Saturday, 28 April 2018

Radfems and Incels: Dueling Pathologies

The tragic van attack carried out by Alek Minassian that left ten dead in Toronto Canada has brought discussion of the "incel" subculture to the international fore.

In case you don't know, incel stands for involuntarily celibate, an online subculture of almost exclusively young men who bemoan their ongoing romantic and sexual failure. Minassian was one of these, as was his idol, Eliot Rodger, who carried out a similar attack that killed six and injured fourteen in 2014.

Then as now, the media narrative surrounding these tragic occurrences has emphasized a sense of entitlement to sex rooted in misogyny of which the incel subculture is but the thin end of the wedge. We are told that this pathology of sexual entitlement permeates all of western culture due to its being patriarchal, heteronormative and so forth.

As always, it's far from that simple, and feminist sermonizing isn't going to help. In fact, it's going to make things worse.

In cases like this, there's really two dueling pathologies to consider.

1 - The pathologies of the incels themselves. These vary, but when it reaches murderous expression, it's safe to say they're pretty extreme. Near as I can tell, the standard narrative of male entitlement to sex rooted in patriarchal misogyny is a gross oversimplification. Yes, that's there, but is far from the whole story. My experience with this, both in incel like people I've known in the past and my own dabbling in such a mindset in my later teen years is that it's driven by resentment over a feeling of having been short changed in overall attractiveness. Incels are obsessed by their own unattractiveness and project this obsession onto a despite for those who are not similarly saddled. As such, it is, at heart, a kind of crab-bucket mentality that is not so different from regressive leftism.

"Hope Cope Rope" - Incel Pathology isn't
as bad as you've been told. It's worse.
Incel rage tends to target women more than men since it's generally easier for women to be attractive to men than it is for men to be attractive to women. Anti-female resentment is imported in this way and very quickly permeates the community until it becomes extremely pervasive and toxic. Women, and even less resentful men, are driven out, incel forums become echo chambers and pathological belief systems feed off themselves. I would have thought this characterization of incels to be standard Vice or Vox propaganda had I not myself seen this process at work personally.

So misogyny and sexual resentment is indeed a big part of it. But that's not fundamentally what incel rage is about. In fact, I've seen "feminist" variations of this, where the anger is directed at the patriarchy for constructing sexual dynamics in a way that privilege rich and powerful alpha males. In this sense, both incel rage and feminist rage have a common root in a sense of entitlement to an egalitarian social and natural order. This is a nuanced thing for us to consider, for as leftists ourselves, alt-leftists naturally tend to value equality and when we see unequal outcomes, we look for social (and thus inauthentic) as opposed to natural (and therefore authentic) explanations for it. Parceling out the two is a portion of the alt-left's ideological task.

The thing is, the incel perception is not always wholly inaccurate, at least on a foundational level. Attractiveness is not equally distributed among members of either sex, the desire for romantic and sexual companionship is very real as is the pain of ongoing rejection and frustration in attempts at meeting those desires. So I think there's a place for empathy for men (or women) who find themselves in this predicament, while simultaneously rejecting the pathological jealousy that can and often does arise from it.

2 - The pathologies of the feminist responses to incel rage, and to beta male rage more generally. This includes Eliot Rodger and Marc Lepine. It is understandable for women to be especially horrified by these incidents - women were primarily if not exclusively targeted. That horror ends up being metabolized via broader feminist theories of widespread patriarchy and misogyny. But this is more than a mere explanation for the horrific events. Feminist theory is ultimately a justification for privileging female experience over male experience. For creating a gynocentric culture.

Like many mass movements, current year feminism has a quasi-religious air about it. True believers love to hear the prayers and incantations for their own sake, and will seize upon any justification for doing so publicly. So not surprisingly, we've been inundated in no small amount of hand-on-hip finger wagging from feminist pundits about entitlement, male privilege, objectification, rape culture and the like. I suspect that this kind of patronizing, condescending mother-to-child scolding tone and obliviousness will fan rather than quench the fires of misogyny, both in incel communities and elsewhere. It is human nature to dig in our heels in the face of assertions of moral superiority, especially when they come from outside the group being targeted by such assertions. It's a safe bet that there's not an incel out there who hasn't heard the feminist line on this (or every) issue - they do have an internet connection, after all. If it was going to help, it would have by now.

