Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Should Misandry be a Hate Crime?

The UK contemplates making misandry a hate crime. According to the BBC:
Last month, it was announced that a review by the Law Commission would look at whether offences driven by misogyny - dislike, contempt or ingrained prejudice against women - should be treated as hate crimes. 
And now it's emerged the same review will also consider the opposite - crimes motivated by misandry - hostility towards men. 
Ageism and hatred of certain alternative cultures, such as Goths or punks, could also be included in future.
I've always been suspicious of hate crimes laws, prohibitions on hate speech especially. The recent issues surrounding internet censorship make clear my reasons why.  Who decides what is and isn't hate speech? I don't condone the hatred of anyone, but to criminalize it smacks of thought policing. Could people in power exploit these laws and simply shut down voices they don't like or that threaten their interests? That Facebook has recently shut down some 800 pages, ostensibly due to "terms of service" violations or something such exemplifies why I dislike this. It's authoritarianism from behind a happy face.

Especially since this comes suspiciously close to the midterm elections, and observe how many of the pages shut down are the most skeptical of US military aggression in the middle east. The parallels with the Satanic Panic censorship craze as a lead up to Gulf War 1 in the early 1990s should worry us. Get the public worked up about some moral panic or another, so as to give big government and big business broader license to censor with relative impunity.

So with that in mind, I'm quite leery of any bid to expand the definitions of "hate crime" or "hate speech" and think we need less of this, not more. That said, if we are to have such rules, let us at least have them apply to everybody. The idea that some groups of people deserve special protection and treatment as a means of making them equal always seemed Orwellian to me. Shall we raise the chocolate rations from 5 grams to 4 while we're at it? Praise Big Brother!

The fact that this is occurring in the UK, a country wherein a silly prank involving training a pug to salute like Hitler results in a national show trial, is also concerning. While civil liberties are under attack everywhere, the situation there seems especially bad, at least by supposedly democratic 1st world standards.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the feminist establishment in the UK isn't too happy about this, in ways that are not at all surprising.

Making misandry a hate crime will embolden abusive men, writes Jessica Eaton in an opinion piece for ... surprise surprise ... The Guardian!
A campaign started by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to consider misogyny as a form of hate crime has resulted in the Law Society deciding to consider whether misandry should be categorized as a hate crime, too. It is the ultimate example of whataboutery – when a group of people cries, “But what about X?”, to distract attention from any legitimate discussion of Y.
Well, not quite. If the entire moral basis of your ideology is that your demographic - women - are exclusively targeted for hatred based on their gender, then if it can be established that men are also targeted, then a major pillar of your ideology is knocked out. Plus, while we're on the subject of logical fallacies, that acknowledging the existence of misandry would somehow automatically result in distraction of legitimate discussion of issues facing women is the ultimate example of a false dilemma. The idea that we can't discuss issues facing men, unless from an approved frame already established by feminists, because women have it worse overall is the ultimate example of a fallacy of relative privation.

That we can no longer have honest discussions about women's issues if we acknowledge the existence of misandry is not only bad logic, it's also untrue and even anti-true. Our discussions of women's issues would become more, rather than less honest, because these discussions would actually be about treating everybody fairly, instead of continually having to preserve the notion that only women are victimized due to their gender and therefore only women are entitled to remedies for the ills their gender faces. A notion that sounds a lot like defense of privilege to me.

Eaton goes on to describe hate mail and numerous spurious accusations of misandry that she's faced in the past, and her and her husband's role in establishing a male mental health center in the UK. Well, good for you, Jessica, and sorry to hear about your ill treatment at the hands of angry men.  Again, acknowledging the existence and harm of misandry does not equate to the excusing and justification of threatening and harassing behaviors towards women. It does not even mean that we put misogyny and misandry on equal footing as far as actual harm done in the real world is concerned. This leads to an "oppression olympics" dynamic that benefits no one in the end.

It does, however, mean threatening the widespread perception that women are innately morally superior, a perception that probably causes more misogyny than it alleviates. A lot of men would be a lot less angry if there was some collective acknowledgement on part of women that their rules apply to themselves also.

But as you're about to discover, "when you're privileged, equality feels like oppression."

So claims Victoria Smith in an Independent opinion piece published Oct. 16.  Beneath that:
It seems there’s nothing women can have – not even their status as a marginalized sex class – that men will not expect them to share.
Well, isn't a group wanting something to themselves exlusively, a perk shared only by one gender but denied others - the very definition of privilege?

And this above a picture of women dressed in Handmaid costumes, from the film and TV adaptations of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale. Because, you know, women having to share their "marginalized sex status" is totally the same as losing their very names and identities and being conscripted to bare children for the elite in a repressive totalitarian theocracy. Do these Handmaid protesters grasp the fact that in the novel, ideologically docile and censorious feminists assisted the fundamentalist Sons of Jacob in their seizure of power and establishment of the Republic of Gilead, and that this was part of warning Margaret Atwood was trying to convey? One wonders.

And "When you're privileged, equality feels like oppression" isn't the only vacuous feminist slogan Smith hauls out and rehashes for this article:
All of our actions take place within intersecting social hierarchies which place some groups at the top and others at the bottom.
One wonders how much money Ms. Smith makes per year in comparison to, say, a dockworker or a lorry (this is the UK, after all) driver?  One wonders if Ms. Smith can turn on the BBC, or go to a college or university, or go to the print and electronic media and see feminist voices sidelined in favor of voices for impoverished unemployed men or male veterans? One wonders if major media outlets would ever bypass a highly educated feminist in favor of speaking to a men's rights advocate about gender related topics? One wonders how hard Ms. Smith really has it if she was able to afford to attend a top notch UK university and receive exclusive access to instruction in intersectional feminist ideology?

I think we all know the answers to those questions.
So-called men’s rights activists (MRA) routinely portray women’s marginalized status as something to be envied. Feminists are accused of milking historic oppressions in order to appropriate power and resources in a world where positive discrimination in favor of women is rife.
It's not to be envied, it's to be condemned. It is the exploitation of the suffering of the abused and marginalized for personal exaltation. For how long now have financially well endowed women's organizations and advocacy, especially in academia, ignored the systemic nature of economic inequality effecting both genders? Or would mention of that jeopardize that endowment? Just keep dancing to capital's tune, sisters. Just keep framing issues of class and privilege in gendered terms instead of in economic terms, and there'll be plenty of positive discrimination in your favor. Capital will see to that.

And no, the men's right's crowd doesn't present a demonstrably better alternative. While they do have some legitimate grievances that are silenced by an entrenched feminist establishment, a paradigm claiming the dominance of a feminist class at everyone else's expense isn't entirely accurate either. As I like to say, get back to class. And you don't graduate until you get good marks (it helps to say it rather than read it). 

Interestingly, Ms Smith claims, "Attempts to make misandry the equivalent of misogyny rely on two misconceptions: first, that gender is a spectrum as opposed to a hierarchy; and second, that victimhood is in fact a source of power and privilege." Okay, but isn't the notion that gender isn't a spectrum actually heretical in progressive circles these days?

