The Enrightenment

by Henry on July 23, 2018

Jacob Hamburger has an article in the LA Review of Books on the “Intellectual Dark Web” which is really very sharp, but ends up in the wrong place.

First, what is absolutely right, and explained much better than I’ve seen it explained elsewhere, or, for that matter, been able to explain it to myself:

A common refrain on the dark web is to debunk various left-of-center critiques by arguing that what appears to be systemic inequality is actually the result of individual choices or behavior. Christina Hoff Sommers argues, for example, that the gender wage gap is a result of women’s choices to work jobs that pay less, while Ben Shapiro believes the problem of police brutality could be solved by people — presumably African Americans — simply “avoiding interactions with the cops.” On many occasions, these sorts of arguments involve uses of social science statistics that political correctness is said to ignore; on other occasions the statistics are omitted and the left’s blindness to “reality” and “facts” is simply asserted or implied. In either case, the dark web’s impulse when confronted with claims of inequality is almost always to deny or justify it. Either the left is making up injustices where they do not exist, the argument goes, or they disregard evidence that social disparities are in fact grounded in scientific reality.

This seems to me to be completely on target, and to correctly identify the organizing impulse behind the IDW. It manifestly isn’t an intellectual movement: if it were, what would unite spewers of Jungian witch-symbol gibberish like Jordan Peterson with self-professed admirers of the scientific method like Sam Harris? It’s a political one, which is largely organized around opposition to claims about structural power inequalities – especially claims that map onto categories such as race and gender. This also explains very neatly the Quillette publishing model: any old shite that supports this specific set of prejudices is acceptable so long as it annoys the right people.

But Hamburger’s organizing argument that this is inherently conservative seems wrong to me.

The intellectual dark web appears with each passing day to be earning itself a place in the American conservative tradition. The fact that many of these figures have no links to the conservative movement or denounce the Republican Party is hardly evidence to the contrary. Allan Bloom was a member of the Democratic Party, and the campus war debates he helped to start provided the opportunity for many younger writers to gain national notoriety as conservatives for the first time. Despite some of the novelty attributed to the dark web intellectuals, perhaps the signs of their belonging to the right have always been there. Dave Rubin’s YouTube show and Harris’s podcast, for example, have featured a number of mainstays of the old PC debates, including D’Souza and Charles Murray. And though Christina Hoff Sommers may appear to break with neoconservative opponents of the women’s movement such as Midge Decter and Gertrude Himmelfarb by calling her video blog “The Factual Feminist,” one should not fail to notice that the channel is hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, the think tank where both elder women were once affiliates.

The argument that it doesn’t matter that “many of these figures have no links to the conservative movement” is strained. For sure, it is likely that some of these people who were not conservative will become so; indeed, as I’ve argued before, it is likely that some of them are going to drift to the vicious populist right. But others – and a cloud of people who loosely sympathize with these arguments while disliking some of the proponents – are likely to go on considering themselves liberals, and with some historical justification for this claim. There are strains within liberalism and centrist thought that are nearly as antithetical to claims about systematic inequality as conservatism is. Mark Blyth’s account of economic ideas stresses that their importance lies in their ability to create coalitions that otherwise would see themselves as having little in common. And the IDW people have less in common than you might think.

Specifically, there’s a tension between two tendencies within the IDW. One wing is hostile to the Enlightenment, stretching from Peterson through to the multitudes of Steve-Bannon fanciers. The other wing is what you might call the Enrightenment – enthused by a Whiggish reconstruction of the Enlightenment, under which things are getting better for everyone, and those who point out the continuing defects of the liberal project are ipso facto identifying themselves as Enemies of Reason and Progress.

The cement that holds these two tendencies together is the claim (as described in Bari Weiss’s article) that all ideas ought to be on the table for examination, including ones that are politically unpopular or offensive. The weakness is that the different tendencies disagree radically about what that process of examination ought to involve and what its intellectual implications are, while opportunistically ignoring those deep disagreements to focus on their shared political project and shared enemies.

This explains the attractions of the IDW far better than the assumption that it is just conservatism masquerading under a new form. Some elements of the coalition are conservative. Others are not. And that means that some liberals are either attracted, or not as repelled as they would be by a straight-up conservative ‘we must defend Judeo-Christian values’ shtick. Such liberals are not likely to turn conservative, but they can surely be Enrightened. Many of those who aren’t Enrightened may at least be Enrightenment-curious, and willing to pull their punches a little.

