Since I slavishly follow the daily activities of Stefan Molyneux, I feel qualified to announce that although he has tried on several titles in the past, including philosopher, libertarian, and advocate for peaceful parenting (whatever that is), I believe the best title for him remains “accidental humorist.”
Case in point, a silly little brouhaha a week or so ago that ended with him calling an entire legion of thoughtful critics “a bunch of nasty people screaming their little lungs out.”
For all you historians reading this post several hundred years from now, here’s a quick synopsis:
- Some guy gave Stefan Molyneux, accidental humorist, a $2.00 donation.
- Molyneux made a Facebook post suggesting the donation wasn’t enough.
- Hundreds of people commented on the post; many called Molyneux ungrateful.
- That ignited a reddit discussion with more people doing the same.
- Which, in turn, inspired an amusing and interesting discussion on our forum.
- Molyneux tried to control it as best he could, deleting comments that exposed touchy, reputation-damaging stuff (like Christina’s suspension, for example).
- And then he responded to it all with (surprise!) a YouTube podcast. He titles the podcast “In Which I Admit Fault And Promise to Improve…”
- His critics listened to the podcast and instead heard Molyneux accuse them of being bullies with childhood issues. (It was an intentional deception. In the podcast, he actually admitted fault for some other inconsequential thing.)
- Molyneux continued his barrage of defense with a post on his forum, where—even there—a couple of members dare to point out his ingratitude.
Up to speed?
Now, we could explore the logic of a guy whose enterprise is designed to convince 20-somethings (or younger) to cut themselves off from their families, condemning themselves to an existence of menial jobs and crappy apartments—in which making a $2.00 donation to anything is a significant act—and then ridicule them for not having any money, but let’s not.
Logic, as Molyneux is fond of saying, is his department. Ask him.
So why wade in after the fact and pile one more blog post on the sorry mess, especially when none of you nasty screaming bullies out there ever send me a dime?
Because of the one word that gave me perspective on the whole thing.
Yeah, you know the word. I spent an entire post demonstrating how that one word can be the key to understanding all Molyneuvian behavior, including this episode. You might want to check it out sometime to better understand what follows. But for now, let’s get into it!
The complaint :-(
Here’s the actual complaint that Molyneux posted on Facebook on January 19. It’s the message he got from Paypal and how he felt about it:
”You received a donation of $2.00 CAD from…”
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but… :-(
Most sane people would consider his reaction surprising, since we are almost universally surrounded by donation-based organizations that use the mantra, “Give whatever you can; no donation is too small.” They typically acknowledge that you have other concerns in your life, but if you could just spare a little…
And it’s true. Drop a dollar in the Salvation Army pot and all you’ll get is a smile and sincere “Thank you.” Heck, there’s a bunch of Christians trying to build a camp in some godforsaken jungle in Peru who will accept no donation LARGER than $2.00, just to prove some kind of point about god.
If not $2.00, would $5.00 do?
So, why in the world was Molyneux REALLY upset at the $2.00 donation?
That’s easy to answer if you understand the black-and-white thinking known as “splitting.” In Molyneux’s view, all other charities are crap. His charity is all good and will ultimately save the world (and nothing else will).
No, silly, I’m not exaggerating. That’s literally how Molyneux’s mind appears to work.
Just check out a little bit of fun from November 2007—Podcast 920, “What’s Next”. (When Molyneux says “What’s Next,” he means “what are all of you, my followers, going to do next, now that you you’ve ditched your family and friends and stuff.”) Yes, I’m paraphrasing, but I’m accurate…
00:27 People are feeling a little bit at sixes and sevens in the conversation. They’re also feeling a little bit like—not sure what to do next, not sure what’s going to keep people motivated after they’ve expelled the poisons of corrupt relationships, and family members and so on.
(Ah, the good old days, when you could say right out loud what FDR was all about.)
Actually that podcast is nothing more than an hour-long diatribe against Molyneux’s followers for not buying his recently released FDR T-Shirts. (Apparently, “what’s next,” after you’ve kicked your family to the curb, is to parade around town in your newly purchased FDR t-shirts so other people will see them and rush to their computers to join “the community.”)
Here he is, winding up for the big spanking:
18:40 I do it because I genuinely will believe this conversation will save the world and nothing else will. I believe that philosophy and integrity and honesty will save the world and that nothing else will. And I know that deep down you understand that, too. So what you’re telling me is, ‘Stef, I love this conversation. This conversation is meat and drink to me but I gotta tell you—I get stopped by a logo. That’s my story. My mythology is that I would wear your T-shirts but I don’t like the logo.
(In the second sentence, he means “philosophy and integrity and honesty” as he narrowly defines them, of course. Only his version of those values will save the world, and no other.)
Then he pours on some ridicule with a little phony hysterical laughter…
33:00 (Weird forced laughter and ridicule.)
Yeah, I know. As creepy and manipulative as the worst-parent-in-the-world. Hang in there.
In Molyneux’s view, once you’ve covered your rent, food, and the roof over your head, all your disposable income are belong to us.
This is a man who seems to believe in every firing little synapse that his ideas are going to change the world and nothing else will. That’s why he feels comfortable both excoriating and then emotionally manipulating his followers when they won’t buy his T-Shirts. He believes his ideas are already “meat and drink” to them.
And that’s why Molyneux had a sad face when someone sent him $2.00. Instead, Molyneux wanted whatever the man would be willing to pay to save the world.