Finally, Smith's article is rife with an element of progressive thought that has recently been satirized by the grey faced "NPC" meme - namely its over-reliance on continually recycled buzzwords, slogans and ideological formula, recited and executed as if it were rote programming rather than sapient thought. It's much easier to fall back on circular statements like "when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression" than it is to address the substance of opponent's arguments.

Off hand, I'd suggest that an entrenched feminist establishment that will never want for cameras and microphones in their faces, funding both in and out of academia for research and advocacy to further their agendas and social media moderation skewed heavily in their favor has every reason to be in an uproar over misandry possibly becoming a kind of hate crime. When you're privileged, equality feels like oppression.

Eaton worries in her Guardian piece that "The concept of misandry is dangerously vague in comparison to the reality of misogyny. I predict that if misandry is taken forward as a hate crime, it will be used to curb discussions of male violence and female oppression. Again."

Well Jessica, welcome to the internet that non-feminists have been operating on for several years now, where cries of "misogyny! racism! Nazism! Homophobia" accompanied by very real risk of loss platform, employment and damage to reputation are the answers received in any discussion that doesn't frame violence and oppression entirely in terms of male power and female victimhood.

Would I like misandry to become a category of hate crime? No. I'd like to see the category of hate crime abolished and everybody actually treated the same in our courts and other institutions. The notion that we are going to achieve equality by treating people unequally belongs in a George Orwell novel. No, that does not equate to the erasure of focus on specific forms of discrimination that certain groups face disproportionately.

But that does mean that some groups are not deemed innately more worthy of concern than others. That arrogance, entitlement and dogmatism, rather than a genuine humanistic concern for the well being of all attends the feminist establishment and is routinely displayed on social media makes clear what the end result of that is kind of doublethink approach to equality is. We should also be clear that it is an elite class of professional ideologues, not marginalized people themselves, who benefit from it.

But if we must have hate crimes laws, let them apply equally to men and women.

Intersectionality is Itself a System of Power

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Monday, 15 October 2018

#MeToo One Year On

One year on
According to Wikipedia:
On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged spreading the hashtag #MeToo, to attempt to draw attention to sexual assault and harassment. Milano later acknowledged earlier use of the phrase by Tarana Burke.

The phrase "Me too" was tweeted by Milano around noon on October 15, 2017, and had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day, and tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16. On Facebook, the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45% of users in the United States had a friend who had posted using the term. 
Tens of thousands of people replied with #MeToo stories
The rest is, as they say, history.

I've yet to encounter a serious voice who didn't recognize the need to call out the sexual harassment and abuse of women, both in and out of professional contexts. As revelations surrounding the conduct of Harvey Weinstein emerged, the man proved impossible to feel sorry for. It wasn't long before many more Harvey Weinsteins were outed. The ugly underbelly of the entertainment industry, and indeed of many industries, and of many men even of progressive and feminist political sympathy (especially of such men, according to Sargon of Akkad) was revealed. Not that left leaning men were exclusively guilty, of course.

The list of casualties is long, and reaches as high as the US senate, wherein left leaning Democratic senator and comedian Al Franken eventually resigned amidst sexual misconduct allegations, and Republican Roy Moore lost his bid for the Alabama senate seat abandoned by Jeff Sessions in large part due to misconduct allegations made against him. In my own home country, it is Doug Ford and not Patrick Brown who won the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and subsequently went on to become Premier of Ontario because Brown was disgraced by sex misconduct allegations made against him. There's little doubt that Me Too and Time's Up have impacted the cultural and political landscape enormously, and ultimately (one would hope) for the better. Even right leaning populist Steve Bannon recently admitted this in a recent interview with Sargon of Akkad.

Me Too and Time's Up were, and still are needed. But while these movements have revealed a dark underbelly of sexual exploitation in many areas of western culture, these movements also have a dark underbelly of their own.

Most notably, the fact that they're embedded in a radical feminist paradigm that is itself, to borrow one of its own terms, problematic. A quick glance at twitter is all it takes to confirm this.

In this world view, there is no such thing as an innocent man. All men have fed at the trough of male privilege and rape culture. All men, we are told, even those who do not assault or even verbally accost women, walk the streets in safety and confidence while women live in fear due to the male proclivity to rape and sexual harassment, and though by no means all men are harassers and rapists, a sizeable majority of rapists and harassers are male. This can't be denied while still trying to claim any kind of intellectual credibility on the issue. Surely it is not unreasonable to suggest in light of this that there are pathologies within male subcultures and male socialization that result in an increased proclivity towards sexually predatory conduct that have no comparable female counterparts.

This idea dates back at least as far back as 1975, and radical feminist Susan Brownmiller's publication of Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.  So what, ask many women today, if men live in fear of a false accusation? Women live in fear of rape. One ill turn deserves another, right? Besides, false allegations are rare in comparison to the number of men who do rape and get away with it. So false allegations simply do not occur, or if they do occur, do so in numbers too insignificant to be of concern. It is in this idea of relative deprivation that problems begin to arise.

This radical feminist movement's take on the question of sexual misconduct is troubling. In keeping with its underlying standpoint theory, it would be left up to individual women (in a radicalized feminist zeitgeist) to decide for themselves whether or not they'd been harassed or even raped in a particular interaction with a male, and the allegation would be tantamount to guilt on the male's part.

There is little distinction to be made between forcible rape, sex between a sober male and clearly intoxicated or even drugged woman, sex between intoxicated partners, sex between a boss and a coworker, failure to obtain "enthusiastic consent" for "any stage of sexual activity", boorish comments and wolf-whistling, tactfully delivered compliments in the workplace, a non-consensual hand on a knee or invitation to a coffee date - men don't get to decide what's rape or harassment and what isn't, we are told. Men face an undefined yet very high burden of care, not merely for obtaining consent, but for women's comfort and enjoyment of the sex act itself. In light of patriarchy, male privilege and rape culture, regrets or discomfort on her part even if consent has nominally been given, can only mean that she's been violated, or at least unduly pressured somehow or another.

Legal theories long taken for granted and fundamental rights of the accused: presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, the right to impartial and fair trial, rights against self incrimination and even the idea that prosecutable offenses be clearly and objectively defined are handwaved away as being mere devices whereby the patriarchy maintains the availability of women's bodies for male sexual use with impunity. These lines of reasoning are seen not merely in the women's studies classroom or among the leftist twitterati. Such views are given serious exposure in academia and mainstream media, as was the case with female attorney Marie Henein faced accusations of "betraying women" after successfully representing Canadian media personality Jian Ghomeshi when he faced multiple counts of sexual assault.

Thus far, there haven't been (to my knowledge) any willfully falsified accusations of sexual misconduct made by a woman against a man following the proliferation of Me Too. Which isn't to say it hasn't happened. But denial even of the possibility of this occurring despite the fact that it does occur, along with denial of female on male sexual misconduct, which also occurs, is not uncommon among Me Too stalwarts. At the very least, male privilege vs female marginalization diminishes the moral gravity of male victimization when it does occur.

