Archives for category: Social Media

The inability of progressives to pass Ideological Turing Tests is well recognized. It has even been definitively studied, and not just by Jonathan Haidt. My own experience with progressives, in argument, often shows to me their utterly em-bubbled brains. Take a recent Facebook interchange about a Tweet. A friend posted the following, and I responded (in the first two screenshots below, my name shows but my interlocutors’ do not):

What I am trying to show here is that the shared tweet is utterly wrong-headed. I even understate the case, engaging in respectful argumentstion in one of my not-infrequent attempts to reach out to ideologues. This woman, Geraldine, does indeed state that the “penalty for getting an abortion” . . . is in play. It is not. The Alabama law would only punish someone for performing an abortion.

This means that this Geraldine either does not understand the basics of the law, or is a liar.

What she is doing is appealing to the same instinct that the Alabama legislators were allowing for when they exempted abortion-seeking pregnant women from prosecution. As I suggest in my response, this makes scant sense. If abortion be murder, the abortive mothers would be as guilty as the doctors, nurses and coat-hanger specialists who perform the abortions.

I think this should give “pro-life” anti-abortion activists pause.

But the utter witlessness of Geraldine’s tweet far outshines the cluelessness of the pro-lifers. For she also misses the painfully obvious point that murder always has and should be considered worse than murder.

And I think that provides us with a clue about the nature of the issue. But, be that as it may, her inability to retain an obvious point of her opponents shows that she is utterly confined by her ideology. She is not dealing rationally with the issue and the debate. She is defensive and foolish.

What her witlessness shows, though, is that she cannot keep in her head the notion that abortion might be murder. Killing fetuses just seems different from the murder of adults, children and (presumably) infants.

The responses to my corrective comment were predictable:

My friend marked over in Red cannot wrap his head around the ideas of his opponents. I suspect he never listens to them. He just works up hatred. My response to him makes a simple point about who supports pro-life positions: lots and lots of women. Note how he evades this, not seeing that he must be charging a majority of women in this country with wanting to control women. He is in his bubble, apparently, and only talks to women who are pro-choice, like the female Fber I’ve marked in Blue who took the tolerance angle. The problem with her gambit is that it, too, ignores the basic charge, that killing fetuses might be murder (that is: unjust; wrong). Would she say also say that “this woman, mother, friend, would never murder anyone, and this is right FOR ME . . . but I am also aware that if other people want to murder that is NONE OF MY BUSINESS!”?

In both of these cases, no arguments against the pro-life position are offered. What we see, instead, are clichés brought up to provide an alternate way of thinking about the subject. And in both cases the clichés border on the inane. My Red friend reverts to the “men shouldn’t have a say” gambit, which he does not realize is an awfully weak reed to flail against the abortion-is-evil position. And, once again, does nothing against the argumentation of pro-choice women.

But, alas, messing up this debate is the norm, even for super-smart non-leftists. Take Kat Timpf, a Fox News-employed libertarian who is as clever as anyone on Twitter:

Taking Ms. Timpf’s lead, I did not read the many comments either.

Here she sets up two issues, gun control and abortion prohibition, and shows, she thinks, that both right and left contradict themselves on these two issues. And it almost works . . . except that the two turn out not to be parallel.

Laws prohibiting abortion are not like laws prohibiting gun ownership. Prohibiting abortion is like prohibiting murderous shootings. Both of these are laws against killing. And neither are designed to STOP the bad acts from occurring, but, instead, to punish guilty parties and thereby provide the standard and indirect disincentive to the crime. Deterrence is not the only goal, though. Retribution establishes a moral order, and sets the boundaries of rights.

Gun control, or firearms prohibition, is an attempt to prevent a crime by taking away the ability to commit it. It is not deterrence as such, but an attempt at incapacitation. The parallel with gun control would be fucking control. Or the castration of all males. Or telling women they must give up their eggs.

Progressives who defend “abortion rights” would be parallel to those non-existent people who defend killing innocents.

Conservatives who defend the right to own guns would be parallel to all those people (everybody) who defend the right to keep their penises, testicles, uteruses, and eggs, and think people should be allowed to engage in non-forced coitus.

Maybe the reason progressives think such awful thoughts about those conservatives who want abortion made illegal is that they expect conservatives to hanker to do what they themselves want to do regarding violence: engage in intrusive, preëmptive control of personal life, just to get the social results they want.

But that is not how conservatives think. Progressives, it seems to me, have a controlling mindset, and tend to go overboard. So when they defend a grisly activity like abortion, they become unhinged and impute their worst instincts onto conservatives.

It seems to me that on so many issues, people in general and progressives in particular lack the ability to think clearly about the transactional nature of human life.

As for me, I regard abortion with moral horror, and think it quite an evil thing. But for reasons almost no one cares to hear, I doubt the horrifying, disgusting practice should be treated as unlawful killing. As murder.

But no one asks. I guess they just want to keep making lame arguments and screaming at each other. Asking a question about a novel argument? They might have to change their minds!

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Samuel Johnson, when asked about what he thought of a certain woman preacher, famously responded, “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” I wonder what he would have thought of Soph, the YouTube sensation who recently had her best video removed from the popular video-sharing platform.

The truth, contra Johnson, is that there have been more-than-adequate female preachers, few so ungainly or risible as a hound on hind legs. And the truth about Soph is that she is, well, more astounding than an 18th century English female preacher.

And what astounds is not her sex, but her age and her success. And I mean that in a good way. Joseph Bernstein, a Buzzfeed hack whom I had previously known only for his Tweet about murdering heterosexual white men, apparently objects to both her age and her success, so he wrote a story about the girl entertainer and commentator, predictably portraying her as some sort of avatar of awfulness. In “YouTube’s Newest Far-Right, Foul-Mouthed, Red-Pilling Star Is A 14-Year-Old Girl,” he does not allow his readers to make their own judgments about either her talents or moral status but, instead, spoon-feeds it like you would expect from a far-left “senior technology reporter”:

Yes, if you want a vision of the future YouTube is midwifing, imagine a cherubic white girl mocking Islamic dress while lecturing her hundreds of thousands of followers about Muslim “rape gangs,” social justice “homos,” and the evils wrought by George Soros — under the thin guise of edgy internet comedy, forever.

Actually, don’t imagine it. Watch it. It’s already here.

Note the tone of moral panic. Note the crack about how gossamer is her “guise” as a Net comedienne. And note the accusatory finger pointed at YouTube, as if a platform should somehow be held responsible for the free activities of its users. Would he say that telephone companies “widwifed” phone sex, crank calls, and the JFK assassination?

Alas, Bernstein’s tone and tack served as a contagion, memetically engineered to its target. That is, his article spurred YouTube to panic and take down the very video that offended him.

Now, I saw that video. I may have watched it twice. It was hilarious. It was indeed outrageous. And it very much did mock Islam. Alas, for reasons too obvious to state, Bernstein characterizes this in his piece as “hatred toward Muslims” and not criticism of a memeplex.

It is impossible to believe that Bernstein would have marshaled the full force of his SJW chivalry had Soph been mocking the Amish, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the monastic Order of Saint Benedict.

Now, skipping the bulk of Bernstein’s string of calumnies, innuendos, and tortured readings, I wish to focus on one charge, embedded in this bizarre passage:

Soph’s scripts, which she says she writes with a collaborator, are familiar: a mix of hatred toward Muslims, anti-black racism, Byzantine fearmongering about pedophilia, tissue-thin incel evolutionary psychology, and reflexive misanthropy that could have been copied and pasted from a thousand different 4chan posts. Of course, it’s all presented in the terminally ironic style popularized by boundary-pushing comedy groups like the influential Million Dollar Extreme and adopted of late by white supremacist mass shooters in Christchurch and San Diego.

