Megan Figueroa: Hi! Welcome to The Vocal Fries Podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.
Carrie Gillon: I am Carrie Gillon.
Megan: And I am Megan Figueroa. Do you have a podcast you want to tell me about? Tell us about it!
Carrie: Yes! There is a podcast called, “The Story of Woman” at http://www.thestoryofwomanpodcast.com. You can check it out. It compliments ours, I think, quite a bit. She interviews one person every time and it’s always a non-fiction book that has something to do with women’s lives. The most recent episode is, “Woman and Workplace Bias: Gil Whitty-Collins, Why Men Win at Work.” The book is called, “Why Men Win at Work.” Every episode is based around that and I listened to a few episodes. One of them was, “Woman in Authority: Mary Ann Sieghart, The Authority Gap.” If you want to hear a story about the Pope and the then-female President of Ireland. It is a gob-smacking story! You definitely need to check that out.
Carrie: That is not what I thought you were going to say. That is fun! It’s infuriating. Let’s put it that way.
Megan: Well, yes.
Carrie: That is because it’s all about how women are not seen as authority figures. You can probably figure out what the Pope might have done. Although, no. You probably cannot. You probably cannot figure it out.
Megan: No. I cannot imagine. No.
Carrie: In this episode, there’s also, “Hey, what can we do about this?” And there’s things that the governments can do, and there’s things…
Megan: Oh, nice.
Carrie: …that individuals can do. It’s nice that it’s not just individual blaming because it’s not actually really about individuals.
Carrie: But one suggestion is, “Stop mistaking confidence for competence.” I love that!
Megan: I do!
Carrie: Basically, men get further on bullshit. Women can’t really get as far on bullshit, with some exceptions! We remember Elizabeth Holmes.
Megan: But you just kind of wonder how much deepening her voice. Kind of huge, played into it, right?
Carrie: I am convinced.
Megan: But it was 100% confidence and not competence. Confidence.
Carrie: Yes. And then, the other episode that I really loved, oh my God! I was so excited to listen to this one because I love Willie Parker. Dr. Willie Parker. Every time I hear him speak, he just makes me feel all the good feels. He exemplifies what I believe Christianity should be. Not that I have any say, because I’m not one.
Megan: You’re right.
Carrie: But, his Christian values are so aligned with my atheist values, I guess.
Carrie: He talks a little bit about how language matters and how you really should say Anti-Abortion versus Pro-Abortion. He thinks that Pro-Choice trivializes the decision and that Pro-Life is just like which life are you talking about?
Megan: Right. We talked about this, with our friend, Mary Caitlin. Same themes.
Carrie: Same themes.
Megan: Yes. Is this based on his new book I’m seeing? “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice?”
Carrie: Yes, that’s right. I should actually read the full title.
Carrie: “Woman and the Morality of Abortion: Dr. Willie Parker, Life’s Work. Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice”. I just love hearing him, even just talk. He’s really calm, and I just love his accent. Like everything is just so amazing. I definitely recommend starting with those two. There are many other options.
Megan: I’m excited to listen. I’m going to start with Dr. Willie Parker, right after we finish this.
Carrie: It’s great. Actually, I think you will be so charmed by him.
Carrie: Especially if you’ve never heard of him before.
Megan: Yes, I was going to say, what accent? Where’s he from?
Carrie: He’s from Mississippi, I think.
Carrie: Definitely the South. He’s definitely got a black southern accent.
Megan: Wow! And he’s, I think Alabama? Am I reading this?
Carrie: Maybe Alabama. But definitely that area, that part of the Deep South.
Megan: An outspoken Christian, Reproductive Justice Advocate, and Abortion Provider. One of the few doctors to provide such services to women in Mississippi and Alabama. And what a dangerous…
Carrie: So dangerous. But he believes in it so fervently that he’s willing to take this risk. I mean, I know he is very careful.
Carrie: He has to be. Check out “The Story of Woman”, which is really great.
Megan: I am so excited. I don’t know if you know this, but I love podcasts.
Carrie: I do know that! I know you’d also love podcasts.
Megan: Yes. If it wasn’t so obnoxious, I’d probably tell everyone that I’m a podcaster. Actually, less obnoxious for us taking up space because what is it still, 90% men in the podcast space? Do you know any numbers?
Carrie: I really feel it’s still that bad. It might still be that bad, I’m not sure. It feels a little less that way now, but honestly, it could be just the podcast that I’m choosing. I still listen to podcasts that are hosted by men, but it’s definitely not all of them. It’s not, definitely probably not even 50%.
Megan: Yes. Well, and to have two women, too. This is all to say, listeners, that if you want to give us some support, I think we have Patreon.
Carrie: Yes! We do have Patreon! Good call! “www.patreon.com/vocalfriespod”, which we never talk about. We don’t talk about enough.
Megan: We also have about enough because our confidence a little bit low, but, guess what? Competence is high. Our competence is high. Our confidence is going to get there.
Carrie: I know, right? I don’t even think about confidence, is that low. It’s just more like, “Ah, so yes, that’s right! That’s the thing. We should be definitely telling, people about.”
Megan: We should be definitely telling people because people do want to support things that they like and listen. Carrie’s doing so much work and do it for Carrie, or do it for me, whichever one of us just really gets you to do it. Both of us together.
