Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Whence Pepe?

February 23rd, 2017 by MC

Image result for contemplative pepe

[Google Images result for “Contemplative Pepe”]

I have a theory about the rise of the Alt Right. Or maybe that’s too specific: I have a theory about why the American Right has become considerably more verbally aggressive, politically incorrect, and nationalistic over the last 2-4 years, a phenomenon that encompasses Trump and Trumpism, the Alt Right, the rise of Breitbart and Steve Bannon, etc.


Before describing this particular theory, let me first point out a couple of theories that I completely agree with, and that are undoubtedly driving this trend as well:

  1. The Left has gone all-in on identity politics for everyone but white men, and has openly and aggressively pursued policies that would result in an ever-smaller white percentage of the population. It was inevitable that whites in general, and white men in particular, would adopt some form of identity politics in self defense.
  2. The Left has simply become so extreme in its lies, its methods, and in its ideological intolerance, that the Right feels no choice but to radicalize in response.

My theory, which again is only part of the picture, has a lot to do with this post I wrote a couple of years ago about “disparate impact.” As I mentioned in that piece, my first reaction to Murray and Herrnstein’s “The Bell Curve” was one of discomfort; even if it’s true, who does it help to talk out loud about it like this? Well, this is why it’s necessary:

In the absence of any evidence of discrimination, the only way that the grievance industry can survive on a large scale is to presume guilt, by excluding the possibility that differences in success between groups could arise naturally. There is, of course, no logical or scientific reason why such differences are impossible. Instead, the lack of differences must be assumed; it is an article of faith. […] Therein lies the moral imperative to publicly acknowledge the likelihood, or at least the possibility, of group differences in ability and aptitude. If you assume away the differences as a matter of first principles, every disparity justifies a witch hunt.

In retrospect, my 80s/90s childhood took place during a strange equipoise in political rhetoric about race. There was no longer any frank, mainstream discussion of racial matters, as one could still see in the 1960s with the Moynihan report. There was also little overt racism. Political correctness had rendered some ideas unutterable. But the change in language was still perhaps only a matter of manners and fairness; it did not yet distort people’s perception of the world.

Image result for revolving door dukakis

An example of this was the 1988 Bush campaign’s “Revolving Door” ad* criticizing Dukakis for releasing murderers and rapists on furlough in Massachusetts, or the more notorious “Willie Horton” ad. One need not look very hard for a racial subtext in those ads, but it is a subtext. The text of the ad is a completely legitimate attack on Dukakis’ record on crime. It is notable that the Dukakis campaign, in addition to crying racism, responded with its own ad about a federal escapee named…Angel Medrano.

Of course, Bush won in a landslide. A fair summary of the median voter’s view might be: “We don’t think of ourselves as racist, but we’re not going to let you use the fact that blacks commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes as a reason to disregard our own safety.”


Then, at the end of turn of the century, my generation reached voting age and went to college. Having been raised in those halcyon days when none dared mention the harsh realities underlying American race relations, we were free to soar into  flights of fancy, with winds from the faculty lounge at our back.

The phrase for this is “alternate reality,” and it encompasses far more than racial matters. You spend your whole childhood hearing how women can do anything men can do. Maybe our teachers who spouted that understood that it would be silly to take it literally, that obviously there are good reasons why women can’t play in the NFL or be expected to take on an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. But they didn’t pass those disclaimers along. And if you take “women can do anything” literally, how far of a jump is it to decide that women can be men just as well as men can?

That leaves young fogeys like me in a conundrum. I hate to lose arguments, and I particularly hate to lose arguments that are used to attack my people and my way of life. But if I play by the rules of political correctness, I have to concede a number of points that will lead to my defeat.

In any political argument nowadays, there is a PC-sized elephant in the room. When a liberal argues that “patriarchy,” or the less strident “discrimination,” is to blame for the unhappiness of childless career women, the elephant is: “Well, women were made to have babies, and people tend to be unhappy when they aren’t doing what they were made to do.” When a liberal points out the high suicide rate for transsexuals, the elephant is: “Well, transsexuals are mentally ill, and are often given crackpot ‘treatments’ that make the problem worse.” The only way the Left can win these arguments is if the elephant goes unacknowledged. And that means the only way for the Right to win is to be defiantly un-PC.

Image result for elephant in the room

In purely analogous terms, when the Left shouts “racist,” “sexist,” and “homophobe” to shut off areas of debate, they employ a similar strategy to the Palestinian terrorists who launch rocket attacks at Israel from atop schools and residential apartment buildings. They know that the Israelis have little option than to fire back at the source of the rockets if they want the attacks to stop, and they know that it will be Israel that takes the blame for the inevitable civilian casualties. They value human life so little that the propaganda value alone makes it worth the cost. This puts the Israelis in a morally wrenching position. As Golda Meir said, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”

Most religious people and conservatives are well-mannered, and go out of their way not to make anyone feel bad. So of course the Left claims that every vestige of Christianity and traditional life not only makes them feel bad, but is actively harmful to them. Conservatives like to laugh at those weak little snowflakes with their safe spaces, and man does that miss the point. This is an act of aggression, not weakness. They want you to surrender to their demands rather than be thought of as a meanie. And for several years, many otherwise conservative leaders have decided that this path of least resistance is the prudent one.**

But not the Alt Right. Not Trump.


