Monday, 16 July 2018

The DSA Left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Intersectionality is Itself a System of Power

Intersectionality is itself a system of power. It upholds the status quo and protects the powerful and privileged.

Recognizing this is the key difference between the alternative left and other current forms of political thought.

A fan of the Alternative Left Facebook page recently posed this question to me:
Have you considered that you might be postmodernist? The actual meaning of the term, not Peterson's ridiculous conflation and confusion of it. It seems as if a lot of your philosophy relies on the rejections of meta-narratives.
At a glance, this seems an absurd question. Isn't rejection of postmodernism integral to the alt-left? Doesn't all that deconstruction and bafflegab distract from the hard and real work of class struggle? Isn't a return to some semblance of economic realism, if not historical materialism, what we're all about at the end of the day?

Not so fast. While I don't think postmodernism is a tenable philosophy long term, it does make some good points. It's like nihilism and other forms of radical skepticism. They're nice places to visit, and doing so is a sign of intellectual growth, but you wouldn't want to live there.

My quarrel with postmodernism is how it tends to be cherry picked by the intersectional left, the feminist theorists in particular. They're quite good at using deconstruction to pick apart the texts of their opponents, and will exploit other postmodernist concepts such as "the death of the author" - the idea that textual interpretation by authorial intent is flawed - to license their tendency to simply read their own narrative into ideas that threaten them. They use such notions as science being a western, patriarchal "way of knowing" as a legitimizing excuse to handwave otherwise proven claims of some biological basis in gender differences, for example.

Deconstruction, cognitive framing and other advanced linguistic concepts are devastating ideological weapons against those who are not aware of them. Intersectional theorists get a unique education in these concepts in the academic institutions wherein their views dominate. Institutions that are not cheap to attend and require significant baseline intelligence to be successful in. They're therefore able to win debates against their less privileged opponents simply through framing and linguistic and cognitive gimmicks of this nature.

Ultimately, however, feminist theory's apparent embrace of postmodernism is self serving pretense. Notice how their own theories are presented as if they were eternal truths, universally binding on all people under all circumstances. Cultural relativism is fine when it's used to impose multiculturalism and diversity upon western cultural spaces, but has a funny way of disappearing when similar demands of tolerance are made of feminist theorists in turn. Fixed and objective meaning of text based on authorial intent is not authoritative, since the author no doubt lives in a network of socially constructed systems of which he is barely aware. But not so the feminist critic. Her views, and her views alone apparently, somehow transcend the context of the society that gave rise to them, and so are above questions of this nature and constitute an ultimate authority on par with divine revelation.  No one is faster to declare epistemic superiority for their own points of view - standpoint theories so called - than college feminists who've studied the poststructuralists closer than anyone. If feminist theory is not a metanarrative, you tell me what is.

Who deconstructs feminist theory, one must ask?

Yeah, it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

Herein lies a very central tenet of alternative leftism: that the brands of postmodern critical theory so prevalent on college campuses and that are the underlying ideologies of the SJWs are actually conservative, not radical. They are in fact themselves systems of power, like the very notions of patriarchy and colonialism they so love to deconstruct.

This is quite naturally a counter intuitive concept when first exposed to it. Feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory and so on - Intersectionality serving as a kind of one ring to rule them all and thus a useful term for referring to them collectively -  is interpreted either as official party line and not to be questioned, in the case of the mainstream left. Or else condemned as "cultural Marxism" and taken at face value as advocacy for an artificial egalitarianism, in the case of the right.  Neoreaction comes quite strangely closest to the truth in its denouncing of progressive ideology as "the Cathedral" - a vast Matrix like social construct comparable to the Christian church in the middle ages - the state religion to which everyone must pay homage, hence the term.

The Cathedral: It doesn't challenge the aristocracy.
It is the aristocracy.
Neoreaction's flaw, however, lies in the irony of its denunciation of progressivism in those terms. Isn't a medieval form of social organization exactly what they want? The Church of the middle ages, far from being an institution for egalitarian social levelling, had a long history of supporting the aristocracy and running interference on behalf of the status quo, despite a good portion of what Christ actually taught, which may be where the confusion arises.

