Thursday, 5 April 2018

Let us go Forward Together!


“Domela” has been a longtime supporter of the Alternative Left page on Facebook, as well as the only other administrator of that page besides myself.  He recently posted this status update:

I'm afraid I'm getting exhausted. We had the very successful Red Pill movie, we had some 'rethinking' after Trump's victory (or rather Hillary's defeat), we had Mark Lilla, we had Arlene Hochschild, we had Laci Green's 'conversion', we had the start of the Alt Left, Quillette and Areo, we had some mainstream media admitting MeToo didn’t work out as expected, and this is not all - you'd think at least something would happen. But not only reigns the regressive left/IdPol/intersectional feminism/SJW's, however you call them, the mainstream liberal and progressive media - a decent discussion hasn’t even started in all that time. Most people don't even know there exists some anti-SJW-left. Quite a few people think anti-SJW and Alt Right are the same. I'm afraid IdPol will either remain for a long time or be crushed by the right - and what left will there be left then?

I understand the frustration. While the page has grown in its almost two years of existence, it’s fan base has stalled at about the 2,200 followers mark. Similarly minded groups and pages, most of whom have fewer members and followers than that, have similarly stagnated. When one considers that there are many regressive left and intersectional feminist pages with many hundreds thousands of fans, or even tankie pages with a few tens of thousands, this seems discouraging.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Yeat’s words, nearly a century old now, seem as applicable to today as they were upon their writing. The internet is not a reasonable place, and it’s getting more irrational all the time, or so it seems. I would like to think that there’s a silent majority who shares our distaste for all of this, but that is not a hope upon which we can or should bank. Silent majorities have a way of remaining silent.

It’s worth reflecting then, on how things came to this juncture. For many people online, the “SJWs” were something that sprung seemingly from nowhere in roughly President Obama’s second term, or thereabouts. Many people were redpilled during the now infamous gamergate controversy, or by the alternative media that seemed to spin out of that debacle. After exposure to Milo, Sargon of Akkad or more recently Jordan Peterson, or some personality like that. The truth is, the post-gamergate era was the time when the SJWs came to replace the religious right as the favorite punching bag of the online skeptic community, not when the SJWs first appeared.

Who and what the SJWs are go back much, much farther than that, and the fact that we must now contend with a popular culture that’s been systemically infected with intersectional feminism to a degree that would make the propaganda ministry of your favorite historical totalitarian state look sloppy is the price we must all now pay for decades of ignorance and complacency in the face of an insidious threat that first grew inside the academy, then subsequently metastasized outside it, over several decades.

The intersectional feminist movement – a hodgepodge of Marxist influence, German critical theory, French post structuralism and, of course, the new identity rooted social movements that arose out of the new left of the 1960s was aided and abetted by a perfect storm of factors in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that made it uniquely situated to become the ideological powerhouse that it has, and the social force to beat in the first half of the 21st century.

They also demonstrated an unparalleled savvy in their overarching strategy, showing acute knowledge of where power really lies in this meritocratic and technocratic society we’ve become, and how to put pressure on those centers of power – both corporate and government, both academic and media, to get the results they want. Additionally, they exploited the knowledge of language, philosophy and media that they studied in the post secondary institutions that they gradually gained influence within. Perhaps most significantly, they faced minimal opposition, and those who stood to lose the most as a result of intersectional feminist ascendency consistently demonstrated ineptness and complacency in the face of its rise.

Each of these points must be considered on its own.

It’s been suggested that the women’s movement has certain structural advantages rooted in gender dynamics that gave them enormous advantages almost right from the outset. Perhaps it’s the case that men are naturally more defensive and protective of women than they are of one another, for any number of reasons. Instinct to protect the bearers of the next generation. Instinct to cater to selective mates who wielded the considerable power of sexual selection. Perhaps since mothers are the primary caregivers of humans from birth, they have a subconscious association with moral authority that men do not. None of these can be proven, mind you, but all are plausible.

The intersectional feminist movement of our time was the chief beneficiary of two crucial philosophical developments in the last half century: the decline of traditional religiosity in the west – a process that had been going on for two hundred years but really kicked into high gear during and after the counterculture of the 1960s, and the decline of socialism as the main form of protest in the west that began in the 1970s and was greatly accelerated by the victories of Reagan, Thatcher and neoconservatism more generally during the 1980s. 

Intersectional feminism’s moralism, sexual puritanism and brother’s-keeper – or should I say sister’s keeper – mentality made it a logical successor to traditionalist religion, while its egalitarianism, revolutionary romanticism and valorization of militant protest made it a logical successor to socialism. Religion and socialism alike postulated a Manichean, almost apocalyptic world view wherein goodness and decency wage war against evil and corruption for world domination, lending excitement and purpose to the lives of those who adopt these world views. Together, religion and socialism were big shoes to fill, and you have to hand it to intersectional feminism for so successfully stepping into both.

Feminists emphasized education and consciousness raising almost right from the outset. They learned well from their Frankfurt School and Marxist-Leninist predecessors, and would go on to succeed where they failed. Unlike their opponents, whom I'll discuss shortly, intersectional feminists are a disciplined movement who keep their eye on the prize and have deeply internalized a culture of solidarity, as opposed to the culture of every-man-for-himself individualism that characterizes their rivals. They don't waste time quibbling over insignificant details, like you see among libertarians and the old left. They know that mutual support is what is going to win in the long run. Intersectional feminists have no problems getting signatures on petitions and bodies out to protest. Their calls for boycotts have teeth, and are feared in the broader business community. The so called twitter mob is every artist's object of dread. They are savvy and adept at using and dealing with the media.  Cultural libertarians seldom even think about these kinds of things except when they're caught on the business end of them, and are caught flat footed by them every time.

The feminist transformation of the academy in the 1980s, in alliance with groups representing minority groups, was the successful culmination of the infamous long march through the institutions proposed by new left and so called cultural Marxist theorists during and even prior to the 1960s, even as Marxism itself was unraveling in Russia and in clear retreat in China. Their success in the academy goes well beyond simply instituting women’s studies courses. Theories surrounding marginalization and oppression, well as the social construction of gender would come to permeate the entire academy, and even influence the administration and governance of academia at an institutional level.

Indeed much of third wave feminism’s entire doctrine revolved around ensuring its magisterium both inside the academy and without. They argued, based on the ideas of the French philosophers, that there’s no real such thing as a single objective reality binding on everyone. The means whereby man acquired and applied knowledge was deemed to be socially constructed, and typically done so for the benefit of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized. This legitimized and enabled a strategy of dismissing and handwaving facts and arguments they do not like based on the identity of the source.

They argued that their marginalized and oppressed status made it so that statements that offended them or threatened their world view were actually forms of oppression. This legitimized tactics of censorship. They argued that bigotry and hatred were really about power, which they by definition did not have, so as to legitimize double standards that worked to their advantage. They argued that the personal was political, and that liberal claims of institutional impartiality were mere rationalizations for leaving privilege and power unchallenged in many spheres of human endeavor. This legitimized the politicization of people’s private lives and personal choices, the imposition of political indoctrination into all forms of media, and legitimized demands to dispense with due process for those accused of ideological offenses – all of these being clear hallmarks of totalitarianism, albeit one much softer than what was seen in Germany and Russia in the 30s. For now.