My daughter likes to climb up on our fireplace hearth. We never use the fireplace, and the hearth is only a foot high, but there is a piece of wood trim at the front that she tries to use as a balance beam, and I am constantly scolding her to get off of it. It can support her weight temporarily, but it wasn’t made to support her weight, so it’s starting to loosen.

Our disintegrating norms of politeness and comity are like that wood trim. They look nice, and they can withstand a fair amount of stress without breaking. But they simply were not made to support all the weight we now put on them. When the upper caste seeks to extinguish the religion of the majority, when it seeks to replace the masses with other masses more to its liking, that’s not something we can fix by putting a little love in our hearts. Winsomeness will not save us.

This is something not even the left realizes. They expect that conservatives will fall in line because not falling in line would be a social disgrace. Because they don’t feel the pull of family, or religion, or ethnicity, they don’t realize how strong those forces are. They don’t realize how close to the breaking point the left’s social power is when they attempt to pull apart those ties. And they think that the good-old-fashioned American neighborliness will overcome the disorienting effects of Muslim immigration.

American neighborliness is both lovely and robust but there are some weights that it simply can’t bear.


I’m not a particularly nice Mormon.

My niceness is probably slightly above average for the American population at large. It’s probably well above average for a lawyer. But for an active Mormon…no way. And I know for a fact that most of what niceness I do possess is largely due to having grown up in the Church. Niceness is part of our cultural DNA, and it is a wonderful thing. But since my niceness is learned rather than natural, I view it with a certain detachment.

I’m worried about the nice Mormons. That’s most of them. It’s true that as a Church we’ve been much firmer in resisting the cultural tide than almost any other group, but I attribute that to our relatively strong culture of obedience to our leaders. I sense that a lot of the nice Mormons have a difficult time reconciling the nice person they know themselves to be, and the horrible bigot the media tells them they are.

Stubborn contrarian meanies like me are pretty well inoculated from all that. I don’t think Mormons can ever embrace the outright cruelty of many on the Alt Right, but if our niceness is not leavened by a fair amount of hard-headed realism and willingness to fight, a lot of us won’t survive the day. By dint of “natural selection,” we may see the archetypal Mormon evolve from, say, Mitt Romney to Brigham Young.

Image result for brigham young wild

[Bad boys get all the ladies].


Speaking of Mitt…

In 2012 the Republican Party nominated the paragon of Mormon Nice for president, and he was tarred as a racist, sexist, murderous robber baron. Republican voters saw this, and quite reasonably thought, “If they’re going to call our candidate those names no matter what, what do we have to lose by picking a guy who can’t shut his mouth about all of these elephants in the room? We might win an argument for once.”

If the Left goes down to defeat within our lifetimes, this will be a big reason why.


*I was in first grade when the “Revolving Door” ad played on TV, and I remember it very distinctly. Imagine being that age and hearing that one of the presidential candidates let murderers out of prison on the weekends. That ad was seared into my mind, and it had not a thing to do with race, a concept of which I was only dimly aware. I can’t think of a single other political ad that I recall seeing during my childhood, but I will never forget about Dukakis as the guy who let 1st degree murderers out on weekends.

**I think most very conservative Christians would tell you that VP Pence is more their idea of a conservative president than is Trump. But let’s not forget that when corporations threatened to boycott Indiana over its religious liberty bill, Gov. Pence folded like origami. Would Trump have done so?

Comments (44)
Filed under: We transcend your bourgeois categories | Tags: , , ,
February 23rd, 2017 02:12:54

Bruce Charlton
February 23, 2017

@MC – Just superb! Really clarifying post.

February 23, 2017

“Then, at the end of turn of the century, my generation reached voting age and went to college. Having been raised in those halcyon days when none dared mention the harsh realities underlying American race relations, we were free to soar into flights of fancy, with winds from the faculty lounge at our back.

The phrase for this is “alternate reality,” and it encompasses far more than racial matters. You spend your whole childhood hearing how women can do anything men can do. Maybe our teachers who spouted that understood that it would be silly to take it literally, that obviously there are good reasons why women can’t play in the NFL or be expected to take on an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. But they didn’t pass those disclaimers along. And if you take “women can do anything” literally, how far of a jump is it to decide that women can be men just as well as men can?”

Mainstream sociology is useless. Uncatchy propaganda. On the corners of the internet where they are trying to reinvent sociology, this phenomenon is called “Not Getting the Joke.”

I’m not a particularly nice Mormon.”

You and me both, brother. I’m one of those rare long time Mormons with a lot of Southern/Scots-Irish blood.

February 23, 2017




“I’m one of those rare long time Mormons with a lot of Southern/Scots-Irish blood.”

There may be something to this, as I’m one of those rare long time Mormons with a lot of French blood, courtesy of my convert dad. I wonder how much of the Mormon Nice phenomenon is related to high levels of polite English and cooperative Scandinavian ancestry.

