Friday, 31 March 2017

Regressive Left Pt. 10: Lucid Leftism

Consistent in the history of regressive leftist thought are recurring cycles of idealistic and well intended beginnings giving way to cynicism, repression and violence.  This can be the result of failing to reach goals that were unattainable in the first place, or early successes leading to mission creep – the expansion of the movement’s original goals, or an arrogance of power – the tendency to equate success with virtue.  In each case, the end result is the same: an intensification of radicalization and fanaticism which eventually fizzles out, though only after inflicting, to varying degrees, damage on the structure of society.

The current form of regressive leftism is directly traceable to the protections extended to movements representing marginalized people in academia and mainstream media, and the resulting taboos on dissent from and criticism of these ideas.  Criticizing any aspect of feminist theory or critical race theory was equated to misogyny and racism.  From there, the natural tendencies towards reductionism and extremism that take hold in ideologically homogenous spaces did the rest.  First in academia, then in other spheres of culture.

This dovetails with the observations of former senator J. William Fulbright that:
Throughout our history two strands have coexisted uneasily; a dominant strand of democratic humanism and a lesser but durable strand of intolerant Puritanism. There has been a tendency through the years for reason and moderation to prevail as long as things are going tolerably well or as long as our problems seem clear and finite and manageable. But… when some event or leader of opinion has aroused the people to a state of high emotion, our puritan spirit has tended to break through, leading us to look at the world through the distorting prism of a harsh and angry moralism.
The liberal tradition in the west has become accustomed to defending the democratic humanist strand against the intolerant puritan strand, but has the weakness of perceiving intolerant puritanism is a feature solely of the far right.  Since harsh and angry moralism usually does come from the right, and the anger of minorities when it does arise is understandably seen as justified, this is, to some extent, understandable.  But it is also a testament to just how anglo and Eurocentric even the progressive traditions of the west can be.  One look at the history of Russia or China makes clear how dangerous the leftist strands of intolerant puritanism and harsh and angry moralism can be, especially once they acquire institutional power.  Which they now have in the western world, though not to nearly the degree that Stalinist and Maoist forms of totalitarianism did.

The result has become an affiliated network of intersecting identitarian closed belief systems structured around the rationalization of self serving double standards and exemption from laws and social mores binding on the rest of society.  A now common pattern of initial and popular success followed by ongoing confrontation and social conflict due to unattainable or undesirable goals has been the pattern for civil rights, feminist and LGBT rights movements.  This has been a failure by every measure, but especially the measure of its intended results: equality for marginalized people vis-à-vis mainstream society.  As any regressive leftist would be happy to tell you, glaring statistical inequalities between races and across gender lines remain.

It can be asserted, and rightly so, that many of the remaining inequalities are economic and persist because the current wave of regressive leftism has focused too extensively on culture and identity at the expense of economics.  This is true, but must not be seen as being by itself an effective antidote to regressive leftism. Don’t forget that we’ve had experience with forms of regressive leftism that were exclusively economic in their focus, and these too failed.  It is the concept of reductionism, not any one particular manifestation of that concept, that is the core problem.

The status quo is not sustainable.  Militant and confrontational regressive left movements are contributing to a counter-radicalization of the regressive right.  The “alt-right” movement is a key example of this.  This is contributing to an erosion of faith in liberal democracy that is frighteningly similar to what was seen in Weimar Germany in the 1920s.

What can be done?

The danger of the intolerant puritan tradition of the left must be recognized by the democratic humanist tradition of the left.  It is as simple as that. This is not without precedent – the social democratic parties of Europe rejected the Soviet model and made this rejection explicit at varying points in the early to mid 20th century. 

Taking the attitude of “no enemy to the left” is a good way to move out of the later and into the former category. This does not need to detract from being firm in opposition to the regressive right.  Taking the attitude that to criticize any aspect of the left for regressivism is somehow taking away from focusing on the “real enemy” is a classic false dilemma.  Moreover, is it any real victory to defeat the right only to assume its worst characteristics?  Those who think it acceptable, let alone necessary, to accept anti-white racism, anti-male sexism or Islamic fundamentalism have very clearly lost sight of the forest for the trees, and become hung up on oftentimes self serving ancillary dogmas such as “power plus prejudice” at the expense of the initial long term goals of racial and gender equality and secularism.  

Plus, if we do not get our own house in order, why should anyone else listen to us anyway?

Doing this will not be easy.  The democratic humanists need to understand first and foremost that the intolerant puritans do not naturally listen to reason.  Manichean worldviews lend themselves to distrust of outsiders and a propensity to see politics as an apocalyptic, winner take all power struggle as opposed to a process of give-and-take.  As such, negotiating and bargaining with any serious prospect of results is simply not an option, especially when the intolerant puritans have the advantage of positions of institutional power.  Which they most certainly do at this juncture.  Regressive leftists will negotiate and bargain, but not out of principle but rather out of a strategic evaluation that suggests them as being the most expedient means in the moment.  They will abandon reason and negotiation the instant it becomes expedient for them to do so.

This kind of thinking is not naturally or easily understood by the democratic humanists, who tend to place faith in the best ideas naturally winning out once shown to be truly the best.  Evaluating ideas entirely on the premise of who benefits between the good guys and the bad guys is not what democratic humanists naturally do.  

Democratic humanists evaluate ideas on what produces the greatest benefit to the greatest number.  They assume, or at least hope that this criteria will naturally lend the best ideas to implementation by responsible people in authority, and become despondent when this doesn’t happen. They do not like coming to grips with the realities of power politics.  They take their own propensity to reason and justice for granted.  They must get over this.  Marx once said that the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.  Democratic humanists must realize this and act accordingly.

They must think in terms of gaining influence and power so as to impose their worldview, even if that world view ultimately boils down to taming the scope and strength of influence and power.  There must be a long, hard look at how institutions such as media conglomerates, academic institutions and access to government are structured, and how power and influence are distributed in those institutions. 

The democratic humanist tradition must now take seriously the need for its own “long march through the institutions” in order to preserve the integrity of those institutions, while at the same time criticizing those same institutions for the flaws in their power structures and the abuse of power those flaws lend themselves to.  Ultimately, transparency and democracy across all mediums should be the end goal.

It is a sad truism of history that fanatics and true believers are naturally adept at organizing and coordinating their efforts, while getting any two free thinking libertarians, left or right, to work together if they disagree on anything is notoriously difficult. Perhaps that is an insurmountable problem and a big part of the reason why regressive forces have wreaked so much havoc throughout history.  But cultural and civil libertarians are going to have to put aside their differences and work together to counter regressive influences.

Three particularly important goals for enemies of regressivism:
  • Requiring that intent to harass or create a “poisoned environment” be proven on at least a balance of probabilities or a preponderance of evidence in order to secure a remedy in court over a harassment or hate speech allegation.  “Privileged” people cannot be held responsible, on pain of professional or even legal consequences, for the emotional states of “marginalized” people, given what we know of how the human mind works, regardless of “social context” so prized by regressive social theorists.
  • As a corollary to the above, political opinion and opinion on social issues should be a protected category of legal discrimination, especially in employment, just as race, gender, etc.  It should be especially costly to terminate an employee for expressing an opinion on political or social issues, just as it is for protected grounds for discrimination.  Exemptions to this can be extended if the non-expression of certain views can be shown to be a bona-fide occupational requirement.  There’s plenty of information about these  concepts in fields pertaining to human resources management and employment law.
  •  Strong College Campus Free Speech legislation must be passed, preferably at the federal level but at least at the state/provincial level.   It's provisions would include the following:
    1. Require colleges to adopt, at the governance level, policy statements that make crystal clear organizational commitment to free expression, and make crystal clear that it is not the university's role to protect students or faculty from ideas they find offensive or disagreeable.
    2. The campus must be declared open to any speaker invited by students, student groups or faculty.  Disinvitation of controversial speakers should thus be prohibited.
    3. There must be serious consequences for actions that result in shutting down speakers on college campuses or harassment of students and faculty for political reasons, including complicit administration failing to act accordingly in response to such events.  Suspensions for first offenses, expulsion/termination for cause in the case of repeat offenses, and even legal prosecution if warranted.  
    4. Independent bodies should be established to investigate student and/or faculty allegations of "ideological gatekeeping", which I define as attempts to block the academic progress or careers of students or staff for political or ideological reasons.  This body would also be emboldened to investigate claims of ideological indoctrination in academic settings.  Remedies could include reprimands or other disciplinary measures up to and including termination (in the case of multiple repeat convictions) against offending faculty members.
    5. The legislation itself would contain language cautioning academic institutions against fostering or allowing to be fostered a campus culture that romanticizes violent extremism, direct action, and other militant and confrontational forms of activism.  Honest discussion of the above would be permitted.
    6. Strong protections for the due process rights of students and faculty charged under any of the above sections, and strong protections for the rights of student and faculty to engage in peaceful and non-disruptive protest. 
People simply must have assurance of their protection from legal or employment related repercussions for expressing their views if regressivism of all kinds is to be pushed to the margins of society.

