Thursday, 6 July 2017

Beware Sargonism

Lord Keynes over at Social Democracy for the 21st Century is a sharp fellow.  He makes the following observation:
Ever since Gamergate, there has been a newfound hostility to SJWism, Cultural Leftism, and Third Wave feminism amongst some Liberals and leftists, especially the young.
This movement has manifested itself in the popular YouTube personalities like these: 
(1) Sargon of Akkad(2) Dave Rubin, The Rubin Report(3) Gad Saad 
The most popular of these are probably Sargon of Akkad and Dave Rubin.  The ideology of these latter two is rapidly degenerating into Classical Liberalism and libertarianism-lite, because they lack any alternative perspective on economics.
Keynes later warns us:
"Sargonism,” if we can call it that, is an intellectual dead end, and a Hayekian-lite rehash of the libertarian movement of the early 2010s. Don’t be seduced."
Sargon of Akkad (the Kekistani, not the Mesopotamian) comes in for a lot of flak and criticism, most of it unjustified.  On any given day, he's attacked from the neoreactionary right for being a cuck and a liberal sellout.  From the left he's attacked for being a nazi, a misogynist and an all round garbage person.  Welcome to the club, Sargon.  If you're catching flak from both sides, it means you're doing something right.

But Lord Keynes's issues are not so easily dismissed, although Sargon does come across as recognizing some need for curbs on the excesses of capitalism.  But this is not merely about Sargon himself, but about the recent surge in opposition to the excesses of cultural leftism overall.  Just about every anti-SJW space I've seen online seems prone to a sort of rightward drift.  The SJW criticism of libertarianism and liberalism as a sort of camel's nose that once let in the tent is quickly followed by a more decidedly reactionary and even hateful body does seem to verify itself with disheartening frequency in anti-SJW spaces.  It was largely for this reason that I decided to involve myself in the alt-left.

When I began with my various internet personas in the spring of 2016 - the Alternative Left Facebook page, Ernest Everhard (then called Agent Commie) this blog (then called Samizdat Chronicles) and the Samizdat Broadcasts on YouTube, I did so largely in reaction to what I saw as being the flaws, sins and omissions of the otherwise very crucial and necessary anti-SJW, anti-cultural left movement that had emerged since Gamergate and the migrant rape crisis in Europe.

I had very mixed feelings about the so called cultural libertarian movement. On the one hand, I was delighted to see some kind of systemic critique and pushback against the excesses of intersectional, postmodern leftism. But I had as many problems with a lot of these pundits as I did with the regressive left. It was as a result of these problems, the successes at the time of the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns, and some personal and private successes that I'd had in my own activism in the real world, that pushed me to the point where I decided I couldn't stay silent any longer.

The issues that I have with the cultural libertarian and skeptical communities are basically these: 1) I distrust the libertarian stance on economics and 2) I saw and continue to see these movements and their supporters repeatedly overshoot the mark in their opposition to political correctness and descend into genuinely hateful and spiteful views. It's one thing to rightly object to the campus feminist's love of censorship or bouts of misandry. It's quite another to attack her personally, mock her appearance and weight, and engage in doxing, threats and the like.  Like the social justice warriors, the cultural libertarians - who inevitably succumb to capture from the alt-right, are essentially postmodern: they're movements of identity and self serving moral relativism, not movements of principle.

Another problem with both the SJWs and the Alt-Right is that both are economically blind, and this blindness is actually driving a lot of the toxic narratives on both sides. No, Ms. Intersectional Feminist and Mr. Neoreactionary, neither the patriarchy nor the Elders of Zion are out to ruin your life. You're victims of rapacious global capitalism.  This is exactly where the unions were telling us we'd end up back in the mid 1990s when globalization, deregulation, privatization and free trade were touted as the ultimate panacea. 

The social injustices sustained by women and people of color, as well as the economic dislocation suffered by working class white males, had no means of articulating itself via economic theory, so the only thing either one could do was to keep doubling down on a cultural or identitarian critique that has no chance of addressing their real grievances because the whole realm of political economy is essentially invisible to them.  But, as long as these grievances are not effectively addressed, these movements will continue to exist and will only grow more strident.  The situation seemed hopeless to me until I saw the public enthusiasm for the campaign of Bernie Sanders for POTUS. Of course Sanders was far from perfect, but he showed that there was potential for a candidate running as a socialist, even in the USA.

The anti-SJW left is in a tricky position. It's turned out to be difficult to disentangle the culture of leftism - the revolutionary romanticism, as I think of it - from the actual economics of publicly or cooperatively owned (or at least regulated) economic institutions. It comes naturally to me because I have actual experience in housing cooperatives, labour unions and non-profit societies that are actually run by the same kinds of people who operate heavy machinery and crunch numbers in cubicles all day, instead of deconstructing the patriarchal elements of Shakespeare or LARPing as anarchist revolutionaries on college campuses. The real problem, though, is that the organs of the left have long since been hijacked by the kinds of people who figure that African blacks were the real lost tribes of Israel or that all penetrative sexual intercourse equates to rape. This loss of direction began innocently enough back in the 1970s, but is likely to be next to impossible to recover from except over a long time span, regardless of how harmful it is to the left. Narratives hold a powerful grip on the human mind.

Cultural libertarians and the skeptical community have a mirror image of the same problem. Their admirable message that free speech should be absolute and that the mob and the state have no business in the bedrooms of the nation gets too easily hijacked by people who figure a Jewish conspiracy is behind the decision to abandon the gold standard, or that the emergent trans-acceptance movement is the latest wedge of a cultural Marxist plot obsessed with destroying western civilization. 

Plus, neither the SJWs nor the alt-right have any kind of real answers to the economic side of either rising inequality or of national decline.  The entry level libertarian or Marxist platitudes they're respectively prone to expressing aren't going to cut it. Beneath the veneer of admiration for Che Guevara or Augusto Pinochet is virtually zero understanding of how macroeconomics actually work in any real appreciable way.   

People like Lord Keynes and myself are in a difficult position. We are navigating between Scylla and Charybdis, and the raft we're doing it on is not at all that seaworthy.  Sargon of Akkad, Dave Rubin and their ilk are one half of the map we need to not crash upon the rocks.  But if we don't likewise want to sink and drown, we'd do well to steer clear of the economic ideas Hayek and Friedman.  Civil libertarianism and a solid regulatory welfare state cannot be mutually exclusive.  In fact, they need each other.

Lord Keynes blogs regularly at Social Democracy for the 21st Century and can also be found on Twitter.  Highly recommended.

Blog Comments and Contributions

A few housekeeping details:

Yes, this blog does have a comments section.  Don't be afraid to use it.  I have, in the past, had to disable comments to stave off an invasion of leftbook trolls, but that's well in the past now.  Feel free to contribute to the conversation.  I can't promise that I'll always answer - I am a busy guy, after all, but it can't hurt to try if you feel you have something to add.  I'm all for debate and disagreement in good faith.  Our philosophies do not advance and improve otherwise.  But I have precious little patience for trolling and foot-stomping. I'm not obligated to slant the content of this blog to appease anybody.  So don't act as if I do.

Think you have what it takes to contribute to alt-left ideology and outlook?  I'm open to contributions.  In fact, The Alternative Left is in need of contributors that can keep the blog alive during those times that do come up where I'm unable to contribute for a while.  As I'm sure you've noticed, that does happen.  Plus more voices can't help but lead to wider outreach. 

If you are a regular reader of this blog or of other alt-left or similar ideological spaces, you should have a rough idea of what the overall outlook is.  In case you don't know, and if you do know it still can't hurt to recap, here's a rough outline of what tends to pass as alt-left:
  • Center left to left wing economics.  
  • Civil libertarianism.
  • Skeptical of identity politics.
  • Rejection of alt-right and SJW extremes.
Just to name a few.  Have something you'd like to contribute.  Let me know in the comments or email me at

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 2

Suppose one had a world view characterized by Wikipedia's definition of postmodernism, "an attitude of skepticism, irony or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality" and instead insisted on the primacy of identity and society in a manner that precluded a universal truth that would be binding on all of humanity.

Alongside this you cultivate an extreme distrust towards the social structures within which you lived.  You regard these structures as inherently dangerous to the identity group to which you belong, and indeed to all distinct identity groups to which people could belong, and this was a serious threat because on some level, you realize that identity is fundamental to human nature.  You live in a society that is inimical to your race, nationality, culture or religion and privilege other groups at the expense of yours.

