Wednesday, 31 May 2017

SJW culture: Dormant, not Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

7 Reasons Why Anything and Everything Should be up for Debate

"What are you?  Chicken?"
I fail to understand why the left in the western world has become so averse to open debate, especially on university campuses.

Are leftists afraid they won't win debates against climate change deniers, creation scientists, race realists, trickle down economists, the war on drugs, "Pray the gay away", alt-right blowhards, holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers, men’s rights activists, 9/11 truthers, guys who go on about "cultural Marxism" or "women's place is in the home" tradcons?

Collectively, these do not strike me as an especially high bar.  So what gives?

It is rightly asserted that many far right wing ideologies are fundamentally irrational and so appeal to irrational people, and you're not likely to convince their core adherents outright, no matter how good your case may be.  Many also are little more than rationalizations for rank hatred and bigotry.  Others still have been debunked repeatedly and long ago, so to do so again is just tiresome and redundant.   Can’t we all just bury these stupid ideas and move on already?

Nevertheless, here are seven broad reasons why I think controversial reactionary opinions should be debated, or at least deconstructed in public forums. 

1 - You'll bring moderates and fence sitters into the more rational camp.  This happened a lot back in the days when the new atheism, the kind represented by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, went on the rational offensive against right wing Christianity.  I saw it happen online countless times during Bush’s second term in office.  In fact, it's precisely what happened to me.  

Regrettably, progressives are not repeating this prior success with the alt-right movement today. 

No-platforming the alt-right actually contributes to the image they’re seeking for themselves as a force to be feared.  A force to be feared is a force to be respected.  Maybe even a force to seek the protection and allegiance of in uncertain times.   When Hillary Clinton presented the alt-right and its internet icons in terms similar to the way the religious right fear-mongered over rock music back in the 1980s, she virtually handed Donald Trump the presidency.

Contrast this with the scathing deconstruction and ridicule to which the new atheists subjected the religious right.  The liberals - at long last - took the initiative.  Rather than no-platform the religious right, they made damn good and sure everybody heard – from the evangelist’s own mouths – exactly what they believed and how nonsensical and stupid it really was.  Memes that ridiculed religious conservatism – invisible pink unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters and the like, were viral phenomenon. 

Yes, hard as it may be to believe today, it was the progressives who were using meme magic in those days.  That makes Hillary Clinton’s campaign fear mongering and hysteria over a cartoon frog all the more laughable and tragic.   Let’s look at it from a different angle: guys on 4chan were using – among other things - a cartoon frog and an attendant “Cult of Kek” to attempt to revive fascist ideology in order to get Donald Trump in the White House.  The comedy – mixed in with a no-nonsense critique of their antiquated racial pseudo-science - pretty much writes itself at this point.  Had Hillary taken that approach, would world affairs now be different?  

With all due respect to Pepe – I must admit, I do have a soft spot for the guy. I can sympathise with him.  I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of baseless moral panic.  

2 - You avoid the "lure of the forbidden fruit" effect that fringe opinions have with certain kinds of people.  If you explain the reasons why you think the way you do, you prove that you and the political faction of which you're part have nothing to hide.  If you rely instead on getting offended at the mere suggestion that an unorthodox opinion be explored, and pursue options for punishing people who hold such views, you lend legitimacy to the conspiratorial narratives that fringe right (or left) wing views tend to hold and come across as abusing your power.  This may even generate sympathy for those views - people naturally sympathise with the underdog.   

I think the present growth of the alt-right has been due in part to their quite deliberately exploiting this whole dynamic.  Compare this with the so called “Streisand Effect”, when attempts to smear or censor something actually give it exposure and contribute to its success.  Openly debunking controversial ideas, if indeed they are so wrong, takes that wind right out of their sails.

3 - You are conveying respect.  Respect not necessarily for the reactionary or the conspiracy theorist you are arguing with, but for the reasoning capacity of 3rd parties and any audience such a debate might have.  The kinds of high-minded refusal to debate contentious matters that liberals so often display comes across as patronizing and condescending.  They assume audiences are like small children who need to be protected from potentially "harmful" opinions and too stupid to tell good ideas from bad.  Liberal people especially, with their professed egalitarianism and respect for the marginalized, have no business adopting such elitist views.  

These kinds of assumptions are, of course, true of some people, and those who refuse to change their views to accord with the facts should be held to censure and ridicule.  But surprisingly large numbers of people are put off by smugness, and may not care what you have to say no matter how right you are if you come across as a pompous know-it-all. 

This is especially true when progressives imply, as they often do, that to disagree with them on anything is to be racist, misogynist or Nazi.  Increasingly, people are not taking kindly to the emotional blackmail implicit in this kind of argumentation, and are taking their loyalties elsewhere.  And so they should.  Progressives are not owed loyalty or support any more than anybody else is, and need to stop using the good names of anti-racism and feminism as a legitimizing cover for their own snobbery and propensity to disrespect other people.

4 - It is an opportunity to illustrate what good and bad thinking are and how they work.  This is especially true in educational environments.  Explore the fallacies, and not just straight out logical fallacies.  Explore the deeper psychological appeal that extremist politics and conspiracy theories have, at least for certain personality types. 

Do not assume that the reason people hold reactionary or radical views is always bigotry, stupidity or some kind of vested interest, although any of those may be the case and the use of ideology to rationalize privilege, prejudice or abuse of power should, of course, be explored.  But people’s reasons for believing what they believe are surprisingly complex.  Subtle shifts in mental framing, for instance, can cause the same issue to appear very differently to two different people, and both views may be held and advanced in good faith and with the best of intentions.  It becomes increasingly important to understand this as politics grows ever more polarized. 

There are certainly times when it’s appropriate to call people out for advancing spiteful, hateful or flagrantly self serving views.  But be reasonably sure all other possibilities have been explored before resorting to this, or it is you and your own side  that will ultimately come across as looking vindictive and power hungry when it turns out the victim of your self righteous wrath really was acting in good faith.  Failure in this regard is damaging the image of progressive politics today, at a time when such politics have never been more needed.

The current tactic of moral outrage and no-platforming risks leaving students vulnerable to bad ideas down the road.