These measures will not be adopted by legislative bodies voluntarily.  Doing this requires organizing from the grassroots level up.  Here is where the regressive left, with its roots in Marxism and the social movements of the 1960s, have an advantage.  Cultures of activism are deeply entrenched with them.  But it will have to be done by anti-regressive voices if the regressive voices are to be countered.

The good news is that smaller victories can be racked up along the way if anti-regressives learn how to act effectively in groups.  Names on petitions or email blitzes to counter regressive pushes to boycott what they deem offensive or terminate the employment of people who offend them would be much more valuable than the broad mass of the population proclaiming “what is this world coming to?” whenever the boundaries of political correctness are pushed to newly absurd extremes, but otherwise doing nothing.  

Regressive left outlets can even be subjected to boycotts of their own advertisers unless they agree to publish voices that counter Islamist, misandrist or anti-white narratives.  Anti-regressive forces will gradually be taken more seriously when they prove themselves capable of exerting the same kinds of pressure as regressives have fine tuned the art of exerting.  I would caution against countering one set of identity politics with another, however, and hope that anti-regressive forces do not start calling for the censorship of voices they disagree with.  If regressive voices are to be marginalized, it should be because the majority of the population reject their message out of a belief in liberal-democratic ideals, not because regressive voices have been silenced in any way.

Long term success means studying the deep as well as the surface arts of political activism.  Study the history and theory of the new left especially and learn how they did what they did.  Read Saul Alinsky, for example.  Study the theory of Marshall McLuhan and learn about how media works on a deeper level.  An early political influence of mine had a saying, "don't hate the media, become the media."  If you can, research critical theory and postmodern philosophy and think about how they can be used against rather than for regressive aims.

Study the works of George Lakoff and learn how to use language to frame issues in ways that do not inadvertently bolster the worldview of your opposition.  Do not accept regressive frameworks, rather use democratic humanist frameworks to construct a narrative that casts non-regressive activists in a noble light.  People will go to great lengths on behalf of causes bigger than themselves and leadership that casts them in heroic roles.

Do not attack the values of regressives when those values are good, but rather cast non-regressives as the better representatives of those values.  Suggest that marginalized people would be better off, in the long run, if their individual autonomy and liberty is respected rather than their being puppets of a self appointed vanguard interested in appropriating popular struggles as a means of advancing their own world view.  Think what you will of #GamerGate, #NotYourShield was infinitely more valuable.

But don’t be afraid to attack the values of regressives when they are obviously flawed.  The self serving and hypocritical nature of any position deriving from “power plus prejudice” thinking is long, long overdue for being called out as such.  Especially when the regressives manipulating this kind of thinking are themselves obviously powerful, or at least influential.

Pick your battles, and do not dig in your heels over issues that play into regressive hands.  Is, for example, an all-female Ghostbusters reboot a hill that anti-regressive forces should commit themselves to dying on?  The backlash against stuff like that just confirms regressive left claims that their opponents are driven by misogyny.  Think through your criticisms and be sure you're attacking from high ground: in the case of the Ghostbusters reboot, you could criticize the cynical use of gender equality as a Hollywood marketing tool, for example, or condemn the psychological blackmail inherent in using the potential to be accused of misogyny as a device to compel otherwise unearned positive reviews or to deflect legitimate criticisms of the film.

Does it not make more sense to go after regressives on areas where they are more easily and demonstrably wrong, such as the absurdity of feminist and Islamist cooperation? And when you do make your arguments, make certain of the strength of your position and have the necessary facts and logical conclusions to those facts at your disposal. Educate yourself on logical fallacies, and don't allow yourself to be fooled by common bait-and-switch rhetorical tactics, such as Greenwalding, bulverism and the regressive propensity to rely on emotional shock value to bypass the critical thinking logical mind and go for the more instinctive, emotional and thus more easily manipulated core.

Think along the lines of a Sun Tzu or a Miyamoto Musashi and simply don’t give battle when your opponents have the advantage.  Strategize and strike from a position of strength. You'd better believe that regressives are going to be thinking likewise.  They are quite directly taught this when they learn to deconstruct literature, study media theory or sign on with professional activist and protest organizations.  The most malignant of regressive leftists - a small minority of the total who, by their nature, tend to gravitate towards positions of power and influence - are downright Machiavellian.    

Part of the reason that the skeptic community is having a harder time with regressive leftism than they are with religious fundamentalism is that the regressive left is right about some things.  Feminist and anti-racist doctrines begin from the naturally defensible position of racial, gender or even economic equality.  Nuanced analysis will be required to catch them when they stray from the good sides of their core doctrines.  Democratic humanists will have to be on their toes if they are to catch the point at which regressive leftists betray or abuse core liberal principles in pursuit of regressive aims.  It requires ongoing study of the thought of your enemy.

The regressive right is an easy opponent by comparison.  Religious fundamentalism, white supremacy, unfounded conspiracy theories and patriarchalism are simple matters to attack and discredit from without.  Though it has been done countless times, regressive right ideologies require ongoing deconstruction and refutation.  The regressive right also cannot be allowed to thrive by speaking to concerns that a regressive left, bound by its own political correctness, are unwilling to address.

The regressive left is not so easy to defeat.  The regressive left cannot be beaten by an external attack on their principles.  The regressive left will only be beaten by superior, meaning non regressive versions of themselves.  That is what the alt-left, the revival of the democratic humanist tradition, must at all times strive to be.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Regressive Left Pt. 9: The Militant Mind

As was discussed previously, the central characteristic of regressive leftism is a manichean worldview that posits a neat division of society into oppressed and oppressor factions, with little room for ambiguity or shades of grey.  This naturally lends itself to eschewal of the negotiated give and take of regular politics.  All out crusade is the only viable option, with total defeat of the oppressor faction the only desirable goal.  This inevitably causes increased frustration and anger, as such comprehensive and sweeping goals are inevitably unattainable.  Partial success, far from leading to satisfaction, merely whets the appetite, as it leads to the illusion that total, unqualified victory may, in fact, be possible.

But only if vigilance and zeal are redoubled, for partial victory also serves as a reminder of just how vast and powerful the oppressor and their myriad systems of control really are.  As a result, the ends always justify the means, and anything done by the "oppressed" or "revolutionary" faction is good because they are the ones choosing to do it.

The license that this kind of thinking can give for abuse can, I suspect, draw truly sociopathic people into regressive leftism and I’ve heard and read numerous accounts and even had a few personal experiences of what can only be described as cluster B personality disorder behaviors from regressive left activists.  But it would be incorrect and dangerous to assume that this is true of all regressive leftists or even the rule rather than the exception.  Remember what Nietzsche said about he who fights with monsters.

In light of this, do not make the mistake of thinking regressive leftists are fundamentally irrational.  World views such as Marxism and Intersectional Feminism are highly rationalistic and, within their own conceptual framework, logically consistent. In fact, that is a big part of their appeal.  Like religion, they provide tools to make sense of an otherwise often senseless world, without appealing to the mumbo jumbo of religion, racism or conspiracy theory.  They simplify otherwise complex issues and make clear who the good guys and bad guys are.

They are successful doctrines that have drawn large numbers of adherents because they begin with sensible and defensible positions: that capitalism naturally reproduces economically unequal results, that human societies are almost always patriarchal or that the historical development of western civilization has privileged white people disproportionately.  Libraries could be filled with the works of Marxist or feminist scholarship, and much of it is meticulously researched and documented, and sometimes subject to scholarly rigor and peer review, albeit within fairly ideologically homogenous fields of study.