However, you are nagged by doubts about whether these social structures could ever really be defeated, however much you might want them to be.  Perhaps the culture in which you live benefits you materially, or in some other way that you're unable or unwilling to be fully aware of, and this deters the kind of sustained pushback necessary to truly overthrow or separate from it.  Or maybe you can't shake the notion that these social structures are just too strong, and the group to which you belong has passed the point of no return in a terminal decline, and so you approach the whole issue with any of several reactions.  Grim resolve.  A smirk.  A kind of ironic nostalgia.

So as a result, the subgroup to which you belong is characterized by a considerable degree of angst and irony. The popular culture that appeals to you appropriates imagery (or sound or some other form of artistic or cultural creation) from the culture it despises and uses it in a deconstructive or even a subversive sort of way.  To the extent that your identity group becomes politically conscious, it adopts a counter-cultural and adversarial stance vis-a-vis the dominant culture, without pushing things to the point of outright revolt.  You do need the apparatus and institutions of the dominant culture to maintain your standard of living, after all, though you understandably loathe to admit it.

With me so far?  Good.  Now here's the curveball.  You don't live in something like a patriarchy or a colonialist society.  The angst you're experiencing is not as a result of the recent failure of socialism, that grand experiment in democratic egalitarianism, though to be honest it was known to be corrupt and ineffectual for quite some time now.  Indeed, very much the opposite.  Your angst is as a result of the apparent unravelling of western civilization, whether you frame it in racial (white) or religious (Christian) terms.

The society that oppresses you is not marked by an ideology of racial supremacy, but rather an ideology of forced racial integration and contrived egalitarianism.  All around you: in academia, in the media, from the ever swelling ranks of government bureaucracy, and no small number of your family, friends and acquaintances, is repeated ceaselessly an incessant cant stressing the evils of your racial and ethnic group.  Only that group is white and European in origin.  Your identity and culture are being invisibilized under an endless barrage of egalitarian dogmas and smug platitudes stressing culpability for the evils of history.

Like your relatives on the postmodernist left, you feel that the last few hundred years and its insistence on the primacy of reason, universality, the individual, science and progress is a massive sham, and that your race and culture have suffered for it.  But you can't really blame the postmodern devils like racism and patriarchy for the decline of your own race and identity, since racialism, heteronormativity and patriarchy are very much what you actually believe in, were you to be honest. So this kind of rules out postmodernism proper, given its egalitarian implications, though it shares many other elements with what you believe.

So we'll have to call the worldview you've embraced since being redpilled something else.  Maybe ... the dark enlightenment?  Sure.  Why not?  And speaking of red pills, has anyone who's actually taken one made note of Neo's copy of Simulacra and Simulation - a significant work of decidedly postmodern philosophy by Jean Baudrillard when we first meet him in The Matrix?  Isn't it kind of remarkable that one of the neoreactionary movement's most well known metaphors is taken from a film franchise that deals very heavily in postmodernist themes such as reality creation and the distinction between the symbolic and the real?

Truth is, the right wing has been flirting with postmodernism for a while now.  And why shouldn't they?  If all cultures are equal and there's no objective means of deeming one superior to another, than on what grounds can a left that makes multiculturalist claims object to the claims of racial distinctiveness and demands for cultural protectionism made by the white nationalists?  Indeed, it was postmodern cultural relativism that laid the groundwork for a reemergence of white identity politics in the post WW2, post civil rights era.

Likewise, postmodern critiques of the scientific method as being mere ideology or social construct, or at the very least impossible to disentangle from the language, culture, politics and power relations from which it emerges, opened the door for the emergence and legitimization of intelligent design as being the equal of evolution, for climate change denial or for the acceptance of just about any conspiracy theory you can name.  And through its embrace of postmodernism, the left gave up its moral and intellectual right to tell any of these people that they're objectively wrong, and they all damn well know it.  Just try telling conspiracy theorists, white nationalists and religious neoreactionaries they're wrong.  The tone of voice you'll hear when they call you a cuck or a degenerate will sound strangely like the tone you get out of feminists and SJWs when they dismissively insist that you're a white male.

We're all writing our own realities now.  The road to a presidential administration claiming the validity of "alternative facts" in the face of "fake news" can really be said to have begun in the English departments of the 1980s and 90s with claims of "the death of the author" and the "deconstruction" of the western canon to reveal its subtexts of power and privilege.  How appropriately ironic.  Those who once insisted that free and open discourse, especially across racial and gender lines, is really impossible since "all principles are prejudiced" and "all discourse is about power" now find themselves trembling at the ascension to the White House of a man who flaunted all norms of decency and civil exchange across racial and gender lines.  Again, appropriately ironic.

To say nothing of an internet culture that is saturated with mimetic imagery that is used to deconstruct their opponent's political positions - meme magic so called, the ironic appropriation of corporate icons - think McDonald's "Mac Tonight" - synthesised and sampled vaporwave music, cynical youth culture - think 4chan, and even a whole satirical, synthesized religion to rival that of the Spaghetti Monster or the Sub-Genius: the Cult of Kek and its use of Pepe the Frog as a postmodern avatar of an ancient egyptian chaos deity.

All the while, the progressives can only look on with the same kind of horror that traditionalist conservatives did when the western canon and the Christian faith were savaged in the halls of academia and in popular culture alike.  It would be meme magic that would finally deconstruct the deconstructionists.  And good on them.  Quite an impressive feat for weaponized autism.

But many of the outcomes of all of this haven't been so good.  The extremes of skepticism, balkanized identity, cynicism, bitterness and defeatism that were pioneered by the French postmodernists and have gradually migrated across the political spectrum over the last few decades have left the western world hopelessly divided and bereft of either the will or the know-how to sort itself back out again.  Though originally thought of as an antidote to a potential reemergence of totalitarian ideology, postmodernism may well have backfired, and itself become a vehicle for the reemergence of willfully anti-rational fanaticism and hatred, both on the right and on the left.

There are no doubt dark days ahead.

Read Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 1.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Opposition to the SJWs

The SJW types have peaked in recent years.  They are institutionally dominant - in colleges, mainstream media and so on.  But that actually isn't a good sign for them.  Holding institutional power but lacking in actual cultural vigor is a sign of waning influence.  And don't mistake shrill fanaticism for cultural vigor, they're poles apart.   There's a lot of resentment and discontent with them now.  For most of the 2000s, people like me who were critical of the excesses of political correctness were kind of an odd breed.   The winds of popular opinion and cultural progress were in the sails first of the so called new atheists and their criticisms of conservative Christianity, and then of the massive proliferation of social justice and feminist blogs.  

That's not the case anymore, and the social justice crowd would be in a world of trouble if they didn't enjoy such high levels of ideological protectionism in academia and mainstream media.  Their purity spiralling and fanaticism is reflective of deep seated fear - the tide has turned against them and they know it.

I think that if you compare things to, say, four years ago, there's quite a bit of anger and frustration with the SJWs that simply wasn't there before. In fact, you didn't have terms like SJW or regressive left before, say, 2014 or so.  This was because before then, the kinds of views we associate with the SJWs were hegemonic, at least in their respective theaters of operation, particularly racial and sexual politics.  The hysterics we're seeing out of them now are because they're facing something they haven't faced in a long time, and that's real opposition.  

Thing of it is, the inertia of ideas has a long term effect.  Apparently rising popularity of SJW types of ideas and activism today is in part due to the inertia of their ideas over the decades.  It's not going to collapse overnight.  Kind of like the religious right, it's going to be a long process.  I think you can compare the SJWs of the Obama era to where the religious right was in George W. Bush's time.  Perhaps maximal in terms of actual institutional power, and their supporters were at a level of peak belief and fanaticism.  But the vigor and vitality had shifted to their opponents, and had been for a while.  The religious right was faltering by the late 1990s.  Anyone under 30 in the Bush years was quoting Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens etc. as if they were gospel.  How ironic.  And you're seeing levels of religiosity declining to this day because of it.  The SJWs are, I think, headed in the same direction

So the SJWs peaked in terms of institutional power during the Obama years, and you can see the results of this in the vitriol shown by mainstream media towards Trump.  But the mere fact that this vitriol is now visible and ostentatious is itself a sign that we've turned a corner.  If the SJWs were truly hegemonic, Hillary Clinton would now be president and these issues wouldn't be a matter of controversy.  Shrillness and hysteria is a common reaction of movements when it begins to dawn on them that they ain't gonna pull it off.  

As to the democratic party capitulating to the SJWs, well, would this be the same democratic party that lost, if only by a narrow margin, last November.  The same Democratic party that lost the House in 2010, gone from a 60 seat supermajority in '08 to a 46 seat minority today, many hundreds of state legislature seats and how many governorships?  Twelve is the figure I've seen.  

