Sunday, 16 December 2018

What's the Matter with YouTube's Alternative Influence Network?

Skipping over to YouTube and noting the subscription levels for various content creators deemed to be part of the right wing "Alternative Influence Network", I make the following observations. Note that these figures are rounded approximations, not exact figures as these fluctuate as subscribers come and go:

Styxhexenhammer666: 329,000 subs
Lauren Southern: 675,000 subs
Milo Yiannopoulos: 839,000 subs
Sargon of Akkad: 865,000 subs
Stefan Molyneux: 883,000 subs
Dave Rubin (Rubin Report): 899,000 subs
Jordan B Peterson: 1,670,000 subs
Steven Crowder: 3,168,000 subs

This is just a sampling of so called right wing YouTube. There are dozens more. I could go on. Now a quick detour for those of you who don't know, YouTube's "Alternative Influence Network" was a term coined by researcher Rebecca Lewis in a New Data & Society report entitled Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTubeRead a Guardian article on the subject here. The Alternative Influence Network apparently consists of "65 political influencers across 81 channels" that tend to lean right to varying degrees (though some vehemently deny this, with varying degrees of accuracy), do tend to be affiliated with one another despite numerous personal and political disagreements and play a prominent role in the alleged radicalization of socially marginal young men. Does this sound familiar?

As a matter of comparison:

Feminist Frequency: 222,000 subs
Kat Blaque: 135,000 subs
Chescaleigh (MTV Decoded): 247,000 subs

These being among the more prominent feminist and social justice channels. The new punching bag (as of this writing) of the YouTube reactionaries, Edinburgh University professor "Tiny" Tim Squirrell's channel has a whopping 364 subscribers as I type this, and he boasts 2,770 followers on Twitter, as of this writing. Proving that sometimes people really do live up to their names.  My own Samizdat Broadcasts on YouTube dwarfs this (I have the big 513 subscribers, and I haven't really done any work in ages). Progressive media watchdog Sleeping Giants, allied with Squirrell who apparently claim responsibility for Alex Jones's deplatforming and was instrumental in Sargon's being kicked off Patreon, claims 214,000 followers on Twitter and 55,000 on Facebook.

To be fair, some leftist YouTube presences are substantial. The flagship here would be The Young Turks, with over 4 million subs. For ways of thinking closer to my own, Kyle Kulinski's Secular Talk has around 618,000 subs, David Pakman has around 558,000 subs, the Jimmy Dore Show has around 427,000 subs, and the Amazing Atheist has just over a 1 million subs, as of this writing. The later four would not participate in a deplatforming campaign against Sargon, I'd wager to say.

Still and all ... does anyone else see what I'm getting at here?

Now I get the fact that the social justice crowd has influence beyond their numbers. Their presence in academia and mainstream media is commanding. Despite a recent study finding that only 8% of Americans identify as "progressive activists" and that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of Americans believe that "political correctness is a problem in our country" and that these figures are remarkably consistent across all demographic lines, race and gender included.

Which is really the problem here. How did we end up in such a tail wagging the dog kind of situation? Are progressive activist dollars just worth ten times more than those of the subscribers to supposedly reactionary YouTube channels? Patreon and PayPal must certainly think so. How else does one explain the rapidity with which the mighty tech trusts of Silicon Valley, truly the robber barons of our era, knuckle under to the demands of social justice warriors so swiftly and readily, despite the greater numbers of reactionaries on these platforms?

Sargon of Akkad boasts approximately 865,000 subscribers on YouTube. For perspective, this is slightly higher than the current membership rolls for the United Steel Workers (currently about 860,000) and dwarfs the total number of employees for each single private employer in America except Walmart. This is greater than the total membership of all three of Canada's major political parties combined (near 300,000 for the governing Liberals, around 260,000 Conservatives and about 125,000 New Democrats).

Granted that many of these are generally passive followers, many no doubt haven't followed his channel in any real sense in years, or are not necessarily loyal true believing subscribers to his ideology but who agree with him on some things (I'd be among these). Never the less, he manages to continually get six digit view figures. "You can't Trust Patreon", detailing his expulsion from the platform, published 8 December of 2018 boasts a bit over 373,000 views as of this writing.

