The Troll Summit

Trump Invites Far-Right Internet Figures to Discuss Bias At “Social Media Summit” – The Guardian

With the Troll Summit happening at the White House today, it’s worth a thought for how the far right is seeking to legitimize and weaponize trolling.

  • Contrasting a “freedom of speech” (and in the US, incorrectly insisting it’s constitutionally mandated in every possible venue) vs. a private platform’s duty to police itself. In the case of social media, this is also argued that due to social media companies’ monopoly power (something the far right has no problem with in other areas) a hazily defined duty to allow everyone access exists.
  • Insisting that as part of that freedom, people should be forced to engage with them, whether they choose to or not. “Blocking” is a hostile action; companies that enable that are preventing them from speaking, individuals that choose to do so are “snowflakes” that are afraid of “the truth”.
  • Indulging in a level of hypocrisy verging on the literally hysterical. While they deserve “freedom of speech” literally everywhere, people who disagree with them are shouted down, and people who disagree with them effectively are blocked and/or banned (if the troll is in position to do so on a friendly platform/network). While they will gleefully indulge in any ad hominem/personal/hurtful attack possible, even the slightest below-the-belt response is met with a howling cry of how oppressed they personally are and how cruel their opponents are. (In many cases this hypocrisy is intentional, as seen by many internal discussions among far-right groups).
  • The end game for trolls is simple – not to win the battleground of ideas, but to destroy it. By destroying the battleground, not only will no one will ever seek to oppose them, ideally no one CAN oppose them, because the space to do so either literally no longer exists, or is such a toxic, violently unpleasant morass that a normal person would flee in horror. Thus they have “won” and can retreat to their own (heavily policed) safe areas and crow of their victories.

This is all too familiar to those of us who dealt with the earliest version of this problem – online game developers in the past 10 to 20 years. Only now the stakes are a touch higher. And the space being toxified is… well… everywhere.

King Zog Wins World War Two

Dystopia is fun! I wrote this speculative piece 10 years ago – an almost plausible way World War 2 could have gone down a different path, given one key moment.

How King Zog Of Albania Survived Over 50 Assassination Attempts
Bring me my hat. It’s the one that says “Bad Mutha Fucka”.

In our reality, the frankly hilarious in almost every way possible King Zog of Albania personally defeated an assassination attempt in 1931, guns blazing as his bodyguards drop, at a Vienna opera house. Yes, it’s literally a rap video 50 years in the past.

But what if Zog wasn’t as good a shot as he was in reality?

In THIS timeline, in 1931 Zog falls in a hail of gunfire (although still captivating the press of Europe, desperate for good news and fascinated by the dashing gangster royal). In the ensuing chaos, a young Communist named Enver Hoxha takes over. The new government breaks all ties with Italy (Albania was largely an Italian economic protectorate at the time), but gets little aid from the USSR which is in the midst of the Great Purge. Little Albania, destitute and in chaos, retreats within itself to “build socialism”. Mussolini is tempted to invade, pushed by Italian bankers who were nationalized, but decides that Ethiopia is the more tempting target.

Enver Hoxha - Wikipedia
In OUR timeline, Hoxha hid from the Italians in the woods.

History continues as normal, because hey, it’s Albania, who cares? 1939 comes and goes without an Italian annexation of Albania – unlike in our timeline, when a jealous Mussolini browbeats Zog into surrendering his country, a Communist and largely destroyed Balkan duchy holds no charms for il Duce. But the historical break asserts itself forcefully a year later.

No Italian Albania means no Italian invasion of Greece. Which, in our timeline, failed miserably, and gave the English a foothold in the Balkans. The Germans had to bail them out, in Operation Marita, and also triggered a simultaneous invasion of Yugoslavia when a fascist-sympathetic government collapsed after agreeing to give the Nazi invasion force transit rights. It was a mess that delayed Hitler’s planned invasion of Russia by 6 months.

Battle of Crete - Wikipedia
Also, the airborne assault on Crete never happens, which means Germany still has all those paratroopers the British killed on the way down.