February 23, 2017

This is simply magnificent stuff. It’s why JG has been the best Mormon blog for a while now.

Some notes:

1. I’m reminded of a discussion my family had at dinner one night about a decade ago. My 3rd-grader son said, “I don’t want to say anything bad, but I’ve noticed that some of the black kids in my class act way worse than everyone else.” What struck me most wasn’t that an 8-year-old had noticed behavior differences, but that he’d already internalized that talking about those observations was socially unacceptable.

2. I love the fireplace trim story. Conference worthy!

3. As a fellow brother with Scots-Irish blood, I have to recommend reading Jim Webb’s excellent book “Born Fighting.”

4. For all the talk here of the Benedict Option, perhaps that applies to a degree to the mainstream of our church society as well–not institutionally, of course, but to some of the cultural aspects that aren’t fit to survive this new era. It will mean being even more energetically faithful to our leaders, and less like the soft mainstream boobs many active men have become.

5. I don’t support the Alt Right, but I support its supporters. If anything good comes out of this administration, it will be a heavy dose of disinfecting sunlight on precisely these things that are quietly ailing us. Media bias primarily.

February 23, 2017

Frankly I’m still unclear on exactly what the alt-right is, and what it stands for, other than the general idea that it’s in the business of mocking PC. That said, this is an excellent analysis and explanation and certainly rings true to me.

Ivan Wolfe
February 23, 2017

I get that the alt-right is a thing (what is the connection between it and the “neo-reactionaries”?), but when I hear most people use it online or in the real world, it seems indistinguishable from “the Illuminati.”

People who were, even if left wing, have gone full bat guano crazy pants tin foil hat psycho, ranting about how 4chan elected Trump (along with Russia’s super secret reality hacking mad skillz), and Breitbart (which I don’t really like) as a gateway drug for Stromfront and other white supremacist groups.

It’s not just a case of seeing reality differently, it’s like there are completely incompatible realities we’re all living in.

Ivan Wolfe
February 23, 2017

Oops – that should be “People who were, even if left wing, reasonable and willing to engage in discussion before, have gone . . . “

el oso
February 23, 2017

I do not know if the mainstream church member is going to go fully to the fighting style like brother Brigham had. I see the church as trying to be less political as an institution. Many members will probably follow that lead.
This has been discussed somewhat here before, but probably bears repeating. The republican party frequently will nominate the person who probably could have won the previous time (in their perception) 4 years after a failed presidential bid. McCain was hopelessly out of his depth talking economic issues, and the final 2 months of the 2008 campaign focused on the economy. Romney would have been much better for that. Romney was close in 2012, but was perceived as not attacking Obama’s weaknesses enough, not being conservative enough, too elite, and playing nice to a backstabbing media. The 2 leading candidates for 2016 were both pendulum swings away from the Romney weaknesses in their own ways. All of those characteristics, while perfectly normal thoughts in mainstream conservatives minds, also lead to the empowerment of the Alt-right to one degree or another. Cruz would not necessarily have been an overt Alt-right ally, but he would have had plenty of support from them.
We will see if many of the extremes in our culture can get pushed back by just pure aggressiveness or if Trump is not the one to do it.

February 23, 2017

Regarding the definition of the alt-right, it’s important to note that unlike most other iterations of the right, this one is actively hostile to Mormons. Not just a little, either. They really despise Latter-day Saints, and not because our support for candidate Trump was so tepid. I’ve had to stop reading more than one “conservative” blog and message board in the last year or so because the contempt was getting so overt (Vox Popoli is one example).

I think this animus is motivated by the same kind of nationalistic machismo, bereft of studied devotion, that likewise propels the far left and Islamicist jihadists*. The alt-right sees themselves as the “real” Christians, even though their brand of the faith has been largely hollow for decades. They keep up the appearance of life in the same way the leftists and jihadists do: they rally against the “other,” i.e. us.

A major feature of the alt-right, as I see it, is a cartoonishly exaggerated parade of righteousness, as opposed to traditional conservatism’s more introspective way of life.

I don’t think the alt-right spells the end of identity politics; I think they’re just hijacking it for their own ends. In an age where identity politics is ever ascendant, I love how much the Book of Mormon–and the modern prophets–urge us to focus on our own spiritual needs, e.g, “cleansing the inner vessel.”

But, ironically, in the 21st century West, a community that adheres to that will have to be aggressively vigilant over their spiritual stewardship.

[*the nationalistic machismo of the far left is, of course, ideological in nature, not ethnic or patriotic.]

February 23, 2017

My understanding is that alt-right is an imaginary social label invented from thin-air. In the same way the right throws the label of “Social Justice Warrior” on anyone exhibiting certain disagreeable leftist behaviors (such as white-knighting and playing emotions above facts) the left applies the label “alt right” on anyone exhibiting certain disagreeable rightist behaviors (Such as white nationalism/anything Trump says). Most people don’t fall anywhere near under either of the labels, but its a handy strawman when you need a cheap enemy to make your side look good, so the labels are very popular.