It's one thing to be honest about the gender ratios when it comes to who perpetrates and who is victimized by sexual misconduct. To say that men and women are statistically equally guilty for the sake of gender parity would be grossly dishonest. But to invisiblize male victims of sexual misconduct and of malicious false allegations so as to preserve a popular narrative of universal female victimhood and male privilege is likewise dishonest and ideologically driven.

Trial by social media and public opinion has been turned to because legal proceedings are long, expensive, complex and the numerous legal statues defending the rights of the accused are hard to overcome. This is intentionally so, and has no doubt allowed for many guilty men to go free, doubtlessly to the consternation of female victims. This consternation is understandable, but the substitute method of public shaming is notorious for its lack of objectivity and due process, and thus vulnerable to exploitation and misuse. Sure, one might object that since publicized allegations of misconduct on social media are not criminal trials, legal concepts like due process don't apply. But this treats due process as though it were a strictly legal convention and not a social and moral principle that a free society depends upon to remain free.

This troubling lack of procedure makes Me Too vulnerable to exploitation for political purposes. Want to remove a competitor for a job or a political opponent? Just dig up some salacious sexual goings-on in their past, and let the twitter pitch fork mob do the rest. The recent fiasco surrounding the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States is but the latest example. The aforementioned Patrick Brown was taken down by sexual misconduct allegations from his distant past that just happened to arise at a politically opportune time. Other examples include the ousting of Cenk Uygur from the board of the Justice Democrats due to some "sexist" blog posts he'd made back in 2006 being dug up and publicized by conservatives.

Allegations, and defense against such allegations can be expected to take on a more partisan character as time goes on.  Going back to the Kavanaugh case, it's hard to determine who's harder to take seriously: the democrats, who circled the wagons when Clinton faced sexual misconduct allegations, or Kavanaugh, who was basically Kenneth Starr's right hand man during those same proceedings. We should not take the GOP's sudden and anomalous concern for due process and the rights of the accused as being anything other than rank opportunism. Kavanaugh was involved in the writing of the Patriot Act and its roll backs of civil liberties, after all. A Republican administration moves one step closer to a Court that could overturn Roe vs. Wade, and they'll be damned if they're going to lose that to some thirty plus year old sexual misconduct allegation against their court pick.

The real threat faced by the Me Too and Time's Up movements is less a backlash of civil libertarians concerned about due process or a men's rights counter-surge, but more an undermining of the cause's credibility due to partisan and political exploitation.

One wonders what impact this is going to have on the future of romantic and sexual relationships between the sexes. Here again, one look at social media tells us that this is a low area of concern for women especially (but not exclusively), to put it mildly. Women have had little good to say for decades now about how men are holding up as romantic, marital and sexual partners. That men would refrain from pursuing women for romantic and sexual relationships out of fear of rape or harassment allegations would seem to be of little concern to women, and more than a few of them would see that as welcome relief from a status quo of apparently relentless pursuit by thirsty men.

Here too we are operating in a zeitgeist dominated by feminist views, and while these have retreated somewhat from the Dworkinite equation of intercourse with rape, attraction with objectification and so forth, the progressive consensus isn't in any big hurry to substantially define that which differentiates the romantic from the inappropriate and creepy either. The contexts wherein they use their terms would certainly seem to equate a man's unreciprocated attraction to a woman with something inappropriate at best, if not outrightly threatening, invasive and predatory.

The point of deterring male sexual interest in women - a point valued and sought after by women and their progressive male allies is better served by a muddiness and lack of definition than it is either by direct equation of male sexual interest with objectification, which would invite widespread backlash, or a clear definition of what differentiates the two, which would invite widespread legalistic exploitation. If nothing else, it gives women and progressive men much more room for plausible deniability when they decide that their implicit ideological code doesn't really apply to themselves and they do what humans naturally do, as these same progressives are very quick to point out in their denunciations of clerical celibacy or abstinence only sex education.

Not many women, and not all that many men either, have seen intimacy between the genders as worthy of anything resembling a spirited defense. Not merely in the Me Too era, but in the last three or so decades of feminist radicalization of women in cultural spaces leading up to it. I can't help but wonder if this will really be a good thing long term? Persons concerned about demographic meltdown due to low birth rates or mental health issues stemming from chronic loneliness, isolation and sexual/romantic frustration have reason to be concerned. We can probably expect more "incels" in the future.

All of that aside, the temptation among many in the broader reactionary idea space, including the alt-left, to simply dismiss Me Too and Time's Up as feminist hysteria is a temptation we should resist. Steve Bannon has the right of it in his interview with Sargon. The very real concerns of all too many women who have faced harassment and non-consensual sexual behavior from men can no more easily or rightly be dismissed than the concerns raised about Tiime's Up and Me Too by civil libertarians. Perhaps the best question we can ask is that which Emily Yoffe asked in a recent Atlantic Magazine article: Does Anyone Still Take Both Sexual Assault and Due Process Seriously?

Enthusiastic consent must certainly be sought as the answer to that question.

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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The GOP Will Not Take the Fight to the Progressives

On the 6th of October 2018, Donald J Trump @realDonaldTrump on twitter tweeted the following:
You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law - not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!
On the 7th of October, I published this in response on The Alternative Left on Facebook:
Well, okay there, Donald. I'll agree that the DNC are broken, the progressive establishment completely beholden to identity politics ideologues and are prone to frightening levels of self righteous and puritanical furor. 
But what of the GOP? Wasn't so long ago that the torch-and-pitchfork crowd were the Moral Majority and bible toting crowd, and I don't think they've abandoned so much as refined their presentation of that instinct. The fanatical SJWs may have overshadowed the flakier evangelicals in recent years, but the "Who Would Jesus Bomb" crowd and the Patriot Act people haven't gone away and have even just gained a seat on the Supreme Court. That is profoundly bad news. 
Moreover, the Republicans have always been ahead even of the corporate democrats as the party of the oligarchy. And that's no small feat. The GOP are very much the party of deregulating the banks and Wall Street, of union busting and trickle down economics, of the Military Industrial Complex and neocon petrodollar warfare. Make no mistake, the Democrats today aren't the postwar Labour Party or the pre 21st century Swedish Social Democrats by any stretch, but the GOP has consistantly led the way in terms of being moral populists in the streets and corrupt oligarchs and corporatists in the sheets, as it were. 
I share the Donald's concerns with the Democrats and the so called progressives, but I'm not fool enough to believe the GOP to be my allies, nor the allies of anyone who makes under $250K per year. 
Each day I see more evidence that the US needs a third party. A party of Labor.
On the 8th of October, Sargon of Akkad shared the Oct 7th Alternative Left post to his own Facebook page, with the following commentary:
Great points here. Trump is on the money, and the anti-secularist elements of the right will always be waiting in the wings. The main problem is that there is no force other than the GOP that can take the fight to the progressives. They are the only unified force that can actually take a stand by taking control of institutions.
Let me first of all say that I completely understand Sargon and countless other people's disillusionment with the Democrats and with progressive politics in general these days. The McResistance crowd, Portland Antifa, twitter feminists and social justice warriors more generally, among many others conduct themselves on a daily basis in ways that make it clear that narcissism and self absorption, not liberal or egalitarian idealism, are what's truly motivating them.