Look at the first claim: “she says she writes with a collaborator.” In olden times, Bernstein would have done a little reporting to verify or falsify Soph’s claim. But we live in a time of post-reportorial journalism, and Bernstein isn’t doing research here, he is writing a screed with a political purpose: to whip up hysteria to nudge YouTube to take down opinions of which he does not approve. This is of no great matter, but I just want to make a point: Bernstein and I are both engaged in ideological contest, neither of us is engaged in reporting — but only he calls himself a “reporter.”

The second claim is the aforementioned “hatred towards Muslims” characterization, which carefully elides any possibility that her critique of Islam might have some merit. It must be “hatred,” not criticism. The Social Justice imperative has it that never must any mention be made of the mad memeplex that is Islam. Leftists need their fellow-anti-west jihadist allies. And they are more than happy to besmirch a YouTuber, no matter how young, to do it.

That being said, Soph is reported to have ejaculated the startlingly evil request “Please kill Muslims” and to have publicly wished for a “Hitler for Muslims” to “gas them all.” That is neither funny nor defensible.

Except, of course, on free speech grounds.

And after all, if Joe Bernstein can blithely jump on the currently acceptable form of racism, against whites — “KILL a straight white man on your way to work tomorrow” — perhaps we can cut a 14-year-old some slack in the Genocidal Wish-Mongering department. Such sentiments are hard to walk back, though. Those remarks are anti-Muslim and not just anti-Islam; they cross a very disturbing line.

Which, to repeat, Bernstein himself has already crossed and apparently been absolved of. Did he convince his critics his tweet was satire? What has Soph said about her statements? Perhaps Bernstein can help us out here by doing some actual reporting.

Of course, context is always important, and we are always tempted to forget context. As I just did, above. Soph’s offending-and-removed-from-YouTube vid was a response to blowback from her comment — on another platform. Watch the vid on BitChute.

But it is his third charge that interests me most, for here we kick at the leftist crutch subject, racism. Whereas those on the left used to ridicule right-wingers for “seeing a commie behind every bush,” nowadays leftists espy racists on every barstool. Bernstein asserts that Soph engages “anti-black racism,” and helpfully provides a link to back up his charge. 

The vid in question is called “Multiracial White Supremacy,” in which the girl dons a black t-shirt and an FBI cap to portray agent “Clide Colon,” concerned about the “Social Harmony of the United States Hegemony” as it pertains to “white supremacy.” Like in most of Soph’s more elaborate satires, at some point she drops the satire to talk straight. Settling on when that shift happens might serve as a drinking game. 

At the beginning, however, the satire is clear. The agent worries about the white supremacy of the type presented by “head Negro operative and designated KKK spokesman Treasure Richards” placing in jeopardy “the welfare of the black community we thoroughly sold cocaine to a few decades ago.” Spot on. Funnier than Samantha Bee, anyway.

Now, this Miss Treasure Richards is an African-American girl a few years older than Soph who appeared on “Dr. Phil” claiming not mere alienation from black inner-city culture, but also to despise her fellow black folk, even going so far as to think of herself as white. Dr. Phil took up her case as a “teachable moment,” and Miss Richards appears to have been in earnest — though there are folks online who say it was all a typical daytime TV show hoax. I would not know since I could not watch Treasure’s apology video. (I don’t know if she was sincere or her tears faked, because I don’t watch crying girls if I can at all help it. Dr. Phil insists that she was for real.) Soph shows some cuts from Dr. Phil’s show, after the first of which she makes a Blazing Saddles-variety n-word jape (“that man is a Nih-!” becomes “she’s clearly not an African-American, she’s a Nih-”), placing her (I surmise, not drinking my whiskey yet) squarely in satire mode as “Clide Colon.” This followed some droll jabs at the FBI, obviously satirical.

Her next jest is also standard-brand racist, doubling down on Treasure’s variant. Still satire. I trust.

Then she moves on to comment on Treasure’s mother, whom she refers to, sarcastically, as “a reliable source” — sarcastic because the mother had lied to her children about their parentage, making them think (incorrectly?!?!?) that her now-departed white husband was their father. At 2:17 Soph’s criticism of the mother wanders away from satire and from her role as Agent Colon. “It’s interesting how a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t endangered a single human being so far is considered the bad person, not the single mother who had to move in with her two kids to the ghetto thanks to her financial irresponsibility.”

This sort of judgmentalism can be found throughout the Soph oeuvre that I have screened. It is funny, to the extent it is, because its like is so rarely stated in polite society. This is precisely how late night TV operates these day, with rash statements standing in for jokes. In Soph’s case, though, because her judgments rub against the grain of dominant left culture, it is funny. A bit. Well, at least more than Seth Meyers.

But Soph earns her nom de plume, immediately after this, by getting philosophical. She states her basic case vis-à-vis Treasure’s dislike of her new African-American neighbors as a thesis that could be profitably defended: 

When it’s claimed that racial identity is constituted by a set of behaviors instead of genetic composition, this is what inevitably follows. Those of that ethnicity who don’t conform will be denounced, as if they owe allegiance to their racial group because they have some sort of abstractly defined “shared experience.” When all they truly share is limited to haplogroups. Ironically, they are treated as belongings because of their race. This, in turn, makes them revolt against the people denouncing them, and since the denouncers purport to represent the racial group, that’s what ends up getting attacked. 

This is all very reasonable and not delivered as satire . . . other than that Soph hasn’t changed out of her Colon costume.

But what do we make of the following?

That isn’t to say I support the things being said by Treasure, but it’s preferrable to adopting the reprehensible behavior being displayed in her environment.

Here Soph carefully (and for all to see) repudiates the race-hatred of Treasure, who apparently developed a positive fixation on the KKK. Soph’s comments on that are back to funny:

Let me just say this: there’s probably not one organization with worse p.r. than the Ku Klux Klan. Planned Parenthood is responsible for the Negro Baby Holocaust, and it’s still considerably less despised than the KKK. If your black daughter is entranced by the Klan, it isn’t because of their cunning marketing tactics, it’s because of your monumental failure as a parent. 

So, for whom would this be the ideal type of “anti-black racism”? Not me. That a complex and not unfamiliar mix of satire and moralizing strikes Mr. Bernstein as worth characterizing as “anti-black” says more about BuzzFeed and its project to direct sniper fire at its main competition, alt-media videos by amateurs, than it does about Soph.

Whose next step in development may be to write the next great Menippean satire.

Unless Bernstein can get enough nutball leftists to direct actual sniper fire in her direction. That would be a triumph for the left that leftists might understand . . . without taxing their hermeneutician chops.

Soph strikes me as brilliant, if rough not merely around the edges but also at the seams. Bernstein, on the other hand, is the kind of writer who, in times past, demanded that Jurgen and Ulysses be suppressed and who lambasted Mencken as a scandal to a Christian republic. Today, as a century ago, such moralistic scolds inhabit key positions in major media and headline online clickbait outfits, now defending not Christendom but Democratic pols and . . . the “intelligence community.”

O, how the mighty have fallen splat into the muck of petty tyranny.

Sad to see a “reporter” getting his licks in, desperately, before BuzzFeed implodes under competition from upstart competitors.