Now, does this mean the Democrats are going to suddenly make a dramatic change of course?  Of course not.  Again, these kinds of changes take a long time to really play themselves out.  Movements as given over to fanaticism as the SJWs don't give in nearly that easily, and institutional change could well have to wait until the current crop retires or moves on from their positions of influence.  The DLC has been almost laughably reluctant to look long and hard at their policy platform, their ideology and their broader political culture since Clinton's defeat.  It's all still the Russian's fault, the last time I checked.  Thing is though, Clinton's loss was narrow, and it's quite possible that Trump could really blow it and push support back in the Dem's direction.  Indeed, Trump's win has given them a cause to rally around.  A lot will depend on how things go in 2018 and 2020.
There's something to be said for the fact that there's more opposition [to the SJWS] than I'm giving credit for, and it's not always immediately apparent when you're at the peak until you've actually crossed it and started going down again.
There is a lot of opposition, but like I said, it's unorganized, and it doesn't really know how to organize.  That's the countervailing force.  That's the one thing the SJWs really have going for them.  The core of the anti-SJWs, typically net savvy younger white males, are not the types of people that are well disposed to working effectively together over a long term to achieve political goals, the occasional 4chan meme or prank notwithstanding.  

So while I think the SJWs have peaked, they will be around a while yet.  Quite a while.  There's a reason the colleges and most major news outlets are pro-SJW.  The SJWs are directly traceable to the west coast new left of the 1960s.  These guys did not peter out in the 1970s, contrary to popular belief.  They retreated into academia and they did not waste their time when they got there, again contrary to popular belief.  They stopped with the Marxist stance on economics, so the FBI finally left them alone.  They were no longer a threat to the real power after that.  So they didn't matter.  Except when they did.

Look at these French postmodernist philosophers they studied.  Derrida, Foucault and that whole crew.  They have a reputation for being a bunch of unintelligible gobbledygook.  And it was true to a fair extent.  But literary deconstruction is not a wasted skill.  It's why academic feminists are so damn good in flame wars.  They don't even bother wasting their time answering their opponent's arguments directly.  They dive right into the assumption that their opponents are merely defending a position of power and privilege, because that's all human behavior ever boils down to as far as they're concerned, and it drives their opponents - usually 4chan or manosphere types, batty.  Studying that stuff also leads to an understanding of narrative and cognitive framing.  They understand media, and they understand it on a social, economic and psychological level, not just its basic workings.  A lot of this goes back to the ideas of Herbert Marcuse, Antonio Gramsci, Rudi Dutschke and others had about a long march through the institutions, which ties into their hegemony in academia.  From there, they learned how to look at the way institutions work and how to coordinate their efforts to strategically apply pressure to get what they want.  The ideas of Saul Alinsky and stuff like that.  

Again, to their opponents, typically paleoconservatives, neoreactionaries and the right wing of the so called skeptic community - think YouTubers like Sargon of Akkad and the like, everything I've described above is what they call cultural Marxism.  It's all bad, horrible stuff because it's supposedly Marxism and we all know that didn't work from the history of the USSR.  Well that's just patent nonsense.  Cultural Marxism is a contradiction in terms.  Marx was adamant about the primacy of economic relations and how culture ultimately flowed from that.  

Marx was proven right when this huge shift to the left in academia and the mainstreaming of feminism, multiculturalism, mass immigration and so on coincided with the mainstreaming of neoliberal capitalism.  And it makes sense because rapacious capitalism always needs new markets to expand into, and if women and minorities are going to provide that, then that's what's going to happen.  But the neoreactionaries and the paleocons can't see that.  They're totally fixated on Marx the way the dumb lefties can't get over Hitler.  And what's really funny is that they usually don't have a clue what Marx actually believed.  I suggest Marxist ideas to alt-rightists and they tend to actually like it, as long as it's not recognizably Marx to them.

The SJWs won't be defeated by anything on the right, because a lot of the population doesn't trust the right wing, and with good reason I think, and also because mainstream conservatism doesn't really mind the cultural left, truth be told.  It's a steam valve for dissent, for one thing.  Better a bunch of angry feminists than a revitalized trade union movement, for example.  That would be a real threat to corporate power.  Occupy Wall Street unnerved them, and I think it's kind of remarkable that the SJWs emerged so suddenly into the social media mainstream not too long after that.  

So the left can have the cultural stuff, since it's actually good for capital anyway, and the right keeps what it really wants: a low tax, deregulated economic structure.  Weak unions and so on, as well as a hawkish foreign policy.  A strong capacity to project power in the middle east to protect petrodollar interests.  The deep state is happy with that, they could give a rat's ass about college feminists being oppressed by privileged white males, and are frankly glad, I suspect, that such things are a huge big hairy deal to the left.  The culture wars distract people from what's really happening at the deep state level, and that's where the real action is.  So this is a perfect arrangement for them.
I'm thinking back to the height of the Religious Right... maybe, late 90s, early 00s?  This was the last time the GOP could run on something like the marriage amendment and it was a winning issue for them nationally.  Was it obvious at the time that the religious right was about to begin the decline?  Not necessarily.  The boomers had turned sharply to the right in the 80s and Generation X was also a right-leaning generation.  Only the oldest of millennials had come of age by that time and it was unknown what their voting patterns would be like.
I frankly think the religious right peaked in the late 1980s and kind of plateaued through much of the 1990s.  The 90s were harder on the religious right than you might think.  The big GOP win in 1994 was kind of a last hurrah, so to speak. The Clinton/Lewinsky affair, I think, was an early major signal that moral conservatism was in decline.  There was all kinds of wailing and gnashing of teeth in right wing circles back then over the fact that Clinton was not removed from office because of that.  The death of outrage, I remember conservative pundits calling it.  People just didn't care that much.  It was between Bill, Monica and Hillary as far as a lot of people were concerned.  

And even during the Bush years, this kind of thinking didn't really change all that much.  The GOP was sitting pretty when it came to electoral success, but the culture was slipping away from them and they damn well knew it.  The religious right were soon to lose over gay marriage, which was the death blow for the religious right, I think, though that wasn't finalized until the Obama years.  Sure, the religious right is still around and managed to get one of their guys as VP, but frankly, I think they're about as undead as their purported savior at this point.
Time will tell.  One piece of evidence could be whether the Dems run a Kamala Harris type in 2020 and go all-in on the identity politics campaign again.  An even bigger piece of evidence will be whether it works or not.  And yet even more important may be analyzing demographic trends in 2020 and (more importantly) 2024 and beyond, when the generation after millenials starts voting and we start getting some data on how conservative/liberal this generation will be and what trends will continue/end (is there a name of this generation yet?)
Well yes, that will be big.  A lot depends on what happens in 2018.  A lot more depends on 2020.  The post-millennials are quite conservative from what I've heard, but it's too early to tell, like you say.  As for the democrats, it doesn't look like they're going to change all that much.  The mainstream voices on the US left - the HuffPost, Salon and so on, are doubling down on the intersectional feminism, and so on.  It's hard to tell if that's what the base really believes, or if the privilege checking tail is wagging a much more populist dog at this point.  

As for the intersectional SJWs, that movement is very self destructive.  Women of color are calling out their white sisters for being "white feminists", black cishet males are being called "the white people of black people" and cisgender gay males are being accused of being more misogynistic than even straight white dudes, if you can believe it.  Plus they're lionizing Islam now, with leaders like Linda Sarsour and the like.  Squaring feminism with the circle of Shari'a law is doubtlessly an irrational fool's errand to a rational person, but irrationality has long since passed critical mass, and there's a lot of woke pink hat wearers that are more than prepared to take the whole thing at face value. 

But then, the opposition doesn't win elections.  The incumbent party loses them, so what happens in 2018 and 2020 will have a lot more to do with the performance of the Tweeter in Chief's administration than any kind of shift of the ideological poles that might occur between now and then.  I don't find that a comforting thought.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 1

This is not an Article on Postmodernism
The alt-right crops up frequently in social media.  When Hillary Clinton cast the alt-right as a boogeyman in contrast to her own 2016 election campaign, this was its appropriately ironic break into the political mainstream.  I say appropriately ironic because the true nature of the alt-right has been obscured by much of the media attention that's been paid to it.

The alt-right is not chiefly about white nationalism.  White nationalism is about white nationalism.  Not all WNs are alt-right, and more traditional, orthodox neo-nazis tend not to like the alt-right.   While there is plenty of racism on the alt-right, that's not its defining characteristic.  In this two part series, I attempt to explain what I think postmodernism is and the effects it has on society, and then assert that what really defines the alt-right is that it represents the right wing's embrace of postmodernism.

