One man’s adventure beyond good & evil

If you can’t read a book without losing your mind, and you’re not willing to do the work to get sane, then you should get a legal guardian who makes all important decisions for you. People love to blame anyone but themselves for their own misfortunes. This attitude reminds me of women who claim they could not help getting into bed with men who were charismatic. If you won’t take responsibility for your choices, please appoint someone who will. Britney Spears did. Be like Britney.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

If I trigger someone and they start drinking, am I to blame for their alcoholism? No. If I trigger someone and they start shit posting, am I to blame for their self-destructive behavior online? No. If I tell you about this great thing called the internet, and you get online and start compulsively shopping, that’s on you. If I tell someone that Amazon.com has a lot of good deals, and then he over-spends on these deals, that’s on him. I believe in taking responsibility for things that are my responsibility and not taking responsibility for things that are not my responsibility.

(Proviso: If I am in an intimate relationship with someone, I am still not responsible for her choices, but I will undoubtedly influence her at times.)

We influence people for good or for bad, but in the end, they are responsible for their own choices. Humans did not evolve to be gullible.

Perhaps I should add trigger warnings to protect those who won’t take responsibility for their lives?

Paul-talk: “A teacher is a leader. If YOU “open a door” FOR someone, you have some responsibility if they walk through that door.”

If I tell a married adult in his 40s with kids and a good job to read a book, what percentage of responsibility do I bear if he reads that book and self-destructs? I would say less than 1%, less than .1%… But I don’t subscribe to your zombie model of information (take in this information and it zaps you and turns into a zombie). I believe in personal responsibility.

Paul: “Your attitude is a cover for irresponsibility.”

Not taking responsibility for things that are not your responsibility is to me the essence of responsibility.

So the responsible path is to never mention anything that people might misuse? To treat adults like children? I am not responsible for anybody else’s choices. I am only responsible for my choices. Apparently you believe that adults lack agency. Nobody can radicalize you. Nobody gets zapped by information and turns into zombies. We can only open doors for people that they then choose to walk through.

Paul: “No one was ever influenced by anyone for good or ill? Should the words “leader”, “follower”, “admiration “, “émulation” be struck from our vocabulary?”

It is all a matter of degree. We do influence people, but in the end, people are responsible for their own choices. If I recommend someone read a book so we can discuss it, and that leads him into self-destruction, that is 100% on him.

Paul: “No, it’s on you too. You play with fire. I’ve gotten to know several ex-luke Ford stream people and your influence seems to have been unhealthy. Behind a facade of intellectual adventure you are toying with the souls of semi-educated people seeking good… Sure you are! You put up a big sign: INTELLECTUAL ADVENTURE, and then say anything you feel like to anyone who comes allong, without the least consideration for the state of their souls. There is a reason we go to first grade before second grade, that you don’t go to college without a high-school deploma, and don’t do higher studies without doing the lower first. You are gleefully radicalising people… it seems to amuse you. You are irresponsible. You don’t seem to care what happens to people you’ve toyed with.”

People who blame their problems on others are not impressive. I try to avoid such people. It’s a major sign of being a loser. My show keeps changing as I change. For example, after I read the book, Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, I made changes. As I grow, I change the show.

I find the human condition hilarious (much of the time). You want to moralize involuntary responses such as laughter. I won’t argue much over how much I care. That seems silly. I am not into public displays of conspicuous caring. I spend dozens of hours on the phone with people who’ve been affected by the show and do my best to be help. Please be specific about my lack of responsibility. What ideas/books/theories should I not discuss to protect the vulnerable?

How has my influence been unhealthy? Given that I am not a perfectly healthy man, I am sure I have been flawed in things I have said and done. I want to have a healthy influence on people, even while not accepting responsibility for their choices in life.

Paul: “Well, at least you know what you want! ☺️Some people don’t laugh at the books you introduce them too; they take them all too seriously. But you know this, so… I guess you think they’re.. zombies.”