So the obvious question is: why can't this kind of subscriber base be wielded as a significant political or even cultural force? Can a constellation of social media personalities with millions of followers between them (granted a considerable degree of overlap) not use that to leverage access to more mainstream media platforms, and from there commandeer the narrative regarding what it is they exactly stand for, making them less vulnerable to "alt right" smears from pseudo leftist outlets with lower subscriber bases? This might have to entail some research and study into media and public relations, marketing, political strategy and similar disciplines, but I'm sure that's not beyond the capacities of the intellectual dark web. These guys aren't stupid.

One fourth of Sargon's subscriber base surpasses the number of twitter followers Sleeping Giants has. And that's just Sargon. So why are Sleeping Giants and not the legions of Kekistan calling the shots here? Is there something preventing them from, at their emperor's call, exerting their own leverage in the marketplace and leaning on advertisers a bit themselves? I can't help but wonder if that isn't why these faux progressives are actually so afraid of this alleged dark web of YouTube reactionaries. If they got their act together and flexed their muscle - really strategized and organized effectively - who knows what they could accomplish?

I'm here to tell you that with 865,000 followers, I'd be seriously discussing a general strike. When I wasn't hiding or running for my life from C.I.A assassins, that is.

So why is this Alternative Influence Network so vulnerable to social media deplatforming? They've hurt Patreon via a substantial exodus already. Imagine what a truly well coordinated strategy involving even a half dozen or so content creators close to Sargon (Jordan Peterson is an obvious choice here) could accomplish. It's not like they don't have the loyal and dedicated fan base.

Is it those dirty rotten SJWs refusing to listen to reason? Are social media executives fanatical SJWs themselves, or just stupid? If they're so willing to hemorrhage loyal paying patrons to appease a vocal ideological minority, than the CEO's basic competency must be called into question. Boards of directors, who hire the CEO, have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to maximize shareholder value and run the company responsibly. Notice that the fiduciary responsibility is to their shareholders, not to the women's studies department of their local college or university. Are you paying attention to this, libertarians and reactionaries? This is how the capitalist system you claim to so love works. There's more of you than there are social justice warriors if YouTube subscription rates and social media following figures are any indication. So take the hint. Anyway, is it the influence of George Soros? Of the "globalists?" Of the "cultural Marxists"  or of (((you know who?)))

Or is the real problem deeper and more subtle? A fundamental weakness embedded in the very deep structure of conservative, classical liberal and libertarian thought? A weakness that isn't so much a falsehood in the direct claims that this constellation of ideologies tend to assert, but rather something that's more nebulous and metapolitical, if I were to call it anything.

To illustrate, let's compare libertarianism with its opposed strands of critical theory. Deriving ultimately from Marxism, critical theory both in its specific formal Frankfurt School form and more generally as a tendency in political thought, tends to posit some sort of oppressed/oppressor dynamic as being at the heart of how western civilization operates. This has deep and significant implications: Individuals belong to broader classes of people, and different classes have different interests and thus naturally antagonistic relationships with one another. Marx's bourgeoisie vs proletariat dualism is, perhaps the ur-example of this. Other variations I'm sure we're all familiar with posit people of color vs. whites, or men vs. women and non cisgender heterosexuals.

Contrast with libertarianism, which tends more towards the kind of belief that "there is no such thing as society, just individuals and their families" or something similar. For the critical theorist, social inequality is seen as the result of some or another kind of social power structure, and its role is to ensure the dominance of one group of people over another. In this world view, inequality isn't a bug, but a feature, so to speak. The upshot of that is that there's an impetus to change the system.

Contrast with libertarianism, which isn't necessarily opposed to equal outcomes provided they occur on a free market and are thus "voluntary" or "volitional" as they'd put it. But let's be honest here. These transactions are often taking place between the owners of productive capital on the one hand and a proletariat who have only their own labor power to sell on the other. So the outcomes are going to be very unequal, and the libertarian is much more okay with this than they are with government intervention into the process to level the playing field at some point. This makes libertarianism fundamentally conservative, however different a policy direction they would go from dominant neoliberalism or neoconservatism. Reactionaries go further, and insist that inequality is indeed the natural order of things. Attempts at social change in a more egalitarian and inclusive direction is "cheating" as far as the reactionary and the libertarian are concerned, since this involves the imposition of more equal outcomes where more unequal outcomes would be more natural or even desirable.