Understanding this not only helps to understand better the coalition, but those who oppose it. There’s a notable split happening between traditional-line libertarians (like Cathy Young, as noted in the tweet linked above) and people like Jacob Levy and Will Wilkinson. This split isn’t over questions of classical political economy, where they often continue to agree but instead seems more or less precisely to coincide with concerns over inequality and social disparity. Some, like Young, continue to be attracted by the traditional glibertarian message (which is imo a more plausible ancestor of Quillette style reasoning than standard conservatism). Others, like Levy and Wilkinson are starting from the premiss that e.g. racial inequality is real and that people motivated by liberal values – including classical liberal values – ought take this very seriously. This, too generates the possibility of counter-coalitions against the IDW-style one, held together by different kinds of cement (but perhaps fractured by different weaknesses).

{ 70 comments }

1

Lupita 07.23.18 at 4:09 pm

In a Rogan video, when asked about American global hegemony, one of the Weinsteins mumbled something about game theory proving it was eternal, to which Rogan just assented glazed-eyed. From what little I’ve watched of the IDW, they miss every opportunity to analyze national and Western conditions in a global context, which makes them, to me, supporters of empire, which makes them right wing.

One thing I can say for their contributions to feminism: they have single-handedly debunked the stereotype of women being the sex that talks too much. How these men talk!

2

WLGR 07.23.18 at 4:14 pm

“Enrightenment” is a fantastic shorthand for the central contradiction explored in Domenico Losurdo’s excellent Liberalism: A Counter-History, the thesis of which might as well be that if these two groups you describe are two sides of the same coin, the true name of the coin isn’t “the intellectual dark web” but classical liberalism itself. The way Losurdo would describe it, the cement holding these two tendencies together is their commitment to a world order consisting of “herrenvolk (master-race) democracy on a planetary scale,” a basic component of which is the subjugation of the “lower races” through unchecked despotism — “a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians,” as Mill writes in On Liberty. In essence, Losurdo would agree with the IDW that they and their commitment to inegalitarian heirarchy are far less mystified about the nature of Western liberal Enlightenment values than their “woke” pro-PC opponents, so in that narrow sense, the IDW’s self-image as hard-nosed bearers of suppressed truth is fundamentally correct.

The difference is that where IDW intellectuals (sneer quotes optional) might depict modern liberals’ professed egalitarianism as a nefarious taint of some grand postmodern cultural neo-Marxist conspiracy (triple parentheses optional), Losurdo instead treats it as Western liberalism’s own deliberate propaganda tactic in response to the specter of communism, trying to suppress its immanent inegalitarian values to slap together a duplicitous ideological appeal to the colonial subjects it had spent the recent prior centuries oppressing and exploiting. Accordingly, with the communist threat feeling less tangible since the late 1980s than at just about any point since the early 19th century, the tendencies expressed in the IDW and its anti-PC neocon antecedents represent Western Enrightenment liberalism casting off its now-unnecessary egalitarian disguise and once again flaunting its older core identity of racist inegalitarian paternalism, as embodied in classical forebears like Locke, Mill, and John C. Calhoun.

3

Robert Zannelli 07.23.18 at 5:14 pm

First of all there is not a whole lot I disagree with that Henry writes. But at these critical times I would like to that I view the extreme left just as much of a problem of the far right insofar as the left has been instrumental in the success of Putin’s effort to get his his asset in the White House. The left seems not to understand how a pluralistic society works they still seem to pine for the proletarian to throw off there chains and usher in the worker’s a paradise. In their world the democratic party is a worst threat than the Putin influenced GOP, radical Libertarians and Putin’s special asset Trump. Putin’s RT pumps out anti democratic party propaganda at a prodigious rate knowing this will peal off enough left leaning votes to insure a GOP win in November. Nader seems to have made a new career of pumping out GOP useful agitprop and then there is Hedges who can’t wait for the new Marxist Leninist order , all helped along by the clueless Cornell West. Baring an Leninist revolution all we have is the ballot box in November. The Democrats may not be ivory soap pure but they truly are the only hope that’s left for this country.

4

A distant observer 07.23.18 at 5:18 pm

On should add that framing these figures as an “intellectual dark web” is a rather unfortunate strategy that may make them appear sympathetic in the eyes of many centrists or casual observers. Is it really necessary to use this conspiracy-sounding language when citizising people you disagree with? Why should I feel confident in the arguments of a writer who starts with portraying his/her oppoenents as “dark” network?

5

bob mcmanus 07.23.18 at 5:20 pm

1) they have single-handedly debunked the stereotype

The current (?) fashion that a particular, a few instances, or isolated exceptions completely refute or negate a rule not only shows anti-Enlightenment tendencies on the left, but probably takes us so far back that the Enlightenment Hellenistic Age itself looks like a Utopia. Science did not find the platypus and abandon all biology and taxonomy.

