Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Alt Right vs. Alt Left

"The Alt Right believes Western civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its three foundational pillars: Christianity, the European nations, and the Graeco-Roman legacy."

If this is the Alternative Right, what then would be the Alternative Left?

The Alt Left believes Enlightenment civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its own foundational pillars.  Of these, the first is reason and rationality, the second is individual liberty and the third is the enlightenment era philosophical tradition.

This promises no panacea, and often results in tension between competing ideals of the good.  The libertarian/individualist traditions and the egalitarian/collectivist traditions - think Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx for example, are often at odds with one another.  But common to both in the end is a commitment to a rationalistic world view and a belief in concepts such as scientific and social progress, however imperfectly these are often expressed or implemented.

We are skeptical of religions as dogmatic systems and romanticism (in its original meaning) and are likewise skeptical of deterministic and closed systems of "rationalist" thought such as Marxism and Randian objectivism - though ideas may be taken from both if warranted.  The labels of reason and rationality cannot be applied to closed and non falsifiable systems of thought, and individual liberty is not upheld by anyone who would demand the sacrifice of human well being to a dogmatic insistence on either market or plan.

It would be easy and correct to respond that man does not live by reason alone.  Fundamental to man's nature is the need for meaning and purpose which often find themselves expressed in the forms of religion, identity, artistry, creativity and mythology.  It is because of and not in spite of these needs that enlightenment civilization must be upheld.  The absence of liberty and reason in theocratic and fascistic spaces testify to this.  It is for the sake of poetry and spirituality, of philosophy and the arts that the foundations of society should be reason, liberty and enlightenment philosophies.  It is not the case that the alt-left eschews questions of identity and spirituality in favor of a narrowly economic and rationalistic conception of man.  Rather that a rationalistic and free social order is an essential foundation for man to satisfy his spiritual and philosophical yearnings.

There are those who assert that the enlightenment has failed, and advance a "dark enlightenment" calling for a return to tradition, religion and monarchy.  This is fundamentally misguided in that the neo-reactionary critique accurately targets not modernism, but postmodernism - or at least the bastardized implementation thereof, and its own neoreaction is really just a different version of the same thing: the replacement of reason, liberty and philosophy with identitarian subjectivism, tribalism and fanaticism.

To these ends, it is clear that the majority of the self described Alt-Left adheres, above all, to the disentangling of romanticism from leftist thought, and it is this that satisfies our definition of both alternative and left wing.  To this end:

·      We favor the redressement of the extremes of economic inequality and corporate power, not the quasi-religious glorification of revolution for its own sake. 
·      We favor equality of right and - ideally - opportunity for women and people of color, not the quasi religious glorification of the foreign and the feminine. 
·      We favor conservationism and environmental sustainability, not the quasi religious glorification of “Mother Earth” or back-to-the-land utopianism.
·      An approach to reform that emphasises implementable policy, not some or another kind of change of consciousness.

Vox Day would see the unseating of a democratic polity marked – in the words of conservative luminary Russell Kirk - by division between “all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal” in favor of a polity marked by division between “men and women who believe that they are ultimately defined by their momentary opinions and those who believe they are ultimately defined by their genetic heritage.”

It should be apparent to any reasonable person that this is the forcing of a choice of evils by means of a false dilemma, and one not marked by greatly different choices in any event.  Ultimately, would not a “genetic heritage” be every bit as binding and deterministic in the long run as an “enduring moral order in the universe” and a “constant human nature” if not more so? 

The neo-reactionaries have observed the morass that the postmodern regressive left has inflicted on western civilization via its capture of academia and mass media, and advance in defiance to it merely a belief in either ethnic or racial nationalism, or a belief in a reassertion of religious traditionalism or fundamentalism.  Utterly absent is any rational analysis of either the institutional structure of the organs that propagate culture in the west, the philosophical underpinnings of regressive left thought nor the strategies employed by the regressive left to gain the influence that it has gained.  Meme warfare - essentially online culture jamming - is child’s play compared to hegemony at the governance level of the very internet platforms whereon the memes are hosted and spread.