It is precisely their value in explaining the workings of the world that make leftist doctrines vulnerable to regressivism.  Sometimes suddenly but more often subtly, the scope of the sensible, rational and documented ideology expands until it becomes a one size fits all formula for explaining away anything.  At some point, the formula provided by the leftist ideology to explain the workings of the world goes too far, and a shift from the plausible to the outlandish has taken place.

For example, it is ultimately extrapolated from feminist theory – with meticulously detailed appeals to economic and social inequality past and present that male sexual attraction to women is an act of oppression, whereby men objectify women and reduce their status in a way that hampers their ability to compete with men on equal footing.  From this it is concluded that even polite, civil compliments from men to women are a form of harassment.  Pointing out that there are hormonal and biological factors in sexual attraction that operate independently of social context, or suggesting that the repression required to stop all male expressions of attraction towards women would be excessive to the point of being totalitarian virtually never produces a re-evaluation of the doctrine of sexual objectification, in part because the initial premise of male dominance remains sensible.

As a corollary to this, regressive ideologies evolve in this manner to contain within themselves closed systems of logic that can be used to ward off any and all criticism of the ideology.  The flaws of Marxism or feminism, however obvious or glaring when viewed from the outside are not acknowledged, but rather hand waved away as apologetics for capitalism or patriarchy.  The system of oppression, evil as it is, will corrupt the movement whenever and however possible, and to grant those who dissent from the regressive left ideology in question a fair hearing is to traffic with the forces of oppression.

White males are told that they cannot criticize intersectional feminism.  In the former USSR, this kind of thinking went as far as to deem those who disagreed with Marxist-Leninism to be mentally ill, and interring them in mental hospitals!  This epistemic closure is a key feature in many forms of authoritarian belief systems, and that present day media and academia has enabled it in the case of feminism should concern anyone who believes in an open society.

As we've seem, the style of thought associated with regressive leftism is recurring throughout history, and suggests a universal human vulnerability to it, at least for a certain personality type.  Beware the tendency to use pop-psychology concepts to rationalize away regressive left behavior or dismiss their arguments.  But likewise, don’t rule out underlying psychological impulses that can push people into regressive leftism, or any other kind of extremism.  To look at the whole picture requires a look at both internal psychological as well as external social causes for regressive behavior.

The Manichean world view that typifies regressive leftism requires that the negative characteristics of the movement or the party or the revolution and its leaders and theorists be denied.  One way in which this can be done is by projection: this is when the leftists in question attribute to outsiders – especially ones closely associated with oppressive characteristics such as capitalists or white males – attributes that they themselves possess but wish to deny.  By attributing negative characteristics to other people, we infer that we ourselves do not have these characteristics. 

Projection is an imperfect process.  As such, people who engage in it seek the company of others who employ this defense mechanism in a similar way.  The fact that the projected attribute is also both deeply despised and present but denied in ourselves causes it to trigger deep feelings of anger whenever it is encountered in others.  The “other” group onto which the negative attribute is projected becomes an acceptable receptacle for the pent up rage of the regressive leftist, which is often considerable given the demanding nature that life in a regressive movement often has. 

Dyed-in-the-wool radicals can also have a hard time getting along with people outside the movement, and distrust the simple creature comforts that many of us take for granted given that they are procured in a manner that is somehow oppressive, discriminatory or exploitative.  Enjoyment of consumer goods is tainted by guilt over environmental degradation or the exploitation of labor that results from their production.  Everywhere in popular culture, from TV and movies to video games, systems of dominance and marginalization are reflected in statements and gestures other people take for granted as innocuous and insignificant, in a manner not altogether different from how religious fundamentalists hear backwardly masked praises to Satan in rock music albums, or conspiracy theorists see evidence of encroaching illuminati power here, there and everywhere.

As suggested above, even something as fundamental as sex drive and romantic partnership is suspect due to the complex minefield of power differentials that ostensibly characterize heterosexual relationships.  Noteworthy also is that regressive leftists are not alone in their anxieties surrounding sexual relationships: religious fundamentalists and other forms of social purists have shown similar attitudes throughout history, if couched in different terms.

This tendency was wonderfully satirized by the "anti-sex league" of George Orwell's 1984.  Could it be, as suggested in 1984, that regressive movements seek to repress the sex urge and channel this repressed energy into fanaticism on behalf of the faith or the revolution?  Could it also be, again as Orwell suggests in 1984, that intimate relationships create a private realm outside the regulatory reach of political or ecclesiastical control, and as such are opposed by people with authoritarian tendencies?   Would it be reasonable to assume that the depth of intimacy entailed by sexual intercourse would naturally cause great anxiety in people inclined to identify with a church, a nationality or a revolutionary movement as opposed to pursuits and relationships of a more personal nature?  Anxiety that they would naturally project onto the nature of the sexual relationship itself, and denounce it as a form of sin, degeneracy or objectification?

Because the nature of projection attributes to others the traits often found in oneself that are denied, this often results in a funny tendency for regressives to end up imitating their opponents.  Socialist societies end up being highly stratified, while feminists have few qualms about telling other women what their place is, and multiculturalist movements revel in their own forms of ethnic stereotyping.  This is always okay when they do it, naturally.  Power plus prejudice, after all.

Related to this is the regressive left’s tendency towards authoritarian vanguardism – which is the appropriation of popular movements or struggles waged by marginalized people for their own political ends, which they are, of course, justified in doing due to their being on the right side of a manichean struggle.  Regressives feel quite entitled to speak on behalf of whole demographic cohorts, and when disagreed with by members of those cohorts, fall back on the dangerous notions of internalized oppression or false consciousness.  Worst of all are members of "marginalized" groups that consciously betray the movement.  Hell itself can't compete with the sheer hatred that regressive leftists reserve for right wing women or people of color.

Given that regressive leftists regard the societies they live in as hopelessly oppressive, they have a corresponding tendency to lionize groups that are marginalized, oppressed or excluded, to the point of willful blindness and denial of the flaws of these groups.  This ties in with the romanticist tendencies of the late 18th and early 19th century crucible wherein western leftism was born.

The results run a gamut of irrational attitudes on part of regressive leftists towards idealized groups, ranging from a quaint infatuation towards “noble savages” or women as being “closer to the earth” to the dangerous beliefs that preferred groups can literally do no wrong and are completely justified in violent acts towards “privileged” groups, to an outright and open sympathy and admiration for repressive and dictatorial societies abroad, such as the loyalty of western communist parties to Soviet Russia, the New Left’s idealization of third world revolutionary dictators, and the 21st century regressive left’s defense of Jihadist Islam against its “racist” critics.

Apologetics and excuses for violent and oppressive behavior when done by the “right” people against “deserving” oppressors is a sure fire sign of regressivism.  This signifies that genuine faith in the utopian ideal has been lost, and resentment, anger and blaming has now come to define the movement.  From here, it is not a far jump to infighting, fragmentation and eventual implosion.  This is a common historical cycle among regressive movements.

Be careful when attributing psychological motives to regressive leftists.  Do not project your own less desirable attributes onto the regressive left.  Again, remember what Nietzsche said about gazing long into the abyss.  While psychopathology can contribute to a propensity towards regressivism, do not use it as an excuse to handwave claims made by left wing people.  The line demarcating a flaky radical and a strenuous but serious social critic worth listening to is not always so cut and dried.  It is self satisfying to point at regressives and assure yourself that you’re so much smarter and better adjusted than they are.  Once you expose the regressive’s fraudulent attempt at feeling superior, you can then claim that feeling for its obvious rightful owner: yourself!   Who the hell do these regressives think they are, anyway?

It is crucial to keep in mind that these characteristics are not unique to the regressive left, and can also be found on the far right, in religious cults or ethnic separatist groups.  Numerous explorations of political extremism, for example, find certain similarities among extremists of all kinds.  One of the best examples of this is the seminal work by Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.  

