Thursday, 16 August 2018

Feminism's Faustian Bargain and the Failure of Reaction

It is all but certain now that the ideological descendants of the Frankfurt critical theorists and the French postmodernists, once such critics of capitalism - have entered into unholy alliance with corporate power to oust conservative and reactionary voices from the public sphere and ultimately remake western civilization in their own image.

But this is a Faustian bargain, an arrangement worthy of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. For these so called progressives have become dependent on corporate power and the structure thereof to do this. Christ had the wisdom and foresight to resist Satan's temptations of worldly power. Today's social justice crowd, like the Soviet socialists and medieval church before them, do not. They'll throw themselves at Old Nick's cloven feet faster than a Scandinavian black metal band. The progressives will not hesitate to use conglomerate media to hoist feminist and other "socially progressive" ideologies on the populace and fire and blacklist those who oppose them.

But wasn't resistance to this kind of power the purpose of critical theory to begin with?

The feminist and SJW types are so fond of reminding us white dudes that America's wealth was purchased at the expense of native genocide, black slavery, wars for imperialism abroad and ongoing discrimination at home. But as the voices with which feminism's indictment are made louder by state, corporate and academic leverage, does not their complicity and even their shared guilt for these attrocities likewise grow? As they integrate themselves into the power structure, telling themselves that it's okay when they do it because they intend to use that power structure in a subversive manner, do they not also partake in it sins, past and present, whether they would admit or accept this or not? Is the platform from which they remind us of our privilege not built on the same black slavery and native genocide they're condemning?

It's not sexism and racism when college feminists or New York Times columnists do it. Yeah, sure. Power plus prejudice and all of that. Where have we heard that kind of thinking before? The USSR can't be oppressive, because oppression is the means by which one class exploits another and the great Soviet motherland, being a socialist state and therefore controlled by "the workers" has no exploitation, and is on the road to becoming a classless society. I'd doubt that the millions who died in the gulags would forgive the Kremlin its self serving sophistry and moral rationalizing. Though guilty of far lesser evils (so far) the feminist establishment in the culture industry of today is every bit as guilty of the same kind of egocentric arrogance and hypocrisy.

Keep trying to lie to the devil, sisters. I'm sure he might even start believing you one of these days.

Thus are the existing political categories rendered obsolete. The right who rails against "cultural Marxism" does so oblivious to the fact that it is capitalist mechanisms that are being used to "destroy the west" as they put it. As if deindustrialization and financial global capital didn't already do that under the rubric of neoliberal laissez faire and free trade, ideas conservatives and reactionaries not so long ago championed. Most still do. The devil does not give up his souls easily.

This corporate leftism, for it's part, cannot succeed. You do not foster "diversity" by grinding everyone into cogs in a corporate machine, nor are "social justice" and "inclusiveness" achieved by the creation of a cubicled underclass, kept as subservient by feminist theory and diversity today as the industrial proletariat of 150 years ago were kept docile and obedient by religion and nationalism.

Critical theory began by casting western civilization as a kind of foundation for capitalism. It is ironic, then, that critical theory itself, or at least its offshoots in the critical race theory and women's studies departments should acquire the same kind of hegemony that Gramsci originally ascribed to the cultural trappings of western capitalism. And it works to the same end - to uphold capitalism, not undermine it. "Diversity" "feminism" and "multiculturalism" translated well into "untapped markets" in corporate boardrooms across the world. They weren't going to neglect that potential out of some abstract loyalty to a culture, race, nation or religion. And all that woke talk and anti-racist pretense added up to a whole lot of manufactured consent for most of the left, most all of whom were more than happy to turn away from socialism if that's what would make the women happy. All and all, a good deal for capital. As always. Donald Trump would be proud.

It is untrammeled capitalism, not "cultural Marxism" that's responsible for all the social trends that the neoreactionaries and paleoconservatives don't like. Marx himself explains, in the Manifesto of the Communist Party:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. 
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers. 
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. 
The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades. 
Blame Marx all you want, neoreactionaries and paleocons, for your declining birth rates and rising rates of immigration and out of wedlock birth. But shooting the messenger, which is what attacking Marx boils down to in these culture war debates, isn't going to help your cause any. Likewise, there are no "cuckservatives." Conservatism was never about western civilization. It was, and continues to be, about capital. Reactionaries were defeated by feminism and multiculturalism, but only because the progressives managed to align themselves with the interests of global capital. But if it's any consolation to to the far right, the progressives have done this at the expense of whatever they once stood for. In that sense, today's feminist progressivism and yesterday's religious reactionaries are very much like. Mammon is a jealous master, as the saying goes.

Whatever he may have been wrong about, all of this shows how right Marx was when he attached foundational importance to economic relations and modes of production, and culture was seen as being eventually derived from that. Not the other way around.

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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Conservatives Helpless Against Internet Censorship

And They Have no one to Blame but Themselves

And You Will Remain Banned Until You Learn to
Trust Your Corporate Overlords!
But Trump won't take what is obviously the necessary action, Alex, because he's a conservative republican who's in bed with big business. When he's not in bed with prostitutes. Sorry 'bout your luck, Alex. I'll advise the lizard people of your displeasure as soon as I next see them. Assuming you're not just a crisis actor. I've long wondered if you were.