2) Yeah, good book by recently-deceased Losurdo, who remains underread, including by me. But DL does not emphasize the importance of property enough for my tastes

3) Reading Perry Anderson’s Lineages of the Absolutist State most recently about Prussia, I find the extended concept of property most useful. Is the idea of an allodial right, (“my ancestors owned this fief 500 years ago, and whatever new Duke the Holy Roman Emperor installs cannot diminish ot attach it”) possible anymore, or was it ever? Is this a place to find new extra-political rights, like privacy or association? Losurdo does I think recognize that the position in the hierarchy (a title, a free city, a benefice) as an inalienable property right was an important question for a thousand years.

Is Citizenship, its rights and privileges, now an inalienable property right? Bodily autonomy? At least the Libertarians haven’t totally abandoned science, history, and tradition like current “progressives” (as shown at 1) or whatever we might call them. They are all Liberals. All. We Commies know Property is Theft.

6

mjfgates 07.23.18 at 5:34 pm

” what would would unite spewers of Jungian witch-symbol gibberish like Jordan Peterson with self-professed admirers of the scientific method like Sam Harris?”

^ mangled enough that I genuinely do not know what you’re trying to say.

7

b9n10nt 07.23.18 at 5:37 pm

Thank you for this:

It manifestly isn’t an intellectual movement: if it were, what would would unite spewers of Jungian witch-symbol gibberish like Jordan Peterson with self-professed admirers of the scientific method like Sam Harris? It’s a political one, which is largely organized around opposition to claims about structural power inequalities – especially claims that map onto categories such as race and gender.

That was an “aha!” moment for me.

Throat clearing:

Equality of opportunity means -at a minimum- equality of education, healthcare, democratic petitioning, and legal representation.

For the reactionary, equality of opportunity means “let me use my privelege to expand and cement my privelege in all social domains”.

For the left, freedom of speech means “no economic or legal consequences for saying or writing as a private individual in all spheres.”

For the reactionary it means “institutions can and should ONLY de-platform speech that threatens privilege”

Point:

It seems that understanding and perceiving structural inequalities is very difficult for privileged folks. I’d guess it’s genuinely cognitively difficult to perceive. Cognition is partly culturally-determined.

8

Whirrlaway 07.23.18 at 5:52 pm

Doesn’t the IDK inherit directly from the Skeptics? Even one of the same Horsemen. Accomodationist/anti-accomdationist wings. They are just the frothy shore of the same old Pharisaical multitude which has always been defined by their conservatism in the literal sense of wanting curated things to be well conserved. Who need to be secure in their justification as they go about doing what they do. The NPR crowd.

The scientific method, arguably the great gift of the Enlightenment, is the original “Four Corners” doctrine, and it should not be surprising to see it widely employed. “Enrightenment”, nice.

9

Henry 07.23.18 at 5:53 pm

On should add that framing these figures as an “intellectual dark web” is a rather unfortunate strategy that may make them appear sympathetic in the eyes of many centrists or casual observers. Is it really necessary to use this conspiracy-sounding language when citizising people you disagree with? Why should I feel confident in the arguments of a writer who starts with portraying his/her oppoenents as “dark” network?

Perhaps because that is the term that they themselves coined to describe their movement?

10

Lupita 07.23.18 at 6:28 pm

Bob, it was a joke.

11

GBH 07.23.18 at 6:39 pm

One element of the discussion of this current group of intellectual provocateurs and their predecessors in the 1980’s that never seems to rise to the surface is whether they have much of a grasp of the foundational elements that ground their critique. In the case of Peterson, for example, the pieces I have listened to or read display a very shallow grasp of his two favorite sources, Nietzsche and Jung. I would add paranthetically that simply invoking his use of Jung as grounds for dismissing his arguments also displays an unfortunate level of intellectual laziness in his critics, but that is another matter. Similarly with Sam Harris. He might have gone to Stanford and has his advanced degrees in neuroscience, but if you look at a lot of what he says you would have to rate him as a light weight if that in the actual workings of fields like cognitive neuroscience. This goes back to the 1980s group as well. De Souza was certainly the worst–his understanding of Gadamer and hermeneutics was an absolute travesty–but Kimbal, who should have known better given the people he studied with at Yale, was not that much better. I have not looked intothe others on this list, but my guess is that most of them have just enough understanding of the subjects they invoke to buttress their arguments to sound authoritative to their audiences, and a style of presentation that significantly amplifies that impression. Peterson did some reasonably important work in personality theory back in the day, and his YouTube presentations on that subject are both sound and moderate in their presentation, but then he branched out into all the other things he talks about and the presentations became increasingly more aggressive but with a demonstrable lack of scholarly or intellectual depth. Problem being that his grasp of the material became less and less well founded but his presentation ever more self-assured. It would be interesting to see how he would handle a serious Nietzsche scholar, for example, rather than some poor undergrad or grad student.