For Hoffer, mass movements appeal to a desire for change on part of people who have an external as opposed to an internal locus of control.  Meaning that they are more likely to blame the world around them or blame society as opposed to themselves for their own failings and shortcomings, even in instances where the latter is obviously to blame.  Also a certain kind of person experiences a restlessness and discontent with their own existence as a kind of frustration, from which a substitute or an escape is desired, and found in a utopian cause of one kind or another.  Hoffer stresses that the commonality of mind that exists among true believers of all stripes results in mass movements being interchangeable.  Meaning that the frustrated can as easily find escape in regressive rightism as in regressive leftism.  This may explain why regressive right and left so often resemble one another behind their differing ideological veneers.

Excellent studies of political extremism have been done by US academics John George and Laird Wilcox in their 1996 opus, American Extremists.  Richard Hofstadter takes on regressive rightists more specifically in his excellent 1963 essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, though many of its principles could as well apply to the regressive left.  An excellent work on authoritarian leftism more specifically (and a valuable resource in the preparing of this blog series) is Richard J. Ellis's 1998 The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America.  All of these works explore the activism of people whose minds are marked by an inability to "bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole."

Also worth a look is psychiatrist Arthur Deikman's 1990 study of cults and cult behavior, The Wrong Way Home.  It has since been republished as Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat.  Deikman describes the allure of "totalist" institutions lying in their appeal to two deep seated human drives: to be on the side of good, and a concept he labels the dependency dream:
The regressive(!) wish for security that uses the family as a model, creating an authoritarian leadership structure (the parent) and a close knit exclusive group (the children.)
The cult member - or member of any other closed social system or maybe even an extremist believer in a political ideology, seeks to regress back to a child-like state wherein an omnipotent parental figure is in complete control.  Maintenance of this illusion requires epistemic closure: an insulation of the belief system and its adherents from external influences that threaten to undermine it.  Thus, outsiders and dissidents are demonized and ideological conformity and groupthink is made paramount.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Regressive Left Pt. 8: The Regressive Soul

Alongside Marxism, the Victorian era social purity movements, could be described as a parallel developments.  These were “do-gooder” causes generally spearheaded by women activists in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Their intention was to reassert traditional Christian morality, and so sought to curtail sex, alcohol use and gambling. 

At first glance this does not seem at all leftist; more comparable to the religious right of the 1980s.  But as with feminist and traditionalist alliances to combat pornography in the 80s, the social purity movement triangulated with social justice and traditionalist movements.  Many of its adherents were suffragettes – so much for the myth that regressivism in feminism is a new phenomenon.  It's also noteworthy that certain concepts on the alt-right, such as "race realism" - then called "racial hygiene" found support with social purists.

The social purity movement owed its doctrine in part to the puritanical character of the protestant Christianity of its day (itself a revival of classic 17th century puritan morality occurring in response to a spike in out of wedlock births among the lower classes in the late 18th century stemming from the libertinism of that era), and in part  to the influence of early to mid 19th century utopian socialism and the abolitionist movement which, despite having as its primary intent and purpose the noblest objective of outlawing slavery, was also prone to high standards of lifestyle purity and boundary policing between itself and a broader society often seen as corrupt and wicked. 

One of these Utopian influences was French Utopian Socialist Charles Fourier, who could perhaps be considered the great grandfather of radical feminism, and along with Henri de Saint-Simon and Robert Owen were the earliest articulates of socialist ideas.  Almost Two hundred Years before the launching of Tumblr, in addition to actually coining the term feminism, Fourier attacked marriage and gender roles and stressed the potentially fluid nature of gender and sexuality in a pamphlet entitled Le Nouveau Monde Amoureux. The similarities of these and many other of Fourier’s ideas to present day postmodernism, critical theory and feminist theory have not gone unnoticed, and he is cited as a crucial embryonic influence on the thought of the present day left, especially when it began its post WW2 departure from Marxist orthodoxy.

Fourier was born in France in 1772 and so lived through the tumultuous birth of the whole left-right system of categorizing political thought, though he fought on the counter-revolutionary side and is said to have narrowly escaped execution at the hands of the Jacobins. 

Not long after the French National Assembly divided itself between the right – favoring the Church and the monarchy, and the left – favoring revolution, all the way back in 1789, did it become apparent that if liberty, equality and fraternity were to be realized, heads would have to roll.  Quite literally.

“To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity." – Maximillian Robespierre, 1794.

“lf the attribute of popular government in peace is virtue, the attribute of popular government in revolution is at one and the same time virtue and terror, virtue without which terror is fatal, terror without which virtue is impotent. The terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is thus an emanation of virtue.” – Maximillian Robespierre, 1794

Our boy Robespierre – a primary influence on the governing philosophies of Lenin and Stalin, together at first with the militant working class Sans-culottes and later the more bourgeois but still very radical Jacobins, perhaps constitute the ur-example of regressive leftism.  They didn’t waste time and they didn’t mess around: While the revolution was at its height in ’93 – 94, they attempted to do away with the Catholic church and reset the calendar to year zero, a feat not duplicated until the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia nearly two centuries later.  In all, the reign of terror claimed between 18,000 and 40,000 lives and things didn’t really straighten out until Napoleon began his rise to power.

Kinda makes the SJWs vs. the Trump administration look like a shadow play, doesn’t it?

Prior to the French Revolution, the concepts of left and right as they apply to political thought break down, since they had their origins in that time.  But in the course of my research into this matter, a work I found referred to time and again was The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages by Norman Cohn, first published in 1957 and again in 1970. 

The book describes apocalyptic religious sects that arose in the mid to late medieval times, and the dynamics of these groups sounds quite intentionally familiar:  they thought of themselves as
“The elect, wholly good, abominably persecuted and yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary; the refusal to accept the ineluctable limitations and imperfections of human existence, such as transience, dissention, conflict, fallibility whether intellectual or moral … systematized misinterpretations, always gross and often grotesque … ruthlessness directed towards an end which by its nature cannot be realized – towards a total and final solution.” 
Repeatedly in discussions of this book it is suggested that these apocalyptic medieval sects were the distant spiritual forerunners to the 20th century ideologies of communism and fascism. 

This can describe not merely dissident religious cults that groaned under the medieval Catholic church, but also that very same church when it was itself persecuted by the pagan emperors of Rome.  The most distant antecedent of today’s leftism – both progressive and regressive,  can perhaps be traced back Christ’s famous sermon on the mount, where the founder of the western world’s most entrenched moral and religious system urges his followers to forswear greed, lust and sin in favor of simple lives of charity and virtue, for he assures his flock that one day, the meek shall inherit the earth.

Having seen how integral to the western experience what we've come to call regressive leftism actually is, let us now abstract its most basic and common characteristics.  Those features that crop up most or all of the time, be it with the Jacobins in revolutionary France, Marxist-Leninists both in and out of the Kremlin, politically correct college professors or Antifa rioting in protest against Donald Trump’s presidency.  While time, place, circumstance and ideological particulars vary considerably, certain core characteristics recur. 

If any singular characteristic can be shown time and again to define the regressive left, it is the ubiquitous recurrence of a manichean worldview.  This term derives from an ancient Persian religion that stressed a fundamental conflict between a spiritual, pure good principle of light and a materialistic, pure evil principle of darkness.  This is an apt metaphor for the regressive left, or indeed any regressive way of looking at the world.  The image that regressive left ideologies conjure up is that of a vast system of oppression, designed to relegate certain portions of the population to a marginalized way of life or even to destroy them all together, and the activist communities as the last line of resistance against it.

Again, Norman Cohn sums it up perfectly in The Pursuit of the Millennium: 
“The world is dominated by an evil, tyrannous power of boundless destructiveness – a power moreover which is imagined not simply as human but as demonic.  The tyranny of that power will become more and more outrageous, the sufferings of its victims more and more intolerable until suddenly the hour will strike when the Saints of God are able to rise up and overthrow it.  Then the saints themselves, the chosen, holy people who hitherto have groaned under the oppressor’s heel, shall in their turn inherit the earth.  This will be the culmination of history; the kingdom of the saints will not only surpass in glory all previous kingdoms, it will have no successors.”
Be it the revolutionaries vs. the ancient regime, the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie, the “movement” vs the “system” or queer women of color vs. the “Kyriarchy”, regressive leftism presents a secular version of this principle.  Again, this is not unique to regressive leftism.  It is deeply embedded in what would seem to be humanity’s innate way of seeing the world. 