That aside, I don't wish this on Alex Jones. I don't want conservatives, libertarians or even the alt right censored and banned on the internet. Why? Because favoring corporate censorship is the LAST thing a leftist should be doing. Such would be an inherantly conservative stance. Much more so than allowing reactionary voices to remain online. The harm done by lone reactionaries pales compared to the harm done by concentrated corporate media power.

That said, I also find rightist voices hard to completely sympathize with here. Why? Because they argue the hardest for unconstrained corporate power to begin with. They argued for the sovereignty of private property, of the board chair and CEO and against regulation, unionization or social ownership. Moreover, the faux individualism espoused and quite often practised by the right have made them sitting ducks for the very corporate power they've been shilling for. Their very philosophy mitigates against the kind of collective action needed to fight back effectively. How's that rugged individualist online culture working out there, guys? It's working exactly how it always works - the small eaten by the large.

And now they they're getting censored by privately owned media and tech giants and getting SJW culture foisted on them, I find them hard to feel sorry for. Want to know why SJW culture is winning? Because capital must always expand. New markets are always needed. If immigrants, minorities or women will make more reliable consumers and cheaper labor - at home or abroad - that's what capital will invest in. Capital doesn't give a sh!t about muh white European culture. And it's not because (((THEM))) either. It gives a sh!t about profit. Period. Because that's what capital does. Especially now that conservatives have helped it become ascendant globally. I can't help but feel that there's a bit of poetic justice in play here.

Marx was clear that whenever the power of capital takes hold, sentiment and loyalty by culture and identity fall by the wayside and it's all about profit. Tech giants really do owe conservatives bugger all, if you ask me, and the right would do well to reconsider the deification of this idea of maximal shareholder value at all costs they've bought into somewhere along the line. They're not looking to be the winners here. Can't say I'm surprised, to be honest. 

Now watch me get banned.

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Friday, 10 August 2018

Libertarianism and Revolutionary Socialism: Hostile Twins?

Earlier I suggested a tepid acceptance of the Democratic Socialists of America - or at least of some of its proposals. But I grow less sure of this as time goes on, and the emergence of a tendency within the DSA that should be all too familiar to long term students of the American left. Your friend and mine, Vox, recently ran an article on the DSA, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's surprise victory over before longtime establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in the primary for the 14th Congressional District in New York.

What Vox revealed is genuinely concerning:
Like most socialist organizations, DSA believes in the abolition of capitalism in favor of an economy run either by “the workers” or the state — though the exact specifics of “abolishing capitalism” are fiercely debated by socialists. 
“The academic debates about socialism’s ‘meaning’ are huge and arcane and rife with disagreements, but what all definitions have in common is either the elimination of the market or its strict containment,” said Frances Fox Piven, a scholar of the left at the City University of New York and a former DSA board member. 
If the concept has yet to have an agreed upon definition, despite nearly 200 years of being in existence in its modern form, perhaps there's some wisdom in reserving our support?
In practice, that means DSA believes in ending the private ownership of a wide range of industries whose products are viewed as “necessities,” which they say should not be left to those seeking to turn a profit. According to DSA’s current mission statement, the government should ensure all citizens receive adequate food, housing, health care, child care, and education. DSA also believes that the government should “democratize” private businesses — i.e., force owners to give workers control over them — to the greatest extent possible.
But DSA members also say that overthrowing capitalism must include the eradication of “hierarchical systems” that lie beyond the market as well. As a result, DSA supports the missions of Black Lives Matter, gay and lesbian rights, and environmentalism as integral parts of this broader “anti-capitalist” program.
Socialism is about democratizing the family to get rid of patriarchal relations; democratizing the political sphere to get genuine participatory democracy; democratizing the schools by challenging the hierarchical relationship between the teachers of the school and the students of the school,” said Jared Abbott, a member of DSA’s national steering committee. “Socialism is the democratization of all areas of life, including but not limited to the economy.
So, it's the Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers and the early Radical Feminists all over again, is it?  Rule by the women's studies department?

God help us all.

It's important to stop right here and make some things clear. I'm all for socializing certain essential services, so as to guarantee their universal access to the population. Health care is a good example. Social housing, food supplements and so on for those who need them I'm likewise 100% in favor of. I'm iffy on a universal basic income, but an expansion of the earned income tax credit to help out low income people is something I'm completely down with.

Unions or some other institution that advocates for the working class, both in the workplace and in the halls of power are absolutely vital, and the unions in America are, with some exceptions, generally much weaker than they need to be, at least in the private sector. I likewise have no quarrel with worker and consumer owned enterprises. I've lived in tenant owned cooperative housing most of my life and have been well served by it. Worker owned enterprises like the Mondragon Corporation in Spain are good examples of workable alternatives to typical American corporate structures. I'd applaud any scheme to launch such experiments closer to home.

That said, management over large manufacturing and distribution organizations is an incredibly complex undertaking, and one for which I wonder if "the workers" as a collective whole are adequately qualified, especially if governance over the cooperative is to be direct rather than via an elected body of professional directors with a fiduciary duty towards the worker/shareholders. We should expect direct democratic governance to be the preference of the American left, given its historical propensity for utopian idealism.