But let's step back and look at the bigger picture here. Is putting our support behind the right wing really the best answer to excesses of the current year cultural left?

When I saw this on Sargon's page, what I immediately thought about were countless online conversations that I had with progressives from about 2006 until the emergence of Gamergate and the beginnings of the real online backlash against the SJWs. Around 2014 or thereabouts.

The thrust of these conversations was always basically the same: I shared their despite for George W. Bush, the Religious Right and the G.O.P in general. But I also urged them - in vain, as always, to try to be mindful of what was truly despicable about the religious right and the conservatives more generally.

It wasn't that they were Christian. It was that they were dogmatic and self righteous, to a point where they became willfully blind to their own capacity for sin and wrongdoing. Exactly what Christ tried to warn his followers against. And these are also characteristics that ANY ideologically homogeneous moral community could cultivate, and that I was even then beginning to see emerge among progressives.

They didn't even really hate the Christianity, when you got right down to it. Because it was white, western and European, the Silicon Valley and Ivy League progressives singled out Christianity over and above all other religious traditions for criticism, but even then there was plenty of wiggle room. They didn't mind all that gospel stuff when MLK and the mid 20th century civil rights movement, or when the social gospel theorists who were basically the founders of the Canadian social democratic tradition were the ones doing it, though many of them did bristle at the notion that a lot of pre-postmodern progressivism was driven by essentially Christian ideals.

What they hated about the religious right was the "redneck" - poor, rural, white and uneducated. And not just because the white rural poor were (and still are) conservative. I saw little sneering hate and despite from the rainbow coalition types for Wall Street lobbyists and the military/industrial complex, and see less still of that today. What I saw out of progressives vis-a-vis the religious right was precisely the kind of condescending, high-handed snobbery you'd expect a classist or a racist to display towards someone considered inferior. Plenty of jokes and memes about backwoods hillbilly inbreeding, but much less about the corruption and abuses of power within the Churches.

Moreover, when it was suggested that Muslims, as exemplified by Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Iran could be every bit as harsh and repressive as medieval Christianity or early 20th century fascism, or even that atheists were every bit as capable of ruthless and dogmatic persecution as the worst fundamentalists, as exemplified in Lenin's USSR or Mao's China, one would be universally met with disdain, contempt, a very fragile ego, lame grade school humor and pretentious pseudo-cleverness and smug derision from your average American progressive. And don't get me started on the futility of comparing the anti-sex puritanism of religious conservatives and radical feminists. Never mind greed, power, dogmatism, fanaticism and self righteousness. All of those things were things progressives were fine with, as long as the right people were doing them. The problems of the world began and ended with too much church attendance on part of red state America. Simple as that.

This mindset was really revealing to me. It was all the proof I needed even then that the left, such as it was, had lost its way.

We're all familiar with the pattern now, but a lot of people like us in the tail end of the Bush years were resistant to the notion that you're not genuinely liberal or progressive simply because you're against the religious right when you're also snobbish, classist, racist, sexist, puritanical and dogmatic in other ways. To defeat the Christian right only to replace it with a "progressive" version of the same thing would be a victory both hollow and short lived.

Now flip the political poles of everything I've just said, and apply it to what Sargon's said above. And he certainly isn't the only one. The shoe's on the other foot now. We won't defeat the SJWs by becoming another version of them, either by accepting a neoreactionary take on identity politics - alt right racial consciousness and/or manosphere ideas or an alternative form of moral reductionism, as with the libertarians. And we certainly won't do it by supporting the flagrant plutocrats of the US Republican Party.

Don't get me wrong: I completely understand why Sargon and others like him can't support the Democrats and the left of today. I get why much of Sargon's online work centers around anti-feminism and anti-Islamism. I'm not exactly giving them a free ride myself. I completely sympathize with the disgust Sargon and his fan base feel for the flagrant hypocrisy of the social activist types. That's why I count myself among that fan base, despite not exactly fitting in ideologically.

It's the same disgust I and many of these same leftist activists felt towards the hypocrisy of the religious right ten years ago.

The disagreement that I have with Sargon here is threefold:

  • One, the GOP and conservatives more generally won't form an effective opposition to excessive political correctness in the broader culture in any event. They haven't for a long, long time now, as I explain here.  They haven't reined in the excesses of Hollywood or postmodern academia yet, despite railing against them for decades. Why should I believe they're going to start now? Western conservatism has proven itself utterly incapable of waging an effective culture war. This is why the general arc of the progression of western civilization over the last few centuries has been in a liberal direction. Neoreaction is rooted entirely in this realization. The reasons for this are complex, but a lot of it has to do with unbridled capitalism tending to promote rather than suppress cosmopolitanism and globalism. 
  • Two, supporting the right wing simply means, in the long run, supporting a different brand of regressives. Sure, the gun nuts and Jesus freaks aren't rioting in the streets today the way antifa are, but do they belong any closer to power? Does the idiocy of your average online intersectional feminist now make Pat Robertson and his ilk reasonable by comparison and worthy of political support? It seems to me as though the smug, self righteous moralism of the SJWs is merely replaced by a macho swagger on part of libertarians, paleoconservatives and neoreactionaries that is otherwise every bit as condescending, arrogant and closed minded. It seems like only yesterday that the SJWs struck me and the skeptic community types as comparably high handed and dogmatic as the religious right. Must we go through that again?
  • Three, there's what Thomas Frank made abundantly clear to us in "What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" - “The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.” 

My prediction is that Sargon and those who share his views - views I myself once held - are going to be disappointed. I say this with all due respect to Sargon. I think he still goes good work, for the most part. The problem is that the GOP aren't going to seriously challenge the regressive left. Instead, they'll exacerbate the social and economic conditions that give rise to the regressive left: increased social instability resulting from extreme inequality and employment insecurity. If anything, conservative oligarchs a-la Trump are instead going to push a lot of people ever further to the left - hopefully in a good way but I'm not optimistic.

The days of the GOP and the right wing having the kind of messaging that a Ronald Reagan or a Newt Gingrich did are long behind them. The rank and file of the one time Party of Ideas has now put a reality TV star with no prior political experience in the White House, and this really was preferable to the same old warmed over neocons the party establishment had on offer. That's why the alt-right and neoreaction arose in the first place. Because conservatism is morally and philosophically exhausted. They can no longer conceal the fact that they're all about economic and foreign policy favoring the super rich and that's all there is to it.

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Feminism's Faustian Bargain and the Failure of Reaction

It is all but certain now that the ideological descendants of the Frankfurt critical theorists and the French postmodernists, once such critics of capitalism - have entered into unholy alliance with corporate power to oust conservative and reactionary voices from the public sphere and ultimately remake western civilization in their own image.

