the rich. He justifies this with Ayn Rand's ethics, which states that the big industrialists are the true producers and everybody else is a mooching looter and moral cannibal living off their totally deserved wealth. The not-so-hidden assumptions are "vulgar Calvinism", the belief that wealth is the mark of virtue or is itself virtue, and Social Darwinism, the cult of "the survival of the fittest" — combined in the assumption that the rich are the fittest and the poor are the unfit that must be destroyed. Seems the Corporates have not evolved one bit since they tried to destroy President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Hell, some of them even supported Hitler in his Kampf or jihad against America. America is evolving and changing around them, yet they haven't changed one bit. Wealth and power can be very regressive forces indeed. Ryan's plan to destroy Medicare and sell off Social Security to his predatory Corporate friends will lose him the senior vote that the GOP previously relied on as the core of their base. It's even threatening the GOP down-ticket: Ryan is now every GOP politician's running mate, since he wrote the party platform he's now running on as VP nominee. There are two potential Ralph Nader/Ross Perot-type spoilers. First, there's the Libertarian Party, whose nominee Gary Johnson is running on essentially the Ron Paul platform. He will siphon away at least a significant proportion of Paul supporters from Romney-Ryan. The other is the second biggest third party, Dominionist party variously called Constitution, Independence, and American Taxpayers. If they can nominate a top ticket with a high enough profile, they could take away a good chunk of the Religious Right. The platform Romney and Ryan are running on is essentially Corporatism, an ideology with little mass appeal precisely because it scorns the masses. Its current basis is Ayn Rand's ideology of Objectivism, which is basically Stalinism turned upside down: she replaced Marxism's revolutionary proletariat with a revolutionary bourgeoisie, and replaced Christian and Marxist altruism (the ethics of self-sacrifice) with an equally extreme egoism. Now combine this disadvantage with the threat of two competing right-wing third parties. The result? A second term for President Barack Obama, the guy the Right hates because the Great White Father isn't supposed to be black. Note that I never mentioned the Democratic Party once in the above paragraphs. Democratic Presidents, yes, but not the party. That's because, as I've been saying since last year, this election is the Republicans' to lose. Now I'm convince that they've already lost it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Problem with July 4 and Other High Holy Days of the Chosen Nation

Happy America's Birthday, readers! Sorry if I'm skeptical, but I'm one of those people who grow radical as they grow older (I'm approaching middle age already, though I don't look it) and I haven't called it "Independence Day" since the day I found out America is the reincarnation of the British Empire. Before then, America stood for freedom or something. Now it stands for one and only one thing, Total World Domination (called in our official State religion, Americanism — you know, the one that claims the Second Coming of Christ occurred on this day in 1776 which we're supposed to be celebrating? — Manifest Destiny, freedom and democracy be damned). America Takes Over The World — and after that, United Space of America! Sure enough, what started as the celebration of a young nation's freedom is now the cult day (one of many) dedicated to the supremacy of Our Heroic Imperial Armed Forces who keep the world in subjection. It's the ultimate example of mission creep, which should be in school textbooks after the American Empire follows all other empires in history into the proverbial trash can of history. The worst part of the day, according to my mother (who, among other things, owns two dogs), is that this day's gigantic fireworks orgy terrifies all the animals, sometimes to madness. I've come to the conclusion that it symbolizes America's national strategy of bombing all opposition to smithereens for the sake of our nation's corporate profits, freedom and democracy and the lives of innocent civilians be damned. The conquest of Earth is America's Manifest Destiny, you liberal homosexual commie Eurotrash traitors! Four years ago, I posted here my opinion that patriotism is a sin. Now I know better: nationalism is a cult, the cult of the State, and patriotism is its expression of faith. In other words, a nation is just a glorified tribe. Me, I'm an atheist, and the nation-state strikes me as a pseudo-secular neopagan replacement for the God who abandoned Old Christendom, a search for a God where there is none. Every State believes it and it alone is by definition the one true God, the same way every tribe by definition is the one true master race. But what is a State, really? A giant corporation whose business is tribalism, no less monopolistic and predatory than any other giant corporation. I'm an anarchist because I'm an atheist. So I'm not treating the Fourth of July like the High Holy Day of the Nation that it's supposed to be, any more, say, than I sing "O Canada" three days earlier. I'm going to enjoy the company of my family and tonight's fireworks show (maybe even take pictures). I won't spoil the occasion for my friends and relatives because, hey, I like them. Besides, America belongs to its oligarchs, not its people, and the people — all the people of the world — belong to them too, by definition. Manifest Destiny, y'know. This opinion is my addition to these posts: "When Americans Understood the Declaration of Indepencence", Thomas J. DiLorenzo, LewRockwell.com "How to Celebrate July 4", Sheldon Richman, Free Association (End the empire — now!) "Founding Fathers Quotes You've Probably Never Heard", David O. Atkins, Hullaballoo ("Buncha commies!") "'Deriving Their Just Power from the Consent of the Governed" (as long as they can prove to Republicans that they're worthy)" by Digby, Hullabaloo ("I don't think Thomas Jefferson had this sort of thing in mind when he wrote the great document [Declaration of Independence].") "To be a patriot: Adlai Stevenson, McCarthyism and a message for Independence Day by MrLiberal, Daily Kos (how the liberal Democratic candidate tried to wrest the word "patriot" from Joe McCarthy and lost) ...and other comments by skeptics of the Empire's Birthday. Note that these are posts by liberals, genuine libertarians, and Old Right conservatives. The true Left is, of course, against the very idea of nationhood on principle: humanity is one and should stop listening to the divisive siren songs of would-be messiahs and their giant corporations of tribalism they call nations; We the People need to control our destiny together, collectively, because our future depends on it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yes, Reverend, Atheists Grieve Too