This ideological movement made academia its first target, and displayed keen Machiavellian adeptness in doing so. For it is in the academy that those who will graduate into positions of influence are instructed and credentialed. Once feminist ideological hegemony was normalized in the academy – or at least some branches of it - and backed up by the threat of a potentially career ruining harassment or hate speech allegation, media, law, administration and other important and influential areas of human endeavor soon followed suit.

This means of acquiring cultural influence must be contrasted with the techniques of feminism’s ideological rivals. Conservatives both fiscal and religious focused primarily on winning contests for electoral office. Which they did quite frequently. But despite their exploitation of social and cultural wedge issues to win those elections, the right wing had no interest in waging a genuine culture war outside some parts of red state America. Indeed, the economic liberalization that was their true priority did as much to help the rising identitarian left as developments in academia did. Capital thrived from open borders and immigration, and valued women, as men, much more as workers and consumers than as homemakers. 

As it was, the intersectional left developed networks of NGOs, non-profit organizations, lobby groups, media relations strategists and even media outlets that controlled and framed the debate in their areas of focus, and though there were occasional concerns raised over what was happening in academia, the right was largely content to leave the intersectionalists alone in favor of economic and foreign policy issues that were their greater priorities in any event.

Libertarians were quick to adopt new technology, and there focus on using rational argument and debate to sway others to their world view. The embryonic men’s rights, neoreactionary and alt-right movements likewise focused on using the internet to preach their faiths, largely to the already converted. While they were doing this, however, the intersectional social justice movements were acquiring increased influence and in some cases even outright control over the very forums in which these debates would be taking place. It’s no secret that moderation on most social media platforms skews heavily in favor of the cultural left, to say nothing of the sheer volume of blogs and online news outlets that they would acquire. 

So the intersectional cultural left, who had no faith in the concept of open debate and rational discourse as it was, since these were little more than apologetics for white male privilege and bigotry as far as they were concerned, also had no reason and no motivation to engage in any kind of dialogue with their opponents. All such exchanges were really just “power discourses” anyway, so why debate when you can insult, or ban?  When they do interact with their opponents, intersectional feminists go hard on the offensive, their entire demeanor bent on establishing dominance and their emotional inflections calculated to control the milieu by creating awkward situations that put their rivals on the defensive. They are adept framing the debate and defining the terms of engagement - almost always implicitly and never directly, and are exceptionally good at verbal subterfuge. 

Liberals and progressives had little motivation to dispute with the intersectionalists from the outset. Why should they? They wanted and valued the same things after all, didn’t they? The SJW movements were shielded to a considerable degree by the fact that they represented, or professed to represent, the interests of the oppressed and marginalized. Shouldn’t progressives support this? This is hard to fight against without looking like a bully. Especially during eras of conservative ascendency in the political, economic and foreign policy spheres. Eras such as our own. 

Why even bother fighting the SJWs at all? Didn’t we have so much bigger fish to fry when George W. Bush was president, or while the Tea Party was taking over congress? To say nothing of Donald Trump and the bitter reactionaries that helped put him in the White House? While certain aspects of the intersectional feminist, SJW movements might be distasteful, can and should these not be overlooked and forgiven in light of the real problems marginalized people deal with, and in light of the vastly greater threats posed by corporate dominance of politics, rampant pork-barrel militarism and right wing demagogues in real positions of power?

The answer, I think, is that this is precisely why we must carry on the fight against the SJWs. Otherwise, even a best possible case outcome will be no real victory. What good does it do to defeat the conservatives when your own side isn’t really that different from them fundamentally? We already see this in terms of how cozy the SJWs really are with corporate power. How preferable have Silicon Valley and Hollywood really shown themselves to be compared to Wall Street and the DC lobbying establishment? When you’re under the thumb of corporate domination, what does it matter if your overlords are women or people of color, or whether you are fired for questioning your employer’s diversity policies as opposed to fired for being a socialist?

A core premise, perhaps the core premise of alternative left thought bears repeating here: the dominion of identity politics over discourse on the left invisiblizes economic inequality and class struggle. If we see power and privilege entirely in terms of race and gender, we don’t see it in terms of concentration of capital and the subsequent access to real power this allows. There can therefore be no meaningful challenge to the power of capital without a challenge to identity politics. That is why socialists and trade unionists led the charge against racism and sexism to begin with. Now we must lead the charge against coopted and compromised anti-racism and feminism for the same reasons.

The long and the short of it is that a “liberalism” that is not at all liberal might as well be conservatism. If the right wing in drag doesn’t seem that preferable to the right wing in pinstripes, or army fatigues, or Klan robes, that’s because it isn’t.

The alternative left will speak out against leftist IdPol because it must. If we do not, we leave a fight that we know must be fought for others to eventually take up. It will be a long and difficult task, given the factors I’ve listed previously. But it is not a matter in which the believers in democracy and any kind of real, meaningful social justice, have a real choice.

I leave you with the words of Winston Churchill – hardly an exemplar of the alternative left but someone who nevertheless understood what it meant to face hard choices:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. You ask what is our aim? I can answer only one word: Victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival …

Frustration and heartbreaks abound in the future. We will continue to be swarmed by peevish and snarky online trolls, who think "you just can't get laid" and similar middle school level stupidity somehow constitutes an argument. Apparently it does, when woke college chicks do it. There will be many more Count Dankulas and James Damores, many more frivolous MeToo claims, repressive legislative initiatives, revolting Guardian and HuffPost columns, many more ridiculous college deplatformings and “anti-whiteness” seminars.  Worse, there will likely be more Rotherham and Telford sex abuse rings, and more scapegoating of white males and masculinity more generally for these horrors. And terribly, my heart turns to ashes when I think of the mounting horror in South Africa, where the threat of white genocide is no mere alt-right paranoid fantasy but a possibility that’s all too real.

Yet despite all that, we do not face the monstrous tyranny that the British faced in 1940. Plus, in the end, the intersectional feminist world view is untenable. These are the people trying to square pro feminist and pro LGBT politics with mass Islamic immigration, after all. So for that, among other reasons, we have had the Red Pill movie, some 'rethinking' after Trump's victory (or rather Hillary's defeat), Mark Lilla, Arlene Hochschild, Laci Green's 'conversion', Quillette and Areo, some mainstream media admitting MeToo didn’t work out as expected. We also have Sargon and his liberalist initiative, we have the startling successes of the likes of Jordan Peterson.

None of these perfect or even ideal. But they are to us what Churchill was to the world in 1940: exponentially better than what they are up against. As Clement Attlee - a man who I think embodies alt-left ideals perhaps better than anyone - joined Churchill's wartime cabinet, so too must we join with the Sargons and Jordan Petersons of the current cultural landscape until the greater enemy is subdued. 

We have the intellectual dark web, an assortment of YouTube and alternative media personalities and of course my own often lonely, frustratingly dim voice, and the voices of my fellow alt-leftists on social media and elsewhere in the midst of all of this. Voices too often drowned out in the cacophony of the demands of our lives offline, but voices prepared to raise in protest none the less. Every single one counts. Yet just four short years ago, we had absolutely none of even this. Given the head start the SJW regressive left had, and the advantages they continue to have, this is all together quite impressive. Little by little does the trick.  But most outrageously, SJWs wear their smugness and disdain for rival schools of thought on their sleeve. Their internal movement cultures are rife with competitive posturing and virtue signalling, and the movement seems to thrive on calling out the ideologically impure as a means of establishing interpersonal dominance. This is clearly not sustainable. People will sooner or later come to resent the expectation that they tow the ideological line out of fear of being branded a racist, misogynist, basket of deplorables or the like. Sooner or later, people will rebel and that's definitely what we've been seeing. 