Postmodernism is a slippery concept to pin down.  In spite of this, it comes in for a lot of criticism and is often scapegoated for western civilization's going in the wrong direction.  Wikipedia describes postmodernism as follows:
"While encompassing a broad range of ideas, postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality. Instead, it asserts to varying degrees that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality."
This page offers some additional insights:
Postmodernism is "post" because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characteristic of the so-called "modern" mind. 
A common denominator in many descriptions of postmodernism is a loss of faith in the project of the enlightenment and a propensity towards radical forms of cultural relativism.  Other features commonly associated with postmodernism include:
  • A number of French philosophers, including Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, among others.  
  • Rejection of metanarratives, which are seen as all encompassing truths universally applicable to the whole of the human race. 
  • Poststructuralism, a rejection of a model of understanding human culture by way of its relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure. 
  • Deconstruction, a means of studying literature that "that questions all traditional assumptions about the ability of language to represent reality and emphasizes that a text has no stable reference or identification because words essentially only refer to other words and therefore a reader must approach a text by eliminating any metaphysical or ethnocentric assumptions through an active role of defining meaning, sometimes by a reliance on new word construction, etymology, puns, and other word play."
  • Postmodernism became increasingly prominent in academia after the Second World War, alongside the somewhat related concept of critical theory, associated with the Frankfurt School.  Postmodernism's skepticism towards enlightenment ideas dovetailed with critical theory's mounting assertions that the Marxist critique of capitalism was merely the tip of the iceberg, and atrocities ranging from colonialism to the world wars and the holocaust suggested that there was something inherently wicked about western civilization itself.  
  • Concepts such as cultural hegemony, and mixtures of Freudian concepts with critiques of political economy to describe methods by which marginalized and oppressed peoples internalize their oppression.
  • Orthodox Marxism, and especially Marxist-Leninism, was seen as more part of the problem than part of the solution, as the revelations of atrocities inside the USSR came out.  Furthermore, the working classes in the capitalist world had no real interest in overthrowing capitalism, as Marx suggested they should have.  Rather, their aims were simply to have sufficient income and leisure with which to enjoy the products and services provided under capitalism.  Worse still, capitalism was proving superior to Soviet socialism in terms of actually delivering the goods and providing a material standard of living. For most people in the 1st world, leastwise.
  • Given the working class's acceptance of capitalism based on rising living standards, critiques of capitalism emerged that tended to more strongly emphasize social alienation and commodity fetishism, and a resulting anti-consumerist disposition.  Related to this were abstract, appropriationist and expressionist forms of art, and irony laden popular culture that positioned itself as a kind of protest against consumerism and commodification.
  • If the working class was not willing to play the revolutionary role that Marxism cast for them, other constituencies of people would have to be found whose experiences of alienation under not just capitalism, but western civilization as a whole made them better suited for revolutionary struggle: the 3rd world, racial minorities and people of color, women, LGBT people, Muslims and so on.  And so identity politics were cast into the mix.
  • Bodies of critical theory rooted in identity politics: critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory and so on likewise used postmodern methods to convey their messages and deconstruct the classical canon of "dead white males."  These bodies of theory became increasingly influential in academia and beyond.
  • Implicit in the blend of postmodernism, critical theory and identity politics is a rejection of any separation of scholarship and activism, or for that matter of livelihood and activism or of personal lifestyle choice and activism.  The concepts of liberal impartiality and private/public distinction were called into question as just more western liberal privileging of, well, privilege. 
  • As such, the "social justice warriors" so called have no qualms about the use, or one could say abuse, of institutional power against their political opponents, or of anyone deemed privileged, for they maintain that the broader society in which everyone operates consists of little more than a network of oppressive social systems designed to further uphold privilege and exclude the marginalized.
The above concepts gestated in academia over a span of decades, and made themselves felt in academia and elsewhere in the form of what was called political correctness.  It was the emergence of the internet and social media, however, that gave what had until then had been a largely avant-garde movement exponentially greater reach with which to reach into a mainstream popular culture that was largely defenseless against the deconstructive techniques of postmodern critical theory.  

The largely rationalist and modernist libertarian individualists who dominated internet culture were as helpless before the postmodern SJW onslaught as the religious traditionalists had so recently been before those same rationalists.  The sharpest skeptics on the internet cast their facts, figures and logic in vain against an onslaught of identitarian ideologues for whom the very terms of rational debate were dismissed as mere devices of and rationalizations for hegemonic white male privilege.  

What was worse, the institutions of knowledge and culture, staffed and managed as they were by graduates from colleges where the varied forms of critical theory were taught, tended to take the side of the social justice warriors.  To legions of social media moderators and blogs covering a whole gamut of subjects, liberal claims to a universal notion of equal treatment rang hollow.  There was no such thing as racism or sexism against the "privileged" and some of these people had no qualms about getting personal or even attacking the families or livelihoods of anyone who dared disagree.  There were no bad methods, only bad people, after all.

But at the heart of postmodernism's strength was also one central weakness: what exempts it from its own critiques and techniques of deconstruction?  If all "truths" are relative social constructs that are more accurate reflections of the fault lines of power in a given context, does this statement also apply to an academic and popular culture that's become infused with the postmodern forms of left-leaning critical theory?
"The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism "cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself."
The cultural luminaries in academia and mainstream media were not expecting the answer they were to get.

Read Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 2 here.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

How About I Decide What I Find Attractive?

Sorry. Entitled Douchebag isn't a Gender
Identity.  Not even on Tumblr.
The stupidity and egocentrism of the social media age could not be better distilled into its finest quintessence, than with the proliferation of blogs, tweets and posts telling you why you're a terrible person for your dating preferences or who you think is or is not good looking.

That every person of the age of consent is completely within their rights to select their own partners - be it for a one night stand or 'till death do you part - on the basis of whatever criteria they wish, provided the chosen partner is likewise of the age of consent and, well, consents, should be common sense.

But common sense is just so last generation.  Or at least pre-social media.  Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, the woke and the wise on every internet and social media platform you can name feel quite within their rights to tell you why you're evil Hitler for excluding some category or another of people from your list of preferred mates.

Consider Donovan Trott's June 19 2017 piece in the Huffpost, entitled  [emphasis mine] "An Open Letter To Gay, White Men: No, You’re Not Allowed To Have A Racial Preference."

Yeah, you read that right.  After only very, very recently, it would seem, after winning the right to have their own sexual preference after a few thousand years or so of heterosexual clergy, a few of which I'm sure weren't pedophiles, telling gay men they weren't allowed to have a sexual preference, they now have superwoke HuffPost columnists telling them they can't have a racial preference.  In terms I'm sure we're all familiar with now.
To be clear, you’re allowed to describe the kind of guy you’re looking for and the things that turn you on but specifying the race of your desired partner is a line that is not to be crossed. It comes off as racist and that’s because it is.
Donovan, I need to explain something.  To be clear, you're either allowed to describe the kind of guy you're looking for and the things that turn you on, or you're not allowed to.  What you don't get to do is qualify this allowance in a way that advantages yourself - or not - just because you find some people's criteria to be offensive or threatening.  Yes, it may be racist. It's also their choice to make.

And - big surprise - the same threadbare rationalization for any self serving double standard that the woke and the marginalized can use to exempt themselves from the requirements they seek to impose on others, and excuse any shitty behavior they wish:
But what if Black and Asian men choose to only date other Black and Asian men? Isn’t that racist too? No... and you tried it. Look, all men are created equal but all men are not valued equally, especially in this country. Every Black and Asian man who grew up on this planet grew up surrounded by positive images of whiteness and white men. Therefore, our desire to date within our own race, when we choose to, is not rooted in any assertion made by society that we’re better than anyone else. I know this is a lot to digest so I’ll just boil it down to this: if your preference for a partner supports an existing racial hierarchy which marginalizes minorities, than your preferences are racist. And yes, that includes you rice queens and chocolate chasers too. Fetishizing me is not a compliment, it’s propping up harmful sexual stereotypes and, it too, is racist.
If you don't like dating blacks or asians, you're racist.  And if you do like dating blacks or asians, you're ... well, you get the picture, you privileged white cishet male shitlord.  Because oppressive 'Eurocentric beauty standards' or the like.

Poor bloody gay men.  Bad enough God apparently hates them for their sexual preferences.  They're also the most misogynistic men for preferring men to women as partners, according to some especially TERFy feminist groups like the old Redstockings.   And their communities are, we are told, rife with casual misogyny and even sexual assault, to boot.