Professional, executive levels of management require many years of rigorous education to qualify a person for, and not simply to keep the rank and file out of those positions. One wonders whether "the workers" actually even want the added degree of responsibility and work load that comes with doubling as management, especially under the more utopian ideals of direct democracy so beloved by the American left. The practice of co-determination - labor being able to elect representatives to corporate boards of directors is another matter, and one I'm generally in favor of.

Likewise, a strong case can be made that wealth and capital are too strongly concentrated in America at present, but the idea that those who take the risk to invest capital in a business venture are all completely evil parasites who feed off the blood of the workers is much more revolutionary romanticist mythology than reality. This can be true if your economy lacks sufficient protections for the rights of workers, borrowers, tenants and the like and capital is permitted to accumulate into increasingly few hands due to a lack of at least some redistributive measures, but it's not necessarily true of all capital investment. Without some kind of capital markets, economic growth and expansion would be severely hamstrung and I suspect this is a big part of why successful economies based solely on mutualist or socialist principles are non existent both at present and throughout history.

Besides, why throw away so wonderful a tool when you can make it work for the benefit of all, via something like a sovereign wealth fund in which all citizens could have equal shares, or that the state could use to supplement public finance?

When there's serious talk of "abolishing capitalism" or "ending the private ownership of a wide range of industries" or "elimination of the market" or "forcing owners to give workers control over" private businesses, this is when, in my humble opinion, things have gone too far. Untrammeled socialism is no better, and may even be worse, than untrammeled capitalism, we just have far less experience with it in the west. While the need for regulatory safeguards should be obvious, the capacity of individual citizens to own productive capital and to buy and sell goods and services on a free market are crucial to human liberty and essential for social prosperity, and failing to recognize this has been a very grave failing of regressive leftism during its history.

By itself, the capacity for consumers or workers to "vote with their feet" as it were and find another product or employer is a capacity that libertarians and fiscal conservatives make far too much of - with little capital or purchasing power, working and middle class individuals have little influence this way and it would take an organized move of this sort - a strike or boycott essentially - to truly influence the policies of a large and powerful corporation, and such organized efforts have never been things that conservatives and libertarians have been fans of.

But historically, neither have been authoritarian socialists, at least while in power. And socialism, past a certain point, tends to default to authoritarianism, whatever the initial intentions of its theoreticians may have been. Transforming societies to the extent they propose naturally requires a government with very far reaching powers. The capacity to buy from or work for the competition is a right a lot of people died for back in the dark days behind the Iron Curtain, and not without good reason. It is one tool with which the working and middle classes can hold business accountable, and this option would be lost in the absence of the market as a means of distribution. Why would the defenders of worker's rights want that?

Will the DSA take things to such extremes? Not likely. America's constitutional system of checks and balances and libertarian tradition would likely mitigate the worst excesses. The greater likelihood is that they'll end up being the Libertarian Party of the left: a loud, tight and small ideological grouping too obsessed with internal purity spiraling to become a serious contender for political power. But their rhetoric does concern me, and if you really are a believer in the rights of workers, consumers and above all individuals, it should concern you too.

The Vox article continues:
Examples may help clarify the difference. While both DSA and some left-wing Democrats agree that the government should provide universal health insurance, DSA ultimately wants to nationalize hospitals, providers, and the rest of the health care system as well. While both will work toward higher taxes on Wall Street, DSA ultimately wants to nationalize the entire financial sector. While left-wing Democrats believe in criminal justice reform, some DSA members are calling for the outright abolition of the police and prison systems. While both DSA and left-wing Democrats support reforms to get money out of politics, some in DSA see capitalism as fundamentally incompatible with genuinely free and fair elections. In practice, however, the two wind up ultimately taking the same positions.
If the DSA would go this far, it goes too far. The DSA may see capitalism as fundamentally incompatible with free and fair elections, and I agree there's a lot of tension between the two now and corporate influence in politics is far too great in America at present, I also see the above description of the DSA as being fundamentally incompatible with a free and democratic society. What would happen, after all, if the majority of voters actually wanted some semblance of a free market preserved, and wish only for protections against the predatory excesses of robber baron capitalism, as opposed to having their own capacity to make money be completely hamstrung?
Further confusing matters is Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist” but supports a policy program that would essentially leave capitalism intact. His candidacy spurred a dramatic growth in DSA membership, and DSA backed him, but the Vermont senator has also referred to himself a “New Deal” Democrat who views Lyndon Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt — rather than Karl Marx or American socialist Norman Thomas — as his true ideological predecessors.
Let's hear it for Bernie Sanders then, and the kind of New Deal Democrat he professes to be. While I do believe Marx had some useful insights into the flawed nature of capitalism, revolutionary overthrow of it by either the ballot box or the gun carries its own huge set of problems, and there are certainly far better examples that we could be following.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Not what you expected out of me, perhaps? Maybe. But don't misunderstand me: I'm not channeling the spirit of Ayn Rand here. I merely point out that the equal and opposite stupid extreme to what Rand stood for is, well, also stupid. What's unfortunate is that the language of economic freedom has been appropriated by libertarians, and deployed to defend the equally misguided notion that "individuals" (read: capital) be above legally constituted sovereign organizations entirely. A useful line of rationale if one's intent is to protect capital from any and all populist demands for protection against its abuses.

What is very crucial to understand is the necessary role of the state in regulating and limiting institutional power so as to protect individual rights and freedoms from both private and public abuses.

