The Superior Race of Good People

CW: In-depth discussion of Willy Gilly's writing.

from Page of Swords by Jack

The Superior Race of Good People (On William Gillis' "Bad people")

"Contrary to the assertions of some leftists there are in fact thoroughly monstrous people who are not just victims of their social conditions."

That’s how starts "Bad people", a bizarre essay published in The Anarchist Library last August by the scientist, writer and activist William Gillis, where he both advocates for the ostracism of abusers as a good anarchist praxis, and… errr… proposes a way to prevent ex-cops from forming urban gangs in the post-state anarchist society to come.

And… Well. I'm feeling grateful towards Gillis for taking the time (and the risk) to publish his ideas on the matter with such franchise. Granted, the result is disastrous. This paper is delusional supremacist pseudo-scientific garbage. But this might very well be what some anarchists think today in their heart of hearts. At least, some of them seem to operate under similar implicit assumptions. So, it's really good to see it put out in the open. This way, we can look at it and criticize it. Thus I should at least begin by recognizing that Gillis has the merit to really attempt to politically and ethically justify the systematic ostracism of abusers as an anarchist duty. I've seen too much people talking against it in theory and still participating in it, or using it for their own interest, or tolerating it in practice – hell, I even was one of these people – to not be grateful for Gillis' coherence and honesty on the matter.

As to why bother writing against this paper, I think there are two reasons. One of them is that I think Gillis' ideas have to be rebutted and called out for what they are. It is good to point finger at supremacist rhetoric when we see it, and even more when it passes at anarchism. But there is more than that.

I believe that what we do informs what we think, at least as much as the converse. And I do believe that ostracism, as a practice, leads to a worldview that cannot fall too far away from Gillis'. Not a lot of ostracizers in leftist spaces take the time to write about it in such details, nor have the same candor and lack of self-consciousness about what they think. It takes a highly educated white man's confidence to suggest in writing that mathematics prove the existence of "bad people". But what I believe is that Gillis is quite good at capturing the theory from which ostracism is the praxis.

Ostracism says that getting rid of some people is "the solution".

This implies a worldview where those people are "the problem".

Not some behavior. Not some ideas. Some people.

And, you know… Someone has to solve the problem.

And that is supremacist thinking.

What is interesting in Gillis' essay is that it illustrates wonderfully where ostracism leads.

Now, let me sum up Gillis' ideas. According to him, people can be broadly hierarchized into three categories depending on their inherent moral value: the bad people, the apathetics and the altruists.

Bad people are the bottom of the barrel. Brutal, cruel, callous. "Fundamentally evil". Not only are they bad, they are also irredeemable.

People not mistaken or confused, people for whom no therapy, argument, enticement, or punishment will ever work. People for all intents and purposes permanently locked to certain malicious values and perspectives.

And those people do not deserve to exist. Actually, they barely exist at all. They went too far on the path of evil and barely count as humans anymore.

These bad people are the walking dead, husks of former imaginative and inquisite minds.

This is something lot of leftists refuse to acknowledge, but it is the cold, hard, truth. This is science. Game theory somehow says that these people exist and will exist in every society, community and organisation on earth. Rapists, most cops and most conservatives are among those "rotten" individuals.

Bad people should either be oppressed or exterminated. They are a constant threat for non-bad people, and so should be eradicated, removed from society entirely or kept under constant surveillance. They should not be oppressed by a state, however, nor by any kind of formal institution. Not because it would be morally bad – it would not – but because bad people always hijack every formal power apparatus and use them to do bad stuff. That's why the surveillance of population, the detection of bad people and their elimination from society should be decentralized and informal, as part of everybody's civic duty.

This is difficult, because most people are shitty. The overwhelming majority of the population belongs to the apathetic, egoistic underbelly of the human race. They are not, like the altruists (the moral elite of humanity), ready to make sacrifices for the greater good. Thus, they will tolerate monsters if they happen to like them. What a bunch of dicks, right? They are, when you think about it, bad people as well.

Luckily, altruists have a new weapon, now. Thanks to Twitter, they can coalesce and coerce the apathetic scum into participating in the ostracism of bad people, by threatening to subject them to the same treatment, a fair punishment for not collaborating with the get-rid-of-bad-people initiative.

So, this is already atrocious.
I feel the need to stress that I am in no way exagerating Gillis' position.

But here’s the thing. The people sticking with Sam [a guy who committed rape] are purely some degree of Bad People. They’re not altruists. They won’t sacrifice to stop Sam from raping again. So you get a few altruists on your side willing to sacrifice to help you. If you get enough of them together, even when you’re a minority, you can collectively leverage a lot more. “If you stay friends with Sam you will lose not just one friend but five friends.”

