Wednesday, 30 August 2017

No need to Falsely Tar Antifa. They're Their Own Worst Enemies.

Don’t believe any of it. 

While I worry about Antifa's propensity to mob rule and vigilante violence, let's keep in mind what they profess to be up against here.  While actual neo-Nazi activity in America is very low and quite marginal, the history of the appeasement of the Nazis both inside the Weimar Republic and, later from Britain and France during the 1930s should teach a clear lesson. Had Hitler been stopped much earlier in his career, and there were countless opportunities to do this right up until the 1938 German annexation of Czechoslovakia, the inevitable war against him would have been far less bloody.  Those who would take the fight to a resurgent Nazism before it's allowed to take real roots have a strong historical case to back them up.

But so too do Antifa's critics.

The good cause that is fighting fascism does not excuse Antifa from the very real dumb things they do.  Plus a lot of the false flags being carried out against Antifa, while not justifiable in and of themselves, are carried out because the nature of hard line ideological movements make them especially vulnerable to those kinds of tactics, as well as rule out the more moderate forms of dialogue and debate.  The actions of 4chan and other right wing sources, despite their own glaring disconnects from reality, shouldn't surprise us.  We should rather be surprised that it is 4chan and not the FBI that are carrying these kinds of actions.  This is how radical politics have played out in the west and in America in particular for a long time now. Many parallels with the new left of the 1960s and 70s burning itself out on ideological excesses abound here.

It might well behoove Antifa to adopt some semblance of a formal national structure and issue a statement of principles, a manifesto or something of the like outlining precisely what they believe and how they hope to go about achieving their goals. This could include a statement to the effect that persons who are not fascists have nothing to fear from them. They'd do well to resolve their differences with Trump supporters through debate or the ballot box, and make clear that they'll fight only in self defense at this time.

The decentralized and utopian nature of the far left in America mitigates against this kind of thing happening, however.  Especially so given the Manichean worldview that's so typical of extremist thinking in general.  There can be no negotiation with pure evil, and that being anything other than themselves.  The western left, from Antifa to its antecedents in Occupy Wall Street to their antecedents in anti-WTO protests and going all the way back to 19th century communal utopians, have a long history of utopian naivety and reliance on ideological purism for movement cohesion. There’ve been exceptions, of course, but they had their own problems, such as the Communist Party USA parroting the Soviet era Kremlin’s line on damn near everything. 

But, by and large, English speaking radicals have tended to eschew the procedure and organization of parliamentary institutions in favor of an admittedly well intended but ultimately ineffective commitment to purity of consensus.  Doubly so now given how committed to a lot of critical theory/postmodernist concepts (the "authority of experience" for example) the western left has become, lending themselves to eschew classical definitions of fascism (if not the very concept of classical definitions) in favor defining fascism along the lines of being anyone unwilling to give "marginalized peoples" a complete moral blank check vis-a-vis the rest of the population to decide on everyone's behalf what is and isn't oppressive and offensive.

In a similar vein, they've opened themselves up to these old Leninist arguments of "revolutionary violence" that Herbert Marcuse also explored in the 1960s, which basically said that violence was justified if carried out on behalf of "marginalized" "oppressed" or "revolutionary vanguard" groups against their "oppressors", be these the police, the state, peaceful conservatives or anyone so hateful enough as to be born with white skin. 

The left have largely sold their souls to these kinds of concepts, and the result is the creation of echo chambers that are short on reality testing and dissent and long on boundary policing.  This not only alienates potential support and doubtlessly drives away those supporters who end up on the wrong end of some internal power struggle or another, but makes groups like Antifa vulnerable to infiltration and subversion via false flag operations, both from their political opponents (think 4chan) and from state enforcement agencies wanting to avoid dirtying their image via open police state tactics.

Expect COINTELPRO types of activities to be carried out against Antifa - if they haven't been already, because that's what the historical precedent would suggest. I don't support such tactics, of course, but through its embrace of that eternal albatross around the neck of the western left, revolutionary romanticism, Antifa is doing little to help themselves here and I find them hard therefore to sympathize with.