12

Chip Daniels 07.23.18 at 6:56 pm

In reading some of the critiques of “social justice” (isn’t it just plain old “justice”?) I notice how they aren’t actually using science, but sciency-woo.
For instance, they regularly use statistics and hold them as empirical fact, but vigorously deny personal experience as unreliable anecdote.

Yet personal testimony, when gathered in volume becomes history, and can be as reliable as fact.

We are being asked to believe in a preposterous counter-narrative, that somehow tends of millions of black people managed to concoct a massive lie, that they are being treated with disrespect by the white population.
The testimony of black people is amazingly consistent, telling the same story throughout time, across geography, from every demographic sector of the black population.

Yet we are being asked to dismiss this entirely in favor of measurable statistics. But since the subject we are discussing is the personal interaction between people, the reality will never be captured in a crime report or unemployment statistic.

13

rjk 07.23.18 at 7:03 pm

One of the things that prejudicial oppression does to those affected by it, is to make its prejudices appear true. These systems label people as over-emotional or hysterical, and then torment them; as weak, and then malnourishes them; as lazy, and then makes them unemployed; as stupid, and then mis-educates them. Sustaining the belief that these behaviours are inherent, and not created by an environment, is the goal, because it allows the prejudice to be maintained.

A simple debating tactic is to exploit this “evidence”, and the IDW does this in two ways. Firstly, by making reasonable-sounding inferences from evidence and presenting these as conclusions. Take Sommers and the wage gap – the argument that women might choose lower-paid jobs is not unreasonable, and feminists are bound to support a woman’s right to work-life balance. It’s not hard to point to women opting out of the highest-paid jobs and say “see, they’re choosing to do this!”, and be basically correct. The point, however, is that there are no better choices available, and the left would like there to be better choices available. The same applies to Shapiro and police violence – sure, avoiding the police would be a great way of avoiding getting killed by the police if you have that choice! This stuff isn’t terribly hard to argue with, though – centrist liberals can generally understand that the set of choices available influences the eventual outcome.

It’s the second tactic that’s trickier. The IDW exploits a particular problem, which is that speech means very different things to the oppressed as compared to the privileged.

I’ve seen this play out here on CT a few times, most commonly in discussions of trans rights. A group of mostly honest, earnest left-liberal-spectrum people will generally hold that trans people are deserving not just of their rights but of broader support to counter-act their evident oppression (which is easily evidenced by plain statistics of life outcomes, at the bare minimum).

Yet, as wonkish and academic types, we generally find things interesting, and the intersection of sex, gender, biology, social conditioning, identity and political power is infinitely fascinating. We want our stories about these things to make sense, and this requires that we discuss them. We might even try to reason about these things logically, however unnecessary this may be. I’m sure you get the idea: a fairly harmless symposium breaks out among the blog commentariat, as they reconcile the obvious ethical imperatives with the theoretical framework they picked up from feminist, psychological, sociological or anthropological literature some 1d6 decades ago.

Generally, this prompts an intervention from an actual trans person, who informs everyone that the entire conversation feels menacing and scary to them. As well it might! To have one’s existence, identity, biology and mental state debated by others – even for the purpose of greater understanding and intellectual clarity – is threatening, because even putting these things up for debate has (if the debate is fair and honest) to contain the possibility that the debate might take some other direction than full validation of trans rights.

The problem is that this intervention is so out of tune with the rest of the conversation that one’s first response is shock, followed by defensiveness. Are well-meaning left-liberals not to be permitted to raise each other’s awareness of gender theory by debate on popular left-liberal blogs? It’s this reflex that the IDW really knows how to trigger. They’ll find some way of saying something superficially reasonable, or at least not obviously offensive (which is a pretty low bar), but about some topic that is almost certainly going to trigger a response from the oppressed group which just so happens to be the subject of the article. They will then demonstrate for their audience that said group really is as unreasonable, doctrinaire, brainwashed, delusional, aggressive, over-emotional, or what-have-you, as their original evidence suggested. You can just imagine them typing it out – “quod erat demonstrandum!” – with a knowing smirk.

