Category: Internet

What the alt-right are privately saying about their “important work” in Oughterard

Mainstream media in Ireland continue to report on the protests in Oughterard without referencing the involvement of leading hard-right/alt-right activists, who are quite clearly engaged in a national campaign of fear-mongering, rabble-rousing, and local-issue entryism.

I wrote before the weekend about the overlap between organisers of the public meeting in Oughterard and some well known alt-right Facebook groups. These groups continue to discuss their campaign — and vent their racism — in private. That said, not even so-called ‘closed’ Facebook groups are leak-proof, and several screenshots of their discussions have been emerging online.

Many of them have been posted on Twitter. What follows here is a small selection posted by @LeahNiD. Be sure to follow Leah for regular updates; she does some really amazing work. (In most cases, I have cropped the images and pixellated identifying details; you can click through for the originals.)

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Here, for example, an alt-right campaigner is seen congratulating their comrades for the “important work” they did in Oughterard, and encouraging them to now turn their attention to Kildare, where another Direct Provision centre is planned:

importantworkx

Note: “…and other forms of migrant centres.” (Source: @LeahNiD)

As I mentioned on Friday, these alt-right activitists are not from Oughterard at all, but are nonetheless successfully promoting themselves as “local campaigners”.

They have even encouraged protesters in Oughterard to don yellow high-vis vests when protesting against the Direct Provision centre. I very much doubt that most people in the town are aware that high-vis vests are a favoured symbol of Ireland’s alt-right fascist movement.

high viz

“Please wear Hi-Vis vest” (Source: @EamonnVIDF)

They have now changed the name of their Facebook group from ‘Stop Connemara Gateway Hotel Direct Provision Centre‘ to ‘Oughterard says NO to Inhumane Direct Provision centre.‘ This, presumably, is an opportunistic effort to hide behind mainstream concerns about the asylum system. The members include several prominent alt-right activists and persons affiliated with anti-immigration campaigns.

Among the group’s moderators is a prominent pro-life activist (not unusual for Ireland’s alt-right brigade) and a man named in media reports as a local organiser, but whose LinkedIn profile suggests is based in London.

This is him talking about how Brazilian migrants are different to African ones (spoiler: he believes they are good at soccer):

niceBraziliansx

Source: @LeahNiD

Remember, one of the alleged problems with the proposed Direct Provision centre is that it would put pressure on local services, such as schools and healthcare. Another is that claim that the Direct Provision system is “inhumane”.

However, remarks about how “nice” it would be to have Brazilian immigrants instead (or, for that matter, “Christians fleeing from ISIS“), show us that the anxieties here have little to do with the logistics of local services or the morality of the Direct Provision system.

(And as one Oughterard resident, a mathematics professor, has noted, Galway County Council recently announced a plan to build 157 houses just south of Oughterard, and a further 13 houses at Claremont, Oughterard. Neither of these developments provoked public meetings or protests about the risks of sudden local population growth.)

As I wrote on Friday, the people of Oughterard are being played. They are being manipulated and exploited by campaigners with some very unsavoury ulterior motives, who make explicit efforts to keep their true views hidden within private closed Facebook groups.

Views such as the following:

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Source: @LiahNiD

Here is another, largely along the same lines:

three xxx

Source: @LiahNiD

And another, although this one is considerably more concise:

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Source: @LiahNiD

Clearly, however, this group has always been conscious of the fact that uncensored racism is not a good look for a protest movement. In advance of Wednesday’s meeting, they discussed strategy. Here someone advises that the group should tone down its “negative volatile emotions” because “you will not win any argument on racist remarks

three xxx

Source: @LiahNiD

In other words, the line taken at Wednesday’s meeting was pre-planned, and calculated to deflect.

These people came to Oughterard to cause a specific kind of trouble.

They know what they are doing. And they’re good at it.

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That said, it should be no surprise that these folks choose to conduct their discussions in private, keeping their Facebook group ‘closed’ to the general public.

We should be thankful for people like @LiahNiD for exposing their activities.

But if these screenshots, and several others like them, are circulating on Twitter, then how come our mainstream media appear unaware of their existence? 

The people of Oughterard surely deserve better than this…

hopkins2

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>>Read next: Fact-checking the racists: A look at the psychological approach of Ireland’s alt-right

*Yes* obstruction: ‘Active information avoidance’ and the Mueller Report

It is one of the great ironies of modern politics that Donald Trump is associated with popularising the term “fake news” to western audiences. Heck, on a number of occasions he claimed to have coined the phrase himself. (At one point he even claimed to have invented the word “fake.”)

That claim turned out to be, yes, well, you know what it turned out to be.

It’s so obvious, it’s not even funny.

And speaking of obvious, here is the final paragraph — the FINAL CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH COMPRISING THE ‘CONCLUSIONS’ SECTION — of the Mueller Report:

Surely this is the killer bit:

…if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we were unable to reach that judgement.

After 400+ pages, it’s quite an in-your-face ending. All that’s missing is a Mic Drop GIF.

Pic: giphy.com

And yet…

What is it that some people can’t see?