Simply saying "you've all been duped by the conservative media" isn't going to help any, especially given how much media (CNN, Huff Post, the Guardian, Salon, Mic and a host of other news blogs) are decidedly not conservative.  Plus, as any politically minded YouTuber these days would be more than happy to tell you, anti fascism has now become a full fledged moral panic on the left and even in the center, so blaming Antifa's poor reputation entirely on the media dodges the core issue.

The real way to fight fascism is to shore up the center - to create and defend robust democratic institutions that are transparent, inclusive and accountable to the people they're intended to serve.  Most western nations have a long way to go in that regard.  This is especially true in the US, where unrestrained money in politics has all but completely compromised the integrity of political institutions, and the resulting lack of public confidence should therefore not surprise us.  That's what got Trump into office, and that's when extremist ideological movements start becoming attractive to people.

Likewise, that's when people stop believing in the power or even the desirability of the state maintaining order in the face of rising extremism, and take matters into their own hands via groups like Antifa.  This should trouble us, for this is precisely the kind of scenario that makes the rise of authoritarianism more palatable to the mainstream, who would otherwise eschew it.  While groups like Antifa overstate the threat posed by Trump himself - the man is no Hitler, he's not a step in the right direction either.  The great danger is that by contributing to a climate of chaos and political violence, Antifa may well lend legitimacy to calls for a strong man to come along and restore order the old fashioned way, and thus end up with a kind of tragic self fulfilling prophecy.  

I don't believe that Antifa are the moral equivalent of Nazi skinheads and I grow weary of those who suggest that they are.  If Antifa were a Marxist Leninist movement, a case for that could be made.  If they extolled Stalin or Mao, you can say that they’re as bad, or at least in the same league, as Hitler and the Nazis.  There may be some of these inside Antifa, and Antifa may themselves be clear that they regard the fascists as a much more clear and present threat than the bolshevik types and choose therefore to prioritize fascists as a target and even ally with hard line communists against them. Much like our governments did in WWII.  But they primarily identify themselves as anarchists, not cold war era Kremlin mouthpieces with red flags.

But that does not place Antifa above criticism, however much one may agree with the stated goal of fighting Nazis, and does not mean that Antifa are not dangerous in their own ways.  If Antifa are dangerous, at least to their targets at "free speech" rallies, can their targets really be blamed for taking action against them, becoming a kind of AntiAntifa, if you will? 

Antifa are burying themselves in their own ideological excesses, and they have no one to blame for that but themselves.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Antifa, Nazis and the Alt-Left