Like Soph.


Your humble TWV.
A Facebook post.

I am glad I waited a few days to comment on the Christchurch shooting. It is apparent that one of the big takeaways from the atrocity is that center-left opinion makers are wildly mischaracterizing the opinons of the mass murderer. And, had I shot my mouth off early, I may have missed this, the biggest story.

John R. Lott, Jr., clarifies:

The shooter wrote: “The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.” And the political figure with whom he most closely identifies? England’s Sir Oswald Mosley, who self-identified as a member of the “left” and proponent of “European Socialism.”

Ever encountered a right-winger who pontificates about the need for minimum wage increases and “furthering the unionization of workers”? Or who denounces “the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit.” He goes on to declare that “conservatism is dead” and “global capitalist markets are the enemy of racial autonomists.” He called himself an “Eco-fascist.”

Media Calls The New Zealand Shooter ‘Right-Wing,’” Townhall, March 18, 2019


The shooter was a self-declared leftist.

That being said, very few people are wholly left- or wholly right-wing in political bent. And I am very tempted to call murderous racism a rightist obsession. It is just inconvenient in this case, as in so many others, that the shooter was basically leftist . . . except in his racism.

But even that is not quite correct, for being against Islam and third-world immigration is not, in the shooter’s case, really racist: he opposed both because of population growth fears. Eminently a leftist canard.

He frequently uses the term invader, but his reason was an environmentalist one. “The environment is being destroyed by over population.” Did he hate minorities? He certainly did: “We Europeans are one of the groups that are not over populating the world. The invaders are the ones over populating the world. Kill the invaders, kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment.”

You certainly won’t find any of the media, including CNN, blaming environmentalists for the carnage at the mosques.

And it is worse: one reason for his rampage was to spur New Zealand and America to establish further degrees of gun control.

The media also conveniently ignores what the killer hoped to accomplish by his attack. He did it to help achieve “the removal of gun rights” for New Zealanders and Americans. And within a day, politicians in both countries were doing what he wanted. The New Zealand government has already promised a complete ban on semi-automatic guns. American gun control advocates such as Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, quickly applauded the move and suggested that it is a model for United States lawmakers. 

Of course, this isn’t the first time that mass public shooters have supported gun control. The Columbine school killers were also gun control advocates.

This armament regulation position is preëminently left-wing, in that socialism (and leftism in general) denies the individualist foundation of government legitimacy as expressed in Anglo-American liberalism, which rests on the very idea of self-defense. Government is said to gain its just powers from the rights and consent of the governed. To deny self-defense is to find a different source for government legitimacy. Which is far, far left — not liberal or conservative.

So, the murderous ideologue is a leftist, confessedly so. Anyone holding the leftist line that this massacre provides a good reason to confiscate guns is actually siding with the murderer in his own intent. Arguably, if you use this event to push for greater gun control, you have chosen a side: mass murder.

Propaganda by the deed, a century ago, was notoriously counter-productive. The anarchists who engaged in terrorism, way back then, miscalculated. They thought that by attacking the institutions of business and government — and, most specifically, the people who run them — that they would undermine general support for those institutions. But the opposite was the case. Anarchists, not surprisingly, did not understand human nature.

Nowadays, anyone with a lick of sense knows that committing acts of terrorism against individual persons will unite most people against either the murderer’s cause or the murderer’s weapons. Or both. Which is one reason why I expect to see more leftists engage in more shooting: they can count on leftist media and politicians to focus attention away from the cause and against the weaponry.

The only defense, really, is to arm ourselves with the weapons . . . and target the lies of the leftist media and political class, shooting them down one by one.

One of the odder works to bubble up out of the political landscape in the days of anarchist terrorism. More standard fare? Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent.

Stelter’s tweet is rather like Cain’s reply when asked where Abel was. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Well, Cain’s rhetorical question implies a truth: we are not our brothers’ keepers. But that was hardly the point, was it? Cain had murdered his brother. Cain used his rhetorical expression of a truth to conceal a crime. He had made himself the keeper, so the tale goes, of his brother’s corpse.

Just so, Brian Stelter — I would be tempted to call him the most witless man on television, except that he is on CNN and he is way down the line of nincompoopery — expresses a truth: one faked victimization event does not negate any other real crimes of a similar variety. But that is hardly the point, is it?

The reason we stick pols’ and journos’ noses into this foul fraud is that they fell for the hoax without questioning it — indeed, they fell all over themselves touting its cultural importance, as yet another example of their political opponents’ evil natures. When discovering that their celebrated cause was indeed a hoax — that their honored victim was a liar — they should have expressed shame, made an apology. Not a defensive excuse.

What the event revealed was that they, the major media and cultural and political elite, are themselves bigoted, racist and evil. Not their opponents.

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C. -F. Volney, at This Is Common Sense.

Social media often takes the full brunt of the blame for the current ideological/political divide. Take this BigThink post:

Two [sic] reasons why social media is bad for us, politically:

1. The echo chamber: I think a huge part of why we’ve become so divided as a society stems from the binaries mentioned in Jason’s piece [“To My Friend, the Radical Leftist,” by Jason Gots, July 11, 2015]. Just as conservatives reinforce their anti-liberal sentiments by watching Fox News (and vice-versa with liberals and MSNBC), folks on Facebook curate their audience to form an echo chamber. It’s basically self-structured propaganda, which is inherently anti-liberal by the classical definition. Flashier, more inflammatory ideas rise to the top of the conversation thus fueling the sorts of radical biases and heuristics that subconsciously radicalize people. The middle ground shrinks as rhetorical forces seek to push people farther left or farther right. I don’t think that’s healthy for a society, especially when radicalization comes attached to a sense of mean-spiritedness against the other side.

2. Tactics and tone: The whole public-shaming culture bugs me because it portrays conflicting opinions as, at best, the stupid ramblings of uninformed idiots; at worst, straight-up evil. People act differently online than they do in person, often for the worse, because we see other people online as characters in a larger digital drama rather than real human beings. It engenders a sense of enmity against our peers that ought not have any place in a respectful and democratic society. It also kills me to see people shun, demean, or shame the ignorant, because ignorance is not always the result of volition. Demonization is lazy. It alienates people who might otherwise have come around to your beliefs had they not been made to feel bad. Social media and the SJW mindset (as much as I hate that term) both promote a shouting-down of the opposition rather than a thoughtful attempt to sway opinion. It, by design, divides rather than unites.

3. Memes are the lowest form of political discourse: I mean seriously, come on…

Social media is turning us into thoughtless political extremists,” Robert Montenegro, BigThink, July 13, 2015


This sort of thing would be more convincing if my own experience fit the depiction. 

I have believed and written the same sort of things for most of my adult life as I do now on Facebook. But in the old days, prior to the Internet, only a few thousand people read Liberty magazine, for example, a zine that I helped start in the summer of 1987. And those people only read it after jumping over the hurdle of a hideous cover as well as the stigma of that word, “liberty.” That was a bubble. Now, on social media, I reach neighbors and friends and family and their friends and families. And strangers who click into my feed, perhaps from Quora or my blog or even, heaven forfend, Twitter (I really do prefer Gab, but Gab mirrors posts to Twitter). So, what I do on Facebook and linked sites now probably reaches a greater diversity of people than my writing in Liberty.

Before the current era, and in the Gutenberg dimension, a fractured publishing world separated us. And, in person, politesse did. It was a rare thing to discuss at length “religion and politics.” Now, however, on Facebook, anyway, these natural barriers fall down. Because inhibitions of manners are less effective, because we do not see into the eyes of our interlocutors.