Due to their mutual faith in identity above all, the failure of both the reactionary right and the regressive left alike should be a foregone conclusion.  But that failure threatens to be very costly, and presents a fundamental threat to the western tradition that neoreaction so claims to cherish and want to uphold but simultaneously undermines, and that the regressive left claims to despise and wish to supplant but simultaneously depends on.

Erroneous philosophical foundations will not produce polities that last.  The extent to which western civilization has declined is quite proportionate to the extent to which its academics and professors extol their “genetic heritage” in preference to their responsibility to understand art, science and philosophy in any sort of nuanced and sophisticated way.  One look at a black studies or a women’s studies department makes that perfectly clear, and a white male version of the same thing will only hasten this decline.

The great demarcation in modern politics is between men and women who uphold a humanistic vision of reason, liberty and philosophy, and those who uphold a tribalist vision of fanaticism, authoritarianism and dogma.  In the later camp, it does not fundamentally matter if one’s loyalty is to the white race or the black, heteronormative machismo or radical feminism, the Christian Church, Islamic Sharia or state Atheism, libertarian capitalism or socialist planning.  When tribe, dogma or ideology supersede humanity, reason and philosophy, the end is always a bloodbath and the beginning is denial that we have a choice between the first three and the second three options.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

No need to Falsely Tar Antifa. They're Their Own Worst Enemies.

Don’t believe any of it. 

While I worry about Antifa's propensity to mob rule and vigilante violence, let's keep in mind what they profess to be up against here.  While actual neo-Nazi activity in America is very low and quite marginal, the history of the appeasement of the Nazis both inside the Weimar Republic and, later from Britain and France during the 1930s should teach a clear lesson. Had Hitler been stopped much earlier in his career, and there were countless opportunities to do this right up until the 1938 German annexation of Czechoslovakia, the inevitable war against him would have been far less bloody.  Those who would take the fight to a resurgent Nazism before it's allowed to take real roots have a strong historical case to back them up.

But so too do Antifa's critics.

The good cause that is fighting fascism does not excuse Antifa from the very real dumb things they do.  Plus a lot of the false flags being carried out against Antifa, while not justifiable in and of themselves, are carried out because the nature of hard line ideological movements make them especially vulnerable to those kinds of tactics, as well as rule out the more moderate forms of dialogue and debate.  The actions of 4chan and other right wing sources, despite their own glaring disconnects from reality, shouldn't surprise us.  We should rather be surprised that it is 4chan and not the FBI that are carrying these kinds of actions.  This is how radical politics have played out in the west and in America in particular for a long time now. Many parallels with the new left of the 1960s and 70s burning itself out on ideological excesses abound here.

It might well behoove Antifa to adopt some semblance of a formal national structure and issue a statement of principles, a manifesto or something of the like outlining precisely what they believe and how they hope to go about achieving their goals. This could include a statement to the effect that persons who are not fascists have nothing to fear from them. They'd do well to resolve their differences with Trump supporters through debate or the ballot box, and make clear that they'll fight only in self defense at this time.

The decentralized and utopian nature of the far left in America mitigates against this kind of thing happening, however.  Especially so given the Manichean worldview that's so typical of extremist thinking in general.  There can be no negotiation with pure evil, and that being anything other than themselves.  The western left, from Antifa to its antecedents in Occupy Wall Street to their antecedents in anti-WTO protests and going all the way back to 19th century communal utopians, have a long history of utopian naivety and reliance on ideological purism for movement cohesion. There’ve been exceptions, of course, but they had their own problems, such as the Communist Party USA parroting the Soviet era Kremlin’s line on damn near everything. 

But, by and large, English speaking radicals have tended to eschew the procedure and organization of parliamentary institutions in favor of an admittedly well intended but ultimately ineffective commitment to purity of consensus.  Doubly so now given how committed to a lot of critical theory/postmodernist concepts (the "authority of experience" for example) the western left has become, lending themselves to eschew classical definitions of fascism (if not the very concept of classical definitions) in favor defining fascism along the lines of being anyone unwilling to give "marginalized peoples" a complete moral blank check vis-a-vis the rest of the population to decide on everyone's behalf what is and isn't oppressive and offensive.