Feminists seem to like to pretend that sexual desire has no place in human interactions (except when they're the ones doing it) and that heterosexual male desire for female sexual companionship is nothing more than objectification entirely the result of a sense of superiority and entitlement that would evaporate entirely if these men just got over themselves and respected women as true equals to men. This mentality will only exacerbate the problem of incel culture. The hard reality is that the angst associated with failure to secure a sexual partner isn't going anywhere, no matter how it's protested or denounced in the media. Incels obviously aren't dealing with this angst at all well, but ideological sloganeering from the tumblr crowd isn't going to help either.

Slavoj Zizek is fond of recalling Jaques Lacan's notion that the jealousy of a husband who suspects that his wife is cheating on him is pathological, even if it is factually founded - she really is cheating on him. Why? The true question is “not is his jealousy well-grounded?”, but “why does he need jealousy to maintain his self-identity?” Something very similar is at work here, in both the incel and feminist camps. Both are rooted in a pathological sense of victimhood and sense of entitlement that they are owed deference by the rest of society due to real or perceived inequality of results. This is the very definition of regressive leftism.

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Thursday, 5 April 2018

Let us go Forward Together!

“Domela” has been a longtime supporter of the Alternative Left page on Facebook, as well as the only other administrator of that page besides myself.  He recently posted this status update:

I'm afraid I'm getting exhausted. We had the very successful Red Pill movie, we had some 'rethinking' after Trump's victory (or rather Hillary's defeat), we had Mark Lilla, we had Arlene Hochschild, we had Laci Green's 'conversion', we had the start of the Alt Left, Quillette and Areo, we had some mainstream media admitting MeToo didn’t work out as expected, and this is not all - you'd think at least something would happen. But not only reigns the regressive left/IdPol/intersectional feminism/SJW's, however you call them, the mainstream liberal and progressive media - a decent discussion hasn’t even started in all that time. Most people don't even know there exists some anti-SJW-left. Quite a few people think anti-SJW and Alt Right are the same. I'm afraid IdPol will either remain for a long time or be crushed by the right - and what left will there be left then?

I understand the frustration. While the page has grown in its almost two years of existence, it’s fan base has stalled at about the 2,200 followers mark. Similarly minded groups and pages, most of whom have fewer members and followers than that, have similarly stagnated. When one considers that there are many regressive left and intersectional feminist pages with many hundreds thousands of fans, or even tankie pages with a few tens of thousands, this seems discouraging.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Yeat’s words, nearly a century old now, seem as applicable to today as they were upon their writing. The internet is not a reasonable place, and it’s getting more irrational all the time, or so it seems. I would like to think that there’s a silent majority who shares our distaste for all of this, but that is not a hope upon which we can or should bank. Silent majorities have a way of remaining silent.

It’s worth reflecting then, on how things came to this juncture. For many people online, the “SJWs” were something that sprung seemingly from nowhere in roughly President Obama’s second term, or thereabouts. Many people were redpilled during the now infamous gamergate controversy, or by the alternative media that seemed to spin out of that debacle. After exposure to Milo, Sargon of Akkad or more recently Jordan Peterson, or some personality like that. The truth is, the post-gamergate era was the time when the SJWs came to replace the religious right as the favorite punching bag of the online skeptic community, not when the SJWs first appeared.

Who and what the SJWs are go back much, much farther than that, and the fact that we must now contend with a popular culture that’s been systemically infected with intersectional feminism to a degree that would make the propaganda ministry of your favorite historical totalitarian state look sloppy is the price we must all now pay for decades of ignorance and complacency in the face of an insidious threat that first grew inside the academy, then subsequently metastasized outside it, over several decades.

The intersectional feminist movement – a hodgepodge of Marxist influence, German critical theory, French post structuralism and, of course, the new identity rooted social movements that arose out of the new left of the 1960s was aided and abetted by a perfect storm of factors in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that made it uniquely situated to become the ideological powerhouse that it has, and the social force to beat in the first half of the 21st century.