I read this post quoting from this article about this opinion in which an Episcopal priest claims that atheists are incapable of grieving because they don't believe in God. Say what? So I felt I had to spell out my own position on this:
  1. People who believe in God almost always believe in Heaven as well. Some atheists (not me) surely wonder why they don't celebrate when a dead loved one goes to Jesus or gloat when an unbeliever is "rewarded" with eternal punishment in Hell. (I know of some believers who do just this.)
  2. Most atheists don't believe in an afterlife (I'm agnostic on specifically this). If a loved one dies and you've lost them, wouldn't you have more reason to grieve?
The assumption of some believers, especially those most involved in spreading the religion, is that belief in God is the prerequisite for morality. If there is neither God nor heaven, the reasoning goes, then morality does not exist because by definition it comes only from On High. Presumably the converse is therefore true, that believers are by definition moral — against which I give you examples such as the Crusaders, the Inquisition, Al-Qaeda, and the Cult of Reason that justified the Jacobins' massacres during the Reign of Terror that ultimately destroyed the French Revolution. Against the main point (God makes morality possible), there's the uncountable number of unbelievers who are good people living moral lives based on relationships with themselves and other people as opposed to some absolute monarch ruling from Heaven. I'll probably get counterexamples thrown at me, atheists who the believers believe prove their point: Ayn Rand, Joseph Stalin, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins. All this proves is that dogmatism is as dangerous and destructive among atheists as it is among believers. The pessimistic case: life is short, we all die, eventually it's as if we never lived, so some kind of escape is necessary, even if only into fantasy. The assumption here is that the lack of an afterlife drains life of all worth. But from the viewpoint of objective realism, isn't it truer that if one life is all we have, it's the most valuable thing in the world? And since we humans are social animals, it also means we need to value each other all the more. It's not true that lack of religion necessarily leads to nihilism. (I skirted close to nihilism myself once — when I was young.) In fact, it may be a sign of a mature and realistic worldview. And whereas the devout aren't required to mourn those who after all are going to Jesus, those without religion who have just lost someone forever have all the reason in the world to grieve.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

His Name Was Willard Romney, Incorporated

When F. Scott Fitzgerald began one of his novels with the statement “The rich are different from you and I,” he wasn’t talking about mere cash flow, but worldview. Willard Mitt Romney, the Overclass’ designated robocandidate, exemplifies that worldview so central-casting perfectly that it’s not even funny. Now that he’s won the Republican Party nomination for President, everyone is about to find out how.

