Apr 30, 2008


Live performance by Bloc Party

Apr 29, 2008

Breaking: Albert Hofmann, discoverer of LSD, allegedly dead

Hot off the presses...if its true...

More as I get it.

Edit 1

As of yet, no official confirmation. However, those who spoke with him in the last few months said he was not in good health at all.

Edit 2

Still no confirmation...however the rumour has spread fast. The Wikipedia entry has had to be reverted several times since there is nothing more than rumour at the moment...the story has also spread to sites like Deathlist, Shroomery and God Like Productions (where, humourously, someone tried to use Wikipedia as proof of his still uncomfirmed death).

Edit 3

Boing Boing has also reported this....though as of yet, still no confirmation. Speculation on Livejournal too, though still nothing positive.

Edit 4

Echoes and Mirrors is alleging this is a hoax. While no new evidence is put forward, the lack of evidence, and the time lapse since the initial claim is making this look more and more likely.

Edit 5

On the other hand...apparently he IS dead. According to Seattle's Stranger:

There’s uncertainty on teh nets whether Hoffman’s passing is just a rumor. However, a call to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies confirms he died last night in his home in Basel, Switzerland.

Also, according to his Wikipedia article:

Rick Doblin of MAPS has claimed that Hofmann died at 9am from a heart attack.

But according to a Wikipedia editor I spoke to just recently, Rick Doblin was unaware of this only a couple of hours ago, and the comment is not sourced. So we have at least one source now...but I'd like another independent source to confirm. Just to make sure.

Edit 6

I Love Bonnie.net has another piece confirming Hofmann's death. The email from Rick Doblin can be found here.

“Albert died at home at 9 AM Basel time from a myocardial infarction, quick and relatively painless. Two caretakers were there with him at the time. The only people who were told were people from Burg, the village where he lived, and Peter and others were surprised the word of his death had gotten out so quickly. It’s the age of the internet…

Albert had been increasingly thinking of death these last few months. He had stopped leaving his home, where he said he could feel the spirit of Anita, his wife who died December 20, 2007. He didn’t come to the World Psychedelic Forum a month ago, but did entertain some visitors at his home. We spoke on the phone the day after the Basel conference and he was happy and fulfilled. He’d seen the renewal of LSD psychotherapy research with his own eyes, as had Anita. I said that I looked forward to discussing the results of the study with him in about a year and a half and he laughed and said he’d try to help the research however he could, either from this side or “the other side”.”

So I believe thats it. Goodbye, Dr Hofmann.

Apr 28, 2008

War Nerd interview

As I'm sure many of you know, I am a long time fan of the eXile's War Nerd, AKA Gary Brecher. So I was pleasantly surprised to see an interview of him being done over at Blood and Treasure, to help promote his new book. He also answers the long posited conspiracy theory that he is actually John Dolan/Mark Ames/some hideous combination of the two.

Link via Liberal Conspiracy.

Apr 26, 2008

Operation: Mindfuck Pack

http://www.megaupload.com/es/?d=27X5LIHF 227 MB download

Download mirror:

http://www.mediafire.com/?mdcyy3zlswz - Part 1
http://www.mediafire.com/?4xyydjxngwn - Part 2
http://www.mediafire.com/?2ugg32x9syb - Part 3

Titles are:

The Structure of the Mind - Ben Goertzel
The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences (1999) - Robert A Wilson and Frank C Keil
The Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology - Edited by Charles Spielberger
Putting a new spin on groups - The science of of Chaos - Bud A McClure
Billion Dollar Bunko - Simon Lovell
The Changing Images of Man by Stanford Research Institute
Derren Brown - Behind the Screen
Derren Brown - Pure Effect
Get Anyone to do Anything - David J Lieberman
Undoing Yourself - Christopher Hyatt
Theory of Power - Jeff Vail
The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature - Matt Ridley
PsyOps and Ethics - Michael Aquino
Propaganda - Edward Bernays
Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson
The role of cognitive and socio-cognitive conflict in learning to reason - Katiuscia Sacco and Monica Bucciarelli
Secret Incunabula.org paper - Joesph Matheny (?)
Society of the Spectacle - Guy Debord
Stealth Marketing - Jay Abraham
Strategic Information Warfare (RAND corporation) - Roger C Molander, Andrew S Riddle, Peter A Wilson
The Strategic Game of ? And ? - Unknown
The Power of Persuasion: How We're Bought and Sold - Robert Levine
The Selfish Meme - Kate Distin
The Advertised Mind - Erik du Plessis
The Art of Memetics - Wes Unruh and Edward Wilson
The Authoritarians - Bob Altemeyer
The Origin and Evolution of Cultures - Robert Boyd and Peter J Richerson
The Psychology of Entertainment Media - Edited by L. J. Shrum
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Think Two Products Ahead - Ben Mack
This Is Not A Game (extract) - Dave Szulborski

All these books are pretty heavy on psychology, NLP and marketing, and are low on actual pranks and tricks. The idea is more to condition your mind to think about how other people think, then exploit that knowledge.