I'm not exagerating either the awfulness of it all. At some point, Gillis even distinguishes between the "empathetic" rape victim who "warn[s] everyone [they] can to prevent [their] rapist to rape again" from the "selfish" one who "[doesn’t] care, or only care[s] enough for a deniable whisper of warning here or there". And… err… what's with them, William? Should you cut ties with them too? After all, they seem pretty bad, but if you threaten them with losing more friends, maybe they will be inclined to sacrifice for the greater good…

But let's get back to it, because we're far from finished.

Thanks to this new weapon of "cancelling", the right is losing. Yeah, that's right. Gamergate and Trump's presidency are somehow the proof of the increasing power of altruists: since the boom of social media, thanks to whom "the promise of the internet was fulfilled" (I have no words…), altruists of the world united. Now the far-right extremists have no choice but to forge an improbable alliance, since the cancelling left threaten them all. However, they are bound to lose, because…

"Cancelling" is a weapon best wield by the altruists. Not only do they stand on top of the hierarchy of moral value, altruists are also elite in moral toughness. Especially over conservatives, cops and other bad people, who are just a bunch of dumb cowards. "Boycotting" people is tedious, ungratifying work, and only altruists have the moral bravery to really and consistently cut ties with people they know to be bad. So, in the end, only the true altruists (who recognize themselves by how willing they truly are to cancel) will have the social status, the popularity and the collective trust needed to wield cancelling as an effective weapon.

(Gillis happens to notice that "bad people" may be brave enough to physically fight and die for their cause. This doesn't contradict his theory, however, because "dying is easy" compared to organizing cancelling campaigns. Gillis does not explain, however, how conservatives sometimes find the moral strength to "cancel" their daughters who get pregnant, their sons who come out as gay, their acquaintaces who use drugs, or… you know… the "cancelling" of communists under McCarthy, or whatever the Amishs or the Jehovah's Witnesses are doing…)

(Also, in case you're asking, there is also a fixed hierarchy of intelligence. Altruists are also the smartest, while bad people are stupid and ignorant, even if they might possess some sort of malignant cleverness for specific power-grabbing games.)

In the end, short for being genocided or enslaved by bad people, altruists will lead anarchism to victory, "the end of all power relationships". Once their victory is secured, we bad people won't be all killed, mostly because we're too many (he counted).

This is adamantly not to advocate an exterminationist policy. There are seven hundred thousand law enforcement officers in the United States. They may be the worst of the worst, but offensive mass murder on anything near that scale should be unthinkable, and is clearly not on a path to anything like a liberated world. Mass imprisonment in some kind of Stalinesque re-education project is likewise beyond unconscionable, and even less likely than therapy to have a deep impact.

Instead, they will put all of us bad people in ghettos in the suburbs. Our territories will be respected and we will be allowed to trade with them, because it's in their best interest to give us an occupation and something to invest our energies in. They might even train us so we can have disempowered jobs. But they will keep us under constant surveillance and every one of them will be ready to come exterminate us at the slightest hint of hierarchical organization (because, since we're cowards, we are inoffensive as long as we do not operate in a formal hierarchy).

Again, I'm not exaggerating:

We agree to leave you that stupid house you bought in the surburbs, with firm social norms against violating such. You can operate on the market, collect food and basic needs from post-state social services, and we’ll retrain anyone to work in professions without power. But the moment someone organizes a hierarchy or fields an ex-cop gang to spread terror again that gang gets exterminated by every surrounding watchful civilian. We have to be willing to, at the drop of a hat, race out of our houses and confront and stop with violence the predatory gangs the ex-cops will try to form.

This "structural incentive" for bad people to stay quiet will maintain peace and anarchy in the U.S.

The End.

Okay, so…

What's the moral of this story?

First, I hope Gillis will forgive me one day (if he ever reads me, which is highly unsure) for dunking on him so hard. For my defense, he's literally advocating for having me killed or put into a bad people reserve. So, I think my jabs are pretty fair game here.

Then, I would like to reflect on what went wrong.
How an anarchist thinker can end up believing in definitive hierarchies of intrinsic human value, or pondering on how the anarchist elite might cleanse society from bad people, and still calling this anarchism? How can someone advocate for anarchism by implying that police, justice and prisons would be okay if it weren't for the inevitable existence of bad people to turn them sour? And how an institution like The Anarchist Library can read this and say "yeah, that's our kind of stuff"?

Looking at the trainwreck is fascinating (and quite funny, if you have dark humor), but let's try to get a moral out of it. I would like to propose three explanations about how we did get there: simple-minded ACAB-ism, what I call "victimization essentialim", and ostracism as a practice.