Carrie: Anyway, today’s episode is so…
Megan: So much fun.
Carrie: …fascinating. It’s so good. We talked for so long and I could have talked to you even longer. It was so good.
Megan: Yes, I could have talked forever.
Carrie: Yes, I can’t believe it’s finally the caucus-ode, episode.
Carrie: So, I’m totally stoked today because we have Green Kasi, A PhD student in the Linguistics department at the University of Colorado, in Boulder. Her research interests and socio-cultural linguistics include whiteness, masculinity, and mock languaging practices of the alt-right movement online, who research uses syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, frame analysis and metaphor. She’s also the author of “Ted Cruz Cocks Again.” The insult term cook as an alt-right masculinist signifier. Welcome, Maureen!
Megan: Yes. Welcome.
Maureen: Thank you for having me.
Megan: Oh, my God. When I saw this title, I was like, can we have her on? This is like, okay, well, let’s start at the very beginning because you know, not everyone who listens is going to know. What is socio-cultural linguistics?
Maureen: Great place to start because we hear about, we know about socio-linguistics. That’s the main sub-discipline of study that linguists get familiarized with. Socio-cultural Linguistics is a model of language and social life proposed by Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall, I think, in their 2005 paper on “Language and Identity”. Kira Hall is my advisor. That’s part of the reason I say socio-cultural linguistics is partly out of habit, but also because the paradigm of socio-cultural linguistics does not only rely on linguistics,
but sees itself as an interdisciplinary venture, including anthropology, communication studies, media studies, political science, all these different kinds of fields that often have to do with language, but don’t typically use linguistics as their main lens to look at social life.
So, the thing about socio-cultural linguistics, as a sort of research paradigm is that, it’s meant to be highly-interdisciplinary and really values the kinds of contributions we can get from people in other fields, besides, just linguistics or just the anthropology.
Carrie: Well, I love that because I think that all of those things are relevant at all times when it comes to language.
Maureen: Yes. It’s really incredible like how much overlap there is and how much we lose when we silo ourselves out from other fields because there’s so many incredible insights looking towards you. For me, learning more about cognitive science and what goes on in terms of people’s brains has just been incredibly helpful on the socio-end. There’s not just so many lessons we learn from socio-type work, but the kind of attitude that people who study social life bring into the study of language, I think is really critical and often brings in your concepts that more anti-socio linguist isn’t necessary because it muddies their data or makes them slightly uncomfortable.
So, I really appreciate the kind of work that you two do, and not just on this podcast in general, trying to bring people into conversation instead of continuing to entrench these differences that don’t help anybody.
Megan: Oh, yes! It’s been my like, I bet Noir for the whole time. I’ve been a linguist like we should, at least talk to each other. Even if, we’re not comfortable enough talking to, outside the field, which we should also do but you know, right? So, we’re really happy to have you on.
Carrie: Oh, we are. I think I heard in there basically yes, white fragility gets in the way…
Megan:…which is so relevant to what we’re going to be talking about.
Carrie: It is so relevant.
Megan: I guess just one more piece of background, I think, is kind of important to understanding your paper is, what is Frame Analysis?
Maureen: Yes. So, Frame Analysis comes out of cognitive linguistics. It originates with the work of Charles Fillmore who was the first one to propose a frame-semantic model. The most important thing to know about this branch of linguistic theory or cognitive linguistics, generally, is that it’s focused on how meaning is constructed and understood between participants. So, meaning is really central to this particular view of linguistics rather than form of formalisms. Frame Analysis has to do with how we organize knowledge in our brains and how language figures into the organization of knowledge.
So, when Fillmore was describing frame analysis, he’s pointing out that when you have a word, you don’t understand a word just on its own terms. We understand words, in context, with other kinds of knowledge that we have stored in our minds. So, an example of the frame would be the buy frame, B-U-Y. In the Buy frame, you have to have the event which involves a person who used to do the purchasing, somebody they have to purchase it from, potentially the person they’re buying it for. To know something about buying, you have to have knowledge of how commercial transactions work, how goods and services are distributed, that there is a sequence of events that goes into the buying action that involves things like money is. So, there are all these extra kinds of things you have to understand in order for a sentence containing the verb -buy to make any sense to you at all.
So, when I’m doing this Frame analysis, on the word -cuck and its antecedent, perhaps cuckold, what I’m looking at is, how the arguments are in the given sentence are structured. So, when I say an argument, I mean, in simple terms that elements within the sentence that the verb requires for that sentence to make sense. So, a verb like sleep requires one argument, someone doing the sleeping whereas -cuck has a really complicated sort of frame structure because cuckoldry is a concept that is very much tied in with histories of land ownership, lines of descent, but we’ll get into that a little bit later.
Within frames, there are also like, Fillmore doesn’t talk about this so much, he does like a little bit and but like kind of hand waves other kinds of contextual knowledge and stuff away. But, frames also often have a certain perspective or viewpoint embedded within them as so the -buy frame that we just talked about, is from the perspective of the person doing the purchasing, but we have the converse, which is to sell, which is from the perspective of the person, providing the object. So, something that is so important for me is not only just how our perspectives embedded in language, but expanding the frame semantic network to include social knowledges and broader ideological frameworks, which the cognitive literature on frame semantics tends to not take into consideration as often.