First, a relevant digression. In his cyberpunk short story “Sunken Gardens,” Bruce Sterling introduces the story’s dominant character (not the main character, a near-nonentity) with this sentence: “Her name was Arkadya Sorienti, Incorporated.” Later he repeatedly refers to her as “The Sorienti.” And of course I “homaged” that notation to refer to my High Corporate villains in Chaos Angel Spanner.

Willard Mitt Romney is the very archetype of the High Corporate aristocrat. He’s slick, soulless, and robotic to the point of activating the “uncanny valley” response in actual humans. He drips with contempt for the “inferior” orders. He’s a “vulture capitalist” who specializes in destroying American businesses and jobs. He’s on record as saying that inheriting great wealth is equivalent to inheriting great looks or talent, in denial of all the evidence which shows that inheriting great wealth sucks away all talent and personality. He shares his caste’s delusion that being rich means being genetically superior by definition. His goal is that of his caste: to abolish democracy worldwide and establish the global dictatorship of American Corporatism.

A candidate so stuck up, so cluelessly arrogant, would have to be a bottomless fount of campaign-destroying gaffes of the caliber of Carly Fiorina’s demon sheep. So Romney. There’s the dog-atop-the-car incident that has pet lovers hissing and growling. There’s the time he publicly confessed he enjoys firing people — and it’s not just firing yard work contractors; it’s firing people, period, that turns him on, or he wouldn’t have made it his life’s work. There’s how he gets testy with angry poor people and talks down to them. There’s how he looks so artificial that people have taken to calling him a robot (e.g. RomBot) and a zombie (Zomney). And the gaffes will not stop. They cannot stop because Romney completely lacks the ability to connect with people below his own aristocratic caste.

Last year, surveying the much broader field of Republican candidates in what had already turned into a tawdry reality show by the time The Donald briefly entered the race on a “birther” platform, I predicted (privately and on Twitter) that even though there’s no way Obama, unmasked as a Nixonite conservative, could win the 2012 presidential election, the Republicans would find a way to lose it. As it turned out, they found several: Trump, the pizza man and his Sim City tax plan, the crazy lady, the debate reality show, Newt’s ego, Santorum’s sanctimony, the replacement of democracy with corporate fascism, tax cuts for the rich and tax war against the poor, and a relentless war not just on workers but women. The Gang Of Plunderers are certain that they are invincible because God and infinite wealth are on their side. The triumphalism of their 2010 victory has made them arrogant enough to make Ayn Rand look humble. Spitting on your constituents on behalf of your corporate owners is not a recipe for electoral victory.

The primary-ending duel between Romney and Rick “the Preacher” Santorum made me realize another thing. Santorum, of course, lost. There are a lot of poor people in the Christian Right, and they voted for Santorum. If I were to bet money, I’d bet big money that the Christian Right will defect from the Rich Man’s Party and vote for the candidate of the party that claims them as its own, called by various names (here in Washington state, the Constitution Party; Independence Party elsewhere). It should be clear by now to the theocratic reactionaries that the GOP worship another god as the Supreme Being, not Jehovah but Mammon, god of money. Between liberal anticorporatism, religious conservative revulsion (and not just because he’s Mormon), and, well, just being a robot or reptoid masquerading as human, Romney looks to be even more the sure loser than fellow flipflopper John Kerry was in 2004. The Republicans are well on their way to losing.