Not that straight men - or gay women - get a pass, of course.  If you do not know by now, you are "transphobic" if you do not date "women" who have penises.  Says YouTuber and Everyday Feminism columnist Riley Dennis:
If you're a woman who only likes women, go ahead, identify as a lesbian, but some women have penises, and if the fact that some lesbians might be attracted to those women offends you, it's because you don't think trans women are real women.  I'm trying to show that preferences for women with vaginas over women with penises might be partially informed by the influence of a cissexist society.
Because genital compatibility apparently has nothing to do with sexual compatibility, which apparently has nothing to do with relationship compatibility overall.  It's all just a gigantic conspiracy, a massive machinery of oppression intended to oppress and marginalize trans women.  A stroke of logic reminiscent of the brilliance of anti PIV radical feminism.

Being homosexual or dating outside your race is a big no-no in a lot of racial nationalist groups, ranging from the hard white nationalist alt-right to the afrocentrists and black hebrew Israelites.  If your race was kings at some point in its history, you don't stray outside it to find love.  The problem with having royal blood, I suppose.  Part of the fine print that most people don't read when they sign up for racial nationalism is that they have all the sexual choice and relationship freedom of breeding farm animals.

Plus, it is an exercise of "thin privilege" to prefer non-obesity and even "height privilege" to not date those shorter than yourself.  And heaven help the woman who makes clear her preference for men of at least middle class income, if not more.

The public apparently knowing better than you do what you should and should not find attractive works as fervently in the negative as it does in the positive.  Meaning that academics, activists, journalists and entertainers are indeed qualified to tell you who you will not find attractive, as well as who you must find attractive.

Nowhere is this more true than for a straight male who dares express attraction for a woman, even if it is expressed via a compliment or a polite civil greeting.  Because 'social context' or some similar tripe, it simply isn't possible for a straight male to both respect women and be attracted to them.  Never mind biology and hormones, those twin fabrications of the white male patriarchy, male desire for the romantic or sexual companionship of women is entirely an expression of privilege and entitlement rooted in the belief that women aren't people and exist solely to appeal to men.  Who do these bloody men think they are, daring to find women beautiful and wanting to date or even sleep with them?  What is this world coming to?

It is similarly this sense of entitlement and privilege that is the sole cause of men also not being attracted to any woman who feels he should be attracted to her or whomever she deems he should be.  Women reserve for themselves, of course, the right to be as raunchy as they want in their expressions of desire for any man.  Because, privilege and power, of course,

Intersectional feminism.  Your tax dollars, and increasingly, your advertising dollars, at work.

The core problem is that we've been so focused on the 'consenting' side of 'consenting adult' that we actually seem to have forgotten the 'adult' side and what this actually entails.  Consent is vital, of course, but adulthood no less so.  So let me break this down for you.

I am an adult.  This means I have agency and a legally recognized capacity for responsibility for my actions.  I live with the consequences of the choices I make.  So now, dear internet, let me make some things very, very clear to you.

I decide who I find attractive, or not.  On the basis of whatever criteria I wish.  The criteria may be superficial, prejudiced or even, in alt-right parlance, degenerate.  Think of it what you will.  That does not alter the fact that my mature selfhood entitles me to find beautiful or sexy whomever I wish.  Some preferences should no doubt be taken to a psychiatrist's office.  But that is rather beside the point.

I may peaceably express this attraction to anyone capable of consent.  Note that caveat.  This rules out children and others made vulnerable due to lack of capacity to consent.  I should also observe the rules of good conduct established in whatever forum or medium that I am using to express this sentiment.  There is a time and a place and good and bad ways to express these feelings.  But to express them is the right of all adult people.

Grey areas emerge elsewhere.  Professional relationships, employee-employer relationships and the like are at high risk of being seriously complicated or even completely compromised by the introduction of so personal a factor to the relationship.  A good case can be made that such sentiments do not belong in many kinds of business and fiduciary relationships, but I hesitate to make sweeping judgements in such circumstances.

If said attraction is not reciprocated, and I am advised of this, that is the end of the matter and I should definitely refrain from further pursuit of the matter.  Because I, like all adults, am at complete liberty to not find beautiful or attractive whomever I wish.  Period.  End of story.  Further qualifications are not required of anyone beyond that.

If the attraction is reciprocated, where things go from there is between me and the consenting adult towards whom I've expressed that attraction.  Whether a single hookup, or 'till death do us part, or a simple coffee date, or netflix and chill, or a dungeon so perverse as to make the Marquis de Sade blush, or nowhere at all, respecting the caveat consenting adult, the outcome is entirely up to me and whoever that may be.  That is all there is to it.

The beauty of what I've outlined is that it's actually quite simple.  It does not depend for its validity upon concepts that might be all the rage on social media, but are never the less simply not relevant to the core right of all consenting adults to have their own attractions and preferences.  Genitals don't matter.  Skin color doesn't matter.  Social context doesn't matter.  Existing social hierarchies don't matter.  Privilege doesn't matter.  Intersectionality doesn't matter.  Declining birth rates for your race don't matter.  Holy books written thousands of years ago don't matter. This is not rocket science, people.  We're adults: you own you, I own me.  What's complicated about this?

Emotional blackmail does not belong in healthy relationships.
Sexual shaming does not belong in healthy relationships.
Weaponizing political or religious ideologies to control people in intimate settings does not belong in healthy relationships.

So let me say it one last time, in bold and colored text for emphasis:

Marginalized identities, religious dogmas and contrived racist or nationalist loyalties, do not give anyone the right to override anyone of consenting age's right to decide for themselves who they will or will not be into romantically, sexually or otherwise.  Period.  And do not, dear reader, let ANYBODY tell you otherwise.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Rise of Right Wing SJWs

"I'm not Leaving Until I've Castrated Every Last One
of You White Male Shitlords!"
The women-only screenings of the recent Wonder Woman film have prompted both praise and criticism on social media.  In other news, water is wet.  Much of the praise has been about its feminist and girl power themes, with little mention of the directing, acting, writing and production - which I've been told were all quite good. But there's been criticism too.  Most of that being of the fact that the feminism of Wonder Woman was not sufficiently queer or intersectional.  In other news, the sun is hot.

When it comes to issues of representation in media and the whole dynamic of identity politics (bleh!) behind it, It's the obstinacy in both camps, and the anxieties underlying said obstinacy that I find notable.  If a film comes out that is entirely directed and produced by women, that features exclusively female leads, if not an exclusively female cast, and is intended to be enjoyed exclusively by women, I could honestly care less.  Am I going to go see the recent Wonder Woman movie?  No.  But I didn't go and see Super Man either.  No interest.  So there's no need to involve my country's Orwellian human rights boards in my movie going tastes, because at least I'm consistent.  

But I am suspicious of the "Geek Feminists" of this world who strike me as being excessively preoccupied with identity to the point of obsession, and would need a constant deluge of such films to quench their need for constant acknowledgement of the greatness of their gender.  It seems oddly reminiscent of pre WW2 Germanic Volkisch.  Very similar dynamic.  The ongoing implication that "girl power" and women's equality in general somehow necessarily implies a rejection of men or the creation of women-only spaces should be disquieting for people with a genuine interest in gender equality.  Women and men do need to be equal, but they also need to coexist, get along together and generally accept one another.  To a fair extent, I do think some criticism of the girl-power obsession in our culture is warranted, and it will be a while yet before mainstream media steps up to the plate to deliver.

But just as ridiculous do I find the anxieties displayed by certain kinds of men towards releases like Wonder Woman, or to Rey's character in the new Star Wars films, or their outrage on social media over an all female Ghostbusters reboot that amounted to little more than gendered accusations of cultural appropriation.  A lot of this just reeks of castration anxiety to me.  A mirror image of the kind of fears of male virility that underlie a lot of pop cultural feminism.  And we're seeing a very toxic interplay between these two camps repeat itself over and over and over again on social media.  Donglegate, Elevatorgate, Shirtstorm, Gamergate.  On and on and on.   

One of the main reasons I've abandoned the mainstream political spectrum is that neither side is really exemplary when it comes to stuff like this.  It became fashionable on social media from about 2014 onwards to rail against "SJWs" and their endless Orwellian crusades against free speech, especially on college campuses.  Their obsessions with safe spaces, trigger warnings, hate speech, harassment and so on.  It should be apparent by now that I'm no fan of any of that.

But let's take a bit of a step back here.  I find it astounding just how prevalent the view is that censorship, moral panic, the propensity to read absurd agendas into otherwise innocuous pop-culture products and other forms of projecting personal anxieties onto the broader society is something exclusive to the left.

Anyone remember the Moral Majority?  The PMRC?  The Satanic panic of the 1980s?  I sure do.  Conservatives like Jack Thompson were going after video games for their violent content well before Anita Sarkeesian did.  What of the Comic Codes of the 1950s?  What of McCarthyism and Hollywood blacklisting?  A big, BIG part of the reason why people like me who had concerns with political correctness and speech codes were brushed off for as long as we were is because the center left in much of the western world was so accustomed to censorious moral panics coming from the right that they couldn't believe or accept that it could possibly come from the left (despite the obvious examples behind the Iron Curtain), even as their embrace of hate speech laws, date rape kangaroo courts on college campuses and so on laid the foundations for their own kinds of McCarthyism. 