They also demonstrated an unparalleled savvy in their overarching strategy, showing acute knowledge of where power really lies in this meritocratic and technocratic society we’ve become, and how to put pressure on those centers of power – both corporate and government, both academic and media, to get the results they want. Additionally, they exploited the knowledge of language, philosophy and media that they studied in the post secondary institutions that they gradually gained influence within. Perhaps most significantly, they faced minimal opposition, and those who stood to lose the most as a result of intersectional feminist ascendency consistently demonstrated ineptness and complacency in the face of its rise.

Each of these points must be considered on its own.

It’s been suggested that the women’s movement has certain structural advantages rooted in gender dynamics that gave them enormous advantages almost right from the outset. Perhaps it’s the case that men are naturally more defensive and protective of women than they are of one another, for any number of reasons. Instinct to protect the bearers of the next generation. Instinct to cater to selective mates who wielded the considerable power of sexual selection. Perhaps since mothers are the primary caregivers of humans from birth, they have a subconscious association with moral authority that men do not. None of these can be proven, mind you, but all are plausible.

The intersectional feminist movement of our time was the chief beneficiary of two crucial philosophical developments in the last half century: the decline of traditional religiosity in the west – a process that had been going on for two hundred years but really kicked into high gear during and after the counterculture of the 1960s, and the decline of socialism as the main form of protest in the west that began in the 1970s and was greatly accelerated by the victories of Reagan, Thatcher and neoconservatism more generally during the 1980s. 

Intersectional feminism’s moralism, sexual puritanism and brother’s-keeper – or should I say sister’s keeper – mentality made it a logical successor to traditionalist religion, while its egalitarianism, revolutionary romanticism and valorization of militant protest made it a logical successor to socialism. Religion and socialism alike postulated a Manichean, almost apocalyptic world view wherein goodness and decency wage war against evil and corruption for world domination, lending excitement and purpose to the lives of those who adopt these world views. Together, religion and socialism were big shoes to fill, and you have to hand it to intersectional feminism for so successfully stepping into both.

Feminists emphasized education and consciousness raising almost right from the outset. They learned well from their Frankfurt School and Marxist-Leninist predecessors, and would go on to succeed where they failed. Unlike their opponents, whom I'll discuss shortly, intersectional feminists are a disciplined movement who keep their eye on the prize and have deeply internalized a culture of solidarity, as opposed to the culture of every-man-for-himself individualism that characterizes their rivals. They don't waste time quibbling over insignificant details, like you see among libertarians and the old left. They know that mutual support is what is going to win in the long run. Intersectional feminists have no problems getting signatures on petitions and bodies out to protest. Their calls for boycotts have teeth, and are feared in the broader business community. The so called twitter mob is every artist's object of dread. They are savvy and adept at using and dealing with the media.  Cultural libertarians seldom even think about these kinds of things except when they're caught on the business end of them, and are caught flat footed by them every time.

The feminist transformation of the academy in the 1980s, in alliance with groups representing minority groups, was the successful culmination of the infamous long march through the institutions proposed by new left and so called cultural Marxist theorists during and even prior to the 1960s, even as Marxism itself was unraveling in Russia and in clear retreat in China. Their success in the academy goes well beyond simply instituting women’s studies courses. Theories surrounding marginalization and oppression, well as the social construction of gender would come to permeate the entire academy, and even influence the administration and governance of academia at an institutional level.

Indeed much of third wave feminism’s entire doctrine revolved around ensuring its magisterium both inside the academy and without. They argued, based on the ideas of the French philosophers, that there’s no real such thing as a single objective reality binding on everyone. The means whereby man acquired and applied knowledge was deemed to be socially constructed, and typically done so for the benefit of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized. This legitimized and enabled a strategy of dismissing and handwaving facts and arguments they do not like based on the identity of the source.