5 - It is intellectually honest.  If you've been right 19 times out of 20 in a dispute with your neighbor, that does not mean that you will automatically be right during the 21st dispute and thus have no need to make a sound case.  To believe otherwise is to forsake the very soundness of logic that you're presuming makes you right in the first case.
I get the sense that in the Obama years,  progressives were coasting on the winds of earlier success against the evangelicals.  They assumed that because they were usually right in their disputes with the conservatives, that they would always be right in their disputes with the conservatives, and so felt at liberty to dispense with those disputes entirely.  This led to intellectual arrogance and laziness. 

The problem with simply coasting on the winds of prior success is that those winds do not blow forever.  When they stop, you'd better still be able to keep flight of your own accord.  Progressives during Obama’s second term did not consider this.  As a result, Donald Trump is in the White House, the very evangelicals who were in abeyance only a short time ago again have access to the levers of power, and it is now the progressives who are being smeared and ridiculed as hypersensitive politically correct snowflakes.  Tragically, the lesson does not appear to have been learned.

6 – It sets a far better precedent.  Liberals are taking their dominance in media and academia as much for granted as they’re taking their sense of moral superiority.  And in doing so, are casting both away.  Do they really think they will enjoy the advantage of institutional power and media bias forever?

When the right is able to marshal sufficient force to themselves no-platform leftists, the progressives will have no right to complain about it.  Don’t think it can happen?  Surprise, it already has.  McCarthyism, anyone?  The red scare, anyone?  This is what’s so unfortunate about the left’s new found enthusiasm for getting so called racists and homophobes fired from their jobs.  They didn’t like it when socialists and trade unionists were blacklisted for their politics, and rightly so.  

When white male identity politics reaches critical mass, and are able to get leftists fired from their jobs for misandry or anti-white racism, progressive insistence that you can’t be racist or sexist against whites and males because “power plus prejudice” will fall on increasingly deaf ears.  Because guess what?  That line of thought is going to stop working sooner or later.  It will be called out for the self serving sophistry it really is.

You know what they say about those who live by the sword.

7 – Reactionary positions may be right about some things.  While their overall world views are heavily distorted, there’s often a kernel of truth at the heart of them.  This seems especially hard for progressives to deal with.  It’s also especially essential for progressives to deal with, or else they cede whole areas of valid concern to the reactionaries, and thereby give them more fertile soil in which to take root in public opinion.

Mass immigration, especially in Europe, has had serious negative social consequences, as tragic incidents such as the Rotherham Affair make clear.  Islamic theology really does have many retrograde elements, especially around women’s rights and LGBT rights.  Being a white male isn’t always all about power and privilege, especially since most white males are not among the truly rich and powerful.  Men do indeed face disadvantages that women do not, all other things being equal, as any divorced father dealing with the family court system would be happy to tell you.  Sexual liberation has contributed to family breakdown.

Concerns over “globalism” aren’t merely anti-semitic conspiracy theory fear mongering.  Economic globalization and the financialization of the economy have been devastating for the working classes, have decimated organized labor and it wasn’t all that long ago that opposing globalism was top priority for the political left.  It still needs to be.  Left wing thought really has become hegemonic on many college campuses as a result of a long march through the institutions; cultural Marxism so called. 

If progressives fail to acknowledge any of the above, or worse, try to suppress expression of any of the above, it will be their own reputation that suffers in the end.  It is impossible to completely suppress information and ideas in the internet age.  If the progressives do not listen to and acknowledge the legitimate grievances at the heart of many reactionary ideologies, those grievances will then serve to lend legitimacy to the illegitimate bigotry, paranoia and scapegoating that reactionaries build up around those grievances.  And leftists will have no one to blame for that but themselves.

Conclusion – It’s easy to simply dismiss reactionary views as stupid, not being worth the time of serious thinkers, as base fear mongering, bigotry or mere self serving rationalization for privilege and abuse of power.  Too easy, in fact, and a culture of smugness, arrogance and ideological entitlement has set in among liberals, especially in media, in academia and online.  

But it is culture that threatens to undermine the very virtues and principles upon which liberal and progressive world views professes to rest.  More and more people across the political spectrum are simply not accepting the progressive’s sense of entitlement to be agreed with on all things without question or explanation or else racist, misogynist or Nazi.   

Taking the time to marshal the facts and build a case against reactionary views from the ground up is not easy.  Taking the time to advance and defend such a case in a public forum is likewise not easy, and does not guarantee immediate results.  Many reactionaries will cling to outmoded and disproven views no matter how strong the case against them, will argue flagrantly stupid positions in rude, obnoxious ways and shamelessly grandstand on behalf of such obviously shameful ideas.  This is, quite understandably, frustrating.  

But in the long run, progressives have no choice.  Especially in an era of social media, and ease of access to information.  The criticisms of liberal snobbishness are not going to go away just because liberals happen to have access to most agenda setting media and can use it to handwave these criticisms.  Liberals don’t get to be right just because they want to be any more than anybody else does. 

The ash heap of history is littered with pompous elites who mistook what successes they did achieve for an intrinsic greatness that is owed the loyalty of all.  Assuming that one is owed agreement and loyalty today because of successes earned due to hard work yesterday is easy.  Understanding that one must keep doing the work today in order to earn agreement and loyalty tomorrow is hard.  But if progressive values are to continue to have a tomorrow, what is hard is what must be done today.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Canadian Conservatism R.I.P

Over 250,000 eligible voters, and this is the best the Conservative Party of Canada can come up with?

A man former Liberal staffer Warren Kinsella described as a "perpetually grinning harlequin" is now to lead the official opposition to Justin Trudeau in the Great White North, and has ambitions of being Canada's next prime minister, following the next election, which is supposed to happen in 2019 sometime.

If that seems like a long wait, don't be afraid to sleep through the intervening years until voting day arrives.  If you can't get to sleep, don't worry.  Just listen to newly minted Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer speak for any length of time.  You'll be out like a light in no time.

Mr. Andrew Scheer garnered as much applause as he was able to get during his victory speech when he talked about how important it was that Canadians be able to have a debate on any subject, especially on college campuses.  A sentiment I fully agree with.  And a statement that I suspect Mr. Scheer will deeply regret making once he actually does end up in a debate with Trudeau.  Or anyone, come to that.