Nope. I don’t think they’re zombies. I think such people are unbalanced. Most people who spend a lot of time on Youtube are failing at real life. Radical politics or trolling are just symptoms of a deeper problem just as for the porn addict, porn is not the problem, just a symptom. If people read the Koran or Mein Kampf and it leads them in a bad direction, that has next to nothing to do with those books and everything to do with them. No German not disposed to Hitler’s point of view had his mind changed by Mein Kampf.

If I model bad behavior and flawed thinking and disrespectful speaking, and other people imitate that, then that is on me to a degree (maybe I bear something like 20% responsibility for their choices of following my bad behavior).

I find the human condition endlessly amusing. Laughter is an involuntary response. One should not apologizing for finding humor in something that others feel is appalling just as one should not apologize for an involuntary sneeze (though one should take steps to not infect people through your involuntary behavior).

Just because one laughs at a circumstance does not mean that that is your only response. You can laugh at something and then cry about it. You can giggle and then sniffle. Laughter may be just one of a whole panoply of reactions you have to a single event.

Paul, perhaps we just come from different traditions. I come from the Anglo-Saxon tradition which values free speech. You seem to come from a paternalistic tradition that believes that people should be shielded from free speech in case it hurts them. I view adults with IQs over 100 as adults, you view adults who don’t come up to your standards as children who should be coddled. You believe that you know what is best for people, I believe in allowing people as much freedom as possible to decide this for themselves. You fear books and ideas and discussions that may hurt people, I fear thought police more. I fear no book, no idea, no theory. You are filled with fear for discussions you can’t control lest they hurt the vulnerable.

Paul, I don’t understand why grown men use emoticons in a serious discussion and I don’t understand why grown men can’t be bothered to spell and punctuate correctly in such circumstances. If you believe what you are saying, why do you relay your beliefs like an eight year-old girl? Do you truly believe that such sloppy shoddy girly writing makes your case more powerfully? If I am playing with people’s souls as you assert, why are you writing like a child?

Paul: “You can just say stuff if you want 😸.
You don’t teach people to laugh at the book; you yourself have deplored that certain people can’t handle the stuff you hand them. You can toss hot potatoes to people if you give them gloves first. And then, some people are zombieish, as l suppose you are aware. Do you think no one has ever zombified anyone? The author of the book did a fine job of that. Those influenced have responsibility, but the influencers do as well.
Your attitude is childish.”

Thank you for this discussion. I am learning from this. My show is not primarily about teaching, it is about sharing things I am learning while trying to be clear about my generally low level of expertise in the matter. I deplore that people can’t handle certain things I discuss and I place the responsibility with them to grow up, not on me or society to coddle them. If it is not me triggering them, life will. The solution to alcoholism is recovery, not necessarily prohibition (I have no opinion on prohibition). You want to stop involuntary reflexes to laughter, I think that is foolish. Nobody has been zombied. Mein Kampf did not change any minds. Please provide evidence that it did? My attitude is that adults with above average IQs are responsible for their choices. To you this doctrine of personal responsibility is childish. We differ. I’ve bounced the point of view you articulate off every intellectual I talk to from Paul Gottfried to Stephen Turner etc, none have your attitude. Your thinking, however, seems prevalent among babysitters.

If I introduce someone to alcohol, and they become an alcoholic, what moral responsibility do I have? I say none. If I introduce someone to gambling and they become a gambling addict, I take no responsibility. If I mention a porn star and as a result, someone becomes a porn addict, I take no responsibility for that. I only take responsibility for that which is my responsibility — my behavior and words. I am not invested in your life. Your ups and downs are not my responsibility. I want you to flourish, but that is up to you. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and one of those things is you. I can’t control anyone but me.

One does not become a righteous man by taking responsibility for things that are not your responsibility.

Paul: “Yes it does; people are influenced by people, books and so on. This is how there is cohérence in a society. We are influenced by each other. Your approach and self justifications are not particularly original for example, but typical of a certain 20th century vulgar neitszhean notion of free thinking which is now thankfully somewhat out of style. @Luke Ford Livestreams l could never learn to spell, but l did manage to learn to think, and l like emoticons (l’m a painter, l like stuff like that).
Take some more cheap shots – this interaction is public. 😼”

Paul, yes, prior to Nietzsche, nobody believed in adult responsibility. Of course we influence each other, but only you are responsible for your choices. I am responsible for trying to be the best influence I can be but taking responsibility for things that are not mine is silly, not righteous.