(If you read this, William, know that I feel a little sorry for you. Everybody thinks and says shitty stuff at times. You and I are in the business of risking to do it publicly. This is really frightening and sometimes devastating. That's a price to pay for the power we wield, you more than me, and I hope it will not crush you. I hope you'll get embarrassed by what you wrote and how stupid, pretentious and oppressive it was. Because it's really embarassing, mate. And, if at some point you are, I hope you'll have the emotional clarity and bravery to admit your embarrassment instead of double-backing. I just want you to know that you'll be treated with humanity, compassion and kindness (at least by me) if you decide, at some point, to recognize how much of a dick you've been in this writing. You do seem to me "locked to certain malicious values and perspectives", but it doesn't have to be permanent unless you decide it is.)

1. Simple-minded ACAB-ism

The police are rotten because policing attracts rot. The role of the police is to preserve simplistic hierarchies and rules with violence. To maintain “order” — that is to say to make the world legible to the simple-minded. [...] The role of policing attracts, facilitates, and is best performed by pre-existing bad people.

I'm not an opponent to the "ACAB" motto. Hating law enforcement is perfectly understandable, and sometimes healthy. And, strategically, it might have value sometimes to spread that hate. But one problem with hate is it makes us stupid. Specifically, here, it makes us forget that cops are cops for reasons that are not all despicable. They can be very beautiful and noble reasons for someone to start a career in law enforcement, like, for example, the will to protect the weak from bad people. I know, these noble motivations are often misguided, and translate so rarely into coherent behaviors in police departments that we might be tempted to omit them altogether. One problem with doing so is that we then cannot recognize it when we start, for very noble reasons, to think and behave like cops.

If we don't recognize the humanity of police officers, then we might not recognize the police officer in our own humanity. If we think that all cops are just sadistic sociopaths who are in the force for the pleasure to feel powerful by pepper-spraying leftists or shooting Black people, then we might not recognize it when we reproduce cop-like mentality. Even when we, to reuse the words of Gillis, start to "preserve simplistic hierarchies and rules with violence", or to "maintain “order” — that is to say to make the world legible to the simple-minded". As it is, here, very obviously the case.

What's very striking in this paper is how much Gillis looks like the cops he's describing, while not noticing the similarities. Take these sentences, for example:

[Their worldview] is one largely of zero-sum violent competition, fearful of messy complexity, disdainful of empathy, inquiry, and creativity, anything that might undermine hard resolve.

They may paint themselves as sheep dogs protecting the sheep against the wolves, but they are at the end of the day both meat-eating canines, and the sheep end up being butchered either way.

Then now read how Gillis talks about what he's doing and explains how ostracism works, using a comparison with boycott tactics:

Boycotts, like strikes, are most effective when they’re transitive in some manner. You don’t just boycott the tomato company, you boycott every company that buys from them as well. You get colleges to divest investments from anything near the tomato company. You threaten to boycott any state that continues giving the tomato company tax write-offs. You sacrifice collectively immense reputation, time, energy, money, etc, until the impact starts dissuading people. Then you target the remaining defectors. The moment another tomato company adopts the same practices you come out swinging hard, no matter the personal cost. You never allow defectors.

How those people, ostracizing all those who are not complying with their ostracism decrees, are not meat-eating canines "butchering the sheep"? Where's the recognition of the messy complexity Gillis says he cares about so much? It's just about erasing people from the map, threatening everyone until they comply, and "never allow defectors" — which in this case means forbidding empathy towards "bad people", inquiry on what the problems are and creativity in solving them. Instead of his own professed values, Gillis glorifies the "hard resolve" of the ostracizers. Heck, his whole hierarchy of human value is based on having or not the hard resolve to participate relentlessly in cancelling campaigns.

Gillis seems to not have really talked with a cop for quite some time, but most of them, when asked, think of themselves as altruists ready to put their lives on the line and sacrifice themselves for the weak and the victimized. And they express frustration about their hierarchy, the judiciary system, all the leftist weak-ass bureaucratic stuff coming, in their eyes, from "apathetic" civilians because of who they cannot effectively neutralize the bad guys. Gillis has basically the same worldview than Dirty Harry or Watchmen's Rorschach. They are noble in their readiness to protect the weak from bad guys at all cost for themselves, and they are dangerous in their readiness to do it at all cost for everyone else.

(To be clear, I'm not saying that cops are not "sadistic sociopaths who are in the force for the pleasure to feel powerful". That's a part of what they are. I'm merely saying that they're not just that. They also are people that want to protect the weak from the bad guys. And I'm not saying that they are alternatively one or the other, or that some cops are good and others are bad: they can be both at the same time. I feel the same about ostracizers. (If you wanna dig deeper, I'm using here the same postmodernist lens Augusta-Scott uses to understand men choosing to abuse in intimate relationships.))

2. Victimization Essentialism

Another contradiction Gillis does not notice is that he describes altruists' final victory as the removal of all positions of power, while stating at the same time that, in this new era, altruists actually can mass-incarcerate or mass-murder bad people if they want to. One might ask how Gillis does not see that (the fate of the bad people being in the hands of the altruists) as a position of power. I attribute this blindness to what I call victimization essentialism. Let me explain.

