Thursday, 29 June 2017

Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 2 here.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

How About I Decide What I Find Attractive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Rise of Right Wing SJWs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Theory of Surplus Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Argumentative Styles of the SJWs and the Alt-Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. ...