Limited government does not necessarily equal small government. It means government that is subordinate to law, and insures that non governmental actors in society are also subordinate to law. It doesn't mean that government can't regulate or even own capital. However, it does mean that the government cannot stop individuals from owning capital all together, either alone or in tandem with other individuals in some or another kind of corporate entity. It may decide to nationalize and thus own some particular enterprise or industry or another. This is no violation of anyone's rights, since nobody has any right to any share in ownership of any business or industry, as any libertarian worth his salt would be more than happy to tell you. But it absolutely must not forbid its citizens any ownership over its productive capacity whatsoever. It's crucial now that these nuanced distinctions be properly grasped.

It means that whatever government does, it does via a procedure that is transparent and respectful of predetermined limits on its power, as set forth in a constitution or similar document. It means that those who hold government office must face the voters on occasion, and step down if defeated in elections. It means that what was once nationalized may also be privatized, and vice versa. Which is the better option is by no means consistent, and it's worth noting that the kinds of people and regimes that hew strongly to one extreme or the other tend to be violent and authoritarian. Having looked at both Castro's Cuba and Pinoche's Chile, I can say that I don't relish the thought of living in either one. The fact that just about every avid Marxist and avid Randroid I've ever engaged with personally are also horribly unpleasant and peevish people doesn't help either cause much either.

By using the mantle of "freedom" and "individual rights" as a moral rationalization for delegitimizing any role for the state in engaging in some regulation or even ownership of capital, redistribution of wealth and protection of the population from the harmful effects of untrammeled capitalism, the libertarians have opened the door for the 21st century's relegitimization of untrammeled capitalism's ugly socialist twin, and the far left's own equally spurious claims that individualistic conceptions of freedom and rights are mere apologetics for the power of wealth and privilege.

I'd like to think the excesses of the DSA can simply be chalked up to the sudden and dramatic reemergence of economic leftism - socialism even - into the mainstream of public discourse in the US body politic following Bernie Sander's 2016 presidential bid. Hopefully, the more extreme and untenable positions will be dropped from the program over time. This is what happened with other laborite and social democratic parties outside the east bloc during the 20th century, after all. One can only hope.

What this should make even more clear than it has been thus far why something akin to another New Deal is so gravely needed. It would be a huge mistake to think that the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, William Beveridge and John Maynard Keynes were crypto-communists hell bent on bringing Soviet central planning to the free world by democratic means. They weren't. Their interest was in saving the public from the excesses of capitalism. Because if that doesn't happen, there will be nothing to save the public from the excesses of socialism.

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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The War Against InfoWars

Preserving Free Speech Online Requires Challenging Both Corporate Power and Regressive Left Ideology. 

The big news on the internet over the past few days has been the sudden and dramatic purging of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars from various social media platforms. Linkedin and MailChimp are the latest to join the purge as of this writing. Apple, Spotify, Facebook and YouTube all shut down sites hosted by the controversial broadcaster, all apparently within a twelve hour timespan. He still survives on Twitter as of this writing. How long that will last remains to be seen. The choreography of it all is nothing short of frightening.

Almost like, well, a conspiracy.  How ironic. And how stupid.  Doubtlessly, a lot of people who wouldn't have bothered giving a man with a reputation for being a crackpot conspiracy theorist a first look would now be giving him a second, and subsequent look. Why would all these tech giants operate in tandem to shut someone down like this, if they weren't afraid of something he might actually have to say?  In their short sighted and arrogant rush to silence Alex Jones, Silicon Valley might well instead have vindicated him.

Good job guys.

And having witnessed all of this, it is indeed frightening and we do all have reason to be concerned. In the wake of it all, a number of narratives have emerged.

The one we hear the most, typically from the tech companies themselves and their more or less mainstream progressive talking heads, is that if you don't "perform hate speech" "glorify violence" or use "dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants" then you should be just fine. Just follow orders, don't rock the boat and don't step out of line ideologically and all will be well. Obey the law and you have nothing to worry about.

So long as you target the right race and gender, you can still spew all the hate and drivel you want, though. Just ask the most recent addition to the New York Times editorial board, Sarah Jeong.

That's the line taken by the mainstream left these days. Which is very much why this blog and its own accompanying social media platforms now exist. Because the mainstream left has adopted this bootlicking mentality towards corporate power, so long as said corporations romanticize the right groups: people who are transgender, Muslim, feminist or immigrants, basically.

The mainstream left means business too. In more ways than one. They've gotten increasingly adept at pressuring media platforms and other kinds of businesses to ostracize people who buck their ideologies. This can range from going directly to internet providers and shutting down domain names to organizing boycotts of restaurants and other establishments that serve persona non grata.

This is all rationalized on the grounds that nobody is entitled to a platform, free speech only applies to the government, etc. I'm sure you've heard them all by now.  Not surprisingly, it quite misses the point. Sure nobody is entitled to a platform from which to express their views, but let's not pretend that deplatformings are totally random events unattributable to human agency. The Silicon Valley hipster "left" has a dangerous obsession with deplatforming people they disagree with, and perhaps it's high time they were reminded that they are similarly not entitled to tell everybody else who they will and will not host on their own platforms. The agency exercised by the abuser, not the legalistic hair splitting over which rights their victims do and do not have ought to be the issue here. People would not be deplatformed if regressive leftists did not actively campaign to do so. That's the issue here.