Schrödinger's Feminist

Apparently, according to the somewhat confused Cath Elliott of the Guardian, men cannot be feminists (depending on who you believe). As she notes in her article:

Can everyone who supports the idea of women's rights call themselves a feminist, or are there other criteria that have to be met before people are allowed to sport the label? Like having a vagina for example, or having experience of life as a female and all the attendant discriminations that that brings?

I have to say, this mostly caught my attention because earlier yesterday, before I read this article, I had been reading another one on Alternet where American feminist and blogger Amanda Marcotte (who had previously worked for John Edwards) was being interviewed about her new book.

When questioned about male feminists, her view was that:

The biggest thing a man can do is be a feminist but quit piddling about it. I was reading your blog [Feministe] the other day and there were all these women who were like, 'My boyfriend is great, he cleans, and he is a feminist, he just doesn't call himself one, he's a humanist, blah blah blah.' It's OK, guys, get your mouth around the word "feminist." Say "patriarchy" out loud. Accept it.

Which I think is a fairly sensible viewpoint. If Feminism is an ideology, as I understand the term from my old Ideologies class (in other words, it has a Descriptive, Prescriptive and Strategic element to it, which is the entire ideology) then it should be open to men. Holding a particular world view is not limited to one's genetalia, and neither is accepting or implementing that solution.

Yet despite Cath Elliott concluding she has no problem with men calling themselves Feminists, she quotes those who do. Some such quotes include these lovely gems:

Some men, they argue, automatically assume a dominant role when they become activists, claiming to be better feminists than feminist women, and failing to recognise and challenge their own sexist behaviour. These so-called fellow travellers merely reinforce the tired gender stereotyping that feminism seeks to subvert, and by their domineering behaviour, they silence women's voices and perpetuate existing male power and oppression. They jockey for control and appoint themselves as spokespeople, in a diverse non-hierarchical movement that neither needs nor seeks figureheads or leaders.

And according to a member of the National Organisation for Men against Sexism:

"Although I believe that men can be pro-feminist and anti-sexist, I do not believe we can be feminists in the strictest sense of the word in today's society. Men, in this patriarchal system, cannot remove themselves from their power and privilege in relation to women. To be a feminist one must be a member of the targeted group (ie a woman) not only as a matter of classification but as having one's directly-lived experience inform one's theory and praxis."

Now, ignoring for the moment the issue of transsexuals (of either birth gender) or those women who have never themselves experienced discrimination, I think these statements are very revealing, if not misleading in their conclusions. According to these people, one can do the exact same things a female Feminist can do, yet at the same time they are disqualified from that descriptive name for reasons beyond their actions.

That I find interested, far more so than another piece of tedious political infighting. Apparently, there are distinctions between actions, factors which do not in any way effect those actions, and identity.

I find such distinctions...uncomfortable. To say the least.

Let us assume an anonymous internet blogger or forum goer. Their name is gender neutral, and they never reveal their identity throughout any public or private exchanges, even by use of pronouns or implications concerning sexuality and relationships. Yet, at the same time, they do refer to themselves as a Feminist and have been very vocal in aiding Feminist concerns and the understanding and spread of the ideology. In short, they support the descriptive, prescriptive and strategic elements that make up Feminism, of one brand or another.

Is this a person Feminist or not?

Apparently, we cannot know until we collapse the field by opening the box - that is to say, until we ascertain their gender identity. They may be a Feminist, and they may not be. All their actions are consistent with Feminist thought, yet they themselves can be considered only one until they reveal they are male, which is of course a real possibility. And what if they lied, and said or implied they were female, and thus were accepted even by the above Feminists who do not believe men can be one? Inconsistencey abounds in this worldview.

I find this amusing, because if one accepts the above argument it totally undermines essentialism in some schools of Feminist thought. Naturally, the Nietzschean in me finds this both amusing and somewhat vexing and sad at the same time.

It also suggests, to me, that the distinction between what one is and what one does is in many ways so pointless, unless what one does is impacted by what one is in the first place, limiting or allowing certain actions. While there is certainly room for debate over what one's actions signify, one cannot declare that if two people do the same thing, they are not, in that sense, sharing the same signifier, based on attributes that have nothing to do with their actions.

You can, of course, but you only invite contradiction and fallacious invention (a la Plato) into your ideas. And while that may be fine for some merehumes, it doesn't really cut it with me. A little Saturday afternoon philosophy for you to ponder.

Apr 24, 2008

Oh yes it is!