In a similar vein, they've opened themselves up to these old Leninist arguments of "revolutionary violence" that Herbert Marcuse also explored in the 1960s, which basically said that violence was justified if carried out on behalf of "marginalized" "oppressed" or "revolutionary vanguard" groups against their "oppressors", be these the police, the state, peaceful conservatives or anyone so hateful enough as to be born with white skin. 

The left have largely sold their souls to these kinds of concepts, and the result is the creation of echo chambers that are short on reality testing and dissent and long on boundary policing.  This not only alienates potential support and doubtlessly drives away those supporters who end up on the wrong end of some internal power struggle or another, but makes groups like Antifa vulnerable to infiltration and subversion via false flag operations, both from their political opponents (think 4chan) and from state enforcement agencies wanting to avoid dirtying their image via open police state tactics.

Expect COINTELPRO types of activities to be carried out against Antifa - if they haven't been already, because that's what the historical precedent would suggest. I don't support such tactics, of course, but through its embrace of that eternal albatross around the neck of the western left, revolutionary romanticism, Antifa is doing little to help themselves here and I find them hard therefore to sympathize with.

Simply saying "you've all been duped by the conservative media" isn't going to help any, especially given how much media (CNN, Huff Post, the Guardian, Salon, Mic and a host of other news blogs) are decidedly not conservative.  Plus, as any politically minded YouTuber these days would be more than happy to tell you, anti fascism has now become a full fledged moral panic on the left and even in the center, so blaming Antifa's poor reputation entirely on the media dodges the core issue.

The real way to fight fascism is to shore up the center - to create and defend robust democratic institutions that are transparent, inclusive and accountable to the people they're intended to serve.  Most western nations have a long way to go in that regard.  This is especially true in the US, where unrestrained money in politics has all but completely compromised the integrity of political institutions, and the resulting lack of public confidence should therefore not surprise us.  That's what got Trump into office, and that's when extremist ideological movements start becoming attractive to people.

Likewise, that's when people stop believing in the power or even the desirability of the state maintaining order in the face of rising extremism, and take matters into their own hands via groups like Antifa.  This should trouble us, for this is precisely the kind of scenario that makes the rise of authoritarianism more palatable to the mainstream, who would otherwise eschew it.  While groups like Antifa overstate the threat posed by Trump himself - the man is no Hitler, he's not a step in the right direction either.  The great danger is that by contributing to a climate of chaos and political violence, Antifa may well lend legitimacy to calls for a strong man to come along and restore order the old fashioned way, and thus end up with a kind of tragic self fulfilling prophecy.  

I don't believe that Antifa are the moral equivalent of Nazi skinheads and I grow weary of those who suggest that they are.  If Antifa were a Marxist Leninist movement, a case for that could be made.  If they extolled Stalin or Mao, you can say that they’re as bad, or at least in the same league, as Hitler and the Nazis.  There may be some of these inside Antifa, and Antifa may themselves be clear that they regard the fascists as a much more clear and present threat than the bolshevik types and choose therefore to prioritize fascists as a target and even ally with hard line communists against them. Much like our governments did in WWII.  But they primarily identify themselves as anarchists, not cold war era Kremlin mouthpieces with red flags.

But that does not place Antifa above criticism, however much one may agree with the stated goal of fighting Nazis, and does not mean that Antifa are not dangerous in their own ways.  If Antifa are dangerous, at least to their targets at "free speech" rallies, can their targets really be blamed for taking action against them, becoming a kind of AntiAntifa, if you will? 