R.I.P Canadian conservatism. Good or bad, it's dead. Simple as that.

Listen at 8 minutes in as Mr. low energy launches into talking points from Ronald Reagan's 1979 presidential campaign.

"Cutting your taxes! Making it easier for the private sector to create jobs. End the liberal policies that make it harder to start new businesses."  

All in a perfect nasal monotone drone so perfectly suited for such a stale, tin eared, graph paper brained policy platform.  I remember rolling my eyes reading drivel like this in Sun newspaper editorials back in the early 1990s, and they were painfully old and shopworn even then.  

Yup.  You guessed it.  Trickle down economics. 

Really? REALLY? 

Come on, Andrew. Come on. 

You might as well be handing Trudeau a crown and a scepter. Flaky as Justin Trudeau and the whole "social justice warrior" movement may be, at least they have a comprehensive vision of what they think society should look like that they're actually passionate about and believe in. This is just the same old turn the keys of the kingdom over to corporate lobbyists that has been conservatism in the western world for decades now. Unless Trudeau manages to completely run things off the rails in the next few years - and I suppose I shouldn't put that past him, he is a Canadian PM after all - this guy and his low energy party are not going to win. As simple as that. He's the quintessential example of what the alt-right would call a cuckservative.

Is conservatism really so ideologically and philosophically exhausted that this kind of monotone dweeb and his 1970s lolbertarian talking points really their idea of the leader and the ideas they need?  It was quite obvious that the answer is no.  The narrow margin by which he won, and the tepid response of the crowd to his droning econ 101 copy-pasta makes that perfectly clear.

What's tragic is that they have so much potential.  So much they could work with.

With one exception, this speech is absolutely everything wrong with conservatism in the great white north. I honestly felt like I was at an annual shareholder's meeting, listening to the presentation of the audited financial statements. Except when he stood up for free speech and open debate on college campuses. You'd think the thunderous applause that got in contrast to the tepid and delayed applause to the threadbare Conservative Inc. trickle down talking points should tell right (and left) leaning talking heads and policy wonks something. 

Get the hint, guys. 

I sure the hell won't be betting on it, though.  Doubtful he'd even be able to follow through on his threat to withhold funding for colleges that enable no-platforming even if he wanted to, which I honestly doubt.  Universities are provincial jurisdiction.  Canadian conservatives haven't cared about this - or anything other than their perfectly pressed suits and haircuts - for decades now.  They're not about to start now.  That's why the best they seem to ever be able to come up with are endlessly recycled Milton Friedman soundbites.  


Ronald Reagan has been dead almost 14 years now. Time to bury the guy and move on.

The New Atheism: When Bertrand Russell Met Lenin Once Again

The "new" atheism - a misnomer, really - emerged into the mainstream in the early 2000s with the publication of such works as The End of Faith by Sam Harris, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.  It was not really new in the sense that they were not saying anything that Bertrand Russell hadn't said back in the 1920s, and other philosophers before even him.

What was new was how this early 21st century wave of atheism used the internet to take the American cultural scene by storm.  The net was dominated by a younger, more libertarian cohort, and they were getting ever angrier and more frustrated with the Christian conservative Bush white house.  It wasn't just Bush's policies that drove their bitterness, but rather his facade of down-home folksiness, exemplified by his intentional mispronunciations of words.  These new atheist authors found a receptive audience in these social media pioneers, for whom the problems America, and indeed the world, were facing were reducible to too much church attendance among red state Americans.

The Meme of Legends
These new atheists did indeed make a convincing deconstruction of evangelical Christian doctrines, and their propensity to mop the floor with Christians in online flame wars became the subject of memes.  The case they make against the inerrancy of scripture is convincing.  Personally, I was never really convinced by them, however.  Not fully.  While this argument drove online atheists crazy, I was among those who thought of them as their own sort of evangelists.  I didn't trust the degree of importance they attached to the nonbelief in God, as if that was what made or broke a person morally or intellectually.  Funny how alike their mirror image fundamentalist rivals they were in that respect.

I didn't trust how eager so many of them were to pronounce as fact something they could not prove - the nonexistence of God, despite their constant insistence on smoking gun evidence for God's existence from their religious opponents.  The implication that all the world's problems could be laid at the feet of belief in Christian dogmas struck me as absurdly reductionist. Bertrand Russell became aware of the fact that God-belief wasn't the real root of the problem after meeting Lenin in 1920, and becoming extremely put off by Lenin's fanatical devotion to a decidedly non religious ideology.  My direct experience with Bush era internet atheists was that they were staunchly unwilling to learn from Russell's experience.  Talk to them of the terrors of the Soviet anti-religious campaigns or the Red Chinese invasion of Tibet and cultural revolution, and I was universally admonished - especially by female liberal atheists - to stop sounding like such a McCarthyite Republican.

Their experience with religion seemed limited to the conservative, evangelical Bush presidency and was defined entirely by being opposed to abortion and gay marriage.  I was no friend to religious conservatism either, and had not been since the Satanic Panic of the 1980s wherein I was accused of devil worship on account of listening to heavy metal music and playing Dungeons and Dragons.  But after having read Bertrand Russell, Eric Hoffer and others who'd done deeper research into the nature of belief and fanaticism, it seemed to me as though the new atheists were hamstrung by a decidedly one dimensional take on spiritual concerns.  Although some of them had even read works by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, many atheists I knew online and in real life seemed to not grasp that side of human nature that was drawn towards the mythical, the poetic and the spiritual.

Increasingly, online atheism came to be about smugness, wittiness, signalling, sarcasm, posturing, decidedly anti-holy holier than thou-ness, and just how much smarter they all were than those stupid religious rubes, inbreeding in the Ozarks, or the like.  Being considered a good person was measurable by the correctness of one's beliefs and one's politics.  The smug scenester mindset that I'd seen among my counter-culture acquaintances in high school was there all over again, except it was religious incorrectness rather than listening to the wrong kind of music that would get you snubbed by the very same people who claimed to despise preppy snobbery.  There was no room at the table for people who believed in sky daddies, invisible pink unicorns or flying spaghetti monsters.  He who fought with monsters was not taking care, and gazing altogether too long into the abyss.