There is, perhaps, an evolutionary basis to this.  Moral relativism was not an option throughout most of man’s evolutionary history when he was not the apex predator he’s been for the last several millennia.  Tales of monsters, the sacrifices required of man to appease them and the heroes who finally triumphed over them are almost ubiquitous in the mythologies of ancient people, and were used to bind human tribes together and give them a common identity.  We have not evolved beyond our love of such stories, as the popularity of heroic franchises such as Star Wars or Harry Potter attest to.  In the words of the American playwright David Mamet, it is in our nature to dramatize.

It can be rightly insisted that there’s no fantasy in man’s history of oppressing one another, and that there is nothing wrong with opposing this.  From war to slavery to sweat labor to racial discrimination to domestic violence and rape, our propensity to abuse power over one another can and should provoke resistance and movement towards a better world.  This is all true, but not where the problem with regressive leftism lies.

The distinguishing thing about the regressive left, however, lies in a peculiar tendency to regard specific instances of oppression and exploitation not as dependent on context and circumstance, but as universal constants.  At all times and in all places, “the history of all man hitherto has been the history of class struggle” – or of the struggle of sisterhood against patriarchy, or of consumerism vs. harmony with nature, of white colonialism vs people of color, and so on.

What Richard Hofstadter said of the “paranoid style” in regressive rightism in the early 1960s is likewise true of the regressive left’s perception of whatever “system of oppression” they are motivated to oppose:
“The distinguishing thing about the paranoid style is not that its exponents see conspiracies or plots here and there in history, but that they regard a "vast" or "gigantic" conspiracy as the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power, and what is felt to be needed to defeat them is not the usual methods of political give and-take, but an all-out crusade.”
This drives the almost apocalyptic nature of regressive leftism, wherein the means justify any ends taken to defeat “systems of oppression” that are so broad and all pervasive as to completely define all aspects of human existence.  Anybody who’s ever tried to debate a regressive leftist knows full well that it usually ends up being a frustrating exercise in navigating bewildering labyrinths of truths, half truths and flat out lies, not to mention every logical fallacy and rhetorical dirty trick, from kafkatrapping to Greenwalding to outright gaslighting that you can think of. 

This is seldom because regressive leftists are inherently bad people, although some are or have been, and often because their whole moral and intellectual compass is attuned differently than that of most other people.  This is crucial to bear in mind when dealing with a regressive leftist.  To them, the goal of defeating whatever system of oppression they oppose and bringing about whatever utopia they are eager to replace it with overrides all other considerations.  And in pursuit of this, the ends always justify the means.

Truth and falsehood, right and wrong are defined in terms of whether the “movement” or the “revolution” is advanced or set back.  This may require that certain actions that would otherwise be considered wrong, or even repressive, be undertaken.  But the short term, temporal evil that censorship or repression of enemies entails is more than made up for by the long term defeat of ultimate, eternal evil that is the intent behind such actions.  From Lenin’s doctrine of “Kto Kovo” to Marcuse’s doctrine of “repressive tolerance” to Patricia Bidol-Padva’s doctrine of “power plus prejudice”, this kind of thinking runs like a common thread through most regressive left praxis.

... Continued in Part 9: The Militant Mind

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Monday, 27 March 2017

Regressive Left Pt. 7: Marxist Mayhem

In previous installments of this series, we've examined the development and influence of regressive leftism in post WW2 western societies. It is partially due to the failures of Marxist-Leninism that critical theory and postmodern strands of leftist critique and activism rose to prominence.

What has thus far saved the 1st world can, I believe, be attributed to the psychological effects of white European male guilt on the western psyche.  Ironic, given how crucial this has been as a foundation for regressive left ideology in the first place. Those who believe themselves and their cultural traditions to be inherently tainted, who view their identities as a kind of secular, postmodern original sin, are more likely to have a diminished “will to power” so to speak.  

It is to this cultural inferiority complex that I suspect the relative lack of political success enjoyed by the post WW2 western left can be attributed.  Even when they do achieve periods of relative success and influence, such as during the late 1960s or the early 2010s, they can’t help but end up sabotaging this success, usually by a descent into ideological excess, factionalization, indulgence in rioting and other antisocial behavior, the deliberate cultivation of an adversarial stance vis-à-vis mainstream society, withdraw from society and so on.

This has, in part, been our saving grace, as has been the checks and balances and limitations and separation of powers inherent to constitutional liberal democracies.  As the history of regressive leftism in the former communist bloc and 3rd world illustrates, they are infinitely worse where and when these checks and limitations are absent.

I won’t lay out a history of the Soviet bloc here. What is of interest, though, are elements of Marxist Leninist theory that echo down to the present day. The ideology of the Kremlin never gained much traction in the western world, especially after McCarthyism. But, as mentioned above, Frankfurt School and postmodern academics were inspired, to some degree, by Marx.  Marcuse’s doctrine of repressive tolerance, or Patricia Bidol-Padva’s doctrine of power plus prejudice trod worn paths even in their own time. 

As some relevant examples:

Martin Ivanovich Lācis, deputy chief of the Cheka in Ukraine in 1918, established the principle that sentences in criminal cases were to be determined not by guilt or innocence but by social class. He is quoted as explaining the Red Terror as follows: “Do not look in materials you have gathered for evidence that a suspect acted or spoke against the Soviet authorities. The first question you should ask him is what class he belongs to, what is his origin, education, profession. These questions should determine his fate. This is the essence of the Red Terror.”

Soviet legal theorist Andrey Vyshinsky, “Procurator General” of the Soviet Union from 1935 to 39 – while Stalin’s terror was at its height, according to his Wikipedia article: “recommended that investigators and judges consider "the wider social perspective" of each individual case in the context of class struggle. As a result, an actual committing of a crime was not required for conviction: people could have been convicted for being perceived as bourgeois ("class responsibility") or simply if that was considered to be beneficial for the Communist Party, for example in the "educational" role of the judicial system (thus, the importance of show trials, even with completely false accusations).  Regressive left God-mother Catherine MacKinnon did not invent this kind of legal thinking, and would indeed seem to have been inspired by it.

The heart of Soviet regressivism was embodied in the concept that Lenin called “Kto Kovo” meaning “Who, whom?”  Who benefits?  Leon Trotsky expressed the same basic concept in a 1925 article entitled, “Towards capitalism or towards socialism?”  Fundamentally, the extremely Manichean and apocalyptic doctrine of Marxist-Leninism, later expanded upon by Mao and others, saw the world as being locked in a titanic, winner take all struggle of good – embodied by “the workers”, “the people” or “socialism” vs. evil, embodied by inherently exploitative “capitalists”, “imperialists” and “oppressors.”  

This lends itself to a reductionist logic whereby any actions taken by the forces of good, either directly or by their self appointed vanguard, were by definition good.  Naturally, the reverse is also true – since exploitation is at the heart of any non-socialist social system, definitions of human rights and civil liberties not based in Marxist-Leninist thought and not advanced by Kremlin sanctioned Marxist Leninist sources amounted to nothing more than apologetics for capitalism, imperialism and exploitation.

Western postmodernism did not pioneer the rejection of western liberal notions of universal human rights on relativistic grounds.  Quote Lenin, “In the guise of equality of persons generally, bourgeois democracy proclaims the formal or juridical equality between the property owner and the proletarian, between the exploiter and the exploited, and thereby deceives the oppressed classes. The bourgeoisie transforms the idea of equality which is itself the reflection of commodity production relations into a weapon in the struggle against the abolition of classes on the plea of alleged absolute equality between individuals.  The real meaning of the demand for equality lies exclusively in the demand for the abolition of classes.”

In this view, dignifying the rights of the individual requires first the abolition of class distinctions, as defined in Marxist materialist terms.

This is not to say that class (or race or gender) inequalities cannot undermine liberal notions of liberty and rights.  This is not even to say that “rights” in the “bourgeois liberal” sense cannot be leveraged by the powerful and privileged to maximize their advantage vis-à-vis the disadvantaged.  But there is a huge difference between criticizing the corrupting effects of inequality and privilege on outcomes in a liberal democratic polity, on the one hand, and viewing the entire concept of equal rights before the law as little more than a rationalization for or even a conspiracy to buttress inequality and privilege, on the other.  Failure to make this distinction is a consistent core feature of regressive leftism.