His name is Willard Romney, Incorporated. Pass it on.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Real #revo11ution Action: Not in Libya, but in America with #OccupyWallStreet

You probably already know about the brutal crushing of the Occupy Wall Street protests in Oakland and other American cities. It seems more like the revolution going on in Tunisia and Egypt than Libya, where the dictator was finally overthrown by armed guerrilla forces backed by NATO bombers. Rumor has it that Qaddafi was put down because he proposed a new currency to replace the dollar. Well, guess what? Back in the imperial homeland, the issue is still the dollar. But this time, the people — yeah I know, the liberal commie hippie traitors, not the Real Americans commanding the crackdown from their million-dollar penthouses — are the threat to the Almighty Dollar. Therefore, the American people must be crushed. If, of course, they do not march to their bankster masters' commands in the TEA Party. The problem: the TEA Party fell completely under corporate control. In fact, it actually began as an attempt to coopt the Ron Paul Revolution movement. Dr. Paul refused to cave, being the principled libertarian he is, so the banksters started their own astroturf movement catering largely to the most retrograde elements of White America. However, Occupy Wall Street is not under control, and refuses to submit to even Democratic control. That means it must be crushed. If the Ron Paul movement had gained mass support, it too would have been attacked the same way. After all, it opposed the Wall Street dictatorship to the point of calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, a call taken up by OWS. Okay, you tell me, isn't America a democracy? No. It never was a democracy, and was never intended to be one. The Constitution was designed to establish an oligarchic republic. In fact, it was intended to prevent democracy. In The Federalist #10, the Constitution's author, James Madison, states:
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
The oligarchic republic Madison worked to establish no longer works. It has fallen under the control of an increasingly militant and terroristic faction which believes that its possession of most of the world's money entitles them to rule by divine right. The American Revolution was fought, and the Republic established, to abolish the divine right of kings. However, the constitutional protections against the divine right of oligarchies have all been nullified, so we're back where we started in 1776. I'm not saying this is going to turn into a revolution. Fact is, it already is. The more terrorism the divine-right oligarchy commits against the people, the more the oligarchs deserve to be overthrown. Face it, America is the new Soviet Union. It's already too late. Sorry, conservatives, you can't erase the past and bring back the good old days. The Law of Entropy is already at work bringing the whole tottering edifice to the ground in smoking ruins. The oligarchic republic no longer works. It's merely monarchy with more rulers who are equally clueless. Democracy is the future. The future is already here. This is what the 2011 Revolution is all about.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

As New York Legalizes Gay Marriage...

There's a reason I separated this opinion blog from my main blog. It's because I link that one to Facebook. Most of my Facebook friends are relatives. Half of them (my late father's side) are born-again Christians. I am happy that the state of New York just legalized same-sex marriage. They aren't. This blog is not for them.

After a long dry spell, the legislature of the third biggest state in the Union extended full marriage rights to same-sex couples. This is a major development in the continuing struggle. There is no danger that the law will be repealed because: one, New York has no initiative process that religious opponents can use to repeal it with; two; since a Democratic-dominated legislature shot down the first attempt two years ago, opposition has collapsed to the point where a Republican-dominated legislature approved it.

The next challenge will be in liberal states with an initiative process, particularly the three on the West Coast. Previously, direct democracy was still conservative on the issue of same-sex marriage, as witness Proposition 8 in California in 2008. Can same-sex marriage rights prevail at the ballot in 2012 in states like California and Washington? I'd say my own state (Washington) is already ahead on it because it's a civil-unions state. It's also behind because it has a "Defense of Marriage Act" on the law books, and it needs to be repealed. That's what any marriage-rights initiative will have to do. You know I'll be voting for the marriage-rights initiative as soon as my ballot comes in the mail.

The struggle continues...

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Belated Postmortem of the 2010 Election: In Which I Temporarily Eat My Words

I think the 2010 election was a bit traumatic for non-conservatives like me, to say the least. That's why I'm writing about it right now, instead of right after the disaster happened.

The problems: One, the Republican Party has gone so far to the right that I vowed never to vote for them again (except for Ron Paul, of course) years ago. Two, the Republicans swept the election, big time. The Democrats got their butts handed to them.

