Thursday, 6 July 2017

Beware Sargonism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Comments and Contributions

A few housekeeping details:

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

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

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

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are no doubt dark days ahead.

Read Neoreaction: Right Wing Postmodernism Pt 1.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Opposition to the SJWs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. ...