Archives for category: Ideological currents
Women have struggled their whole lives just to have rights and to be treated equally. Now they can’t even have their own identity, as men are now walking up and claiming to “identify” as female. Is it wrong to feel this way?

…as answered on Quora….

The first part of this question seems a bit iffy to me on grounds of fact and reasoning, yet I sympathize: it must be weird to invest a lot of your conception of yourself as deriving from womanhood, and then see a few men fard up their faces and mince about in clothing not normally worn by men . . . and call themselves women and even demand others to accept their self-categorizations. 

Well, their demands are ignoble and immoral, but, alas, commonly accepted and defended and even amplified amongst the lunatics that currently sit at the commanding heights of our culture. I am annoyed by all that.

As for their self-categorization? Very rarely are they convincing. And even at their best they are fake women.

But fake women have rights too, and they can certainly be given enough cultural leeway to do what they want without forcing others to “accept” them and “respect” them. In a free society, the right of free association entails the right of disassociation. You need not hang around them. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that none of us should be forced to speak of them in ways they prefer. And it is a tragedy that these principles of liberty are now denied and flouted by the cultural left these days.

More importantly, I have trouble understanding how you are denied your “identity” by their shallow or deep fakes. You are you. They are whatever they are.

But then, you seem to be defining yourself (as your “identity”) not by your personhood and individuality, but by your commonality with members of your own sex. I find this bizarre. I define my identity not primarily by my commonality with other men, but by my differentiation. 

I see the whole focus of the question as buying into the presuppositions of those men who pretend to be women: as hollow, as a distraction from individuation by recourse to group membership and similarity with others.

It is a fine thing to extol one’s similarities with others, but that isn’t your identity. That is commonality. The whole postmodern movement focusing on “identity” strikes me as as fake as men pretending to be women by dress-up and mere assertion. 

For we are not talking about identity, we are talking about its opposite.

Indeed, the struggle of feminism, I would have thought — before I ditched using the term approvingly, anyway — is the struggle of individual women to be treated as individual persons despite their categorization by sex. The perversion of feminism, as I see it, has been the anti-individual promotion of the sex (modish folks’ll say “gender”) rather than the liberation of individuals from the confines of over-sexualized, constricting and collectivist expectations.

So, like the other response to this question that I noticed, I urge: “let it go.” Not because the fake women are not wholly unthreatening, but because they threaten something you should not take personally.

As for these fake women, my attitudes vary, person to person, expressing (as I have) pity, sympathy, laughter, indifference, pro forma respect and, yes, acceptance.* It all depends. On whether they allow me my freedom, or, instead, have some tyrannical agenda. And also whether they are doing themselves and their loved ones harm, even sans force.

We do live in strange, decadent** times.


* When I was young, I had a number of pre-op “tranny” friends — that is what they called themselves — and I liked them a lot, despite our lack of . . . commonality.

** Also when I was young, I extolled “decadence” even as I denied any precision to the term. Now I know what it means, and remain somewhat ambivalent — that is, I do not think decadence should be normed, even while I confess to being something of a decadent myself.


N.B. I am not at all certain that my response on Quora will be allowed to stand. And I could even be removed from the platform. Why? For merely referring to “fake women.” It will be interesting to see how it goes. Since posting I saw a number of other answers. They are uniformly bad.

…it’s not because of my virtue or my vice….

The conservative position on freedom is, as I have always understood it (listening to actual conservatives rather than “conservative intellectuals”), that we must defend the freedoms of the virtuous. I have heard this principle brilliantly defined as “liberty is the freedom to do what’s right.”

Vice may — or even must — be suppressed!

This derails any substantive commitment to freedom, I argue, or to civil liberty.

I mention this not to rag on conservatives, whom I often agree with on many things, and whose arguments become less opprobrious to me as I grow older and grumpier — as I prepare to drop off into the Abyss.

It is to note that modern progressivism is conservative, in that today’s progressives have redefined virtue and vice for their ideology, and defend the freedoms of those they consider virtuous (or “victims,” the other v-word in this scenario, since it often stands in for virtue) and aim to suppress the freedoms of those who engage in vice.

Vice being wrongthink, from this point of view, the wrongthink centering, at present, on racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.

