All the Bad Dudes, All the Sad Dudes

From the animated adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s Big X

How many awful young men do you know?

Note I don’t ask, “How many awful young men do you know to exist online?” How many have you known, been in the same room with, broken Dominos cheesy bread with?

It’s an important distinction, and in my case the answer is, “Many, many, many awful young men.” At one time they made up the majority of what I considered my social network. We were all some kind of angry and lost, and we had roughly similar interests, so on the outset of that period of my life I had trouble drawing much distinction between myself and them. Hey, when you’re 16 you’re only so good at nuance.

But there were always things about them I found either creepy or… formlessly annoying. They were, more than anything else, viciously insincere while simultaneously so sensitive to critique and rejection that it clashed with their advanced pubescence. They were, even in the eyes of another child, defensive children. I feel some cold empathy now, but in the moment it was just aggravating. It was a little too much like keeping company with eleven year olds.

Their tastes had the same shallow affect and defensive gloss. When we roleplayed, they wanted games wherein they could get things (and women, who were things to them), particularly scenarios wherein these things were given to them. Quests were annoying, setbacks were grounds for hissy fits. Their primary interest in a narrative was how many lives a device or person could destroy and how quickly and how grand that would be. That Superman and Goku would probably rather just wrassle and hang out never occurred to them.

My final break with that group came about through a current events discussion that stopped me and a friend I’ll call Todd outside my engineering school’s dining hall. We were talking about weapons, because that was an inevitable topic considering we were at war and Todd was stunted in the way he was. He brought up napalm use on cities, and I… got angry. How could he so casually suggest what would amount to a war crime?

“What do you care if it’s the bad guys?”

I did not say anything. I shoved him, cut in line to get in the hall, and put as much physical space between him and myself as I could while I got my lunch. My friendship with him and with the entire group, which amounted to my entire year in that major, was wordlessly finished. There was something profoundly wrong with the guys I’d called my friends, and with the group that had followed me into school and rolled up into the engineering school group.

There’s a shadow side of geek media that we’re only now starting to address, one that is neither new nor as limited to anime as some articles might suggest. Yes, I took you on that self discovery memory journey to address a question with which the internet has become obsessed:

Why are so many Nazis huge nerds?

When you strip out all the pontificating, it breaks down to a simple overlap of fantasy values. Cash grab, exploitative nerd media and white nationalism offer insecure young men roughly the same set of fantasies:

-That they/their viewer stand-in are naturally superior and uniquely desirable and admirable.
-Because of this, they are entitled to victory and status and material things.
-These material things extend to women, who are (or should be and with training can become) totally pleased with the arrangement.

Totally Unrelated Image

If your fantasy asserts you’re special by divine chance, you don’t have to feel too terribly bad about letting your life succumb to inertia while you wait for torrents to finish. If your fantasy goes on to say that your specialness entitles you to, uh, everything, you can dispel the cognitive dissonance that might otherwise crop up when you compare your entitled attitude to your relative lack of achievement, motivation, and social savvy. If you’re given this space to believe you’re entitled to women – which the narrative provides for you to vicariously enjoy – you can cheerfully wallow in your Boner Martyr status when absolutely no girls show any interest in your miserable behavior, dull hobbies, and bad fashion sense.

And that’s really the heart of the thing: Eliminating the cognitive dissonance between how much you believe you suck and how much you feel entitled to having.

Musical interlude.

This explains, for instance, why Nerdzis on Twitter using cutesy underage girls as their avatars is fast approaching tired gag status. These things appeal to them for the reasons outlined above: Here is what you want, because you’re you. You didn’t have to work for it, and the bland and crapular way you are is just fine.

The above philosophy explains, too, why they’re generally uninterested in wide swaths of nerd media that might otherwise appeal to them. Military stories in which it’s very difficult to ignore the driving idea that war as an institution is horrible even when individual actions can be valorous don’t interest them outside the abstract. They’re also uninterested in stories not written by fourteen year olds for fourteen year olds, meaning stories that attempt some philosophical education by:

-Creating an audience insert character who must fail and struggle his way to his story’s conclusion
-Creating a character with whom the audience will empathize despite their being static and superior to the audience, who models the idea that to be superior you have to stop being an entitled trashbaby.

Entitled trashbabies hate this kind of storytelling, because to admit the necessity of any kind of growth or sacrifice on their part is to admit a fundamental weakness. It prompts them to interrogate their motives and their life trajectory. If this is right, am I wrong? Should I stop waiting for my torrents to finish and go for a walk? Do girls really have to talk to me?

It suggests to them, softly, something they love to say and hate to hear:

“Fuck your feelings, Todd.”

Because Todd does have feelings, even if they pertain almost entirely to himself and what he feels he’s owed. It’s these feelings that make any perceived admission of weakness so terrifying to him. Yes, Todd does have fears even if he acts them out through rageful sputtering. He fears his inadequacy, he fears his irrelevance, he fears failure and fears self-improvement as a result. Todd needs you to believe he’s big and entitled so he can feel entitled without acknowledging how small he is. He needs his stories to reflect these ideas, and as a result his stories trend toward conflict-free dullness. But he can’t make peace with anything else.

That’s why Nerdzis are prevalent: Pitiful young men lap up the same self-soothing milk from both sources. They’re very similar black holes all whipped up to suck down sadboys. Other media, other philosophies, ask too much of them without paying out empty goodfeels. They aren’t this way because they’re uniquely macho or vicious as a result of arrogance, but because they’re so deeply fearful and assured of their own impotence that no other fantasy can comfort them.

So if you ever feel yourself getting very, very angry at Nerdzis, engage your empathy centers by imagining them as sweet soft babies sucking on swastika titties.

Then immediately imagine slapping their lips off it, because that’s what you do to Nazis.