The important takeaway here is that for the critical theorist, the marginalized and oppressed categories of people are individually weaker than their power wielding counterparts, it is therefore necessary for them to organize, which is to realize strength in numbers and to strategize, which is find and exploit choke points in institutional systems so that marginalized groups can achieve what they believe to be more balanced outcomes - social justice so called.

A very brief peek into the Alternative Influence Network and into libertarian, conservative and reactionary spaces is all it takes to quickly gather their opinion of this way of looking at the world. This is the "cultural Marxism" or the "postmodern Marxism" they're always railing against. Libertarianism (the purest form of what conservatism and classical liberalism are) denies the existence of competing power interests among differing groups in a capitalist society, where conservatives and reactionaries view society as something in which all have a shared stake. Some people earn more because they work harder or smarter, or fulfill a more important place in the social structure, and therefore deserve it. 

Now, read this next sentence closely, because it's the crux of the whole problem for the the right on social media and by itself the entirety of the reason they're losing the culture war against the social justice warriors: This denial of class, race or gender based antagonisms in western civilization obviates the necessity for organization and strategization on the right. That statement is bold red because it's that important. It's absolutely foundational for understanding why things like Sargon being booted from Patreon happen. If you don't get it yet, the core of the problem is that the conservative, reactionary and libertarian world views mitigate against their adherents organizing politically, except perhaps to exchange views or, at most, achieve electoral victories so as to reduce the tax burden on higher income earners. But electoral politics are fundamentally limited in liberal democracies, and a separation of politics and culture is actually a fairly crucial thing in classical liberal and conservative thought. This is precisely why the critical theorists and the social justice crowd long ago deemphasized traditional politics in favor of culture war long ago. 

The right simply has no idea how to effectively wage a culture war, because as far as they're concerned, culture is taking place in a realm consisting only of individuals and maybe their families. Not society and certainly not anything systemic or structural for the benefit of some people at the expense of others. If you don't believe me in that assessment, go and use words like systemic and structural in your next conversation with reactionaries or libertarians of any stripe and see what kind of response you get. 

So they don't think in terms of a "long march through the institutions" or of organizing any kind of wide scale political activity targeting the institutions they claim have been hijacked by social justice warriors. That sort of "playing dirty" is precisely what they despise about the SJWs. Some libertarians explicitly reject all forms of political activity, for it implies collective action.  For their part, the SJWs, on the other hand, have zero qualms about doing any of that. Indeed, the need to do so is likewise built into their ideology. There's no such thing as fighting dirty against the beneficiaries of structural oppression. 

The Alternative Influence Network, the Intellectual Dark Web, the Skeptic Community, the Cultural Libertarians, the Kekistanis or whatever they're calling themselves in current year cannot defeat the social justice warriors, even if they enjoyed five times the numerical advantage they already enjoy. They would never consider any kind of organized strategy for dealing with of any of these supposedly leftist social media platforms. They may seem to depart one for another in tandem, but only because each has decided on his own to do so for his own reasons. Hardly a recipe for changing the world in any sort of serious way.

The libertarian core of their philosophy was quite deliberately designed to mitigate against any kind of sustained organized activity against corporate power. We have them to thank in good part for four decades of neoliberal hegemony. The reactionaries may claim that feminism is cancer - a good metaphor since feminists operate by invading both public and private spaces of all kinds and shift the purpose of those spaces towards the promotion of feminist ideology. Very much like how a cancer cell operates. Could we not likewise suggest that libertarianism is AIDS. The capacity of individuals within the polity to politically organize is its "immune system" against tyranny, and libertarianism attacks that immune system to such a degree that the polity becomes vulnerable to capture by any interest with the desire and capacity to do so. As such, I sometimes find them hard to feel sorry for when they get kicked off of social media, though I certainly don't condone or support it. Hair of the dog that bit you, boys. Maybe learn your lesson here.

