LQCs: Replacement theory, High School biology, Y2K, Macho puffery

The New Yorker, Kathleen Belew (assistant professor of history at U of Chicago) interviewed by Isaac Chotiner, 15 May 2022: Making Sense of the Racist Mass Shooting in Buffalo, subtitled, “An expert on the white-power movement and the ‘great replacement’ theory puts the act of terror in context.”

Some fascinating context and background.

The manifesto last night is also, broadly, copied from the Christchurch manifesto. [In March, 2019, a white gunman killed fifty-one people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.] We’re dealing with a genre of writing in which these threats are brought up to paint a picture of a race under siege.


The “great replacement” comes about relatively recently from “The Camp of the Saints,” a novel that depicts a surge of migrants that usurps European culture. But it’s really the same ideology as the New World Order conspiracy, the idea of the Zionist occupational government—which is how people talked about this in the nineteen-eighties and early nineties. We see versions of this going all the way back to the eugenics movement in the early twentieth century, the writings of Madison Grant, and things such as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” All of these are the same set of beliefs packaged with the cultural context at the time.

It allows an opportunism in selecting enemies so that you can tack to the scapegoat of a particular time and place, but it also follows the central motivating logic, which is to protect the thing on the inside, regardless of the enemy on the outside. It’s about the fundamental importance of the preservation and birth rate of the white race. So the elements that are consistent across time are the idea that the white race can be threatened by intermixing and the idea that there is some kind of evil, élite force interested in eradicating it.

It’s not just about passive demographic change, and the news stories we see pretty often about when a county or a city or the nation will no longer be majority white. It’s about an apocalyptic threat perpetrated by what these conspiracists think of as a cabal. They see, for instance, abortion as a scheme to lower the white birth rate. They see residential integration as a scheme to lower the white birth rate. They see feminism as a scheme to keep white women out of the home and lower the white birth rate.


It’s very difficult to think Tucker Carlson and others who are using the words “great replacement” don’t have some knowledge of what they’re doing, or of the consequences in radicalized groups. There’s no way to think about “great replacement” as a phrase separated from its long record of violent acts against communities of color and its broader project of undermining democracy in the United States.

I understand the connections here between racism, immigration, and feminism; I’m not sure I understand how abortion fits into this paranoid theory or racial preservation, since most beneficiaries of abortions (I gather) are poor non-white women. If anything, forcing them to give birth keeps them poor, to the advantage of the white race, I had thought. I must be missing something in their logic.


Washington Post, Max Boot, 15 May 2022: The Buffalo shooter’s views are mainstream on the right

It was a conservative writer who coined the phrase “ideas have consequences.” The mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday, which left 10 people dead, shows the consequences of two of the horrific ideas that have taken root on the American right: support for the “great replacement” theory and opposition to gun control.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 15 May 2022: Mass shooting in Buffalo: Tucker Carlson and other right-wing conspiracy theorists share the blame, subtitled, “Fox News and GOP leaders understood the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory was dangerous — and pushed it anyway”

Now a familiar refrain will commence. No doubt we will be hear a great deal of umbrage in the coming days from Republican leaders and right-wing pundits. “How dare you blame us?” they will proclaim, in almost hysterical terms, acting shocked, shocked, that anyone would suggest that their words have had horrible consequences. The point of this fake outrage will be to make it too emotionally exhausting to hold them accountable, and to reinforce the ridiculous victim complex that fuels the American right as it increasingly slides into fascism. But let’s not mince words: These folks share the blame. They have been encouraging violence, and violence is what they got.

Carlson, the piece notes, “has invoked the ‘great replacement’ theory in over 400 episodes of his show…”


Other current events: a public Facebook post by SF author C.J. Cherryh:

One thing that should be taught in highschool biology: the developmental stages, egg to birth. It’s disgraceful that the average adult walking the street and rated competently adult still does uses magical concepts, like instantly-human-looking babies in the first month of pregnancy, that time when we, elephants and weasels all look alike.

With some entertaining comments.


An old topic, on conservative paranoid thinking. Y2K. A Tumblr thread posted by David Gerrold. An averted disaster! Imagine that.

I hate it when people say the Y2K bug was a “hoax”. No, it was a very real concern that was avoided by millions of programmers, some coming out of retirement, working around the clock to fix the problem before it h appened. They suceeded, and instead of being thanked for their efforts, most people just assumed that since nothing bad happened, it wasn’t real.

With some entertaining comments.

I was there at the time, but only peripherally involved. I worked in software, but with spaceflight software, nothing that involved calendar dates or Y2K corrections.

The relevance of this past event to today is this. The Y2K crisis was identified and solved by engineers who did not need public buy-in to solve the problem. No one accused them of manufacturing a crisis in order to ensure their jobs, or make more money in overtime, as so many people cynically do about vaccine doctors or climate scientists. The contrast between Y2K and the much greater crisis of climate change is that the public *is* involved, via their elected representatives, and very little is getting done as fast as it needs to in order to avoid a major crisis by the end of this century, even in coming decades. And then, as more heat waves kill people in India, as more huge wildfires burn hundreds of homes, and more coastal cities begin flooding, the cynical disbelievers will whine about how the scientists didn’t warn them in time.


Does everyone now even understand what the Y2K problem was about? The issue was that in early computers the amount of memory, memory to store the computer programs, was extremely limited by modern standards, or even standards of the 1990s. When software was written for the early big “mainframe” computers (the ones that occupied entire rooms), or the onboard computers on early spacecraft (the main engine controller I developed software for had a whole 16K words of memory, for an entire program that monitored sensors, responded to commands from the cockpit, and started and shut down the main engines of the space shuttle), they used every possible shortcut to minimize the size of the software.

So dates were encoded in six “bytes,” each byte eight bits long (each could handle any digit, in binary, from 00 to 99) in mmddyy format. 103173 for October 31st 1973. No one was forward-enough looking — or rather, could afford to be forward-enough looking — to anticipate a time when eight would not be enough. But by some point in the early ’90s, it did begin occurring to technical people, who then worried about what would happen when dates like 103173 were compared to, say, 120100, for Dec 1st 2000. The old software would detect the later date as being *earlier* than the earlier date. Oops. Imagine what havoc…

(Later thought: actually the dates were likely in YYMMDD format.)

So the basic fix was easy: change all the date fields to allow four bytes for the year. And then… examine all the software routines themselves to be sure the logic would handle date fields that large. Conceptually simple, but tedious to implement, especially since such changes entailed re-verification of all the software before it could be deployed in the field…


Passage from a book by David Brin I read this past week:

The research of cognitive linguist George Lakoff proved that roughly half of Americans prefer a “strong father” over the liberals’ “nurturing parent.” Fundamentalists idolize a man who is opposite-to-Jesus in every way, because he galls the same people they hate. Every GOP convention and rally is now a festival of macho puffery. Even a third of U.S. Hispanic males revere Trump’s caudillo bluster, despite all the offensive racism.

I have made similar observations: how conservatives want an authoritarian to tell them what to do and what to think, so they won’t have to think about the complexities of the world and how they don’t match the ancient myths of scripture. Will discuss the book more in a future post.

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