To you it is a cheap shot to inquire why someone makes the public choices they do in a public discussion of serious matters. You treat me as a child who does not realize that this is a public discussion. You keep saying I can do what I want as though that is an important point nobody had ever considered. You seem to hate responsibility. You claim, “I could never learn to spell”, and yet you spell perfectly when you choose to. So rather than take responsibility for your words, you claim disability and artistic license. A man, in my view, stands behind his words or he apologizes for them. Your lack of character is revealed in the way you, a man beyond 50 who has published a book, make excuses and flee from responsibility. You allege that I play with people’s souls. That’s a serious allegation. And yet you make it in the writing of a child. I find it curious. I’ve never engaged with anyone in a comments section like this (that I remember). I do so because this is important. We can never say anything but what we are. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

If I tell a woman to suck off a dog and she sucks off a dog, I have no responsibility for her choice (unless I am in an intimate relationship with her, and then I’d place my responsibility level below 50% but above 1%).

According to Paul Little, he was earning about $120,000 a year before he read Kevin MacDonald’s book Culture of Critique. After that, he quit his job, started driving for Uber so he could talk to people about the JQ. I find that hilarious and I find it sad. That I think it was a bad choice on his part doesn’t mean I can’t also find it funny. Perhaps the truly righteous man is not amused by such acts of self-sabotage. I am not that righteous.

There’s been a great deal of media discussion about Alt Right radicalization leading to massacres. Even going by ADL and SPLC figures, we only get to a couple of hundred victims, about 1% of the number of dead from the Ferguson Effect. All told, mass shootings in the United States over the past 54 years have killed an average of 20 people a year, about 10% of those killed annually by falling furniture.

I’m intrigued by the theory that humor depends on hostility. From the New Yorker in 2012:

In fact, that view goes back to before Shakespeare to—who else—the Greeks. Plato stated that laughter was a “mixture of pleasure and pain that lies in the malice of amusement.” According to him, we feel delight instead of pain when we see even our friends in misfortune. The humorous corollary of this is Gore Vidal’s quip that “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” Of course, this sentiment does not preclude the humor that arises from an enemy’s downfall.

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes formulated what became known as the “superiority theory” of humor when he stated that “the passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others.” Sudden glory was undoubtedly what the Right Honorable Ed Miliband felt when he disparaged the Right Honorable David Cameron’s budget as a dishonorable “omnishambles.”

While Miliband’s supporters felt quite suddenly glorious, the opposite was the case on Cameron’s side of the aisle. This scenario is in line with a wrinkle on the superiority theory known as “the dispositional model of humor,” which hypothesizes that “humor appreciation varies inversely with the favorableness of the disposition toward the agent or entity being disparaged, and varies directly with the favorableness of the disposition toward the agent or entity disparaging it.” In other words, it’s funny when people we admire make fun of those we don’t, but not the other way around. The idea is that something malicious and potentially harmful must happen, or, at a minimum, the inferiority of someone or something must be implied before something can be funny.

Freud, naturally, thought there was more to it. In “Jokes and Their Relations to the Unconscious,” his goal was to look for the underlying motivation behind jokes. His great insight about laughter was that “strictly speaking we do not know what we are laughing at.”

…But the real source of the pleasure, according to Freud, is not this clever jokework—that just serves as a distraction that permits the hidden hostile or sexual content to be released. Of course, it’s not an either/or choice between hostile and sexual. When it comes to jokes and insults, hostility and sexuality are not strange bedfellows, but boon companions. And when it comes to the type of invective that Malcolm Tucker spouts on the British sitcom “The Thick of It,” the sexuality and hostility are hiding in plain sight: watch Tucker threaten, berate, and verbally castrate a journalist so that he won’t leak a story.