Plus, I don't think we can say that censoriousness and prudishness on the right have been confined to the ash heap of history, and it is now a libertarian right defending free speech against a regressive left hell bent on creating the world of 1984, as the dominant culture wars.  What I would call a right wing kind of SJW - apparently called culture warriors, is definitely becoming a thing now.

For instance: the aforementioned outrage over women-only screenings of the new Wonder Woman film causing massive backlashes on social media and even lawsuits.  Howls for Kathy Griffin to be fired from CNN (despite not technically being an employee there) or even prosecuted after her admittedly tasteless image of herself holding up Donald Trump's severed head went viral on Twitter.  Conservative pundit Tomi Lahren being sacked from the Blaze for being pro-choice.  Milo Yiannopoulos being dropped from Breitbart and losing a book deal with Simon and Schuster over controversial comments regarding sex with minors.  

Donald Trump himself has indicated that he would like to tighten defamation laws.  In the UK, Conservative leader Theresa May made cracking down on unbridled expression on the internet in the wake of recent terrorist attacks there part of her campaign, and this may well have contributed to her disappointing performance in the election.  Those brave defenders of free speech: the religious right are up in arms over video game Far Cry 5, which apparently features a Christian Cult as antagonists.  I could go on.  Breitbart keeps 'em coming just as fast and just as stupid as Buzzfeed does.

I tried warning regressive leftists over the last several years.  They were fooling themselves if they thought they were going to be able to keep the tactics of the angry twitter mob to themselves forever.  If they could get a CEO fired for having once opposed gay marriage, how long would it take before Christian conservatives - who are still numerous and powerful in some places - would be able to get a CEO fired for transgressing some boundary and, more importantly, having a political affiliation they didn't like?  As if there was no historical precedent for it, or anything.  And once that did happen, the social justice mob would have zero credible ground from which to cry foul, since they had so recently used all the same tactics themselves.  

You can guess their responses:
  • You're a racist.
  • The progressives were never, ever going to lose power because the growing hispanic vote.
  • You're xenophobic.
  • Stop sympathizing with young Earth creationists.
Yada yada yada.

Truth is, though, I don't think it's the case that one side is valiantly libertarian while the other advocates for the world of 1984.  It's more the case that one side advocates for the world of 1984 while the other advocates for the world of The Handmaid's Tale.  And the other is just as predictable in their dismissals of valid objections and warnings about their own pet causes:
  • Communism doesn't work so STFU.
  • <Post a Moon Man or Pepe the Frog meme>
  • Degenerate!
  • Cuck!
Again, yada yada yada.

Can't say I'm enthusiastic about either one.

If you ask me, it would be kind of nice if the redpills and manosphere types, and the 3rd wave feminists, could take their sexual hangups and their parental issues to the psychologist's office, where they belong.  If nothing else, our geek culture would be far better for it.

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Theory of Surplus Value

I've seen the Marxist theory of surplus value summed up in the following way:

The Capitalist - the Boss - pays workers to produce products for them to sell.  In exchange for this, they pay the workers a wage.  However, the wage is always less than the product is worth.  This is the only way profit can be produced.  The workers can never receive the full value of what they produce.  This is the inherent inequality of capitalism.
I would be lying if I said I never bought into this line of reasoning.  It made perfect sense to me in my Marxist/Anarchist days, while in my early 20s.   But it has been a long time since I've bought into this line of reasoning.

Don't get me wrong.  Capitalism can be, and usually is, exploitative.  But I don't think it necessarily has to be.  The problem with it is not that the workers on the shop floor do not receive all of the company's revenue in the form of compensation.  The problems occur when most of the capital - ownership of the means of production, to use the Marxist jargon - is concentrated into relatively few hands and the bulk of the population is reduced to propertyless proletariat with no real bargaining power.  At that point, excessive profits become a form of rent seeking, meaning generation of revenue due to leverage in the marketplace rather than through actual production.  Not surprisingly, this happens a lot in this day and age.

The Marxist notions of surplus value go too far the other way, though. It's also important to note that Marx developed many of his theories at a time when capitalism was almost feudal in its nature.  The vast majority of wealth was inherited, or extorted from the land, or more aptly, the people who worked the land.  Either at home or from indigenous peoples in other parts of the world.  Property, plant and equipment were owned outright by someone who had wealth sufficient to come into possession of them.  The rise of joint-stock corporations, themselves still novel things in the early 19th century, changed this somewhat.  I say somewhat because only the wealthy could afford to invest.  But it also made a non exploitative form of capitalism possible.

The theory of surplus value, strictly applied, ignores the fact that not all "profit" - revenue generated above and beyond what the workers are compensated - ends up in the pocket of some top hat and coat tails tycoon. Though even if some of it does, is some degree of compensation for the risk that the capitalist took in staking venture capital on the company not warranted? Plus, much of the "surplus value" is reinvested in the company with the intent, at least, of making it more productive. Libertarian arguments against taxation run up against a similar flaw: sometimes the taxation is invested in infrastructure and other capital projects that can't or won't be provided by the private sector for whatever reason, but nonetheless are vital for the productivity and ultimately the profitability of the private sector.

Lack of capital markets, meaning a lack of means of investing today to make a profit tomorrow somehow, is the achilles heel of socialism, or at least the 19th century conceptions of socialism that romantic leftists ever since then, seem enamored with.  Whether a system of universal state ownership or an interlinked network of producer's, consumer's and tenant's co-operatives, the inability to 'go public' and raise capital to increase or expand operations hamstrings economic growth and development.  Some or another system of capital accumulation seems essential to a successful economy, and seems contradictory to most popular conceptions of revolutionary socialism.

Which isn't to say that the objectives of socialism: greater equality and reduced alienation of labor, need to be abandoned. Indeed they would seem to be essential. Left to its own devices, capital accumulation in a capitalist economy would have the opposite sort of effect through overinvestment and eventual downturn.  So what can be done?

Better ideas for our time would include one or more sovereign wealth funds. This is state investment in capital markets, with growth and dividends contributing to public finance.  From this a citizen's dividend or a social dividend, either in the direct form of a guaranteed income or a non transferrable share in said sovereign wealth fund could be issued all citizens.   Employee stock ownership can achieve a similar kind of effect at the workplace level.  

My preference is for these kinds of market socialist ideas.  Classic social democratic proposals: progressive taxation, strong unions, loose money policies, higher minimum wages and so on are fine, but face resistance in the form of investment strike and capital flight.   Businesses pass the cost increases onto consumers, and begin well funded and professional PR campaigns to discredit the government attempting to implement said policies.  This is done frequently and effectively by corporate lobbies intent on resisting a regulatory and redistributionist clampdown.  The Tea Party movement in America, for instance, was largely health insurance industry astroturf cooked up to resist Obamacare.  

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Argumentative Styles of the SJWs and the Alt-Right

If you spend any length of time online at all, you will no doubt have heard references to the social justice warriors - SJWs, and the alt-right.  If you are reading this blog, it is likely you have more familiarity with both of these groups than most people.  It is easy to be dismissive of them since the bulk of their strength is on the internet.  This would be foolishly complacent.  For good or ill, the internet has become an important, and in some cases dominant medium of communication for many people.  We live in among the most revolutionary times in human history as far as media and communication are concerned.  The emergence of the internet and social media rival the emergence of the printing press in terms of importance.

Certain styles of communication are better suited to certain mediums than others.  You may want to read this blog's previous entry on "The Medium is the Message" to get a better idea of how and why this is.  The swift emergence of the SJW and alt-right movements are due, in part, to their successful adoption of new media.  Most online communication is not face to face, and so the anonymity enables a higher degree of raw visceralness that is not typical of more town hall style politics.  It will be important going forward, therefore, to be aware of how these movements work and how they propagate their messages.

What follows is a comparison and contrast of the ideological and argumentative styles of the Social Justice Warriors and the Alt-Right.  Bear in mind before you proceed, dear reader, that we are all fallible human beings and that even the best of us can fall into the use of these tactics from time to time.  Also there are times when the use of a tactic listed below may well be appropriate.  Anger is a perfectly justifiable response to the advocacy of some particularly odious points of view.  But with SJWs and Alt-Rightists, these lapses are not occasional, and are quite often intrinsic to their whole belief system.