So it is with intersectionality. Despite its pretenses, and despite what were likely genuinely radical critiques at one time, current year intersectionality does not challenge privilege. It upholds privilege.

Do not misunderstand me, dear reader. I do not condone racism towards minorities, misogyny and homophobia. The left spearheaded the fight against those things for all the right reasons. And not merely because prejudice undermines working class solidarity, thought that is reason enough. To be left is to value equality, to some degree or another, and fair treatment regardless of what one is by accident of birth. Intersectionality itself was intended to be a manner of looking at how various different forms of oppression reinforce one another. This is not in itself a bad idea.

The problem is that intersectionality has evolved into something does not actually promote real social justice. Its lack of tolerance for dissent made it vulnerable to abuse on part of the unscrupulous, who were thereby attracted to intersectional feminist spaces. They've co-opted social justice movements, and used them as tools to oppress people. It's like Marxist Leninism 2.0 - a popular movement is appropriated and exploited by an elite vanguard professing to represent the interests of marginalized people, and using that to consolidate their own power. Cultural rather than political power this time, but the underlying mechanisms are quite a bit alike.

It's also quite different from Marxism in one key aspect, and this is often overlooked by those on the right who equate intersectional ideas with Marxian leftism: intersectionality's lack of emphasis on political economy. It is not merely that they simply don't care about or are ignorant of the internal workings of the international economy or the political machines of the G7 nations. Intersectionalists are rewarded by capital for framing privilege in terms of racial and sexual identity rather than in terms of wealth and political power. These rewards include expansion in academia, access to agenda setting mass media and favorable policy service. Ideological systems that truly threaten the status quo do not enjoy universally favorable media bias, moderator bias on major corporate social media platforms and an exalted status in academic institutions.

The state religion does not advocate for the truly marginalized within the polity.

It's important that you divest yourself of the notion that intersectionalists truly represent the underclasses, including most women and people of color. They occupy a very different world than that of working single mothers or unemployed minority youths in the ghetto, or on their way to prison. They occasionally will use real oppressions suffered by women and minorities while making the case for an increase in their own influence, but that is the only reason for which they ever seem to do so. If one takes their standpoint theories at all seriously, the plush halls of the academy and major media outlets are not the places we should be seeing credible voices of the oppressed and marginalized. Those voices are kept quite intentionally silent, because their demands will be for redressment of their economic hardships and lack of political representation.

Women who are turned off of men and family as a result of feminism, and men who are turned off of religion, community and nationalism as a result of anti western critical theory find themselves completely atomized and without an identity. This is central to the alt-right's critique of modern liberalism and the abolition of borders.

But the real question is: who is the real beneficiary of all this? The far right will tell you that this is "cultural Marxism" and is necessary in order to groom the populace for the embrace of socialism.

That's not what happened. If you do not believe that, observe how neoliberalism increased apace just as this so called cultural Marxism did. The emergence of political correctness coincided with Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK. If the idea was for feminism and multiculturalism to precede socialism, they could not have failed more miserably.

Atomized individuals turn to careerism and consumerism to fill the void, and they're more easily replaced when cheaper cogs for the machine are found. So they're more obedient and easily used in the workforce and more responsive to consumer trends. When other vectors of identity are removed, do the brands we work for and consume become the way we identify ourselves? This seems to me to be the triumph of capitalism, and quite in line with the manner in which Marx believed capitalism would progress, abolishing relations based on kinship and reducing all human interaction to commodity exchange, rather than the triumph of Marxism itself that it's so often described as by reactionaries.

Hard Fact: Social liberalism is the handmaiden of capital, not of revolution. And so capital became socially liberal when national economies became fully saturated and capital had to go global in order to keep up its expansion. The alt-right is hated in the capitalist press because capital must always seek new markets, and it was therefore in capital's interest to globalize and promote diversity.

Observe one of the methods whereby Intersectionality preserves its hegemony: by seeking to get people who disagree with them fired from their jobs. Often with no recourse or due process whatsoever. In what world does leveraging the power of capital over labor so flagrantly and directly constitute anything that could be at all called left wing? This is what was done to socialists and trade unionists back in the bad old days of blacklisting. This isn't to say that removal of an offensive or hateful person from a workplace isn't sometimes appropriate or necessary, but to use the threat of employment loss as a means of enforcing ideological conformity more broadly is something the left should not be supporting. We can question the rationality of workers supporting conservatism all we want. It won't seem quite so irrational now that this ugly tactic has been normalized.