In opposition to the regressive left defense of censorship are two separate lines of defense in favor of free speech. Both of these tendencies have an admirable "I may not agree with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it" kind of attitude. Good on them. Both also accurately stress the fact that legacy media faces a very real threat to its ongoing business viability from newer social media platforms that more easily give voice to greater numbers of people. Again, rightly observed. Yet both weakened to an extent by their own ideological limitations and what they're not willing to say.

The larger and first of these come from the Intellectual Dark Web, Cultural Libertarian and Skeptic Community sorts. Self described classical liberals. Think Sargon of Akkad, Styxhexenhammer666, Paul Joseph Watson and the like. This narrative revolves largely around the progressive ideology of the censors. Tech firms concentrated in Silicon Valley are almost overwhelmingly dominated by what this group of free speech warriors terms progressive and even radical leftists hell bent on silencing anyone they do not like. That's a long list and one destined to include you, dear reader, somewhere along the line, so you'd do well to take heed.

The second and smaller of these comes from a group more akin to the old left. This would include Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, Jimmy Dore, columnist Caitlin Johnstone and the outstanding World Socialist Website. This narrative revolves more around the frightening degree of concentration of corporate power, and worry that if tech oligarchs can silence cranks like Alex Jones today, who might they similarly shut down in the future? State and corporate whistleblowers a-la Julian Assange? Environmental, anti-war or labor activists? We all have reason to be afraid.

Both of these generally good and noble groupings of people have their shortcomings though, and these revolve around their unwillingness to speak to the core of the other's ideology. The Intellectual Dark Web does not like to discuss how unrestrained corporate power not only enables but is essential to the dominance of regressive left and social justice warrior ideologies.

Acknowledging this would entail a reevaluation of what it means to be left of center politically, a reevaluation that people committed to unbridled capitalism would no doubt find uncomfortable. Sometimes, they do stray into these kinds of territories such as in Sargon of Akkad's very recent discussion of the Social Parliament and the idea of a YouTuber's union (Bravo!) But for the most part, questions of regulating or even (heaven forbid) social ownership of major social media platforms remains an ideological no-go zone. After all, why stop at just social media?

But the IDW and the Skeptic Community will find itself vulnerable and hamstrung as a movement if it's unwilling to look long and hard at the role that corporate power plays in constraining free thought.  And this will eventually have to mean a critical reexamination of their almost pathological anti-socialism and anti-Marxism.  The idea that major social media is a kind of public utility to which access does become a sort of citizenship right is one you hear occasionally, but it is a social democratic, or dare I say it, socialist concept. In the meantime, we have come to a place where people can be fired from their jobs or blacklisted from social media as much because of libertarian notions of the primacy of private property as because of social justice ideologies surrounding race, gender and identity.

The newer old lefties are not blameless either, for their own version of essentially the same reason. One definitely gets the sense that Kyle Kulinski and Jimmy Dore aren't huge fans of postmodernism and identity politics, but they're not in any big hurry to call out even the excesses of regressive leftism or SJWism either. They simply promote a truer to form leftism that's less about identity and social justice so called and more a back-to-basics emphasis on political economy.

I do applaud and would encourage this, but alone it is not enough. While the struggles for core racial and gender equality are integral to the left, I've argued elsewhere, at length, that current year intersectional identity politics is itself a system of power, and works largely to shore up rather than challenge corporate and state power. Much of the left is a ways away from acknowledging this at present. While there is some willingness to occasionally criticize the excesses of postmodernism and identity politics, that is as far as it goes, and sacred cow concepts like mass immigration, Me Too and Black Lives Matter are not criticized, whether out of principle or an unwillingness to step on the wrong toes. Either way, it's problematic.

The Alternative Left must recognize and push the notion that SJW regressive leftism does not operate independently of corporate and state power. The two intersect, if I may borrow the term. Postmodern identity politics requires corporations strong enough to fire and blacklist people for race and gender based thought crimes in order to become as ascendant as it has been in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. This naturally entails corporations that are also strong enough to fire employees who are trying to unionize or blow the whistle on some form of abuse or another.

Conversely, trumped up charges of bigotry, harassment and hate speech have become powerful and useful pretenses for big business and big government to censor, disgrace and blacklist people they do not like, usually because they threaten corporate and state power and are thus often to the left politically.  Corporate power will dangle the prospect of silencing an Alex Jones or a Richard Spencer in front of the left, to entice progressives into what is, when considered, a Faustian bargain. The satisfaction to be gained by the loss of an ignorant or repugnant voice is not worth the power we morally accede to big business and national security government whenever we applaud such censorship. To judge by the progressive reaction to the silencing of Alex Jones, this is a fact that too few progressives today seem to get.

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Monday, 16 July 2018

The DSA Left

Has our Time Finally Come?
This surging "Democratic Socialists of America" left, outlined in this American Interest Article "The Right's Straw Left" and exemplified by recently victorious Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sounds like just the kind of thing I should like, and have been looking forward to seeing for a long time now. But while I see it as a potentially good overall development, I find myself with mixed feelings and more than a little trepidation.