Manichean World View and Paranoid Style
SJWs and the Alt-Right see politics in terms of an all or nothing struggle between forces of pure good and ultimate evil, and perceive themselves as the victims of and last line of resistance against a supremely powerful and malignant conspiracy or monolithic system of oppression.  White supremacy or white genocide, patriarchy or gynocentrism.  The problem isn't so much that there are no conspiracies or systems of inequality in the real world.  The problem is that SJWs and Alt-Rightists tend to view conspiracy and oppression as being all encompassing - as "the motive force in historical events" as Richard Hofstadter put it in his essay on the Paranoid Style in American politics.  This allows for no middle ground, no neutrality and no shades of grey.  You are either with them or you're against them, and they will treat you accordingly.

Ends Justifying the Means and Double Standards
Because SJWs and the Alt-Right perceive the world in such stark, good vs evil terms, they're inclined to think that any action taken to defeat the "evil" side is justified.  Even if those actions would otherwise be seen as evil themselves.  Both judge themselves by their intentions, which are usually (in their minds, at least) good, while judging others by the real-world outcomes of their actions and favored policies.  Sometimes this goes as far as the entire moral compass of the Alt-Rightist or SJW being attuned to whether or not it advances their cause.  Some belief systems are explicit in their view that it is acceptable to lie in order to advance their cause.  This causes bewildering and disarming cognitive dissonance to the uninitiated.  Rational people perceive the gap between the stated good intentions and the often ugly actions taken to achieve them, especially with SJWs, and can experience paralyzing confusion, and may even wonder if it is not themselves who are in the wrong somehow.

Argument From Intimidation and Character Assassination
Both the SWJs and the Alt-Right frame their arguments in such a way as to impugn the character of anyone who doesn't agree unconditionally.  It is implied that only a racist, a bigot, a cuck or a degenerate would hold another point of view.  SJWs and the Alt-Right often assume a dominating posture and take on a shrill and belligerent tone, in order to put their opponents on the defensive, disincentivize disagreement and frame the debate.  This is a common, go-to strategy to derail a conversation and cause opponents to spend so much of their efforts defending themselves from what are usually overblown allegations that very little time is spent pursuing their actual argument.

Emotional Reasoning
SJWs and Alt-Rightists can put on absolutely Oscar winning displays of anger, offense and outrage so as to create a tense and awkward situation that distracts from the substance of the arguments.  The emotional impact of an argument is privileged over its congruence with the facts and logical consistency.  Skillful ideologues have a knack for getting upset at precisely those arguments that are most threatening to their positions, and their opponents become reluctant to use what would otherwise be the best arguments in their arsenal for fear of being ridiculed or dealing with an angry tirade.  This is especially effective with SJWs, who exploit the natural sympathy that people have for victims of oppression and injustice to stigmatize and silence their opponents.

Signalling and Groupthink
Regressives of all kinds systematically ignore opposing arguments in favor of rhetorical gimmicks such as slogans, buzzwords and portmanteaus intended to demonstrate virtue and cleverness to their ideological allies.  SJWs accuse their opponents of mansplaining or whitesplaining, as examples.  Alt-Rightists use memes in much the same way.  Pepe the Frog throwing a commie out of a helicopter, or the like.  Both of these movements prioritize in-group loyalty and solidarity at the expense of independent perception and judgement of facts, conflicting evidence or disquieting observations that would call into question group beliefs.  Much of their presentation is done with this in mind.

Ad Hominem Attacks
This involves a direct attack upon the person holding an opposing view: insults, personalized hostility, ridicule and so forth.  Saul Alinsky once observed that ridicule is man's most potent weapon, for there is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.  SJWs and the Alt-Right are aware of this and exploit it to the hilt.  They are, in fact, aware of much of what is in Rules for Radicals.  But they sometimes go further: relishing and gloating over personal misfortunes, doxing, threatening family or employment and so on.  Strong internet security and privacy are worth investing in if you are serious about opposing either the Alt-Right or SJWs.

Deconstruction and Reframing
These are high level tactics and their use indicates a skilled rhetorician and political thinker.  Essentially, they constitute a reframing of their opponents arguments to make them more controversial and less defensible.  To do this, they focus in on a single aspect of their opponent's arguments, right down to a few words even, and present them out of their original context.  Conversely, if confronted on a less savory aspect of their own platform, they reframe and reword their position to make it appear more palatable and moderate.  Employing these methods, and defending against them, takes awareness and practice.

Sexism and Sexual Repression
Both of these movements have strong undertones of gender preference.  The preference being for women for the SJWs and men for the Alt-Right.  This could not have been better personified than by the rival candidates for the US 2016 presidential elections.  SJWs and Alt-rightists come across as having "mommy" or "daddy" issues.  The SJWs are preoccupied with tearing down traditional notions of masculinity and femininity while the Alt-Right is preoccupied with upholding them.  And not just for themselves personally, but for the whole society.  This infuses the whole language of both causes.  SJWs denounce "toxic masculinity" while the Alt-Right insults its opponents by calling them "cucks", which are, by definition, unmanly.  Freudian concepts such as penis envy and castration anxiety seem to apply in spades to both sides.

As a corollary, notice that people in both of these movements attack a lack of sexual experience and prowess in their opponents.  Sooner or later, an exchange between the two boils down to people living in their parent's basements and being unable to get laid.

Finally, both sides advocate a high level of sexual control over society, and would regulate consensual sexual behaviors if it were in their power to do so.  The alt-right would suppress homosexuality and miscegenation and tend to prefer a male-initiator and passive female model of courtship.  The SWJs are especially distrustful of male heterosexuality, as they view it is paramount in the objectification of women.  A more recent preoccupation of the SJWs is the abolition of the gender binary all together.

Racism, Fundamentalism and Irrationality
Express disdain for specific racial groups.  This may be rationalized by alleged genetic superiority or by an appeal to alleged historical and/or contemporary privilege enjoyed by the disliked racial group.  Suffice it to say, a preference for whites over PoC is paramount on the Alt-Right, the reverse is true for the SJWs.

Religion serves as an effective corollary to race, often standing in for race among both SJWs and the Alt-Right.  Christianity is coded white while Islam is coded brown and/or black.  This results in paradoxical stances towards Islam in particular by both movements.  SJWs embrace Islam due to their white guilt and the Alt-Right deplores it due to their white supremacy, despite the strongly conservative stance towards women's rights and LGBT rights taken in Shari'a law.

As a related phenomenon, both the SJWs and the Alt-Right are skeptical of the enlightenment, liberalism, rationalism and universal concepts of human experience.  This is expressed on the alt-right through a dark enlightenment or neo-reaction, while the SJWs do so through postmodernism and poststructuralism.  Culture and identity are the order of the day for both.  As such, they seem impractical as actual philosophies for governance.  While the alt-right is anti-communist and the SJWs are usually, though not always, anti-capitalist, both have little time for the empirical and formulaic discipline of economics.

Both the SJWs and the Alt-Right are "feelings based" rather than "evidence based" movements, though selective use of evidence and even scientific process may be employed when it serves their aims. They do not like, and are seldom amenable to, serious scrutiny of their claims and views.  At heart, I think both represent a fusion of the personal and the political.  Often, SJWs and Alt-Rightists have personal axes to grind, or are attempting to rationalize an otherwise very self serving set of positions by appealing to ideology.

Often, but not always.  People in either movement may be sincere in their goals and may be genuinely well intended.  Likewise, even the most sensible and sober conservative, liberal or social democrat may have personal hang-ups that they project onto their view of the world order.  The idea here is not to idealize an impossibly cold and perfectly logical standard that even Mr. Spock would fail to measure up to.  But rather, it is important to emphasise that SJWs and the Alt-Right do not place the kind of premium on formal logic, the scientific method and empirical evidence that their skeptic community opponents tend to prize.  Adjust your expectations of engagements with SJWs and the Alt-Right accordingly.

It is also important that opponents of SJWs or Alt-Rightists not rely on any of the above alone to refute SJW or Alt-Right claims.  Their claims, no more or less than anyone else's, stand or fall on the basis of the evidence for them.  The fact that their positions are poorly argued and reinforced does not itself make their positions wrong. The ideological and argumentative styles listed above are not presented to refute the positions of SJWs and the Alt-Right, but rather to warn of the battery of rhetorical and ideological devices that they use to circumvent opponents who rely on sound logic and evidence as a basis for their own beliefs and as a means of challenging others.  Rationalists should not expect a fight on their terms when engaging SJWs or the Alt-Right.  Be warned.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

SJW culture: Dormant, not Dead

YouTuber Prince of Queens is convinced that SJW culture is going to vanish quickly, as though it had never existed.  I wish I could agree with this.  I'd like to see that happen, but doubt we'll be so lucky.  But they are past the peak of their vigor and influence, and will enter a phase of decline, rather like the religious right did after Obama became president.  They've made too many enemies now to have any chance of sustaining the momentum they had in the 2011 to 2016 time frame.  Good news.  In light of what's now in the White House, congress and most state legislatures, I'm finding the enthusiasm to celebrate hard to muster.  Why am I afraid I'll be wishing we had Obama and the SJWs back long before 2020 rolls around?