Churchill then concludes his speech thus:

But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men .. come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.

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Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Liberal's Selective Memory

As I type this, Areo is the single best news and opinion blog on the internet. Describing itself as "an opinion and analysis digital magazine focused on current affairs — in particular: Humanism, Culture, Politics, Human Rights, Science, and, most importantly, Free Expression" Areo should be on the subscription list of every liberal minded alt-leftist. Senior editor Malhar Mali and assistant editors Helen Pluckrose and Oliver Traldi never fail to deliver top notch material. 

The recent article, "A liberal Who Remembers" by Traldi reads as a laundry list of my own grievances against the present state of left of center politics. Among the things Traldi remembers about being a liberal in the George W. Bush years was a respect for science, human decency, the search for objective truth, a respect for due process, opposition to war and a general disdain for neo-con linguistic chicanery, authoritarianism, hawkishness and puritanism. The article laments the recent decline of the once proud liberal tradition in America into the fever swamps of SJW hysteria and regressive left hypocrisy.

He will get no argument from me on any of that. I suspect Mr. Traldi and myself would agree on way more than we'd disagree on, and the internet definitely needs more voices such as his.

They've Always Been This
What I will say by way of difference of opinion, however, is that my own memory of the progressivism of the Bush years is not quite so fond. I've noticed a tendency among alternative leftists to look with fondness on some mythical past golden age of the left, a time when we got our activism right. While the alt-left was originally called "The Left Wing of the Alt-Right," I'd suggest we'd be better described as the reactionaries of the left. These damn SJWs with their dyed hair and made up gender pronouns can get off my union household's lawn.

While there are certainly many aspects of previous iterations of progressive politics that are preferable to today's, we should be careful not to romanticize our own past too much. The left has a rather long and sorry history of its own brands of smugness, self serving doublethink and ideologically driven denial of reality. 

Perhaps it was the old left, that of the early to mid 20th century, with its corrupt unions and municipal party machines. While these institutions did do much good, they're far from beyond reproach. What of the old left's dogmatic and sectarian socialist and communist parties, some of whom took orders from Moscow, and whose internal quarrels in places like Wiemar Germany actually helped right wing authoritarian regimes come to power? Soviet apologists both in and out of the Kremlin used a lot of the same kinds of whataboutism that we now see from SJWs. It was the mystical proletariat and their revolutionary vanguard party rather than feminist and critical race theorists who claimed carte blanche to act entirely as they wished, but their rationalizations were remarkably similar. No rules apply to the self described marginalized revolutionary. It was the old left of Great Britain as much as the totalitarianism of Stalin's Russia that George Orwell satirized in his classic 1984. It would be well into the postwar years that these types would catch on to the fact that the USSR was not the worker's paradise that they'd been hoping for, to put it mildly.

Was the new left of the turbulent 1960s any better? College students would gradually supplant organized labor, the deeper cultural analysis of the Frankfurt School would likewise supplant stale Marxist-Leninist economic reductionism, and impoverished minorities and women at home and abroad would succeed where the blue collar proletariat had failed and usher in an era of non hierarchical participatory democracy that would bring liberation from both capitalism and stale bureaucratic socialism alike. Or so they hoped.

The results in actuality would plant the seeds of what we're seeing on college campuses now. Radical groups like the Students for a Democratic Society would idealize despots such as Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, whom one could argue were not significant improvements on Stalin or even Khrushchev''s USSR. Their own groups were rife with the kinds of purity spiraling, virtue signaling and eventually violent protest that we're now seeing. The Weather Underground of the late 1960s make today's antifa groups look tame. 

While the radical "spirit of '68" would gradually taper off over the course of the 70s, the feminist migration into the universities was well underway. The ideological foundations of all of the regressivism we're now seeing: postmodernism's denial of a common reality and the resulting ascendance of authoritarian and opportunistic "Standpoint theories", the view that speech offensive to "marginalized peoples" - or their self appointed representative vanguard - constitutes a kind of oppression that warrants censorship, the erosion of the boundary between activism and scholarship and the self serving denial of the possibility of being racist towards whites (try telling that to a white South African farmer) or sexist towards men (try telling that to a divorced father) were all securely in place on university campuses across the western world by the late 1980s. 

Thus, I do not remember the left of the Bush era being quite so liberal as Traldi recollects. What I do remember is the emergence among progressives of the new Atheism - the popularity of authors such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and YouTubers such as TJ Kirk, then called the Amazing Atheist. The problem, as far as they were concerned, was too much church attendance in red state America. All of the problems of the Bush White House were simply reducible to uneducated bumpkins who believed in an invisible man in the sky.

Religious belief systems are not beyond criticism, of course. I'm an agnostic myself. But what was truly odious about the religious right was not that they believed in God per-se. It was that they so flagrantly used religion in such self aggrandizing ways. They bear much more resemblance to the kinds of people whom Christ actually contended with in the gospels - money changers in the temples and self righteous pharisees who, thinking themselves without sin, were more than happy to cast the first stone, than with Christ himself. 

None of this exonerate religious belief from the very real problems presented by a reading of the bible, of course. But it also represented a troubling shift towards preoccupation with people's private beliefs among outspoken progressives. The left of the Bush years was much more worried that rural Mississippians were praying in conservative churches than they were about the hawkish foreign policies and regressive economic policies of the Bush White House and its largely captive congress. An air of smug superiority over the common people, as opposed to solidarity with the common people, increasingly became a trait of the Bush era left. 

What I remember about Bush era liberals is how unwilling they were to discuss comparable problems with the theology of Islam, or the glaring racism and authoritarianism of the nations in the middle east we were at war with. I even remember UK author Nick Cohen writing a book denouncing Islamist apologism on the left in 2007, while still remaining critical of neo-con hawkishness. Very much while Bush was still in office.

To these noble and intrepid Bush era liberals, this came across as being a tad bit victim-blaming, if not outrightly racist. I distinctly remember Bush era liberals reacting with similar anger to observations that college feminists could be no less sexually puritan and censorious than the True Love Waits and Purity Balls crowd that they so loved to make fun of, were. Clerical celibacy and waiting until marriage to have sex were so repressive and unhealthy, but crying sexist over men complimenting women and hosannas of praise sung to lesbian separatists were as much a staple of "progressives" in 2006 as they are of progressives in 2017. They just didn't yet have tumblr and twitter to further extend their reach. 

At the end of the day, what most offended Bush era liberals about all the odious things that the Bush White House was engaged in: middle east wars, erosion of civil liberties, science denial, sexual repression, a black-and-white world view, religious fundamentalism, censorship and the circumvention of due process was that whites, males, Christians, conservatives and Republicans were the ones doing them. And they were no less obnoxious, arrogant and condescending in their tone towards anyone who disagreed with them. Argue with the Bush era progressive about anything, no matter what your actual beliefs, and expect to be lumped in with Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. The basket of deplorables of not so long ago.

 And even then, none of it was new. While there have always been principled liberal and egalitarian voices and causes on the left, and I do count the authors and editors at Areo among these, regressive hyper-partisanship and bigotry turned against the self have always been a part of the left in the western world, and likely always will be.

And I should know. I too am a liberal who remembers.


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Friday, 9 March 2018

The False Promise of a Return to Tradition and Religion


Jordan Peterson is against political correctness, opposed to the hegemony of feminist standpoint theories on university campuses and favors free speech generally. For that reason and that reason alone he is an ally and should be supported. It's well past time for a reckoning with the pseudo-academic left, the feminist and critical race theorists especially. They simply must accede to demands for ideological pluralism on college campuses and in society in general. Play nice or get out of the sandbox. Simple as that.