There's much here to like. If ending military adventures in the middle east and slashing military industrial pork are on the menu, a lot of the budgetary stuff basically takes care of itself. Ditto for single payer health care. Yes, taxes go up but you also get rid of mortgage sized health insurance premiums, and on balance you end up spending less per capita on health care and insuring everybody in the process.

I'm still not completely up to speed on modern monetary theory. I know that some in my mod team and among our fan base are quite bullish on the concept, but it has its detractors too. Monetary policy is admittedly not my area of strength. But, as the article suggests, the right long ago squandered any credibility with which it can use deficit hysteria to tar the "tax and spend" left. Trillion dollar military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen to that. The 1990s are gone and the Republican Revolution types, where they still exist, aren't getting them back. (Too bad the same can't be said for my own provincial jurisdiction in Alberta, Canada, but that's another story)

But there's much not to like, or at least be concerned about with the "DSA left" also. Right wing stereotypes aside, there are genuine concerns with the social justice crowd that this blog and its associated Facebook page remains an exception on the left with its willingness to talk about. We have considerable qualms with deplatforming controversial speakers on college campuses, with the use of the post secondary education system to effectively indoctrinate students, with the climate of constant demonization of white males, with the potential ruining of a man's career because he allegedly flirted with a female coworker twenty years ago. And of course, we remain skeptical of unvetted open door immigration. All of this can be expected to stay the course or even intensify should the DSA left become ascendant.

The American Interest article is right about one thing, though: the conservative right's relative lack of vision beyond tax cuts and opposition to abortion and anti immigration posturing. While they did score some political points off the backs of the more ridiculous SJWs in the Triggly Puff mode, they had - as usual - little to offer as an alternative except more trickle down economics and quasi libertarian talking points. The right were never truly interested in the culture wars, except in as far as they can be milked for votes to ultimately elect high income tax cutters and deregulators. This is precisely what we've been doing for four decades now, and what we have to show for it is the likes of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquiring a net worth in excess of $140 billion while his warehouses are, for all intents and purposes, sweat shops. The younger generation's lack of enthusiasm for this is quite understandable, IMO.

Much remains to be seen, of course, and prediction never amounts to much more than a craps shoot in forecasting political and social trends even a few years into the future. The question is: Is it worth it to hold your nose and elect people who use terms like decolonization and rape culture unironically if it means getting a new new deal or a single payer health care system?

In my opinion, the answer is - with some reservation and no shortage of willingness to continue challenging the excesses of political correctness - yes.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Intersectionality is Itself a System of Power

Intersectionality is itself a system of power. It upholds the status quo and protects the powerful and privileged.

Recognizing this is the key difference between the alternative left and other current forms of political thought.

A fan of the Alternative Left Facebook page recently posed this question to me:
Have you considered that you might be postmodernist? The actual meaning of the term, not Peterson's ridiculous conflation and confusion of it. It seems as if a lot of your philosophy relies on the rejections of meta-narratives.
At a glance, this seems an absurd question. Isn't rejection of postmodernism integral to the alt-left? Doesn't all that deconstruction and bafflegab distract from the hard and real work of class struggle? Isn't a return to some semblance of economic realism, if not historical materialism, what we're all about at the end of the day?

Not so fast. While I don't think postmodernism is a tenable philosophy long term, it does make some good points. It's like nihilism and other forms of radical skepticism. They're nice places to visit, and doing so is a sign of intellectual growth, but you wouldn't want to live there.

My quarrel with postmodernism is how it tends to be cherry picked by the intersectional left, the feminist theorists in particular. They're quite good at using deconstruction to pick apart the texts of their opponents, and will exploit other postmodernist concepts such as "the death of the author" - the idea that textual interpretation by authorial intent is flawed - to license their tendency to simply read their own narrative into ideas that threaten them. They use such notions as science being a western, patriarchal "way of knowing" as a legitimizing excuse to handwave otherwise proven claims of some biological basis in gender differences, for example.

Deconstruction, cognitive framing and other advanced linguistic concepts are devastating ideological weapons against those who are not aware of them. Intersectional theorists get a unique education in these concepts in the academic institutions wherein their views dominate. Institutions that are not cheap to attend and require significant baseline intelligence to be successful in. They're therefore able to win debates against their less privileged opponents simply through framing and linguistic and cognitive gimmicks of this nature.

Ultimately, however, feminist theory's apparent embrace of postmodernism is self serving pretense. Notice how their own theories are presented as if they were eternal truths, universally binding on all people under all circumstances. Cultural relativism is fine when it's used to impose multiculturalism and diversity upon western cultural spaces, but has a funny way of disappearing when similar demands of tolerance are made of feminist theorists in turn. Fixed and objective meaning of text based on authorial intent is not authoritative, since the author no doubt lives in a network of socially constructed systems of which he is barely aware. But not so the feminist critic. Her views, and her views alone apparently, somehow transcend the context of the society that gave rise to them, and so are above questions of this nature and constitute an ultimate authority on par with divine revelation.  No one is faster to declare epistemic superiority for their own points of view - standpoint theories so called - than college feminists who've studied the poststructuralists closer than anyone. If feminist theory is not a metanarrative, you tell me what is.

Who deconstructs feminist theory, one must ask?

Yeah, it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

Herein lies a very central tenet of alternative leftism: that the brands of postmodern critical theory so prevalent on college campuses and that are the underlying ideologies of the SJWs are actually conservative, not radical. They are in fact themselves systems of power, like the very notions of patriarchy and colonialism they so love to deconstruct.