I disliked religious intolerance, of course, but much more the intolerance than the religious.  Especially when said intolerance was becoming increasingly agenda-driven and ideologically ego-stroking and self serving.  Most anti-religious liberals were decidedly unwilling to take on Islam, for instance, long before Maajid Nawaz called out regressive leftism.  Associations of anti-Islamism with racism were not invented by Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. It was old hat even then.  Censorship and sexual prudishness were only wrong when the Catholic Church and southern evangelicals were doing it.  When radical feminists and college campuses were doing it, you were obviously an anti-gay, anti-abortion Bush loving republican for even daring to say such a thing.  Clerical celibacy was just oh, so unnatural, but separatist radical feminism was heroic resistance against the patriarchy.

This was my experience from 2006 onwards.  What would come to be called the SJWs and the Regressive Left were, as popular concepts, years away still.  But the foundations had already long been laid and set.  The hypocrisy on the left that drove me to abandon progressivism in the late 1990s after reading Warren Farrell's Myth of Male Power only seemed to be intensifying.

Thus, when donglegate happened, and Elevatorgate happened, and Atheism+ happened, the new atheists were a lot more surprised than I was.  Descriptions of the debacle that was atheism+ in this 2013 article in Atheist Revolution now seem quaintly humorous in their familiarity.  Postmodern intersectional 3rd wave feminism: Like Seinfeld, classic Star Trek or the music of the Beatles, it's easy to forget that a much younger and less worldly you actually experienced it for the first time:
"On August 19, 2012, blogger Jen McCreight unleashed "Atheism+" upon unsuspecting atheists around the world, and some would say our community has been divided ever since."
"Still others were turned off by the manner in which Atheism+ quickly became an "us vs. them" endeavor that seemed to be more about branding, self-promotion, and purging the atheist community of those who were not liked by those who decided to promote Atheism+ than it did about social justice."
"I was wrong about most atheists valuing skepticism and critical thinking. I would soon realize that many atheists were not skeptics or critical thinkers, at least not when it came to some aspects of their ideology. Unfortunately, I discovered I was wrong by observing the behavior of many of the most vocal supporters of Atheism+. They demonstrated little willingness to think critically or skeptically about the particular form of feminism that seemed to be at the center of their worldview."
"Because Atheism+ was righteous, those who offered criticism were not just people who disagreed; they were bad people. In order to be a valued member of the community, one needed to be the right kind of feminist."
And this, the canary in the coal mine gone silent even in 2013:
"Social justice tends to emphasize human rights, making it more inclusive than the particular issues Jen listed after it. For example, social justice efforts have long focused on the plight of the poor. This was nowhere to be found on Jen's list."
You don't say!

The moment I had been hoping for since 1992, when I read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale - when a substantial portion of liberals would catch on to the fact that the postmodern progressivism of which the new atheism was a part, and Christian conservatism were much more alike than different beneath their cultural veneers - finally seemed to happen in the later part of 2014.  The tone of the discussion had finally shifted.  Bill Maher and Sam Harris were squaring off against Ben Affleck on Real Time, and a YouTuber calling himself the Amazing Atheist had finally found a punching bag he preferred to the Christian God in another YouTuber by the name of Anita Sarkeesian.

Once again, it seemed, Bertrand Russell had met Lenin, and was again unimpressed by what he saw.

About damn time.

A brief history of the Alt-Left and where it's going

A brief outline of the history of our movement:

"Let us Face the Future!"
The alt-left is basically a revival of the early to mid 20th century anti-communist, anti-stalinist left. These were people who were pro labor, pro social democracy and in favor of civil rights, but put off by the authoritarianism of the Soviet bloc, and a bit later on, by the radicalism of the new left of the late 1960s.

This kind of progressivism faded away during the 1980s and 90s. With the collapse of communism, a leftism opposed to authoritarian leftism was without a foil. Plus, deindustrialization and the resulting decline of organized labor meant that the electoral support for classic social democracy receded. The likes of Reagan in America and Thatcher in the UK signified a structural shift away from the policies of economic center-leftism. 

Center-left parties gradually picked up the slack in a few other places. These included immigrant populations, which had grown as a result of increased immigration adopted by governments as a response to declining domestic birth rates, and an intellectual establishment based around academia and a nascent social media. These sorts of people were more interested in cultural leftism, so called political correctness. There was little concern for the social democracy of old on the center left. The kinds of salt-of-the-Earth blue collar workers and farmers who were once the backbone of the labor and cooperative movements were now distrusted and ridiculed for their religiosity and alleged racism.  The new political divide was between these urban PC cultural leftists, and these once labourite suburban and rural voters won over to the right via social conservatism.  The especially virulent strand of rightism represented by the religious right and later, the Tea Party, proved especially polarizing. 

Gradually, the religious right was pushed back due to the success of philosophically minded atheist authors, backed by an internet savvy skeptic community, riding a wave of disillusionment with the Bush White House and its costly and devastating war in Iraq over non existent weapons of mass destruction.  These new atheist authors and their amazing mouthpieces on social media held Christian fundamentalism to scathing ridicule and withering critique.  Important to their deconstruction of Christianity was its long record of support for social injustice and discrimination against women, minorities and gays, the later of whom were then campaigning for marriage rights. 

Then came the Lehman Bro's meltdown. Criticism of neoliberalism, always present under the radar but never on the national agenda, became more prominent. This compounded the already tarnished image of the conservative Bush White House, and Obama was subsequently elected on a platform of "hope and change" implying that he would be another Roosevelt. The results were less than were hoped for, mind you. Then the subsequent rise of Occupy Wall Street and the popularization of the meme of the 1% vs the 99%. Like their antecedents in the anti WTO protests of the late 90s and early 2000s, their issues resonated with people, but the culture of radicalism was off putting to many.

Also off putting was a growing tendency towards a soft authoritarianism on the cultural left. The rise of the social justice warriors, and their belligerent approach to cultural leftism, became deeply polarizing.  Especially on college campuses, where they popularized the tactic of "no platforming" speakers they did not like. The PC left's pushback against the religious right and the Tea Party seemed a hollow victory given how alike the religious right and the Tea Party they had become in the process.