That said, he has an appeal to the neoreactionary crowd and there are reasons for this that go beyond their shared dislike of the dogmatic intersectional left, that are embedded in his outlook and the things he chooses to emphasize in his lectures. Ideas that, if left unchecked, can and in the not so distant past certainly have rivaled the current regressive left in the danger they pose to the very ideologically pluralistic social order that Peterson otherwise so loudly professes to uphold.

In particular, his approach to the writings of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, and their apparent warnings that the philosophical "death of God" would eventually lead to nihilism and/or the seduction of some or another kind of totalitarianism. The idea that "a man who loses his people and his national roots also loses the faith of his fathers and his God" as Dostoevsky puts it. Such a man then becomes a sitting duck either for existential angst and nihilistic despair, or the the appeal of a surrogate religion, in the form of a dogmatic ideology. In any event, the death of God narrative describes a concomitant decline in public morality, the dissolution of the family, falling birth rates necessitating mass immigration that drives still further levels of social disintegration until eventually, society is irrevocably changed and not for the better. This is the central narrative of much neoreactionary thought, the "theonomist" branch especially.

While not something that can be proven absolutely, the idea that a decline in religiosity coincides with a rise in nihilism and/or ideological dogmatism does strike me as being highly plausible. The similarities of fascism and communism with religions has been remarked upon repeatedly. More recently, I've been directly privy to the rise in popularity of the "new atheism" online, and the resultant decline in religiosity among millennials. That this generation subsequently embraced tumblr SJW feminism with the fervency that it has did not, therefore, come as a surprise to me. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and company successfully debunked Christian dogmas in the minds of many, but did not address the underlying need for transcendent belief systems that some people, at least, seem to have. Jordan Peterson would seem to be following in Carl Jung's footsteps - quite intentionally - in pointing this out. And good on him for doing so. 

I should also reiterate the fact that Jordan Peterson does not advocate any branch of neoreactionary or far right thought, near as I can tell. He has delivered scathing attacks on fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist thought that should make clear that his views are more nuanced than his leftist detractors make them out to be.

But his efforts should come with a warning label of their own. Attributing nihilism or the emergence of murderous totalitarianism ultimately to atheism has enormous potential to imply a "solution" that actually exacerbates the core problem. If "killing" God had (and continues to have) unforeseen and potentially disastrous consequences, so too might resurrecting and re-enthroning him. Specifically, the lure of a return to political religion, ultra-nationalism or some kind of traditionalism. This is the notion that underwrites neoreaction, and it's false and highly dangerous, since it ends up simply being another version of the murderous totalitarianisms that Dostoevsky fears will replace religion. The "God" chosen by whichever movement manages to do this (and which religion is chosen and how it prevails over its rivals never seems to get discussed) thus becomes, with no shortage of irony, just one more of the "demons" that names Dostoevsky's work that tackles precisely this issue.

Getting back to the religion and tradition of the past has been tried. Many times, and its rate of success is equivalent to that of the communism that it is touted as an antidote to. It was tried in Iran in 1979 and Afghanistan in 1996, to name two examples. The men who brought down the World Trade Center towers were motivated by precisely those kinds of ideals. So too have been numerous abortion clinic bombings and similar acts of domestic terrorism. There's been an ongoing push to bring religion back into public life in red state America since the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Hasn't been much of "an antidote to chaos" if you ask me. By all appearances, it's made things worse, not better. 

The Antidote to Chaos?
The counterpart to Dostoevsky in predicting where the "resurrection of God" could well take us would be Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Her vision doesn't look terribly appealing to me.  Historically, the Crusades, the European Wars of Religion in the 1600s, the bloodbath that was the Chinese Taiping Rebellion, clerical fascism in Europe, the religious right in America, and ongoing Islamic Jihadist terrorism should dispel us of any notion that religion confers any special immunity to widespread social chaos, oppression and tyranny. The religious identity that lies at the heart of sacred forms of nationalist identity is never anything timeless and eternal, but decided at some point in the past by affairs that were - for their time - no less bloody and chaotic than the great wars of the 20th century. 

Don't misunderstand me, dear reader. If you find solace in a church or mosque, don't let me dissuade you from any of that. Plus, in the interests of fairness, the assertions made by atheists that religion is actually the root of the problem are likewise wrong and dangerous, as the persecution of religious groups in the USSR and its satellites and copy-cats exemplifies. God is neither the problem nor the solution here. The human propensity towards solving problems of identity, meaning and purpose with fanaticism and dogmatism in belief systems is the problem, and this tendency applies with equally deadly results to religious, identitarian or ideological systems of thought.

My quarrel is not with religion per-se, but with the proposal that a universal return to religion as the core of public life and a concomitant social order of serene small towns and suburbs filled with simple, moralistic nuclear families with traditional gender role churchgoing folk will be good for what ails us. It's the right wing counterpart to the romantic infatuation with communal and egalitarian living that has haunted the left for centuries. The core problem is that the entirety of society will not do either voluntarily. So the tried-and-true building blocks of tyranny: dependency on leaders and dogmas, demonization of outsiders and dissidents, erosion of privacy and civil liberties and good old fashioned brute force will end up having to be trotted out should either of these options be attempted in earnest. 

And that's the real reason why the decline of religion led to the problems that Nietzsche and Dostoevsky predicted that it would. It's not religion specifically and exclusively that confers identity and purpose, and keeps the social order intact, it's collectively held belief systems more generally. When these change dramatically or collapse all together, private angst and social chaos accompany the greater personal liberty that also emerges as a result.  The implosion of communism in the east bloc countries was similarly devastating to at least certain portions of their populations, which doubtlessly explains why authoritarianism is making a comeback in nearly all of them. 

While the SJW movement in the west does need to be stopped, and social alienation is a real problem, we'd do well to think long and hard before putting our efforts behind a revival of public, political religion as a means of solving our social ills. It's easy to forget that the regressive left of our time began in large part as a reaction against the religious right. Better to get rid of both than to make a preference of one over the other.


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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Regressive Left Pt. 5: Radical Ruckus


The feminist and critical race theories that swept higher education in the 1980s did not spring suddenly from nowhere. Radical feminism emerged as an outgrowth of the so called new left of the 1960s, and these were in turn influenced by the German Institute for Social Research, more commonly known as the Frankfurt School. It is to these that we now turn our attention.

It is important that we divest ourselves of the notion of "good second wave, bad third wave" when it comes to feminist radicalism. Alongside reforms necessary to achieve the worthy goal of gender equality was a deeply regressive streak has marked the shadow side of feminism from its inception. As we will discover in future installments of this series, ideas surrounding the abolition of the family and marriage as core kinship arrangements and replacing this with communal child care and free love go back to the utopian communalists of the early 19th century, on both sides of the Atlantic. While for some this might not sound so bad, consistent throughout the movement's history is an ideological purism that was disdainful of notions such as privacy and individual rights. Thus, what came to be called radical feminism in the late 1960s, early 1970s was itself less of a break from the feminist tradition than it first appeared, just as the third or fourth or whatever wave we're on now is less novel than is commonly believed once delved into a little.