A more personal example (to me) of this kind of thing was Boris Johnson’s reign at the Spectator magazine, which produced an editorial attacking the people of Liverpool (including, by association, me) for “wallowing in victim status” after a vigil mourning the death of hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq. Some quotes:

“A combination of economic misfortune ­ its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union ­ and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They … see themselves, whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status, yet at the same time they wallow in it.

“Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society.”

The article nails it – by attacking Liverpudlians for their “mawkish sentimentality”, he provoked the entirely desired outrage, thus “proving” his point. He was even sent to Liverpool to apologise by then-leader of the Conservatives Michael Howard, and you can just see the wink to camera as he lets his audience in on the sub-text – “See what I mean about these people? So thin-skinned you can’t even mention them without them demanding an apology!”

Where the IDW differs, albeit slightly, is that their articles are frequently less blatantly provocative. They are much better at restricting their approach to either factual (albeit partial) claims, or discussions conducted in the language of academic inquiry, or at least informed-lay curiosity. This gives them a much more effective way of riding the backlash, too, because it allows them to pose as “just telling the truth”. And it’s not ineffective! It’s not very easy to watch mild(ish)-mannered sub-academic types get hauled over the coals for quoting the wrong statistics or trying to reason their way to a conclusion about something that everyone else thinks was settled decades ago, by ethical considerations if not by a weight of conclusive scientific evidence. The pose of the too-thoughtful-for-his-own-good little guy armed with reason, logic, and a clear-eyed willingness to see the inconvenient truth is a good one, and it will snare many liberals, as it is designed to do. Bonus points if you can get your opponent to put down in writing that, yes, it really might be a good idea to suspend free speech for people like you, whose ideas are too dangerous to be given voice.

Of course, this is why there are so many threads about this on CT, and in certain parts of the NYT – because the readers are similar mild-mannered sub-academic types who are a bit worried that their people are being mis-treated by overbearing SJWs, or at least that such a thing might happen and it’s best to be aware of it. We’d like it if everything could be debated freely – wouldn’t it be great if we could have a real open discussion about any topic, no matter how controversial! The hard thing to remember is that the prerequisite for such a conversation is total safety for the participants, and most people don’t have the safety of allowing their life to be a subject of debate. I’d recommend pointing this out more often, as it’s a good way of inoculating centrist liberals against the IDW – nobody is saying we can’t debate that topic, just that we need to liberate the participants before the debate starts. If the centrist liberal in question really likes debating things, then you might just have given them a good motivation to create a bit more social justice in the world.

14

WLGR 07.23.18 at 7:13 pm

I hope it’s clear to any thoughtful reader that the scenario Robert Zannelli lays out above — from high US political officials like Donald Trump as tightly controlled assets of the Russian state, to squishy soft-left social democratic commentators like Chris Hedges as secret committed Marxist-Leninists, to respected intellectuals like Cornel West as hapless dupes of this aforementioned Russian/Marxist conspiracy — might as well come straight out of a badly photocopied John Birch Society pamphlet of the 1950s or 1960s.

If it wasn’t so disturbing to witness mainstream American liberalism’s recent descent into a prolonged fit of vintage Cold War jingoistic paranoia, it’d be pretty satisfying to see such clear corroborating evidence right here in this thread of the deep ideological kinship to which I was just alluding, between mainstream anti-leftist liberalism and the far-right reactionary fringe. As is, I can only hope that enough people searching for ways to understand the rise of the far right in the US and elsewhere are able to weigh the frenzied ideological fever dreams of Russiagate-obsessed US liberals (citing the influence of shadowy foreign conspiracies against an otherwise pristine liberal political order) against the sober analysis of leftists like Losurdo (citing the influence of the liberal political order’s own immanent tensions and contradictions) and have the presence of mind to opt for the latter.

15

LFC 07.23.18 at 8:05 pm

I’m in awe of mcmanus’s ability to connect, after a fashion, whatever he happens to be reading at the moment to the subject under discussion. I’ve lately been reading Berg’s 1998 biography of Lindbergh, but I don’t think I can connect it too convincingly or coherently to the IDW or much of anything else on this thread. Sorry!

16

Quite Likely 07.23.18 at 8:11 pm

It seems like a drive to defend hierarchy in all its forms is pretty fundamental to conservatism in the way that Corey describes it. If anything I’d say the overlap between the IDW and liberalism demonstrates that it’s possible to be both a liberal and a conservative, not that some of the IDWers are not conservatives.