Antifa are burying themselves in their own ideological excesses, and they have no one to blame for that but themselves.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Antifa, Nazis and the Alt-Left

This whole "alt-left = antifa" kerfuffle has, I think, made clear that the real alt-left fights a two front war, and that there is a definite moral asymmetry between our two groups of opponents.
The regressive left certainly comes in for criticism. No question about that, and I make no apologies for the criticisms I've made of them over time. But they're simply not in the same league as the reactionary right in terms of being completely disconnected from reality.
The regressive left will either deny that the alt-left exists at all, for which they can be forgiven because the alt-left is still very miniscule, measured by the number of people who identify as alt-left. Or the regressive left will throw their typical bromides of "racist", "misogynist" and "privilege" at us. Again, this is not entirely unwarranted, though it is most certainly not entirely true either, since alt-left groups on social media do draw a good number of "left wing of the alt right" types. The regressive left is wrong, of course, in their typical lack of understanding of nuances of any kind of political thought that isn't drenched in white male guilt. So pooh pooh to the regressive left.
But the reactionary right? They're something else all together. The amount of absolute and utter nonsense that I've read from paleocons about this whole matter will make your head hurt. The alt-left = the democrats = Marxists. We're all marionnettes of Hillary Clinton and Obama, who are full-on Stalinists hell bent on destroying America. As with everything that comes from the InfoWars, "don't tread on me" section of the internet, EVERYTHING they have to say about us is a reflection of their completely epistemically closed and delusionally paranoid view of the world. Between them and the regressive left, there's just no comparison. They both lie and they're both obsessed with and completely preoccupied with their own ideological pet fetishes to be sure, but not on nearly the same scale. The difference is one of orders of magnitude.
In the same vein, there's likewise no real comparison of antifa with actual neo-nazis. Antifa are, of course, light years from being blameless. Attacking peaceful Trump supporters, as they have yet again in recent days, is stupid and repugnant, and cheapens and undermines the very cause that Antifa professes to be about. Their behavior is inexcusable and sickening.
But don't even try to compare it with actual Nazis and fascism. Just don't. Antifa's antics are bad, to be sure. But they've got a ways to go to catch up with Auschwitz. To put it very mildly. Or even the Jim Crow era of the US south.
If I could address antifa - and given the recent equation of the alt-left with antifa, it's quite possible that I might be able to with at least a few of them, I'd implore them to understand actual politics a little better than they apparently do and refrain from equating Trump supporters with actual fascists.
Don't like Trump? I don't like him either, but he ain't Hitler. His supporters are not the SS Einsatzgruppen, and you cheapen the horrors of Nazi Europe when you even hint at making that suggestion.

That's what really gets under my skin about a lot of this. Eastern Europe in the 1940s was horror beyond reckoning. Whole populations were systematically abused in the worst ways you can think of, right up to wholesale slaughter. It's a slap in the face to the survivors and the families of the survivors of the barbarism that real totalitarianism unleashed in 1930s and 40s Europe when that horror becomes a mere rhetorical gimmick for incendiary pundits trying to score points in 21st century American partisan party politics. I remember saying this to the Tea Party dumbasses who tried saying Obama was literally Hitler, and I'll say the same thing to the antifa idiots regarding Trump. Shut up already. He's not Hitler. And you're a disrespectful asshole for even suggesting that he is.
But I have WAY less than no use for any piece of shit who profess to admire Hitler, display a swastika, SS runes, death head insignia or any other trappings of Nazism unironically, or start spouting anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense. Espouse that crap and you're signalling support for the worst atrocities humans ever visited on each other. As bad as you've been taught Hitler was, he was worse.

My grandfathers went overseas to fight that monstrosity, and not with mere pepper spray and bike locks either. The "antifa" they belonged to used Sherman tanks and Lancaster bombers, or at least Enfield rifles. They didn't go there to engage in robust debate. "Deplatforming" in those days usually involved a lot of explosives dropped from high heights. And a lot of people died. That was tragic and unfortunate, but way better that than a Nazi hegemony in Europe.
And we call them heroes today, and so we should. I have no problems, none whatsoever, casting my lot in with antifa provided they confine their direct action tactics to actual real Nazis, skinheads, Klan and real bonafide fascists. Not mere conservatives or libertarians who, however much we may disagree, are not in the same universe of ugliness as Hitler and his goons, and with whom our differences can still be settled at the ballot box.
For antifa to commit violent assaults against peaceful conservatives and Trump supporters is repugnant, criminal and inexcusable, and I would implore them to stop if I could, or else implore the powers that be to step up police action to put a stop to it. But what I will not do is equate antifa's violence with the ugliness of the Nazis themselves. The memory of what happened at Auschwitz does not deserve that kind of dishonor.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Specter is Haunting Social Media.