But Brutus is an honourable man

You know its time to log off the internet.....#2

When you start rewriting Clash songs to make them sound like they are referring to your forum:

Hanging about
Down on Apple street
I spent a lot of time on my feet
When i saw some passing noobs yeah,
We did chance to speak

I knew how to post
Y' know an
They knew how to meme
An' one of them had a Sacred Chao
t-shirt that was not clean

All the young n00bs
Laugh your life
Cos there ain't much to cry for
All the young cunts
Live it now
Cos there ain't much to die for

Everybody wants to bum
A ride on the chaos and discord coaster
And we went out
Got our name and became a new poster
Of course we got some moderators
Though they ain't the mafia
A banhammer is a banhammer
When they get 'em out on yer

You gotta drag yourself to rant
Drug yourself to post
You're dead from the waist down
By the middle of the week

Face front you got the future shining
Like goatse man's wedding ring
But i swear as we get closer
It looks like a shooped pic of Sting
But it's better than some blog
Now that's no place to waste your youth
I posted there for a week once
I luckily got the boot

Apr 23, 2008

Mecca time nonsense


I mean, who could have seen it coming? Gosh, people who think that they are the truely devoted followers of a non-existant creator want to make the time based on their most holy city the standard time around the world. Who would have thunk it?

I know I'm only contributing to this non-story by talking about it.....but come on. Seriously? This is what passes for news nowadays? Its apparently fascinating enough to warrant 109 new links on Technorati, putting it into the top 5 news links of the day.

Yet....I'm honestly struggling to see why so many people care. Its not even interesting from an anthropological view, because both the Ancient Greeks and Mayans claimed certain shrines of theirs were at the centre or navel of the world. And that's just off the top of my head.

And its not like they're calling on changing the timezones to some completely made up and impractical unit of time that was mentioned in the Koran or anything, although that would be both amusing and newsworthy.

Its just another example of how people, especially religious ones, see themselves as being at the centre of everything. And examples of that abound every day, for someone with their eyes open enough to see.

Colbert blatantly a closet Discordian

Lets see:

  • Golden Apple (well, golden-ish)
  • Talk of illumination
  • Colbert complains he is not listed as a Saint
  • Colbert suggests making everyone else infalliable and the Pope himself falliable

I think it would be hard to get any better evidence than this.

Apr 21, 2008

I don't know if I can take the irony much longer

Alan "not the Minister" Johnson noted, in his puff piece on the ridiculous Euston Manifesto in the Guardian today that

Albert Camus warned that a love of freedom and progress can become "weirdly inseparable from a morbid obsession with murder and suicide".

Now, who does that sound like more to you? The Eustonista who trumpeted marching into Baghdad and deposing Saddam Hussein (and since then have also defended extraordinary rendition and torture) or "the foggy zone of the post-left"?

Hmm, I wonder....people who didn't want war, and people who did want war? Who is more at ease with violence in the name of progress, people who didn't want to overthrow a vicious and bloody dictator, and those who had no problem sending an army half way around the world to engage in social engineering on a vast scale in the Middle East? Alan Johnson, I believe the kettle would like to make racial commentary on the pot in this case....

Apr 18, 2008

There's just something about women troublemakers...

I know it's barely been a day since I mentioned the lovely Ruth Fowler as my favourite Erisian avatar of the now, but I thought I should mention this as well, since the whole event has been kicking up a storm state-side.

I speak of the Yale University artist Aliza Shvarts, who recently ignited an online flame war of epic proportions when it turned out she had apparently used aborted fetuses in the creation of her art. Naturally, the 'pro-life' brigade went apeshit, in the same way as they did over Stop My Abortion, and it seemed all very commendable, but rather passe, in the way trolling Christians who freak out at practically anything at all is.

And then, Yale University came out and said not to worry, because it was all performance art anyway and clearly fake and so nothing to worry about. So the pro-lifer's continued to give her shit for being sick in the head or something and the pro-choicer's started taking shots too, for trivializing abortion (strange, if had actually been art, would that have still been their position). And of course, by this point, the media is involved as well. So now its the pro-life lot, pro-choice lot and the media in general who have been trolled.

But then....ANOTHER TWIST! It turns out that Aliza did in fact use the technique originally described, or so she claims. It could, of course, just be another way of continuing the drama and media hysteria over the artwork. It could be drawing people further into a different form of creative fiction than the one Yale University had in mind, one in which all the participants are real, and think it is real, but where the content matter is faked, passed on through varying points of view and interpretation, all with Aliza pulling the strings. Or it could actually be that way. Whichever.

Either way, my congratulations and respect go to her, for taking a rather dull way of promoting art (pissing off the Fundies) and applying a good level of creativity to it. Even more, I express admiration at her ability to both annoy the University and the pro-choice group into the deal.

I am certainly impressed enough to send Ms Shvarts an email to thank and congratulate her for her services to making people hysterically overreact. I'm sure she's recieving a lot of mail (probably most of it from mentally deranged individuals and filled with all sorts of unpleasant material) so its very possible she may not respond, but if she does, and I have her permission to reprint, I will let you know.

And finally, I leave you with some of the humourless reactions of the blogosphere (culled from ED), for your enjoyment.

If you want to do a comparative study of abomination, at least the Nazis of the Third Reich had going for them the mitigating factor of having committed unspeakable evil in a quixotic, whack scheme to "better humanity." At least as they understood it.

I have a certificate of mental illness right here waiting for your signatures. First, we arrest her, then find her incompetent to stand trial, she goes to the mental institution. Let her out to attend trail in about two years, after lots of neuroleptic medication, then fond her guilty of public indecency, she goes to the can for a month, but then we invoke Hendrix V> Kansas, and stick her back in the nut house for another five years. When she come out she has tardive diskensia and looks like a old hag making faces. I call that a just punishment.