The manipulation of the meaning of social power differentials, from the currently popular “power plus prejudice” doctrine to its Leninist precedent in “Kto Kovo” is the perhaps the most dangerous tendency in regressive leftism.  While the capacity for powerful and propertied majorities to oppress minorities with a history of marginalization should be obviously much greater than the reverse, the flagrant abuse of this doctrine and its persistent use as a get out of jail free card for preferred groups is behind many of their most obnoxious behaviors.  

By this line of reasoning, they can rationalize any self serving double standard or offensive behavior they wish.  The consequences that this kind of thinking can excuse and enable run the full gamut from the obnoxious but generally harmless self righteousness and double standards of internet feminists and social justice warriors, to notions that women are incapable of domestic abuse or that minorities are incapable of hate crimes which can at least potentially be admitted in a court of law, if not inhibit their arrest for such crimes in the purpose, and finally to the bloody extremes of Stalin’s liquidation of the Kulaks in the Ukraine, a crime against humanity that approaches the holocaust in its viciousness and body count.

It is imperative that we learn to factor out the unjust realities of power differentials between groups and legitimate struggles against those inequalities from our evaluation of the conduct of individual members of those groups.  All people must be accountable and responsible for their actions, regardless of the range of their influence in a more abstract, sociological sense.  Statistics demonstrating social inequality are fair to use when justifying social programs aimed at reducing those inequalities.  They must not be admissible when justifying demonstrably malicious behavior perpetrated by members of supposedly disadvantaged groups.  

The grotesque errors in logic inherent in “power plus prejudice” thinking, ranging from two wrongs making a right to the fallacy of relative privation to ad hominems and false dilemmas make it an obviously deeply flawed way of thinking completely independent of the shitty behavior it enables and its natural tendency to provoke counter reaction in the supposedly “privileged” people who are often its targets.

Compounding this are legitimate questions about just how powerless so called “marginalized people” – or at least the pseudo intellectual class that so consistently appropriates their identities and struggles for their own political purposes – are when this line of reasoning is so pervasive in academia, media, government bureaucracy, human resources departments and so on, to say nothing of the full resources of a totalitarian state in the case of the former Soviet sphere?  It should be borne in mind that it is the state, not the poor minorities themselves that oppresses when regressive leftists get their hands on real political power.  

As a direct corollary to this, those deemed “privileged” in these reductionist ideological indexes of power quite frequently aren’t.  The image of the six digit salary earning tenured college administrator, celebrity or media personality using their bully pulpit to tell unemployed white male laborers to “check their privilege” has become almost cliché in criticisms of SJWs.  Sadly, it is a cliché too frequently based in truth.

Perhaps that is why the tendency to sweep the glaring problems with “power plus prejudice” and “Kto Kovo” lines of thinking under the rug is so strong in cultural institutions.  It is so much easier to reduce complex questions of power, privilege and the abuse thereof to simple, two variable equations that make the good guy and bad guy easy to identify.  But this is done at the expense of the intellectual and moral integrity of left wing movements.  So long as the scapegoat – be it a male falsely accused of rape, a white Donald Trump supporter assaulted by Black Lives Matter or Antifa fanatics or a Kulak who dared hoard corn from Stalin’s secret police - has some arbitrary characteristic that the “revolutionary class” or “marginalized peoples” don’t have, the actual tendency of those scapegoated in this manner to be quite powerless can safely be ignored and any actions taken against them justified.  Just don’t ask troublesome questions and you shouldn’t get in trouble.

Marxism was not contrived to be a regressive leftist doctrine – Marx himself insisted that his worldview was a “science” based on demonstrable material and economic factors.  For Marx, who was exploited and who was privileged could be demonstrated through analysis of relations of production and how alienated labor produced surplus value for the benefit of the capitalists at the expense of the workers.

Nevertheless, it did open the door to many regressive tendencies, most notable of which was its secular variation of apocalyptic eschatology.  The end times were conceived of as an inevitable confrontation between a proletariat made morally pure by its lack of exploitative relationship vis-à-vis another class, and a bourgeoisie wholly and utterly corrupt beyond anything seen prior to the capitalist era.   

The popularity of heroic narratives stressing conflict of good vs evil is timeless and seems to be beyond even Marx’s notions of economic primacy, as demonstrated by the consistency of these themes in mythology, religion and even present day popular culture.  But projecting this kind of thinking onto one’s view of the world carries with it certain innate dangers. 

Like religious zealots thinking themselves God’s chosen people and theirs the one true faith, Marxism ennobled its followers with a sense of grand historical mission and therefore vulnerability to the notion that they could do no wrong.  The “scientific” aspects of Marxism strengthened rather than tempered their self righteous resolve.  It naturally lent itself to the “ends justify the means” kinds of logic used to rationalize the egregious human rights violations in Soviet Russia, Maoist China and elsewhere.  

While orthodox Marxism straight out of Das Kapital  is rare among 21st century regressive leftists (though it is making a bit of a comeback), its influence on current regressive leftism cannot be understated.  

It was not a large jump for the disillusioned remnants of the 1960s New Left to substitute race and gender based identity politics for class analysis into the Marxist oppressed/oppressor dialectic, although the materialist economic relations were a core aspect of Marx’s theories.  

The result was an ideology stressing a bourgeoisie/proletariat style contradiction across race and gender lines that was insoluble by a revolution in the relations and means of production, as Marx stressed was both possible and necessary in class relations.  This has left us with race and gender based theories of privilege that negate economic relations, however essential such relations may have been to the rise of racial and gender inequality in the first place.  What we are now left with is an endless future of strained racial and sexual relations and endless culture wars, wherein innocuous comments are considered “microaggressions” and “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are among the few tools left with which intersectional regressive leftists – themselves oddly ensconced in high places in media and academic institutions – may fight privilege and inequality.

But do some elements of even today’s regressive leftism predate even Marx?

... Continued in Part 8: The Regressive Soul

Friday, 24 March 2017

Cosmopolitan's Orgasm Failure

Usually, Cosmo is the magazine to turn to for people, women especially, who have difficulty orgasming during sex.  An issue has not been printed that has not touched on (no pun intended) this subject.  One can only guess at how many trees have given their lives to be converted to paper in service to this great and noble cause.

But on March 22 2017, we get a bit of a cold shower courtesy of this gem from the appropriately named author Hannah Smothers:
Why Guys Get Turned on When You Orgasm — and Why That's a Bad Thing 
Of course guys manage to make YOUR orgasm about themselves.
Uh oh.  This can't be good.  
It's not enough that men are already having more orgasms than women. To make matters worse, a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research found — aside from deriving pleasure from their own orgasms, obviously — men also derive a specific sort of masculine pleasure from making female partners orgasm. The researchers in the study, Sara Chadwick and Sari van Anders, refer to this incredibly predictable phenomenon as a "masculinity achievement." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I imagine a "masculinity achievement" looks something like Super Mario punching a coin out of one of those floating boxes in the video game. 
Masculinity achievement?  This can only mean that oppressiveness and general shitlordery are just around the bend.  The abstract of the study in question states:
Orgasms have been promoted as symbols of sexual fulfillment for women, and have perhaps become the symbol of a woman’s healthy sex life. However, some research has suggested that this focus on women’s orgasms, though ostensibly for women, may actually serve men; but the mechanisms of this are unclear.
We should all know by now that gender relations are a zero sum game.  That anything that "serves men" is thereby harmful to women should go without saying, but I guess I just said it anyway, just in case you might have forgotten.