This whole "alt-left = antifa" kerfuffle has, I think, made clear that the real alt-left fights a two front war, and that there is a definite moral asymmetry between our two groups of opponents.
The regressive left certainly comes in for criticism. No question about that, and I make no apologies for the criticisms I've made of them over time. But they're simply not in the same league as the reactionary right in terms of being completely disconnected from reality.
The regressive left will either deny that the alt-left exists at all, for which they can be forgiven because the alt-left is still very miniscule, measured by the number of people who identify as alt-left. Or the regressive left will throw their typical bromides of "racist", "misogynist" and "privilege" at us. Again, this is not entirely unwarranted, though it is most certainly not entirely true either, since alt-left groups on social media do draw a good number of "left wing of the alt right" types. The regressive left is wrong, of course, in their typical lack of understanding of nuances of any kind of political thought that isn't drenched in white male guilt. So pooh pooh to the regressive left.
But the reactionary right? They're something else all together. The amount of absolute and utter nonsense that I've read from paleocons about this whole matter will make your head hurt. The alt-left = the democrats = Marxists. We're all marionnettes of Hillary Clinton and Obama, who are full-on Stalinists hell bent on destroying America. As with everything that comes from the InfoWars, "don't tread on me" section of the internet, EVERYTHING they have to say about us is a reflection of their completely epistemically closed and delusionally paranoid view of the world. Between them and the regressive left, there's just no comparison. They both lie and they're both obsessed with and completely preoccupied with their own ideological pet fetishes to be sure, but not on nearly the same scale. The difference is one of orders of magnitude.
In the same vein, there's likewise no real comparison of antifa with actual neo-nazis. Antifa are, of course, light years from being blameless. Attacking peaceful Trump supporters, as they have yet again in recent days, is stupid and repugnant, and cheapens and undermines the very cause that Antifa professes to be about. Their behavior is inexcusable and sickening.
But don't even try to compare it with actual Nazis and fascism. Just don't. Antifa's antics are bad, to be sure. But they've got a ways to go to catch up with Auschwitz. To put it very mildly. Or even the Jim Crow era of the US south.
If I could address antifa - and given the recent equation of the alt-left with antifa, it's quite possible that I might be able to with at least a few of them, I'd implore them to understand actual politics a little better than they apparently do and refrain from equating Trump supporters with actual fascists.
Don't like Trump? I don't like him either, but he ain't Hitler. His supporters are not the SS Einsatzgruppen, and you cheapen the horrors of Nazi Europe when you even hint at making that suggestion.

That's what really gets under my skin about a lot of this. Eastern Europe in the 1940s was horror beyond reckoning. Whole populations were systematically abused in the worst ways you can think of, right up to wholesale slaughter. It's a slap in the face to the survivors and the families of the survivors of the barbarism that real totalitarianism unleashed in 1930s and 40s Europe when that horror becomes a mere rhetorical gimmick for incendiary pundits trying to score points in 21st century American partisan party politics. I remember saying this to the Tea Party dumbasses who tried saying Obama was literally Hitler, and I'll say the same thing to the antifa idiots regarding Trump. Shut up already. He's not Hitler. And you're a disrespectful asshole for even suggesting that he is.
But I have WAY less than no use for any piece of shit who profess to admire Hitler, display a swastika, SS runes, death head insignia or any other trappings of Nazism unironically, or start spouting anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense. Espouse that crap and you're signalling support for the worst atrocities humans ever visited on each other. As bad as you've been taught Hitler was, he was worse.

My grandfathers went overseas to fight that monstrosity, and not with mere pepper spray and bike locks either. The "antifa" they belonged to used Sherman tanks and Lancaster bombers, or at least Enfield rifles. They didn't go there to engage in robust debate. "Deplatforming" in those days usually involved a lot of explosives dropped from high heights. And a lot of people died. That was tragic and unfortunate, but way better that than a Nazi hegemony in Europe.
And we call them heroes today, and so we should. I have no problems, none whatsoever, casting my lot in with antifa provided they confine their direct action tactics to actual real Nazis, skinheads, Klan and real bonafide fascists. Not mere conservatives or libertarians who, however much we may disagree, are not in the same universe of ugliness as Hitler and his goons, and with whom our differences can still be settled at the ballot box.
For antifa to commit violent assaults against peaceful conservatives and Trump supporters is repugnant, criminal and inexcusable, and I would implore them to stop if I could, or else implore the powers that be to step up police action to put a stop to it. But what I will not do is equate antifa's violence with the ugliness of the Nazis themselves. The memory of what happened at Auschwitz does not deserve that kind of dishonor.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Specter is Haunting Social Media.

The Specter of the Alt-Left.

By now, we should all be familiar with Trump's claims regarding the "alt-left" who came "charging at" the alt-right during the recent tragic events at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, which saw one leftist killed and others injured when a car sped into a gathering of counter protesters.

This is not the first time the term "alt left" has been used by the right to describe the violent and fanatical segment of the regressive left.  We have, for example, an entire article full of unmitigated gibberish by one Joseph Farah.  This article is much more a reflection of the extremes of conspiratorial paranoia, flagrant partisanship and personalized hatred for the persons of prominent democrat party politicians and the tired old "democrats are the real racists" obsessions of the paleoconservative blogosphere than they are of anything faintly resembling reality.