When it comes to a listing of vices, I do think that most items on the progressives’ list have much to be said for them, as do most items on older lists of traditional Christian culture.

But I am largely uninterested in “values” politics, and the endless wrangling over whose vice we may suppress, via the State. Why? Well, because the rationality of these projects is so gossamer-thin, dependent always on which model of morality we are promoting this week.

I think freedom itself, as embodied in liberal notions of natural and civil liberty, provide a better guide to peace and justice than does any relentless virtue-mongering program.

Which is why I am not a conservative.

Which is also why I am not a progressive — they are basically just another form of conservative.

twv

Do Libertarians encourage poor people to not tax rich people and wait for heaven in the afterlife?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Poor people don’t tax anybody. States do, and these are usually run by fairly well-off people, and are enthusiastically supported by the bulk of middle-income and high-income folks. High levels of taxation, coupled with transfer programs, were created and are maintained by well-off people — indeed by many people who are themselves beneficiaries of taxed wealth.

The idea, implied in the question, that state aid programs are heaven on earth, is laughable.

Libertarians I know are deeply skeptical of aid programs, first for relying upon forced expropriation and second for turning the poor into dependents who will, after enrollment into “welfare,” subsequently never better themselves.

This outlook of seeing only misery in the lives of poor people were it not for transfer programs is deeply perverse, in no small part because it serves as the political version of post-sale selling technique: “like your pittances, peons, you are pathetic and hopeless and cannot do better — so appreciate the crumbs we fling your way . . . and always demand more and vote for us.”

twv, May 4, 2019

Do some gun owners really believe in the conspiracy that the government is planning to take away all the guns?

…as answered by twv on Quora….

Yes. Sure. But most believe it is not a conspiracy, exactly, but instead an open movement that wishes to accomplish civilian disarmament by incremental regulations and prohibitions.

And since that is precisely what many gun control advocates and former advocates have publicly stated as their goal and their method, these gun owners are not witless, are they? Of course they are reasonably skeptical of any further regulation.

I know that when I flirted with gun control ideas, a mass confiscation immediately popped into my head, and I discussed it with other gun control advocates.

Also, political promises of “we only wish to do this so much (and no more)” and objections on the order of “how dare you think we will go all the way!” of any new proposal are to be believed only by chumps. The income tax was promoted as something only a few of the very rich would pay, and even then not all that much. Within five years the rates on the top bracket went from 7 percent to 77 percent and people at the bottom went from paying nothing to paying 1 percent. Government “wants” to grow. So any small increase in regulation is rightly seen as merely a “first step.”

It is also a known thing that many people in government — as legislators and as functionaries — want a general civilian disarmament. It sure would make their jobs easier! They think.

But gun owners look upon all this with a growing sense of incredulity. Government functionaries cannot successfully do their jobs now, as was shown in the recent Parkland, Florida, shooting incident. And the War on Drugs failed to eradicate psychoactive drugs even from prisons, the most heavily guarded buildings in the country.

So that means that a gun confiscation — or any increased legal encumbrance upon citizen ownership — would surely do only one thing: decrease the ability of peaceful and lawfully disposed citizens to own guns, but not the violent and the criminal. It would basically leave people less safe.

Besides, Spencer’s Law applies, as increasing numbers of gun owners understand. Gun crimes have been going down in America as gun ownership has risen. And this applies to school shootings, too. If someone, conservative or progressive, is much exercised about “a rise in violence” in America, they are, for the most part, being driven by coverage and hysteria, not facts, figures, and sound risk assessment. The rise in demand for “doing something” is occurring as the need for “doing something” is diminishing.

Given this, gun owners wonder what could gun control advocates be thinking? Are they that credulous?The kids are, surely — yes. But some gun control advocates, they know, are indeed malign proponents of authoritarian government. Many gun control politicians and activists love tyrannical government as such. Just look at their methods and policies. Freedom has nothing to do with their agendas. They like robust government, vast redistributions of wealth, and massive regulation of every conceivable element of life, down to the drinking of sodas. They are illiberal. Every society has such people. Not a few of my friends and acquaintances would welcome a “benevolent” tyranny if it would get them the policies they desire.