They argued that their marginalized and oppressed status made it so that statements that offended them or threatened their world view were actually forms of oppression. This legitimized tactics of censorship. They argued that bigotry and hatred were really about power, which they by definition did not have, so as to legitimize double standards that worked to their advantage. They argued that the personal was political, and that liberal claims of institutional impartiality were mere rationalizations for leaving privilege and power unchallenged in many spheres of human endeavor. This legitimized the politicization of people’s private lives and personal choices, the imposition of political indoctrination into all forms of media, and legitimized demands to dispense with due process for those accused of ideological offenses – all of these being clear hallmarks of totalitarianism, albeit one much softer than what was seen in Germany and Russia in the 30s. For now.

This ideological movement made academia its first target, and displayed keen Machiavellian adeptness in doing so. For it is in the academy that those who will graduate into positions of influence are instructed and credentialed. Once feminist ideological hegemony was normalized in the academy – or at least some branches of it - and backed up by the threat of a potentially career ruining harassment or hate speech allegation, media, law, administration and other important and influential areas of human endeavor soon followed suit.

This means of acquiring cultural influence must be contrasted with the techniques of feminism’s ideological rivals. Conservatives both fiscal and religious focused primarily on winning contests for electoral office. Which they did quite frequently. But despite their exploitation of social and cultural wedge issues to win those elections, the right wing had no interest in waging a genuine culture war outside some parts of red state America. Indeed, the economic liberalization that was their true priority did as much to help the rising identitarian left as developments in academia did. Capital thrived from open borders and immigration, and valued women, as men, much more as workers and consumers than as homemakers. 

As it was, the intersectional left developed networks of NGOs, non-profit organizations, lobby groups, media relations strategists and even media outlets that controlled and framed the debate in their areas of focus, and though there were occasional concerns raised over what was happening in academia, the right was largely content to leave the intersectionalists alone in favor of economic and foreign policy issues that were their greater priorities in any event.

Libertarians were quick to adopt new technology, and there focus on using rational argument and debate to sway others to their world view. The embryonic men’s rights, neoreactionary and alt-right movements likewise focused on using the internet to preach their faiths, largely to the already converted. While they were doing this, however, the intersectional social justice movements were acquiring increased influence and in some cases even outright control over the very forums in which these debates would be taking place. It’s no secret that moderation on most social media platforms skews heavily in favor of the cultural left, to say nothing of the sheer volume of blogs and online news outlets that they would acquire. 

So the intersectional cultural left, who had no faith in the concept of open debate and rational discourse as it was, since these were little more than apologetics for white male privilege and bigotry as far as they were concerned, also had no reason and no motivation to engage in any kind of dialogue with their opponents. All such exchanges were really just “power discourses” anyway, so why debate when you can insult, or ban?  When they do interact with their opponents, intersectional feminists go hard on the offensive, their entire demeanor bent on establishing dominance and their emotional inflections calculated to control the milieu by creating awkward situations that put their rivals on the defensive. They are adept framing the debate and defining the terms of engagement - almost always implicitly and never directly, and are exceptionally good at verbal subterfuge. 

Liberals and progressives had little motivation to dispute with the intersectionalists from the outset. Why should they? They wanted and valued the same things after all, didn’t they? The SJW movements were shielded to a considerable degree by the fact that they represented, or professed to represent, the interests of the oppressed and marginalized. Shouldn’t progressives support this? This is hard to fight against without looking like a bully. Especially during eras of conservative ascendency in the political, economic and foreign policy spheres. Eras such as our own. 

Why even bother fighting the SJWs at all? Didn’t we have so much bigger fish to fry when George W. Bush was president, or while the Tea Party was taking over congress? To say nothing of Donald Trump and the bitter reactionaries that helped put him in the White House? While certain aspects of the intersectional feminist, SJW movements might be distasteful, can and should these not be overlooked and forgiven in light of the real problems marginalized people deal with, and in light of the vastly greater threats posed by corporate dominance of politics, rampant pork-barrel militarism and right wing demagogues in real positions of power?

The answer, I think, is that this is precisely why we must carry on the fight against the SJWs. Otherwise, even a best possible case outcome will be no real victory. What good does it do to defeat the conservatives when your own side isn’t really that different from them fundamentally? We already see this in terms of how cozy the SJWs really are with corporate power. How preferable have Silicon Valley and Hollywood really shown themselves to be compared to Wall Street and the DC lobbying establishment? When you’re under the thumb of corporate domination, what does it matter if your overlords are women or people of color, or whether you are fired for questioning your employer’s diversity policies as opposed to fired for being a socialist?