But two things: (1) I have noticed, over the past few years on Facebook, that my friends and family and neighbors who disagree with me interact with me less than they did ten years ago — they may be re-establishing the bubble of politesse, by shunning; (2) on the few issues where I have changed my mind, or grew open to new obsessions, it is on those ideas that I have received the most pushback.

This latter point is illustrative of the major problem with social media bashing, which, after this piece by Robert Blackmountian — and, more importantly, the election of Donald Trump — has become an international moral panic. Since I get the most flak for recent changes in opinion, there is certainly another attempt to embubble hot, divisive topics. But I persist, and slowly open up a few minds. And this does not indicate that my experience has led me or anyone else to increased “extremism” — I feel a pressure to conform, but the ease of posting emboldens my dissent, and new ideas do get circulated. People changing their minds is not necessarily extremism. And sometimes, after all, the truth does lie at an extreme — falsity being at the other pole, and fiction and irony in lines orthogonal.

OK. I bend. What we are witnessing in the present time is partly the result of social media. Sure. But much of this is good. In earlier times, we could all pretend that democracy was not what it definitely is: a factional contest to inflict one’s values on one’s enemies. This is no longer possible, because actual differences are demonstrated interpersonally on the Net. The extremism was always there, but hidden by convention and institutional subterfuge.

What we are reviving is the manner of democracy before the establishment, in the late 19th century, of the secret ballot. Adopting the secret ballot was necessary to disenthrone constitutional limits on government. When everyone knew how everyone else voted, there was some social check on extremism in factions. Your vote was known to your neighbors, and you had to look them in the face when you sicced the state upon them through your pet policies. There was a reason you had to moderate your politics. But with a secret ballot — which, we should remember, J.S. Mill had the wit to oppose — all participants had cover, and could nurture secret hatreds and resentments against others and call it Good Policy.

So the all-against-all war emerged in the progressives’ “new republic,” as predicted by Volney:

Under the mask of union and civil peace, [cupidity] fomented in the bosom of every state an intestine war, in which the citizens, divided into contending corps of orders, classes, families, unremittingly struggled to appropriate to themselves, under the name of supreme power, the ability to plunder every thing, and render every thing subservient to the dictates of their passions; and this spirit of encroachment, disguised under all possible forms, but always the same in its object and motives, has never ceased to torment the nations.

See “An Intestine War,” October 23, 2012.

Now this is all out in the open. We all know what is at stake: capturing power in the imperial capital means inflicting on others the programs and policies and laws with which they disagree, often are even disgusted with. We know where everybody stands.

And today’s progressives feel especially attacked, and thus desperate. Their power at the commanding heights of the culture has been challenged. They thought things would always go their way. Things would “progress.” They have not. They received pushback. Their dominance in major media and in the academic realm has been eclipsed by “new media” of the Internet, which social media helps spread far and wide. And after a century of progress in the size and scope of government, they became frightened. And crazed.

Their reaction to Trump was comic, of course, though they were not laughing: before the election, when they were sure Hillary would win, they were aghast when The Donald demurred in possible “acceptance” of the results of the vote; after the election, and the results became clear, it was they who could not accept the outcome. So of course things got even uglier. For they had given up on the old democratic decorum of understanding that you can’t always get what you want.

The putative conservatives, on the other hand, are used to losing — they have lost all the culture wars, have they not? — and now have this notion in their head that they should win occasionally. But with Trump in office — a centrist sinner with only a few points of overlap with Reaganite conservatism — they are, on net so far, only stemming the progressive tide. A Universal Basic Income, for example, sure looks imminent.

So the battle lines are drawn.

And the solution? The truth of the matter is as Volney put it: peace can come only from the liberty that limits intestine war.

Until we all learn this lesson, and set down some limits again, the war must go on. And ugliness increase.

And I am not going to blame social media for that — I will give it some credit, for transparency. But the blame goes to the system itself, and its historical place on the arc of its own involution. For the truth must come before the solution can even be understood. Social media has helped lay bare the intestine war.

To call a truce, we must not deny truth, but accept it.

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Democratic Congresswomen wore white, to celebrate the centenary of the 19th Amendment.

Much is being made about the Democratic women in white, and their bizarre self-celebration of privilege. Well, maybe I am the only one who sees their position as one of privilege. But if you have been elected to Congress, you do not inhabit your rank or wield your power by right, but by privilege.

Further, the much-vaunted “right to vote” is not and cannot be a basic right. Is voting itself a privilege? But you can see why politicians might wish to upgrade the status of the political act, for our votes mean more to them practically than any single person’s vote could mean to that person practically. That is, our votes elect them. But not one of our individual votes elect anyone, have any effect. It is a problem of marginal productivity. Our votes thus mostly have symbolic meaning to us. So politicians have a strong and quite natural interest in managing the symbology.

It is one of the many ways in which politicians’ interests are at odds with ours.

For the rights that have practical importance for our lives, like the rights to free speech, a trial by jury, or to self-medicate (one we wish to obtain legally that we retain informally), trump all others. It is these that matter directly. They are about us, and they secure what liberties we can achieve in our government-run world, separate from political whim. So to witness anyone aggrandizing a mere privilege as a fundamental right is breathtaking. Their agenda is almost (but apparently not quite) obvious to everyone: it allows politicians and political factions (voting blocs) to expand the reach of the State, and undermine our basic rights.

Which is why it is all-important for politicians to upgrade the legality of voting above more fundamental, more basic rights, the better to shore up their privilege.


The scowl B.S. displayed after Trump promised an anti-socialist American future, and … horror … a heritage and future of freedom!

The great moment in President Trump’s State of the Union speech this week regarded his decisively negative statements about socialism. Nancy Pelosi weakly clapped; Bernie Sanders scowled . . . until he composed himself. Alexandria “Occasional Cortex” yammered on after the events in a pointless manner, not addressing the horrors that come from socialism. Not understanding why.

And why? Why does socialism so regularly dissolve into poverty and tyranny?

Because it cannot work as promoted. What is impossible but nevertheless attempted has real effects distinct from fantasy.

F. A. Hayek on a problem not often recognized. Especially by “socialists.”

If you do not understand and cannot reasonably answer Hayek’s argument about the calculation problem, you shouldn’t be pushing for socialism. Frankly, you probably shouldn’t be voting.


All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.

President Donald Trump, State of the Union address, 2019

I do not see why we should “be proud” of having “more women in the workforce.” Do we think working on the job market is better than managing homes for families, than raising children, than — not contributing to federal income tax revenue?

Female workforce participation is not an outcome to congratulate ourselves about. Or, perhaps, worry about. It is an outcome not any of government’s business. And as a standard set apparently to judge social engineering, it has a huge problem — what if we should not be engaged in piecemeal social engineering? What if that is precisely the wrong thing to do?

It is certinaly no good way to judge politicians’ speeches.

Yet Republicans cheered.

We live in a sick society. Too much government is the problem. It is into everything. Including life choices of men and women.

And it is not just feminism that is to blame, either.


Shills selling poison as panacea look like this when confronted.

Is Socialism easier to sell than Capitalism?

Magic beans are sometimes easier to sell than real beans.

You know to whom.

The droll thing about capitalism vs. socialism in the current context is that the capitalism we have is not the capitalism usually identified. We live in a heavily dirigiste capitalist society, a neo-mercantilist kludge-fest. Yet I have met many socialists who say we suffer under free markets. It is bizarre.