To the extent that they advance their political program in public, gun control organizing is not conspiratorial. It is, instead, an open political assault on a free society. But some of these people are in government, and no doubt do have contingency plans in place to confiscate vast hoards of guns. So I guess even I believe in such a conspiracy.

But mainly I am politically opposed to the entreaties and counsel of fools.

twv

I, of course, am harmless.

The new openness and honesty in the Democratic Party deserves more attention. For years Democrats have been accused by the deeply suspicious of being (a) for citizen disarmament and (b) actual socialists. Now, increasingly, Democrats are copping to both.

Beto O’Rourke did something new for a major Democratic presidential candidate at Thursday night’s debate when he said, very clearly and without any prevarication, that he’d take “weapons of war” and certain guns away from law-abiding Americans.

“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” said O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, Texas, who has re-created his presidential campaign around the issue of gun control after a mass shooting last month in his hometown.

Zachary B. Wolf, “Democrats have spent years denying they’ll take people’s guns. Not anymore” CNN, September 12, 2019.

And it is not just Blithering Beto:

O’Rourke is one of three Democrats, along with Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey to support mandatory buybacks for certain guns. Other Democrats would make them illegal but not require them to be bought back by the government. That was O’Rourke’s position, too, until the shooting in El Paso.

At the debate, O’Rourke had been asked whether he was ready to take guns away from people. He said yes, “if it’s a weapon designed to kill people on a battlefield, if the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.”

This is something of a turning point for Democrats.

But it is not the only turning point. The popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders, who openly supports the Socialist label, and the “democratic socialists” of the Squad, points to something bigger: a willingness to go all the way to total government, despite America’s long tradition of opposition to socialism:

From being willing to murder babies fresh from the womb to the recent publication of something called the “Green New Deal,” Democrats can now be said to be totally out of the closet, allowing the American people, for the first time in a very long time, to see them for exactly who, and what, they are.  Before President Trump, Democrats had always been much less forthcoming when it came to revealing what it was that they were really up to.  But it would seem that these days, for whatever reason, they see no reason to operate in the shadows.  It’s almost as if they want us to see just how crazy they have become.  And the president should do nothing to discourage them from talking, in fact he should encourage them to talk more.

And it’s this “Green New Deal” that is the latest utopian idea to be presented by the Democrats, and is also arguably one of the most insane idea they’ve ever come up despite being championed by the genius, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  It reveals much about just how out in the open the Democrat Party is now willing to operate.  And regardless of how insane it is, this cockamamie plan was promptly endorsed by at least five candidates for the Democrat nomination for president in 2020, including the current frontrunner, Kamala Harris.  And it’s upon closer inspection that this highly touted “Green New Deal” has got to be seen as being one of the craziest, if not THE craziest, bits of legislation ever conceived in all of modern day politics.  

And I can’t help but wonder why this entire idea isn’t being ridiculed to the point where its supporters have been forced to go into hiding out of fear of becoming a laughing stock for daring to support it.  After all, the plan calls for the entire U.S. economy to switch to solar and wind power in ten years, an end to air travel, and guaranteed jobs for all, including those “unwilling” to work.  It will be paid for by printing more and more money. And if you dare to disagree, the planet will die.  While this “Green New Deal” is not the first crazy idea ever to be proposed in Congress, it is the first crazy idea to be taken so seriously and to be co-sponsored by as many as ten U.S. Senators and a third of House Democrats, so far.  

A close second would be “Medicare for All,” which Kamala Harris endorsed last month, adding that she would “eliminate” private health insurance — though she later said she was open to other paths to socialized medicine.  “Medicare for All” is not even popular in Harris’s deep-blue home state of California, where a plurality of voters opposes the plan, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this week. Yet the same poll revealed that the policy is very popular among Democrats, with 61% in favor and 24% opposed. When Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Democrat, blocked a similar idea in 2017, saying there was no way to pay for it, he received death threats.  Many Democrats have long believed in having the government run everything.

Front Porch News, “The Democrats Come Out of Their Socialist Closet,” A Backwoods Conservative, February 8, 2019.