The Specter of the Alt-Left.

By now, we should all be familiar with Trump's claims regarding the "alt-left" who came "charging at" the alt-right during the recent tragic events at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, which saw one leftist killed and others injured when a car sped into a gathering of counter protesters.

This is not the first time the term "alt left" has been used by the right to describe the violent and fanatical segment of the regressive left.  We have, for example, an entire article full of unmitigated gibberish by one Joseph Farah.  This article is much more a reflection of the extremes of conspiratorial paranoia, flagrant partisanship and personalized hatred for the persons of prominent democrat party politicians and the tired old "democrats are the real racists" obsessions of the paleoconservative blogosphere than they are of anything faintly resembling reality.

Among the allegations he makes against the alt-left:
Supports abortion on demand, taxpayer support for the largest abortion provider in America that maintains nearly all of its abortion facilities in minority communities in the cities controlled by Democrats. That same abortion provider was founded by a leading eugenics advocate, Margaret Sanger, who remains a heroine to Hillary Clinton. 
The “Alt Left” is 100 percent Democrat – a party birthed in the support of slavery, a party whose military arm was the Ku Klux Klan, a party that fought civil rights and integration through the middle of the 1960s. 
Today, the “Alt Left” Democrats ferociously fight any attempts to woo minorities from their political plantation. Those efforts consistently include smearing their opponents as the racists.
So we're actually a vast democrat party conspiracy to keep the blacks in their place via welfare and abortion?  That's certainly news to me.  Perhaps Mr. Farah should join forces with those of the SJW blogosphere who call us "brocialists" and rail against our white privilege. They might be able to save on overhead that way.

Farah is not the only rightist to spout this kind of rubbish.  Sean Hannity has been on about the alt-left for some time now.  Writing in Fox News opinion, Dan Gainor claimed in December of 2016 that "Liberals get hysterical over the 'alt-right' but we are living in their 'alt-left' world."  In September 2016, Katie Kieffer introduces us to the alt-left, and describes us as "accurately describing the ideology of the Democratic party."

Certainly news to me.  Does not accurately describe the views of any alt-leftist I actually know.  And I know quite a few.

But even centrists and moderate liberals have gotten on the alt-left = violent extremists bandwagon.  Writing in Time in December 2016, Gil Troy describes how "The Bernie Sanders–Fueled Alt-Left Viciously Attacked Me."  In March of 2017, James Wolcott makes clear in Vanity Fair why "The Alt-Left is a Problem Too." Where the paleocons peg us as America hating socialists with democrat party membership cards - more about giving red meat to the base than accurately describing a damn thing -  Wolcott appeals to his urban, female readership with equally invalid fears of - you guessed it - frat boy, ass swatting "Bernie Bros" who opposed the Clinton campaign out of racism and misogyny.

The standard bearer for the regressive left, Salon, very recently published an article entitled "Donald Trump is right (about something): There really is an“alt-left,” but it’s even weirder than he thinks."  Kudos to Salon for getting back into the habit of doing a bit of actual research for a change.  Author Matthew Sheffield actually google searched the term and came into, hosted by early alt-left pioneer 'Rabbit.'

Rabbit, along with blogger Robert Lindsay over at Beyond Highbrow can be fairly credited for coining the term alt-left and can reasonably be called the movement's genesis. I've spoken with both men on Robert Stark's Stark Truth radio broadcast.  They're no less aghast than I and many others at how the alt-left label has been continually misappropriated.  So kudos to Sheffield for at least trying to do a bit of homework here.  He outlines Rabbit's vision of an alt-left quite extensively in his Salon article.  Doubtlessly, Rabbit appreciates the coverage.

Sheffield then goes on to say, "Given that almost no one besides “Rabbit” willingly affixes the “alt-left” label to themselves, it’s pretty clear that in the U.S., there isn’t much of a market for socialist-flavored white nationalism."

Nobody willingly affixes the alt-left label to themselves?  Again, news to me.  And news to the thousands who belong to alt-left groups and who follow the Alternative Left page on Facebook, that I founded.  But my own vision of an alt-left is much less a socialist flavored white nationalism a-la the bro's Strasser in the early NSDAP and rather more of the British Labour Party of roughly the same era and immediately postwar.