This is quite naturally a counter intuitive concept when first exposed to it. Feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory and so on - Intersectionality serving as a kind of one ring to rule them all and thus a useful term for referring to them collectively -  is interpreted either as official party line and not to be questioned, in the case of the mainstream left. Or else condemned as "cultural Marxism" and taken at face value as advocacy for an artificial egalitarianism, in the case of the right.  Neoreaction comes quite strangely closest to the truth in its denouncing of progressive ideology as "the Cathedral" - a vast Matrix like social construct comparable to the Christian church in the middle ages - the state religion to which everyone must pay homage, hence the term.

The Cathedral: It doesn't challenge the aristocracy.
It is the aristocracy.
Neoreaction's flaw, however, lies in the irony of its denunciation of progressivism in those terms. Isn't a medieval form of social organization exactly what they want? The Church of the middle ages, far from being an institution for egalitarian social levelling, had a long history of supporting the aristocracy and running interference on behalf of the status quo, despite a good portion of what Christ actually taught, which may be where the confusion arises.

So it is with intersectionality. Despite its pretenses, and despite what were likely genuinely radical critiques at one time, current year intersectionality does not challenge privilege. It upholds privilege.

Do not misunderstand me, dear reader. I do not condone racism towards minorities, misogyny and homophobia. The left spearheaded the fight against those things for all the right reasons. And not merely because prejudice undermines working class solidarity, thought that is reason enough. To be left is to value equality, to some degree or another, and fair treatment regardless of what one is by accident of birth. Intersectionality itself was intended to be a manner of looking at how various different forms of oppression reinforce one another. This is not in itself a bad idea.

The problem is that intersectionality has evolved into something does not actually promote real social justice. Its lack of tolerance for dissent made it vulnerable to abuse on part of the unscrupulous, who were thereby attracted to intersectional feminist spaces. They've co-opted social justice movements, and used them as tools to oppress people. It's like Marxist Leninism 2.0 - a popular movement is appropriated and exploited by an elite vanguard professing to represent the interests of marginalized people, and using that to consolidate their own power. Cultural rather than political power this time, but the underlying mechanisms are quite a bit alike.

It's also quite different from Marxism in one key aspect, and this is often overlooked by those on the right who equate intersectional ideas with Marxian leftism: intersectionality's lack of emphasis on political economy. It is not merely that they simply don't care about or are ignorant of the internal workings of the international economy or the political machines of the G7 nations. Intersectionalists are rewarded by capital for framing privilege in terms of racial and sexual identity rather than in terms of wealth and political power. These rewards include expansion in academia, access to agenda setting mass media and favorable policy service. Ideological systems that truly threaten the status quo do not enjoy universally favorable media bias, moderator bias on major corporate social media platforms and an exalted status in academic institutions.

The state religion does not advocate for the truly marginalized within the polity.

It's important that you divest yourself of the notion that intersectionalists truly represent the underclasses, including most women and people of color. They occupy a very different world than that of working single mothers or unemployed minority youths in the ghetto, or on their way to prison. They occasionally will use real oppressions suffered by women and minorities while making the case for an increase in their own influence, but that is the only reason for which they ever seem to do so. If one takes their standpoint theories at all seriously, the plush halls of the academy and major media outlets are not the places we should be seeing credible voices of the oppressed and marginalized. Those voices are kept quite intentionally silent, because their demands will be for redressment of their economic hardships and lack of political representation.

Women who are turned off of men and family as a result of feminism, and men who are turned off of religion, community and nationalism as a result of anti western critical theory find themselves completely atomized and without an identity. This is central to the alt-right's critique of modern liberalism and the abolition of borders.

But the real question is: who is the real beneficiary of all this? The far right will tell you that this is "cultural Marxism" and is necessary in order to groom the populace for the embrace of socialism.

That's not what happened. If you do not believe that, observe how neoliberalism increased apace just as this so called cultural Marxism did. The emergence of political correctness coincided with Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK. If the idea was for feminism and multiculturalism to precede socialism, they could not have failed more miserably.

Atomized individuals turn to careerism and consumerism to fill the void, and they're more easily replaced when cheaper cogs for the machine are found. So they're more obedient and easily used in the workforce and more responsive to consumer trends. When other vectors of identity are removed, do the brands we work for and consume become the way we identify ourselves? This seems to me to be the triumph of capitalism, and quite in line with the manner in which Marx believed capitalism would progress, abolishing relations based on kinship and reducing all human interaction to commodity exchange, rather than the triumph of Marxism itself that it's so often described as by reactionaries.

Hard Fact: Social liberalism is the handmaiden of capital, not of revolution. And so capital became socially liberal when national economies became fully saturated and capital had to go global in order to keep up its expansion. The alt-right is hated in the capitalist press because capital must always seek new markets, and it was therefore in capital's interest to globalize and promote diversity.

Observe one of the methods whereby Intersectionality preserves its hegemony: by seeking to get people who disagree with them fired from their jobs. Often with no recourse or due process whatsoever. In what world does leveraging the power of capital over labor so flagrantly and directly constitute anything that could be at all called left wing? This is what was done to socialists and trade unionists back in the bad old days of blacklisting. This isn't to say that removal of an offensive or hateful person from a workplace isn't sometimes appropriate or necessary, but to use the threat of employment loss as a means of enforcing ideological conformity more broadly is something the left should not be supporting. We can question the rationality of workers supporting conservatism all we want. It won't seem quite so irrational now that this ugly tactic has been normalized.