Hey, it is my art project

Whether you really will be watching Aliza Shvarts kill her unborn children, or you will be watching Aliza Shvarts pretend to kill her unborn children, you will be watching Aliza Shvarts deny her humanity and present herself as a barbarian, to barbarians. Pia Lindman, you too should be ashamed of yourself. The entire university should. Utterly diabolical. Sick, Nazi-style stuff. The idea that this sort of thing is even conceivable, and at one of the nation's elite universities, shows how far the culture of death has come

You know its time to log off the internet when.... #1

Start of a brand new series which will just prove I really should log off more often.

You know its time to log off the internet when....

1) You have a dream in which Rick Astley personally rickrolls you, but then you wake up and feel depressed because nothing that cool will ever really happen.

2) You realize there is a market for War on Terror slashfic

Apr 17, 2008

A quick observation

How do the BNP pack so much irony into such short posts?

Its times like this I wish my blog has the lulz emoticon on it...

I think I may be in love...

And that is not something I say lightly. But then again, its not every day I find a cam-whoring, ex-stripper, who trolls for cash...and so, having done so, I find her somewhat fascinating.

For those of you who don't have a finger on the pulse of mainstream/left-wing blogging in the UK, I am talking of the delectable Ruth Fowler. She of Comment is Free infamy. Over the last week or so, she has pretty much managed to wind up much of the UK left wing blogosphere. Well, at least the parts of it I have visited.

And when you look at some of her articles, it is not hard to see why she has caused such a stir. Here are a few selected articles and their subtitles, links provided.

The antichrist for feminists
There I was, thinking I was just making a quick buck, when all the time I was illustrating that feminism is about choice

Club rules
Lefties are supposed to be the nice ones. But increasingly, liberals are just puritanical hypocrites

Flab isn't fab
You don't get fat by accident. Eating so much requires Olympic-class stamina and athleticism

And imagine lobbing these into the sort of people who frequent the Guardian for anything except entertainment. Yeah, precisely, its hilarious and designed to do only 2 things:

wind people up
get her name better known (for her book)

And of course, it does help that Ms Fowler is not only getting paid to troll, which is enough to earn my respect, and is fairly intelligent and well-read, which catches my interest. She is also quite the looker. Here is one of the more...work safe pictures from her site (although most of them are fairly tasteful, so if your employers have a liberal policy, feel free to sneak a look).

Yeah, precisely. I shall have to watch her future articles very closely, I think. I love a trouble-maker, especially of her potential.

Apr 16, 2008

Still busy

Just a notice, that my degree work is, predictably, becoming rather large and heavy going as the end of semester arrives. So no updates will be made until the weekend at least, where I will try to do some articles, inbetween recording a podcast.

Apr 11, 2008

The best single statement on the Olympics business

And sadly, I am fully aware of the irony of that sign. I can only hope it is satire....

Anton Vowl is a brave man

You need a constitution like a tank to be able to stand looking at UK Tabloid newspapers, let alone critically read and analyze the arguments contained within. That sort of superhuman effort should at the very least merit mention in the Guiness World Records, if not qualify for some sort of public award.

Which is why I am very thankful for the Enemies of Reason blog, because it means I don't have to, while at the same time keeping my finger on the pulse of what is selling and what rubbish is being injected into the public discourse.

Apr 6, 2008

Diabetics suck


Apr 5, 2008

The most interesting thing...

About the current terrorism trial going on in the UK is the complete lack of concentration on the actual level of threat. Every newscast I have seen has been concentrating on the videos the guys made, presumably for the sake of drama.

What has been overlooked is could the guys have actually said what the government claimed they could do, which is create explosives from liquid to down a plane? I've seen a number of things to cast doubt on this.

Firstly, I had a number of conversations with various terrorism experts up at St Andrews who expressed a level of doubt over what was intended by the operation itself. Some, such as Dr John Horgan, suggested it was perhaps intended to embarass the security services, show the futility of their extra security. Previously, that would have almost certainly involved actually killing people, but in today's hyper-sensitive media climate, even the attempt alone can cause mass hysteria.

Secondly, a former senior British Army Intelligence Officer has also cast doubt on the official narrative of events.

"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

And finally, there is this discussion on Schneier on Security which seems to be backing up the claim of Lt. Col. Wylde, and treating the official version of events with some skepticism.

It's like trying to blow up a plane with your elementary-school science project volcano.

Of course, the plot did ultimately succeed....it triggered a hilariously out of proportion government response and scared a bunch of sheep....uh, I mean, Daily Mail and Sun readers. That's all you really need to do now.

300 posts

I'm surprised I even made it last this long.

To celebrate, a timely video from Youtube.

Apr 4, 2008

Not really blogging much

Technically I am on holiday, and there is something about not having a desk or masses of deadlines that makes me disinclined to post much.

Oh well, I'm sure things will pick up after next weekend. I'll still be posting on occasion, just not as frequently.

