Entryism as Exploited Containment Failure Between Subcultures

The post on boundaries was something of a standalone theory prerequisite for a discussion of how subcultures need walls, and what form those walls take.

I’m using “subculture” to mean a group of people who come together to share their thoughts and culture and time in the context of some shared interest. A group composed of multiple individuals that share ideas and that thus becomes something of a Thing itself. The shared interest isn’t really necessary except as a barrier against dissolution into the ambient cultural soup. Let’s look at how those shared interests can or cannot protect the subculture from dissolution:

If a subculture accepts people from outside who have other affiliations, those people can distort and change the social dynamic, deliberately in a planned way or just because that’s what happens. Especially if there are a lot of people interested in joining from a similar direction.

Imagine a group of people who are interested in X, Y, and Z. Their first boundary is obscurity. While they are relatively unknown, they can explore what can be done with X, Y, and Z, and pick up the occasional fresh mind who is also interested in that. As they begin to develop their theories and start creating interesting ideas and cultural content, and start to become cool, they start to lose their obscurity boundary.

Once they are cool, they have to start worrying about people coming in because they are cool, or because they are something that is happening that can be captured and redirected for other purposes. For example, you might have another group of people who are interested in A, B, and C, which cash out to taking over things and making them about A, B, and C as well as their original topics. You would expect such a predator subculture to be successful if there were a lot of prey subcultures vulnerable to that kind of entry.

If XYZ, and ABC conflict, then counterintuitively, predatory entry is less of a concern, because the conflict prevents the ABC people from being drawn to the XYZ subculture at all. They are in fact repelled by it. But if XYZ and ABC are compatible or orthogonal, then the ABC people will be interested in bringing ABC to XYZ to create XYZ+, and they will be able to, because XYZ wont know to react against it. This usually disrupts the original XYZ subculture and makes it less interesting to the kind of people who were into it in the first place.

So it is important for any growing subculture that values its own existence and cultural continuity to get serious about defending against "hostile" entry by erecting new barriers that repel most plausible entryists. Lets look at some real world examples:

#Gamergate is a great example. The gaming community came together of mostly young mostly men interested in playing video games. As they grew in popularity, cultural richness, and coolness, they became something of a target for "Social Justice Warriors". The "SJWs" are interested in fixing "toxic" cultures by making them more inclusive to women and minorities, and less prone to nasty things like racism and sexism. Gamers are notorious for calling each other "faggots", and using language like “rape” to describe victories. Since such things are not necessarily integral to gaming, the SJW subculture had an in. Anita Sarkeesian, some developers and conference organizers, and a bunch of sympathetic journalists showed up and started peddling Social Justice in Gaming.

Unfortunately, the gaming community had just enough overlap and good relations with the even more toxic imageboard community and other anti-SJW subcultures to offer some resistance. Gamers discovered some seedy behaviour by the SJW types and started harassing them, which was quickly matched from the SJW/Journalist side. At that point it escalated out of the realm of merely verbal scuffles and into campaigns to shut each other down, remove sponsors, and so on.

Another good example of personal significance is Lesswrong. Originally a very interesting community around the art of human rationality, i.e. how to think real good, it left its political back door open to increasing levels of Social Justice entry: polyamory, cuddle piles, anti-racism, anti-sexism, identity politics, feminism, socialism, open borders, sex work, etc. As far as I can tell, for a large number of LWers, the community is more or less continuous with standard Tumblr Social Justice. This happened because Lesswrong’s nominal subject does not directly contradict Social Justice. If Lesswrong had instead been repellent to SJWs, instead of attractive, I think this may not have happened.

There are of course hundreds of other examples of communities transformed by such dynamics, but what I’m getting at here is the general structure of entry and subversion between subcultures.

This piece by a fellow writer was reposted from our previous blog.