“Fight the Right” is the title for this week’s meeting of the International Socialist Organization here in Rochester. I wrote this comic with the upcoming “White Civil Rights” rally in Washington DC in mind. The racist far Right are violently attacking minorities, immigrants, and anyone they don’t like. They have the cops on their side and a spoiled rich idiot in the White House who sympathizes with their cause. Now is the time to take a stand.” -Dave Rine
Attention internet: PLEASE STOP SAYING THIS PHRASE! I can already hear the chorus of “but it’s just a harmless internet joke” or “It’s just about PC Gaming, don’t be a libtard”. Do I really need to explain why this phrase makes me uncomfortable, and has since it first appeared around 2005? I will anyway.
During the hayday of the first XBox and second Playstation in the earliest days of Myspace and Facebook, there was an alternate, earlier internet culture that lived in forums. Sometimes it would be the forum of a specific gaming or news website, sometimes it would be grim grimey places like Something Awful and 4Chan. It is in these places that the term PC Master Race started to circulate, and it’s never gone away.
“PC Master Race”, to be perfectly clear, has zero connection with Political Correctness. In fact, PC Master Race is one of the few Nazi-related catch phrases from the internet that is NOT pejorative: proud Personal Computer devotees have been labeling themselves as members of the PC Master Race for over a decade, originally to shame the owners of Game Cubes and Wiis for being “less evolved”, “lower lifeforms”, “lazy consumers”, “technologically challenged”, or even just poor or basic.
To understand the privilege gap inherent in this term, we only need to look at the cost and upkeep of the two machines: ‘consoles’ are about $300-$600 dollars, and will generally work out of the box. A gaming personal computer might cost upwards of $1,200, needs regular upgrades and maintenance, and demands you spend half of your time fixing problems when it stops working. There is a meritocracy myth at play, where your proud PC user is very self-impressed with their ability to not only afford the costly equipment but also devote themselves to the maintenance of these machines.
Much like the Hot Rod days of years ago, except this time the ‘Hot Rod’ is a computer: an interface for changing the world or escaping it, depending on how you use it. These self-important PC users will proudly proclaim their “Master Race” status on internet forums to let console gamers know who is in charge: this is their turf, and you won’t have a good time if you question them. This war between console gamers and PC gamers was raging for several years, by the time Gamergate occurred in 2014 and united the community behind one vile cause.
In short, Gamergate was a months long attack on several female game developers and journalists (including game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian) who criticized the overt sexism and manipulation in games development and marketing, and the gaming community did not take kindly to this. They went so far as to send death threats, and they would even witchhunt people who criticized them within their own ranks, with games journalists losing their jobs over speaking out in defense of the women who were mercilessly harassed (search for Moviebob + Gamergate for a peak at this madness.) The console and PC gamers united in this case, but it was even earlier that Steve Bannon realized the efficacy of this population. (As mentioned in the book “Devil’s Bargain” by Joshua Green.)
Steve Bannon joined the company ‘Internet Gaming Entertainment’ in 2007, a company founded by Brock Pierce (child actor in The Mighty Ducks, now infamous for his involvement in cryptocurrency). This company paid Chinese gamers to ‘farm’ for gold and items in World of Warcraft, a PC only game. These gold and items would then be sold to western players for real world money. But in dealing with these gamers directly, on an international stage, Steve Bannon could see what the PC Master Race was capable of when compelled to act. Denial of service attacks, doxing, hacking and interfering with public systems… Bannon had tapped into the anarchic Anonymous culture, where masses of impulse driven young men could be persuaded to change course with the right encouragement. These are the same young men who originally claimed to be PC Master Race.
If you’ve read all this, you might be thinking “well, I love my PC, so I’m PC Master Race, it’s not a big deal, just a lighthearted thing.” Just remember you’re willingly attributing to yourself a term of Nazi origin, that not only reflects your privilege but connects you to the movement that elected Donald Trump. The term “PC Master Race” in now indelibly tied to online White Supremacy, that’s to 4Chan’s /pol/ board and the connections it built with white supremacist leaders. And keep in mind there are still people in the world who don’t have a computer, or internet, or even basic access to the news. This is the ‘digital devide’, and when viewed through this lens, the term “PC Master Race” reeks of privilege and authoritarianism.