Carrie: So, let’s get into -cuck. Can you give us a bit of a history of -cuck and how it evolved into an insult?
Maureen: So, the word -cuck is a clipped form of the word cuckold, which historically, has been used as an insult. It’s used, most typically as an insult term for a man, whose wife is cheating on him. Historically, we hear about Othello having a line about cuckolds. Somewhat recently, like 10 years ago, Andy from The Office talks about being a cuckold in that episode where Angela cheats on him, but that’s the most recent [inaudible] of cuckold that I can see outside of pornographic context.
[Andy, line from the TV series. “The Office”, “And I’m a cuckold. For those of you unfamiliar with William Shakespeare, a cuckold is a man whose woman is cheating on him. I’ve lived the part]. The word “Cuckold” actually comes from a French word, describing cuckoo birds. They famously would lay their eggs in other birds nests.
Carrie: Little bitches.
Maureen: I know, rude. So, the term has always had kind of pejorative, connotations. I argue in my paper that the cultural kind of cloud around cuckolding comes from a context of good, old-fashioned heterosexual, patriarchy. Way back in 1884, Anglos argued that the material conditions of heterosexuality really emerged from things like Agricultural Revolution, all of this access that needs to be contained through things like lines of patrilineal descent. Where does land go? How do I spread out my belongings between all my children? And how do I know that the children I have are mine? In this world view, women are straight-up just considered property of their husbands and are meant to be treated as such. So, when a woman goes out of her way to cheat on her husband, this is not only humiliating to him and says something about his masculinity or his manhood, but it also is a threat to his status as a white man or the status of his lineage. But, cuckoldry was this incredibly broad theme. It occurred all over different, especially in Western Europe I’m thinking mainly.
There were cuckold festivals, the image of the cuckold was really common in a lot of plays, kind of like a figure, kind of like a Chad now. Just like, “Oh, there’s that cuckold. Ha-ha. Look at him. Loser.” And, this kind of duped man was just this figure of ridicule throughout the Middle Ages up to the early early modern period. Even now, that same kind of humiliation and stigma remains, but the word cuckold itself is somewhat falling out of favor, especially after the 1800’s, we stopped seeing it quite so much. So, I was fascinated when the word -cuck started to appear. I started doing this research in 2015 and I started looking around on the far-right social media hubs. The thing about far-right online movements is that they’re not centralized. When we think about the white nationalist movements of the past, they were often geographically-organized people lived in communes or they lived in areas around each other and met up in person. But, when we look at online spaces, there’s no need for someone to stay on one platform or because there’s so much in anonymization on the Internet, there’s really no way of knowing who circulates around where.
But, most people move between social media platforms especially on the far-right. As I started looking at these websites, like 8chan, there was also an Alt-right Reddit or subreddit at the time which has since been deleted, and I just saw this word -cuck everywhere and I knew how it was related to cuckold because I had seen the word cuckold a lot in reading Shakespeare and things like that. But, I noticed it being used in ways that do not seem to be immediately related to the idea of a cuckold. I had trouble getting from A to B. That is why I made my paper “Ted Cruz cucks again” because that was first instance where I was like, something really strange is going on here. I saw sentences or phrases like “Ted Cruz cucks again” and while I could get a general sense of what does that supposed to mean, it obviously means something like to fuck up or to fail. And, we all know Ted Cruz. Just by knowing something about Ted Cruz, I had to know it was something like him failing at some aspect of life. What was funny to me is I didn’t understand that the Alt-right hated Ted Cruz as much as like anyone on the left hates Ted Cruz. So, I guess the title of this paper is a little gift to everybody. The funny things I noticed about it where that one, I’d seen the verb cuckold around, and in the verb cuckold, you will always have to have a cuckolder and a cuckoldee of some sort.
So, “She cuckolded him.” Sometimes you even got, “He cuckolded him.” Like, he had with this other guy’s wife or whatever. It always had this really strict transitive structure where there had to be a subject and an object. This one, “Ted Cruz cucks again”, that’s put into an intransitive form. So, there’s only Ted Cruz. The only logical inference you can make is that, maybe Ted Cruz is cucking himself in this case. So going from there, I was like, “Okay. So, what does it mean to cuck in this case?” In context, I believe that he made a faux pas. He said something stupid during the GOP runoffs for the presidential election. So, I could at least relate this word cuck again to meaning some sort of fuck up. I started looking for more instances of cuck around because I wanted to see if there were any semantic or syntactic differences besides this intransitive thing going on between all these newer instances of cuck and these historical anticipations of cuckold. While they still seem to share some kind of framework, at least this base idea of like sexual humiliation, there were a lot of elements that really did not make sense just knowing what cuckold means. Where this really started to click with me was when I started finding sentences like “feminist cucking for Israel again” or “cucking for Muslims or Islam again.”