Arguably, if you believe “in having the government run everything,” you are a socialist. But what does it make you if you say your balk at total government, but only support increases in the size and scope of government, never decreases? The late-19th century individualists had a name for that. I remember how the late Bill Bradford was fond of the term, a specific suffix. And here Paul Jacob uses it:

There is nothing more tragic than full-blown socialism: mind-control and the snitch society; purges and mass starvation, with millions upon millions dead. But give them credit: the trendy new Democrats say they’re only for the Nordic Model of . . . well, the European term for it is social democracy. The fact that they now insist on calling social democracy “socialism” might be comic. It’s sort of witless. . . .

But they sure seem to push for evermore government — more regulation, especially. And since Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are all very close to the United States on Cato Institute’s economic freedoms tallies in the institute’s annual Human Freedom Index, demanding more regulation isn’t likely to make America more like Scandinavia.

But it would be more socialistic. Emphasis on the “ic.”

Paul Jacob, “Socialist-ic,” Townhall, March 3, 2019.

But this is not just a nomenclature issue:

Warren’s no socialist — she wants to “save capitalism,” after all.

Yet by only adding to government kludge, she might as well be one.

And that’s both the comedy and the tragedy of the Democratic Party: even when Democrats forswear the s-word, they keep touting more and more government, ignoring the mistakes of their past.

Which is why the new embracing of the label “socialism” is at least a sign of transparency.

But in politics, does such transparency pay?

As even a few fuddy duddies in the Democratic presidential line-up insist, this open embracing of socialism as a label, and Ever-Growing Government as a platform, may very well ensure The Donald’s reëlection.

But if one of these gun-grabbing socialists does win office — or if Democrat pols merely persist in continuing this latest ideological dedication — the consequences could extend much further. The United States could indeed go through something very much like death paroxysms, leading (best-case scenario) to disunion, either

  • in the form of a renewed federalism or
  • with secession leaving us two or more separate unions.

Brexit is peanuts compared to what is brewing here.

Yet my Democrat friends never seem to acknowledge what they have put into the roiling water.

As for me, I am mostly fascinated. You see, I am an anti-nationalist. Have been since a teenager. This gives me a rather jaded perspective. I think of Alexander Hamilton as a traitorous liar, and the union he molded as a treason against the states and the liquidation of the Founding’s promise. And so I look upon the Republicans as at best pathetic fools, but mostly as enemies of liberty — willing to compromise anything (even gun control and socialism) to maintain national power, which is their core insanity. And Democrats? — as at best ridiculous tools of the plutocracy, even while lashing out at “the top one percent,” never realizing that centralized power must always play into the hands of an elite. It is always worth a chuckle, really, populism being the Grand Delusion at the heart of the left.

When people want impossible things, they push incoherent dreams.

The Democrats’ new-found daring regarding their dreams and their putative reality is, at the very least, refreshing.

But, looming over all politics is the specter that haunts us all: The Thomas Theorem. Imagined causes have real effects. Those effects cannot be what is imagined, though. Not exactly. And that gap between fantasy and consequences is the most interesting divide there is, for both the left and the right tend to deny their respective divides.

Ideologues think in a fantasy realm, but we must all live in those realms’ shadows. American Democrats might work up at least some caution regarding the shadow of their dreams.

A sketch of the most basic form of ideological map.
You see the most obvious typo: “by” when “buy” was meant.

Imagine a religion without beliefs, sans credo, but based upon mere suspicion.

Now consider environmentalism, the ideology in which what should be at best suspicions are held religiously as points of dogma.

Now, briefly to reïterate my long-standing position: anthropogenic global warming sure seems plausible. But that is mere suspicion. Beyond this suspicion, the “science” is all over the map. Sea levels have been rising steadily as measured on east and west coasts of North America since 1850 — long before the great releases of greenhouse gases from modern civilization. And if you look at reliable U.S. temperatures for the last 150 years, it is not at all evident that a general warming has occurred.

So, while there is room for suspicion regarding current and future climatic shifts of possible catastrophic proportions, there is not yet grounds for anything close to certainty.

Yet the dogma on the environmentalist left is clear.