Moral essentialism might explain why Gillis does not consider that the ability to name someone "bad" and "irredeemable", and to be massively believed and followed, is a kind of power. In his view, "bad person" is not a stigma, socially constructed and attributed, but an inherent truth about someone. Therefore, it seems, he does not see stigmatizing someone as "bad" as the exercize of social power, but only as the natural process of a truth being revealed, and ostracism as the natural consequence of it. And I think it's for the same reasons that Gillis does not see popularity and audience outreach as positions of power and privilege, but merely side effects of true altruism.

But this does not fully explain Gillis' lack of awareness about power. Even with an essentialist view of badness or goodness, one would still might recognize when the good guys have power over the bad ones. Why can't Gillis acknowledge that, far from the end of all power relationships, his dream vision is about altruists ruling over bad people? One reason might be because he cannot acknowledge that without shattering the anarchist coating over his supremacist beliefs. But I would like to propose another one: I happen to believe Gillis operates in a framework where victimized and victimizer are essences, fixed and definitive identities.

Recall how Gillis compares the cancelling of "bad people" with the boycott of a big tomato company. That's a bad metaphor for a number of reasons, but one of them is that the power balance at play is not the same when a group of activists plan a boycott against a multinational company and when a community ostracizes one of its members. Indeed, boycott is a tool developed to face overwhelmingly more powerful entities. Actual boycotts do not aim to destroy the targeted companies nor remove them from society. Boycotters know this to be nearly impossible for them. Rather, boycotts are used as leverage to obtain satisfaction on explicit demands. This is why actual boycotts sometimes end. Using such a comparison seems telling to me: big tomato companies are, by definition and by essence, the ones in power, while the boycotters are permanent underdogs.

To put it simply, my theory is that Gillis cannot think of bad people as something else than victimizers, and good people as something else than victimized (or eventually saviors). That would explain how he can look at a world where altruists have the power to mass-murder bad people and see a world without power relationships: in his eyes, the power of altruists over bad people is no power at all. It merely constitutes self-defense for a world free of power relationships.

(It is also telling that Gillis does not think about the possibility that the bad guys might victimize each other.)

(One should note that moral essentialism and victimization essentialism are core features of supremacism. It is easy to be confused when, for example, White supremacists are presenting themselves as victims, and to think they are either mistaken or lying about the facts. Truth is: this is actually not about the facts. Supremacist rhetoric considers victimizers and victimized to be fixed and definitive identities, ergo not depending of the actual harm being done and the sometimes changing power relationships.)

(Also, big tomato companies are institutions, they do not suffer like humans do. Gillis' comparison is also telling in the way that Gillis never acknowledges that violence towards persons is not morally the same than violence towards companies, and how it echoes the dehumanization of "bad people". I would like to add that the boycott of big bad tomato companies does not even work anymore, and actually never really worked so well. There have been few, if not none, successfull international boycott campaigns against multinational companies, for quite a long time now (on issues about production, salaries and exploitation, I mean, I'm not talking about people angry because of too much, or not enough, women in ads, movies or video games). No doubt that, if they were one, it would not spread easily on corporate-owned social media platforms.)

(Finally, Gillis' confusion between what is good (for him) and what is free from power makes me think of the way in which, in anarchism, power is often seen as something inherently bad. Therefore, what is considered bad is perceived as the result of power, while what is perceived to be good is seen as natural, meaning here unbiased by power. Another way of saying this is that there is no social relationship without power relationship. The utopist ideal of a world without power relationships leads, in practice, to a dystopia where no power relationship is ever acknowledged.)

Ostracism as a practice

It is no surprise that the defense of ostracism by Gillis ends up being a supremacist manifesto. And, frankly, I don't see how it could have been something else. As I pointed out in my introduction, ostracism is a praxis whose underlying theory has to be supremacist.

Queer activist Sarah Schulman, in her book Conflict is Not Abuse, explains how traumatized and supremacist behaviors and worldviews look very much alike. In both cases, it is about not tolerating sharing space with someone else. The difference (in my own words) is that traumatized people act from a place of inferiority ("I might be destroyed if we share a space"), whereas supremacists act from a place of superiority ("having to share a space with them would be insulting"). Schulman also says that the fronteer between the two is blurry. As a Jewish American, she talks about how the rhetoric in support of the Israeli colonization in her community taps into both the fear of extinction and the disdain for the "inferior" palestinians.