While some on the new left of that time tried to argue that feminism merely distracted from the more "important" issues of class, race and war, the feminists had claimed the ideological and moral high ground by establishing themselves as oppressed and men, even male leftists, as oppressors, as well as by extending its radical critique further, into even people's most private and intimate relationships and innermost thoughts. The new left, intentionally rooting itself in a critical theory much more comprehensive than the mere economic relations emphasized by Marxism, had set the precedent whereby more totalistic and sweeping forms of critique took precedent over lesser, mere "institutional" forms, was without any kind legitimate defense against the feminist criticisms.

Early second wave feminist organizations and activists, such as the October 17th movement, later renamed The Feminists, founded in the late 1960s by radical activist Ti-Grace Atkinson, well exemplified the strange sort of co-dependency that so often exists between radical egalitarianism on the one hand, and the totalitarian impulse on the other. While an even then sympathetic media showed the public a movement of idealists committed to uplifting women's status in a patriarchal world - a laudable goal - the reality underlying the image was much more - to borrow one of their own terms - problematic.

The group did away even with the concept of elected offices, since these created hierarchy, and lots were drawn to delegate tasks once done by officers to the membership on a rotating basis. While idealistic, this also diminished group efficacy as the talents of the membership were misappropriated and project continuity continually disrupted. The group became almost cult-like in its level of demands placed on the membership, and the zealous degree of in-group policing. Members who were late for meetings or put private and personal priorities ahead of the movement's were reprimanded.  It was determined, for example, that no more than 1/3 of the membership could consist of married women (and later barring married women all together), since marriage was determined to be an oppressive institution and married women risked having their loyalties divided between the group and their families.

Early feminism was known for the practice of "consciousness raising" wherein members would hold group "struggle sessions" to borrow a term from the Maoist lexicon, wherein they'd discuss their experiences of life in a patriarchal society. The concept of disadvantaged people joining together to discuss their problems and strategize about ways of dealing with them is not inherently regressive, and is indeed a potentially liberating and democratic exercise. As is often the case with regressive leftism, however, the devil is, as he so often is, in the details.'
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Activist Kathie Sarachild, who coined the term consciousness raising, produced an article entitled "A Program for Feminist Consciousness Raising" which makes these diabolical details immediately apparent to anyone with any penchant of how ideological indoctrination works.  Sarachild outlines "classic forms of resisting consciousness" some of which include:
  • Excusing the oppressor (and feeling sorry for him)
  • False identification with the oppressor and other socially privileged groups
  • Shunning identification with one's own oppressed group and other oppressed groups
  • Thinking one has power in the traditional role
  • Belief that one has found an adequate personal solution or will be able to find one without large social changes
  • Self cultivation, rugged individualism, seclusion and other forms of go-it-alonism
In short, dependency on the group was intentionally fostered by demonizing persons outside the group or those women who had succumbed to "false consciousness" and strayed from the narrow path of the one true faith. As Eric Hoffer puts it in his seminal work on ideological fanaticism: "To be in possession of an absolute truth is to have a net of familiarity spread over the whole of eternity. There are no surprises and no unknowns." 

You may be asking: why should I be concerned about this? What impact could a small handful of marginalized radicals half a century ago possibly have in today's world? While bizarre and eccentric, surely the excesses of the early radical feminists could be forgiven in light of the vastly greater evils they struggled against?  

The answer is that the early radical feminists, though not wholly innovative as mentioned previously, did lay the foundations for how their more enduring and successful sisters in academia a generation later would operate, and what their core ideology would be. And that, in turn, is what gave rise to the current cultural hegemony of the SJWs. The emphasis placed by consciousness raising on activism and group solidarity around the idea of an infallible doctrine was carried over into the women's studies classroom.  The second wave notion that "the personal is the political" began the process of legitimizing the politicization of individual's private choices, which when coupled with critical theory (which we'll soon examine) laid the groundwork for the legitimization of feminist criticism and now colonization of popular culture. Even sex was not spared the critical gaze, and it was here that doubt was cast on women's capacity to legitimately consent to heterosexual relationships, so comprehensive was the grip of patriarchy theorized to be on not only the material conditions, but the very thoughts of the downtrodden and marginalized.

The radical feminists were an outgrowth of the new left of the 1960s, and here the apple did not fall far from the tree. This period in the history of western radicalism, perhaps the most legendary and romanticized in western history, is deep and complex, with a lot of ins and a lot of outs, as the old saying goes. It cannot be dealt with in any real measure of detail here. What was seen repeatedly, however, were the problems inherent to a politics committed to dramatic and sweeping changes to the very structure of society and human relationships, and how difficult this is to effect without resorting to regressive means.

Perhaps the definitive new-left organization was the Students for a Democratic Society, or the SDS for short. Here again, as with the feminists, we see the wide gap that separates the idealistic origins of radical egalitarian activism, and the frequently regressive and violent acts that follow. 

In his brilliant work, The Dark Side of the Left, author Richard J. Ellis traces the movement, beginning with its origins in the idealism expressed in the Port Huron Statement, authored primarily by SDS front-man Tom Hayden. The SDS criticized not only the pervasive racism and inequality of American society at the time, but also the failure of the old-left, with its ossified trade unions and bureaucratized socialist parties, to adequately address the problems. The SDS would move beyond its origins as the student wing of old left League for Industrial Democracy.  Bureaucratic capitalism and socialism alike were denounced in favor of a more comprehensive and inclusive participatory democracy. 

The old left's dogmatic Marxism and idealization of the Soviet Union were held to criticism, though the new left would come to repeat the same mistakes with its own idealization of third world revolutionaries such as Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro and the Vietcong.  Today's regressive left, condemned by Maajid Nawaz for its idealization (or at least refusal to condemn) Islamist societies is indeed following a very well trodden path. 

The SDS committed itself to many laudable goals, including civil rights, southern voter registration, opposition to the Vietnam war, anti poverty activism and a more thorough democratization of American society. But, as Ellis observes, its utopian ideals were liabilities to group efficacy. Like the feminists would a short time later and that its spiritual successors in the anti-globalization movement and Occupy Wall Street would decades later, the SDS undertook experiments in radical democracy that caused more problems than they solved. A commitment to direct democracy consensus decision making that might have been workable on a very small scale caused organizational paralysis that only worsened as the decade of the 1960s progressed. Meetings became notoriously long and drawn out. The group squandered its credibility on the romanticization of both the marginalized poor at home and oppressive regimes abroad, such as Castro's Cuba and Ho Chi Minh's Vietnam.

In group loyalty grew harder to maintain as the movement became increasingly disconnected from mainstream political life. The time honored methods of maintaining group cohesion became increasingly paramount. Namely the demonization and devaluation of society outside the group. For leftist groups whose nature was to champion the people against the oppressive system, this became (and remains) a difficult circle to square. The outcome, by the late 1960s, were the reasons that the rational reaction among long time observers to the antifa riots surrounding Trump's 2017 inauguration and at college campuses around the nation that same year would have been a strong sense of deja-vu. The 1968 democratic party convention and the final SDS convention in 1969, followed by the "days of rage" - led and instigated by antifa's spiritual predecessors, the Weather Underground-in Chicago that fall, saw what would have made the rioting we've seen in recent years look tame.   

As with the feminist radicalism of the time, the new left of the 1960s remains relevant today because in many crucial respects, it never really ended. The weathermen would go underground and eventually fade away during the 1970s, but the romance of the 1960s revolutionaries at home and abroad remained and influenced the culture of the west. Looking back, one wonders why it took until 2016 to return with the vengeance that it finally did. 