A core premise, perhaps the core premise of alternative left thought bears repeating here: the dominion of identity politics over discourse on the left invisiblizes economic inequality and class struggle. If we see power and privilege entirely in terms of race and gender, we don’t see it in terms of concentration of capital and the subsequent access to real power this allows. There can therefore be no meaningful challenge to the power of capital without a challenge to identity politics. That is why socialists and trade unionists led the charge against racism and sexism to begin with. Now we must lead the charge against coopted and compromised anti-racism and feminism for the same reasons.

The long and the short of it is that a “liberalism” that is not at all liberal might as well be conservatism. If the right wing in drag doesn’t seem that preferable to the right wing in pinstripes, or army fatigues, or Klan robes, that’s because it isn’t.

The alternative left will speak out against leftist IdPol because it must. If we do not, we leave a fight that we know must be fought for others to eventually take up. It will be a long and difficult task, given the factors I’ve listed previously. But it is not a matter in which the believers in democracy and any kind of real, meaningful social justice, have a real choice.

I leave you with the words of Winston Churchill – hardly an exemplar of the alternative left but someone who nevertheless understood what it meant to face hard choices:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. You ask what is our aim? I can answer only one word: Victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival …

Frustration and heartbreaks abound in the future. We will continue to be swarmed by peevish and snarky online trolls, who think "you just can't get laid" and similar middle school level stupidity somehow constitutes an argument. Apparently it does, when woke college chicks do it. There will be many more Count Dankulas and James Damores, many more frivolous MeToo claims, repressive legislative initiatives, revolting Guardian and HuffPost columns, many more ridiculous college deplatformings and “anti-whiteness” seminars.  Worse, there will likely be more Rotherham and Telford sex abuse rings, and more scapegoating of white males and masculinity more generally for these horrors. And terribly, my heart turns to ashes when I think of the mounting horror in South Africa, where the threat of white genocide is no mere alt-right paranoid fantasy but a possibility that’s all too real.

Yet despite all that, we do not face the monstrous tyranny that the British faced in 1940. Plus, in the end, the intersectional feminist world view is untenable. These are the people trying to square pro feminist and pro LGBT politics with mass Islamic immigration, after all. So for that, among other reasons, we have had the Red Pill movie, some 'rethinking' after Trump's victory (or rather Hillary's defeat), Mark Lilla, Arlene Hochschild, Laci Green's 'conversion', Quillette and Areo, some mainstream media admitting MeToo didn’t work out as expected. We also have Sargon and his liberalist initiative, we have the startling successes of the likes of Jordan Peterson.

None of these perfect or even ideal. But they are to us what Churchill was to the world in 1940: exponentially better than what they are up against. As Clement Attlee - a man who I think embodies alt-left ideals perhaps better than anyone - joined Churchill's wartime cabinet, so too must we join with the Sargons and Jordan Petersons of the current cultural landscape until the greater enemy is subdued. 

We have the intellectual dark web, an assortment of YouTube and alternative media personalities and of course my own often lonely, frustratingly dim voice, and the voices of my fellow alt-leftists on social media and elsewhere in the midst of all of this. Voices too often drowned out in the cacophony of the demands of our lives offline, but voices prepared to raise in protest none the less. Every single one counts. Yet just four short years ago, we had absolutely none of even this. Given the head start the SJW regressive left had, and the advantages they continue to have, this is all together quite impressive. Little by little does the trick.  But most outrageously, SJWs wear their smugness and disdain for rival schools of thought on their sleeve. Their internal movement cultures are rife with competitive posturing and virtue signalling, and the movement seems to thrive on calling out the ideologically impure as a means of establishing interpersonal dominance. This is clearly not sustainable. People will sooner or later come to resent the expectation that they tow the ideological line out of fear of being branded a racist, misogynist, basket of deplorables or the like. Sooner or later, people will rebel and that's definitely what we've been seeing. 

Churchill then concludes his speech thus:

But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men .. come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.

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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. ...