But this is a Faustian bargain, an arrangement worthy of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. For these so called progressives have become dependent on corporate power and the structure thereof to do this. Christ had the wisdom and foresight to resist Satan's temptations of worldly power. Today's social justice crowd, like the Soviet socialists and medieval church before them, do not. They'll throw themselves at Old Nick's cloven feet faster than a Scandinavian black metal band. The progressives will not hesitate to use conglomerate media to hoist feminist and other "socially progressive" ideologies on the populace and fire and blacklist those who oppose them.

But wasn't resistance to this kind of power the purpose of critical theory to begin with?

The feminist and SJW types are so fond of reminding us white dudes that America's wealth was purchased at the expense of native genocide, black slavery, wars for imperialism abroad and ongoing discrimination at home. But as the voices with which feminism's indictment are made louder by state, corporate and academic leverage, does not their complicity and even their shared guilt for these attrocities likewise grow? As they integrate themselves into the power structure, telling themselves that it's okay when they do it because they intend to use that power structure in a subversive manner, do they not also partake in it sins, past and present, whether they would admit or accept this or not? Is the platform from which they remind us of our privilege not built on the same black slavery and native genocide they're condemning?

It's not sexism and racism when college feminists or New York Times columnists do it. Yeah, sure. Power plus prejudice and all of that. Where have we heard that kind of thinking before? The USSR can't be oppressive, because oppression is the means by which one class exploits another and the great Soviet motherland, being a socialist state and therefore controlled by "the workers" has no exploitation, and is on the road to becoming a classless society. I'd doubt that the millions who died in the gulags would forgive the Kremlin its self serving sophistry and moral rationalizing. Though guilty of far lesser evils (so far) the feminist establishment in the culture industry of today is every bit as guilty of the same kind of egocentric arrogance and hypocrisy.

Keep trying to lie to the devil, sisters. I'm sure he might even start believing you one of these days.

Thus are the existing political categories rendered obsolete. The right who rails against "cultural Marxism" does so oblivious to the fact that it is capitalist mechanisms that are being used to "destroy the west" as they put it. As if deindustrialization and financial global capital didn't already do that under the rubric of neoliberal laissez faire and free trade, ideas conservatives and reactionaries not so long ago championed. Most still do. The devil does not give up his souls easily.

This corporate leftism, for it's part, cannot succeed. You do not foster "diversity" by grinding everyone into cogs in a corporate machine, nor are "social justice" and "inclusiveness" achieved by the creation of a cubicled underclass, kept as subservient by feminist theory and diversity today as the industrial proletariat of 150 years ago were kept docile and obedient by religion and nationalism.

Critical theory began by casting western civilization as a kind of foundation for capitalism. It is ironic, then, that critical theory itself, or at least its offshoots in the critical race theory and women's studies departments should acquire the same kind of hegemony that Gramsci originally ascribed to the cultural trappings of western capitalism. And it works to the same end - to uphold capitalism, not undermine it. "Diversity" "feminism" and "multiculturalism" translated well into "untapped markets" in corporate boardrooms across the world. They weren't going to neglect that potential out of some abstract loyalty to a culture, race, nation or religion. And all that woke talk and anti-racist pretense added up to a whole lot of manufactured consent for most of the left, most all of whom were more than happy to turn away from socialism if that's what would make the women happy. All and all, a good deal for capital. As always. Donald Trump would be proud.

It is untrammeled capitalism, not "cultural Marxism" that's responsible for all the social trends that the neoreactionaries and paleoconservatives don't like. Marx himself explains, in the Manifesto of the Communist Party:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. 
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers. 
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. 
The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades. 
Blame Marx all you want, neoreactionaries and paleocons, for your declining birth rates and rising rates of immigration and out of wedlock birth. But shooting the messenger, which is what attacking Marx boils down to in these culture war debates, isn't going to help your cause any. Likewise, there are no "cuckservatives." Conservatism was never about western civilization. It was, and continues to be, about capital. Reactionaries were defeated by feminism and multiculturalism, but only because the progressives managed to align themselves with the interests of global capital. But if it's any consolation to to the far right, the progressives have done this at the expense of whatever they once stood for. In that sense, today's feminist progressivism and yesterday's religious reactionaries are very much like. Mammon is a jealous master, as the saying goes.

Whatever he may have been wrong about, all of this shows how right Marx was when he attached foundational importance to economic relations and modes of production, and culture was seen as being eventually derived from that. Not the other way around.

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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Conservatives Helpless Against Internet Censorship

And They Have no one to Blame but Themselves

And You Will Remain Banned Until You Learn to
Trust Your Corporate Overlords!
But Trump won't take what is obviously the necessary action, Alex, because he's a conservative republican who's in bed with big business. When he's not in bed with prostitutes. Sorry 'bout your luck, Alex. I'll advise the lizard people of your displeasure as soon as I next see them. Assuming you're not just a crisis actor. I've long wondered if you were.

That aside, I don't wish this on Alex Jones. I don't want conservatives, libertarians or even the alt right censored and banned on the internet. Why? Because favoring corporate censorship is the LAST thing a leftist should be doing. Such would be an inherantly conservative stance. Much more so than allowing reactionary voices to remain online. The harm done by lone reactionaries pales compared to the harm done by concentrated corporate media power.

That said, I also find rightist voices hard to completely sympathize with here. Why? Because they argue the hardest for unconstrained corporate power to begin with. They argued for the sovereignty of private property, of the board chair and CEO and against regulation, unionization or social ownership. Moreover, the faux individualism espoused and quite often practised by the right have made them sitting ducks for the very corporate power they've been shilling for. Their very philosophy mitigates against the kind of collective action needed to fight back effectively. How's that rugged individualist online culture working out there, guys? It's working exactly how it always works - the small eaten by the large.

And now they they're getting censored by privately owned media and tech giants and getting SJW culture foisted on them, I find them hard to feel sorry for. Want to know why SJW culture is winning? Because capital must always expand. New markets are always needed. If immigrants, minorities or women will make more reliable consumers and cheaper labor - at home or abroad - that's what capital will invest in. Capital doesn't give a sh!t about muh white European culture. And it's not because (((THEM))) either. It gives a sh!t about profit. Period. Because that's what capital does. Especially now that conservatives have helped it become ascendant globally. I can't help but feel that there's a bit of poetic justice in play here.

Marx was clear that whenever the power of capital takes hold, sentiment and loyalty by culture and identity fall by the wayside and it's all about profit. Tech giants really do owe conservatives bugger all, if you ask me, and the right would do well to reconsider the deification of this idea of maximal shareholder value at all costs they've bought into somewhere along the line. They're not looking to be the winners here. Can't say I'm surprised, to be honest. 

Now watch me get banned.

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Friday, 10 August 2018

Libertarianism and Revolutionary Socialism: Hostile Twins?

Earlier I suggested a tepid acceptance of the Democratic Socialists of America - or at least of some of its proposals. But I grow less sure of this as time goes on, and the emergence of a tendency within the DSA that should be all too familiar to long term students of the American left. Your friend and mine, Vox, recently ran an article on the DSA, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's surprise victory over before longtime establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in the primary for the 14th Congressional District in New York.