…The so-called “misattribution theory of disparagement humor” formalizes Freud’s idea by stating that, “we can allow ourselves to laugh and display amusement at the debasement or embarrassment of someone who we don’t like if there are incongruous or peculiar aspects of the situation to which we can (mis)attribute our amusement.” Laughing at the embarrassment or humiliation of even someone whom we dislike is a no-no. Pure dislike is not funny. To say yes to this kind of laughter we need an excuse, something unusual or unexpected in the situation to pin it on. We let that peculiarity take the blame to avoid the shame of our naked emotion. Our annoying neighbor backs out of his driveway right into his mailbox which wobbles a bit from side to side and eventually goes kerplunk right on the sidewalk and spews out mail, which then gets picked up by the wind and is blown right into the neighbor’s face as he gets out of the car. And that’s what we attribute, or as the theory would have it, misattribute our laughter to.

I remember in 1999 attending a talk by Steve Allen at the Center for Inquiry West. There were about 150 people in the room but I was the only one who laughed when Allen criticized Howard Stern for saying about the Columbine killers, “Why didn’t they at least rape the girls first?”

Possessing a dark sense of humor is not a moral defect. It does not make one a monster. It’s an involuntary reflex that one can sometimes stifle.

The SDA prophet Ellen White taught that one should not laugh at anything that does not have a moral purpose.

Philip Daniel comments: “Luke’s complicit in radicalization and he knows it… Through his online activities, he’s arguably done more to harm the interests of both Jews and European-Americans than most, and it seems fitting that his audience and influence are now on the decline.”

Philip, why do you keep watching the show then and joining the chat? Why did you just subscribe to my channel, lukefordlivestreams18? Or is this personal pique disguised as moral indignation? It’s weirdly self-destructive when people simultaneously want to belong to a group and pronounce themselves above the group.

This may be what happens when you tell a composer you don’t enjoy the dissonance in his music and then you become a threat to Western civilization.

I am intellectual gigolo. I fall in love with every comely idea that comes along but ultimately stay loyal to none. I do make behavioral commitments, but not so many ideological ones. I love exploring ideas with smart people, but my real life is marked by routine.

The New York Times published this article in 2017: “When Gangs Killed Gay Men for Sport: Australia Reviews 88 Deaths

Apparently, gay men enjoy anonymous sex in the park beside the Sydney Harbor cliffs and roving gangs of homophobes in the 1980s and 1990s would seize them and throw them off the cliffs. A person may well find that story both hilarious and heart-breaking. There is no mandatory emotion that one must experience when reading the news.

The idea that books or Youtube videos radicalize people is absurd. All they can do is influence people to go in directions they want to go. Books and videos are not zombies zapping people and turning them into automatons.

I had an Orthodox Jewish friend who as part of her graduate school training, had to spend a week reading anti-Jewish materials and a few days into the experience, she was beginning to hate Jews. So human beings are weak, complicated and vulnerable. But the anti-Jewish materials aren’t salient in this story, rather it is her own lack of self. It’s on her to get well.

People who yearn for a magic key to life — for one simple explanation for everything — are childlike. They need to grow up. If they refuse to grow up, that’s on them.

The book Mein Kampf did not radicalize Germans. Adolf Hitler did not radicalize Germans. He was loved by people who agreed with him and hated by those who disagreed. Mein Kampf resonated with those who wanted a magic key and was despised by those who despised that approach. When Hitler took power and implemented policies, he was popular with those who benefited from his policies and he was unpopular with those who did not. Trump is popular with those who feel he benefits them and he is unpopular with those who do not feel such a blessing.

Penn State political scientists Kevin Munger and Joseph Phillips wrote in 2019:

A prominent theme in theories claiming YouTube is a radicalizing agent is the recommendation engine (“the algorithm”), coupled with the default option to “auto-play” the top recommended video after the current one fiinishes playing.4 The algorithm tends to recommend alternative media (the theory goes), leading users down a “rabbit hole” into which they become trapped, watching countless hours of alternative media content and becoming hardened opponents of liberal democratic values and mainstream knowledge production institutions. Even if we accept the premise that YouTube is an important space for radical politics, we argue that a model of YouTube media effects that centers the recommendation engine is implausible, an unfortunate update of the hypodermic needle” model of media effects that enjoyed some prominence in the 1930s and 1940s but which has been consistently discredited ever since (Lasswell, 1927).