How must we appraise this? Well, as always with religious people, it is by their fruits we shall know them. If they say our coasts are going to be under water in a few years — unless (of course) we act immediately in a massive and transformative way — then you would expect environmentalists to flock to the uplands. It sure is obvious that the “proper” transformative policies they demand are not being adopted.

Because environmentalists are not heading for the hills, I do not believe they really believe in their catastrophe scenarios. They are playing at belief.

Not as suspicion, but as fantasy.

I suspect they do this the better to hate on those who doubt. It is a proven “winning” religious strategy.

twv

A cove in Cape Disappointment.

I oppose the concept of “gender” and quite a bit of today’s intersectionalist nomenclature. This is especially the case with the trans mania.

But I should clarify. For the record, I am not “trans-exclusionary.” That term of alleged opprobrium doesn’t do my position justice. I am a trans denier. Whether or not I play along with other people’s fantasies and fakes and frauds is a matter of whimsy only, circumscribed by manners and fleeting circumstance. On principle, anyone who threatens me — in the realm of manners or in courts of law — to obtain my compliance with their fantasies and fakes and frauds will gain only my contempt and defiance. The current trans movement is a bullying idiocy.

Now, though I oppose current trends in trans advocacy, I have no great animus against these sexually confused and deliberately confusing people. When I was young I knew a number of trannies. That is what they called themselves. Trannies. They were technically called pre-op transexuals, I think. But whatever they were called, I liked them. I had no trouble with them. I thought their passion for drag shows was stupid, but I think most other people’s pastimes are stupid, and as everyday people I got along with them fine.

But at no point did I think of these men as women. Lacking two X chromosomes and sporting dangling pudenda put the kibosh on any of that. Putative trans women, even after plastic surgery, are still not women. Though if they can pass I give them a pass.

But that was yesterday — today’s trans activists are my enemies.

Why? Well, they have gotten increasingly bold in their effrontery. About once per month I encounter some public argument to the effect that I am somehow bad if I do not want to get naked and engage in penetrative sexual play with a “trans person” just because I do not like their genitalia. Well, I like women. Well, a very few women. And I have a fondness for their genitalia, too. And I have no interest in naked play with any man. I would be most happy if I could go the rest of my life without seeing another penis, at least up close. The idea that trans activists think they can guilt me into accepting their hidden or mangled pudenda appalls me.

And I have a right to my feelings.

My values.

My sexual preferences.

Today’s trannies who seek to take away my right are evil.

twv

The logic of gun control legislation has always rubbed against reality’s grain. The most obvious problem is that gun confiscations, regulations, licensing, etc., all affect peaceful citizens directly, but criminals hardly at all. Take what we learn from three-year-old study using data from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Firearm Tracking Unit (FTU):

The top-line finding of the study — that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes aren’t committed by lawful gun owners — reinforces a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups. They argue that since criminals don’t follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.

Christopher Ingraham, “New evidence confirms what gun rights advocates have said for a long time about crime,” Washington Post, July 27, 2016.

Nevertheless, gun control advocates continue to demand that law enforcement and government bureaucracies make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to obtain, keep, and carry their firearms.

So, are gun control advocates earnest, or do they have other commitments that undergird their support for remedies that are unlikely to work?

A conjecture

In my experience, folks who approve of gun control tend strongly to oppose “stop-and-frisk.” This provides a major clue to their actual policy values. Stop-and-frisk is an integral method of gun control in that this procedure — unlike registration and background checks, etc. — directly takes “unlawful” weapons from random or suspicious pedestrians. It is an effective method of gun control, such as it is. Conservatives tend to love it because it focuses on de facto criminals and “suspicious” folks, and conservatives like riding herd on those targeted by police suspicion. But why would non-conservative gun control advocates be against stop-and-frisk? It is effective, while other methods are not. It does indeed get prohibited guns “off the street,” which is allegedly the whole point.

The common opposition to stop-and-frisk practices by gun control advocates suggests to me that they do not actually care about solving the problem of violent crimes with guns. Instead, what they want is to control people they don’t like. And who are those hated people? Well, progressives do not like normal gun-owning Americans, who tend not to vote for their candidates and who are not likely to be vegetarians or into “spiritual but not religious” regimens and the like. Those gun owners are “conservatives” and are all-too-apt to be enamored of barbecue and NASCAR and patriotic country-and-western songs. The progressives’ most-hated enemies are, in the words of Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles, “the common clay of the new West; you know, morons.” (This is a major cultural marker.)