So what happened? Basically, when the candidate of hope and change actually became president, he proved to be more conservative than the people who elected him. Barack Obama even turned out to be more conservative than Richard Nixon, of all people. Since few American politicians seem to remember Nixon, let's give a bit of context here: Nixon, for all his professed conservatism, was responsible for the kind of socialist policies Obama refuses to touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole, such as "affirmative action" a.k.a race quotas and — believe it or not — price controls. Any TEA Party Republican who claims that Obama is the "most socialist president ever" doesn't know Nixon, or Eisenhower for that matter (Interstate Highway System, among other unforgivable acts of socialism). "Most socialist president ever" is really code for "that black guy who had the gall to become Great White Father".

So Barack Obama, the desperate liberals' Great Black Hope, turned out to be a Clintonite Blue Dog conservative who clings to Bush-era neofascist policies starting with the imperial wars. So, in the mid-term election, the angry young liberals stayed home in droves, allowing the angry old conservatives to carry the election. The TEA Party claims the American People gave it a mandate. So what do they do? Impose corporatist dictatorship wherever it holds power.

I predicted the Democrats' losses would be minimal in 2010. I never figured on the Democratic liberal and antiwar base turning against President Obama. That's why I'm eating my words. I'm temporarily eating my words because the way the Republicans are acting — that is, like the arrogant ruling party of a one-party dictatorship — 2012 is theirs to lose, and they will lose it. They've already given the Democrats more than enough rope with which to hang them. And if Michele Bachmann wins the GOP nomination, consider them already beaten. But if Jon Huntsman wins — he's the former Utah governor who was Obama's ambassador to China — his former boss will get a real contest, precisely because Huntsman is not as extreme as the TEA Party wants.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 18, 2011

The #revo11ution Comes to America

That wave of revolutions sweeping the Middle East? It didn't stop there. The revolution that started with the toppling of America's Soviet-style satellites, the oil plantations of the Middle East, has come to the homeland at last! It started, interestingly enough, in Wisconsin.

The Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has declared war on the civil service unions. He wants to strip them of all collective bargaining rights. Needless to say, in the Midwest's great stronghold of Populism, his action has provoked massive protests in Madison and Milwaukee. Cairo has come to Wisconsin.

What he's doing, of course, is good old-fashioned union busting, what the Robber Barons of Gilded Age I did in the late 19th century. Like them, he intends to call in the National Guard to crack down hard on the protests. If the National Guard doesn't work, he will likely attempt the Robber Barons' other solution: call in the mercenary enforcers: Pinkerton back then, Blackwater today.

Here's Walker's scheme:
  1. Give massive tax cuts to giant corporations and ultra-rich corporate welfare kings.
  2. Fudge the numbers, the same way the Conservative Book Club games the bestseller lists, to make it look like there's a huge deficit.
  3. Blame the public sector unions, call in the enforcers and the Pravda Fox News propaganda machine, and SMASH!
There's some evidence that the 2010 elections were themselves gamed, the same way the Iran election of 2009 was rigged. Vote rigging, of course, is a venerable American political tradition ("Bring out the dead!"). But in this case, the problem is bait-and-switch: run on jobs, then screw the workers over and wage culture and class war. That's what Ahmadinejad did.

Way to go, Governor.

Now witness the TEA Party. What are they doing? Heeding the siren song of the Fox News propaganda machine and rushing to Madison to support Governor Walker! You know what this looks like: the pro-Mubarak counterdemonstrators who rushed the protesters in Liberation Square, on foot and on camelback, and attacked — at precisely 2:15 in the afternoon. I suspected the TEA Party would be their American counterpart. Now we have absolute proof.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian workers are calling for the resignation of all those corrupt union leaders who were in bed with Mubarak. American workers should do the same; after all, the union brass here are in bed with the Wall Street bankster oligarchy.

The 2011 Revolution continues, and the empire of Corporatism had better watch out...

EDIT: Ole Ole Olson at News Junkie Post debunks the TEA Party's defense of Walker here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Revolution Wasn't in Iran; or, The Revenge of the Arab Street

Here I was, thinking that there was going to be some sort of revolution in Iran. I'd even saved a draft entry just for that purpose. But that was not to be. The mullahs crushed the opposition and sent it back down into the underground. I get the feeling that when revolution finally does come to Iran, it won't be the "greens" doing it, and the American Empire will probably have collapsed first like an unwieldy business conglomerate, leaving the mullahs with no more "Great Satan" to build their dictatorship up against.