Apr 2, 2008

Deconstructing Pagan Authoritarianism, Part 3

Urgh, it seems my fate is to always fall behind in producing a new part on this essay. I have so many projects on my plate, not to mention readings I want to do, that finding the time to sit down and clear my head of any other distractions for an hour or so to be more difficult.

But there I am, at last, getting on with it. In this section of the essay, I want to respond to Eran's proposed rebuttals of 'trollish' arguments. Eran's arguments is that trolls “misuse” Pagan principles in order to get their own way. However, I want to talk a little about the format of his argument before we deal with what he actually says.

Eran uses a structure known to advertising types as the “but” sales pitch. I like this, mainly because it allows me to say “butt” in polite company and have a reason for doing so. But more importantly, it takes advantage of how people process arguments. By placing the supposed detractions to an argument first, then responding, what sticks most in the mind is the rebuttal, not the original claim. It also means he can frame the argument in terms he prefers, he can create “strawmen” and proceed to tear down these logical fallacies, misrepresenting very real arguments. It is quite an underhanded method, in fact, and is done precisely to mislead and persuade you via irrational means to accept his worldview. Just keep this attempt at manipulation in mind.

I'm going to structure my response along good old Hegelian Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis lines because of this. I will contrast both his claims as to what a trollish argument is and his reply, and critically assess both. As far as I know, this method only has a place within philosophy, and not advertising, and so will counteract the previous structure. Assuming there are any common truthes to be found at all.

Eran gives his usual spiel and recap of the last chapters – his tedious “understanding” of a troll and his even more laughable 'trollspotting guide' and then reminds people how trolls love to abuse Pagan principles in order to cover their actions. To which I reply, “o rly?” Eran admits they can be very convincing to large amounts of people, which makes me suspicious. If they are convincing to “other members of the local Pagan community, and to other members of larger Pagan umbrella organizations. They can even sound convincing to you, as their target.” then perhaps, just maybe, there is merit to what is being said?

But no Eran suggests ignore anything like rational thought and instead steam ahead, before letting doubt set in. After all, if you're going to be dead wrong, at least you can say you were certain in your convictions. Which, as we know, makes everything alright.

Anyway, this predictably brings us to the actual arguments themselves, so here they are, presented next to each other for easier comparison.

“Catch a troll in a lie, and the troll will go on about subjective realities, and how things "felt" a certain way to the troll, and you have no right to impose your personal perceptions of reality upon those of the troll. Don't Pagans value the subjective perceptions of all people? You'll also be told not to impose your ethics upon the troll. Don't trolls have as much right as you do to create their own sense of ethics? Don't Pagans value the idea of encouraging individuals to construct their own ethical guidelines, their own means of contact with Divinity? “

“If the troll claims privileges based on subjective realities or personal ethics, or any of the other Pagan principles which rely on the sanctity of the individual, always keep in mind: those principles apply to you as well. The perceptions of the individual matter, and are valued, and each person must act in ways consistent with that person's sense of ethics and of contact with the Gods. Which means you, too, have the right to act upon your perceptions and ethics. If you perceive someone as dishonest and untrustworthy and destructive, then act in ways appropriate to those perceptions, and to the ethical principles you value. Do not let the troll dictate perceptions or ethics to you. “

OK then. Assumption one is that the troll is in fact lying. The simple fact is how we perceive and give meaning to events is subjective, insofar as we are limited by personal, sociological, economic, historical and biological factors, as well as access to information. This is a simple fact. Ask any lawyer who has cross-examined a few eye-witnesses to a crime and you'll soon see how perceptions of events can widely vary.

However, this does not mean that all perceptions or views have equal value, or are equally valid. Only the most insipidly cretinous New Age moron would argue such thing. If someone misperceived a comment or situation, then it is your duty, in order to resolve the conflict, to try and explain what exactly was happening. Understanding people have a different point of view does not mean agreeing with them, however it is the first step in defusing problems.

Also, you don't have the right to impose your perceptions of reality on other people. Unless that person is actively trying to harm someone, maybe. In such a case, restraining them may be in the interest of everyone, but otherwise...well, lets put it this way. From reading the original trollish statement, it seems to say that “I feel this way or that way about [x]”. However, from that, Eran infers the right to act on such beliefs, which is not supported by the original statements at all.

To me, it looks like Eran is reducing the situation to a point where just about any position can be valid. In other word, the truth becomes meaningless, and all that matters is the power one wields, which effects the extent to which one can impose their worldview on the other. And since this is about Coven leaders versus lowly members, uh, trolls, it gives them all the advantages. All views are equal, so all that remains to solve the dispute is the quanta of power held by the respective parties.

Eran's final statements show exactly how much he values conflict resolution. He is actively going out of his way to cause conflict and clearly has no real desire to 'solve' it, except by exercising his powers over the individual in question. Conflict resolution relies on a certain amount of synthesis of opposing viewpoints, whereas this subscribes to the “separate but equal” principle.