Another hard fact: Intersectionality relies on the absolute power that capital has over labor and consumers in order to successfully impose its will on the population, as it's doing in geek culture, for instance. The capacity for populations to resist cultural and moral relativism imposed from above would be greatly increased if cultural and economic as well as political institutions were democratized and under some or another kind of social ownership.

Intersectionalists are a safe and nerfed form of "leftism." One that attacks white male "neckbeards" and "dudebros" in places like 4chan while leaving the State Department, the military industrial complex and Wall Street lobbyists unscrutinized. Activists and even radicals who truly want to challenge the status quo find their anger and vigor channeled into safe outlets that do not truly threaten the powers that be. Offensive statements by white male celebrities are made front page news by an intersectionalist movement that's presented in the headlines as being radical and subversive - the resistance, so called. Offensives launched by the US military on the other side of the world in defense of petrodollar interests are kept more safely out of the public eye.

Intersectionality is a tool used by an educated elite to police the culture of the underclass, and to undermine the solidarity of that underclass by dividing it along racial and gender lines. We've seen this done time and again now: with Occupy Wall Street, with Bernie Sander's campaign for the White House, now with the Democratic Socialists of America. Most leftist spaces on social media are completely overrun by intersectional dominance, even ones that profess to be Marxist or anarchist.

Intersectional activists have a curious way of coming to dominate leftist spaces, and maintain their power through dividing the left against itself and redirecting popular anger towards other segments of the left. Sometimes the target is white male leftists - brocialists, so called. Sometimes it's white feminism, or TERFs or straight feminism. Sometimes straight black males are called the white people of black people. Sometimes cisgender gay males are driven out of LGBT spaces. Some or another activist has run afoul of the intersectionalist overlords and is publicly shamed, like in a Maoist struggle session or the young kids being banished from polygamous fundamentalist communities for the most trivial reasons.

But the real reasons aren't so trivial: to maintain the power of the leadership over the flock. Ceaseless purity spiraling destroys the cohesiveness of the left. J. Edgar Hoover and his COINTELPRO could not have done a better job if they tried. Perhaps the FBI still is, and that's what all this really is.

Like a puritanical religion, intersectionality promotes a guilt based morality that ceaselessly berates its followers for their ideological and lifestyle shortcomings. Theories of inherited privilege based on what people are by accident of birth become a moral burden comparable to original sin. People with a lot of internalized guilt do not take action to challenge their leaders. They punch down, not up. Nearly any action a person may commit or even a thought they might think can be construed as oppressive in some way or anther. That combined with intersectionality's taboo on questioning claims of oppression made by its activist leadership - who are above any kind of ethical or moral standards due to their supposed "marginalization" - results in a near cult like atmosphere in intersectional spaces. Not surprisingly, most people want nothing to do with this and thus nothing to do with the left overall. Who does that benefit, in the long run?

As mentioned previously, considerable education is needed to really understand their theories, and the intersectionalists themselves conveniently have a near hegemony within the academy itself. Hence, the relative absence of working class people in these self styled radical movements. Which in turn makes the whole of the left easy for the right to denounce as "limousine liberals", "champagne socialists" or the like. No more effective means of turning the working class off of the political left could be contrived. This makes McCarthyism look clumsy and amateurish. People who are rightly put off by intersectionality then defect quite willingly to conservatism as a protest against it. One almost wonders if this wasn't the intent all along.

The problem is not with education itself, which is perfectly fine and good. But rather with the co-optation of education to serve elite interests. Something that the left was much more willing and able to call out prior to the capture of the humanities and social sciences by intersectionalists.

The ideology of intersectionality itself is constructed to be a closed system of thought, wherein disagreement with it is likened to actual oppressive behavior against a marginalized person. Allegations of racism or sexism - made with the backing of powerful media outlets - against lone individuals without recourse and no due process are effective and currently socially legitimate ways of marginalizing people. It's a good way of removing someone who's bringing up facts and ideas that the truly powerful don't want publicly legitimized.