Ostracism of abusers in leftist spaces might have begun as a traumatized response, as a way to give the victims of abuse the space they need and protect them from their abusers, which is a legitimate goal. I totally understand why, when we do not have access to better tools to adress abuse and violence inside of our communities, this is the one we use. And I agree that abuse and violence have to be adressed. But the ostracism of abusers is also rooted in the idea that there is a particularly disgusting class of subhumans called "abusers" who ought to be be oppressed or eradicated for the sake of normal people. Ostracism is collective abuse. One might argue that it can, sometimes, be a necessary evil. But defending the systematization of abusive ways of dealing with violence and abuse in leftist spaces cannot come without a cognitive dissonance, one which cannot be solved without adopting a supremacist worldview in disguise. This is what Gillis demonstrates, involuntarily but with great brilliance.

Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster...

For when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

There are 22 Comments

Interesting to see this published here around the anniversary of A!'s death. This was a topic he was always pushing for the anarchist space to rethink and reconsider. His thoughts on it were very different from what you usually come across in anarchist subcultures, and definitely similar in some ways to what this author puts forward.

I just see a lukewarm mess of assumptions and generalizations ...

ostracism is the only weapon of the almost completely powerless or else it's a mercy, rather than more extreme measures.

and sometimes it's a witch hunt, sure but other times, why shouldn't people treat you harshly based on what you did? if you actually did things, that doesn't make them "supremacist", it just means your actions have consequences.

even just skimming the other rants by this writer is sketchy to me, looks like ego babble to rationalize shitty behaviour.

not that gillis isn't an idiot, imo

I don't believe ostracism is "the only weapon of the almost powerless", nor that it is merciful or not extreme.
I happen to believe that ostracism is a very extreme form of punishment, perpetrated by a collective to an individual.

"Why shouldn't people treat you harshly based on what you did?"
Because we shouldn't act like cops.

I agree with you, though, that people who participate in the ostracism of, say, known abusers or people who disrupt movements are not supremacists. I do not say that ostracism is never a necessary evil. What I am saying is that, when you start to consider ostracism not as an evil sometimes necessary, but as right way to deal with abuse and violence, then you have to adopt a supremacist worldview to justify it. (Also, your point about "consequences of their behavior" is funny to me, because I wrote about this kind of argument: )

Finally, I would be grateful if you took the time to tell me whose shitty behavior you're assuming I am trying to rationalize. This would help me adjust myself, whether it is true or not.

wow, so this is personal for you, huh? did you publish here yourself?

1. you don't believe it but that's just your opinion, which probably has a lot to do with it happening to you? in a way that you presumably feel was unfair but again, that's just your opinion and I don't know details.

2. that's a bizarre, lazy, stupid definition of cop behavior. try harder. do better.

3. again, no, I don't have to adopt a "supremacist view" to ostracize people. I just put up with their shit until I can't stand it anymore and that's what many other people are doing as well. the problem for me is when people make incorrect assumptions about each other. I'm also not required to justify who I do and don't want to associate with, voluntary association is a classic anarchist principle.

4. I have no idea who you are or what you're trying to rationalize but I'm very familiar with convenient, circular logic used to justify people's bullshit under the pretense of anti-authoritarianism. Having been an anarchist for a long time, seen that trick before, doesn't work on me.

I think the most significant gap is in that first point of contention, ostracism just isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person. I say that as a relatively unpleasant person who isn't shy about conflict. Leaving each other alone is often the best scenario.

It seems like it is personal for both of us, mate. That's allright, most debate actually are.

1. Is what you said ("ostracism is the only weapon of the almost completely powerless or else it's a mercy, rather than more extreme measures") more than your opinion? If it isn't, then I don't know why should I back my opinion more than what you do. If it is, then back it up and I will do too.

2. You actually have a point. I was lazy. I'll try harder and do better.
"Why shouldn't people treat you harshly based on what you did?"

2a. But what does it means? If it means putting me in jail, for example, then no, people shouldn't. If it means my boyfriend hitting me for coming home late at night, then no, he shouldn't. If it means my boyfriend leaving me because i hit him, then i have no troubles with that. But your question is too vague.

2b. What is more akin to cop-like mentality, though, is being abusive towards someone *in the name of the greater good* (or protecting the weak, or correcting their character, or anything like that). And that is what Gillis promotes in its article.

3. You are not describing ostracism. You are describing cutting ties (individually or collectively) with someone. What ostracism means is more than that: it is a group dynamic where the leaders of a group decide that everyone should cut ties with the someone in question, otherwise they will be ejected from the group too. What Gillis says is "we should pressure as much people as possible to cut ties with bad people and threaten to cut ties with them if they don't". And that is abuse. As you say, voluntary association is a classic anarchist principle, and nobody should be pressured to break relationships (as they shouldn't be pressured to maintain relationships).
And saying that some people should be treated like that for the greater good because they are so bad that they shouldn't be allowed to exist in society is supremacist.
But you have the right to say you don't wanna hang out with someone. Why do you think I would be against that?