Looking at these cucking for examples, it looks a lot like verbs, ‘to shill’, for example, or ‘to shill for somebody’, so it made sense along that access. But, this idea that somebody could cuck at the behest or on the behalf of somebody else is a really big semantic innovation from cuckold because, in the cuckold frame, the original kind of anticipation of cuckold, that does not really happen. In this case, you have these kind of undue influences playing a role in this cuckolding event looking into other kinds of Alt-right discourses. I have been doing this kind of ethnographic work since 2015 for about seven years now as well. It also helps to have a lot of extra context that comes from just spending a lot of time in a real world environment. Would this be a good time to talk about digital ethnography?
Carrie: Yes sure.
Maureen: Yes. That’s sort of the key. That was like the part that made all of these cuck examples legible to me, was through ethnography, which is a type of methodology. It’s most often used in anthropology, but we do see sociologists will use ethnography. A lot of linguists will be using ethnography even when, or they will be doing a sort of ethnography without realizing it. But ethnography is the study of human beings in real-world environments and generally this is done over extended periods of time. So traditionally, ethnography has been done where an individual goes into another social environment for a very long period of observation and often they participate in the communities that they are observing. So, the kind of quintessential example is the white anthropologist going to another country, writing up all their thoughts, and trying to become as part of the community as they can in order to write up their findings.
Ethnography, and I’m not saying that’s unproblematic. There’s a lot of critiques of the ethnographic method and what it means, especially for white scholars to go see communities of color and just be there, or even to think that they could acquire the knowledge that those communities already have, I digress. But, the benefit of ethnography is that you are able to get a lot of fine-grained knowledge that’s accumulated over a long period of time. It allows people to get at the sorts of cultural knowledge and practices that are really subtle, that you might not be able to get just by being in a place for a very short period of time, and it also gives time for a researcher to have a much more broad understanding of how things like ideologies, local practices, and community norms all interact with one, another.
Digital ethnography is the application of ethnographic methods in digital environments. As far as I’m concerned, as someone who was already terminally online, before I started doing this research, I already had a really strong belief that we should think about internet spaces as authentic social spheres. But, they have very different kinds of parameters than a face-to-face interaction obviously. The most important of those is that online, one can be relatively anonymous, especially a lot of people do not take a lot of care to be anonymous online. But, if you are careful, use the right kinds of browsers, choose usernames that are not very distinct and therefore harder to track, etc., it’s really easier to anonymize yourself. Many of the platforms I am looking at are almost fully anonymized anyway. So, what digital ethnography looks like for me is just really long periods of lurking, a ton of reading, a lot of creeping.
And, I’ll be honest, I do not actually participate a lot. This is something that I have received some criticism for, especially, from other anthropologists who do ethnography, not necessarily other digital ethnographers are in a similar position that I am in. But, I’ve gotten some pushback from anthropologists that I am not actually participating meaningfully in these communities and therefore, not doing an ethnography right. I disagree partly because, one, I tried to avoid the Observer’s Paradox to some degree. The information is anonymized in a way that it’s easy to make a case to RIBs, for example, that nobody is actually being directly affected by this sort of research. I hope this does not sound like a cop-out, but I just know that they will not walk to talk to me.
Megan: No. They will kick you out as soon as they realized who you are.
Maureen: Yes. I saw that numerous times to inviting people being accused of being spies. I had actually wanted to join an Alt-right Discord and one of the requirements for entry was that you had to send the mods a time-stamped face picture with a swastika drawn on one hand and a 1488, which is Nazi number on your other hand, like this. I am holding my hands up to the screen so that you have damning evidence on you in case you betray for one reason or another. I was like, “I’m not going to be able to… I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this without bringing possibly some harm to myself.” Now, there have been other ethnographers of the far-right. Actually, he’s an ethnomusicologist at CEU. I am forgetting what his last name is, but that is okay because we do not need it. He actually argues in a paper, released a year or two ago, that researchers of the far-right actually need to be sympathetic to their research subjects, that they need to make an authentic attempt to be in community with them, and to have an ethical obligation to view these subjects positively, even, which I found as a very concerning proposition and something that would mean that only white men would be allowed to study the far-right. Not the far right in general, but the white nationalist far-right in the United States. By that standard, literally only the people who are the least equipped to make a good critique of that group would be the only people who would allowed to do that.
Carrie: It’s exactly it. We do not need just white men in here giving their analysis.
Megan: Because they’re going to miss a lot.
Carrie: I want to go back really quick. You said the Observer’s Paradox, which is the idea, and this is from the Bob, that the best information we would get would be to observe people in their authentic interactions. But, how can I be authentic…
Megan: …if you’re there?
Carrie: …I’m the observer? Right? So, actually what you’re doing
Megan: …is closer.
Carrie: …[inaudible] be perfect.
Megan: It’s closer to getting away from it.
Carrie: It’s closer to perfect. I feel like this is this is way more authentic.
Maureen: That’s the argument that I would make, too, if I were brought before the big methods tribunal.
Megan: Can you briefly explain 1488? Because, whenever I try to bring this up, people look at me blankly like they do not know that this is a Nazi number. Like, why is it a Nazi number.
Maureen: Yes. Like you said, Carrie, the number 1488 is a symbol used by a lot of white nationalist movements. It’s in two parts. Technically, it’s 14 and 88. So, sometimes you will see 14 and 88 separately. The 14 in that refers to, I actually have it written down over here because it’s in my paper, the 14 words which is actually two sets of phrases written out by David Lane who was a white supremacist in his prime in the 80s and 90s. He was involved in a white nationalist group called The Order, in which they famously murdered a Jewish radio host who made fun of them in Denver, I believe.