Here's the surprise. The revolution came to Araby first. Specifically, Tunisia.

If you've been paying attention to that part of the world, you know that the Arab countries are ruled by dictators and absolute monarchs propped up by American foreign aid and military power. The exception, of course, is Iraq, which is ruled directly by the US military as a colony, same as Afghanistan. The Arab kings and dictators are notoriously cruel and corrupt; many of them even use Islamists as symbiotic enemies or (in Saudi Arabia especially) as enforcers.

Now the dictatorship of Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali has fallen in Tunisia; he and his notoriously corrupt family have decamped to — surprise! — Saudi Arabia. Tunisians are a famously laid-back people. However, the Ben Ali/Trabelsi family mafia (there is no other word) enforced its absolute monopoly over the economy so brutally that they provoked their subjects to revolt. Now all the other autocrats in Araby are finding themselves at war with their own subjects, the fabled Arab Street. Expect more crowned heads to fall, and soon.

Why the Arab revolution came as a surprise to Americans: the image most of us have of Arabs is of savage headhunting barbarian jihadis battling Western Christendom over control of the Holy Land during the Crusades. You know, the crap they taught us in Sunday school. Al-Qaeda fits the Sunday-school stereotype all too well, perhaps even by design. Illusions fall hard, especially when they concern people outside our own petty tribe.

Some people are calling the revolution being fought in Tunisia the American Empire's 1989 moment. For those who remember, the 1989 Revolution was when the Soviet Union's "satellite" buffer colonies broke away from that rebranded Russian Empire. Keep in mind that the 2011 Revolution didn't start in American rival Iran, but in one of the more insignificant satellite régimes in a Mediterranean world turned American Mare Nostrum. And it's barely even begun...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wikileaks: World Infowar I

The article: WikiLeaks: Winning the Info War Despite Assange's Arrest (Time)

Since I posted last, Julian Assange has been arrested. Wikileaks' original sites, hosts, and funding sources have been ripped away from them by an enraged American imperial government. The government and the "lamestream" corporate media have lined up behind Sarah Palin and Bill O'Reilly in calling for Assange's head on a platter, preferably bloody, with his mangled corpse paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in a Roman-style military triumph.

The outcome is already clear to see. Wikileaks is already winning.

The hacker underground's anarchist statement of faith is: Information wants to be free. Sure enough, faced with an escalating worldwide US government crackdown, the Internet is striking back. Wikileaks may not have a host anymore, but it now has over 500 mirror sites, and the number will only grow. The guerrilla hacker group Anonymous are attacking the online operations of corporations complying with the crackdown using denial of service attacks just like the one the US government attacked Wikileaks itself with before the Cablegate release. It's no longer the American Empire against one pesky leaker of government secrets. It's now the American Empire against the entire hacker underground. To them, Julian Assange is a hero. And now he is also a martyr. His arrest may well be his "Martin Luther King in Birmingham Jail" moment.

If you're trying to defeat an enemy, the worst thing you can do is turn him into a martyr. The US did just this to a psychopath named Osama bin Laden by invading Iraq in order to steal its oil for America's oilman elite. Now they've done this to Assange, making him the David to America's Goliath.

When he was president, American revolutionary John Adams declared that America did not go out looking for monsters to fight. Today, America exists for no other reason than to fight monsters, and even mass produces them in order to fight them. Many vested interests and infinite profits depend on this. The war between the US and Wikileaks was not only necessary, it was inevitable.

For the first time, the decentralizing force of the Internet is beginning to show its full power. The ancient tradition of government, even "democratic", is military-based command and control, in which the people know their place and the rulers make sure they stay there. The Internet, on the other hand, was purposely designed to be decentralized; in the ultimate irony, the US military insisted on creating it that way, so that it could withstand a Soviet nuclear attack, during the Cold War. For security reasons, the Internet is structured to avoid what is called a single point of vulnerability. In a system with such a vulnerability, take out that single point and you take out the whole system with it. But if the system is completely decentralized, it becomes extremely difficult to destroy, if not impossible. Redundancy is security in cyberspace.

