Huh just noticed an analogy to my tedious fights with wingnuts hobby – I'm hardly a mainstream liberal, but I seem to have chosen a role where I patrol the boundaries of political discourse and try to fight off the enemies of the liberal order. And I unavoidably take on some of their characteristics.
A bad habit of mine. I really try not to do it any more.
Honestly the habit goes back decades, well before the web, when I used to have arguments with Eric Raymond (before he became famous) on anarchy-list. Man did I spend a lot of time and energy on that. My defense: I had at least to work to articulate my position. I think it helped wean me off my romantic attachment to left-anarchism (for the simple reason that left-anarchism requires basically everyone to share its values, and that just ain't ever going to happen with these assholes around).
Later I did the same thing with Mencius Moldbug and the growing ideology of neoreaction, and other wingnuts of the early blogging era. I find this stuff pretty embarrassing now. My justification was that it was actually kind of interesting to interact with people who don't share the values and axioms of your world view, but are intelligent enough to be interesting (I wouldn't bother to fight with a dumb right-winger, what would be the point, and in fact you can see I was actively seeking out the most interesting ones I could find).
Back then these people just seemed like interesting weirdos to me, but much to my astonishment they actually became important, not just a fringe of the internet, but a powerful faction in actual politics, the kind that has actual power. I wish I could say I had been prescient in paying attention to them before they became a thing, but I really can't take any credit, I had no idea that they would someday be a threat to civilization and the basic decency on which society rests.