4. Your first feedback was that my text was full of assumptions. Please take a step back and look at how yourself are assuming a lot of stuff about me and my motivations. I am pretty sure you met a lot of people using "circular logic" to justify a lot of bad behavior, and it stick with you. But maybe that is not what is happening right here? At least, can you notice that I am not justifying anyone's bullshit here?

Finally, something doesn't have to be "the worst thing to happen to a person" to be bad. Yes, sometimes leaving each other alone is the best thing that can happen. But notice that ostracism is not "leaving each other alone". Organizing campaigns to exile someone while refusing face-to-face dialogue is not "leaving them alone". At all.

ok, ok this is interesting stuff! I was being a bit of asshole too, want to own that up front. typical of me.

I say ostracism is a weapon of the weak because it's only a passive aggressive popularity contest sort of conflict, yeah? So contrast this with the most obvious examples of old school power, like, compared to using military force, a bunch of people all agreeing they don't like you and making it clear you're unwelcome in their social circles is ... schoolyard level conflict. See what I mean? It's an absurd comparison, I know but not all conflict is equal and power dynamics are the best way to understand conflict, imo.

Put another way, the social capital being weaponized against the person who is being ostracized, is ultimately a very weak form of power that immediately loses out to other, more tangible types of power. These distinctions are important for anarchist analysis because it's embarrassing and problematic when anti-authoritarians make false equivocations about this stuff.

If I don't like you and I punch you in the face because I'm bigger and stronger, this is more straightforward power dynamic but scurrying away to whisper to all my friends about how you suck and are a bad person isn't a particularly impressive use of power, tho it's effective sometimes in smaller social groups where one person wields that power and people blindly follow their lead.

But ostracism isn't the issue in that instance, it's the person or group using their power for the wrong reasons. Also, I just learned ostracism was supposed to be temporary, traditionally, like where the word's from. Also interesting imo! So, that's all just my opinion but there it is. Also, how are you so sure about this clear distinction between "cutting ties" and ostracism? I mean, the dictionary says it's because the leader says so but we're all anarchists here so ... yeah.

Anyway, I've had to deal with these situations many times IRL and the details were really important. Sometimes "the group" was being unfair and unduly harsh, other times they weren't being harsh enough if you ask me and a LOT of the time, a very unpleasant person was successfully intimidating everyone else and mindfucking them and stockholming them so ... yeah, devil in the details.

Also, what does exile mean, in this case? Like, literally run out of town by an angry mob is different than kicked out of a facebook group which is different than can't go to certain public events anymore and so on and so on.

Lastly, I liked your writing about how "consequences" could be a stop-think scenario and I've seen that happen but also ... actions just literally have consequences so there's a lot of possibilities there again, in the details.

It's okay, we can have strong reactions on these topics and that's quite healthy, after all.

I think you conflate what's strong and what's spectacular. Direct physical violence is impressive, it's wysiwyg. But saying "one phonecall and nobody will hire you in this town" is not necessarily weaker. In fact, it can have more lasting consequences. And also, the beauty of it is that it is mostly unseen. You don't know what is said about you, by who, and why. That's why it's "schoolyard level stuff", because schoolyard bullying is the art to harm someone as much as possible without anything spectacular that would attract the attention of the teacher (and this kind of schoolyard bullying is serious, that can scar for life).

If you punch me in the face, I can punch you back. Or I can complain about it. There can be accountability about your violence and mine. Maybe I should explain it somewhere, but I distinguish exclusion and ostracism, and the difference is in the process. Exclusion can be done in an accountable and ethical way, that is neither dehumanizing nor abusive. Ostracism, well, it's something else.

Let's go back to schoolyard. If other children tell you that they don't want you to play ball with them because you play too rough, that's exclusion, and that's harsh, but that's not abusive in itself. That's not dehumanizing. But when you start to understand that the other kids avoid you because there's rumors spreading on your case, or because some other kid with social status decided they should, and you don't know what, or who, or why, and nobody even tells you they are avoiding you... That's bullying, fair and square.

Maybe the line between cutting ties/exclusion and ostracism as i see it becomes blurry sometimes, but there is a line anyway.

Glad you liked that article. It was an important one for me.

yeah, I think we might have to agree to disagree around our analysis of power? and your dichotomy around ostracism vs something-you-think-isn't-bad. also we apparently went to different schools, mine was more thunderdome? the emotional harm was the least of my problems haha

there's a bit more to it than spectacle, not just that it's "impressive". violence and coercion in the most literal sense is how economic deprivation has any effect. Like, without cops and guns, it wouldn't matter if this person you mention makes a phone call because you wouldn't need to work a job and could just take what you want or need.

Anyway, perhaps we're just using different yardsticks for the human condition? Mine seems to take a lot more cruelty and conflict as a given, compared to yours. Oh well.