Megan: Oh, wow. I have never heard of this.
Maureen: Yes. It’s really bad. So, David Lane went to prison and he wrote a lot of influential white nationalist texts. One of the most famous things that came out of that was the 14 words. It comes in two varieties, like I said. The first one is, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” and the second version of the 14 words is “because the beauty of the white Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.” So, the 14 words, there are a lot of sub imperatives within that, but mainly on this fixation on producing white children and protecting white women. But of course, we know under patriarchal orders, that means protect your property. So, that’s the 14 words. Eighty-eight, the eighth letter of the alphabet in the way you let English speakers do it, is H. Eight-eight is HH for Hail Hitler.
Carrie: Can you explain the anti-Semitic connection to ‘cuck’?
Maureen: Yes. As I started to look at Alt-right conspiracy theories, that got me into all this giant web of conspiracy thinking, because of course, it’s not so much the actual beliefs as it is the logic that undergirds conspiracy thinking. So often, conspiracy theories overlap. But, pretty much, especially the ones that originated in a western context, almost any given conspiracy theory can be boiled down to Jews secretly run the whole world and they want to do anything they can to maintain that power. This is ancient stuff. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Western history will know that Jews have been persecuted relentlessly forever. In the 1800s, there was a document written, I think in Russia, called the protocols of the Elders of Zion which is really the base text of a lot of these later conspiracy theories where Jews are scapegoated as being intrinsically evil and intrinsically hell-bent on controlling the world through any means, especially, through things like the media, through money, and so on.
So, that myth has been extremely persistent as I am sure we all know and that anti-Semitism just never faded. But, it gets revived constantly in these white nationalist movements and these Christian nationalist movements and was revived again through the cuckold imagery. But, the way it’s revived here is not immediately obvious. When we look at these sentences including cuck, there are not these explicit references to Jews sometimes, or at least things that are coded as Jewish in Alt-right perspective. So, when people are talking about Israel, we know that Israel and Jewish are not synonymous. But in an Alt-right perspective, they are. So, when we see things like ‘cucking for Israel’, there is an implication that it’s either you are doing it for Israel because they want you to.
I noticed, as I was going through more of these cuck examples, there was this idea that whoever’s doing the cucking or whoever’s being cucked, it is happening because there are some outward force causing it to happen. So, you are doing it because someone else tells you. You are being humiliated and you love it because you are following what your overlord say and that was the common critique. That is the most interesting thing about cuckold. One of the most interesting things is that in my data, I see it most frequently used against conservatives. It’s mostly a conservative on conservative insult for people like Ted Cruz who are not considered as sufficiently white supremacist enough for the Alt-right factions. So, during the time of the GOP Primary Debates, all of this is like, “Oh, look. Now, they are cucking for Israel, they are cucking for shackles.” So, there’s often of these, like, they will use a lot of Yiddish and Hebrew words in their flank to, as a way of kind of being, “Oh yes. We see you. We know how to talk the language of our oppressors” It’s really wild.
Carrie: Oh, my God!
Megan: Oh, my goodness! I had not thought of it that way.
Maureen: So, as I started going, I eventually moved out of the more meaty stuff and into the more serious writings of the Alt-right. I was like, “I am not going to understand this stuff until I have an idea of what framework they are working from.” And, I do not want to say that there’s one Alt-right because it’s a very diffused group. There are people who will believe some aspects of these theories and not others. So, I am generalizing quite a bit. But, I’m focusing on these ideologies that are the most relevant in the most dangerous for us as human beings. So, I started looking to the more serious writings and I started learning about this conspiracy theory called ‘white genocide’. There’s also a kind of parallel overlapping conspiracy theory called ‘The Great Replacement’. But generally speaking, when white nationalists use these, they’re used somewhat interchangeably. But, the idea behind this conspiracy theory, again, at the basis of Jews wanting to control everything, they are particularly threatened by whites and white men because in the Alt-right perspective, white men are genetically superior.
Carrie: [Laughs] Sorry!
Maureen: I know, right? I’m like…
Carrie: I should not laugh or I should be allowed to , A, if I want to laugh about that…
Maureen: You are allowed to laugh about it.
Megan: You are allowed.
Maureen: That is a ridiculous proposition. Yes. There’s a bunch of other race stuff going on. The way that whiteness is conceptualized and re-conceptualized in this views fascinates me as well. But, there’s also so many logics of media and gaming. I am going to actually get into it right now anyway before I return to the white genocide conspiracy theory because it’s wild. They do think white people are genetically superior. But, I often also see white people kind of like, if you have ever played a fantasy role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons, humans are like a very well-rounded class. They often will have an even distribution of abilities. They will have like a shorter lifespan but they’re usually good all-around kind of characters whereas you will get your half-orc who’s got really high strength and whatever but low intelligence. They literally talk like this about themselves with the white people kind of occupy that place that a human does in a D&D around. Humans are like white people, well, honestly, the humans, they’re good at strength, they’re really smart, but they’re not too big and strong like the blacks and they’re not too smart for their own good, like the Jews. And, it’s just this really like, I don’t know. It was really bizarre because I came into that expecting this kind of framing where it’s just like, ‘whites are the best.