Truth is, laissez faire capitalism is not what we have but what a few of us want. Our markets are heavily regulated, taxed and subsidized — though not equally, sector by sector. And not a few institutions are run upon socialist and quasi-socialist lines, complete with public ownership and political-bureaucratic control. Everyone with a brain in his head recognizes this. Yet we regularly encounter arguments to the effect that “capitalism has failed” this group or that, with a prescription ready at hand: socialism. But this is just one alternative to our mixed economy. The other option, a free society with extensive private property, free markets, limited government and a simple rule of law, is just as logical and promising on the face of it.

Why socialism so often seems the more obvious option is quite fascinating. It has something to do with cognitive biases, the tribal nature of Homo sapiens, etc. The full story and wider perspective are much too vast to relate here. So let me end by returning to the original thought:

Magic beans are remarkably easy to sell to those who don’t know Jack about history or social science.


From my Facebook author page.

Philosophy celebrates three deaths: Socrates, Epicurus, and Seneca. Two are political suicides.

I am not exactly as impressed by such suicides as are others. You know, philosophically. As literature they are great.

I am trying to remember other famous deaths of philosophers. I cannot recall any others of note. Not off the top of my head. There are other startling moments of biography, of course: Abelard’s castration and Nietzsche’s catatonic stupor come immediately to mind. But for the most part philosophers do not impress us with the drama of their lives. Not even the good ones do. 

And then there are the scoundrels, like Rousseau….


A Tweet from someone who thinks “liberals” exist, and are “liberal.”
Gotcha arguments often get you.


Patton Oswalt Gets Attacked By Troll On Twitter, Turns His Life Upside Down After Seeing His Timeline

That was the headline on Bored Panda. Another self-congratulatory progressive celebration of . . . what, exactly? Sneakily winning an argument?

The Bored Panda account is basically a bunch of Tweets.

Trump’s Tweet wasn’t much. But what was Oswalt’s? A stupid bit of mockery.

For some reason, Bored Panda did not regard this as trolling. Only one angry response was so characterized.

Remember, Oswalt was “spreading hate.” But is not so designated.
And everybody celebrated! The ailing “troll” repented! Jubilation!

I confess. Sometimes I am amazed at people’s credulity.

Most people reacted to this as a heartwarming story. But making Oswalt the hero after painting him as a non-troll strikes me as only possible with a truncated psychology.

Surely this is Pharisaic posturing on Patton Oswalt’s part, as his publicly giving alms to demonstrate his virtue and “caring” nature. Whether he actually possesses any virtue or empathy — something his original Tweet disinclines me to believe — does not really matter. The incentive to do this should be obvious to a half wit. But we are so programmed by the Culture of Caring — by prodigals masquerading as liberals pretending to charity trumped up as justice — that even bright people fall for this ploy.

And ploy it is. Has no one read Nietzsche? Can no one see that gift-giving can serve as a form of revenge? Is the Will to Power hidden so carefully behind the walls of ideology and politesse that only philosophers and cynics can see it?

The cream of the jest, though, flows over when you realize that Patton Oswalt used charity as a way to win an argument.

Win. An. Argument.

Sure, the comedian won. But everyone else lost. Everyone — except maybe for the guy who inadvertently (?) bilked a bunch of Pharisaic progressives into paying his medical bills.

Contemplating the mass of humanity, fooled by serpents and comedians.

For some time I have been speculating as to when we will reach Peak Progressivism. What with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez barelling into American political culture like a Trumpian stampede of bullish memes, we have reason to think it is a long way off, far into the future. The Democrats have at last found their anti-Trump, a masterful manipulator of minds who gains attention by setting aside factuality, practicality, careful morality, or political etiquette — all irrelevant! With AOC the Democrats seem prepared to “run train” on the American system of government. But that is probably wrong.

Peak Progressivism hit its high point last Saturday, with the social media paroxysms over Nick Sandman’s “smirk,” his red hat, and his and his buddies’ “obvious” racism and sexism.

And Progressivism has been plummeting since.

Can it recover?

Pride Goeth Before the Fall

I do not always get these viral manias right. 

A few years ago, I pretty much took the progressive side on police shootings, for instance. And though I do think cop culture is in a pretty bad condition in America — it cannot be good, with the unconstitutional War on Drugs corrupting everything — the infamous Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown brouhahas fizzled from scandalous injustices and into justified shootings lickety-split. Progressives just did not notice, so em-bubbled were they.

Now, I never really believed the Trayvon story, and I think I may have got the Brown shooting not wholly wrong from the beginning — but I must surely have taken the wrong side in some of the other hysterias that led to the rise of BLM and BAMN.

The point is this, regardless: repeatedly since Obama the Corrupter took office, and even unto the present moment, the big race/sex-gender/bigotry scandals almost invariably turn out quite unlike how the progressives tell the tales. The stories do not pan out. The oppressor-victim narrative of social justice usually proves brummagem. Progressives somehow prove prone to invert the truth, in both facts and values.

My instinct, these days, is to take the opposite side of whatever progressives are angry about.

And, unlike Scott Adams, I never believed that Master Nick Sandman was in the wrong last Friday. It seemed easy for me to see that Nathan “Respect Me I’m Old and Native” Phillips was the aggressor. I could tell by his stance and the nervous look on Sandman’s face. I was sort of surprised that this was not universally understood.

I was surprised that Adams was taken in.

Maybe I got this right because of my “Finnish-American” cultural angle — when I see someone pounding a drum in someone else’s face, I regard the Drummer, not the Smirker, as the aggressor. It was not likely that Phillips was “defending himself.” Or interposing himself between the kids and the Black Hebrew Racists, I mean, Israelites. People need their personal space. The kid did not look like an aggressor at all. I am sort of dumbfounded that anyone would judge otherwise, even with Sandman “smirking.” 

Do folks not know what a nervous smile is?

And do you remember Orwell’s 1984? We are talking, here, about “facecrime,” a subset concept of Newspeak.

The other day Adams apologized. I am watching his apology video, below, as I type this. Next up I will watch his latest, “a rip in the fabric of reality” lecture. I am told it blows the social world wide open.

Mr. Sandman, Lend Me Your Ears

Again, I dare say that Peak Progressivism hit us square in the face on Saturday. It has been all downhill from Sunday on. And will continue, if not quite so precipitously.

Why? Well, we can only trust social justice mobs so many times only to be repeatedly betrayed . . . before we realize that social justice is pure moral poison. It clouds minds. It destroys judgment. And it becomes precisely what SJWs say they hate.

The indecency of the Blue Checkmarks on Twitter was breathtaking to behold: death threats; calls to burn down the Covington high school with all the students in it; offers of blowjobs for punching Sandman. Cray cray crazed nonsense. Vile slander. Evil wishes. Murderous rage.

The femme fatale used to be a prominent and popular literary and cultural trope. But it dropped out of the culture decades ago, with the rise of feminism. But the reality of it did not.

Justice is what matters. Justice. No modifier needed. “Social justice” is not sociable, is indeed anti-social — it is worse than a mirage, it is mob-based tyranny.

And my prophecy is this: if Democrats nominate a candidate for the presidency who sticks to the social justice lingo, as Hillary Clinton did in 2016, that candidacy will fail to oust Trump, or whoever in the GOP winds up replacing him. (There is still the possibility that Trump will not run again. I know: unlikely. But how likely is Trump in the first place? He is, as I said several years ago, The Mule. Straight out not of Central Casting but from Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation.)