What Vox revealed is genuinely concerning:
Like most socialist organizations, DSA believes in the abolition of capitalism in favor of an economy run either by “the workers” or the state — though the exact specifics of “abolishing capitalism” are fiercely debated by socialists. 
“The academic debates about socialism’s ‘meaning’ are huge and arcane and rife with disagreements, but what all definitions have in common is either the elimination of the market or its strict containment,” said Frances Fox Piven, a scholar of the left at the City University of New York and a former DSA board member. 
If the concept has yet to have an agreed upon definition, despite nearly 200 years of being in existence in its modern form, perhaps there's some wisdom in reserving our support?
In practice, that means DSA believes in ending the private ownership of a wide range of industries whose products are viewed as “necessities,” which they say should not be left to those seeking to turn a profit. According to DSA’s current mission statement, the government should ensure all citizens receive adequate food, housing, health care, child care, and education. DSA also believes that the government should “democratize” private businesses — i.e., force owners to give workers control over them — to the greatest extent possible.
But DSA members also say that overthrowing capitalism must include the eradication of “hierarchical systems” that lie beyond the market as well. As a result, DSA supports the missions of Black Lives Matter, gay and lesbian rights, and environmentalism as integral parts of this broader “anti-capitalist” program.
Socialism is about democratizing the family to get rid of patriarchal relations; democratizing the political sphere to get genuine participatory democracy; democratizing the schools by challenging the hierarchical relationship between the teachers of the school and the students of the school,” said Jared Abbott, a member of DSA’s national steering committee. “Socialism is the democratization of all areas of life, including but not limited to the economy.
So, it's the Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers and the early Radical Feminists all over again, is it?  Rule by the women's studies department?

God help us all.

It's important to stop right here and make some things clear. I'm all for socializing certain essential services, so as to guarantee their universal access to the population. Health care is a good example. Social housing, food supplements and so on for those who need them I'm likewise 100% in favor of. I'm iffy on a universal basic income, but an expansion of the earned income tax credit to help out low income people is something I'm completely down with.

Unions or some other institution that advocates for the working class, both in the workplace and in the halls of power are absolutely vital, and the unions in America are, with some exceptions, generally much weaker than they need to be, at least in the private sector. I likewise have no quarrel with worker and consumer owned enterprises. I've lived in tenant owned cooperative housing most of my life and have been well served by it. Worker owned enterprises like the Mondragon Corporation in Spain are good examples of workable alternatives to typical American corporate structures. I'd applaud any scheme to launch such experiments closer to home.

That said, management over large manufacturing and distribution organizations is an incredibly complex undertaking, and one for which I wonder if "the workers" as a collective whole are adequately qualified, especially if governance over the cooperative is to be direct rather than via an elected body of professional directors with a fiduciary duty towards the worker/shareholders. We should expect direct democratic governance to be the preference of the American left, given its historical propensity for utopian idealism.

Professional, executive levels of management require many years of rigorous education to qualify a person for, and not simply to keep the rank and file out of those positions. One wonders whether "the workers" actually even want the added degree of responsibility and work load that comes with doubling as management, especially under the more utopian ideals of direct democracy so beloved by the American left. The practice of co-determination - labor being able to elect representatives to corporate boards of directors is another matter, and one I'm generally in favor of.

Likewise, a strong case can be made that wealth and capital are too strongly concentrated in America at present, but the idea that those who take the risk to invest capital in a business venture are all completely evil parasites who feed off the blood of the workers is much more revolutionary romanticist mythology than reality. This can be true if your economy lacks sufficient protections for the rights of workers, borrowers, tenants and the like and capital is permitted to accumulate into increasingly few hands due to a lack of at least some redistributive measures, but it's not necessarily true of all capital investment. Without some kind of capital markets, economic growth and expansion would be severely hamstrung and I suspect this is a big part of why successful economies based solely on mutualist or socialist principles are non existent both at present and throughout history.

Besides, why throw away so wonderful a tool when you can make it work for the benefit of all, via something like a sovereign wealth fund in which all citizens could have equal shares, or that the state could use to supplement public finance?

When there's serious talk of "abolishing capitalism" or "ending the private ownership of a wide range of industries" or "elimination of the market" or "forcing owners to give workers control over" private businesses, this is when, in my humble opinion, things have gone too far. Untrammeled socialism is no better, and may even be worse, than untrammeled capitalism, we just have far less experience with it in the west. While the need for regulatory safeguards should be obvious, the capacity of individual citizens to own productive capital and to buy and sell goods and services on a free market are crucial to human liberty and essential for social prosperity, and failing to recognize this has been a very grave failing of regressive leftism during its history.

By itself, the capacity for consumers or workers to "vote with their feet" as it were and find another product or employer is a capacity that libertarians and fiscal conservatives make far too much of - with little capital or purchasing power, working and middle class individuals have little influence this way and it would take an organized move of this sort - a strike or boycott essentially - to truly influence the policies of a large and powerful corporation, and such organized efforts have never been things that conservatives and libertarians have been fans of.

But historically, neither have been authoritarian socialists, at least while in power. And socialism, past a certain point, tends to default to authoritarianism, whatever the initial intentions of its theoreticians may have been. Transforming societies to the extent they propose naturally requires a government with very far reaching powers. The capacity to buy from or work for the competition is a right a lot of people died for back in the dark days behind the Iron Curtain, and not without good reason. It is one tool with which the working and middle classes can hold business accountable, and this option would be lost in the absence of the market as a means of distribution. Why would the defenders of worker's rights want that?

Will the DSA take things to such extremes? Not likely. America's constitutional system of checks and balances and libertarian tradition would likely mitigate the worst excesses. The greater likelihood is that they'll end up being the Libertarian Party of the left: a loud, tight and small ideological grouping too obsessed with internal purity spiraling to become a serious contender for political power. But their rhetoric does concern me, and if you really are a believer in the rights of workers, consumers and above all individuals, it should concern you too.