Another hard fact: Intersectionality relies on the absolute power that capital has over labor and consumers in order to successfully impose its will on the population, as it's doing in geek culture, for instance. The capacity for populations to resist cultural and moral relativism imposed from above would be greatly increased if cultural and economic as well as political institutions were democratized and under some or another kind of social ownership.

Intersectionalists are a safe and nerfed form of "leftism." One that attacks white male "neckbeards" and "dudebros" in places like 4chan while leaving the State Department, the military industrial complex and Wall Street lobbyists unscrutinized. Activists and even radicals who truly want to challenge the status quo find their anger and vigor channeled into safe outlets that do not truly threaten the powers that be. Offensive statements by white male celebrities are made front page news by an intersectionalist movement that's presented in the headlines as being radical and subversive - the resistance, so called. Offensives launched by the US military on the other side of the world in defense of petrodollar interests are kept more safely out of the public eye.

Intersectionality is a tool used by an educated elite to police the culture of the underclass, and to undermine the solidarity of that underclass by dividing it along racial and gender lines. We've seen this done time and again now: with Occupy Wall Street, with Bernie Sander's campaign for the White House, now with the Democratic Socialists of America. Most leftist spaces on social media are completely overrun by intersectional dominance, even ones that profess to be Marxist or anarchist.

Intersectional activists have a curious way of coming to dominate leftist spaces, and maintain their power through dividing the left against itself and redirecting popular anger towards other segments of the left. Sometimes the target is white male leftists - brocialists, so called. Sometimes it's white feminism, or TERFs or straight feminism. Sometimes straight black males are called the white people of black people. Sometimes cisgender gay males are driven out of LGBT spaces. Some or another activist has run afoul of the intersectionalist overlords and is publicly shamed, like in a Maoist struggle session or the young kids being banished from polygamous fundamentalist communities for the most trivial reasons.

But the real reasons aren't so trivial: to maintain the power of the leadership over the flock. Ceaseless purity spiraling destroys the cohesiveness of the left. J. Edgar Hoover and his COINTELPRO could not have done a better job if they tried. Perhaps the FBI still is, and that's what all this really is.

Like a puritanical religion, intersectionality promotes a guilt based morality that ceaselessly berates its followers for their ideological and lifestyle shortcomings. Theories of inherited privilege based on what people are by accident of birth become a moral burden comparable to original sin. People with a lot of internalized guilt do not take action to challenge their leaders. They punch down, not up. Nearly any action a person may commit or even a thought they might think can be construed as oppressive in some way or anther. That combined with intersectionality's taboo on questioning claims of oppression made by its activist leadership - who are above any kind of ethical or moral standards due to their supposed "marginalization" - results in a near cult like atmosphere in intersectional spaces. Not surprisingly, most people want nothing to do with this and thus nothing to do with the left overall. Who does that benefit, in the long run?

As mentioned previously, considerable education is needed to really understand their theories, and the intersectionalists themselves conveniently have a near hegemony within the academy itself. Hence, the relative absence of working class people in these self styled radical movements. Which in turn makes the whole of the left easy for the right to denounce as "limousine liberals", "champagne socialists" or the like. No more effective means of turning the working class off of the political left could be contrived. This makes McCarthyism look clumsy and amateurish. People who are rightly put off by intersectionality then defect quite willingly to conservatism as a protest against it. One almost wonders if this wasn't the intent all along.

The problem is not with education itself, which is perfectly fine and good. But rather with the co-optation of education to serve elite interests. Something that the left was much more willing and able to call out prior to the capture of the humanities and social sciences by intersectionalists.

The ideology of intersectionality itself is constructed to be a closed system of thought, wherein disagreement with it is likened to actual oppressive behavior against a marginalized person. Allegations of racism or sexism - made with the backing of powerful media outlets - against lone individuals without recourse and no due process are effective and currently socially legitimate ways of marginalizing people. It's a good way of removing someone who's bringing up facts and ideas that the truly powerful don't want publicly legitimized.

Far from emboldening the resistance, intersectionality keeps protest culture in line and ensures its continuity as a controlled opposition. One that allows the powers that be to claim that they allow and legitimize dissent - so long as it doesn't really threaten them. One oligarch or another might get thrown under the bus due to his alleged racism or sexism here and there. The oligarchy itself is thus made safer, for it submits itself to the appearance that it really is held to scrutiny and made accountable for its abuses. Surely the absurdity of a racist or sexist comment ruining a CEO while his abuse of his workers, defrauding of his shareholders and pollution of the environment as a matter of course going completely unnoticed highlights the absurd nature of intersectionality as a form of radicalism.

With leftism like intersectionality, who needs conservatism? It's the ultimate metanarrative, and if the postmodernist techniques of deconstruction can be turned against it, that can only be a good thing. An essential thing, as a matter of fact.

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Feminism's Faustian Bargain and the Failure of Reaction

It is all but certain now that the ideological descendants of the Frankfurt critical theorists and the French postmodernists, once such ...