It is worth looking, then, at the intellectual and ideological origins of the new left, as these origins explain events in 1968 as well as they do events in 2017. The often maligned German Institute for Social Research, more commonly known as the Frankfurt School, had its origins in post world war one Germany. Max Horkheimer differentiated critical theory from traditional theory in that "it seeks to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them."

A noble endeavor.  Critical theory, both in the Frankfurt School and outside of it, has become a vast body of work, with perhaps the only consistency being its complexity. Like the French postmodernists whom we discussed previously, who owe much intellectual lineage to Frankfurt despite their frequent disagreements, Frankfurt critical theory is notoriously vague, abstract and dense material to study. Key works of critical theory include The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, The Authoritarian Personality coauthored by Adorno and several other Frankfurt Intellectuals, and The One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse.  There are many, many others.

Early critical theory draws on the ideas of Sigmund Freud as much as on the ideas of Karl Marx, to leave the strict economic determinism attributed to Marx behind and to suggest that repression was psychologically internalized, like a form of neurosis. Their critique went beyond the capitalist mode of production and began deconstructing western civilization itself, largely in an attempt to explain why fascism and not socialism ended up benefiting politically from the great depression, the greatest crisis in the history of capitalism, as well as the reasons why authoritarian norms were reproduced inside the ostensibly socialist Soviet Union. 


In some cases, modernity and the enlightenment themselves were held to criticism. It was not merely that reason, rationality and the scientific method resulted in technology that extended the power and reach of any would-be tyrant. It was that domination and oppression were literally encoded into these ways of thinking. Knowledge itself was seen as a thing to be mastered and controlled. Later identitarian variations on this idea framed the enlightenment as the "colonization" of knowledge in the case of race theorists or the "penetration" of knowledge in the case of feminist theorists. The reason for the metaphors should be obvious. 


Here we see some of the origins of the reemergence of romanticismthe original counter-enlightenment, that swept the world in the 1960s, exemplified by the flower-child era.  Emphasis is placed on subjectivity and experience over rationalism and empiricism, and people and cultures who were more expressive and were supposed to have lived in harmony with nature are extolled in preference to the regimentation thought inherent to a strictly enlightenment world view.


This romanticist turn on the left was in response to the failures of Marxism: its failure to triumph in the west, as well as its failure to realize a liberated society in the USSR and its satellites. Socialist economic ideals were not abandoned, mind you, not yet at least. But they would increasingly take a back seat to cultural issues and a critique of mass society. As exemplified by the SDS we looked at earlier, the radical left would focus less and less on the unions and socialist parties, who had become ossified, bureaucratic and conservative. More emphasis was placed on media and academia, as this was where ideas were produced and disseminated.

This leads us to the idea of a long march through the institutions” - this idea that a vanguard of leftist intelligentsia were going to gradually ascend to prominent positions in cultural institutions and use those positions of influence to shape the population according to their liking. Here we see precedent and origins for the "transformative" educational initiatives that feminist theorists would undertake decades later. This is the dreaded "cultural Marxism" so often touted by the right wing as the cause of the erosion of western cultural vitality. And not without some warrant, though we've seen that the critical theorists were distrustful of orthodox Marxism as well.  Contrary to popular belief, it was not Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci who coined the concept of the long march (though his ideas of “cultural hegemony” as an explanation for a lack of revolutionary consciousness among western working classes warrant comparison to critical theory) but rather a German student leftist by the name of Rudi Dutschke

Like many elements we look at in our study of the regressive left, critical theory is not inherently regressive. Collective self reflection of this nature can be a good thing. But the right wing is not as without cause for concern as the orthodox progressives in places like rationalwiki (ha ha!) would have us believe. The inversion of the modernist ideas of western exceptionalism, white man's burden and manifest destiny that we see among SJWs today - the view that white European culture is uniquely and exceptionally evil no doubt finds a good part of its origins in Frankfurt School inspired ideas. Western civilization's loss of robustness and confidence in its own history and traditions is fast revealing itself to be causing as many, if not more problems than it's solving. 


In addition, Frankfurt School intellectuals were not themselves immune to their own brand of authoritarianism, even as they sought to themselves understand the Authoritarian Personality more deeply. As a more historical example, observe Herbert Marcuse’s infamous concept of “repressive tolerance”, appearing in the 1965 publication A Critique of Pure Toleranceasserting that censorship and repression of conservative and right wing ideas was justified in a way that repression and censorship of liberal and progressive ideas were not was, perhaps the most glaring example.  This idea, itself derived from Leninist thinking that we'll look at in future installments, also underlies and precedes the power-plus-prejudice formulation we looked at in the last installment, and the kinds of hypocrisies this enables. 

The Radical Ruckus that was kicked up in the 1960s and 70s obviously failed to transform society in the ways they'd hoped. This was due to the contradictions inherent to radical egalitarian thought and activism, as expressed by Ellis in Dark Side of the Left.  But neither was it completely defeated either, despite an ostensibly conservative turn in the political climate come the 1980s. The radicals retreated into counter cultural enclaves and, of course, the humanities and social sciences in academia, with results we saw in the previous installment, Postmodern Pandemonium. The feminist transformation of the academy was the success of the long march through the institutions, with regressive results we're now seeing both on and off campus.

It would be tempting to ask: where was the right wing in all of this? For all the panic you've no doubt recently heard from the right about cultural Marxism, conservatism had, by and large, been poorly equipped to handle this regressive left coup in the academy, and from there in the broader popular culture.  


To be continued in Part 6: Conservative Complacency. 


View "The Regressive Left: History, Theory, Methodology Part 5: Radical Ruckus" on Samizdat Broadcasts!



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Sunday, 11 February 2018

An Edifying Spectacle

My brother is a tenured history professor at a university in our mutual home town. Like many academics in the social sciences, he's generally left leaning. But he's not the sort you'd read about in the anti-SJW blogosphere. My bro, much like myself, is living testament to the fact that a based left is not only possible, but taking shape online and in the academy, little by little.  He recently posted this, evidencing the fact that greatness flows in the family veins! <grin> It reads as follows: 
An Edifying Spectacle: “Freedom of Expression and Making the Campus a Safe Space: Where Should the Line be Drawn?” Public Forum, Mount Royal University, February 9, 2018.