But instead, it’s like some elements of the Alt-right are trying to create, not trying to create, but they’re using an alternate framework, that still presents whiteness as the best, but through a lens that might be more convincing to Outsiders, perhaps. So, returning to the white-genocide conspiracy theory. The general theory goes that Jews, in order to maintain their global control, they need to convince inferior races to either get rid of white people or they need to get convinced white people, to kind of get rid of themselves. And so, this could be through things like migration is often cited as part of the great replacement for example, that’s the version of the theory, that’s more common in Western Europe. This idea that there’s a big globalist conspiracy to flood our countries with brown people and to replace the native, white populations. So, either like through migration waves, through, we’re seeing right now, this huge moral panic around transness and trans people and I, unsurprisingly, have seen a lot of people on the gender critical.
I’m doing with the huge finger quotes for people who can’t see me where they’re talking about big Pharma, trying to make our kids trans so that they can profit endlessly or other especially Christian Nationalists is saying, they want to make our kids gay or trans because they don’t want them to have children or feminism. Feminism is also part of the white-genocide conspiracy because, by convincing women that they’re more valuable than they are, we’re preventing white men access to these uppity white women who are going out. So, then now we’re getting to where cuck comes in, all these white women are going out and having sex with brown men, which is the worst thing that…
Carrie: My mom did it.
Maureen: It’s the worst thing a white woman can do, but also, women are to be treated like children and they’re too stupid to figure out what is really good for them. So, they need strong white men to guide them towards their actual place as good white women. So, this theory of cultural or white-genocide looks nothing like any other real genocide that’s happened, but it’s a really, really persuasive form of rhetoric in the far-right.
Carrie: This is not just an academic conversation. If you recall the Buffalo Supermarket shooting in May of this year, that asshole, white supremacist who believes in the great replacement has this Manifesto and it says, he wants to kill black people to fight against replacement, but his weapon also had the Insignia 14 words on it. So, just like what you were talking about earlier, it’s all connected and this rhetoric must be very convincing because this is an 18-year old already getting into this fight.
Megan: Cool. That’s the perfect age, right? The younger, the easier.
Maureen: Before Buffalo, it was also the El Paso shooter who wrote the manifesto but references the great replacement. The Christchurch shooter also has the manifesto titled, “The Great Replacement”.
Carrie: How far back does this go? I mean, within these Alt-right communities where they’re starting to quote or cite this as their motivation.
Maureen: I noticed it from the beginning and one thing that a lot of people don’t know, partly because white radical organizing has just been kind of ignored. It’s been ignored by the government. It’s been ignored by people. It’s really frustrating because this is just the ultimate manifestation of white supremacy that actually, dangerous white men are just treated like normal guys with average grievances. But, what a lot of people don’t know, is that white nationalism, white supremacist communities were some of the first ones to really get into the internet as an organizing space. They immediately saw the benefits of a place where they could discuss, where it could be relatively anonymous, and it could be decentralized so that you are able to connect with people over a much farther Geographic space than maybe you would normally. So, like the KKK at an early online presence, there were a lot of different white nationalist websites around. So, in a lot of ways, the contemporary Alt-right, really is just a continuation of a white nationalist organizing in the United States. So, people, especially the mainstream media really treated like it was a very unique new phenomenon, only because they weren’t ever paying attention, or cared in the first place. They were just like, “Oh, the Nazis learned how to make memes, how exciting? Let’s broadcast this to everyone everywhere.”
Carrie: A lot of people think of the internet even though it’s not as ephemeral. How is that working to your favor or what’s going on in these spaces? Is there some sort of dump where they delete stuff, etc.?
Maureen: Yes, there is. It’s funny, because in a way., the internet is really femoral, a big problem that I have or I run into. Tt’s not really a problem. This is a problem for people who specifically want to do this kind of research is that, platforms will dump people all the time, people get banned, channels get banned, because these groups, I mean, what’s wild is we know from social media speech policies that people are allowed to say, a lot of really messed-up stuff. So, it’s not so much that they’re saying messed up things that get them kicked off platforms. it’s when they start doing things that violate terms of service. So agitating for race war is just fine, but once you dock somebody now, you’re stubborn, it’s gone. But, it’s good in a way that these platforms are being removed from the public, and at the same time, because they’ll often get moved or people will change user names, people are often naturally very suspicious in these groups.
There are a lot of jokes where it’s like, “Oh, the CIA has all of our names written down. They’re waiting for us.” And, I was like, “if God, if the CIA fucking cared about this, we would know by now.” But, they genuinely a lot of them see themselves as persecuted even though we know, in the zoomed out that they’re not. So, this makes it difficult to do this kind of research because one, you have no guarantee that’s the same participants in any given space. This is not necessarily a problem in my view, but like in terms of ethnography, in an ideal world, you would want to have a more tangible sense of community. Something that I like to explore is the how decentralization works in these spaces to where, of course, this isn’t going to be like a typical community for a lot of reasons. I was part in-person community and I don’t personally see it as a problem that they move around or try to stay anonymous or I can’t find stable identities of the interlocutors or whatever. But, the problem is when they get banned and there’s nothing recorded from those sites, so you have no way of going back and looking at them for posterity. There are some things, like, the Wayback machine that had been really helpful for me. there were things I was looking at in 2015 that I saved the link for like a fool because I was like, “Oh yes, I’ll just put it on my favorites and I’ll visit it whenever I want”, and then all the websites were gone.