February 23, 2017

The alt-right is real enough, and it came up with name label itself — it wasn’t invented by liberals. And it’s as thoroughly rotten to the core as Huston describes.

The problem, which bobdaduck comes close to identifying, is that the label is now being applied by the Left to just about everything on the Right, whether or not it has the slightest taint of the actual and odious alt-Right to it. Rather like the habit the Left had of calling things on the Right “fascist” that were about as far from fascist as is humanly possible, until Jonah Goldberg helped immunize the Right from the term just as it was starting to wear out anyway.

Bruce Charlton
February 24, 2017

MC said: “I’m worried about the nice Mormons. ”

Me too – and nice people in general.

One of the main problem is not in the explicitly political arena but in the workplace.

The modern ‘bureaucratic’ workplace is totalitarian – micromanagment is just another word for it.

What this means is a system of fine-grained (hour by hour, minute by minute even) monitoring which includes a large and increasing proportion of employees providing the evidence for monitoring and audit.

(Most new management initiatives increase the frequency and detail of record keeping and extend it to new domains.)

This amounts – now – to a system of thought control – because the employee is complicit.

It also entails systematic dishonesty at every level – by omission, distortion, habitual hype and spin – and indeed outright but deniable lying. It is – in essence – the same system as the Eastern Bloc economy – and equally supported by a culture of spies and informers (eg. the management-encouraged culture of complaints, denouncing etc).

Nearly all nice people are so corrupted by this workplace totalitarianism that it is either invisible or defended – and indeed they are likely to be employed in the core management systems.

Furthermore the management systems are secular, materialistic and Leftist in their assumptions – the systems assumes that nothing *really* matters except their own information, and nothing *really* matters except the completeness and internal consistency of this information. The Real World, the Human Condition – is precisely nowhere – mere hearsay and rumour.

This is profoundly evil, it has happened recently (past few decades) – and it has happened because (ultimately) people have let it happen – because it relies on the mass of people building, decorating and repairing their own spiritual prison.

It could not have happened except for the mass apostasy and resultant materialism and hedonism of the past half century – but the fact that nice people are unconcerned by it (except to build a successful career within-it) is strong evidence of severe spiritual corruption.

February 24, 2017

Re: Alt Right/Neoreactionaries

Vader is right that the Alt Right is real. How evil I think it is depends on how widely you define the group. If you restrict the definition of Alt Right to those who use it to refer to themselves, it’s a crew that Mormons really ought not have much to do with, even if they wanted us, which they don’t. Richard Spencer is the originator of the term, and I regard him as being on the dark side because he is clearly one of these Neo-Nordicists who think that Christianity is just another Jewish trick. As Huston mentioned, Vox Day is Christian, but nastily anti-Mormon (although he’s friends with Larry Correia, so I dunno).

There are, however, a lot of good people who would never call themselves Alt Right, but who share a lot of their nationalistic, anti-PC premises, and are indeed highly regarded by the Alt Right. Some of the most prominent ones are the National Review refugees: Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, Ann Coulter, etc. Our own Dr. Charlton is frequently quoted by Alt Right blogs. Alt Right gets used as a catch-all phrase to describe people who radically reject the politically correct premises of our current system. I don’t love that use of the term, but it seems like there ought to be a term for it. (Derbyshire has tried to use “Dissident Right.”).

You can actually draw a pretty straight line from Steve Sailer’s blog to Ann Coulter’s book on immigration (she’s an avid reader of Steve’s blog), and from there to Trump, who read Ann’s book before deciding to run. So the idea that Trump and his followers are animated by some far-out bloggy right wing ideas is not totally wrong, even if Richard Spencer had nothing to do with it.

Neoreaction is a much narrower phenomenon which actually had its heyday a couple of years ago, but which was overwhelmed by the Alt Right thing. The neoreactionaries are also wildly anti-PC, but they have specific beliefs about how government should be structured, some combination of monarchy and technocracy. It’s prophet, Mencius Moldbug, is an atheist computer programmer, so it’s largely an attempt to rebuild the traditionalist world from scratch without any of the icky god stuff. I think it’s popularity was mostly as a vessel for less structured anti-PC sentiments, but once Trump came along all of the wind was sucked out of it.

The media doesn’t really know the difference, so they use the terms “Alt Right” and “Neoreactionary” interchangeably.

John Mansfield
February 24, 2017

The weakness of the mainstream right, that Trump and Alt Right presented themselves as an alternative to, is not niceness, but cowardliness.

February 24, 2017

I would say the cause of anti-Mormonism in the alternative right is the radical pushback many of the alt-right footsoldiers are making against everything they see as PC. They realize they were ashamed of who they were (and this applies not only to whites but to non-whites who couldn’t stand being fawned on while whites were in their eyes mistreated), and so they snap back to the farthest possible thing. There’s a lot of Catholics, a lot of pagans, a lot of people for whom Catholicism isn’t traditional enough who drive an hour for an Eastern Orthodox mass.