A Review 
Proviso: I had to leave the Edifying Spectacle at about 3:50, before observers were invited to ask questions, make statements, and/or render judgment. Or "freak out." I suspect that the proceedings remained cordial. The inevitable grumbling and “unpacking” took place elsewhere, perhaps on “Twitter.” 
This is my "truth." 
I have long admired Dr. Frances Widdowson. She will not be cowed. Her views are not “correct” in an age when Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first prime minister, and most famous functional alcoholic, is no longer deified but reviled by many. 
Dr. Widdowson has been called racist for questioning the well-meaning enthusiasm for allowing First Nations elders to bless business proceedings at Mount Royal University. Her commitment to materialist empiricism – thought by some to be a white supremacist construct - cannot be doubted. She is MRU’s Jordan Peterson. This despite being a self-described Marxist and presumably a foe of capitalism. 
Such are the times we live in. 
Meanwhile, people earning six figures nodded sincerely and disapprovingly while hearing of “privilege,” which encompasses qualities (whiteness, heterosexuality, having a penis) that supposedly define all social relations. Guest speaker James Turk, an old white dude who gave up a tenured position to work in the trade union movement, tried to substitute “privilege” with the term “power,” bravely daring to suggest that money trumps other factors in placing people in their place. 
Fool. Dupe! 
In Europe, for centuries, wealthy people, mainly white dudes (in Europe – imagine that!) determined what constitutes “Truth.” Today others scrap over crumbs from that feast. All truths are equally valid. Except for Turk’s truth. Being an old white guy, he was doomed from the beginning. Nevertheless, I am joining the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS), which he represents. 
You should too. 
Meanwhile, Francis Widdowson continued to insist that there exists an objective reality, Sinclair MacRae did his best to be reasonable, and Marc Schroeder prevented a riot by massaging the interchange. Epistemology was mentioned. The mood was subdued. 
Offering other perspectives were Rinaldo Walcott, member of the Department of Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and MRU’s own Kimberly Williams, director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program in the Humanities Department. Both scholars offered heartfelt rebuttals to the cold and fiercely “logical” viewpoints represented by Widdowson, MacRae, and Turk. Both of them transcended intellect and connected with feeling.. 
There can be no doubt that injustice stalks the land, in Canada and everywhere else. Times have changed, but “alt-right” crypto-Nazis are stinking up the land and non-white people remain disproportionately represented in prisons and elsewhere where poor people dwell. (Although it needs to be pointed out that plenty of poor whites dwell in those places as well. Sorry if this sounds like a “White Lives Matter Too” moment!) 
I had to sneak out before the conflab ended, but not before Dr. Williams offered some top-notch advice based in some solid wisdom: “Be kind.” 
Wow! What a concept! BE KIND! 
We live in an age of anxiety and uncertainty. The only thing that is certain is this: We are trapped together in this gravity well called “earth.” Stop being creeps. Maybe that atheist is Not a racist, and maybe that feminist does NOT hate men. Maybe we are all humans who just want to be treated with kindness. 
Maybe.
Indeed. While I don't see myself agreeing with the Women's and Gender Studies Program Director on many of the finer points of the distribution of wealth and power in western civilization overall, I'll join with my wise elder brother and concur here. Be kind.

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Saturday, 3 February 2018

Regressive Left Pt. 4: Postmodern Pandemonium


Critical theory and postmodern philosophy, which were discussed in the previous section, are not inherently regressive. Neither is the women's liberation movement, the civil rights movement and other causes for social justice that gained traction in the late 20th century. We are a better polity for our valuing of racial and gender equality, and for seriously and honestly scrutinizing our own past, history and even or deepest held philosophical convictions. 

There is an enormous gap, however, between these noble endeavors, which is the face of "transformation" in academia and elsewhere that the public, media and policy makers at all levels saw, and what was actually going on behind the scenes, where far fewer people looked with a scrutinizing eye.  The goal of the emerging political transformation in academia beginning in the late 70s was not merely to make these places more open and inclusive to those who'd previously been excluded, but to remake the very philosophical foundations upon which western liberal civilization rested and at the very least, to turn numerous other mediums, including video game journalism, into bully pulpits from which to convert the privileged heathen into woke privilege checking "social justice" activists. 

Outside the academy, the results of this transformation seemed comical and ridiculous.  Examples are numerous and easy to find in anti-SJW and anti-postmodernist spaces online. The infamous Alan Sokal affair lampooned the excesses of transformational curriculum, as well as exposing its weaknesses. The curriculums of "dead white males" were seen as built upon foundations of privilege and discrimination, even as those curriculums emphasized foundational enlightenment and liberal values upon which the importance of racial and gender equality were based.  All of this talk of science and mathematics privileging the "male" values of logic and reason over the "women's way of knowing" that emphasized emotion and empathy are easy to scoff at.  Not to mention how ironically reactionary is the implication that logic is inherently masculine and emotion inherently feminine. Isn't that kind of thinking what feminists were supposed to be against?

But the underlying issues are more serious, and "transformative curriculums" became the foundation of what has turned out to be a growing threat to liberty and perhaps the very survival of western civilization. It is important, therefore, to look at some of the more important doctrines and how they've driven regressive tendencies we've seen.

Perhaps the most important and dangerous of these doctrines is "Standpoint theory" which asserts that "knowledge stems from social position. The perspective denies that traditional science is objective and suggests that research and theory has ignored and marginalized women and feminist ways of thinking. Conspicuously and tragically absent is the postmodernist admonition against broad, sweeping universally applicable metanarratives. The theory emerged from the Marxist argument that people from an oppressed class have special access to knowledge that is not available to those from a privileged class, and is essentialist and reductionist in the extreme. In the 1970s feminist writers inspired by that Marxist insight began to examine how inequalities between men and women influence knowledge production.

We've all seen footage of SJWs at demonstrations loudly reminding their opponents that "you're a white male!" and otherwise falling back on identity to circumvent argument. This is among the most frustrating aspects of dealing with the SJW and the intersectional social justice left more generally.  This rhetorical, and ultimately philosophical device is founded upon standpoint theory, wherein marginalized or oppressed identity confers infallible moral and intellectual authority, so long as the correct party line is being espoused, of course.

An intersecting concept, if I may borrow the term, is “prejudice plus power” proposed in 1970 by feminist activist Patricia Bidol-Padva in her book Developing New Perspectives on Race: An Innovative Multi-media Social Studies Curriculum in Racism Awareness for the Secondary Level.  Besides being as much postmodern wokeness as I've yet seen in one book title, this has gone on to become another fundamental core doctrine of present day SJW thought, and it is the oft stated notion that women cannot be sexist, minorities cannot be racist and so on. Here, what it means to be prejudiced is redefined in terms of social power, in a self referential, self serving and ideological way. It also gives an easy out for members of so called marginalized demographics to indulge in as much bigotry and stereotyping as they want without fear of social censure.  Critics have called it the bigotry of lowered expectations.

A related concept is the "authority of experience" which relies upon a similar concept of making standpoint on a privilege vs marginalization continuum a determining factor in the evaluation of an individual's speech or conduct. The "experience" even of offense or inconvenience, let alone oppression by a marginalized person becomes equivalent to admissible evidence of racist or sexist conduct if done by a "privileged" person, regardless of their intent.  The speech-act hypothesis, which blurs the distinction between words and actions, was seized upon by these kinds of feminist theorists to assert that so called hate speech, or anything that marginalized people found offensive, was actually dangerous and oppressive, and thus warranted censorship.  Here we have the foundations for the concepts of microaggressions, safe spaces and trigger warnings.

It is all well and good that we listen to those from designated marginalized demographics when they discuss their experiences. There is truth in the notion that it's hard to understand others until you've walked in their shoes. When that's impossible, simply listening is the best that can be done.  This critique is not a call that feminist or critical race theorists be silenced or ignored - that would be hypocrisy in the extreme. 

Rather that we be careful in attributing to the subjective experience of the marginalized the status of moral and intellectual infallibility, and especially of treating their standpoints as license to circumvent essential bedrock liberal concepts - civil liberties, due process for the accused and so on. Or even as a license to act obnoxious, as is so often done in social justice circles. Standpoint theory is deeply flawed and prone to abuse, for reasons that should be self evident, and personal experience is likewise a flawed means of arriving at truth, for reasons best articulated by the social constructionist postmodernists themselves.