What then can defeat the social justice warriors?

Only one thing: the use of their methods of analysis and activism against them. That would mean viewing current year critical theory, feminism and social justice, however radical they may have at one time been, as being themselves systems of power designed to benefit a certain class of people at the expense of another.

The democratic centralist vanguard party in the Soviet Union is a clear and obvious example of a left wing version of an oppressive system of power - regressive leftism, so called. They appropriated the moral force of the worker's struggle and socialism - considerable at the time - to legitimize their claims on power, but never altered the fundamental relations of production because they were now the beneficiaries of those relations. Marxist ideology became mere slogans legitimizing Bolshevik claims to absolute power while upholding precisely the kind of alienating productive relations Marxism so rightly criticized.

The highly educated professional activists that make up the core of current year social justice activism are the cultural version of a democratic centralist vanguard party, as they were envisioned by the critical theorists who came to see it necessary to wage a cultural revolution as a prelude to the establishment of a centrally planned economy. They've merely replaced socialism and the worker's struggle with feminism and anti-racism as sources of moral legitimacy. Since totalitarian methods were not available to the self styled revolutionaries of the west, this kind of Marcusian kulturkampf became necessary instead. Where the power structures constrained by liberal democratic norms are forced to manufacture consent for their oppressive policies, the self styled revolutionary vanguard must manufacture dissent to achieve its own regressive goals. 

This has been a failure, and no metric more closely measures that failure than the historical materialism that so brilliantly animated Marx's initial critiques of class structure. 

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Saturday, 15 December 2018

Leftists: Do NOT Support Corporate Censorship!

"Tim Squirrell" embodies everything wrong with the mainstream left of the current year. Viewing his twitter feed, I'm not seeing a whole lot of working class or marginalization here. From his personal website:
I started at the University of Cambridge in 2011, after finishing school in Cyprus. I began studying Medicine, but quickly realized that it wasn't for me, and switched into Natural Sciences, focusing on the History and Philosophy of Science. I graduated with a BA and MSci in 2015, having written my first Masters dissertation on the problem of moral responsibility when delegating medical decisions to cognitive computers.
Good stuff. With a guy like this in our corner, how can we lose? He looks like just the kind of guy I'd expect to meet at a $10,000 a plate Clinton Foundation fundraiser, positioning himself as the "resistance" against the ascendancy of "fascists" such as your typical incel on Reddit or 4chan troll. 

I'll not begrudge a fellow his education, but a look at his twitter feed suggests someone rather full of himself:
We’re not harassing you! You’re harassing us!” the anime avatars scream in their dozens and hundreds
I guess i would be scared of being deplatformed too if my income and indeed the only reason anyone knew or cared about me were all derived from  being arrested for being an edgelord
Regret to announce in a disappointing plot twist i was controlled by the russians all along
Yuk yuk yuk! What a card! Oh Tim, you're just so witty!  Which can be tolerated and ignored. The real problem with this fellow is here:
My mentions are blowing up bc the alt-right have found my attempts to aid in their deplatforming and are Very Upset. Please keep me and my mentions in your prayers at this difficult time.
And in case you missed it:
@slpng_giants another deplatforming success 
In case you don't know, this refers to a group called Sleeping Giants. "A campaign to make bigotry and sexism less profitable." Presumably active in attempts to lean on advertisers and boycott media outlets that host so called "hate speech" or "the alt-right" or whomever. Well, I suppose that's their right. But I have just one request for my fellows on the left who quite rightly want to oppose bigotry and hate but quite wrongly think deplatforming people who aren't really that right wing, bigoted or hateful is the way to do it:

Can we please stop doing this?

Or at the very least, can we at least try to be somewhat intelligent and judicious about what we consider "hate speech?" Last time I checked, Sargon of Akkad and Count Dankula, while not loyal card carrying progressives, were light years from the far right in terms of their actual beliefs. It's not exactly a secret that highly educated professional activists on college campuses and in Silicon Valley willfully smear their opponents as "Nazis" - in a kind of counterpart to the right's long tendency of red-baiting their own political opponents. Indeed, the "hate speech" for which Sargon was apparently deplatformed from Patreon was supposedly satirizing the kind of talk that alt-right clods engage in. Sargon has in fact had notorious quarrels with alt-right leaders, and is generally disliked by them.