And that’s also why $5.00 won’t be enough either. No amount is enough. In Molyneux’s view, once you’ve covered your rent, food, and the roof over your head, all your disposable income are belong to us. Heck, it’s not like you’re going to be using it to buy Christmas presents for the family anymore.
Anyway, I thought it would be worth pointing out that there is a little truth hidden beneath the surface here and a good understanding of “splitting” reveals it every time.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on all this on our forum by the way.
No need to send in your $2.00.
I’m only interested in your $0.02.
Special Bonus Quickette!
By the way, splitting is nearly always identifiable and once you start looking for it in Molyneux’s writings, podcasts, and even in (or maybe especially in) silly little incidents like the one described above, it just jumps out at you.
There were hundreds of comments on the $2.00 debacle. They ran the range from support to disgust, amusement to bemusement, and serious to silly. But how many of the comments were from people who had a deep and genuine emotional stake in their connection to Molyneux? Not to the points they were making but to Molyneux himself? I would wager a very small percentage.
But I’d also bet that Molyneux would say all of the critics did. And they were haters.
Yes, there are some True Believers who honestly believe Molyneux is their savior, best friend, and guy who personally cares about them. There’s an obvious emotional connection there. But it seems to me that most people know Molyneux only as a guy on the internet. Even if they really like what he says, they don’t consider him to be a personal friend. If they don’t like what he says, they don’t consider him a personal enemy.
But when splitting is a major part of your personality, you can’t do that. To Molyneux, any critic—any person who points out something he or she thinks is wrong—is a hater. They hate him personally. They seethe and look for opportunities to get him. And the criticisms themselves are raging howls in the darkness.
When I read through the comments on those pages, it’s exactly what I’d expect. Mostly thoughtful, some funny, some bolstered by internet courage—silly squabbles, earnest efforts, nothing unusual.
But what did Molyneux see? “A bunch of nasty people screaming their little lungs out.” He literally cannot see it as I do. Because “splitting” is always about extremes. Little criticisms become screams. Disagreements are hate-fueled attacks.
It’s sad and strange and funny in this case.
Maybe a little less so when he’s helping his followers sort through their family problems. But that’s for other posts.
Special Bonus Quickette #2!
On US television, when celebrities screw up or get bad publicity, they sometimes get themselves booked on a talk show for a mea culpa or to offer an excuse/explanation to win back their fanbase. The celebrity answers a few softball questions and then hopes the whole ugly affair is behind them.
If you listen to the YouTube video I mentioned earlier…
…you may notice that this is exactly what Molyneux is doing. After the opener, in which Molyneux accuses his critics of being nasty people with childhood issues, a caller comes on to ask about the $2.00 debacle.
Actually, this “questioner” is a long-time Molyneux True Believer who indicates through his comments that he already knows and agrees with the party line. He is simply there to serve up the softballs for Molyneux to swing away at.
The parts that best fall under the “accidental humorist” category for me occur at the 21:21 mark, when the questioner brings up the theory that some may have “misinterpreted” Molyneux’s post as something similar to a teacher who publicly humiliates an underperforming student.
This is, of course, exactly what Molyneux’s post was all about! But because the question comes from a True Believer who is clearly uncomfortable even appearing to challenge Molyneux, he gives Stefan a chance to squirm away with a convoluted explanation that doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. It’s hard not to imagine a few people in the audience chuckling in the background.
The next occurs at 32:23, when the questioner brings up the idea that people reacted they way they did because Molyneux’s post and subsequent comments seemed very similar to the kind of passive-aggressive guilt manipulation that Molyneux accuses nearly all parents of employing. (Again, the caller is correct but both he and Molyneux pretend he is not.)
Molyneux’s mindset (remember, the theme here is “splitting”) can’t allow for any of that. So Molyneux immediately flips the charge, maintaining that “the level of abuse” he received for his post is something that would come from a parent.
I’m not making this up. Molyneux’s story is that he wasn’t being the passive-aggressive, guilt manipulating parent when he complained about a user’s donation. He was the innocent child honestly expressing an emotion. Everyone who took exception, however, were the rage-filled abusive parents.
In real life, this would be the point in the talk show when the audience doesn’t know exactly what to do. There are a few giggles and a smattering of polite applause. Then the applause lights goes on, we break to commercial, and get ready for the next musical guest.
Special Bonus Quickette #3!
Molyneux must have been really thrown by this whole affair, because he offered a defense that can only be described as inane. He really is a brilliant guy and could have done much better. So, I can only guess that he must have been reeling.
According to Molyneux, his Facebook post that started the whole mess was a “simple communication of an emotional state.” When the negative feedback began, he would say in his podcast, “I don’t think that an honest expression of my experience of a particular interaction can be reasonably viewed as a strategy. I was just sharing.”
So, now he’s saying that he was just sharing an honest emotion. Posting his dissatisfaction over a $2.00 donation on a page that all his followers (and donors) read was no strategy, no attempt to communicate the type of donations he does expect. Just a coincidence, y’all.
And he’s saying that context doesn’t matter, is that right? In other words, we’re not supposed to consider why he felt bad. We’re simply to embrace and acknowledge his sadness. To say, “I, too, know what it’s like to be sad,” and move on.
If that’s the case, then you should have the same reaction to the sad face at the end of this Facebook post:
So, I robbed a liquor store. Had to shoot the guy.
Cash register only had $15.00 dollars… :-(
Still think context doesn’t matter?