What I sought to do is distance the concept of an anti PC leftism from so called "race realism."   Race realism is fundamentally an alt-right concept.  In a lot of ways, it's a return of the political right to its first principles - to the centrality of relationships of "blood and soil" so to speak - in right wing politics.

So I asked myself what would a left wing equivalent to this be?  What are the first principles to which leftism needs to return if it is to escape the doldrums that the SJWs were leading it into: safe spaces, 67 genders, trigger warnings, etc?  If the alt-right is about race realism, I concluded that the alt-left should be about class realism.  Not that exclusively.  But that's our niche, I think.  The view that not all people fare equally well under an untrammeled capitalist system. 

Now where we go from there is another matter: for some, nothing short of a Marxian worker's revolution will do.  These would be your leftypol types.  This is the alt-left equivalent to the 1488 crowd on the alt-right.  These are the people who unironically meme about Stalin and the gulag in the same sort of way that some on the alt-right do about Hitler.  I do imagine you'd get some antifa supporters in this crew as well.

That's not my personal take on it, though.  I suppose you could call people like me the alt-left's equivalent to the "alt-light."  Not revolutionary socialists.  Closer to postwar European social democracy.  Think Attlee in Great Britain as an example.  There were others.  A revival of postwar democratic leftism in that vain was what I had in mind.

I don't think this vision is compatible with race realism, for reasons that history has made obvious.  Racial antagonism has shown itself to be a barrier to the development of class solidarity.  That was the case with classical racism in the American south, and is the case now when notions of "white privilege" are invoked as explanations for the problems faced by the black underclass.  Both the reactionary right and the regressive left have much invested in the maintenance of class blindness, and therefore in misrepresenting what the alt-left is really about.

The center-left in the first world drifted away from its postwar vision for two reasons: a disenchantment with socialism and subsequent rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s and 90s, and the deepening radicalism of the new left, as represented by critical theory and postmodernism. According to these theories, it wasn't just capitalism, but western civilization itself that was inherently oppressive.  In the social media era, these ways of thinking have burst out of academia and into the cultural mainstream as the SJW - social justice warrior phenomena. 

But the SJWs have no lasting and real way to achieve any real social justice because it takes an almost deterministic approach to its ideas of privilege, marginalization and identity.  While the SJWs are commonly tarred by the right wing as being "Marxist" they are actually near as far from the thinking of Marx as you can get.  Political economy and relations of production were absolutely central to Marx, while they are completely absent from the SJWs.  They are near completely blind to the economic side of inequality: even when they do acknowledge class, they do so as if class were another vector of intersecting identities rather than based on relations of production, of which the SJWs and the paleocons alike know next to nothing.  It is this void that I hoped the alt-left would be able to fill.

The relative success of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign suggested to me that there might be a prospect for social democracy to make a comeback, and even to become a political force in precisely the place where it is most needed and has been longest absent: The United States of America.  

Other things that I believe in and I think that many of us believe in: civil libertarianism, a rejection of censorship, opposition to racism and sexism of both the regressive left and the reactionary right and so on, are tackled adequately by the so called "new center", "cultural libertarians" or the "skeptical community."  The Sargons and the Dave Rubins over on Youtube, and so on.  And that stuff is all perfectly fine.  But glaringly absent is a social democratic economic vision.  

My vision of the alt-left is thus much closer the realist left vision developed by blogger Lord Keynes over at Social Democracy for the 21st century.  Highly recommended.

That's the niche I've hoped, and continue to hope, the alt-left can fill.  In light of how much confusion surrounds the label of alt-left, it's been suggested repeatedly by some of those who share this ideology that we abandon the label.  I don't think the time is yet right for that.  We should cease to be the alt-left once we've become the mainstream of left of center thought. While the term alt-left is a subject of public controversy, it will succeed better in drawing the curious alt-left spaces on social media and exposing more people to what we truly believe than a rebranding - a "rationalist left" or the like ever would.  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Judean People's Front-ification of the Regressive Left

Black Lives Matter protesters disrupt Montreal Pride during a moment of silence for AIDS and hate crime victims.