This is why resorting to censorship over political disagreement is always a bad idea. Ideologues on one side of the spectrum tend to lump everyone on the other side into a single monolith. By similar rationale, if Sargon is a "Nazi" then I must be a raging SJW with my own set of gender pronouns forever calling on white males to check their privilege while donning the black bandanna to head out to "bash the fash." I am alt-left, after all. What stops the Proud Boy types from coming after me at some point, assuming this ever becomes a revenue source for me? After all, the Sleeping Giants and their ilk legitimized such tactics.

And that's the problem with all of this. And doubly so for the left, who've always been the advocates for the small players in the market.

Unless you are going after an institution or truly powerful person abusing their power, you have no business crawling into bed with corporate power and using that power to attack the livelihoods of your political opponents if you call yourself a leftist. Our whole project is built around the securing of the rights of the "little guy" - the common people in the face of the potential for corporate oligopoly to abuse the power that their strong position in the marketplace gives them. Boycotting a corporation over some malpractice or another is one thing. Calling for the ending of an otherwise powerless person's livelihood over a political disagreement is quite another. Doesn't the left typically emphasize the difference between punching up and punching down?

Even if it were the case that this "alternative influence network" really does universally promote far right reactionary views (some of them certainly do, but they're no more a monolith than the left is) what really constitutes the furtherance of the far right's true agenda: allowing reactionaries on social media to speak their minds, or empowering capital to silence those the strongest players in the marketplace, either singly or in concert, do not like?

How long before these kinds of tactics get used on corporate whistle blowers, environmental activists and union leaders? Today, those calling for less globalism and immigration are greater threats to the power and interests of capital (specifically unlimited access to cheap labor) than socialist union militancy is. Hence the far right rather than the left being public enemy number one. For today. But can this be counted on to last indefinitely?

It's especially galling when supposed leftists seem to suddenly start channeling the spirit of Ayn Rand when the subject of corporate censorship and the firing/deplatforming of right wing commentators is raised. "It's not censorship" when private entities do it, they claim. That's funny, because by that rationale, it shouldn't have been "discrimination" when employers, landlords, banks and so on discriminated against gays, racial minorities, atheists and socialists either. We don't get to pick and choose based solely on convenience dictated by political allegiance. And believe me when I say that anti-discrimination laws intended to bring marginalized groups into equal footing were resisted via very similar kinds of claims for a very long time. Segregationists had a long history of opposing "government telling business who they can and can't hire."

It was the left who dealt with blacklisting and persecution during McCarthyism and various red scares. In an increasingly conservative political climate, do we think ourselves immune to such tactics in the future? What happens to our capacity to credibly call it out when we in fact endorse such methods as Tim Squirrell is doing?

It is left wing people who should know that modes and relations of production are fundamental, and that the ideological climate flows from that. It should therefore be of greater import to us to protect smaller dissident voices online that we may disagree with than to call upon the real force for reaction - monopoly capital - to silence those voices.

We have in social media something that generations of leftist media critics could only have dreamed of: a means by which people with little capital and institutional clout can potentially reach a mass audience. A Carl Benjamin would have been unthinkable in the days before social media. So too would a host of leftist outlets: think Jimmy Dore, Kyle Kulinski and the like. Yet today's democratic centralist vanguard of highly educated professional activists chooses to use it to silence others. They are pretty much doing the Atlantic Council's work for them.

I think it says a great deal about just how "left" the Tim Squirrells and Sleeping Giants of this world really are when they have the ears of the corporate oligopolies and opt to use their influence in this manner. If they were leftists in any authentic sense, they should use their influence to advocate for better wages and working conditions in Silicon Valley, clean water in Flint, Michigan, greater protection for renters in Arkansas ... I could go on. On and on and on. There's real social injustice out there to fight. Let's use this powerful new social media tool to truly empower the poor and marginalized, rather than silence those only a tier or two up from the bottom. Even if they do have some genuinely odious opinions. The best way to fight fascism is to embed social democratic principles directly into the fabric of our political and economic structures. Calls for social media censorship push in exactly the opposite direction. Why do I get the feeling that future generations fighting to improve the lot of the poor and working classes will regret the precedents these pseudo leftists are setting?