The demise of a party may be at hand — and because of racism, the Democrats’ racism! Anti-white racism. Their need for an excuse to rag and rage on heterosexual white men, in particular, is ugly and stupid.

And now almost everyone can see it.

I really thought, ten years ago, that it would be the GOP that would implode. Right now my money is on the Democracy. 

What remains to be seen is if the cultural hegemony that leftists lord over the rest of us goes along with the current idiotic brand of social justice. It might. It just might.

It has not yet been made clear to our chattering ideological courtesans that the border/migration issue and the welfare state stability issue are strongly linked. In all the accusations between President “Cheeto” and the Democratic duo of Chuck and Nancy, for example, the great truth about the long-running government shutdown seems to have been lost.

It is almost as if we feel compelled to talk past each other about the border wall.

But it’s not about the border. Not really.

It’s about raising the debt level to accommodate continued increases in federal government borrowing. It is about stressors long ago placed upon the American union.

The border wall hysteria is, in a sense, very convenient. It allows everyone to keep avoiding any serious discussion of runaway federal spending and skyrocketing government debt, and, instead, play to each side’s constituencies’ prejudices. 

Why, it is almost as if no one wants to confront the fragility of our governmental way of life!

Democrats, of course, talk up the freewheeling idea of unrestricted immigration and “being inclusive” . . . while gleefully contemplating the naturalization of illegal and legal immigrants who are far more apt than not to vote for the party with an ass as its mascot.

Republicans, on the other hand, devote their elephantine bellows to border security and the common-sense notion that “good fences make good neighbors” . . . all the while eagerly blaming on foreigners the perceived immiseration of the middle class — which, to the extent it is happening, is largely the result of bipartisan government policy and not free trade or free immigration.

And though it is true that President Trump could have advanced his pet populist promise of “the Wall” while he had Republican majorities, is he really doing anything new? 

Democrats say he is holding America hostage to get what he wants.

But Trump merely mirrors what Democrats and establishmentarians do every debt-ceiling round: hold Americans hostage by pitting a working federal government against politicians’ addiction to ridiculous overspending. “Let us spend more than we have and we will let you have everyday governance.”

Increasingly, the prisoners’ dilemmas and games of chicken dominate our politics.

To repeat, the border issue is in an important sense a distraction from the real issue, out-of-control federal spending, and the ever-increasing debt.

But how big a distraction is it?

Super-sized

While socialists build walls to keep citizens in, the better to hold them captive, welfare states build walls to keep non-citizens out, to avoid over-exploitation of resources.

Meanwhile, free societies let people move about peaceably, letting populations find an unplanned, natural balance.

But we do not live in that kind of free society. A fact that is rarely recognized. Both Republicans and Democrats pretend that we are free, though, if for different reasons. 

By pushing for free migration that only makes sense in a freer society, Democrats jeopardize the solvency of their beloved welfare state. Is this just for the thrills? No. By undermining the solvency of the welfare state they send it into crisis. Which is awfully convenient for them, since they always have a ready response for a funding crisis of mini-socialism: more socialism. For them, the failure of government must always be more, more, more.

And I’m not being paranoid. Or, my paranoia finds ground in experience. What we witness from the Democrats looks suspiciously like an actual strategy famously advocated by respected leftists, the breathtakingly brazen Cloward-Piven strategy — but in this case using illegal immigrants to precipitate the crisis that would drive politics leftward towards their ersatz “utopia.”

Republicans have a different reason to deny the truth. They pretend that border walls are what free republics typically ballyhoo. Not true. It was the Progressives who put immigration quotas and controls into place in America. And, as Milton Friedman famously suggested, a responsible welfare state requires such controls. But we approach a rich vein of antinomy when we witness Republicans proclaim they are against the welfare state, for, no matter what they think of it, their border obsession serves as an attempt to save the welfare state, not peel it back. By pushing “border security” they avoid the uncomfortable task of confronting their own divided loyalties. Which is it, conservatives: a free society or the Redistributive Leviathan State?

That’s enough repressed ideas to send the whole country to the psychiatrist’s couch.

For Whom the Cuck Clucks

The conservatives manqué are not the only muddleheads.

Progressives have to live with all sorts of contradictions and cognitive dissonance. Internal contradictions are what it means to be a progressive, these days. Perhaps not one contradiction is more richly droll, though, than the fact that they jeopardize their beloved welfare state to let poor people in, who, to the extent they actually support themselves and not behave like leeches do so chiefly by flouting the labor regulations and taxing policies that progressives hold so very dear. And for which they would gleefully send in men with guns to take down . . . “evil white rich people.”

But libertarians have no standing to gloat, for they are in an even sorrier predicament. We want to live in a free society. And so, naturally enough, we want to support migration, even illegal immigration, and of course oppose the Trumpian border wall. But libertarians should be worrying about whether, in so doing, they are not introducing a moral hazard into the mix by going along with the progressive inclusion-über-alles mob.

Ideologies have their own entelechies. “Ideas are forces,” wrote G. H. Lewes, “the existence of one determines our reception of others.” And once a people embraces the welfare state, the draining of its funds through the tragedy of the commons almost never leads to the divvying up of said commons into a distributed division of responsibility. Government failure breeds more government.

It is an old and sad story.

I just do not see how opening up the borders to economic refugees could, in the current context, lead to a freer society. That is not how actual politics works.

The more I analyze our current situation, the more certain I am of 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.

I have actually had one young libertarian correspondent berate me and ridicule me (ah, these ideologues really know how to persuade!) for my skepticism about the efficacy of open borders for bringing about freedom. This particular interlocutor to whom I am referring actually welcomed the degradation of the welfare state, offering up his own libertarian variant of the Cloward-Piven strategy: initiate a crisis to change policy in a libertarian direction. How he thought libertarians could convince a national government to go in the direction they do not want to go I have no idea.

The word “cuck” is made for libertarians such as these. Just as the cuckoo bird destroys the eggs of other species of birds and then lays its own eggs in their nests, tricking those hapless marks into devoting all their effort to support cuckoo life, not theirs, libertarians who think that opening up borders within the context of the welfare state are tricked by progressives — in a perhaps unwitting grift, I admit — to expending their wealth on others’ children for their benefit and not libertarians’.

And definitely not the general, public benefit.

Now, if these libertarians would dare confront progressives, telling them, in no uncertain terms, “if you want open borders and an end to ICE, then you have to end the welfare state first, and stop placing the institutions of the rule of law in jeopardy,” that might work.

The left could be met square on, disallowed from their haphazard course towards the fake anarchy and real tyranny.

It might be a workable strategy. But I have never heard one of these “principled libertarians” ever dare confront progressives in such a way.

Have you?

They seem, instead, to merely fall back in line as the meek marks of progressives.

And when libertarians or anyone else show any real independence of mind on this subject, they will get called racist.


To be continued…

Photo: Ralf, Flickr, some rights reserved

A big problem with the political left is that hard-left illiberality is on the rise. But the bigger problem may be that the moderate left — called “liberals” from Hobhouse and FDR on to about a decade ago — forgot their convictions, and confused themselves into thinking they were close to Marxists (the world’s Most Failed Philosophy). The result? A sharp rise in mob insurrection and social terror in the name of “the oppressed and the (socially) marginalized.”