But with no Albanian foothold tempting Mussolini to imperial greatness, this doesn’t happen. Germany invades the USSR on schedule, in the spring of 1941. And the Panzers arrive on the outskirts of Moscow, as they did historically, 5 months later. Only instead of December snows, it’s the September thaw. There is no General Winter to save Stalin. Depressed and refusing to abandon his capitol, he dies in the smashed ruins of the Kremlin, reliving his Russian Civil War past leading a futile cavalry charge against Guderian’s tanks.

HEINZ GUDERIAN | Weapons and Warfare
In our timeline, Guderian never could defeat General Winter.

The Soviet government, hiding in the Urals city of Kuibyshev, quickly destroys itself – Beria shoots Malenkov, Zhukov shoots Beria, Molotov shoots Zhukov. The Stalinists were always little more than feudal gangsters, and defeat does not suit them. Marshal Rokossovsky, the Polish-Russian tank commander who spent time in the gulags after the Tukhachevsky purge, takes his long awaited revenge for having his knuckles broken by the secret police, overthrows the government in a coup, and negotiates a surrender with the victorious Nazis. The USSR, now missing most of European Russia, is swiftly fallen upon by a Japanese invasion seeking easy spoils and descends into a hundred feudal warlords and chaos.

Adam Tooze on Twitter: "Konstantin Rokossovsky: survivor of Stalin's  purges, commanded defense of approaches to Moscow in 1941, at Stalingrad  42, Kursk 43 and mastermind of destruction of Army Group Center in
Rokossovsky in our timeline did better, leading his troops into Germany.

With the fall of Russia, Germany is dominant in Europe. They annex the Balkans leisurely in 1942 (the abortive Socialist experiment in Albania ends at this point under German boots, ironically outliving its Soviet inspiration), and, taking the long way through the Caucasus, the tanks of Rommel and Guderian meet in Cairo, which combined with Franco’s Spain joining the victorious Axis (historically likely given a Russian collapse – Spanish troops fought in Russia), cuts off the Commonwealth from its Asian territories. The UK and its new US allies have only one option left to them – the invasion of France. Only instead of Operation Overlord, in 1944 against a Germany fighting a last-ditch defense against an enraged Soviet Union, Operation Sledgehammer takes place in 1943, against a Germany that has no other fronts and no distractions. It’s Dieppe magnified – a huge slaughter of tens of thousands of men for seemingly no purpose that causes both Churchill and Roosevelt to be thrown out of office.

Raid on Dieppe masked secret mission to steal Nazis' Enigma machine |  Second world war | The Guardian

Yet Germany cannot end the war. For all its reversals and defeats, England is still protected from the Wehrmacht by a few dozen miles of sea water blocking England from France. England is hammered day and night, first by bombers, then by missiles, yet England endures – much as Germany in our timeline, incessant bombing kills civilians by the score and inflicts untold misery but leaves the military and economic infrastructure largely intact. The Kriegsmarine embarks on a huge rebuilding program, based on input from their Japanese allies (fresh from victories against the US at Pearl Harbor, Midway and Anchorage) on the wisdom of aircraft carriers. Yet it would be years before they come online.

How to Stay Safe After a Nuclear Explosion or Disaster, What to Avoid

And they come too late. In 1949 Berlin, Frankfurt, and Hamburg are vaporized in nuclear fire (a dozen other bombers never make it to their targets). A sullen peace is concluded, with no real victor. France is given a sort-of independence under Petain. With Hitler dead in Berlin’s ruins, Himmler and his SS take over the still very militarily dominant Germany. Eventually leftist revolts overthrow the inefficient and insane Fascist regime, 50 years and uncounted millions of deaths later. But the European Union is very much a German domain.

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st earl of Halifax | Biography & Facts |  Britannica

Churchill’s government falls after the Sledgehammer disaster, replaced by the 1st Earl of Halifax, Edward Wood, returned back from a stint as ambassador to the US in a failed hope that he could negotiate an honorable peace with the Germans. Weary of a role few could hold, he did little to stop the forces of the Marxist “Second Commonwealth” which took power, overthrowing the monarchy in 1952 and severing all ties to Europe.