A related phenomena was the so called regressive left, a kind of cultural leftism that cozied up to Islamism, and criticized opponents of mass Islamic immigration as Islamophobic. This despite growing public concern over rising domestic terrorism and changing demographics.  The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, and sexual assault scandals such as the Rotherham affair drove immigration to the top of concerns of voters across the western world, fuelling populist anti-immigration backlashes in America and Europe.

Then came manufactured clickbaity social media scandals such as donglegate, gamergate, elevatorgate, shirtstorm and Atheism+, which ended up causing a liberal schism between the SJWs and the so called skeptic community, alongside the rise of the alt-right. The SJWs and regressive left had prompted a reactionary backlash that had a profound effect on internet culture. This backlash attacked the SJWs and the regressive left with the same vigor with which they went after the religious right only recently.  

The social justice left could not have responded in a more counter-productive manner: insisting on ideological compliance due to the moral authority implicit to being progressive, or by appeal to their marginalized identities.  With displays of outrage that would win Oscars in Hollywood, the race and gender, rather than the arguments of the skeptic community critics were what a centralized, ideologically disciplined, overwhelmingly pro-social justice media and academic establishment establishment chose to focus on in their counter attacks.  

The rivalry grew increasingly bitter and more intense, with regressive leftists and social justice warriors, convinced that "there were no bad methods, only bad targets" took to doxing, smear campaigns and other forms of more personal attacks against their skeptic and alt-right critics.  Their opponents retaliated in kind.  At best, disputes between pro and anti SJW factions on social media became barely distinguishable from the trading of insults on a grade school playground.  Quite frequently, it resulted in people being fired from their jobs, blacklisted in various communities and wedges being driven between spouses and within families. 

But these counter-reactions to the new authoritarian left did not satisfy everybody. For many, the alt-right went too far in the opposite direction, going as far as to rehabilitate fascist and white nationalist ideas.  The two sides seemed to mirror one another in their contrasting bigotries and sexually repressed juvenile acrimony.  The Skeptic community, hewing to a path of classical liberalism, had little to say on issues of economic inequality, and were often as critical of "socialism" as they were of political correctness and Islamism.

Finally came the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump's success, due in part to support from the alt-right, showed the potential for an online political movement to challenge the status-quo. Bernie Sanders was the most successful US presidential candidate since the gilded age to refer to himself as a socialist. His success showed the potential for a revival of social democracy.  The bitter truth was that the 99% so called hadn't recovered from the great recession.  Increasingly, new jobs were either temporary, low wage and part time, or required huge amounts of education and involved an on call 24/7 way of life.  Work/life balance and union protection had grown scarce.  Sanders had tapped into a resentment against capitalism that had begun to fester even in the heart of the good 'ol U.S of A, the likes of which had not been seen since the days of the robber barons. 

2016 was the pivotal year.  It began with a handful of bloggers thinking of themselves as "the left wing of the alt-right" or "liberal race realists."  They added a much needed and conspicuously absent economic element to the alt right's nationalist critique of globalism.  White birth rates would remain low if jobs didn't pay enough or were too demanding timewise to support a family.

In late 2016, the unthinkable happened.  Disillusionment with the direction that the regressive left and the SJWs were taking things caused "I'm with her" - the successor to the now distant and disillusioned "Change we can believe in" to fall before "Make America great again!"  Following this was nothing less than an all out civil war on the progressive left between those who thought the election results due to just how deeply racist and misogynistic America was, and those who thought that the left's obsession with racism and misogyny to the exclusion of jobs and the economy was precisely why Hillary Clinton lost.  

Plus, it turned out that many people who were anti SJW and even involved in GamerGate or the skeptic community had otherwise progressive tendencies, but were disillusioned with the direction cultural leftism was going.  Driven by trendy academic theories such as intersectionality and postmodernism, and pushed by smug, self righteous and condescending commentators on social media, the cultural left had become censorious, puritanical and open in its disdain for people based on race and gender.  Wasn't this precisely what the progressive left was supposed to be against?

Yet for these disillusioned progressives, the alt-right wouldn't work because if its own embracing of reactionary ideas.  The answer to the white male guilt of the SJWs had to be something better than white male supremacy.  Libertarianism was similarly to be distrusted, despite having the right stances on free speech and a live-and-let-live mentality, due to its laissez faire economics.

The formula then was this: Pragmatic center left economics; social democracy plus cultural libertarianism plus a rejection of identity politics as represented by the twin ills of white male supremacy (the alt-right) and white male inferiority (the SJWs + Regressive left) plus a respect for freedom of religion that is still uncompromisingly secular does not play favorites between Christianity and Islam.  All of this bound together by a commitment to the core principles of the enlightenment: scientific rationality (with a respect for that side of man that is mythological and spiritual in his yearnings), a rejection of deterministic ideologies and reductionist social narratives, and an unwavering belief universal human rights and responsibilities.

Will this formula be enough to yield political success?  If it is to, the alt-left will have to contend with several challenges.  

The first is who ultimately defines the term?  Will it be the original left wing of the alt-right bloggers?  Several conservative media outlets have identified the alt-left with the kinds of militant antifa protesters that have been rioting on college campuses.  Will the true meaning of what it means to be alt-left be reduced to a mere class reductionist rejection of identity politics, a rebirth not of the anti-authoritarian left but of mere vulgar Marxism?  The alt-left would do well to reaffirm its historical anti-communist stances and its commitment to an open, pluralistic society.

Related to this is the problem of outreach: the alt-left will need to find ways of getting its message across to the broader public, so that it can attract more adherents and possibly even influence the ideological and policy directions taken by mainstream center-left forces.  

A hard decision the alt-left may soon have to make is just how purist is it going to be in its opposition to identity politics?  How does the alt-left plan on breaking out of its young white male demographic ghetto?  Where and with whom does the alt-left hope to find a basis of political and economic support?  As a possible answer to this question, how should the alt-left relate to organized labor, or what's left of it?  

Criticizing the deterministic IdPol of the intersectional SJWs is all well and good, but as previously mentioned, a quasi Marxist class reductionism is hardly a better alternative.  This has been tried, after all, and the results can't be considered much of an improvement. The alt-left's critique of identity politics is going to have to be better than anything we've seen thus far out of the skeptic community, the alt right or the class reductionists, and they will have to a better job of delivering on the concept of social justice than the social justice warriors themselves.  