Jonathan Chait has posted more than one perceptive explanation on New York magazine’s website in which he demonstrated that, unlike his comrades, his moderate left/“liberal” credentials have not fallen prey to the hard left line. “The problem with Marxism,” he wrote in 2016, “lies in its class-based model of economic rights. Liberalism believes in political rights for everybody, regardless of the content of their ideas. Marxists believe political rights belong only to those arguing on behalf of the oppressed — i.e., people who agree with Marxists.”

This sets up a logic that leads to tyranny. Chait argues that the “standard left-wing critique of political liberalism, and all illiberal left-wing ideologies, Marxist and otherwise, follow” a relentless and rather bizarre dialectic:

These critiques reject the liberal notion of free speech as a positive good enjoyed by all citizens. They categorize political ideas as being made on behalf of either the oppressor class or the oppressed class. (Traditional Marxism defines these classes in economic terms; more modern variants replace or add race and gender identities.) From that premise, they proceed to their conclusion that political advocacy on behalf of the oppressed enhances freedom, and political advocacy on behalf of the oppressor diminishes it.

It does not take much imagination to draw a link between this idea and the Gulag. The gap between Marxist political theory and the observed behavior of Marxist regimes is tissue-thin. Their theory of free speech gives license to any party identifying itself as the authentic representative of the oppressed to shut down all opposition (which, by definition, opposes the rights of the oppressed). When Marxists reserve for themselves the right to decide “which forms of expression deserve protection and which don’t,” the result of the deliberation is perfectly obvious.

When I posted this to Facebook, I got some interesting commentary. Brian McCall wrote this:

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the socially marginalized concept myself, and the way they have so deeply fetishized it. Since no one is ever that marginalized, weak, downtrodden, I wonder if this isn’t some psychological need on their part. It reminds me of a piece I read long ago. . . .

And he refers to a passage from Isabel Paterson’s God of the Machine (1942). As always with Paterson, there is much to chew on. But she gets to the point regarding Lenin’s and Stalin’s western supporters, who should have known better:

The Communist regime in Russia gained control by promising the peasants land, in terms the promisers knew to be a lie as understood. Having gained power, the Communists took from the peasants the land they already owned — and exterminated those who resisted. This was done by plan and intention; and the lie was praised as “social engineering,” by socialist admirers in America. If that is engineering, then the sale of fake mining stock is engineering.

Why would anyone accept such criminal behavior? Certainly, many in America did — and not just self-designated socialists. The question lingers. Paterson has an answer:

The philanthropist, the politician, and the pimp are inevitably found in alliance because they have the same motives, they seek the same ends, to exist for, through, and by others. And the good people cannot be exonerated for supporting them. Neither can it be believed that the good people are wholly unaware of what actually happens. But when the good people do know, as they certainly do, that three million persons (at the least estimate) were starved to death in one year by the methods they approve, why do they still fraternize with the murderers and support the measures? Because they have been told that the lingering death of the three millions might ultimately benefit a greater number. The argument applies equally well to cannibalism.

Once you accept the sacrifice of some for others — most commonly, in rhetoric, anyway, a few for the many — there is no enormity you will not commit.

And “modern liberalism” — the one that L.T. Hobhouse, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Jonathan Chait adhere to — fully embrace such sacrifice, if on a low  level, the level where lives are not necessarily on the line. Fortunes are enough. Take just enough from the rich to give to the poor. And next year take more! Paterson argues that this principle has ineluctable consequences. One of them may explain why these “liberals” were always soft on the murderous communists, and why, in recent years, they have mistaken folks of the hard left for people who care — and not the murderous, thieving, bullying thugs they are.

Economist Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan noted a “failure of those on the left who are not an active part of the problem to have a sense of a need for self-policing of the left.” This blind spot was noticed by Clancy McMurtrie: “It’s a conscious and explicit camaraderie based on shared principles. ‘No enemies to the left,’ as I understand it.”

The self-policing issue is a fascinating one, since some might call it “in-fighting.” I noted that “the right” — by which I meant “the conservative movement in America —

doesn’t seem have that problem. Which may be why it is politically imbalanced and inchoate. National Review purged its extremists, and kept anti-Semites, anti-imperialists, et al., at bay.

Why would the moderate left feel better about its “radicals” than the moderate right feel about its “extremists”?

Well, note the two words: radicals and extremists. The former sounds better, and that is traditionally what far left extremists are usually called. This is not just a parallel to the popular put-downs: on the right it is “wing nut” and on the left it is “moon bat.” Those two seem equally derisive to my ear. But other designations, left and right, tend to form a pattern: the leftists get more respect.

From the relentlessly “liberal media,” anyway. And from rank-and-file “liberals.”

But my initial charge (stated in the first paragraph of this page, repeating my Facebook post) was that moderate leftists/center-left liberals have largely forgotten their differences with Marxism (once again, “the World’s Most Failed Philosophy”) and Marxists (the world’s worst economists and most dangerous cultists) puzzled another of my friends, Mr. Lee C. Waaks:

In what sense did moderate liberals see themselves as “close to Marxism”? Marx would have rejected their ideas, no? It seems moderate (or did you mean “modern”?) liberals are just interventionists, although, at one time, many were sympathetic to varieties of socialism but now recognize the need for markets. But milquetoast socialist is not Marxist. Am I missing your point?

I should say that by “moderate left” I meant recent “liberals” — that is, “modern liberals” not “classical liberals” — and readily express my usual vexation, that nomenclature is a messy business in politics. Which Mr. Waaks knows full well, admitting to its “topsy turvy” nature:

I don’t interact with many of these folks on the left but they seem to identify “socialism” with Sweden, as does Bernie himself. I don’t have a clue what most self-identified Marxists think of Sweden, although I did see one blog post by a Marxist/socialist who explicitly repudiated Sweden as socialist. I doubt he is anything like the typical Fannie pack-wearing Bernie supporter.

Mr. Mc Kiernan clarified matters (I am the “Timo” he refers to):

Sanders has pointed to a number of other nations, which are not as he describes them to be. When it comes to actual prescriptions, he has shown himself either still to be a Marxist or to be close to one. And people who imagine themselves as close to Sanders thus imagine themselves as close to Marxists. (Timo did not say that they were close to Marxists; he said that they had come to think themselves close.)

The Twentieth Century forced the Marxists either to abandon Marxism, or to become still more absurd. Those who stayed Marxist made more use of the always ill-defined word ‘capitalism,’ and moved fascism and the programmes of states such at the Soviet Union from the Socialist column to the Capitalist column. The world may or may not be topsy-turvy, but Marxism does not describe that world accurately, and its topsy-turvy features should be understood as confined to its incompetent description.

Mr. Waaks questions this account, noting that even “if Bernie has an affinity for Marx, he may not accept any of Marxism’s tenets (e.g., labor theory of value, historical materialism, etc.). I assume if Bernie and Marx had been contemporaries, Marx would have loathed Bernie. Bernie & Co. seem like welfarists to me.”

Mc Kiernan elaborates:

It’s possible to have protracted controversies about what is and is not essential to Marxism. For example, the importance to Marxism of the labor theory of value is disputed by Ian Steedman and others, who propose to graft Sraffan economic theory into Marxist economics. I don’t propose to wrestle with that issue here or anywhere else, merely to note it.

Sanders’ practical policy goals have generally been those shared across Marxist parties; he was for a time an active member of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite organization. Marx himself might well have despised Sanders, but Marx was given to despise people more generally, including those of very similar political disposition. Had Engels not been his patron, Marx probably would have openly despised him. My point about Sanders, though, is mostly to illustrate one possible line of defense for Timo’s claim, though he might offer others.