Among the allegations he makes against the alt-left:
Supports abortion on demand, taxpayer support for the largest abortion provider in America that maintains nearly all of its abortion facilities in minority communities in the cities controlled by Democrats. That same abortion provider was founded by a leading eugenics advocate, Margaret Sanger, who remains a heroine to Hillary Clinton. 
The “Alt Left” is 100 percent Democrat – a party birthed in the support of slavery, a party whose military arm was the Ku Klux Klan, a party that fought civil rights and integration through the middle of the 1960s. 
Today, the “Alt Left” Democrats ferociously fight any attempts to woo minorities from their political plantation. Those efforts consistently include smearing their opponents as the racists.
So we're actually a vast democrat party conspiracy to keep the blacks in their place via welfare and abortion?  That's certainly news to me.  Perhaps Mr. Farah should join forces with those of the SJW blogosphere who call us "brocialists" and rail against our white privilege. They might be able to save on overhead that way.

Farah is not the only rightist to spout this kind of rubbish.  Sean Hannity has been on about the alt-left for some time now.  Writing in Fox News opinion, Dan Gainor claimed in December of 2016 that "Liberals get hysterical over the 'alt-right' but we are living in their 'alt-left' world."  In September 2016, Katie Kieffer introduces us to the alt-left, and describes us as "accurately describing the ideology of the Democratic party."

Certainly news to me.  Does not accurately describe the views of any alt-leftist I actually know.  And I know quite a few.

But even centrists and moderate liberals have gotten on the alt-left = violent extremists bandwagon.  Writing in Time in December 2016, Gil Troy describes how "The Bernie Sanders–Fueled Alt-Left Viciously Attacked Me."  In March of 2017, James Wolcott makes clear in Vanity Fair why "The Alt-Left is a Problem Too." Where the paleocons peg us as America hating socialists with democrat party membership cards - more about giving red meat to the base than accurately describing a damn thing -  Wolcott appeals to his urban, female readership with equally invalid fears of - you guessed it - frat boy, ass swatting "Bernie Bros" who opposed the Clinton campaign out of racism and misogyny.

The standard bearer for the regressive left, Salon, very recently published an article entitled "Donald Trump is right (about something): There really is an“alt-left,” but it’s even weirder than he thinks."  Kudos to Salon for getting back into the habit of doing a bit of actual research for a change.  Author Matthew Sheffield actually google searched the term and came into, hosted by early alt-left pioneer 'Rabbit.'

Rabbit, along with blogger Robert Lindsay over at Beyond Highbrow can be fairly credited for coining the term alt-left and can reasonably be called the movement's genesis. I've spoken with both men on Robert Stark's Stark Truth radio broadcast.  They're no less aghast than I and many others at how the alt-left label has been continually misappropriated.  So kudos to Sheffield for at least trying to do a bit of homework here.  He outlines Rabbit's vision of an alt-left quite extensively in his Salon article.  Doubtlessly, Rabbit appreciates the coverage.

Sheffield then goes on to say, "Given that almost no one besides “Rabbit” willingly affixes the “alt-left” label to themselves, it’s pretty clear that in the U.S., there isn’t much of a market for socialist-flavored white nationalism."

Nobody willingly affixes the alt-left label to themselves?  Again, news to me.  And news to the thousands who belong to alt-left groups and who follow the Alternative Left page on Facebook, that I founded.  But my own vision of an alt-left is much less a socialist flavored white nationalism a-la the bro's Strasser in the early NSDAP and rather more of the British Labour Party of roughly the same era and immediately postwar.

What I sought to do is distance the concept of an anti PC leftism from so called "race realism."   Race realism is fundamentally an alt-right concept.  In a lot of ways, it's a return of the political right to its first principles - to the centrality of relationships of "blood and soil" so to speak - in right wing politics.