17

WLGR 07.23.18 at 8:31 pm

GBH, regarding the intellectual credentials of the proto-IDW, you might enjoy Robert Paul Wolff’s wonderful review of The Closing of the American Mind, a satirical novel written by Saul Bellow under the pen name of a fictional reactionary curmudgeon named “Allan Bloom.”

18

bob mcmanus 07.23.18 at 9:09 pm

Bob, it was a joke.

I figured, but I take that methodology pretty seriously. I collect books with titles and subtitles like “Narrative as Social Control” and “Storytelling Industries”.

Because what is the nature of the interjection of a personal narrative or subjective standpoint into an “objective” discussion (In a Different Voice) but either pointing to a platypus as refutation, or more commonly, trite sentimental and kitschy confirmation?

Is this a new barbarism, or maybe the objectivity was a barbarism?

Examples abound, here we have rjk at 13 and safe discourse places for trans. The community or collective is essentialist and general (workers, women, Americans, “citizens” are currently pertinent) and one cannot include the abject without either destroying the collective or shrinking it to the point of political irrelevance.

This fear of personalization is why I try to find an essence or principle to IDW warriors, however badly they may represent it, and try to relate it Brandenburgian Margraviates.

19

L2P 07.23.18 at 9:31 pm

“Perhaps because that is the term that they themselves coined to describe their movement?”

C’mon. And if they called themselves “Martyrs for Justice and Freedom?” They’re not a “Dark Web” of anything. You can read them in the Effing New York Times, for the luv of gawd.

I think the, I don’t know if we have a word for it, let’s say analytical socialists maybe?, have an unfortunate tendency to take libertarians at their word. They say they support segregated schools because of local control and freedom, not racism? OK then. They say they grudgingly support de facto racist outcomes because of a love of an unfettered mark? Sure, why not. They say they grudgingly support a sexist society because science says it must be so? Why, they’re just free thinkers!

And so here we have a bunch of people with multiple, broad platforms to say whatever they want, going on tours with thousands of attendees, getting massive publicity for book sales, saying they’re a “Dark Web,” implying they’re semi-pirates like the abolitionists in pre-1860 Georgia or Wobblies in the 1900 Northwest. And you’re taking them at their word and letting them get away with it.

Objectively, these are the “Apologists for a Racist, Patriarchal, and Inequitable Status Quo.” Call them what they are – hARPIS. But there’s no need to bend over backwards to make them sound more sympathetic then they are.

20

GBH 07.23.18 at 10:04 pm

WLGR, I remember Wolff’s review well, but thank you for the link. It is really the perfect response to much of what is now going on.

21

ph 07.23.18 at 11:09 pm

Henry’s linked article is good. The egalitarian (poorly conceptualized) nature of IDW beliefs noted above is a feature, not a bug. I’m a fan of meritocracies. All opinions are not equal. Expertise and intellectual rigor matter, at least in some arenas. A critic, however, might read the dismissal of the audience of ‘young men’ second or third-order debate as elitist, if the IDW movement is trans-political, or even constructed as Henry asserts. I take a slightly different view. A little knowledge is not a dangerous thing. The IDW audience is not composed of bigots, but a group currently deemed responsible for many of the ills of the modern industrial world, by at least a few. Indeed, if there’s a feature that unites the intellectual elite with the Jonah Goldberg poseurs, it’s the notion that the great unwashed lack the moral and intellectual training to participate in debates about their future. And that prejudice is pure ‘Enlightenment.’

Could there be anything worse than a gathering of IDW big thinkers?
Turns out the answer is yes – the OZY Fest in NYC where ‘ TED meets Coachilla’

“…in reality, OZY Fest is a strange, well-funded mutation of the #Resistance, organized and attended by people who are so out of touch and smugly self-congratulatory that “highlights” of day one, which I attended, are limited to Hillary Clinton talking about Russia and DNC Chairman Tom Perez predicting the party will win “north of 23” House seats and “plus two” Senate seats come November.

For a festival with the tagline “Think. Eat. Rock.” there wasn’t much of anything thought provoking; everything that was said had been said before. (The food was good, though; shout out to the Belgian fries for getting me through the twerk-off portion of the afternoon).”

http://theweek.com/articles/786219/fear-loathing-ozy-fest

22

Jake Gibson 07.24.18 at 12:30 am

Many years ago, in my naive youth, I couldn’t understand why libertarians sided with the right.
I eventually realized that libertarians, in general, were just as hierarchical and authoritarian as any other conservatives. When they talk about liberty it only their own personal liberty.
I put Jung on my list of “interesting nuts”. Well below Tesla and Bucky Fuller, about on the same level as Wilhelm Reich.
Sometimes I wonder how to define myself.
I have called myself a liberal and a leftist, but I don’t think I fit in with the descriptions on this thread. I’m an egalitarian Social Democrat.
Pro LGBT, anti-authoritarian.