But then, that would mean it would have to stop being about the egos of the Tim Squirrells of this world. It would have to stop being about what heroes he and Sleeping Giants are, and start being about actually addressing the real roots of marginalization. Which is a mode of production that's working out quite well for the likes of Mr. Squirrell, thank you very much. Must be nice being a professor in an elite educational institution. Check your privilege, good sir!

In short, they are not leftists at all. They are the voices of power and privilege, made all the worse by their adoption of a "progressive" veneer.

Of course, you, dear reader, may do business with whomever you like. You're under no obligation to patronize an outfit who likewise does business in some way you object to. Boycotts are a potentially powerful means of challenging corporate power. But let's be judicious when we employ this strategy, and let's use it to actually challenge rather than uphold corporate power. Let's reserve it for use against corporations that abuse their workers, spoil the environment, or engage in other shady business practices. Giving a platform to someone like Sargon of Akkad simply isn't something that we on the left should be objecting to.

As a bit of an aside, "extrordanormalguy" on twitter asked me this question:
I appreciate your principled view on this issue, but how can you align with the left as a whole anymore. The have largely become an authoritarian group hell bent on stifling free speech, and killing freedom for anyone who disagrees with them. Truly evil people.
Simply because the right will not, and can not deal with this issue effectively. The right's whole history has been about entrenching corporate power. Their recent concerns about free speech are more opportunistic than they are genuine. It wasn't so long ago it was the religious right playing these kinds of games with businesses that sold rock music records and role playing game books. Donald Trump is notoriously no friend of press freedom, however partisan the press has also been in their opposition to him. Furthermore, the right's individualistic framing of social and economic relations mitigates against the impetus to organize, or to see what they're engaged in as a struggle for power wherein their opponents see the need to win at all costs, as opposed to a mere clash of ideas to be resolved through honest and open debate. For a number of reasons, debacles such as these make quite clear the serious limitations of libertarian and conservative thought for all except those rich and powerful enough to benefit from them.

We Live in Strange Times
Moreover, the mainstream right simply doesn't care. That's all there really is to it. Republican leaders in America or prominent Conservative Party politicians in Canada and the UK may occasionally pay lip service to the importance of free speech, but it's not a priority for them, and certainly not for the broader institutions in which they operate. Free speech for YouTube's "alternative influence network" doesn't entail tax cuts for the top 1% of 1% of income earners. Therefore, it's off the radar as far as conservative power is concerned.

More mainstream kinds of conservatives are a heavily programmed and ideological lot, and this issue simply doesn't fall into their constellation of hot button issues. It's not about guns, it's not against abortion, it's not idolizing the flag, it's not in favor of middle-east power projection, it's not demonizing some or another Liberal or Democrat party politician: Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau or whomever. And above all, it's not about tax cuts. Ergo, invisible to the right, with some exceptions, of course.

It's worth noting that the kinds of "reactionaries" and "bigots" that are the targets of these kinds of deplatforming campaigns are themselves strident advocates of free market capitalism, a fact the likes of Tim Squirrell are only too happy to point out. Strange that the so called left seems to be doing a better job than the right of leveraging market power in this scenario. Would that the left used this influence to demand and uphold worker's rights. Likewise, being on the receiving end of this kind of corporate maleficence should hopefully suggest to these libertarian and reactionary social media personalities that unlimited corporate power might not be such a good idea. While I don't condone the right being deplatformed on corporate social media, it bears mentioning that they have no real basis to protest it given their most cherished ideological principles.

Besides, I wonder whose idea of a "leftist" Tim Squirrell really is anyway?