So I asked myself what would a left wing equivalent to this be?  What are the first principles to which leftism needs to return if it is to escape the doldrums that the SJWs were leading it into: safe spaces, 67 genders, trigger warnings, etc?  If the alt-right is about race realism, I concluded that the alt-left should be about class realism.  Not that exclusively.  But that's our niche, I think.  The view that not all people fare equally well under an untrammeled capitalist system. 

Now where we go from there is another matter: for some, nothing short of a Marxian worker's revolution will do.  These would be your leftypol types.  This is the alt-left equivalent to the 1488 crowd on the alt-right.  These are the people who unironically meme about Stalin and the gulag in the same sort of way that some on the alt-right do about Hitler.  I do imagine you'd get some antifa supporters in this crew as well.

That's not my personal take on it, though.  I suppose you could call people like me the alt-left's equivalent to the "alt-light."  Not revolutionary socialists.  Closer to postwar European social democracy.  Think Attlee in Great Britain as an example.  There were others.  A revival of postwar democratic leftism in that vain was what I had in mind.

I don't think this vision is compatible with race realism, for reasons that history has made obvious.  Racial antagonism has shown itself to be a barrier to the development of class solidarity.  That was the case with classical racism in the American south, and is the case now when notions of "white privilege" are invoked as explanations for the problems faced by the black underclass.  Both the reactionary right and the regressive left have much invested in the maintenance of class blindness, and therefore in misrepresenting what the alt-left is really about.

The center-left in the first world drifted away from its postwar vision for two reasons: a disenchantment with socialism and subsequent rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s and 90s, and the deepening radicalism of the new left, as represented by critical theory and postmodernism. According to these theories, it wasn't just capitalism, but western civilization itself that was inherently oppressive.  In the social media era, these ways of thinking have burst out of academia and into the cultural mainstream as the SJW - social justice warrior phenomena. 

But the SJWs have no lasting and real way to achieve any real social justice because it takes an almost deterministic approach to its ideas of privilege, marginalization and identity.  While the SJWs are commonly tarred by the right wing as being "Marxist" they are actually near as far from the thinking of Marx as you can get.  Political economy and relations of production were absolutely central to Marx, while they are completely absent from the SJWs.  They are near completely blind to the economic side of inequality: even when they do acknowledge class, they do so as if class were another vector of intersecting identities rather than based on relations of production, of which the SJWs and the paleocons alike know next to nothing.  It is this void that I hoped the alt-left would be able to fill.

The relative success of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign suggested to me that there might be a prospect for social democracy to make a comeback, and even to become a political force in precisely the place where it is most needed and has been longest absent: The United States of America.  

Other things that I believe in and I think that many of us believe in: civil libertarianism, a rejection of censorship, opposition to racism and sexism of both the regressive left and the reactionary right and so on, are tackled adequately by the so called "new center", "cultural libertarians" or the "skeptical community."  The Sargons and the Dave Rubins over on Youtube, and so on.  And that stuff is all perfectly fine.  But glaringly absent is a social democratic economic vision.  

My vision of the alt-left is thus much closer the realist left vision developed by blogger Lord Keynes over at Social Democracy for the 21st century.  Highly recommended.

That's the niche I've hoped, and continue to hope, the alt-left can fill.  In light of how much confusion surrounds the label of alt-left, it's been suggested repeatedly by some of those who share this ideology that we abandon the label.  I don't think the time is yet right for that.  We should cease to be the alt-left once we've become the mainstream of left of center thought. While the term alt-left is a subject of public controversy, it will succeed better in drawing the curious alt-left spaces on social media and exposing more people to what we truly believe than a rebranding - a "rationalist left" or the like ever would.  

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Judean People's Front-ification of the Regressive Left

Black Lives Matter protesters disrupt Montreal Pride during a moment of silence for AIDS and hate crime victims.