"Employees of Pride Montreal then broke the circle of protesters and took away Rose’s megaphone. People in the crowd shouted at them to “shut up during the moment of silence” but the BLM protesters refused."

"To make our voices heard we chose to do this during the moment of silence,” said Brian*, a protester and member of Black Lives Matter Montreal. “It wasn’t disrespectful because the moment was meant to commemorate the people who died [of AIDS or homophobic and transphobic laws], and most of them are trans women of color so we reclaimed that moment.”

Black Lives Matter punching down and keeping to easy targets that they know won't fight back, yet again.

The spirit of the NAACP or the SCLC is definitely NOT present with BLM. 20th century civil rights movements risked their lives standing up to state power and violent lynch mobs to win basic rights for downtrodden minorities.

BLM is itself a violent lynch mob that "disrupts" the activities of other marginalized people, and does so with only the remotest likelihood of legal repercussions despite their flagrant disregard for the civil rights of others (which they hold dear for themselves) and near total immunity from criticism from government, media and academia. If this is your idea of civil disobedience and speaking truth to power, I laugh in your face. Looks pretty damn performative to me.

BLM was founded by a trio of western educated anti-sex "queer" feminists, their ideology is a thin veneer of black consciousness overtop French postmodernism, German critical theory, heavily bastardized pseudo Marxism and puritanical feminism rooted in anglo American Victorian era social purity, and topped off with just the kind of Ford Foundation and George Soros money that so effectively co-opts so called "radical" movements. Perhaps the group should rename itself Guilty White Consciences Matter. Sounds like Romanticism, but OK.

One leftist group I doubt that BLM will be trying to shut down in this manner any time soon is Antifa.  Because our favorite faux alt-leftists actually punch back, as they did in a recent protest where both groups originally showed up, apparently on the same side.  At least at first. "One Antifa member wound up punching a Black Lives Matter activist after the Black Lives Matter member chastised the Antifa radicals for hiding behind their masks."

Were Antifa to confine their hard line tactics to real bona fide fascists, I'd be all for them. Let's keep in mind here that Hitler was not defeated by rational persuasion and claims to the moral high ground. Fascism as an ideology was always explicitly clear in both theory and practice as to the central role played by redemptive violence in both its rise to power and exercise of power once claimed. Sadly, an entrenched fascist movement only understands one language, and when our grandfathers went to Europe in the 1940s, it wasn't to convince the Nazis of the error of their ways through superior logic. And we today look at our grandfathers as heroes, and rightly so in my opinion.

The issue I have with Antifa is the issue I have with vigilantism more generally. Antifa are not elected by the people and they are accountable to no one, save their own collective group conscience, which we've all seen to be driven by moral panic and group hysteria. So we should not be surprised by Antifa’s propensity to lapse into senseless destructiveness and failure to distinguish between conservatives and libertarians - whose differences can and should be resolved by debate and at the ballot box - and actual fascists.  

Or in this case, Black Lives Matter protesters.  
"The BLM activist stood in front of the Antifa crowd, bellowing, “Take the mask off! Take the mask off.” His compatriots started chanting, “Mask off! Mask off! Mask off! 
That prompted the Antifa crowd to start yelling at the black man, “He’s a cop! He’s a cop! He’s a cop!” 
One masked male white member of Antifa got right in the black man’s face, then punched him directly in the face, prompting another BLM activist to start yelling, “You f**king hit ’em! You f**king hit 'em! Take the mask off! 
A young female Antifa member then started screaming, “He f**king pushed me! He f**king pushed me!” She and the BLM activist started screaming curses at each other. 
Later, a BLM member addressed the Antifa crowd, saying, “We ain't gonna let some outsiders make us look bad."
You're doing a good enough job of that yourself, BLM.

The whole charade reminds me of that brilliant scene, one of so many, in the prophetic satire of prophecy, Monty Python's Life of Brian:

"Brothers! We should be struggling together! We mustn't fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!"


"No! No! The Romans!"

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.

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