23

Orange Watch 07.24.18 at 1:06 am

rjk@13:

The hard thing to remember is that the prerequisite for such a conversation is total safety for the participants, and most people don’t have the safety of allowing their life to be a subject of debate. I’d recommend pointing this out more often, as it’s a good way of inoculating centrist liberals against the IDW – nobody is saying we can’t debate that topic, just that we need to liberate the participants before the debate starts.

You’re doing something extremely problematic here that’s extremely common among identitarian essentialist progressives. Put as simply as possible, you’re asserting your ideological viewpoint is a priori correct, and declaring it immoral – or at a minimum reckless and thoughtless – to question you. When you declare that we must not have certain conversations that can make people uncomfortable (but isn’t that the entire point of trigger warnings?), and those conversations involve questioning your ideology’s assumptions, you’re asserting a hierarchical dominance – we the non-adherents are to be regulated to the position of silent listener, of subordinate student. Theory is not to be debated; no, theory is to be instructed, taught. Even the newest neophyte within its intellectual vanguard is more credible than non-adherents, so long as they can spout orthodoxy. The claim that questioning a theoretical framework is synonymous with invalidating the rights of groups of individuals is truly incredible, and yet you’ve advanced it without any further justification – of course we must accept that questioning a framework is menacing. And yet it’s not. That your framework has been accepted, internalized, and used to structure someone’s identity does not mean the framework is “correct” in any number of senses (untold masses through history have built – and continue to build – their identities upon verifiably false, incoherent, and/or unjust ideological structures), nor does it mean it is perforce coherent or desirable. In that respect, it’s somewhat appalling to see you argue that we must put aside debates about the correctness of your theory until and unless your ideology reigns supreme.

24

bekabot 07.24.18 at 2:49 am

Putin’s RT pumps out anti democratic party propaganda at a prodigious rate knowing this will peal off enough left leaning votes to insure a GOP win in November.

Robert Zannelli: This is not 1954. “Left-leaning voters” don’t listen to Russia.

Please be advised.

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bekabot 07.24.18 at 3:02 am

@ bob mcmanus:

You know, you’re proving her point.

26

likbez 07.24.18 at 3:20 am

@WLGR 07.23.18 at 7:13 pm

If it wasn’t so disturbing to witness mainstream American [neo]liberalism’s recent descent into a prolonged fit of vintage Cold War jingoistic paranoia, it’d be pretty satisfying to see such clear corroborating evidence right here in this thread of the deep ideological kinship to which I was just alluding, between mainstream anti-leftist liberalism and the far-right reactionary fringe.

Somebody joked that Obama married the neocons to the humanitarian bombers and to the SJWs. It s a powerful alliance…

Reaction to the crisis of neoliberalism and loss of confidence in ruling elite generate many different attempts to restore the status quo, some of them grotesque.

BTW Trump’s “National neoliberalism” is one of them. See Sasha Breger Bush in https://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/12/24/trump-and-national-neoliberalism

In this sense, we can view Anti-Russian paranoia as a desperate attempt to the ruling neoliberal elite to restore the control the narrative and cement the cracks in the neoliberal society on the basis of uniting the society via neo-McCarthyism hysteria. Because regular propaganda and neoliberal myths lost their persuading power and no longer work they resort to classic forms of war propaganda in the center of which is the demonization of the “enemy of the people.”

Moreover, the carpet bombing of Trump in neoliberal MSM is really a sign of paranoid reaction of neoliberals (both hard and soft) on the possibility of losing grip on the US electorate and the beginning of the process of dismantling/downsizing the global neoliberal empire led by the USA.

Trump rejection of existing forms of neoliberal globalization is one sign that this process already started and some politicians already are trying to catch the wind.

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likbez 07.24.18 at 3:31 am

“Enrightenment” probably should be understood as the dramatic rise of nationalism including some forms of far right nationalism as a reaction on the crisis on the neoliberal society.

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Emblem14 07.24.18 at 4:50 am

@rjk @13

You’ve hit a very important nail on the head here, and it left me feeling furious because it gets to the fundamental attitudinal/cultural conflict at heart of the two camps you describe.

You’re making a VERY critical assumption with this statement:

“The hard thing to remember is that the prerequisite for such a conversation is total safety for the participants, and most people don’t have the safety of allowing their life to be a subject of debate.”