Not only is Mormonism a distinctly American, distinctly democracy-loving culture, we’ve produced two presidential candidates that put us in the spotlight as the opposite of their values. Romney was in their eyes a defeatist, a soft, weak candidate that even if he won represented a capitulation of the GOP to leftist ideals. Remember that many of these people are very young and either don’t clearly remember the 2012 campaign or remember voting Obama.

The other candidate is of course the gift that keeps on taking himself, Evan McMullen. He’s somehow managed to position himself as a creepy virgin bad end, a NeverTrump dogmatist, a capitulating True Conservative, and a deep state propagandist, all at the same time. He’s bad copy with these people. He’s bad copy with most people. And of course there are the LDS congresscritters that defected so quickly and transparently after the Access Hollywood tapes.

At the same time, the Mormon right is actually pretty weak. We aren’t overcorrecting to a realization of a lifetime defrauded, we’re just about as conservative/reactionary as we ever were, which is not enough. Too nice. You have to let the entryists have their say, but you can’t tell them they’re wrong directly, and so shifts that Overton window until we’re so nice we may even support every single one of Trump’s policies but we can’t imagine supporting someone who isn’t nice.

Our youth movement is BYU, geographically concentrated, focused on its own problems, and so we aren’t engaging with the alt-right (or, really, the nation at large) in ways they understand. We don’t engage with the media. What little we do produce is almost entirely for our own consumption, outside of music. I hate Studio C.

I hate the Stepford cliche. I feel like we overcorrected trying to get away from the vampiric Mormon stereotype so hard we’re Care Bears now. I would love a Brigham Young or Joseph Smith archetype taking the spotlight as the public face of Mormonism, gentle but TOUGH.

I guess I need to do more pushups.

February 25, 2017

Mostly true, []. Add that Mormonism buffers us from some of the dysfunction that is driving the radical right.

Though I am told that they held a memorial service for Harambe at the Y. Anyhow, keep lifting, brah.

February 25, 2017

My own kids have been an ethnic minority in every school they have been too. They have also been in a minority in having two married biological parents. Relative to history, the treatment they receive is not at all bad. But its not good either.

And, modern life being what it is, add to the general rough edges a kid majority displays to a kid minority, constant kid vigilance for racism from the white people. My daughters get accused of racism on a regular basis by the other kids. Mostly nothing too serious, just casual kid verbal competition, but stuff like some 4th grader boy asking my 4th grader girl to be his girlfriend, and when she says no, telling people that she said no because he was Hispanic and she’s racist. My 5th grader had some short but intense bullying at one point because a rumor went around that she was racist. It had something to do with some girls talking in Spanish and pointing at other girls and laughing, and my own daughter taking umbrage.

Woe betide if anything that actually hinted of racism happened. One of my girls guilelessly observed that the “Mexican” kids at school never seemed to keep their promises, and I had to pull her up pretty short. I told her that whatever the truth of her observation (it may well have been true for all I know) it was not safe at all to say such things.

February 25, 2017

[], one of us is a Care Bear in a black mask and cape.

February 25, 2017

I don’t think we ought to wait for a tough Joseph or Brigham. If we want tough, we are going to need to do it individually.

And what is up with the hate for Studio C? Even Conan O’Brian complimented them for being really funny, while not being vulgar.

February 26, 2017

I agree that Mormonism as a whole is quite nice, even to the point of being detrimental to us. Which is why currently I’ve been reading a fair amount from Brigham Young, or listening/reading to earlier conference talks. It’s nice to feel a bit of that fire when so many times we find ourselves worshiping at the village love-in.

However, lately it seems that the niceness and happiness is further defining Mormons as the other in contemporary society (and I’m all for being set apart).

I was politely trying to get out of a conversation about Trump where I work, and the lady I was talking to said something about how important it is for us to express our disgust with how things are going. That we need to make sure we are constantly expressing our dissatisfaction with how things are; and it finally sunk in just how grumpy and angry everyone I come in contact with on a daily basis is. This unpleasantness has become how we are supposed to signal to others that we have depth of character, and our animosity has become our only real emotion. People talk about love, but the only proof they will accept that you love someone is that you hate the opposite.

It would be great if the archetypal Mormon morphed from Mitt Romney to Brigham Young, but men like Brother Brigham are few and far between and I am willing to bet that if the vast majority of us tried to be tough, we’d end up just being mean like everyone else.

February 26, 2017

If we all tried to start being tough overnight we’d end up meaner than everyone else. That’s how we do things when we play other peoples’ games, we get better than them and they move on.

The men I look to as inspiration for my life seem to have a lot more in common with Joseph Smith than with Brigham Young. If I had to boil Joseph Smith down to a few traits to put in the drip feed of a new generation of… post-nice? SUPER-nice? Nice+? Latter-day Saints, I would list him like this:
1. Forward-focused balance. Joseph used everything the Lord gave him, mental, physical spiritual, and he was fill of vigor and life in all of these categories.
2. Real strength. He could march, he could wrassle, he could charm, he could persuade. You could say real strength is humility, and maybe in the long run it is, but Joseph wasn’t humble because he was forced to be. He had a lot he could brag about. We should not forget that the Joseph who was shot at Carthage was a Lt. Gen.
3. Willingness to only not use strength when appropriate. I look at Joseph not as a man who was able to use strength when he needed it, but as a man who was strong by default, applying strategic retreats when necessary, but not needing an excuse to pick up a shovel.