So, I had to take my list of like 30 links and go back into the Wayback machine and see if I could find archived copies of these pages, and for most of them I could, which was great. But, that lies on the goodness of just smart people on the internet who are thinking about recording these things for posterity. There’s a set of YouTube videos that I went out of my way to download, which there’s these Alt-right Disney parody videos where they took Disney songs and rewrote the lyrics, and performed them. They were deleted. Then, I had to go and try and find them all, then rip them myself which so difficult because on the one hand, I am like, “Good. Get this out of the stream.” Because, we know that YouTube has a very well-known, what people literally called, the alt-right pipeline where the algorithm will just continue to produce videos. So, when those videos get removed, I always like celebrate a little bit but I am also getting mad at YouTube because I’m like, you need to archive these videos for people to research because this YouTube is one of those areas where we see a lot of radicalization happening very quickly. It is the same with TikTok.
Carrie: When someone says like, “Ted Cruz cucks again”, is this meant to be funny within this community?
Maureen: Yes. So, “Ted Cruz cucks again” is meant to make fun of Ted Cruz. It portrays them like a bumbling fool.
Megan: And, it kind of is a punk.
Maureen: Oh, he is! Yes.
Carrie: Can you explain the difference between cuck on X or cock for X? What is the difference between the ‘on’ and the ‘for’?
Maureen: The thing I love about prepositions is that they show relations between entities. In a cognitive linguistics framework, they are important for something we call ‘construal’. The way that we phrase things, of course, everybody knows there are lots of ways to say the same thing, the old sociolinguistics adage. But, it’s true. Right? Those different ways of saying something will tend to force certain construals in the mind of the perceiver. So, an example I really like is, now using my papers, the difference between the sentence “Pepper talked to me.” versus “Pepper talked at me.” They both describe the same talking event but ‘talking to me’ is neutral and ‘talking at me’ implies that I did not appreciate what pepper was saying to me, for how long or whatever. When looking at these instances of cuck, especially these ones in the intransitive form, I found that they’re often be these complimentary preposition phrases. So, as you were saying, Megan cuck on and cuck for.
So, to cuck on something, usually means in effect to either like renege on a promise or to fail it to act on something with the implication that is to the detriment of the white race. So some examples I have at this was a tweet directed at Donald Trump saying: “Stop cucking on guns and race.” In this case, it was also the hashtags #SecondAmendment #BlackCrime #Charlotte referring to the unite the right rally in Charlottesville. But, the idea here is that Trump was making these promises for either freedom with guns or promises to do something about race. I do not think Trump promised to exactly, but in the alright imaginary, he was going to fix some of these things for some people. We also see relating back very directly to this white genocide conspiracy. I have an example that says, and yes Ronald Reagan, regardless of any other good quality he had editorial note, question mark [?], was heart of this problem of “Conservatives cucking on demographics.” So, demographics is another keyword where people want to talk about population decline and demographics. Those are often shady [inaudible] kind of ways of talking about great replacement sort of theories. But, cucking on demographics, in this case, talking about Ronald Reagan like failing to stop people from migrating, failing to stop certain things from happening.
Carrie: And then ‘to cuck for’?
Maureen: Yes. So, ‘to cuck for’, in all the examples I can find, I have a Cuck Corpus that’s in the world.
Carrie: Oh, yes! I wanted to talk about the cuck corpus. I just love the sound of that.
Megan: The BLCC
Maureen: So, in my corpus or in all the data I could find on cuck so far, ‘to cuck for’ almost always means to act as a shield for somebody else or to act on the behalf of somebody else. Almost always in these cup for examples, the ‘X’ in ‘for X’ is almost always a reference to either Israel, Jews or Muslims. Some of the examples I have is someone is cucking for the Youden, which is in the visual if you read it, it’s spelled as Y-O-U-D-E-N. So, it’s a purposeful kind of mixing up the spelling, but when you say it out loud, it sounds like the German word for Jews.
Megan: Okay. So, they are just hiding what they are trying to talk about sort of.
Maureen: Yes. But, they are very clever. They are like using this kind of English orthographic convention to allude to the German word for Jews. Again, they are really aware of language and they are also very aware of how to avoid hate speech filters. A lot of their creative language practices are in service of being harder to track. Another example I have is, this was after a shooting at a nightclub that was committed by two Muslim men, the tweet says Canada learning the hard way about cucking for Islam. So again, Canada not having a hard-line stance banning, say like, Muslim migrants. They have now brought about this violence on themselves, and I think it’s very telling that both Israel, Jews, and Islam are all central “evil figures” in great replacement talking points.
Carrie: So we have talked a lot about how it’s being used, but how is it an Alt-right masculine and a signifier? What is a signifier and an Alt-right masculinist signifier?
Maureen: That is a great question. I say signifier partly because I am working in this cognitive-linguistic framework and the socio-cultural linguistics framework. Socio-cultural linguistics also relies a lot on semiotics
Carrie: My favorite word.