Because gun control makes the lives of progressives’ opponents less pleasant, gun control ably serves to play up the basic democratic enticement. The real reason most folks become and stay political in a democratic society is to lord it over the other tribe, to make people who disagree with them do their will.

The default mode of the Administrative State

And so it comes to pass that this sort of attitude feeds the common State practice of anarcho-tyranny, riding hard over peaceful people while letting the criminals run free.

Note how this anarcho-tyrannical modus of law and order feeds (and is fed by) gun control advocacy.

By being tyrannical to normal folk, but letting the anarchs wreak havoc, governments can always find excuses — chiefly in the inevitable decaying social order — to meddle in the lives of non-threatening people. The Washington Post article I quoted, above, does not go on to advise giving up on the gun control dream, but instead frets about finding ways to prevent guns from leaving good people’s hands to bad people’s — in effect, still targeting peaceful people’s behavior.

It is easy to see why folks in government might prefer anarcho-tyranny to overbearing police power over suspects — in profiling the peaceful government agents risk less. But why would non-governmental people prefer that modus operandi? It is the underdog meme, I think, the commitment to protect the other — which in this case gets carried to an absurd extreme.

The traditional Law and Order approach feeds the anarcho-tyrants’ ire, too. Riding herd over suspects seems so “mean.” And here we come to what does appear to be the main divide between left and right. But before we condemn the left wholly, note how shaky the right-wingers can be: they decry gun control, but love stop-and-frisk, which is nothing more than gun control made effective.

Both sides love profiling, of course. The right seeks to profile the “usual suspects,” and the left profiles the peaceful.

More rational crime control procedures?

Not on the table.

twv

Limited, controlled immigration, was the traditional policy of the Progressive Era. It was advanced during the ramp-up of the administrative state in the early days of Progressivism’s triumph, during the administrations of TR and Woodrow Wilson, and lingered in very strong forms through the recent presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Open immigration” in its modern context is the policy of radicals who flout the technocratic/managerial state’s modus operandi the better to achieve the revolutionary methods of the Cloward-Piven strategy — leveraging a central feature of the modern administrative state, anarcho-tyranny, as a way to sow chaos and effect the establishment of a socialist state.

The free migration concept that many of my friends support (and which I too, prefer, and wish were on the table) has almost nothing to do, in practice, with what the current batch of Democrats running for the presidency espouse. Those who pretend that it does — like, apparently, folks at Reason and Cato — are basically playing at being the Left’s bitches. Or, as I put it back in January, eagerly take part in “the cucking of the libertarian mind”:

Trendy libertarians so want to be thought of as “on the left” that they let leftists push policy into what Sam Francis aptly called anarcho-tyranny, where government increasingly lets criminal and dependent elements dominate public life while directing the heavy hand of the State onto people who are basically peaceful, who are not subsidized, who earn their keep and don’t steal, murder, and grift their way through life. That heavy hand is the increasing burden of the regulations progressives love.

Racism, Cuckery and the Wall,” January 14, 2019, Wirkman Comment.

As I have stated many times before, the free-market approach to migration depends on nixing the welfare state — or at least making its benefits off-limit for immigrants, especially illegal ones.* Libertarians have much to offer the debate over immigration, but what they offer is Diversity Without Jeopardy — which is when the Commons is limited and fighting over the resources is not allowed to dominate the political realm.

twv

On the bookshelf nearest at hand.

* The political feasibility of limiting access of welfare-state freebies is almost zero, though, as anyone who has thought about the progress of Barack “You Lie” Obama’s promise of No Obamacare for Illegals to today’s Democratic presidential hopefuls’ near-unanimous insistence on giving free healthcare to all comers. And when you throw in the biggest welfare program of all, public schools, the whole idea becomes fanciful.

“The world began to crumble,” wrote Ricky Gervais, “when feelings started overruling facts.”