But few things ever truly end up being dead and gone forever in American politics.  Trends tend to be cyclical rather than linear.  While history never repeats itself precisely, recurring patterns are the rule rather than the exception.  We've seen stuff like the SJWs before, and we'll see them again.  So don't hang up those guns just yet, Prince of Queens.  We'll be needing your vigorous opposition to regressive leftism for a while yet.

The SJW movement itself wasn't new.  It innovated in some key respects compared to previously, but its overall ideology is, at its most innovative, old wine in a new bottle.  Or rather a mixture of old wines.  Look at these Antifa rioters or Black Lives Matter.   We've seen it before.  In fact, earlier incarnations of these were, if anything, more radical.  Look at the Weather Underground or the Black Panthers of the 1970s.  The Maoist student groups.  Feminism too went through a phase of radicalism in the 1970s, up to the point that many of them actually physically separated from mainstream culture and moved onto women-only communes.  If only more of them would do this today.  You can't say they didn't put their money where their mouth is, though.

In fact, a long look at American history shows a 30 to 40 year cycle - give or take a few years - of growing idealism, explosive radicalism, a descent into disillusionment and nihilism and finally retreat on the radical left.  The real reason for this is actually quite simple.  Radicalism is hard.  It's tiring.  Imagine being an Antifa guy who's been swept into this culture of intersectionality, postmodernism, the progressive stack, and so on.  It's a very hard life.  Very austere.  So many everyday actions and things we take for granted are seen as oppressive or "problematic" in some form or another.  It's a rare soul that can keep it up indefinitely, especially after a serious setback.  Like the presidential election results of 1968 or 2016.

And it's always been that way.  In fact, our Berkeley Antifa member of 2017 has it easy compared to most radicals in American history.  The early 2nd wave feminists went through it in the 70s.  When “the personal became the political” in the burgeoning body of feminist theory, in-group policing of one another’s personal lives became quite extensive – to the point where even activist’s sex lives were called out by movement purists who infamously equated sexual and romantic love to rape and enslavement.  This was an understandably hard circle to square for a movement that also insisted that women had a libido to rival that of the male.  

Radical environmentalists - Earth First and groups like that went through similar problems in the 1990s.  Lifestyle demands to eschew the use of fossil fuels, among other things, were incredibly hard to sustain.  Plus, these groups are inevitably absolutely riven with ideological purity, and are prone to paralyzing inefficacy due to preoccupations with consensus decision making and are often hamstrung by bitter divisions over the most paltry matters of doctrine.  People's Front of Judea, anyone?    

Victories are few, seen as being “merely institutional” and serve only to remind the rank and file of just how big a job the road ahead of them is.  Defeats are much more common, and very devastating since radical left groups tend not to have many resources.  Groups are torn apart over leadership disputes.  They're quite often harassed and ridiculed by the outside world and by domestic law enforcement.  The FBI's COINTELPRO was very effective at disrupting these kinds of groups.  The vague and sweeping goals of the movements lend themselves to the often correct assumption  that these goals are simply unattainable. 

Go back further, and you had McCarthyism or the Red Scares.  Further back still, and they were massacred more indiscriminately.  Labor disputes stopped being potentially fatal for strikers only after the New Deal.  Civil rights workers had to wait a few more decades.  Quite a few of them were lynched, found dead or disappeared under suspicious circumstances well into the 1960s, culminating in Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination.  None of this is a lot of fun.  On the grand scheme of things, the online stress suffered by the likes of Zoe Quinn or Lindy West at the hands of 4chan trolls, MRAs or the YouTube Skeptic Community has been very mild.

Taken as a whole, all of this is very exhausting and few people can sustain it for more than a few years. Today's version of it - the intersectional SJWs enjoyed a lot of privileges - how ironic - compared to previous cycles.  Loyal strongholds in the form of humanities and social sciences departments on college campuses, a lot of favorable media bias and so on.  That's quite unusual in the history of western leftism.  Usually the radical left is ignored in the media, if not attacked openly.  

I suspect these perks, such as they were, were part of a Faustian bargain wherein intersectional social justice activism would get some institutional support in exchange for staying away from - or better yet derailing - questions of economics, class and political economy.  The powers that be learned a hard lesson with Martin Luther King Jr, whom they had to assassinate when he started straying away from strict racial equality issues and began to agitate around poverty, worker's rights and economic inequality.   Better to buy out groups like Black Lives Matter well in advance, and save themselves the hassle.   

But the SJWs still had a less than easy go of it, though more of it was their own doing.  There's a lot of tedious legwork that goes into organizing marches, protests and so on.  Especially if it's all grass roots and not funded or directed from above in any real way, though it often was for the SJWs, especially on College campuses. Still, ongoing regimens of meeting attendance and organizing and planning around the schedules of activist members takes time and effort.  After a while, a family and a steady paycheck starts to seem like a better deal for most people.

The period of peak SJW success was predicated on a number of things: a liberal trend in western politics in the late Bush/early Obama years and the rise of social media.  The early SJWs - then attached to the so called new atheist movement, discovered that if you took on a belligerent and macho tone and postured and argued from intimidation - "agree with us or else you're a Nazi" - you could win a lot of arguments without actually having to answer hard questions.  This worked for a while, first when the new atheists deconstructed the religious right, then against white male liberals who didn't know quite how to respond to it all, but generally took claims that it was sexist and racist to argue with the SJWs at face value.  But people quickly grew resentful of what basically amounted to ongoing emotional blackmail for political purposes, and the inevitable backlash that ensued resulted in stuff like GamerGate, the alt-right and Donald Trump. 

For a lot of SJWs, it's just no fun anymore.  Trolling the castration anxieties and sexual insecurities of young white dudes online was fun and easy for its core base of white college educated women.  For a while.  It's not so fun being on the receiving end of the same kind of lambasting coming from black women, or LGBT women.  Intersectionality was intrinsically flawed that way.  Increasingly, people perceive - quite rightly – that as a form of activism, it’s highly ineffective.  There were few tangible results in exchange for what really boils down to competitive victimhood and grievance mongering.  Winning gold in the oppression olympics bore few real benefits.  Plus being the internet's favorite punching bag does get old after a while.

But let’s not rest on our laurels just yet.  When surges of radicalism pass from their summer of idealistic success and into the autumn of mounting nihilism and disillusionment, this is actually when they become the most dangerous.  Like a cornered animal who knows its time is limited, they become desperate and fearful.  This is what drove the LA race riots of the late 1960s, the debacle that was the 1968 democratic party convention, and the rise of the violent Weather underground.  2017 thusfar bears an uncanny resemblance to all of this. 

Rising tensions between Antifa and Trump supporters have the frightening potential to take us to a place not unlike what happened in Italy between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the so called "years of lead" wherein cyclical and retaliatory acts of terrorism between far right and left factions resulted in hundreds of deaths.  Worse still, all the way back to Germany in the 1920s and early 30s.  We all know how that turned out.  Wise and enlightened leadership in Washington would do well to take steps to prevent this.

Did I just say wise and enlightened leadership in Washington?  Ha ha ha!  Yes I did.  Ha ha ha!  What planet would this version of Washington be on, anyway?

Moreover, these waves of radicalism never fail to leave the broader society unchanged.  Indeed, the cyclical pattern of advancing and retreating progressivism is much more a mark of social justice activism working long term rather than failing, even if it never perfectly achieves its objectives and some progress is lost in the more conservative periods.  That said, Eisenhower did not repeal the New Deal, Nixon did not repeal the Civil Rights Act, Reagan did not manage a reversal of Roe v Wade and the eras of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker and George W. Bush as president did not see a retreat of political correctness on college campuses, or even slow its advance into the broader society.  Given this pattern, I would not bet heavily on Trump rescinding gay marriage either.

Indeed, the whole SJW phenomenon is a clear demonstration of the fact that the seeds of racial and gender radicalism that took root on college campuses back in the 1970s never ceased bearing fruit.  Do not mistake dormancy for death.  Come the next season, whether in ten years or thirty, a whole new batch of romanticized militancy will ripen, and we’ll be eating again from its bountiful harvest whether we want to or not.

Beware Sargonism

Lord Keynes over at Social Democracy for the 21st Century is a sharp fellow.   He makes the following observation : Ever since Gamerga...