I long ago lost track of people on the center-left who really knew almost nothing about Marxism and couldn’t identify what its distinctive content were or might be, but were quite sure that he’d had some very insightful things to say, because some teacher had told them as much. I’ve observed other people in the center-left who did know a fair amount about the content of Marxism and did know about some of its deficiencies, but wanted to be fundamentally sympathetic to something that they could associate with an essence of Marxism; even if they couldn’t coherently explain what it were.

It strikes me that the progressive and liberal left are both just watered-down socialists when it comes to wealth. The question is just how far the watering goes. Modern “liberals” used to accept the necessity of some private property and some scope for markets — anathema in Marx’s “scientific” utopia, of course, but one must make do with the tools ready at hand.

In my experience, having talked with many a liberal in my day, they are the kind of people who say that “communism is good in theory but bad in practice.” I have heard something like this hundreds of times. I regard it as puerile and unlearned nonsense, at best. I do not see anything good in coerced community, and that is what communism is. Socialism, argued Yves Guyot, is communism is collectivism. They all rest on force. Proponents of these ideas, when in power, cannot take a “no” (or an “I prefer not to”) for an answer. You must comply with their demands, the demands of the Central Committee, Big Brother, Politburo, or what-have-you. Because, without compulsion, there is no socialism, communism, or collectivism.

But both liberals and progressives pretend that government is a wondrous creative instrumentality, benevolent in nature — when run by them. When run by conservatives, of course, they see it in all its brutality. But when run by them — oh, what vistas open up. What possibilities for “caring”!

The blind eye that the moderate left gives to the state when run by their kind is the blind eye that they give progressives, who want even more state dominance of society. They feel the affinity in their bones. In their heads, they used to realize that Communism was pure poison. The lessons of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot taught them that. But in their hearts?

In their hearts they have long defended — and in practice they have coddled — commies. There were indeed communists in FDR’s regime. Alger Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent. According to David Horowitz, Barack Obama was raised by communists and (because Obama never repudiated communism) remained a communist — luckily constrained by popular anti-communism.

Whatever the reason, the linkages are there: in history, in today’s reality. Even when demanding individual rights to freedom of speech, press, association and religion, modern liberals’ heartstrings strain towards the Utopia described by Marx. And, perhaps because of this fantasy, and no doubt because of fading memories of the Soviet Union’s gulag, China’s Cultural Revolution, and Pol Pot’s killing fields, more and more moderate leftists tip the hat to Marx. Almost no one reads the sour old revolutionary. But they have read about him. From what I can tell, they think that though Marx erred in the positive prescription — it turns out that normal politics and compromise work in favor of ever-bigger government, whodathunkit — his analysis of the contradictions of capitalism still have something for today.

This attitude is all over the progressive left, and Jeremy Corbyn in England has stated it explicitly.

Hence the lack of patrolling the mobocracy amongst far left radicals, er, extremists.

The God of Socialism failed. Again and again. But that God was what post-christians wanted, He fit the bill. So they never cease mourning the death. And, perhaps secretly, hoping for His rebirth.

With a socialist every day is a Christmas, with goodies to be distributed all around, allegedly equally, but somehow with special treats for the very best boys and girls. Which means the cognitive elite that leans towards socialism. This tension is there in socialists, the dissonance between equality in theory and favoritism in practice, and it is part and parcel of the inevitable false consciousness that statists ineluctably succumb to. It is a Law of Power.

Still, it is good when we discover someone on the left, such as Mr. Chait, recognizing that there is a problem here.

Oh, and what a problem!

twv

P.S. I confess that I wrote this a year-and-a-half ago, closer to the time when Chait wrote his columns, but for some reason did not publish it. I have been in sort of an intellectual coma. Now that I have re-branded this blog as Wirkman Comment/wirkman.com, I am cleaning up the backlog, even as I take on new writing projects. Maybe readers will see more here in the days to come.


Photo of Karl Marx Monument, from Ralf on Flickr, some rights reserved.

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Congress is back in session next Tuesday. The days in session? Twelve. If Republicans don’t rush through cannabis legalization, they will have missed the biggest opportunity for political success — on the order of Democrats’ huge error in opposing the Tea Party (for the stupid, tribal reasons they did).

Missed opportunities are hard to track. But this opportunity, still open, is pretty easy to see. Trump would sign such legislation. He has said as much. And Republicans could (a) express solidarity with the majority opinion on the subject and (b) gain traction with young people, who are especially likely to be against sending marijuana users to jail and ruin their lives by interdiction and prosecution and dispossession.

But, being the Stupid Party, the GOP will not do it. Right?

(Facebook, yesterday)

“Conservatives” and “progressives” are perhaps best seen for what they are on the issue of drugs. For it is here that these two brands of progressivism — socially conservative and socialist/technocratic — come head to head for a kind of weird bipartisanship.

It was the socially conservative progressives (SCP) who needed the illiberal, anti-Constitutional method of the socialist/technocratic progressives (STP), for the old federalism stood in the way of prohibiting alcohol. To get this, the SCPs pushed women’s suffrage and the income tax. These two allowed Prohibition to go national, which was the SCP flagship policy. It was a disaster, of course. And was later repealed in Progressives’ even greater debacle, The Great Depression (yes, it was caused by their policies).

But the STPs had what they needed, the foundations to develop the welfare state and the therapeutic state. That is, the welfare state and the therapeutic state were built, both, on the basis of the female vote and the income tax, and the cultural excuse that Prohibition gave — though Prohibition was ended by constitutional amendment, the general policy was secured at every level, including federal; there would be no real pushback from SCPs (who came to call themselves, with some but not much justification, “conservatives”). And the general progressive mindset allowed them two world wars, and the two wars allowed experiments in “war socialism,” which in turn paved the way for federal regulation and the full panoply of the Administrative State, plus vast programs of redistribution, including Social Security and much more.

And, with all these programs that pleased the STPs so much, there remained the psychoactive drug prohibitions, as a sop to the SCPs. And, of course, the STPs let the states regulate alcohol, in a pretense form of federalism, as a vestige of Prohibition.

I could go on and on, but you see the general tenor. The Republican Party is the SCP party, and the Democrats make up the STP party. Progressivism has triumphed, and Republicans are so ineffective because they do not realize that they embraced the progressive meme long ago, and that it corrupted their souls. And their politics.

(from LocoFoco.us on Facebook, yesterday)

A bill is in play. But it is bipartisan. Republicans should have made it partisan. Or must it be bipartisan because there are enough Prohibitionist in the GOP? What an idiotic coalition the Republican Party is. Even social conservatives and religious Christians have reason to support decriminalization (I prefer full legalization at the federal level). But this group of people are the second least politically astute group in the country.

A friend responds:

You underestimate the buy-in they have on the drug war. Two-thirds of the Republican voters have a Jeff Sessions level religious anti-pot mindset (shared by 1/2 of the democratic voters). Polling will have shown them that any caving on the drug war is going to result in more blow back from their base.

There are certain things each political party cannot do no matter how much political sense it makes. An outsider can come in with these issues and run as an R or D and get independent voter support, but someone who has come through the ranks can’t.

I volley back:

For the same reason the Democrats “had” to attack the Tea Party — not because it was ideologically required or good politics in the long run, but because it was a culture war thing. This is why I hate the two parties.

(Facebook, yesterday)

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