Now that Julian Assange is in jail and the original Wikileaks site is permanently down by American decree, the single point of vulnerability is now gone. 500+ hackers' mirror sites can't be taken down so easily. The Empire now faces a far more protean foe, one increasingly determined to bring the entire corporatist system down. The American rulers still think they can pull a Tiananmen and crush the revolt. The anarchists who saved Wikileaks are instead working to inflict on the ailing Empire the fate of another seemingly invincible Communist despotism: the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It's more than just a clash between an angry empire and an empowered rebel underground. For the first time, the traditional world system is facing its successor. America is now fighting the future. But now a growing international revolt is fighting for the future. And yes, believe it or not, I can even quote Ayn Rand on this:
"Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Obama's Neocon Turn Makes A Peace Movement Possible Again

The article: Is a Peace Movement Finally Awakening? by Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation

We know what the New Right is all about: corporate socialism. They call it Big Government Conservatism, and it consists of corporate welfare at home, imperial expansion abroad, and a national security state powered by religious fanaticism worthy of Al-Qaeda. The liberal Left, however, was all but defanged by the election of a black president who talked the liberal talk. But now we know that he walks the neocon walk. Liberals are actually starting to come out of their closets and protest again.

Guess what this means? Now that the Great Black Hope has proved to be just another tyrannical Great White Father, a left-wing peace movement has become possible once again. We antiwar libertarians are starting to believe we won't be so lonely for long.

Where liberals and libertarians part, of course, is in their opinion of government. Liberals, descending from the social democrats of the 19th and 20th centuries, believe that government can be used as a force for good, a weapon against the oppression of the masses. Libertarians are far more cynical: expansion of government welfare leads inevitably to the supreme corporate welfare of war and empire, or the other way around if the empire wants to buy the masses' loyalty. The supreme statement of the libertarian position comes from early 20th century libertarian Randolph Bourne: "War is the health of the state."

But now Obama has shown his true colors. He is indeed bent on destroying America — but on behalf of his real owners: the banksters who lead the New Right and fund the TEA Party. He sold us a bill of goods, you see. The liberals are now a constituency without representation. Some of them are beginning to complain. As the war between the US and Wikileaks escalates, and as an increasingly frustrated US government threatens to abolish freedom of speech and unleash Soviet-style secret police tactics in order to defend the empire and its war policy, they may actually start to realize they may have to take to the streets again, perhaps all the way to the barricades.

But until then, antiwar libertarians and socialists will remain the proverbial prophets crying out in the wilderness...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Barack Obama Jumps the Shark

The article: Obama Channels Reagan, and Risks Becoming Carter

Remember when I said, before the election catastrophe, that Rand Paul was over? Well, allow me to eat my words: he's not. In fact, he won. There can be only one reason why Rand Paul is not over:

Barack Obama is.

This time, he's gone too far. He's extended Bush's disastrous tax cuts for the rich! And without spending cuts to compensate. You know, Big Government Conservatism. Remember voodoo economics, the religion of Wall Street? You know, the magical thinking that claims tax cuts for the rich without spending cuts will cut deficits? He's now its most ardent acolyte. He's now defending his support of the Republican agenda against the liberal base that elected him. The people who voted for hope and change in 2008 are now every bit as unrepresented as the British colonials who started the American Revolution.

Even earlier, not long after he rode the wave of hope and change into office, he betrayed the millions of actual liberals who voted him into the White House by going to West Poing to announce a George W. Bush surge in the Afghan war. This war, like any other colonial war against the Middle East, has never been for the purpose of preserving freedom. Its only purpose is profit for the corporate welfare kings, particularly the oil barons and war profiteers. That's when he strangled all his beautiful promises in the crib, promises he never had any intention of ever keeping.