At some point, compare what form of harm is worse is not really productive.
Is ostracism better or worse than physical violence? I'm guessing depends on the intensity. When I was ostracized by my community, I spent three months in mental distress, under sedatives, dreaming of being beaten up instead. It had profoundly impacted my sense of belonging, in the spiritual and psychological sense of the term. But of course adverse experiences exist.

I do not believe that physical violence is just spectacle or just impressive. I am saying it is impressive and spectacular, but of course that's not all that. I don't say that to diminish it, I am just saying that, with most physical violence, you actually see the damage done. But bullies always like the specific forms of violence that are invisible. In my schoolyard, there was several techniques to hurt people without traces. Cops, too, like that.

There's a paper about it from David Graeber, maybe you would like it.

See you!

yeah, you're looking at a bigger philosophical thing there, for sure.

of course it depends on the intensity and you're not really addressing much of what's been said to challenge your claims here? Just keep mentioning cops and how you've suffered and you make appeals to relativistic, hand wavy stuff about how mental anguish can't be categorically said to be less awful ... which is technically true but not very compelling imo, except maybe with something like solitary confinement or other much more elaborate forms of psychological torture that involve imprisoning someone.

like, what does whether others can "see the damage done" even matter? why is that important?

anyway, historically the word seems to have literally meant casting someone out of the community as an alternative to just killing them, which was the style in the ancient world. seems strange to struggle with which one of these options was the less bad one? I dunno, it's a pretty outlandish claim you're making there but you do you!

I thought you didn't want to go too deep into it and I didn't want to be a bore, but let's get on it, then.

Your first assertion was that ostracism was "the weapon of the weak, or else it's a mercy".
And you sustained that claim by saying, if i understand you well, that
1. it's "only passive/aggressive", instead of overtly aggressive,
2. other things, like physical torture and killing, are worse, and
3. it's an effect of social power, which is a weaker form of power than brute force.

And... errr... Ok, there's a lot of stuff to do.
First, do I think points 1-2-3 are factually true? Only point 1.
Point 2 is meh. I would tend to agree that physical violence might be worse. That's what my gut says. But my point about spectacle is just a way to say that my gut cannot really be trusted in this matter, since it reacts to what looks painful and not what actually is. But as I said, I don't think there is any point in these comparisons, and it obviously depends on the intensity of it. You're right, physical violence at its worst is murder. At its worst, ostracism leads to suicide. Is getting killed better or worse than getting driven to suicide? Don't know, don't care.
Point 3 is not. If brute force was superior to social power, then capitalists would lift and do push-ups instead of building relationship networks. And yes, someone with social power cannot really harm you without the ability to call people able to deal physical violence, but that's the very definition of social power - the ability to make other people act how you want. You might consider than threatening to invade a country, or, say, send goons to break one's legs is a feat of physical, and not social, power, but that's doesn't make any sense to me. Biden do not send troops by threatening to beat them up if they don't go to war. Of course, in the right setting, physical power trumps social power, but in the right setting, being good at Tetris trumps it all. All of this is very ham-fisted, and I think there are way more subtle analysis of what power is, but in this matter your point is worse than my rebuttals.

But let's assume your points are true. Do they imply ostracism is "the weapon of the weak, or else it's a mercy" ?
1. Obviously not. If anything, the fact that a violence is covert is usually a feature of superior power (and if you didn't read it, the piece I linked is pretty good!).
2. Yes, if you define "a mercy" by "something that could be worse".
3. No. Even if physical power was superior than social power... First, because there are people who have both of them, or none of them. Most people I participated in the ostracism or who participated in mine have roughly the same physical build than mine. And, second, because leftist ostracism also relies on physical violence to be successfully enforced anyway.

But let's consider directly your claim. I don't believe in any weapon of the weak. By definition, the weak have no weapon. At best, there are weapons who are not thought as such. And I don't believe ostracism is really a mercy, in the sense that I believe it spares more the conscience of the ostracizers than the punished person.

And, finally, let's go beyond your claim. One thing you made clear is that you don't like people trying to rationalize shitty behavior.
And I think you should ponder on if it's, or not, what you're doing here.
At least, notice that from the point of view of someone who thinks ostracism is shitty, that would be the case.
I mean, I would accept "ostracism is shitty, but sometimes we don't see another way of doing things".
I would agree. Sometimes, I don't see another way myself.
And I agree that the line between what I call ostracism and what is just people cutting ties is blurry.
And people are in their right to cut ties.
But "being killed is worse anyway, and it's just the weak defending themselves, and grow a thicker skin, pansy" is... is it really the point you wanna make?

well you feigned agree-to-disagree and then proceeded to argue more before pretending that you were signing off and done. not an idiot on the other end here so lets not pretend I am, in the future?

you keep putting ostracism in this special category that apparently you get to define and anyone else must be acting like a cop unless they accept your ... murky definition of the word as intrinsically shitty? something about when people do more than cut ties? when they fuck with your employment? can I at least ask what definition you're hanging all this on?