This was on Twitter, of course, so we are not getting deep historical analysis, here. The point of the statement is not, really, to define the precise turning point towards our civilization’s decline. It was more rhetorical, a way of asserting objectivity as a foundational issue for civilized life. Further, Gervais (@rickygervais) is a comedian, so no matter how earnest he may be in expressing this thought, a reasonable person might have cause to wonder: maybe he was trolling. You know, to get a bite from an ideologue, thus setting up a joke.

Simon Jenkins (@SimonJenkins1) bit. “So are you like, a full-on right winger now?” Jenkins tweeted on the same day, August 5. “Because you must know the kinds of people this phrasing aligns you with.”

To be generous, we should identify the key to his inquiry in that word “phrasing.” Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) likes to say “facts don’t care about your feelings.” That is his phrasing of the idea. And I have heard others of an alleged rightwing viewpoint say similar things. With similar phrasings. So that is probably what triggered Mr. Jenkins. How awful of Gervais to have reasserted the hoary fact/value dichotomy in a Shapirovian way . . . and not like this: “The world began to crumble when our sense of reality was determined by axiological preferences rather than ontic persistence.” 

Of course Gervais would say no such thing. He’s a stand-up philosopher, not an academic one.

In any case, queried by Jenkins as to his disloyalty to leftist buzzwords and bugaboos, Gervais snapped back:

“I’m also a vegetarian. You know, like Hitler.”

Spot on. Hilarious. 

And Gervais’s retort got to the heart of where Jenkins went wrong — and where the left generally goes wrong.

Jenkins noticed that it is not uncommon to challenge leftists, these days, with the fact/value distinction in terms of fact/feeling, and when Gervais made the same critique without an explicit target, Jenkins assumed that Gervais was making an anti-leftist point. Or, much the same thing, he was worried that Gervais had succumbed to the temptation to join The Dark Side of the Force.

Gervais went on to remind his Twitter followers that he has opposed people typically thought of as “on the right” for running afoul of fact/feeling dichotomy. He is a notorious atheist, for example, and uses the lack of evidence for a Deity, and the scads of facts in support of evolution, as “facts” that trump religious folks’ hankerings — feelings, preferences — for God. 

Now, Gervais did slightly err in his longer response. Jenkins did ask a question, not conclude. But that mistake is no biggie, since even the suspicion of right-wingedness was lame. What Mr. Jenkins exhibits is hyper-sensitivity to his ideology, loyalty to his ideological group, which can be seen in a deep suspicion of anyone who won’t perform the precise pronunciations of his tribe’s shibboleths, or who dares echo the shibboleths of the other side.

It is pathetic.

It is typical of the marginalizer mindset, in which managing who is and is not in the in-group is always of paramount interest. More, anyway, than asserting a principle to live by.

For surely the principle of deciding questions of fact on the basis of reason and evidence rather than one’s fantasies and mental comfort is not partisan. I remember when anyone could make that appeal.

But because of a “phrasing,” one leftist derailed his mind.

This little exchange typifies how bad things are getting, culturally. Sure. But it is funny, how witless left-moralists have become. They cannot see the funny (and thus have ruined late-night chat shows) because they are picking at moral purity as defined not by their religion but by their political ideology. They cannot let themselves have a moraline-free moment — just the sort of stance I used to see among cultural conservatives in my youth. In this case, a follower of a comedian saw a principle in terms of party or ideological tribe rather than in epistemic terms. He immediately became defensive — thus adding weight to the common critique of modern leftism, that it is plagued by mushy, touchy-feely sentiment and soft-mindedness.

For his part, Mr. Jenkins was reflective about his “recent encounter” with Gervais. What is it, he asks, about dealing with famous people on Twitter? “Post something, get asked about it, then instead of engaging, let your droves of flying monkeys post waves of snarky gifs in your honor. A really one-sided platform.”

Well, it is a strange platform. I do not much care for it. (I think this blog automatically sends notices to my @wirkman Twitter account, though.) It is no place to engage in deep philosophical discussions.

But Jenkins, in this case, did not find himself unfairly snarked at, flying monkeys or no. At least by Gervais, whose actual engagement was all the engagement Jenkins’ query required.

I merely note it in passing. In case someone somewhere was at all confused about it. And also to put a name to a not uncommon skirmish in the culture wars.

twv