“If you're reluctant to accept the word of a troll who's lied to you in the past, you'll be accused of not approaching that troll with the level of love and trust you really should have. Don't these ideals mean you must accept what the troll tells you? Don't they mean you must forgive and forget? “

“The love and trust we're "supposed" to feel toward each other is not supposed to be blind. It needs to be appropriate, and precisely in keeping with the nature of whatever you're dealing with. You may have perfect love and trust for a rabid mongoose. That doesn't mean you'll treat it as you would treat a housecat. It means you'll treat it as a perfectly rabid mongoose, and take the steps which are perfectly appropriate in dealing with it. You'll trust it to act like a mongoose. If someone lies to you repeatedly, you are being cruel - to yourself, to your Coveners, to your Gods, and, ultimately, to the person - if you refuse to treat that person as a habitual liar. “

Again with pseudospeciation. He really does love to paint people he doesn't like as some sort of crazy animal (and conversely, people he does like as meek housepets). And he seems to advocate treating people according to some sort of double standard. One rule for people who are meek and controllable, another for people who are not...

Interesting. See, I've run sites with much tougher crowds than any Pagan covens (imagine thirty people like me, all in one place) and I've found the best way to lead is by example and fairly. The rules apply equally to everyone, or they are not rules, only a system of control. And to be honest, if you need more than a few rules, you have some serious control freak issues, or are unable to deal with deviations from your idea of how a coven should be. Love doesn't come into the equation at all. Its as simple as this: am I applying the same standard to this person as to everyone else? Love may not be blind, but justice is, and I'd rather be just and fair in my dealings than go down Eran's route.

“Consider ejecting a troll from your Coven, and you'll run afoul of the Rede's admonition to "harm none." How dare you do such a dreadful thing to a poor troll? Aren't you causing harm, and interfering with the will of another person?”

“The Rede says to "harm none" - and that includes you. By allowing the lies and manipulations of a troll to damage you, you're actively participating in the harm being done to you, to your Coveners, to your Tradition, and to anyone else being affected by the troll. If you refuse to eject a troll from your Coven, you are responsible for the harm done to your Coven from then on. “

We're stretching the definition of harm here somewhat, are we not? I wasn't aware that bruised egos were covered by the Rede, I must have missed that meeting. Both ways, that is. Surely though, if we want to take a broad look at the concept of harm, surely the least harmful solution would be to resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of every party? You know, so no-one is harmed, instead of only some people, or one person instead of the majority.

“Some trolls are well versed in the language (but not the meaning) of 12-step programs. Tell a troll to desist in destructive behavior, and you'll be told not to "interfere" in the troll's "recovery program." Aren't Pagans tolerant of all paths? “

“By allowing the troll to continue harmful actions without consequences, you're engaged in what 12-step programs call "enabling". Sometimes, someone addicted to drugs or alcohol is protected by friends and family members - they might make excuses for the person at work, or bail the addict out of jail, or, through a sense of love and loyalty, they might try to protect the addict from the harmful effects of his or her own actions. But this only encourages self- (and other-) destructive behavior to continue. And that does more harm. Yet you don't really want to impose your will on others else by attempting to control their actions. The solution is straightforward: "You can act however you want - but not around me." If a troll tries to spring 12-step jargon on you, just invoke "tough love" and tell the troll to take his or her recovery program elsewhere. “

I probably shouldn't say what I think of 12-steppers here. If you really want to know, I suggest checking out some of Ivan Stang's rants, it's pretty much along those lines.

Furthermore, I've never come across this excuse, not even once. To me, it looks like Eran doesn't want covens to be the focial points of mutual support groups – that allowing an addict in would cause more headaches for him than it would solve, and that they should be ejected because he doesn't want to deal with them. Its like in the last chapter, the person who needs support. He doesn't want to have to deal with that. Equally, he doesn't want to help them and cares nothing for their self destructive behaviour, so he tells them to get lost.

“Do as ye will and harm none?” More like “don't die where I might have to clear up your mess, and shove off”. Harm through inaction is a very real thing, but apparently is not worth mentioning.

“Tell a troll that certain destructive behaviors are simply not tolerated in your Coven, and you'll suddenly become authoritarian and inflexible and overcontrolling. Pagans are opposed to authoritarianism, aren't they? “

“Is this authoritarian? Certainly not. No one is required to stay in your Coven. People who are there, are there by choice. Consenting adults and all that. As a Coven Leader, you have every right to run your Coven however you feel is proper, and other people have the right to participate or not, as they feel is proper. Authoritarianism can only happen where there is some means of compulsion. There can be no authoritarianism where there is assent, and no one stays in your Coven unless they personally choose to do so. You don't have the right (or the power!) to control others. But as a Coven Leader, you do have the right (and the responsibility!) to set the ground rules for your Coven. On the other hand, a troll has no right to force you to allow the troll to remain in contact with you, or with your Coveners. A troll has no right to dictate what behavior is acceptable in your Coven, and what behavior is not. Those are rights which you hold. “

Pagans are against authoritarianism? This is news to me. Is this like the way the Bush administration is in favour of freedom? Also, Eran is inflexible and authoritarian. The entire reason for this essay to legitimize the use of power by the Coven leader to get rid of people they don't like. Eran nowhere shows he believes in compromise or resolution of conflicts, he believes in the ejecting of people who are too annoying, to his worldview, to deal with. That's pretty much the definition, Eran baby.