Far from emboldening the resistance, intersectionality keeps protest culture in line and ensures its continuity as a controlled opposition. One that allows the powers that be to claim that they allow and legitimize dissent - so long as it doesn't really threaten them. One oligarch or another might get thrown under the bus due to his alleged racism or sexism here and there. The oligarchy itself is thus made safer, for it submits itself to the appearance that it really is held to scrutiny and made accountable for its abuses. Surely the absurdity of a racist or sexist comment ruining a CEO while his abuse of his workers, defrauding of his shareholders and pollution of the environment as a matter of course going completely unnoticed highlights the absurd nature of intersectionality as a form of radicalism.

With leftism like intersectionality, who needs conservatism? It's the ultimate metanarrative, and if the postmodernist techniques of deconstruction can be turned against it, that can only be a good thing. An essential thing, as a matter of fact.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Women who Regress too Much and the Men who Enable Them.

You don't actually think the rules apply to me too, do you?
Recent allegations of sexual misconduct that have arisen against none other than pro feminist Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlight the problems at the root of both feminist theory and the male response to it.

The alternative left is not anti feminist. We believe in a classical liberal sort of feminism: equality of right and of basic citizenship more generally. We're not against basic civilizational standards of decency where sexual conduct is concerned. It should be discreet and consensual, and in my personal opinion it doesn't belong in the workplace, though I don't regard myself as having the right to demand that of society as a whole.

But there's a big difference between that on the one hand and radical feminism on the other. Deterministic to the core, radical feminism sees all heterosexual relationships regardless of context as defined by male dominance and power and female victimhood.  In this framework, male heterosexuality is seen as essentially predatory and objectifying, and taken to fundamentalist extremes lends itself to the Dworkinite equation of all heterosex with rape, or at least violation of the woman even if she does consent. While most feminists do not go that far, that conclusion is not inconsistent with the ideological trajectory of feminist theory.

Given this kind of dogmatic reductionism, feminist activists have denounced notions of due process and presumption of innocence in the face of sexual misconduct allegations as themselves mere apologetics for male power. Likewise, they've claimed that they and they alone get to define, entirely as they see fit based on their own personal judgement what is and is not sexual harassment. Even a merely offensive statement is now construed as a measurable harm and act of oppression entitling its victim to remedy. Provided the perpetrator has a "privileged" identity and the victim a "marginalized" identity, of course.

All in complete defiance to centuries of western jurisprudence which requires proof - to some degree or another - of offense and harm done in order to secure a remedy, with higher burdens of proof required for more serious allegations. Again, western legal tradition is denounced as so much male excusing of the mistreatment of women. Women, we are told, never make false allegations, and if they do, then perhaps its only fair that men live in fear of it, for women have to live in fear of male predation. Tit-for-tat, so to speak. Failure to "believe women" - which is to say to treat the mere allegation as itself proof of guilt is to disbelieve and thus hate women. Again, in defiance of legal standards that apply equally to both sexes: prove your allegations if you want to secure a remedy.

What is astounding is that these obviously absurd feminist claims are taken seriously in our agenda setting institutions of cultural and legal power. The male response to feminism's obvious and glaring demonization of him has tended, with too few exceptions, to public and collective submission, so as to make oneself appear "woke" or as the man who "gets it" while in the public eye, while privately and individually trying to find ways around it, ways of gaming the system for his own advantage. He tells himself these absurd rules don't apply to him and that he'll never be the victim of a false or frivolous allegation. Conservative and libertarian men and women might scoff a bit here and there, but outright skepticism and opposition towards feminist claims become marginal, and are more easily dismissed as a result.