The alt-left will also need better answers to the problem of immigration, fast becoming a make or break issue in western politics.  The alt-left will need answers to hard foreign policy questions.  And the alt-left will have to answer these questions in a political wilderness characterized by fake news and shifting political alliances at home and abroad and a core constituency that is notoriously difficult to organize.  

But if the alt-left do not answer those questions, who will?

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Is Intersectionality Actually Conservative?

Identity politics are about ego. They're not even really about politics in any meaningful sense. Feminists claiming that "white men have been the perpetrators of most of the largest massacres in contemporary American history" or the like are really claiming "women are morally superior to men" and are contributing nothing genuinely meaningful to political discourse.  

Okay, so males are statistically more violent than females, at least according to most statistics on crime.  What, precisely, is anyone to do about this, except gloat (if they're women) or feel shame to fuel feminist egos (if they're men)?  You'll notice that if alt-rightists gloat about statistics that suggest higher per-capita levels of black as opposed to white violent crime, they're awful racists.  And perhaps they are.  But what makes profiling one group acceptable but not another?  The same tired old "centuries of structural inequality" or "power plus prejudice" canards that regressive leftists use to rationalize and justify every double standard that's politically convenient for them?

Well, it's all fun and games until the tables are turned on white women by black women, or trans or homosexual women, who then make the same claims against their white feminist and heterosexual counterparts.  Black and gay men are likewise lambasted for their male privilege. 

This is why support vs. opposition for politics like this is so neatly carved along gender lines.  As a recent article I've seen puts it, "Brocialism vs. Feminism" is defined by a fairly straight forward gender divide.  

Intersectionality is a classic "race to the bottom" kind of scenario. Eventually, the game is won by whomever has the complete slate of marginalized identities. Few people will end up on top of this hierarchy of weaponized victimhood.  But what precisely do they win? In my years of following and studying this movement, I still don't know. Were I to up and cede here and now that I am "privileged" vis-a-vis women, minorities, etc ... then what?

Intersectional feminism thus seems, quite ironically, like quite a conservative political and social force to me. Suspiciously conservative, in fact.  It mostly consists of admonitions of the supposedly marginalized against the privileged.  Where do these downtrodden feminists get access to such consistently sympathetic media if they’re so “marginalized”, I wonder? 

I see almost no advocacy of measurable or implementable policy in explicitly intersectional feminist media.  This most likely since actually tackling inequality in any meaningful sense would necessarily entail economic policy and class analysis from a materialist perspective. The analysis would have to get into political economy, relations of production and so on, and this form of analysis constitutes a mortal threat to identity based privilege theories, and the egos those theories stroke.

To say nothing of the media conglomerates and the increasingly privatized system of higher education that push intersectional feminist narratives.  I find it unlikely that these venerable corporate institutions would promote an ideology that presented a real threat to the real power structures that define and govern 1st world capitalist societies.  It would be much more useful for them to promote a faux leftism that sets the middle and working classes against each other along racial and gender lines.  The 99% become much easier to manage that way.  Divide and rule: a tradition as old as civilization itself.

Put this another way: if the major global power institutions: the governments of the great superpowers, the boards of directors of multinational corporations, and so on, were exclusively female, or exclusively black or third world people, would the manner of their operations or governance change? Would the bottom line cease being, well, the bottom line?

As the examples of Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher (among others), and Obama indicate, I think it's likely - not certain but likely - that they wouldn't change much, if at all.  Feminists are right about one thing: being male is no prerequisite for maximizing shareholder value.

None of which is to say that discrimination against women or minorities is at all a good thing, or even that these groups do not have problems that they suffer from disproportionately compared to their white male counterparts.  But as eager as intersectional feminists are to exploit these realities for the purposes of establishing dominance hierarchy based on victimhood, mum’s quite often the word when it comes to implementable policy proposals to redress these grievances.
You’d almost suspect that deep down, the talking heads at Salon, HuffPost, the Guardian and sundry other outlets that shill for intersectional identity politics don’t even want to see the issues redressed.  Why would they, when they can exploit their marginalized status to guilt white males into shelling out for dates, or the like?  As if they weren’t already.  It certainly never fails to attract the views to their newsblogs that are so useful for drawing in those all important advertising dollars.  Knowledge of how the media actually works is never wasted.

The emphasis on race and gender identity prevalent on the left is no doubt appreciated by those of the lower economic classes who have the economic difficulty in their lives compounded by very real racial and sexual discrimination.  I'm sure they'd also appreciate very real relief from their economic woes, but we don't tend to hear much about that except from "brocialists."

The emphasis on race and gender identity prevalent on the left is also no doubt appreciated the middle class segments of the female and ethnic minority populations, who are given someone to look down on and scapegoat in the form of the white male. I'd also suggest that it is also appreciated in the halls of corporate and state power, that escape institutional scrutiny from a left now held hostage by its middle class feminist constituents, eager to dismiss concerns about political economy as so much toxic masculinity.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Canary in the Coal Mine

How we Know that the "Intersectional Social Justice" Movements of the 21st Century are a Very Different Thing than Previous Civil Rights and Social Justice Struggles 

Social justice causes such as anti racism and feminism have a natural appeal.  What arguments could reasonable and conscientious people make against equal access to educational and employment opportunities?  Who in their right mind would be supportive of barriers to success based on such arbitrary characteristics as race, gender or sexual orientation?  As a culture, we are very fond of stories from our past about how basic rights and civil liberties were won by hitherto discriminated against people.  Vietnam war era rallies, protests and riots in opposition to unjust and costly wars abroad and discrimination and bigotry at home have become cornerstones of the identifying mythology of the western world.  

The appeal that these movements have for people today, even half a century after their occurrence, should be obvious.  But are the movements against sexual and racial discrimination we see today, especially on college campuses and on social media, truly the successors of their summer of love era progenitors?  

There are some similarities and areas of overlap.  Just as earlier periods of civil rights struggles produced its share of unhinged extremists.  But the differences between the civil rights era and what have been called the regressive left and the social justice warriors of our time go much deeper than that.  It is not just that current year has just happened to produce more moonbats and nutjobs than times past, though many factors are conducive to that happening, or that you're just able to hear more about them due to social media.  Beneath the veneer of social justice, the so called progressivism of our era is fundamentally different, and in ways that are decidedly unprogressive, compared times past.