Consider China: the latest development in Chinese culture is a ‘social rating’ system. Inspired by the U.S. credit rating, this allows the Chinese government to monitor your social network usage, rate you based on the content you share, and allow or deny certain privileges based on your pro-state score. They’ve announced that access to local trains will be denied if your score is too low. (This system was developed for the Chinese government by Blizzard-Activision, the same company that designed World of Warcraft.) Think about how poor credit rating affects US citizens, then imagine what it’s like in China where they don’t even have to disguise it: it exists purely as a form of privilege control. In a civilization that rates you based on your digital social network usage, you won’t be able to afford not using it, much like it’s difficult to afford living in America without credit. In China’s case, you’ll find yourself without social clout. And at the top of this system are the network administrators and coders nessecary to keep this system humming.
This is what I think of when I think PC Master Race: a group so impressed with their provenance over machines and code that they expect and demand privilege commensurate with their importance and devotion to the machinary they run. More and more, the PC Master Race won’t just have a computer at home (and on their cash register at work): the PC Master Race will become network administrators and programmers, becoming more and more involved and entrenched in the machines that will run society in the future. Our financial markets are almost entirely run by software, from a technologist’s point of view it only makes sense to migrate as much of our government and society’s underpinnings to digital automation, and when that happens there will be a great devide between those who are subject to the machines, and those who are master to them: the PC Master Race.
Today it’s a lighthearted term, much like Pepe the Frog was just a funny mascot once. Today Pepe has been commandeered by the authoritarians of the alt-right, and as tech becomes ever more prevalent in our everyday world, soon “PC Master Race” will become a much heavier term. In the meantime, maybe we could stop associating ourselves with facism and convincing ourselves that it’s just an ironic turn of phrase.
An Essay By: Big Nick
“Mother doesn’t go out anymore
Just sits at home and rolls her spastic eyes
But every weekend through the door
Come words of wisdom from the world outside
If you want to know ’bout the bishop and the actress
If you want to know how to be a star
If you want to know ’bout the stains on the mattress
You can read it in the Sunday papers”
Joe Jackson – “Sunday papers”, 1979
In the realm of mental health there is a concept called schemas: frameworks through which mental health patients and providers can explore someone’s psyche to find the root cause of their discomfort. Some examples are defectiveness/shame: the belief that the self is broken or intrinsically worthless; abandonment: the belief that the self has been left behind by someone else responsible for it; abuse: the cycle of perpetuating hateful or irresponsible treatment, seeing your trauma as justification for traumatizing others; and so on… there are 18 recognized schemas that a mental health professional can help you explore.
There’s also a punitive schema: a personality mode that causes one to”insist on perfection and demand justice” in accordance with standards that may be unrelenting or unrealistic. This mode can also cause ‘avoidance’ in the form of “isolating oneself from others to protect the ego and/or to avoid disappointment; it can also lead to ‘overcompensation’, meaning in this case to “behave like a ‘doormat'” and let others have their way with no resistance.
Consider the typical Trump supporter’s stance on Hillary Clinton: “LOCK HER UP!” This is clearly a call for punitive action: Hillary should be punished for hosting a private e-mail server for her campaign. But when it comes to Donald Trump’s staff using private e-mail servers, or blatantly lying about all sorts of things (literally every sort of thing), they avoid the topic or flat out excuse the behavior. In the eyes of a Trump support, Hillary is a bad person (shameful even) and should be punished… their strongman Trump is excusable because he’s “one of us” and “very fine people”. There are other schemas that can apply to Trump supports and even Donald Trump himself, in a very similar fashion.
But let’s consider the opposite side as well: https://drhurd.com/2018/01/31/trump-derangement-syndrome/. This article posts about the same mental health point of view, but from the position that Trump Detractors are the ones suffering mental illness. The points are a bit labored, but not invalid: in fact you can just as easily make the same claims about republican politicians and the logic holds up. You can even see clearly defensive behavior in the actions of politicians from across the spectrum as they struggle to defend their actions and increasingly have to rely on the strength of psychological distortion to bolster their fibbing.
Depression has taken hold of our nation and mental illness now rules our politics, from the men and women on Capital Hill down to your grandma and niece on Main St. This article offers one possible explanation for why this is happening. We see that education in America has been suffering (and will continue to suffer as the federal government refuses to stop cutting funding for schools.) What explanation could there be for this? It seems logical that a smart, educated population would best serve the nation, so why would our nation’s leaders seek to limit the possibilities of our nation’s students? To see a clearer picture, let’s look at another realm of mental health called Schema Modes.