Now the man the TEA Party thinks is a Kenyan-born agent of Osama bin Laden has completed his transformation into a neocon. Yes, he is determined to destroy America. But with enemies like Obama, do Al-Qaeda even need friends? His plan for the destruction of America was written by America's corporate owners on Wall Street and their agents in the Republican Party. This is the beginning of the end of Obama's one and only term as president, for he has now definitively jumped the shark. Only the neocons are left in government now. There is only one party left, the party of corporatism and empire. The US government does not belong to the people, and never has; it is democratic only in theory, but oligarchic in design. Today, America is not its people but its corporations.

Obama's failure is the failure of the Democratic Party. The Republicans may be at each other's throats to the point that it threatens to split in two; but it's the Democratic party that's collapsing. The Democrats are an echo of the Republicans. An echo, not a choice. If the GOP is the Evil Party in the 1 1/2-party system that H.L. Mencken described almost a century ago, then the Dems can only be the Stupid Party.

No wonder they got clobbered by the TEA Party reactionaries in the '10 election! But said rebels are also signalling their eagerness to sell out to our corporate slavemasters. They shouldn't expect to be immune from the populist backlash, either, when the reckoning comes in two years.

I tell you, it's going to get ugly come 2012. Watch the Democratic primary. And don't bet on the incumbent winning it.

Back to Take Nothing On Faith...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wikileaks: The Pentagon Papers Escalating into Watergate -- and More

Remember the BP disaster, America's Chernobyl? It gets better! All this year, Wikileaks has been posting all kinds of classified US government material that was leaked by a single disgruntled Army private named Bradley Manning. I haven't been keeping track of the disaster that's been snowballing for the American Empire here, since in recent months I've been too busy retweeting the news. Thus, I missed the opportunity to comment on what I immediately recognized as the Iraq/Af-Pak War counterpart to the Pentagon Papers (which you can read here). Now that this new Pentagon Papers scandal is exploding into a full-blown Watergate, I have to say something. First: a quick rundown of the events:
  • On April 5, Wikileaks released classified video of an American helicopter attack intended to massacre Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, and for no other reason. Wikileaks' name for the incident: Collateral Murder.
  • On July 25, they released over 90,000 classified US military documents on the Afghan war, collectively known as the Afghan War Diary. This was what reminded me of the Pentagon Papers. Once again, the Empire got egg on its collective face.
  • On October 22, they released nearly 400,000 secret US Army field reports in the biggest leak in American military history, known as the Iraq War Logs. This leak focused not just on American massacres of unarmed civilians, but the occupation authorities' tolerance of murders by the Iraqi police and military.
  • November 28 was the first day of the most embarrassing leak yet, which Wikileaks has dubbed Cablegate and Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com calls simply The Big Dump. The first 291 of over 250,000 diplomatic cables from the US State Department were released. In an attempt to stop it and hopefully destroy Wikileaks, the US government had a cyberagent codenamed "Jester" pull a massive denial of service attack against the site. The attack failed; the site was back up within hours and began releasing the cables. Still, Obama and Clinton warned every single government leader in the world about the leak right before it started.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Al-Qaeda Is A Cult

The article: "Can Utilizing Knowledge of Cults Help Us with Terrorist Groups?" by Steven Hassan

Some of you will surely dispute me on this, the same way people disagree when I insist that there is no such thing as a split infinitive. Some will insist Al-Qaeda is strictly a "terror organization". As with the alleged split infinitive in English, this is really a semantic quibble. I look at it structurally. The Manson Family and Aum Supreme Truth committed some of history's most infamous acts of terrorism, but they have always been seen as what they are: doomsday cults. Structurally, in organization and doctrine, Al-Qaeda is clearly a cult.

The author of the linked article, Steven Hassan, is a former Moonie (Sun Myung Moon/Unification Church cultist) turned cult expert. His experience in a cult allows him to know a cult when he sees it. I decided to write this entry when I read his article and realized that he was saying publicly what I already believed but hadn't told anybody yet (except maybe my mother and brother). He begins: "When is it time to start recognizing that Al Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups are cults?"