Oppression has been defined as the exercise of authority in a burdensome, cruel or unjust manner, unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power, a situation in which people are governed in an unfair or cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom and as prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority.  Given these definitions, are many of the causes taken up by the regressive left social justice warriors of our time really anti-oppression struggles?

Some questions to ask ourselves, and things to think about:

Are people who are oppressed, as defined above, typically given legal recourse against those who they deem to have defamed the group to which they belong, as is the case of hate speech laws?  

Are the penalties for crimes against oppressed peoples greater if hatred of the group to which the victim of the crime belongs is deemed a motive for the crime in question, as is the case with hate speech laws?

Are members of oppressed groups able to seek and win elected office, sometimes the highest executive office in the land, as was the case in the United States of America in the 2008 - 2016 time frame?  Typically, oppressed peoples are barred from public office, as black people were in the days of apartheid and segregation.

While peoples suffering from genuine oppression can have enlightened benefactors among the more privileged elites otherwise profiting from their marginalization - and good for them when they do, would oppressed peoples enjoy the level of government funding and corporate sponsorship that their claimants enjoy today?  Would advertisers fear to be associated with a brand that did not sympathize with "marginalized" groups?  Would social justice provide not just meaning and purpose for its activist cadres, but lucrative careers in bureaucracies in the public sector, in education at all levels, in both entertainment and informative media and media watchdog groups, in non-profit advocacy, in law, with lobby groups, in politics and numerous other fields?  I would hardly expect advocacy on behalf of truly oppressed peoples to be institutionalized to even a fraction of the extent that it is in western cultures today.

Radical left protest, up to the point of rioting or even terrorism has historically targeted institutions of government and corporate power.  This was the case up to the time of Occupy Wall Street.  Today, anti-racist groups claiming to oppose police brutality protest in a manner that obstructs the lives of ordinary, workaday people surprisingly far removed from positions of power.  Wouldn't it make more sense to picket a police station than to block traffic or obstruct the progress of white students to their classrooms on college campuses? What does it tell us when movements like intersectional feminism and black lives matter spend much more time and effort attacking individuals who happen to be white and male than they do the actual "structures" and "systems" to which they attribute ultimate responsibility for oppression?

Speaking of college campuses, is there no difference between the campuses of fifty years ago, that required court orders to even admit black students at all in some cases, and campuses today, infamous for their immediate and thorough capitulation to endless rounds of demands for courses, entire dormitories and study halls, curriculum content and even convocation ceremonies exclusively for black and other minority students?  

Stories of speakers deemed offensive to minority sentiments being no-platformed, disinvited from college campuses or even provoking campus riots abound, and virtually always with little or no academic discipline or legal consequences following for the offenders, abound on social media.  More astonishing still is the fact that the scripts that these protesters are reading from were written in the very academic institutions they're protesting, and the protests themselves often enjoy at least the tacit, if not open support of college administration and faculty.  If this is oppression, it is certainly the strangest form of oppression I've ever heard of.  

I would expect "oppressed" to be a descriptor of people who are denied access even to basic education, let alone access to the most prestigious post-secondary institutions in the world, even in preference to more qualified applicants who are not members of the supposedly oppressed group.  Oppressed groups would not be granted their own whole fields of study, such as black studies or women's studies, and the works of these fields would not be exempted, at least by taboo if not by institutional policy, from scrutiny or criticism from their peers.  Oppressed is most certainly not the descriptor I'd use to describe those whose mere disapproval or offense could ruin the career of otherwise distinguished professors and make entire college faculties quake with fear.

Oppressed groups and their representatives do not typically enjoy near universally favorable media bias, nor do they enjoy a near complete absence of scrutiny or criticism of claims they make in academic or media environments.  When's the last time you've seen or heard a credible journalist not associated with an explicitly conservative or libertarian news source openly challenge a core doctrine of feminism or a leading feminist theorist or critic?

Issues of concern in intersectional social justice circles have a remarkable way of arising quite suddenly and simultaneously in multiple media outlets, framed in the same way and couched in the same terms with the same talking points.  Observe, again and again, how quickly one manufactured issue after another appeared very suddenly and dramatically, supported almost universally across multiple media outlets or on multiple college campuses, while opposition and criticism to the "progressive" stance on this issue is developed and disseminated only slowly, and articulated primarily in the comments sections of mainstream corporate media outlets.  Would oppressed and marginalized groups have access to the money, resources and skills needed to conduct such apparently professional and well coordinated media campaigns?

Oppressed groups are not typically successful in their efforts to block the efforts of their supposedly more privileged counterparts to bring to light instances of when the "non-oppressed" group suffers domestic partner or sexual violence.  It would be logical not to expect oppressed groups to be capable of marshalling vast mobs on social media to harass, dox or even get fired from their jobs individuals who happen to criticize the orthodox political and social opinions favored by the oppressed group.  The logical thing to expect would be for victims of domestic and sexual violence to be silenced and swept under the carpet if they belonged to oppressed groups.  Could it be that this is, in fact, actually happening, just not in the way, and against the groups that conventional media narratives would have us believe it is?

Demands on behalf of an oppressed groups for the elimination of due process for members of the oppressor group where allegations of rape are concerned would most certainly not be taken seriously, at least in mainstream, agenda setting media, and would not animate policy on college campuses.  If a member of a privileged group were to compliment a member of an oppressed group, I highly doubt that offense or even allegations of harassment would ensue in response, if the recipient of such attention were indeed oppressed.  Extreme flattery would be a much more logical response. The privileged would be enjoined by stringent cultural norms and social mores from speaking well at all of the groups they oppress.

Would truly oppressed peoples really object to their oppressors adopting elements of the culture of the oppressed group, and would an oppressor group who had really adopted widespread attitudes of bigotry and disdain towards the people they're oppressing "appropriate" their culture?  Or would it be sternly frowned upon within the elite, domineering group to adopt any aspect of the oppressed group's culture?  When the dominant group begins assuming certain cultural forms of oppressed groups, is this a mark of oppression or, perhaps, a veiled expression of sympathy?