But lets deal with some of Eran's claims in detail, because they interest me, in a perverse way. He believes that because you chose to join the Coven, of your own free will, you are consenting to his leadership. However, this doesn't deal with misrepresentation, miscommunication and changes in leadership or rules over time. If you have no control over those contract changes, or are unaware of them through no fault of your own, then are you really responsible for them?

Eran believes there is only authoritarianism where there is compulsion. This might be news to all those psychologists who have been studying the Authoritarian Personality, where it can appear without the person in question having any form of power at all. Furthermore, Eran clearly does have power. He can expel people from a coven against their will, which is compelling them to leave.

Moreover, authoritarianism does involve a certain amount of consent. As a social phenomenon, it is divided between those who lead and those who follow. Those who refuse to do either form a third party, those who refuse to have an assigned role in this dominant-submissive relationship. Furthermore, the problem may not be with the coven, but only the leader. I myself have been in such a situation more than a few times. I liked the people I was there with, but the person in charge was a raging asshole. Kind of like Eran. In such a situation, agitating against the leadership while staying a member is the most likely, obvious and right course to take. Unless you think you should sell out your friends to ass-kiss a leader.

Through threats and promises, the classic carrot and stick approach, coven leaders obviously do have power over others in the coven, and can use a number of tricks to control their members. He could threaten to expel people, give promises of certain positions or coveted duties to others...an imaginative leader certainly has ways to maintain their authority within a group. Power purely means the ability to get others to accept your interests, and by that standards, there are many ways to maintain control over a group of people, even if legal recourse to methods of control do not exist.

Also notice a troll has no rights to force people to stay in contact with them, but Eran does have the right to dictate what behaviour is or is not acceptable. An interesting double standard. If its a right, but not one that everyone has, then it's not really a right, is it? I believe we have a word for such rights, and they are privileges. Because Eran is the leader, he can set rules of conduct and who you can or cannot deal with. It all just sounds a tad cultish, not to mention obviously betraying a belief in rank and control.

“If you express an opinion the troll doesn't care for, you'll be labeled a One-True-Wayist and possibly even compared to an Inquisitor or Pope or some such. Pagans are opposed to enforced dogma; how dare you push your ways onto others?”

“Are you a One-True-Wayist simply because you express an opinion? Of course not! Charges of authoritarianism or One-True-Wayism are simply absurd in any Pagan context. We have no way of enforcing belief, nor of compelling practice. Any Pagan who doesn't like the beliefs of practice of someone else is always free to go elsewhere, or to stop associating with the person with whom they disagree. A person who makes public accusations of authoritarianism or One-True-Wayism is, beyond doubt, a troll who is simply trying to stir anger toward a target. Ignore such tactics when directed at others, and when they're directed at you, don't give them a thought. Charges of One-True-Wayism are made simply in an attempt to embarrass you and get you to shut up. Indeed, they are examples of the troll trying to force his or her opinions onto others. The troll is trying to silence a point of view with which he or she disagrees! Who is the actual One-True-Wayist here?”

Needless to say, there is absolutely no way you could compare this to Eran calling people he doesn't like trolls, just to discredit them.

As for enforcing belief or compelling practice....well, I think I dealt with that in the previous section. However, I'd like to add a little something here. Historically, expulsion was the punishment for political offences against the Polis, or city-state. It dated back to the times when humans were hunter-gatherers, where a single person would quite likely succumb to the elements once they had been cut off from the tribe, or less enlightened times, when foreigners would often not be welcome in their new society. And while out attitudes and ability to survive without a tribe have leapt far ahead, our hard-wiring and basic instincts have not. The fear of exile, of expulsion, is one that is very hard for many people to overcome, and still instils a level of fear at a pre-rational level.

And how is describing the underlying theme of an argument or a viewpoint equal to attempting to censor someone? I, and indeed countless others, are merely pointing out that this is authoritarian. If you are fine with authoritarianism, then great, that's your problem and not mine. However, it has to be said, lots of people do have issues with authoritarianism, so its likely they would want to be told if you could detect this sort of thinking via statements etc. After all, you're not trying to force your value judgement, or any sort of action, merely by pointing out how things are now. And if you do propose an action, from a position of no authority, how do you enforce it?

That's all of Eran's points and counterpoints, however, there is a further section to this essay you will have to suffer before we conclude this section. This is the section on (please don't laugh) 'Healthy Self-doubt'.

“It is healthy and it is important to question yourself. A Coven Leader who never doubts his or her own actions and decisions is a dangerous person whom it would be wise to stay away from. But a Coven Leader who allows self-doubt to prevent effective and necessary action is equally dangerous. Yes, re-examine your understanding of ethical issues, frequently and deeply. Don't assume you're always right, lest you cast yourself into the role of an infallible Pope willing to burn others for mere disagreement. (In fact, a refusal to question oneself is one of the hallmarks of a troll!) But equally, don't refuse to make decisions, just because others might disagree with them.”