To be fair, Smothers writes in the Cosmo article that:
Let's be clear — there's nothing wrong with feeling good about making your partner feel good (in this case, orgasming). It's nice to bring pleasure to your partner! But the researchers point out a sexist flaw in the masculinity boost thing.
Nice to bring pleasure to your partner, unless that pleasure takes the form of the heterosexual male feeling competent as a lover and being a causal agent in his partner's pleasure.  The "sexist flaw" in question being stated a bit later in the study's abstract:
Despite increasing focus on women’s orgasms, research indicates that the increased attention to women’s orgasms may also serve men’s sexuality, complicating conceptualizations of women’s orgasms as women-centric.
Men may exercise sexual agency from pleasuring their female partners, and thereby feel more masculine and sexual themselves.  Oh noes!  The horrors!  Surely the only logical thing to come next is a repeal of the nineteenth amendment.  Or something.
For example, men have stated that a woman’s orgasm is one of their most sexually satisfying experiences, describing feelings of confidence and accomplishment in connection to female partner orgasm occurrence.  This could further demonstrate positive shifts in sexual discourse by evidencing men’s enthusiastic participation in women’s sexual pleasure, but research points to more self-interested motivations.
Better that this be so then that men be indifferent to the sexual pleasure of their partners, no?  Something tells me that we are not going to be seeing women's march protests on par with the anti-Trump marches against male enjoyment of woman's orgasm any time soon.  Well, not outside social media, anyway, where zero-sum feminist adversarialism vis-a-vis men in a sexual context is rule number one. What sort of "self interested motivations" do men go into sex with that we should be so concerned?  We are given an idea here:
For instance, heterosexual women have stated that, while they enjoy orgasms, their desire to experience orgasm mainly rests on a concern for their male partner’s feelings and perceptions as a good lover. Studies have also found that many women fake orgasms to please their male partners, highlighting that women sometimes prioritize their male partner’s ego over communicating their own sexual desires.
I am no sex therapist, but I would certainly not counsel any woman to not communicate her own sexual desires for fear of upsetting her partner, and would likewise suggest that men be made of stern enough stuff to be able to hear their female partners communications without getting too butthurt about it.  Nobody likes a fragile ego.  Sex is meant to be a mutual pleasure shared by both (or all, if that's what you're into) participants in the sexual act.  Being an active participant in sex implies that one be capable of inducing sexual pleasure in one's partner, and this being a source of one's own pleasure in the act.  In essence, that's what makes it worth participating in, what separates real sex from mere mutual masturbation.

And, not surprisingly, this is precisely what these obviously feminist articles and studies are framing as being "male-centric" and indicative of a masculine fragility that relies upon "giving" women orgasms in order to selfishly buttress their masculine identities - the dreaded "masculinity achievement."  Because, you know, sexual identity and confidence is a bad thing for heterosexual males.  Because rape culture, because male privilege, because patriarchy, because twitter, "Being Liberal" style Facebook and tumblr-esque feminist standoffishness.  Speaking of fragile egos.

Given that, we shouldn't be surprised to discover:
In addition, men have reported that they experience disappointment when their female partner does not orgasm, but state that they would be reluctant to induce a woman’s orgasm with a vibrator because of worries of their own personal inadequacy. 
Overall, it appears that men may be more concerned about their role in women’s pleasure than they are about women’s pleasure itself. Together, this seems to indicate that although sexuality discourse has shifted to promote women’s orgasms, it has not shifted from a male-centric perspective.
Confused?  Me too.
Any self respecting male's concern about his own role in women's pleasure is quite legitimate, if you ask me.  Otherwise, why even be there at all?  Women are quite capable of inducing their own orgasms with vibrators, just as men are quite capable of masturbating to orgasm by themselves and the vast majority of them do so frequently.

I would suggest that women ask themselves these questions: If your partner is not to have some degree of agency in your own sexual pleasure, why waste his time?  And if your partner does not himself derive some degree of satisfaction from said agency, how would you justify the use of another person as an instrument of your own sexual pleasure and nothing more?

The whole point of having sex, besides procreation, is mutual pleasure.  Both partners getting off on each other getting off, and becoming more aroused and thus more satisfied as a result.  Not in the sense of surrendering sexual agency and making another person responsible for your satisfaction and becoming dependent on them, but using sexual agency to share that enjoyment with another and achieve a kind or degree of satisfaction that neither one could achieve independently.  This is the essence of erotic intimacy.

Is this making the female orgasm about the male, at least in part?  You better believe it is, just as the male orgasm becomes, at least in part, about the female.  Sure, this has the potential to lead to problems, as with performance anxiety induced frigidity or impotency.  But these problems are not what is being objected to here.

This, folks, is what the feminists behind this study object to:
Empirically demonstrating a link between women’s orgasms and men’s masculinity also has important implications for conceptualizations of women’s sexual liberation, among others.
"Women's sexual liberation", as defined in this study and as conceived of in feminism in general, would appear to entail a nullification of male sexual agency.  This is a consistent theme in feminism, hence its disdain for male heterosexuality as is evidenced in popular feminist concepts such as the "male gaze" and sexual objectification.  Implicit even in the fat-positivity and body positivity movements are the notions that men are to have no minds of their own regarding what they find attractive.

Men are to be completely extraneous as far as female sexual pleasure and satisfaction are concerned, and if men are to be used in the sex lives of women, they are to derive minimal pleasure and enjoyment from either the act itself, or even of any competency in the giving of women pleasure through sex, lest it become a stigmatized "masculinity achievement" which is bad because reasons.

Is it any wonder that lack of libido is becoming a more prevalent problem?  Better some good anime and a jar of petroleum jelly than sex with "liberated women" if this is how we are to define liberated.

I have long suspected that women's liberation, in its present social media form, is more of a gender flipped version of male machismo; a fear of real intimacy hidden behind an exaggerated concern for gender identity.  This study and Ms. Smother's Cosmo article have confirmed this suspicion.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

SJW Grandstanders will NOT go Away on Their Own

Youtubber "Mouthy Buddha" praises the stoicism and resolve of University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson in the face of a noisy SJW demonstration against a talk he recently gave.  Mouthy Buddha commends Jordan for "time and time again setting an example for us" as the video shows him largely ignoring a rowdy group of protesters trying to shut down his lecture.  Mouthy Buddha's video may be viewed here.

These sentiments are echoed in the comments following the video.  

"Jon the Bastard" writes, "I wish I could be as stoic as Professor Peterson. The man is a Legend in the making."

"Mike Stewie" writes, "I agree - Peterson sets the standard. While I enjoy listening to the likes of Bearing & Undoomed; an abusive medium is not the way to engage public interest productively. By arguing rationally and non-offensively we make serious arguments, but we also polarize the conversation in a way that shows SJWs for what they are: spoiled & irrational children."

"quizads" writes, "Peterson has truly become a worthy example of nonviolent discourse. I am moved to tears as well."

Others praised him in almost religious terms:

"Jeremy David Evans" writes, "I also almost cried watching his upload.  Truly, he walks his talk. He is shooting for the Christic ideal and reaching it.  When the Israelites were bitten by their own sins and temptations, Moses placed the bronze serpent on a cross so that all who looked on it would be saved. Peterson has taken up the cross of persecution, gained the spotlight, and those of us that see his truth are ever more drawn into that place of truthfulness. The cost is great, but the reward greater: the resurrection of society."

"Marthin Lukas" writes, "Shit....that was.....Jesus-esque......damn it Prof. Jordan."

I would not condemn a man for being stoic and resolved, and I do find Prof. Peterson's conduct in the video to be admirable.  But sometimes turning the other cheek doesn't cut it.  Sometimes appeasement isn't the answer.  Neville Chamberlain is not remembered as a superior Prime Minister to Winston Churchill, and the Dalai Lama no doubt still waits for the communist Chinese to return to their senses so that he can return safely to Lhasa and resume his duties there.  He's been waiting a while now, and will be waiting a long time yet.

People have been waiting a long time for college leftists to come to their senses.  Political correctness was dismissed as a passing fad in the early 1990s, though the ideologies underlying it go back further than that.  Sure, the Students for a Democratic Society did peter out, but their legacy has not.  Feminist theory and critical race theory are multigenerational now.  The umbrella of ideological protectionism - the equation of criticism of the theories with actual misogyny and racism - has sheltered these theories from real scrutiny or opposition for decades.

Sometimes, a firm and decisive stand is what's required.  The SJWs are one of those times.  We've been waiting and appeasing.  Things only get worse.  It's time for the gloves to come off.  It's as simple as that.

The forerunners of today's SJWs did not go away after Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American mind in 1987.  They did not go away after Dinesh D'Sousa published Illiberal Education in 1990.  They did not go away after Christina Hoff Sommers published Who Stole Feminism in 1994.  They did not go away after the minor humiliation of the Alan Sokal affair in the late 1990s, Rolling Stone's false rape story, and have not gone away after Milo Yiannopoulos's repeated exposure of their campus antics.  

