1. Exquisite Tweets from @fatnutritionist, @julia_halperin

    blechCollected by blech

    I've spent the last year and a half kicking myself for choosing terror management theory as a framework to analyze popular diet culture, not because it doesn't work (I think it does), but because it applies so well to our current political situation that I can't sleep at night.

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    Michelle Allison

    It's hard to stay narrowly focused on nutrition and related stuff when larger themes of neoreactionary thought and autocracy and the dismantling of democratic institutions keep intruding, over and over. It's hard to ignore the obvious immortality project staring me in the face.

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    Michelle Allison

    I guess I'll write about some of it here, though Twitter is a cesspit. IRL people look at me like I'm off my nut when I talk about this, except for my incredibly kind and patient friend Mel - shout out to Mel for letting me ramble about immortality over nachos at Sneaky Dee's.

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    Michelle Allison

    I first made the connection between social hierarchy, health, and the fear of death many years ago, as a teenager, but it became really explicit to me in online arguments about body weight and health just a few years back. It was so obvious that people constructed hierarchies...

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    Michelle Allison

    ...of "better" and "worse" people (along lines of body weight, presumed lifestyle choices, and other health indices) as a way of convincing themselves that they wouldn't ever do something as gauche as GET SICK AND DIE. A lot of this came from various alt-right types and corners.

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    Michelle Allison

    I remember one of my twitter friends responding in the most perfect way ever to these attempts at bullying with "That's right, in this land of immortal highlanders only the weak die," or something like that. It cracked me the hell up, but it also pointed to something crucial...

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    Michelle Allison

    ...which is a theme running through alt-right and neoreactionary ideas, a sort of ubermensch or superhuman ideal, but in the updated format of transhumanism or the technological singularity. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's okay, I kind of wish I didn't.)

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    Michelle Allison

    I became aware of actual neoreactionary philosophy a few years ago, in a random thread on Metafilter, where the weirdest internet troll ever came into the comments to school us all about the coming Dark Enlightenment (and used a lot of gratuitous tildes which made us laugh.)

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    Michelle Allison

    It's basically the philosophical underpinning of Bannon et al. It includes 1) the dismantling of the state, 2) the dismantling of democracy and a return to a sort of feudal system or even monarchy, and 3) a broad denial of egalitarianism and other Enlightenment ideals.

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    Michelle Allison

    It would include returning women to "traditional roles" (you can fill in the blanks) and is cozy with supremacist ideas, e.g. that slavery is a desirable way for humans to relate, and that some groups of people make better slaves than others (again, you can fill in the blanks.)

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    Michelle Allison

    I didn't make the connection between what I was studying/experiencing (people using body size and health to form social hierarchies that allow them to suppress the fear of death) and the weird stuff I'd run into online by accident (neoreactionary philosophy, alt right) until 2016

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    Michelle Allison

    I had understood that there was some serious social Darwinist thinking at work underlying all forms of hierarchy and oppression, and that this was the alt right's "we hate everybody (except cishet white men) equally" stock-in-trade, but that was about all I had pieced together.

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    Michelle Allison

    It didn't fully click until 2016, as I was taking notes on Ernest Becker's writings, watching the US election unfold, that neoreactionary, anti-democratic thought as a whole is a massive immortality project, and THIS is what it has in common w/ my topics (fat stigma,diet culture)

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    Michelle Allison

    Basically my weird, fringe-y interest (diet culture, TMT) was connected to the weird, fringe-y stuff I'd stumbled upon online (neoreactionary philosophy) and it was no longer just weird, fringe-y stuff at all - it had resulted in a massive political upheaval in my home country.

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    Michelle Allison

    Whenever I say "immortality project" everyone's eyes glaze over, so let me explain a little - you could say immortality projects are humans' attempts to "leave a legacy" that endures when they are gone, or belief systems that offer the possibility of an afterlife in some form.

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    Michelle Allison

    Becker, I guess, states that all cultural production and norms and technologies and institutions are immortality projects, because they are objects, or even ways of doing things, that get passed down from one generation to the next, that endure beyond a single human's lifespan.

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    Michelle Allison

  2. Protected tweet: 952908567866208256
    You might be able to see it if you sign in with Twitter.

  3. The immortality projects that fascinate me, however, are the ones that create systems of inequality, and use the strategic oppression and marginalization of a group of people as the foundation upon which those who think of themselves as superior can stand and reach for eternity.

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    Michelle Allison

    (You might argue that ALL culture production/technologies/institutions are inherently hierarchical, I dunno, I haven't looked into them all...I just know that the part where some people get shit on and other people get a path to heroism and leave a legacy is what interests me.)