Is that so? But I thought the purpose of a troll was to “cause you to hesitate or to be unsure of yourself at a time when what you need is self-confidence.” So should you question yourself, or not? I am getting mixed signals here.

As for a lack of introspection or questioning...hmm, sounds more like a leader than a troll to me. A troll who constantly questions their external world isn't likely to delineate between their external and internal curiosity, are they? You'd also hope someone who questioned their own actions might question why they continually put forward incoherent and contradictory arguments to support their position.

“Coven Leaders have the responsibility to take what steps are necessary to protect their Covens. That's one of their primary jobs. Coveners rely on them, and expect them, to do this. It is not a power seized unjustly or arbitrarily; it is a power granted by the Coveners, by virtue of them asking to join - and to remain in - the Coven. If you let a troll manipulate you by playing on your self-doubts, you're falling down on your responsibilities to people who have trusted you with their spiritual growth. Indeed, this inappropriate manipulation of healthy self-questioning is yet another example of trollish misapplication of important Pagan principles! “

I don't expect a leader to do anything except perhaps concentrate more on the group dynamic than the average person and try to look to overall goals and aims, instead of purely personal ones. And even then that only depends on the sort of group I have joined. I may only expect them to buy some decent coffee for the next meeting, depending on who they are.

Your job is not to protect anyone. You are not the person to decide who is a threat, who is not and how to deal with them. If your group is strong and open, it will, on its own, regulate against real threats and and not require your leadership or support in dealing with them.

But of course, Eran wants to play the paternalistic role against the evil outsiders. No-one else in the Coven is capable, which allows for him to use his powers to expel individuals as he sees fit.

And how exactly does Eran know that all coven leadership is granted by the Coven? Sure, leadership is a social fiction, that relies on a certain level of acceptance of the roles given. But if it is not explicit, if the leader is not elected, and there are difficult (or no) methods for their removal, then it is illegitimate. Furthermore, if power is exercised in an unjust way, then the leadership is just as illegitimate as if it had been put in power without consent. Consent of the majority for leadership does not give you carte blanche to treat a minority or individual as you please. You should really consider reading some John Stuart Mill at some point, hopefully then you'd realize how much of an idiot you sound when you don't think these things through.

“What you need here is to be clear on these principles in your own mind. Give careful thought to these issues, and do your best to understand them thoroughly. But the time to engage in such introspection is not during a period of crisis. Solve these questions in your own mind before they become issues argued by a troll. "Solving" does not mean you never come back to them. It's useful and productive to come back to these issues again and again, and to let your view of them expand and grow as time goes on. But when there's someone actively tearing your Coven apart, it's time for direct action, action based on preparations and understandings you've already achieved. Afterwards, there'll be time to reassess and improve your understandings further. People grow by making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. Don't be afraid to let yourself make some mistakes. Take the actions you feel are right, and then learn from them.”

Being certain is better than being right. Feelings are better guides than actual knowledge. Oh please. You may as well just say “think with your gut!” and get it over with. Because we know, acting on principles that may have little or no relation to reality can never go wrong, can it? And how would Eran know if he's made a mistake, if he expels someone for no reason (like we established in the previous section). He never gets feedback on the effect of his actions, so he can never KNOW if he has done the right thing or not.

“Have frequent discussions within your Coven about matters such as this, so your Coveners understand the issues as thoroughly as you do. If a troll begins to present misapplied principles as excuses for unethical behavior, you want your Coveners to see through those tactics as well. Again, don't argue these points with the troll. In a Coven situation, that only prolongs the pain. Get rid of the critter, and then afterward you'll have all the time you need to de-brief with your Coveners. “

“Chuck the troll, use this guide as a check-list of reasons as to why it had to be done. Don't forget to teach them the principles in this guide, so they will agree when they see some uppity git we need to get rid of.”

Or, I don't know, you could let them see all the information for themselves and let them draw their own conclusion? But then again, I don't feel the need to act like a parent towards anyone in the groups I belong to. I treat them like equals, who can make up their minds, without having the ground adequately prepared beforehand to get the result I want.

“In larger settings - formal churches and umbrella groups - things get a little more complicated, because you usually have to present a case to some council or governing board in order to get rid of a troll. There, it's possible for the troll to bollix up the works by raising these issues, and insisting they get argued out before an expulsion vote is taken. Handling his situation is a topic for anther time; for now, just keep in mind that any Pagan organization should 1) discuss these issues long before a crisis takes place so they're already thoroughly understood, and 2) have rules of procedure in order to stay on topic during discussions about possible disciplinary actions. “

Indoctrination is an ugly word, isn't it? This isn't quite it, but its an attempt to create a consensus around the driving ideas behind this essay, even before a problem arises. By managing the perceptions of the problem, it becomes so much easier to frame it in terms like this essay does, and advocate the same stupid, pointless punishments this essay does.

Oh joy.