I guess what we have here is a case of “active information avoidance.”

Active information avoidance is the term psychologists use to describe how people knowingly choose to avoid, ignore, or downplay information that they are aware (a) is available and (b) is materially relevant. People engage in active information avoidance when they choose not to look at something that makes them feel bad.

Active information avoidance helps us to understand that the idea that humans are, by default, rational self-interested decision-makers is actually a myth. In reality, most humans default to irrational (but still self-interested) decision-making. It’s the psychology of echo chambers, groupthink, false consensus effects, and confirmation bias. And it’s really hard to get rid of.

One example is the ‘ostrich effect‘, where investors literally avoid logging into their online share data when they know the stock market is ‘down’, but log in more frequently when the stock market is ‘up’.

A second example is more common — when middle-class people avoid eye-contact with poor people they encounter begging on the street. Prosperous people also commonly avoid visiting poor areas of town for similar reasons — to avoid finding out how poor the poor really are.

The reality is that most people are prone to active information avoidance, especially when there is a risk that new information might debunk their worldview or threaten their sense of themselves.

Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

Active information avoidance helps people to preserve their sense of safety, righteousness, and certainty. We are all prone to it.

So maybe that’s why US Attorney General William Barr chose to selectively quote that last Mueller paragraph in his infamous four-page teaser trailer the other week. You know, the one where he quoted the “does not conclude/does not exonerate” bit and then implied that Mueller was making some kind of philosophical point about underdetermination.

And maybe that’s why Trump himself was so quick to summarise “DOES NOT exonerate” to mean “TOTAL exoneration.” In philosophy-of-science terms, we might consider this “Not-X-is-equal-to-Total-X” stance as consistent with an extreme form of “fallibilism” — the idea that no belief is ever justified; that every claim to truth is liable to be the opposite of true.

Instead of invoking Game of Thrones imagery, he could have just tweeted the Duhem-Quine thesis.

(Or maybe he’s simply just a liar. Who knows?)

Psychologically, the ultimate range of crowdsourceable ideas is wide open. Because of active information avoidance, it can include virtually anything. We shouldn’t be surprised to see black-is-white argumentation in modern politics. In fact, we should probably be surprised if we don’t see it.

But one thing about active information avoidance is that it can’t last forever. In most cases, it is self-defeating. Information, by definition, has utility — the term information is reserved for ‘counsel from fact’ that is useful, that resolves uncertainty, that leads to better decisions. When people avoid information, they avoid something that has utility. In theory, at least, they should ultimately fall behind those who are good at facing up to things — as when the people who have their medical check-ups ultimately fare better than those who avoid them.

You never know. Maybe this is the tipping point. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s an illusion.

Yep, maybe it’s fake (thank you, sir).

If this is what the collapse of centrism looks like, then PLEASE give me more centrism

All the “worst people in Ireland” are running for election at the same time. We’re talking your racists, we’re talking your sexists, we’re talking your anti-vaxxers, your anti-fluoriders, your anti-Semites. The anti-5G brigade are in there. The anti-feminists too. And the anti-LGBT folks.

Not all of them are so negative. Some of them are actually pro stuff. For example, we have pro-lifers. We have pro-gun people. We even have pro-Illuminati Conspiracy theorists.

Pro or anti, there is something for everybody.

Conall McCallig has made a list (check out his original blog post for hyperlinks):

[Edit: The list has since been updated to include Allan Brennan (Independent) – Anti-5G, Anti-Vaxxer, Diarmaid Mulcahy (Independent) – Anti-Vaxxer, Anti-Fluoride, and James Miller (Independent) – Anti-5G, Anti-Vaxxer, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Muslim]

Is it just me, or are there rather a lot of names on that list?

In Ireland, 59 candidates are running in this year’s European Parliament elections. The above list accounts for a quarter of the field. But as Conall himself points out, there were other candidates about which he could source no information. These off-grid people could be even more fringe than the horribles he did manage to track down. In other words, we could be talking about close to a third of the slate holding extremist, esoteric, or, shall we say, eccentric views on social issues.

In the Irish part of the Euro elections, thirteen seats are up for grabs (two of which may be re-allocated back to Britain if the UK eventually decides not to leave the European Union). In other words, there are more kooky candidates than there are seats to be filled.

It seems to me that some of these folks are more sinister than others. If anything, the anti-Illuminati, anti-5G, or anti-GMO candidates are very much the lesser of evils. In fact their worst influence might not be to actually get elected. Rather, their damage would be to facilitate the seriously shady ones — the real bigots — to hide behind the crazy bush.

In other words, there’s a danger that the wackos who think that 5G internet is a deep-state conspiracy to line the pockets of Big Telecom while causing cellphone brain cancer in the masses will make the de facto racists come across as serious politicians.

But they’re not. The racists are…well…they are racists. And there are several of them. And this is precisely their opportunity to capitalize on a global trend of chaos to push xenophobic agendas through to the middle-class mainstreams of the Western world, including in our own little backwater here in grand old Ireland.

I mean, they are already setting fire to asylum centres.

This is far from a comedy election.

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