The Vox article continues:
Examples may help clarify the difference. While both DSA and some left-wing Democrats agree that the government should provide universal health insurance, DSA ultimately wants to nationalize hospitals, providers, and the rest of the health care system as well. While both will work toward higher taxes on Wall Street, DSA ultimately wants to nationalize the entire financial sector. While left-wing Democrats believe in criminal justice reform, some DSA members are calling for the outright abolition of the police and prison systems. While both DSA and left-wing Democrats support reforms to get money out of politics, some in DSA see capitalism as fundamentally incompatible with genuinely free and fair elections. In practice, however, the two wind up ultimately taking the same positions.
If the DSA would go this far, it goes too far. The DSA may see capitalism as fundamentally incompatible with free and fair elections, and I agree there's a lot of tension between the two now and corporate influence in politics is far too great in America at present, I also see the above description of the DSA as being fundamentally incompatible with a free and democratic society. What would happen, after all, if the majority of voters actually wanted some semblance of a free market preserved, and wish only for protections against the predatory excesses of robber baron capitalism, as opposed to having their own capacity to make money be completely hamstrung?
Further confusing matters is Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist” but supports a policy program that would essentially leave capitalism intact. His candidacy spurred a dramatic growth in DSA membership, and DSA backed him, but the Vermont senator has also referred to himself a “New Deal” Democrat who views Lyndon Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt — rather than Karl Marx or American socialist Norman Thomas — as his true ideological predecessors.
Let's hear it for Bernie Sanders then, and the kind of New Deal Democrat he professes to be. While I do believe Marx had some useful insights into the flawed nature of capitalism, revolutionary overthrow of it by either the ballot box or the gun carries its own huge set of problems, and there are certainly far better examples that we could be following.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Not what you expected out of me, perhaps? Maybe. But don't misunderstand me: I'm not channeling the spirit of Ayn Rand here. I merely point out that the equal and opposite stupid extreme to what Rand stood for is, well, also stupid. What's unfortunate is that the language of economic freedom has been appropriated by libertarians, and deployed to defend the equally misguided notion that "individuals" (read: capital) be above legally constituted sovereign organizations entirely. A useful line of rationale if one's intent is to protect capital from any and all populist demands for protection against its abuses.

What is very crucial to understand is the necessary role of the state in regulating and limiting institutional power so as to protect individual rights and freedoms from both private and public abuses.

Limited government does not necessarily equal small government. It means government that is subordinate to law, and insures that non governmental actors in society are also subordinate to law. It doesn't mean that government can't regulate or even own capital. However, it does mean that the government cannot stop individuals from owning capital all together, either alone or in tandem with other individuals in some or another kind of corporate entity. It may decide to nationalize and thus own some particular enterprise or industry or another. This is no violation of anyone's rights, since nobody has any right to any share in ownership of any business or industry, as any libertarian worth his salt would be more than happy to tell you. But it absolutely must not forbid its citizens any ownership over its productive capacity whatsoever. It's crucial now that these nuanced distinctions be properly grasped.

It means that whatever government does, it does via a procedure that is transparent and respectful of predetermined limits on its power, as set forth in a constitution or similar document. It means that those who hold government office must face the voters on occasion, and step down if defeated in elections. It means that what was once nationalized may also be privatized, and vice versa. Which is the better option is by no means consistent, and it's worth noting that the kinds of people and regimes that hew strongly to one extreme or the other tend to be violent and authoritarian. Having looked at both Castro's Cuba and Pinoche's Chile, I can say that I don't relish the thought of living in either one. The fact that just about every avid Marxist and avid Randroid I've ever engaged with personally are also horribly unpleasant and peevish people doesn't help either cause much either.

By using the mantle of "freedom" and "individual rights" as a moral rationalization for delegitimizing any role for the state in engaging in some regulation or even ownership of capital, redistribution of wealth and protection of the population from the harmful effects of untrammeled capitalism, the libertarians have opened the door for the 21st century's relegitimization of untrammeled capitalism's ugly socialist twin, and the far left's own equally spurious claims that individualistic conceptions of freedom and rights are mere apologetics for the power of wealth and privilege.

I'd like to think the excesses of the DSA can simply be chalked up to the sudden and dramatic reemergence of economic leftism - socialism even - into the mainstream of public discourse in the US body politic following Bernie Sander's 2016 presidential bid. Hopefully, the more extreme and untenable positions will be dropped from the program over time. This is what happened with other laborite and social democratic parties outside the east bloc during the 20th century, after all. One can only hope.

What this should make even more clear than it has been thus far why something akin to another New Deal is so gravely needed. It would be a huge mistake to think that the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, William Beveridge and John Maynard Keynes were crypto-communists hell bent on bringing Soviet central planning to the free world by democratic means. They weren't. Their interest was in saving the public from the excesses of capitalism. Because if that doesn't happen, there will be nothing to save the public from the excesses of socialism.

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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The War Against InfoWars

Preserving Free Speech Online Requires Challenging Both Corporate Power and Regressive Left Ideology. 

The big news on the internet over the past few days has been the sudden and dramatic purging of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars from various social media platforms. Linkedin and MailChimp are the latest to join the purge as of this writing. Apple, Spotify, Facebook and YouTube all shut down sites hosted by the controversial broadcaster, all apparently within a twelve hour timespan. He still survives on Twitter as of this writing. How long that will last remains to be seen. The choreography of it all is nothing short of frightening.

Almost like, well, a conspiracy.  How ironic. And how stupid.  Doubtlessly, a lot of people who wouldn't have bothered giving a man with a reputation for being a crackpot conspiracy theorist a first look would now be giving him a second, and subsequent look. Why would all these tech giants operate in tandem to shut someone down like this, if they weren't afraid of something he might actually have to say?  In their short sighted and arrogant rush to silence Alex Jones, Silicon Valley might well instead have vindicated him.

Good job guys.

And having witnessed all of this, it is indeed frightening and we do all have reason to be concerned. In the wake of it all, a number of narratives have emerged.

The one we hear the most, typically from the tech companies themselves and their more or less mainstream progressive talking heads, is that if you don't "perform hate speech" "glorify violence" or use "dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants" then you should be just fine. Just follow orders, don't rock the boat and don't step out of line ideologically and all will be well. Obey the law and you have nothing to worry about.

So long as you target the right race and gender, you can still spew all the hate and drivel you want, though. Just ask the most recent addition to the New York Times editorial board, Sarah Jeong.

That's the line taken by the mainstream left these days. Which is very much why this blog and its own accompanying social media platforms now exist. Because the mainstream left has adopted this bootlicking mentality towards corporate power, so long as said corporations romanticize the right groups: people who are transgender, Muslim, feminist or immigrants, basically.

The mainstream left means business too. In more ways than one. They've gotten increasingly adept at pressuring media platforms and other kinds of businesses to ostracize people who buck their ideologies. This can range from going directly to internet providers and shutting down domain names to organizing boycotts of restaurants and other establishments that serve persona non grata.

This is all rationalized on the grounds that nobody is entitled to a platform, free speech only applies to the government, etc. I'm sure you've heard them all by now.  Not surprisingly, it quite misses the point. Sure nobody is entitled to a platform from which to express their views, but let's not pretend that deplatformings are totally random events unattributable to human agency. The Silicon Valley hipster "left" has a dangerous obsession with deplatforming people they disagree with, and perhaps it's high time they were reminded that they are similarly not entitled to tell everybody else who they will and will not host on their own platforms. The agency exercised by the abuser, not the legalistic hair splitting over which rights their victims do and do not have ought to be the issue here. People would not be deplatformed if regressive leftists did not actively campaign to do so. That's the issue here.

In opposition to the regressive left defense of censorship are two separate lines of defense in favor of free speech. Both of these tendencies have an admirable "I may not agree with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it" kind of attitude. Good on them. Both also accurately stress the fact that legacy media faces a very real threat to its ongoing business viability from newer social media platforms that more easily give voice to greater numbers of people. Again, rightly observed. Yet both weakened to an extent by their own ideological limitations and what they're not willing to say.