I guess I didn’t end up mentioning Joseph’s niceness. He was very nice. He was also firm. His niceness wasn’t a product of a desire for peace, it was a product of love, and for those of us who don’t have that much love yet I say better ambivalence than false niceness – and woe to he who sticks to ambivalence and never asks for that love.

February 26, 2017

I think I agree with [] on this:

“If we all tried to start being tough overnight we’d end up meaner than everyone else.”

Rather than tough, I think we should aim for *good*.

The best way to win conflicts is *effortlessly.* The British at the Falklands, rather than the Americans in the Revolutionary War.

Toughness, formidability, etc., will come as a result of hewing to the commandments. Niceness should not be seen as being extra-Mormon, but as a trait of our internal society that happens to be adaptive outside of it.

February 26, 2017

Good points all around, Gentlemen, but what do the scriptures have to say about it? There are a lot of verses in the Old Testament and Doctrine and Covenants about not fearing what other people are going to say or do. So, our first step in avoiding excessive niceness is to have our priorities, to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourself. And to trust in the Lord.

Thus, we will be nice, because we are loving, but we will be tough because the Lord sometimes makes strenuous demands.

Second, we will need to be brave in how we keep the commandments, and not fearing their consequences.

Third, it will come from the living the Gospel, and how that is fundamentally opposed by the World.

In additional, (in no particular order) I liked what [] and SeriouslyPleaseDropIt had to say. [] mentioned strength (physical and spiritual) and control, which we might simply denote as meekness. (As in, “Moses was the most meek of all men”)

SPDI mentioned “Toughness, formidability, etc., will come as a result of hewing to the commandments. Niceness should not be seen as being extra-Mormon, but as a trait of our internal society that happens to be adaptive outside of it.”

We are not Not-Nice because we are fundamentally not nice, but because there is some other higher good that conflicts with it. CS Lewis had a great comparison with God as a dentist, who can see he must remove a bad tooth. It is painful and only going to get worse, but he does what has to be done, even the if the ‘nice’ thing would be to just ignore it, so as not to create greater pain, even if that is necessary to fixing it.

Let us all be good dentists.

February 26, 2017

SPDI, I agree that the Lord will bless us with great power as we adhere to the commandments. Let’s be careful, though, not to be reductive in our efforts to do so, and do all we can to avoid the kind of spiral that results in a shrug and a “huh, better do home-teaching better.”

Can you reach tough by aiming for good? I say, can you reach good without aiming for tough? What is good? Can we claim to be keeping the Word of Wisdom if we are pasty, overweight, ugly, without some hideous condition that justifies it? Yes. Can we claim to love it? To magnify it? The church has released plenty of materials on health and physical fitness, which, of course, I’m only using an example as the kind of toughness I’m talking about.

Excuse me, I’m having trouble framing my thoughts. When I talk about “tough” as opposed to “nice” I might mean something along the lines of “willing to say no.” The enemy’s in vogue rhetorical technique is to frame their claims such that you can’t directly refute them without seeming to be impolite. I say we should not fear that in the slightest.

February 26, 2017

I think you are on the right track, [].
A large part of what we are talking about here is speaking up when we would prefer to be silent, and being firm, when we would prefer to blend in. Thus your bluntness on the Word of Wisdom is entirely appropriate.

CS Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

So, rather than aiming for good, I suspect that we will be far more successful if aim for aim for Celestial and godly, AND we do it resolutely, and with courage.

February 26, 2017

“It would be great if the archetypal Mormon morphed from Mitt Romney to Brigham Young, but men like Brother Brigham are few and far between and I am willing to bet that if the vast majority of us tried to be tough, we’d end up just being mean like everyone else.”

Probably right. Toughness as an objective is always dumb. In WWII, very roughly speaking, the Nazis sometimes fell into the trap of being ruthless as an ends. The Americans were ruthless in pursuit of their actual ends. We won, they lost.

“If we all tried to start being tough overnight we’d end up meaner than everyone else. That’s how we do things when we play other peoples’ games, we get better than them and they move on.”

Brackets man, I like your swagger. So would Brother Brigham, if he were around. He’d slap you on the back and then send you to some hellish mission back of beyond.

February 26, 2017

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

February 27, 2017

I think we are generally of one mind.

February 27, 2017

Three of the apostles have caught my eye/ear in their oratory firmness coupled with an excellent diplomacy: Elder Oaks, Elder Holland, and Elder Uchtdorf.

Elder Oaks’ talks, in General Conference and elsewhere, concerning religious freedom. Elder Holland’s talks in General Conference about the literalness of the restoration and the Book of Mormon, delivered with an evangelical fervor. And Elder Uchtdorf’s talks in General Conference about living as becometh saints, and living up to our privileges.

Looking at the ages and seniority positions of current apostles, I note that all three seem to have a high probability of being President of the church some day.