Smugly dismissing them as mentally unbalanced, as crybabies or as special snowflakes is not making them go away.  They will not go away despite the fact their women's studies degrees will not qualify them for good jobs.  They will not go away after being unfavorably compared to the generation that stormed the beaches of Normandy or even the generation that marched for civil rights back in the 1960s.  They have not gone away despite being shown on social media time and time and time again for being fools.  

Criticisms spanning the decades, from libertarian, men's rights, traditionalist, classical liberal or marxist materialist perspectives has done nothing, not one thing, to dislodge them.

Voting conservative will not make them go away.  Neither Brian Mulroney nor Stephen Harper did anything about this during their tenures as Tory PMs in Canada.  Nor did Margaret Thatcher, John Major or David Cameron in the UK. Even if Justin Trudeau was unseated by a Tory, even one so un-PC as Kevin O'Leary come 2020, or were Nigel Farage to (somehow) become PM in the UK in the next general, the smart money is on the SJWs becoming more, rather than less vehement. Stateside, they didn't go away after Nixon won the 1972 election or after Reagan won the 1980 election or after George W. Bush won in 2000.  

The foolishness of those who believed Trump's 2016 victory would prompt a rethink on part of identity politics progressives in academia and mass media must by now be perfectly representative of the oft quoted definition of insanity.  

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In fact, the title of Mouthy Buddha's video really does say it all.

SJWs are STRONGER Than Ever 2017.

He damn well knows this, and admits it in his own comments section:
The title may seem like hyperbole but it's not. Jordan Peterson's views are a minority within a minority in our university campuses, and although many students do side with him, and show him support, the onslaught from the regressive's truly are stronger than they used to be, because academia is now 100% behind the methods and tactics involved. 
They are vehemently against Jordan choosing not to say certain words, but are ok with students screaming "transphobic piece of shit". 
The following is the first sentence in a statement made by McMaster University: 
"We are 'deeply troubled' that Dr. Jordan Peterson has been invited to speak at McMaster." 
Right. He's too fashy, all the freedom for all and free speech stuff is troublesome. 
Let's all get our heads out of our asses here.  The SJWs aren't going anywhere on their own.  They won't be coming to their senses soon, or ever.  Because what they're doing is working, and they damn well know it.  The SJWs are winning.  It's as simple as that.  Brexit and Donald Trump did nothing whatsoever to change that.  One look at the advance of feminism, gay rights, and so on, especially in cultural institutions like academia and mass media make that perfectly clear.  It's so much easier to just shrug your shoulders and capitulate to whatever the latest demands are than it is to do what Jordan Peterson has done and dig in your heels on a matter of principle.  Especially when, unlike the SJWs, you're pretty much guaranteed to stand alone.

And that's precisely the problem.

If you wish to win a culture war, as the SJWs most certainly do, not standing alone is a fairly elementary principle.  And that's just the first of many things the regressive SJWs know that their shoulder shrugging, "what do you do?" asking political opponents don't.

The campus SJWs understand how grassroots activism and organizing work.  At the very least, they seem able to get names on petitions and participants for boycotts and protests.  They analyze the structures of institutions like colleges and look for the weak points where they can get the best results through the application of pressure.  They gain key positions of authority and instruction within academic institutions and use those positions to establish curriculum, guide research efforts and either allow or hinder the career development of students and fellow faculty depending on whether they tow or oppose the ideological party line.  They also structure their ideologies in such a way as to lend credibility to their inclination to use their institutional authority for ideological purposes.  By making claims that erode the perceived differences between scholarship and activism, for example, or subject to postmodernist deconstruction enlightenment notions of objectivity, neutrality and equality of right.

They study media and media relations, and not just on a surface level.  They know full well that the medium is the message.  They deconstruct literature and understand how language frames thought.  They understand the mythopoetic structure of political thought, and understand how important narrative construction is.  They are fully cognizant of the fact that framing and narrative consistently trump even the most airtight of logical arguments.  These people get degrees in English, psychology, sociology, religious studies, media studies and a host of other fields that delve deep into the workings of the human mind and the operations of social interaction.  While their ideas are flawed in the sense that any ideas that take root and become hegemonic in any closed social system become flawed due to ideological siloing, it certainly can't be said that they are lacking in political shrewdness or are fundamentally stupid.  If the SJWs are so dumb, why are they in charge?

They understand these things, and have understood them for decades.  The results speak for themselves.  In Canada, besides academic and media hegemony, a firmly established deep state consisting of advocacy on behalf of women's groups, aboriginal groups, pro-immigrant groups and so on insures that they control the narrative regardless of the party in political office, and genuine dissent carries with it risks of ostracization, job loss or even an appearance before one of our Orwellian "Human Rights" tribunals, as indeed Professor Peterson is being threatened with.

That's quite the little knapsack of privilege we've just unpacked.  The good news is that there's nothing preventing those with a genuine concern for free speech on campuses and elsewhere from understanding the workings of any of the above either.

The end game for anti-regressives, whatever their stripe, will have to look something like this.  I've already published these, but will do so again, to give an idea of what's possible given time and, more importantly, effort.

Three particularly important goals for enemies of regressivism:
  • Requiring that intent to harass or create a “poisoned environment” be proven on at least a balance of probabilities or a preponderance of evidence in order to secure a remedy in court over a harassment or hate speech allegation.  “Privileged” people cannot be held responsible, on pain of professional or even legal consequences, for the emotional states of “marginalized” people, given what we know of how the human mind works, regardless of “social context” so prized by regressive social theorists.
  • As a corollary to the above, political opinion and opinion on social issues should be a protected category of legal discrimination, especially in employment, just as race, gender, etc.  It should be especially costly to terminate an employee for expressing an opinion on political or social issues, just as it is for protected grounds for discrimination.  Exemptions to this can be extended if the non-expression of certain views can be shown to be a bona-fide occupational requirement.  There’s plenty of information about these  concepts in fields pertaining to human resources management and employment law.
  •  Strong College Campus Free Speech legislation must be passed, preferably at the federal level but at least at the state/provincial level.   It's provisions would include the following:
    1. Require colleges to adopt, at the governance level, policy statements that make crystal clear organizational commitment to free expression, and make crystal clear that it is not the university's role to protect students or faculty from ideas they find offensive or disagreeable.
    2. The campus must be declared open to any speaker invited by students, student groups or faculty.  Disinvitation of controversial speakers should thus be prohibited.
    3. There must be serious consequences for actions that result in shutting down speakers on college campuses or harassment of students and faculty for political reasons, including complicit administration failing to act accordingly in response to such events.  Suspensions for first offenses, expulsion/termination for cause in the case of repeat offenses, and even legal prosecution if warranted.  
    4. Independent bodies should be established to investigate student and/or faculty allegations of "ideological gatekeeping", which I define as attempts to block the academic progress or careers of students or staff for political or ideological reasons.  This body would also be emboldened to investigate claims of ideological indoctrination in academic settings.  Remedies could include reprimands or other disciplinary measures up to and including termination (in the case of multiple repeat convictions) against offending faculty members.
    5. The legislation itself would contain language cautioning academic institutions against fostering or allowing to be fostered a campus culture that romanticizes violent extremism, direct action, and other militant and confrontational forms of activism.  Honest discussion of the above would be permitted.
    6. Strong protections for the due process rights of students and faculty charged under any of the above sections, and strong protections for the rights of student and faculty to engage in peaceful and non-disruptive protest. 
People simply must have assurance of their protection from legal or employment related repercussions for expressing their views if regressivism of all kinds is to be pushed to the margins of society.  If they not already have been, these ideas or ideas like them need to be adopted in your jurisdiction.

The SJWs will not go away by themselves. We must know this.  We must accept this.  This means complete acceptance of the fact that they will settle for nothing less than totalitarian control.  They are indeed getting stronger and getting bolder because they've been successful, for the most part.  It doesn't matter how many people dislike them.

The good news is, it doesn't have to.  If dislike can make the jump into no-nonsense organized and effective opposition, I think we'd all be surprised at just how weak the SJWs actually are.

Critical Theory - the Unlikely Conservatism

If "critical theory" is to be a useful and good thing, it needs to punch up, not down. This is a crux of social justice thinking. ...