The real canary in the coal mine, however, is the disposition of protest politics and social justice movements towards the concept of free speech.  No group who ever sought a more inclusive, just and liberal society ever advocated censorship or the silencing of its opponents.  That the protest politics and social justice movements of today very explicitly advocate censorship and the judgement of people by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character should tell us everything about their nature today as opposed to their nature - the odd fanatic notwithstanding - back in the glamorized 1960s.

None of which is to say that women, minorities and so on do not have legitimate grievances or that they are not still treated unfairly and discriminated against.  But the worm has turned in many key respects.  

Rather, this is about the appropriation of the historical struggles of marginalized peoples for political purposes much more related to the consolidation of power for a class of people whose resemblances to the truly marginalized and oppressed are literally only skin deep.  

They are, perhaps, better compared to the clergy of medieval Christendom, for whom the works of Christ and the Apostles were more to legitimize their own privileged position in the feudal hierarchy than they were examples to be followed.  Perhaps this is more about that summer of love mythology described above that so many people love so much, and are increasingly turning to now that the clergy of Christendom seem to be receding from their former prominence in largely similar roles.  The clergy of social justice - itself originally a Christian concept, interestingly.  Social justice, or state religion?

Whatever the politics of the regressive left are, they are not politics on behalf of oppressed peoples.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Regressive Style

I think the core of the problem lies in a particular mindset that is not unique to either end of the political spectrum and in fact has existed in one way or another as long as there's been a western civilization to speak of.

It is best described as a "revolutionary eschatology" wherein all of society is - knowingly or not - locked in an all or nothing death grapple of good against evil, and all of history is a testament to this struggle. Religious fundamentalism is, perhaps, the most quintessential example of this sort of mindset. Preoccupations with the imminent rise of the antichrist and the need to prepare by means of reasserting religious and cultural purity so as to avoid or forestall the coming tribulations have been seen in countless forms not just in this age of a new millennium and among the sundry revivals of religious fervor seen recently in both in the US and in the middle east, but throughout a very long history. In his 1957 classic 𝘗𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘶𝘪𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘶𝘮, British historian Norman Cohn demonstrates that this kind of thinking goes back literally to old testament times.  His description of the underlying mindset is nothing short of poetic:
"The world is dominated by an evil, tyrannous power of boundless destructiveness.  A power moreover that is imagined not simply as human, but 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 dominion over the whole of 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." 
Secular variations of this mindset also exist. Marxism prophesied a coming armageddon between proletariat and bourgeoisie. Hitler was adamant that it was "now or never" as far as the Aryan race vs the Jews was concerned. Approaching the new millennium, the religious right at home and resurgent Islamic fundamentalism in the middle east peddled similar themes. But these were never just strictly religious movements, they also appealed to real world grievances - just or otherwise - of common people in their respective societies.

Today, the beat goes on. The alt-right is sounding the alarm that western civilization will not survive unless third world - especially Islamic - immigration is halted and the pernicious influence of "cultural Marxism" in the media and in academia is neutralized. Sinister Jews may or may not be at the heart of a conspiracy to destroy western Christendom which can be, but not necessarily always is, reimagined as the white race. 

None of this is at all new. Alt-Right type groups have been around as long as the Declaration of Independence itself.  Specifics may vary, but the common themes of imminent decline and sinister conspiracies persist.  Be they anti-Illuminati and anti-Masonic conspiracies of the 18th and 19th centuries, or McCarthyite, John Birch Society red scare stuff more recently, there's little new about any of it.  The only things I'd see on 4chan or The Right Stuff today that I would have not seen in the American Mercury circa 1960 (or today, for that matter) are Pepe the Frog and Moon Man.

There, as always, is a diabolical conspiracy best described by Richard Hofstadter in his 1963 essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics:
"The central image is that of a vast and sinister conspiracy, a gigantic and yet subtle machinery of influence set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life. One may object that there are conspiratorial acts in history. and there is nothing paranoid about taking note of them. This is true. All political behavior requires strategy, many strategic acts depend for their effect upon a period of secrecy, and anything that is secret may be described, often with but little exaggeration, as conspiratorial. 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 it is not the usual methods of political give and-take, but an all-out crusade."
These are the terms in which "cultural Marxism", or should I say (((cultural Marxism))) are expressed.  But it is not unique to the far right.

Those who tend to be tarred with this cultural Marxist label, known to us on the alt-left as the regressive left, peddle their own version of the same kind of narrative. Donald Trump is their version of the antichrist - the embodiment of white male privilege, arisen to lead his basket of white cishet male deplorables and visit tribulations and persecutions upon women, LGBTQ people and people of color: the postmodern equivalent of God's chosen people in the eyes of the SJWs.

Nothing new here either.  The far left has its own long history dating back to the French Revolution in Europe, and utopian communities in America.  Marxism is the best known but by no means the only example.  Running the gamut from late 19th and early 20th century socialist and anarchist movements, to the pro Soviet Communist Party, to the New Left of the 1960s, radical environmentalists and through to today's SJWs, a similar secular manichaeism exists.  

The common thread running through all of them is just how alike their paranoid right wing and religious millennialist counterparts they all are.  America is seen as a vast, oppressive monolith hell bent on enslaving or destroying the proletariat, the 3rd world, women, minorities, immigrants, native Americans, LGBTQ people, the poor and so on, who also tend to be seen as a kind of chosen people, destined to show the way out of a destructive, unsustainable and oppressive consumer-capitalist society and into a kind of postmodern new Jerusalem.  A restoration of the garden of Eden, often reimagined in socialist, matriarchal or non-European terms.  

Given its longevity, it's likely that this regressive style is likely to remain a fixture in some form or another for the foreseeable, and perhaps the indefinite future.  They cannot, it would seem, be defeated entirely, for if one form is suppressed another has been seen to rise and take its place.  But the pattern can be recognized.  Enlightened policy aimed at mitigating the social factors that give rise to the regressive style, thereby keeping its influence minimal, is likely the best we can hope for.  

Egolitarianism - the Core Disease of the Left

But we did, Nathan. And that's precisely the problem. In the unlikely event that Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs magazine and...