Our schemas describe in broad terms how our psyche sees the world and process input, but schema modes describe how our emotions and personal agency interact with this worldview. There are 4 “children modes” which are governed by a “parent mode”. It’s easiest to visualize them:
(Anger)___________ \__ ________
_____________ \___| |
There are several states the “Parent” can exist in: mental health providers talk about a dysfunctional parent vs. a health parent. A dysfunctional parent will allow the children to govern each other, or govern them irresponsibly and in ways that reinforce depression. For example, someone who’s not parenting their emotions may give in to drugs or masturbation as a way of satisfying their drive for happiness, which puts impulsiveness in charge of their emotions. Someone may find it satisfying to find people to argue with on the internet, which then puts anger and vulnerability in charge of their emotions. These things can be find in moderation and with intentional use, but when left in charge of our emotional state we start to lose control. Many mental health patients complain of not having control over their lives, and by exploring their schemas can find ways in which they have found ‘control’ in unhealthy ways that contribute to their depression. The goal of mental health treatment is to redevelop the ‘Parent’ mode into a healthy version that intelligently moderates these 4 children with insight and self-compassion.
Can you think of a situation in which someone might benefit from you ‘losing your control’ of your parent mode? Consider the new Star Wars movie: long time fans feel Star Wars Episode 8 is the most emotional ever released, while casual fans and non-fans find the movie not terribly satisfying. These long time fans have willingly sacrificed some of their emotional control to the Star Wars franchise, and subsequently to the Disney and Lucasfilm corporations. This appropriated control can then be used to motivate them to buy merchandise. For those not keeping track, the Star Wars films have grossed $7 Billion over the last 40 years, while the toy lines have grossed $14 Billion. That’s twice as much, and points to a large motivator for Disney to keep people emotionally dependent on an on-going stream of Star Wars content. For more on the relationship between Star Wars, religion and capitalism, I will always recommend reading ŽIŽEK’s “The Revenge of Global Finance”, which predicted the global housing market crash 2 years before it happened: http://inthesetimes.com/article/2122/
For more perspective, here is a story about the failed attempt to indoctrinate China into the Star Wars vision of capitalist-buddhism: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-china-box-office-why-disneys-jedi-mind-trick-isnt-working-china-1075177
So what does this mean for politics? Imagine, if you will, a world where a large percent of the population gets its information from a state TV news source, where the population is kept in a state of anxiety and depression over state-engineered defectiveness (what is the meaning of a living wage? how many people do you know that make a easily “livable” wage, even in the middle class?) With this “defective parent” mode, the state news can slip in to take its place, and people can get their emotional ‘moderation’ from watching the television. The TV, or internet, or newspaper, whichever source they choose, becomes their new “parent” and tells them what to be happy about, what to be angry about, and when. Especially for an aging population, this is a welcome presence in their lives: as you become older and your mental faculties start to degrade, the desire to let someone else moderate your emotions and develop your opinions for you becomes such an appealing luxury that at some point it appears to become a perceived necessity.
Think of your grandparent who watches Fox News, an aunt or uncle who gets all of his opinions from sports talk radio, a niece or nephew who gets all of their political news from Facebook. All of these people are limiting their worldview by outsourcing their internal parentage to an external media source. All of these modes of media consumption help reinforce the systems of influence and control that propagate white supremacy and homophobia, even in realms where the focus is squarely on the opposite. Using the same means of social control designed to benefit the state or the wealthy will never benefit the working class: it will only normalize and propagate the influence of the more powerful and resource-rich who have been using the same systems to maintain the status quo for generations.
The only way to fight this is to develop two separate but interconnected skills: emotional literacy, and media literacy. You can learn more about these by visiting the following websites: http://medialiteracyproject.org/learn/media-literacy/; https://www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/emotional-literacy.html. Both of these skills will give you the power to develop your parent mode: to critically evaluate your own emotions and thoughts, and the emotional messages in the media you consume. Learn to differentiate between entertainment and facts, take agency in how you process information and interact with the world, and avoid the influence of media meant to destroy your self-worth and self-advocacy. Stay strong and keep resisting.
“Sunday papers, don’t ask no questions
Sunday papers, don’t get no lies
Sunday papers, don’t raise objections
Sunday papers, ain’t got no eyes”
“Big Nick”, 2/1/2018