Were I in a position to counsel the "Alternative Influence Network" in any way, I'd suggest the following:

You've been called the so called intellectual dark web. It's time to leave the dark web behind. Stop hiding. It's working against you. You need to make yourself known to the social media outlets who are hosting you. You actually represent their interests better than the social justice crowd does. You want them to pay less taxes and deal with fewer regulations, after all. Why not try to have a dialogue with them and establish a relationship with them? You say sunlight is the best disinfectant, start with yourselves. You know what you believe and why - don't fear. Use marketing strategies devised by the capitalist system you so love and publicly position yourselves as free speech advocates. Make certain you represent yourselves as promoters of something most people think are good. Don't come out against political correctness. Come out in favor of free thought and open dialogue. Know your values and frame the debate.

You've spent most of your time creating ideological content for consumption by like minded viewers out there in YouTube land. While important, this isn't enough. Now you're paying the price for your policy of isolationism. You need to start an outreach program to capture the hearts and minds of the political mainstream. Otherwise the Tim Squirrells of this world will represent you and will control the narrative around who you are and what you stand for. Your recent misadventures with Patreon and SubscribeStar show what the end result of that is.

Take a lesson from the SJWs you despise. The SJWs who figured out that positioning themselves as a radical counter culture was of limited efficacy, and found ways to work within the systems they professed to dislike to advance their agendas and thrust their narratives into the mainstream. They didn't like mainstream media and academia any more than you do now, but the hard truth is that the bulk of the population isn't abandoning legacy media any time soon. It has gravitas and credibility with both the bulk of the population, and policy making elites in positions of influence. It's how the feminist social justice crowd got to where they are today. Study their success and learn from it.

Above all, be you left or right leaning, do NOT spam Tim Squirrell, Sleeping Giants or similar people with threats, insults or hate speech. It only makes you look bad and lends credence to their narratives.

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Monday, 10 December 2018

How Trump Succeeded

Trump stepped into a leadership and ideological vacuum. That's how he succeeded. First in the Republican party, then in the nation as a whole. Not many people that I see seem to get this. But from the outside looking in, it seems obvious to me. The establishment refuses to come to terms with this because they're the ones who are ultimately responsible for it.

We can start with the Republican Party. With Lyin' Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb. Say what you will about the Donald, he really wasn't lying in these cases. He stepped into a party that was morally, ideologically and philosophically exhausted and everybody knew it. The same old Reagan era trickle down talking points. The same old neocon obsessions with middle east power projection. The same old evangelical grandstanding serving as a thin mask for untold corruption. It was dead as a national political force. Rightism was reduced to a protest vote against something or other that Obama did and a rag-tag of paleoconservative conspiracism. Not something relevant to most people.

Truth is, they were the ones who killed American democracy. Not Trump. They killed it with deregulation, with outsourcing, with Reaganomics and enabling the largest wealth and income gap in history. They killed it with pseudo libertarianism - a replacement or at least very serious nerfing of institutions of democratic oversight with a quasi religious faith that "free markets" can do anything and everything far better than human agency ever could. F**k, what a farce. How could anybody be so stupid? They killed it with the inauguration of an international economic order that enabled the super rich to dictate policy while holding the club of capital flight and investment strike over the polity's head. They killed it by abolishing the fairness doctrine and allowance of media conglomeration. They killed it through the manufacture of a state of perpetual national emergency and the passage of the Patriot Act.

Then the GOP establishment have the gall to display such shock and awe with the emergence of Trump and Bannon. What the hell did they think was going to happen? When you create a social order based on cut throat competition, don't be surprised if one such as Trump can actually make callousness into a sort of political asset. 

 As for Hillary and the democrats, they largely dug their own graves in their own ways. For all the crying we heard about Russia, about Wikileaks, about the Bernie Bro's, about deplorables, it was Hillary's own record that doomed her. That and a bad campaign. But it went back farther than that. As far back as Bill Clinton, the thinking was much more how to accommodate themselves to the order that Reagan brought in than to push back against that order, or at least the less savory aspects of it. While too many Trump supporters really did fit the profile of the basket of deplorables, a surprising number of people who rejected Hillary were rejecting her own hypocritical support for mid-east wars, for the Patriot act, for demonizing "super predators" and her husband's repeal of Glass-Steagall, among other things.  Most of all, they rejected the democratic party's stab in the back of the one candidate in 2016 who really did understand what was wrong with the country and what was needed to fix it. And they continue to reject the jaw dropping sense of entitlement that many democrats and the so called "resistance" continue to display, acting as if they were simply entitled to the political support of the country as though it were their due.