The larger and first of these come from the Intellectual Dark Web, Cultural Libertarian and Skeptic Community sorts. Self described classical liberals. Think Sargon of Akkad, Styxhexenhammer666, Paul Joseph Watson and the like. This narrative revolves largely around the progressive ideology of the censors. Tech firms concentrated in Silicon Valley are almost overwhelmingly dominated by what this group of free speech warriors terms progressive and even radical leftists hell bent on silencing anyone they do not like. That's a long list and one destined to include you, dear reader, somewhere along the line, so you'd do well to take heed.

The second and smaller of these comes from a group more akin to the old left. This would include Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, Jimmy Dore, columnist Caitlin Johnstone and the outstanding World Socialist Website. This narrative revolves more around the frightening degree of concentration of corporate power, and worry that if tech oligarchs can silence cranks like Alex Jones today, who might they similarly shut down in the future? State and corporate whistleblowers a-la Julian Assange? Environmental, anti-war or labor activists? We all have reason to be afraid.

Both of these generally good and noble groupings of people have their shortcomings though, and these revolve around their unwillingness to speak to the core of the other's ideology. The Intellectual Dark Web does not like to discuss how unrestrained corporate power not only enables but is essential to the dominance of regressive left and social justice warrior ideologies.

Acknowledging this would entail a reevaluation of what it means to be left of center politically, a reevaluation that people committed to unbridled capitalism would no doubt find uncomfortable. Sometimes, they do stray into these kinds of territories such as in Sargon of Akkad's very recent discussion of the Social Parliament and the idea of a YouTuber's union (Bravo!) But for the most part, questions of regulating or even (heaven forbid) social ownership of major social media platforms remains an ideological no-go zone. After all, why stop at just social media?

But the IDW and the Skeptic Community will find itself vulnerable and hamstrung as a movement if it's unwilling to look long and hard at the role that corporate power plays in constraining free thought.  And this will eventually have to mean a critical reexamination of their almost pathological anti-socialism and anti-Marxism.  The idea that major social media is a kind of public utility to which access does become a sort of citizenship right is one you hear occasionally, but it is a social democratic, or dare I say it, socialist concept. In the meantime, we have come to a place where people can be fired from their jobs or blacklisted from social media as much because of libertarian notions of the primacy of private property as because of social justice ideologies surrounding race, gender and identity.

The newer old lefties are not blameless either, for their own version of essentially the same reason. One definitely gets the sense that Kyle Kulinski and Jimmy Dore aren't huge fans of postmodernism and identity politics, but they're not in any big hurry to call out even the excesses of regressive leftism or SJWism either. They simply promote a truer to form leftism that's less about identity and social justice so called and more a back-to-basics emphasis on political economy.

I do applaud and would encourage this, but alone it is not enough. While the struggles for core racial and gender equality are integral to the left, I've argued elsewhere, at length, that current year intersectional identity politics is itself a system of power, and works largely to shore up rather than challenge corporate and state power. Much of the left is a ways away from acknowledging this at present. While there is some willingness to occasionally criticize the excesses of postmodernism and identity politics, that is as far as it goes, and sacred cow concepts like mass immigration, Me Too and Black Lives Matter are not criticized, whether out of principle or an unwillingness to step on the wrong toes. Either way, it's problematic.

The Alternative Left must recognize and push the notion that SJW regressive leftism does not operate independently of corporate and state power. The two intersect, if I may borrow the term. Postmodern identity politics requires corporations strong enough to fire and blacklist people for race and gender based thought crimes in order to become as ascendant as it has been in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. This naturally entails corporations that are also strong enough to fire employees who are trying to unionize or blow the whistle on some form of abuse or another.

Conversely, trumped up charges of bigotry, harassment and hate speech have become powerful and useful pretenses for big business and big government to censor, disgrace and blacklist people they do not like, usually because they threaten corporate and state power and are thus often to the left politically.  Corporate power will dangle the prospect of silencing an Alex Jones or a Richard Spencer in front of the left, to entice progressives into what is, when considered, a Faustian bargain. The satisfaction to be gained by the loss of an ignorant or repugnant voice is not worth the power we morally accede to big business and national security government whenever we applaud such censorship. To judge by the progressive reaction to the silencing of Alex Jones, this is a fact that too few progressives today seem to get.

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Monday, 16 July 2018

The DSA Left

Has our Time Finally Come?
This surging "Democratic Socialists of America" left, outlined in this American Interest Article "The Right's Straw Left" and exemplified by recently victorious Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sounds like just the kind of thing I should like, and have been looking forward to seeing for a long time now. But while I see it as a potentially good overall development, I find myself with mixed feelings and more than a little trepidation.

There's much here to like. If ending military adventures in the middle east and slashing military industrial pork are on the menu, a lot of the budgetary stuff basically takes care of itself. Ditto for single payer health care. Yes, taxes go up but you also get rid of mortgage sized health insurance premiums, and on balance you end up spending less per capita on health care and insuring everybody in the process.

I'm still not completely up to speed on modern monetary theory. I know that some in my mod team and among our fan base are quite bullish on the concept, but it has its detractors too. Monetary policy is admittedly not my area of strength. But, as the article suggests, the right long ago squandered any credibility with which it can use deficit hysteria to tar the "tax and spend" left. Trillion dollar military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen to that. The 1990s are gone and the Republican Revolution types, where they still exist, aren't getting them back. (Too bad the same can't be said for my own provincial jurisdiction in Alberta, Canada, but that's another story)

But there's much not to like, or at least be concerned about with the "DSA left" also. Right wing stereotypes aside, there are genuine concerns with the social justice crowd that this blog and its associated Facebook page remains an exception on the left with its willingness to talk about. We have considerable qualms with deplatforming controversial speakers on college campuses, with the use of the post secondary education system to effectively indoctrinate students, with the climate of constant demonization of white males, with the potential ruining of a man's career because he allegedly flirted with a female coworker twenty years ago. And of course, we remain skeptical of unvetted open door immigration. All of this can be expected to stay the course or even intensify should the DSA left become ascendant.

The American Interest article is right about one thing, though: the conservative right's relative lack of vision beyond tax cuts and opposition to abortion and anti immigration posturing. While they did score some political points off the backs of the more ridiculous SJWs in the Triggly Puff mode, they had - as usual - little to offer as an alternative except more trickle down economics and quasi libertarian talking points. The right were never truly interested in the culture wars, except in as far as they can be milked for votes to ultimately elect high income tax cutters and deregulators. This is precisely what we've been doing for four decades now, and what we have to show for it is the likes of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquiring a net worth in excess of $140 billion while his warehouses are, for all intents and purposes, sweat shops. The younger generation's lack of enthusiasm for this is quite understandable, IMO.

Much remains to be seen, of course, and prediction never amounts to much more than a craps shoot in forecasting political and social trends even a few years into the future. The question is: Is it worth it to hold your nose and elect people who use terms like decolonization and rape culture unironically if it means getting a new new deal or a single payer health care system?

In my opinion, the answer is - with some reservation and no shortage of willingness to continue challenging the excesses of political correctness - yes.

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