Megan: The best.
Carrie: [Laughter] Can you please define it one more time for me?
Carrie: Yes. I really need it every time.
Maureen. Semiotics is broadly the study of how we make meaning. Linguistics could be under the umbrella of semiotics choosing language as the forms, but semiotic could also, so I call the kind of research I am doing in here multimodal semiotic because I am not just looking at language as my data, but I’m also looking at visuals. So, I am looking at memes, I am looking at pornography, there’s all these different elements that could not just be neatly subsumed under language. So, the reason I use the word signifiers that I am not just referring to the word ‘cuck’ and how it functions as a word, but I am also thinking about the framework of cuck which involves all of the imagery, all the embodied elements including things like pornography. So, cuck means something more than just the word itself. There could be cuck memes that do not actually say the word cuck in them, but are obviously having to do with cuckoldry as its framework.
So, when I say signifier, this lets me talk about a much wider range of phenomena than just words. It’s really important understanding what people mean when they say these things. I am looking at the memes, also just looking at the language itself, looking at all these cuck examples, I think there are some where you could easily infer a racialized meaning to cuck. Where it really starts to come out is through the memes. When you look at any cuck meme, it invariably involves a white couple who have brown kids and the implication is that the wife is secretly having sex with a black man behind the husband’s back. And he’s just like, “Ha-ha, I love my wife,” like a dupe or something like that or worse in the Alt-right imagination, he likes it, which would make him the most abject kind of white man. The memes are where we really see the interracial imagery. The imagery of brown people sexually assaulting white women while white men watch. Those are the kinds of memes we see.
So, that is why I use signifier. Going to the Alt-right masculinist part, the reason I use such clunky phrasing, is because I am trying to get the fact that the groups of people who use cuck overlap significantly but they do not overlap entirely. We see, the Alt-right has incredible overlap with what has been called the Manosphere like in sells, Men’s Rights Activist, pickup artists, like that group of people. They share a lot of rhetoric. The word cuck really started to take off during the GamerGate Movement. I actually could not find a lot of examples of cuck in the clipped form before 2014. But, that could be my own issue. It is interesting because it seems like that was the kind of flashpoint culturally in which cuck started to enter the mainstream. For people who are not as familiar with GamerGate, bless your soul,
Carrie: Oh, God.
Maureen: But, it was it was a movement of mass harassment mainly against women video game creators or video game journalist under the guise of journalistic integrity. The movement started when a man basically accused his ex-partner of having sex with a video games reviewer to get a good review on their game. There was already this fermenting misogynist gamer movement already but after that moment it became just this huge public disaster of especially women. The person who is at the very beginning of this, so we claim as non-binary, they weren’t [inaudible] non-binary back then. So, it’s hard because they talked about GamerGate as a movement about punishing women, but at the same time, there were people who are not women involved. But, that’s where this began, with this accusation of cheating to get a good review. Then, a famed right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos jumps in, and he calls the guy who started this, the guy who made the accusation, calls him a cuck on Twitter. Obviously, it’s not like Milo made up ‘cuck’.
I do not think that it actually started here, but this is the flashpoint at which cuck really entered the mainstream through this moment. After this, we start to see cuck popping up on all these different subreddits, we start to see cuck being used everywhere and then it just explodes again during Donald Trump’s presidential run. When he starts to announce his candidacy and so on, we just start seeing cuck coming out as this really, especially at the time, it was like every right-wing or was just calling everyone cucks all the time. Cuck, cuck, cuck, cuck, cuck. So, it was really from the the GamerGate stuff that it started to appear in this alt-right white nationalist stuff and again that makes sense, because there’s going to be crossover between those groups. That’s why I call it an alt-right masculinist signifier because cuck has some elements that there are some people who are really more interested in the sexism than the racism. So, it has like gender-y things going on with it especially in the manosphere, especially, in alt-right usages. It has this extremely racialized connotation to and I think most economically associated with the alt-right at this point.
Megan: Yes. Well, this has been amazing!
Maureen: Thank you! You both are a delight! We always leave our listeners one final message.
Carrie: Do not be an asshole.
Maureen: Never be an asshole.
Carrie: Today, we have one patron to thank and that is CCR. Thank you so much!
Megan: We thank you very much! If you want to support this little indie pod, that could go to http://www.hsn.com/vocalfriespod and we have so many bonus episodes this point.
Carrie: Yes, 50 something bonus episodes and there will be a new bonus episode coming out soon.
Megan: I think we are getting better at them somehow. They are just getting more interesting.
Carrie: Well, they are more interesting to me, anyways. I don’t know.
Megan: I know. Well maybe, we’re like just thinking outside the box more of what we’ll talk about or how we’ll talk about it or something. But, they have been more fun to do.
Carrie: Yes. CCRI we especially want to thank you because you were in Florida and that was before Ian hit. Just know that I’m thinking of you. We’re thinking of you.
Megan: Yes, absolutely, and your loved ones.
Carrie: It’s rough times.
Carrie: Anyway, thank you so much, everybody!
Megan: Thank you!
Carrie’s automated voice: The Vocal Fried Podcast is produced by Me, Carrie Gillan for halftone audio, and music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @vocalfriespod. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our website is vocalfriespod.com.