It is also worth asking ourselves just whose voices are going to constitute the voices of the oppressed and the marginalized? By the logic inherent to standpoint theory we should ask ourselves if tenured professors in premier educational institutions in first world countries are really the best people to be speaking on behalf of the downtrodden and marginalized? While there's nothing wrong with having the opportunity to get a first class education in such an institution, that seems to me itself the hallmark of privilege. Social class and economics as a factor in pervasive inequality is conspicuous by its absence in much of transformative postmodern academia and associated activism, and is perhaps the one thing about Marx that they'd be improved by adopting. The popular image of the smug, well to do college prof telling the unemployed white male construction worker to "check his privilege" perfectly represents the hubris and hypocrisy of the transformative academy, and smacks of more than just a little psychological projection.

For educated professionals versed in "transformative" theories to graduate from such a college, and move on to acquire an influential position in education, media, tech or other influential field and use said position as a bully pulpit from which to beat less institutionally powerful people over the head with their white or male privilege is an act of audacious hypocrisy that escapes scrutiny largely due to just how vast a scale this kind of behavior occurs on, as the recent Damore lawsuit against Google is one prime example of, among many. The allegations in said lawsuit cover a harrowing list of abuses of power undertaken in the name of "diversity" and justified by its supposed challenge to white male privilege. Notice how the privilege of the all powerful CEO and management over the workers to enable such abuse does not factor into their analysis of privilege.  The use of standpoint theory by decidedly privileged executives and intellectuals to shield their own views from criticism smacks of Lenin's authoritarian concept of the revolutionary vanguard party.

Yet this kind of Leninist ideological institutional capture is precisely what was advocated and practiced by the regressive architects of so called transformative academia.  Peggy McIntosh, who we met previously as the mother of contemporary privilege theories so popular among today's SJWs, is quoted by Christina Hoff Sommers in her opus, Who Stole Feminism?:
I think it is not so important for us to get women's bodies in high places, because that doesn't necessarily help at all in social change. But to promote women who carry a new consciousness of how the mountain strongholds of white men need valley values - this will change society ... Such persons placed high up in existing power structures can really make a difference.
When you get through the woke metaphors, what this really boils down to is the capture of institutions and the diversion of their purpose to the advancement of regressive left ideology. The idea that academia, among other institutions, should remain essentially neutral and promote clear and critical thinking regarding all ideas does not fly among ideologues who view knowledge and the means of acquiring knowledge as being socially constructed, for the benefit of the privileged and the expense of the marginalized.  

And as Sommers describes, McIntosh was but one of a vast network of activists who were very good at this. It was suggested that applicants for positions of influence in the academy and (eventually) outside of it be screened for their ideological correctness.  Again, all of this seems alarmingly reminiscent of the old Leninist concept of democratic centralism and the vanguard party.  Concerns raised by the likes of Jonathan Haidt regarding the leftward swing in academia find their origins in the ideology of McIntosh and her contemporaries as much as they do in broader demographic trends, though Haidt definitely deserves our support and commendation in his efforts to stem the tide. 

Sadly, these are considerations that few in academia and the media have chosen to vocalize, and almost universal appeasement on an institutional level has enabled the growth and empowerment of a decidedly illiberal social trajectory, especially among the younger millennial generation.  Their success in the capture of academia goes a long way to explaining the dominance of their ideology in mass media and its control over the discourse surrounding race and gender relations in the agenda setting institutions of our civilization.

It is a mark of transformative curriculum's success that the glaring problems with this cluster of ideas should require elaboration.  They fly in the face of how we now know the human mind works, which would confirm the postmodern theorist's view that experience is subjective and filtered through the subject's unique psychologically constructed interpretation of experiences and beliefs, of which an alleged "harasser" could not possibly have knowledge.  An educated woman in today's world, for example, duly instructed in feminist theory while in college, could no doubt easily take offense to nearly anything a male could theoretically say or do: a glance being "male gaze", a compliment or even a polite civil greeting becoming "harassment", attraction becoming "objectification" and consensual sex being rape if she later reports "feeling violated" and so on, although feminist theorists will virtually always deny these linkages if actually challenged on them.

Regardless, these concepts had been codified into law as a result of high profile sexual harassment cases from the late 1980s and early 1990s, in which what a "reasonable woman" feels to be offensive and discriminatory, rather than the intent of the presumably white male to offend, discriminate, or abuse institutional power, was to be what determines guilt. Hence the disregard the "believe women" movement had for any notion of due process. 

In 2017 - 2018, the juggernaut gained still more momentum, as if more was needed through the me too and time's up campaigns. Here we see standpoint theory and the authority of experience deployed when, via the phrase "you're a male, you don't get to decide" is used to justify an unwillingness to differentiate between flagrant abuses of power a-la Harvey Weinstein on the one hand and day after regret or bad sex on the other and a whole gamut of unpleasant but not necessarily coercive sexual experiences in between.

The implications of requiring men to be responsible for the emotional experiences of women in this manner should disturb anybody who's serious about the use of anti-harassment laws to actually eliminate harassment rather than be a club in the hands of women in their relations with men, not to mention extremely paternalistic. Implicit here is the decidedly reactionary notion that men are driven by sex while the morally and aesthetically superior female is above such animalistic concerns, and that women must weaponize access, or lack thereof to sex as a means of controlling and punishing men. All for great social justice, of course.  This extremely sex-negative outlook bodes ill for the future of gender relations, and we're already seeing a tendency towards stark decline in the levels of partnering correlating with age in America and elsewhere.  

While very few regressive feminists would take this to the penetrative sex equalling rape extreme for which such feminists as Andrea Dworkin (who would later deny holding this view) were notorious, perpetual emphasis on women's experience of violation rather than of pleasure as being the norm in heterosexuality led to a dim view of human sexuality.  The outcome, desired I suspect, is to place a chill effect on heterosexual romance that we increasingly see reflected throughout all of society.

The present epidemic of sexlessness in Japan, concerning as it is for demographers and psychologists observing the harmful psychological and economic impact this is going to have, is where these trends are likely to take us, and the recent spate of me too sexual misconduct allegations following the Harvey Weinstein meltdown are not going to help any, and neither are most popular male responses to feminism, such as the MGTOW - men going their own way movement, which often comes across as being the male version of the same thing.  An unlikely outcome of all of this is the mutual respect and equality across gender lines that contemporary feminism so often claims is its goal.

Thus far I've spoken of feminism and gender theory, but many of the same concepts are applicable in critical race theory, queer theory and others like them. Frantz Fanon's views merit a look where race and decolonization are concerned.  Here again, we see mere political reform as being insufficient.  Wholesale cultural change, in which "redemptive violence" is suggested to play a role in exorcising deeply internalized colonization and white supremacy, is said to be what's necessary. 

There is nothing wrong, of course, with a historically colonized nation wanting to return to its cultural roots and reclaim its language and symbols in addition to political independence. However, the Mau Mau tactics employed by Black Lives Matter and the South African Fallist Movement, not to mention the horrific spate of farm murders also in South Africa should remind us not to view decolonizing struggles and efforts through too rosy a lense.  It is tragic that these kinds of theories may drive people of color and the third world to learn the hard way, just as Europe did in its wars of nationalism and religion, and later with fascism and communism, that liberal principles are not mere social and cultural constructs designed to legitimize the rule of the privileged, but very much the opposite: a bulwark that protects all people, regardless of color or identity, from the terrors of mob and state violence. 

Radical feminism and anti colonial racial nationalism came into their own on college campuses in the 1980s. A part of their success was due to the vacuum left on the left by the decline of socialism and trade unionism during the Reagan/Thatcher era.  Yet they did not suddenly materialize in that time, but rather evolved alongside of the broader new left of the 1960s. And that is where our focus will turn next.

... to be continued in Part 5: Radical Ruckus

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