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    Michelle Allison

    I haven't read that, but is sounds right up my alley, thank you

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    Michelle Allison

    Okay, so where was I? Well, this morning after I woke up from a night of twilight sleep where my brain kept gnawing on neoreactionary thought/Moldbug/Land/Thiel/Bannon/Dugin like a cud, I sat down in my thinking chair and noticed the index card sitting next to me on my bookshelf.

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    Michelle Allison

    It says, "The gauge of a truly free society would be the extent to which it admitted its own central fear of death and questioned its system of heroic transcendence--and this is precisely what democracy is doing much of the time..."

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    Michelle Allison

    "...The free flow of criticism, satire, art, and science is a continuous attack on the culture fiction--which is why totalitarians from Plato to Mao have to control these things, as has long been known." (Becker, Escape from Evil, p. 167)

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    Michelle Allison

    It grabbed me is because I woke up troubled by one question: Why, in a supposedly egalitarian democratic society that is quite hierarchical and unequal, would those resting near the very top of the hierarchy (largely white, male technophiles) be the ones clamoring for more?

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    Michelle Allison

    Why are the Thiels of the world, for one e.g., obsessed with upending the (barely functioning) democratic institutions that extend to the rest of us a tiny, imperfect modicum of liberty in favour of an explicitly autocratic vision that would have us be serfs and slaves?

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    Michelle Allison

    Like WHY do the people who have EVERYTHING in the current system, WHY must their shitty futuristic fantasy influence an election, when there are tons of people who have more ethically defensible visions of a future with expanded rights and equality for all people?

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    Michelle Allison

    Why do the people who have it all, who live on the bleeding edge of technological advancement, contribute in massively influential ways to our culture, who are massively financially rewarded, NEED EVEN MORE? To the point of doing away w/ enlightenment ideals and democracy itself?

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    Michelle Allison

    It seemed impossible to understand, and then my index card reminded me: because when you can't navigate your fear of death, can't even SEE it, nothing is ever enough. You can reach the top of the existing hierarchy and at the end of it, you're still human, still going to die.

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    Michelle Allison

    Thiel is terrified of dying, openly invests in technologies that offer immortality. The neoreactionary platform has several literal immortality mechanisms baked in: futuristic AI, the technological singularity, transhumanism. It's The Highlander all over again. Nerds.

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    Michelle Allison

    But the current system doesn't offer as direct a path as they would like to this glorious, immortal future--even though it's the one the rest of us need (and need to fight tooth and nail to expand, given how un-egalitarian it actually is) in order to have any rights at all.

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    Michelle Allison

    They've climbed to the top of the shitty hierarchy we currently have, that is at least democratic in name, and now demand an even less democratic, more hierarchical system. Because even though they have every systemic advantage a human can have, they're still not quite immortal.

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    Michelle Allison

    The antidote to this is MORE democracy and egalitarianism, not less, and the hierarchical structure of our current system is what enabled these people to climb to the top and ram through their vision of an even less equal future, while others fought and died to have basic rights.

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    Michelle Allison

    If you give people a ladder to climb to be nearer the gods, they will climb up it, realize the gods are still not near enough, then set the thing on fire until it consumes them like a pyre. This wouldn't be too much of a problem, except usually the ladder is made of other people.

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    Michelle Allison

    I don't believe in immortality, and I don't consent to being a burnt offering. That's all.

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    Michelle Allison

    @rljd Thank you! I don't know...I've been really reluctant to write longform this past year just because of anxiety and stuff, but if I get back to it as I want to, this is definitely something on my mind.

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    Michelle Allison

    @rljd It's so helpful to hear someone acknowledge that. The current environment can be so isolating and that alone can make you question your perceptions and emotions (and sanity.)

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    Michelle Allison

    And for those of you who asked to read more about the diet culture part of what I'm talking about, I wrote a couple things (the first one is my pinned tweet but here's the link again):

    theatlantic.com/health/archive…

    fatnutritionist.com/index.php/the-…

    xojane.com/issues/fat-nut…

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    Michelle Allison

  4. Maybe it’s implied, but paleo culture always feels very alt-right to me: restoring the uber-mensch to his rightful diet in order to transcend modern death culture. Plus thriving on internet chat rooms. & as U’ve pointed out: grains are classic “poor people food”. <3 this thread

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    julia_halperin

    Julia Halperin

  5. that's a new concept to me, but a brief search tells me that they def. sound related/similar

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    fatnutritionist

    Michelle Allison

    thank you, I appreciate that...I agree it's terrifying and I kind of hate talking about it, but it's also such a relief to share it with people who care about the same issues

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    fatnutritionist

    Michelle Allison

  6. And there’s a documented path into White supremacy through essentialist “natural parenting” blogs aimed at women. I’d post a link but I don’t want to make you nauseous.

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    julia_halperin

    Julia Halperin

  7. whoa, I've never seen them myself, but why am I not even a little bit surprised?

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    fatnutritionist

    Michelle Allison