"Employees of Pride Montreal then broke the circle of protesters and took away Rose’s megaphone. People in the crowd shouted at them to “shut up during the moment of silence” but the BLM protesters refused."

"To make our voices heard we chose to do this during the moment of silence,” said Brian*, a protester and member of Black Lives Matter Montreal. “It wasn’t disrespectful because the moment was meant to commemorate the people who died [of AIDS or homophobic and transphobic laws], and most of them are trans women of color so we reclaimed that moment.”

Black Lives Matter punching down and keeping to easy targets that they know won't fight back, yet again.

The spirit of the NAACP or the SCLC is definitely NOT present with BLM. 20th century civil rights movements risked their lives standing up to state power and violent lynch mobs to win basic rights for downtrodden minorities.

BLM is itself a violent lynch mob that "disrupts" the activities of other marginalized people, and does so with only the remotest likelihood of legal repercussions despite their flagrant disregard for the civil rights of others (which they hold dear for themselves) and near total immunity from criticism from government, media and academia. If this is your idea of civil disobedience and speaking truth to power, I laugh in your face. Looks pretty damn performative to me.

BLM was founded by a trio of western educated anti-sex "queer" feminists, their ideology is a thin veneer of black consciousness overtop French postmodernism, German critical theory, heavily bastardized pseudo Marxism and puritanical feminism rooted in anglo American Victorian era social purity, and topped off with just the kind of Ford Foundation and George Soros money that so effectively co-opts so called "radical" movements. Perhaps the group should rename itself Guilty White Consciences Matter. Sounds like Romanticism, but OK.

One leftist group I doubt that BLM will be trying to shut down in this manner any time soon is Antifa.  Because our favorite faux alt-leftists actually punch back, as they did in a recent protest where both groups originally showed up, apparently on the same side.  At least at first. "One Antifa member wound up punching a Black Lives Matter activist after the Black Lives Matter member chastised the Antifa radicals for hiding behind their masks."

Were Antifa to confine their hard line tactics to real bona fide fascists, I'd be all for them. Let's keep in mind here that Hitler was not defeated by rational persuasion and claims to the moral high ground. Fascism as an ideology was always explicitly clear in both theory and practice as to the central role played by redemptive violence in both its rise to power and exercise of power once claimed. Sadly, an entrenched fascist movement only understands one language, and when our grandfathers went to Europe in the 1940s, it wasn't to convince the Nazis of the error of their ways through superior logic. And we today look at our grandfathers as heroes, and rightly so in my opinion.

The issue I have with Antifa is the issue I have with vigilantism more generally. Antifa are not elected by the people and they are accountable to no one, save their own collective group conscience, which we've all seen to be driven by moral panic and group hysteria. So we should not be surprised by Antifa’s propensity to lapse into senseless destructiveness and failure to distinguish between conservatives and libertarians - whose differences can and should be resolved by debate and at the ballot box - and actual fascists.  

Or in this case, Black Lives Matter protesters.  
"The BLM activist stood in front of the Antifa crowd, bellowing, “Take the mask off! Take the mask off.” His compatriots started chanting, “Mask off! Mask off! Mask off! 
That prompted the Antifa crowd to start yelling at the black man, “He’s a cop! He’s a cop! He’s a cop!” 
One masked male white member of Antifa got right in the black man’s face, then punched him directly in the face, prompting another BLM activist to start yelling, “You f**king hit ’em! You f**king hit 'em! Take the mask off! 
A young female Antifa member then started screaming, “He f**king pushed me! He f**king pushed me!” She and the BLM activist started screaming curses at each other. 
Later, a BLM member addressed the Antifa crowd, saying, “We ain't gonna let some outsiders make us look bad."
You're doing a good enough job of that yourself, BLM.

The whole charade reminds me of that brilliant scene, one of so many, in the prophetic satire of prophecy, Monty Python's Life of Brian:

"Brothers! We should be struggling together! We mustn't fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!"


"No! No! The Romans!"

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. ...