New cultural contexts demand new metaphors, so in place of the hypodermic needle, we call this the “Zombie Bite” model of YouTube radicalization. The reference is to Ribeiro et al. (2019)’s working paper (the most comprehensive quantitative analysis of YouTube politics to date) which deems people who comment on videos produced by figures associated with the “Alt-Right” as “infected,” and that this infection” spreads.

We think this theory is incomplete, and potentially misleading. And we think that it has rapidly gained a place in the center of the study of media and politics on YouTube because it implies an obvious policy solution|one which is flattering to the journalists and academics studying the phenomenon. If only Google (which owns YouTube) would accept lower profits by changing the algorithm governing the recommendation engine, the alternative media would diminish in power and we would regain our place as the gatekeepers of knowledge. This is wishful thinking that undersells the importance of YouTube politics as a whole.

The rollout of cable television and the development of partisan television media was the most politically important development in communication technology in the second half of the 20th century (Arceneaux and Johnson, 2013; DellaVigna and Kaplan, 2006; Martin and Yurukoglu, 2014; Prior, 2007). The primary reason is that there were more channels and thus more partisan news consumed in the aggregate…

Beginning with Bridle (2017)’s viral essay about horrifying content auto-recommended to children and extended to the realm of adult politics with journalistic enterprises like Nicas (2018) and Tufekci (2018), a single narrative has emerged: YouTube audiences are at risk of far-right radicalization and this is because the YouTube algorithm that was designed to maximize the company’s profits via increased audience time on the platform has learned to show people far-right videos.6

A working paper published online by Ribeiro et al. (2019) in August 2019 is by far the most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of YouTube radicalization to date. They need compelling evidence of commenter overlap between videos uploaded by the three ideological communities: the “Alt-Lite,” the “Intellectual Dark Web,” and the “Alt-Right” (we discuss this typology and propose an alternative typology below). The paper demonstrates that many of the commenters on “Alt-Right” videos had previously commented on videos from the other camps. This is valuable descriptive information, and it enables the scholarly community to better theorize about causal relationships of interest. However, this is not itself evidence in favor of any given theory of the underlying causal process that explains Alt-Right viewership. Ribeiro et al. (2019)’s conclusion admits as much: Our work resonates with the narrative that there is a radicalization pipeline…Indeed, we manage to measure traces of this phenomenon using commenting users.”

The status of the “radicalization pipeline” is indeed best characterized as a “narrative,” rather than a theory. The chronological fact of people watching and commenting on Alt-Lite videos before moving onto Alt-Right videos is undeniable. But what model of the world does this call into question? Presented with the descriptive fact of “Alt-Right” creators with sizable audiences on YouTube, did any theorize the existence of some kind of ideological discontinuity in the media that audience had previously consumed?

Indeed, the most plausible mechanism by which a viewership discontinuity might occur is the recommendation engine. But despite considerable energy, Ribeiro et al. (2019) fail to demonstrate that the algorithm has a noteworthy effect on the audience for Alt-Right content. A random walk algorithm beginning at an Alt-Lite video and taking 5 steps randomly selecting one of the ten recommended videos will only be recommended a video from the Alt-Right approximately one out every 1,700 trips. For a random walker beginning at a “control” video from the mainstream media, the probability is so small that it is difficult to see on the graph, but it is certainly no more common than one out of every 10,000 trips.7

In short, the best quantitative evidence available demonstrates that any “radicalization” that occurs on YouTube happens according to the standard model of persuasion: people adopt new beliefs about the world by combining their prior beliefs with new information (Guess and Coppock, 2018). People select information about topics that interest them; if political, they prefer information that is at least some what congenial to their prior beliefs (Stroud, 2017). Persuasion happens at the margins when it does happen. The “Zombie Bite” theory is, of course, something of a straw man; no one has fully articulated and defended it. However, some form of the model is implicit much of the discussion about the growth of the far right on YouTube.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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