The MeToo campaign is the culmination of decades of institutionalized dishonesty on part of both feminist theorists and the men who enable them. As MeToo emerged, progressive Canadian politicians have signalled their enlightenment by adopting a remove from caucus first, ask questions later stance on the matter. But as Quillette Magazine reports in a recent article "Grope-gate’ and #MeToo’s Crisis of Legitimacy", Justin Trudeau has changed his tune since he himself has been the target of a recent allegation:
Of course, boilerplate about “the intersection of sex and gender” is now part of the linguistic ether inhaled daily by modern scholars and activists. But Justin Trudeau isn’t a scholar or activist. He’s the prime minister of a G7 country. And it has been strange to see him govern Canada as if he were the chair of a gender studies department. The sight of him now suddenly backing off from MeToo puritanism just in time to defend his own reputation serves to indict not so much Trudeau’s behaviour way back in 2000 (which, for all we know, was perfectly blameless), but rather the unsustainably doctrinaire nature of the larger ideological movement.
Another Quillette article, "On Toxic Femininity", outlines the underlying problem perfectly:
Intersectionalists have in common with one another a particular rhetorical trick: Any claim made by a member of an historically oppressed group is unquestionably true. Questioning claims is, itself, an act of oppression 
This opens the door for anyone who is willing to lie to obtain power. If you cannot question claims, any claim can be made. 
Thus: Racism is ubiquitous. And all men are toxic. I object—but objection is not allowed. Everyone who understands game theory knows how this game ends: Innocent people being vilified with false claims, and exposed to witch hunts. Sexual assault is real, but that does not mean that all claims of sexual assault are honest.
Justin Trudeau is not the only progressive male to have been outed in this way. Indeed Harvey Weinstein himself was an outspoken progressive during his long career in Hollywood. There have been many since then, with US Senator Al Franken and Young Turks pundit Cenk Uygur's ousting from the Justice Democrats being two more that come to mind. This is a predictable pattern now.

They're less the victims of some unfair witch hunt than the outstanding authors at Quillette and elsewhere would have us believe. The progressive left has sold its soul to feminist standpoint theory when it acquiesced to the notion that they're to have no opinion save unquestioned obedience to feminist claims. Liberal males acquiesced to the ensconcement of feminist theory in academia, and they acquiesced to the equation of scrutinizing and criticizing feminist theory with actual misogyny and patriarchal oppression. Evidence of this is seen daily on twitter. They acquiesced by legislation and judicial rulings that upheld vague, sweeping definitions of sexual harassment that in Soviet fashion, punish the ideologically derived social status of the perpetrator moreso than the actual act itself. They acquiesced by normalizing this acquiescence on an institutional basis throughout our entire society. Now that the devil has come to collect, it's worth reminding the Justin Trudeaus of this world that they have no more right to defend themselves against, deny or downplay the allegations than any other male does.

Progressives did this to themselves.

They've internalized feminism's typically far right demonization of peaceable and legitimate expression of romantic and sexual attraction and desire.  A thing they not so long ago fought against Christian conservatives tooth and nail over. They still do in their opposition to abstinence only sex ed and purity balls. It's hysterical puritanism when the religious right denounces lust, it's empathy and wokeness when feminists do it.

The resulting sexual repression and hysteria has had predictable results on their judgement. They've cast aside all legitimate concerns surrounding due process and the rights of the accused now that the accusers have vaginas. Despite progressives being the first to correctly condemn McCarthyite and Satanic Panic witch hunts and moral panics. Despite progressives being the first to correctly condemn zero tolerance and get tough types of crackdowns on vice, such as the war on drugs and conservative drives to censor porn and white wash entertainment media more generally. The potential for abuse - the potential for harassment allegations to be weaponized against business and political rivals should also be quite obvious.

Expecting modesty out of women is repressive and barbaric, but it's quite okay and rational to demand of men to never notice and react to sexual characteristics in women, even in a peaceable manner. Even a glance is objectification and potentially harassment. Of course these are ridiculous and untenable standards of moral conduct, intended much more to serve as clubs in the hands of women in their relationships with men than to actually protect women from real misconduct. But I'm not so quick to sympathize with men who get caught failing to live up to them.  Progressive men - indeed men as a whole, have acquiesced to and upheld this way of thinking. It's time we stopped. We can and must do better than this. Respect for women and sexual/romantic attraction to women are not mutually exclusive.

Al Franken was correct to resign, and Justin Trudeau would be correct to do likewise. Not because of some or another allegation of sexual misconduct raised against them. But because of their willful abdication of judgement in their embrace of demonstrably illiberal ideas and the abuses those ideas open themselves up to, as well as their apparent belief that the rules they so proudly proclaim to uphold in public do not apply to themselves when the lights are low and they think nobody is looking or will say anything. It is a failure of moral and intellectual leadership that ought to disqualify anyone from public office.

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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. ...