If that's how you understood my behavior, I understand why you're pissed off. I was sincererely agreeing-to-disagree, I just wanted to correct a misconception about what was my position, not argue it more. I'm not trying to fool you, mate. I might be a pain in the ass sometimes, and I tend to jump to conclusions, but I'm arguing in good faith.

You're right, by the way, about the fact that I don't have a very tidy definition of what I call ostracism and that it is a weakness of my position. Partly because my reflexions on the topic are not over, and mainly because it's difficult to define informal social dynamics since they are, usually, emerging from individual interactions. Defining bullying, for example, is not easy at all. We all have images of what bullying is, but having a definition who cleanly separates what is and what is not bullying is super hard.

But, at least, I think we can put into "ostracism" what Gillis says we should do to rapists: organized campaigns of pressuring and threatening as much people as possible so that they cut ties with someone.

that's fair enough. I don't know anything about the particulars of your situation. So any objection I have to your arguments is only about how they might be totally appropriate OR they might not. like i've seen enough dumpster fire accountability processes to be very wary of snap judgements and "social capital" being misused by crybullies, that stuff can be just as toxic as "abuse" or another form of it or whatever, I believe that's the gist of what you're saying, no?

as for gillis, he's a joke. his chest-thumping feels very performative, as well as his analysis being shit in the first place. but I don't really get why a lot of these people are so convinced that the world needs their writing. yours is far more interesting than his.

Here we go, I'm predicting a new term/word to stand beside alt-right, antifa and Idpol, its ----*fanfare* ---SpaFa--- meaning Space-Fascist--- pronounced ---Spay/Far--- SpaFa--


"Contrary to the assertions of some leftists there are in fact thoroughly monstrous people who are not just victims of their social conditions."

dude...people ARE THEIR SOCIAL CONDITIONS. Have you ever read ANYTHING by Karl Marx? The above quote is vapid in the sense that NOBODY IS JUST A VICTIM OF THEIR SOCIAL CONDITION. THEY ARE SELF-CREATING EGOISTS AS WELL.

Sociopaths do exist. I am one of those people, but you have to be careful not to distance yourself too far from anti-social monsters, because you will become an anti-social monster.

Christ, so now we've found the ultimate trans-humanist, some twitter troll who sits around using corporate software trying to change people to become more like him.

to the lumper:

"and sometimes it's a witch hunt, sure but other times, why shouldn't people treat you harshly based on what you did? if you actually did things, that doesn't make them "supremacist", it just means your actions have consequences."

It's called word play, william gillis wrote an essay on "bad people", and for him this is a form of proxy warfare in favor of tepid revolutionary anarchism [or pop-anarchism]. You seem to not realize the consequences of a lot of your actions as well. You've told me to read books. I'm still reading your silly, left-idpol sympathizing, comments....dUdE.

Okay thecollective, i know I've been posting a lot this morning for pleasure, you can delete what you want now. I hope you got a lot of sleep last night, because i sure as hell did.

What's wrong with books? Don't you like books? You should read them ;)

When Gillis writes things like this —

"Let’s say that you get raped by Sam. The default self-interested calculus is to shut up about it and pretend like it never happened while avoiding him. The damage is done, the legal system and public opinion is overwhelmingly stocked against you. You could maybe inflict a little revenge, but you’d take massive damage. And as revenge, it wouldn’t be a stunning victory that would demonstrate your superior power to all those watching, no, you would appear weak. You were raped, you lost standing fighting him. You took the path of the damaged, self-destructive, crazy woman. No, better to shut up.

But what of the other people he could hurt? If you’re a selfish person you don’t care, or only care enough for a deniable whisper of warning here or there.

If, however, you’re an empathetic person for whom the rape of another person is akin to getting raped again yourself… the answer is obvious, you have to do what you can to stop Sam from raping again.

So you whisper and yell, you warn everyone you can"

I wonder if he understands what he is saying. Most of his essay reads like wannabe-snappy answers to twitter feuds but then just ends up sounding like incoherent word salad or like this, hostile to the people he claims to be in defense of.

you know when you cringe so hard, your skeleton rips out of your flesh and runs down the street, screaming?

this guy thinks every default "bad person" is the same. Have you ever heard of someone telling their rapist they have AIDS? A pretty clever one, defies morality and has a certain percentage of keep-the-dick-out-of-you. A lot of women would run to their closest friend and cry after getting raped, nothing wrong with that, but who is fucking william gillis to tell people that self-interest is bad? What if not everyone wants to talk about their horrible experiences with everyone else? Some women would go directly to the hospital for a swab in order to accumulate evidence, nothing wrong with that. Some would wait on the sidelines for a chance to kill the person. Nothing wrong with that either!

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