Btw, here’s a quick list of seniority and ages (from Wiki):
Pres Monson, 89.
Nelson, 92.
Oaks, 84.
Ballard, 88.
Hales, 84.
Holland, 76.
Eyring, 83.
Uchtdorf, 76.
Bednar, 64.
Cook, 76.
Christofferson, 72.
Andersen, 65.
Rasband, 66.
Stevenson, 61.
Renlund, 64.

February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.

John Mansfield
February 27, 2017

This is getting a bit overboard. Creating beauty is worthwhile and should be one of our aims. Latter-day saints seek after lovely things.

February 27, 2017

“This is getting a bit overboard. Creating beauty is worthwhile and should be one of our aims. Latter-day saints seek after lovely things.”

Yes, I agree with this.

I think it’s possible that in many, many areas they needn’t conflict, though. I wrote a long comment last night (then deleted it) on how one of the greatest arenas for development of “toughness” is pursuit of virtue. The man who can organize his affairs such that he is consistently a faithful home teacher, is, in my estimation, formidable.

I am fortunate enough to be able to sing in General Conference’s priesthood session this coming April. We’ve begun rehearsals. This generally involves two stakes’ worth (!) of YSA men gathered in a chapel/gymnasium, led by one very energetic, mike-enabled choir director. As I entered, I was directed to sign in at a table corresponding to my ward. Afterwards, the tenors were directed to put away the chairs. (We manly basses, as members of the warrior caste, were of course exempted from such peasant work)

We are really good at organization when we want to be, despite jokes about “Mormon Standard Time” (current time zone + 10 minutes), low home teaching numbers, etc. From a certain point of view, none of these matter, and are merely keeping our organizational skills from rusting during downtime. You can look at us as an astonishingly ineffective corporation—or an astonishingly low-cost reserve army.

Cane Caldo, whom all of you should read, posits that sloth is the main enemy of men. I think “vigor” is a much better goal than “toughness.”

February 27, 2017

I completely agree on the ideal LDS man being a good home teacher, don’t get me wrong. My contention is on the FOCUS of our efforts to be good home teachers. If we build men who are organized, confident, dedicated, we can tell them “do your home teaching” or “build a tower to the Moon” and they’ll do it. Third-hour guilt sessions, though, can’t get anyone to bring hot dog buns to a service project.

I’ve been using toughness and vigor synonymously because I’m going to be writing a blog post about vigor and Mormonism and I don’t want to out myself (not sure why, really, and I don’t think any of you read my under-my-real-name blog).

A great misunderstanding from what we might loosely call the pro-nice side is that the pro-tough side doesn’t like things being nice, or gentle, or beautiful. We do, we just want to be tough too, because Jesus was tough, and Joseph and Brigham and Boyd K. Packer.

What is beautiful? What is lovely? Is Pajama Boy? Is he the ideal that priesthood holders should seek after? Of course that’s not what you’re advocating, but we’re not calling for all men to be Charles Bronson, either. There is a martial beauty, that I believe becomes the Saints greatly.

Also, congrats on singing in Conference. I sang in Priesthood session back in Spring of 2012, wore the knightly spurs of the baritone, and there’s a closeup of me at the end of Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd. Watching Conference from the back is a neat experience.

February 28, 2017

I will freely admit to splitting hairs. We are, predictably, in complete agreement re: Pajama Boy, etc. Don’t worry, I needn’t be convinced of that.

Actually, as it happens, the choir practice provides a useful metaphor:

One of the songs on the program is meant to be sung softly. (In perhaps the least suspenseful avoidance of spoilers ever, I won’t tell you what it is). The choir director said that it’s very hard to get men to sing softly—that everyone wants to belt.

He then proceeded to drill-sergeant us on posture, mouth shape, breathing patterns…

I’d like to posit that toughness comes really really easily to us, but strength and courage do not. Toughness, or combativeness, seems more like an attitude or orientation, powered by strength. Think of the mousiest, quietest, WoW nerd you know…and then consider that he slays dragons on the regular, just for fun! He doesn’t have a niceness problem, he has a vigor problem. I think you’d agree that much of our “niceness” problem is actually a cowardice problem. The answer to cowardice is courage, not anger!

What I object to, or see peril within, is the elevation of toughness for toughness’s sake—even in situations where toughness is obviously deficient. Pajama Boy’s sex life would probably benefit from the Red Pill subreddit…and, so what?

Whereas, if he persistently pursued righteousness for righteousness’s sake, the world will force him to acquire the appropriate measure of toughness, because that’s what it does. Nephi’s acquisition of the plates comes to mind.

I agree 100% with this:
“If we build men who are organized, confident, dedicated, we can tell them “do your home teaching” or “build a tower to the Moon” and they’ll do it. Third-hour guilt sessions, though, can’t get anyone to bring hot dog buns to a service project.”

But—I don’t think quotes about untame lions or Porter Rockwell stories will get us there either, much as any man with a soul loves both. I think the way we do get there is a combination of teaching, visible examples to follow, and…fortifying. Support. Building up. Pres. Uchtdorf’s Oct 2013 Priesthood talk stands out in my mind, appropriately titled, You Can Do It Now!”