COMMUNIST UK | Polandball Amino

Russia is a wild anarchic starving hell on earth. The attempts at German colonization fail miserably; no one wants to live in Himmler’s Spartan work camps masquerading as pastoral villages. Any attempt by ambitious Russian warlords to reunite beyond a city or two are smashed by a watchful German army, but a Russian state does not rise from the ashes until the 21st century, well after the German Nazi collapse.

Curtis LeMay | Atomic Heritage Foundation

In the Pacific, Japan’s high water mark against the US Navy was the Battle of Anchorage, where America’s last 2 carriers in the Pacific are sunk in 1942. Yet Japan does not have the ability to follow up on this; America is just simply too huge for Japan to conquer. The Pacific War grinds on, year after bloody year; Australia falls in 1943 but Japan never can properly hold on to it nor its Chinese client states. After the European war ends, Japan fights on, despite nuke after nuke, until there are no more Japanese left to kill. The nuclear bombing of Australia, despite the atrocities committed during the Japanese occupation wins America few favors among the Commonwealth. President Curtis LeMay couldn’t care less. He took power in a coup after the failed Sledgehammer landings, and America is as dark as Europe, but for different reasons.

And no one knows what happened to all the Jews in Europe.

And all because, unlike our timeline, a king named Zog couldn’t shoot straight.

Zog I of Albania - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See? The hat really makes it.

It Takes a Village to Destroy a Country

The Immigration Court Judge Who Has Rejected Every Asylum Seeker – Topic

It’s not just Trump. That would be far too easy a narrative.

There is an industrial complex staffed with people who no doubt believe they are doing the right thing, and go off duty to preach in their churches as pillars of their community, their eyes gliding elegantly over problematic verses like these:

“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

‘Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'”

Matthew 25:41-45

Oh, yes, this devil quotes scripture.

If Ya Gonna Godwin, Ya Gonna Go Full Godwin

“The cruelty is the point”

This is the title of an important article from last year about the ideology of our current regime. Namely, that it indulges in such gratuitously cruel stupidity that one wonders, simply… why? Why bother? Well, it’s because it’s designed that way. It’s supposed to be that cruel – it’s not gratuitous at all. It’s the entire point of it all. To quote Adam Serwer’s piece:

It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another… [their] community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.

So, with the news stories of detention camps for children – specifically to house children that have been forcibly separated from their parents/guardians (which is wildly cruel, which is the entire point of why it is done as policy – “they shouldn’t bring kids over the border if they don’t want to lose them!”) – are kept in horrible conditions designed to dehumanize them and alienate their guards from any sympathy. How do you feel sympathy for someone who smells like feces (because they have no access to sanitation), haven’t showered in weeks (because they have no access to any) and are becoming magnets for disease (because they are crowded together while in wildly unsanitary conditions)?

Well, that question was asked before. In another time, and another place, where another regime separated children from their parents and then kept them in bestial conditions. The following is from “KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps” by Nikolaus Wachsmann, as reviewed by the New Yorker.

Helm devotes a chapter to Ravensbrück’s Kinderzimmer, or “children’s room,” where inmates who came to the camp pregnant were forced to abandon their babies; the newborns were left to die of starvation or be eaten alive by rats. Wachsmann quotes a prisoner at Dachau who saw a transport of men afflicted by dysentery arrive at the camp: “We saw dozens . . . with excrement running out of their trousers. Their hands, too, were full of excrement and they screamed and rubbed their dirty hands across their faces.”

These sights, like the truck full of bodies, are not beyond belief—we know that they were true—but they are, in some sense, beyond imagination. It is very hard, maybe impossible, to imagine being one of those men, still less one of those infants. And such sights raise the question of why, exactly, we read about the camps. If it is merely to revel in the grotesque, then learning about this evil is itself a species of evil, a further exploitation of the dead. If it is to exercise sympathy or pay a debt to memory, then it quickly becomes clear that the exercise is hopeless, the debt overwhelming: there is no way to feel as much, remember as much, imagine as much as the dead justly demand. What remains as a justification is the future: the determination never again to allow something like the Nazi camps to exist.

History is watching.