 The left, for its part, made its own Faustian bargains through all of this. Beginning in the colleges and universities, they acceded to the demands of the standpoint theorists in the women's studies and critical race theory departments for total and complete deference. As if possessing one or some "intersecting" combination of intersecting marginalized identities somehow made one morally and intellectually infallible. Especially since these people were not usually that marginalized, having had the privilege of attending elite colleges and all. Thus the most rank nonsense was given free reign so long as it was at the behest of some marginalized or oppressed group or anther. This was first normalized in certain branches of academia, then in areas where liberal/progressive dominance was the norm. So we end up with "progressives" who are perfectly willing to accede to the worst elements of neo-robber baron rule but get all up in arms over cultural appropriation and microaggressions.  Imagine their surprise when they found the broader culture wasn't having any of this. Since then, the response has been a whole grab bag of defense mechanisms, projections and rationalizations so as to keep up the illusion of unimpeachable integrity of their particular ideological systems, regardless of how obviously flawed they are.

This is the milieu into which Trump emerged. The mistake is to see Trump as himself being the problem. We just get rid of orange Cheeto-man Hitler and then everything can go back to being all hunky-dory. It's a breathtakingly naive and self congratulatory way of seeing things but one I encounter frequently. Indeed the moral panic they're perpetually engineering over Trump simply adds fuel to the fire. There's an obvious thirst for a populism that cuts to the heart of the problem - that gets Wall Street, the military industrial complex, national security apparatus, academia and media back on a leash and working for the benefit of all again, but the Democrats are having none of it. Could it be because they too are bought and paid for?

Trump couldn't have succeeded in a polity that had not previously compromised itself in so many other ways.

To close, I cite present day France as perhaps a better example of what can be done in the face of establishment complacency and entitlement.

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The Obama Presidency: who Benefited?

Obama was pro-black in the same sense that Trump is pro-white.

What a farce.

The color that matters in American politics is $green$ and how much of it you have. Period.

 While I don't think they were personally responsible for it, Obama and Hillary oversaw the transformation of the democratic party, in addition to the establishment of a safe and nerfed form of progressivism. One that frames power and privilege entirely in terms of race and gender. Who benefits from that, I wonder? The black kid in the ghetto? The single mother on food stamps?

 Guess again, sunshine!

 A form of progressivism wherein six digit salary earning humanities profs and Huffpost bloggers tell unemployed white male construction workers to check their privilege. A form of progressivism wherein trolls in places like 4chan are held up as the greatest threat to democracy and freedom and corporate media outlets like the New York Times are cast as part of the "resistance." A form of progressivism that worries about Halloween costumes and old jazz era Christmas songs being "problematic" while the deep state and the military industrial complex go unscrutinized. Are praised even, since the evil orange man said bad things about them at some point (with all of the sincerity you'd expect from Trump - ha ha).

 Quite a remarkable feat, I must say. You'd have to go back to Nixon's southern strategy, and the conservative ruse of convincing white male working class voters that their real enemies are minorities and women demanding equal rights, to find something comparable to it. Wall Street and the Pentagon are your friends, the conservatives told the white and/or male middle and working classes. It's those uppity blacks who are your real enemies. My only question regarding how corporate democrats pulled the exact same scam on minorities and women is what took them so long?

 So again, who benefits? Who benefited from Obama? The same people who benefited under Bush, under Clinton, under Bush Sr. and under Reagan. I'm sure we can all guess who they are. It wasn't black people, that's for damn sure. But their self appointed democratic centralist vanguard in academia and mainstream media did get to demand trigger warnings and safe spaces for things they found offensive, so progress, right? And meanwhile, the GOP was able to cast this as representative of "leftism" and the political mileage they gain from it goes along way towards getting deregulators and top 1% of 1% tax cutters elected to public office.

So again, who benefits?

Obama. The greatest conservative president the US ever had.

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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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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. ...