I am convinced that so many problems can be solved, or at least helped, by a man shaking another’s hand, smiling, and saying, “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that that be with them.”

I have spoken plainly. I should mention that this is my favorite blog, and I consider the writers and commenters my friends.

February 28, 2017

(Also, Cane Caldo wrote an excellent piece that I consider relevant: Sheepwolves)

February 28, 2017

Again, our problem is that we are arguing about terms whose definitions we disagree on. You’re arguing against a definition of toughness that omits strength and courage, and I’m against that kind of toughness as well.

Now of course toughness, however you want to define it, is not sufficient for every situation. The issue we are discussing is that we see common situations that elders of Israel are called on to deal with being met with a lack of toughness, with rainbow flags and fake spirit voices, with men who are prepared to gush with tears at the news of any tragedy. This is not hyperbole, there’s dudes from my mission on my FB feed that are like this.

Following the Church’s programs will deal with the problems that are in the Church’s purview. Purely cultural problems are not. They are our responsibility, and I believe, and I don’t think this is necessarily controversial, that our culture is subject to the same kinds of memetic attacks that have led to the subversion of other modern churches to the service of the Enemy. If we allow ourselves to be led about by one side or the other in the culture war, and do not develop our own identity that is nicer than the Left and tougher than the Right, we will split down the middle along with everyone else. Many souls may be led to destruction.

Now, you may argue that we already have that identity. I believe we have it too. We’ve had Joseph Smith’s example for a century and a half, we just need to apply it more often. I’m not proposing we replace regularly scheduled meetings with chest-beating man councils, nor am I saying that a smile and a handshake are not necessary things, but they are insular things, and done in private, and so do not embarrass those in the Great and Spacious Building sufficiently.

February 28, 2017

Gentlemen, I’m not exactly sure what you are arguing about, but I am glad you are, because the comments are great.

As for singing, as behooveth a right stout troubadour such as myself, anon I sing tenor, anon I sing bass, harmoniously withal.

February 28, 2017

The problem is that “nice” has come to mean something like “accepting one’s second class status without complaint.” “Nice guys finish last” is a tautology. SPDI’s recent post on terms that salvage what is good about ‘niceness’ without all the dhimmi baggage is worth a read. See also “beautiful loser.”

I liked this recent Torgersen piece: https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/how-the-ctrl-left-make-it-impossible-to-be-a-nice-conservative/

In religious terms, we have to stop believing that service to others, even self-sacrificing service to others, means we have no legitimate self interests that require no apology or permission to assert. Just as we have somehow transmogrified the teaching to love our enemies into a belief that we have no enemies, we have transmogrified the teaching that we should turn the other cheek into a kind of internalized belief that holiness means feeling like you deserve to be slapped twice. Wrong, wronger, wrongest. We see the same thing in our description of deity sometimes. It is not uncommon to see good Mormons or other Christians act as if there is nothing to God besides trying to help us out.

February 28, 2017

It’s good to see Torgersen coming around; it’s a testament to just how amazingly virtuous he must be that it took this long.

I believe strongly in the power of branding. “Alt-right” is excellent branding. It rolls off the tongue, makes the right wing sound like alt-rock, it describes a general dislike of normal right wing thought, it allows for a lot of thoughtspace, and I think it’ll easily survive this effort to make it all about Nazism.

In contrast, I don’t see ctrl-left getting much traction. It’s awkward, too reliant on familiarity with another term, and will probably wind up in the bottom of the tackle box with “regressive left.”

The problem with the nice right here is their inability to claim their own terms. They aren’t actively declaring something, they’re mincing. “But the REAL racists are, the REAL meanies are, the REAL” and so on and so on. They let their enemies define their terms, which is why they’ve been so ineffective.

By the way I think “dhimmi” has a lot of potential.

naked rat
March 3, 2017

I recently read an interesting take on political though rising from evolutionary biology involving r/K selection theory:


I’m not quite sure what I think about it but I wonder if resources are becoming more scant and therefore the K-type is reasserting itself.

March 5, 2017

I think that the Latin vir captures the virtue (um, heh) that we are trying to define here.

March 5, 2017

@Vader your comment demonstrates just how difficult it is to strike the proper balance between strength and kindness. The Greek word “virtu” encapsulated the intelligent martial masculinity that we associate with ancient Greece and Rome. The introduction of Christianity is precisely what caused the definition of “virtue” to change in European languages. Even the “virtuous woman” of proverbs means strong, able, or powerful. We translate it as virtue because that’s how the Greeks translated it. Weirdly, I find that most people now think this means almost exclusively “chaste”, which says more about us than it does about the Greeks or the Hebrews. But wrt the original post, imho a man with virtu imitates Christ; kind, certainly, but not with the superficial niceness of someone watching real injury or insult come to his temple, family or God.

March 6, 2017

Kindness is voluntary. Strength is kind, weakness placates. When the weak are kind, paradoxically, it is almost a declaration of independence.

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