Thursday, 6 July 2017

Beware Sargonism

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

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

When I began with my various internet personas in the spring of 2016 - the Alternative Left Facebook page, Ernest Everhard (then called Agent Commie) this blog (then called Samizdat Chronicles) and the Samizdat Broadcasts on YouTube, I did so largely in reaction to what I saw as being the flaws, sins and omissions of the otherwise very crucial and necessary anti-SJW, anti-cultural left movement that had emerged since Gamergate and the migrant rape crisis in Europe.

I had very mixed feelings about the so called cultural libertarian movement. On the one hand, I was delighted to see some kind of systemic critique and pushback against the excesses of intersectional, postmodern leftism. But I had as many problems with a lot of these pundits as I did with the regressive left. It was as a result of these problems, the successes at the time of the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns, and some personal and private successes that I'd had in my own activism in the real world, that pushed me to the point where I decided I couldn't stay silent any longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beware Sargonism

Lord Keynes over at Social Democracy for the 21st Century is a sharp fellow.   He makes the following observation : Ever since Gamerga...