I think this is insidiously misguided, in a way that tries to obfuscate reality and undermines important principles of honesty, transparency and sincerity that people, including myself, think it crucial to preserve. You saw this come up as one of the main points of disagreement in the Harris-Klein podcast.

ALL political debate ultimately implicates and potentially threatens everyone’s life, identity, property and resources, hopes and dreams…everything. We simply can’t discuss politics or philosophy at all under conditions in which everyone’s self-interest and subjective feelings of safety are completely secure.

If I’m debating a hard leftist, I’m speaking with a type of person who I know, in their fantasies, would like to confiscate the resources of people like me by force and kill me if I dissented. Its’ analogue has happened many times before, after all. Am I entitled to “total safety” in a debate with this person? Such a demand would completely negate their entire politics! When I, as a Jew, decide to engage with a white nationalist who sees me as virus destroying everything he values, I don’t have the ability, or the right, to demand “total safety” prior to combating his premises. I have to expose myself to the noxious emanations of his ideology in the very act of confronting it. The Civil Rights marchers couldn’t demand total safety before they confronted Jim Crow…Etc Etc.

If I choose to repress a point of view through some combination of censorship and taboo, I’m gambling that I’m actually decreasing its power and influence, instead of merely driving it underground where it can feed off the grievance of persecution.

This standard of selectively molly-coddling some people whose lives may be impacted by other people’s politics – by giving them veto power over political discourse with the mere claim of emotional distress – is an infantilizing, pseudo-compassionate overreaction to the understandable indignation at feelling one’s life is up for debate by others. It is an attempt to protect certain classes of people from the trauma of politics itself by ensconcing them in a cocoon of socially enforced taboos against politicizing their existence from the outside, while they have total freedom to politicize their existence from the inside, on their own terms. It’s not a sustainable arrangement.

I understand that one of the main rationales for Social Justice ideology is to establish social norms that enable a political “safe space” for certain marginalized groups to simply exist, sheltered from the supposed existential threats they face. The whole point is to protect people with the least social power and status; whose lives are the most vulnerable to the whims of the ignorant/bigoted majority.

In a fundamental sense, the conflict here is between people who, one the one hand, think that some groups/identities should be afforded this extra protection because the risk of leaving them at the mercy of unfettered opinion is too hazardous to their wellbeing, and on the other hand, people who think that this is corrosive to intellectual integrity, divisively tribal, and undermines a basic cultural expectation of maturity, accountability, self-reliance and resilience as a prerequisite for civic participation.

It rubs people the wrong way that certain classes get blanket exemptions from having their interests and values threatened by others in the normal course of politics, to somehow compensate for their historical marginalization, while the so called “privileged”, ironically enough, get no such accommodation. This is an inherently leftist, collectivist frame, based on notions of group guilt, group retaliation and reduces everyone’s political credibility to identity-denominated chits, as defined by the leftist oppression narrative.

The irony is, anyone who could be construed as a part of the IDW has basically liberal moral commitments to individual rights and equality under the law. People like Harris or Peterson or Weinstein pose no threat to anyone’s life or liberty. No “controversy” dredged up by IDW types, no matter how provocative, calls the dignity or civil rights of any individual into question. The worst one can say is that the IDW weakens the bulwark of social taboo against debate that *might* actually threaten individual rights, through the traditional liberal paradox of having to “tolerate intolerance” in order to allow people to sincerely express their beliefs.

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bad Jim 07.24.18 at 6:19 am

WLGR: “If it wasn’t so disturbing to witness mainstream American liberalism’s recent descent into a prolonged fit of vintage Cold War jingoistic paranoia”

likbez: “Moreover, the carpet bombing of Trump in neoliberal MSM”

The very mention of the dark web has drawn some new and unusual specimens.

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bad Jim 07.24.18 at 6:31 am

Emblem14: why is that particular number emblematic? One’s hasty assumption is that it refers to a particularly odious slogan. My apologies if it refers to your age or your neck size.

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Faustusnotes 07.24.18 at 6:46 am

I would say that the thing that unites these dudes is not just an opposition to social justice and critiques of heirarchy generally. Harris for example doesn’t have any strong positions on a lot of this stuff. No, they have a specific animus – islam. That’s what entangled Harris with these people, perhaps with a side serve of anti-black animus. But even his flirtations with more traditional racism were likely drawn from his newfound sympathy for the anti Islamic writings of the old racisms proponents. Once they get entangled they need to show their robustness and willingness to dismiss “soft” political positions on social justice that lack “evidence” – like trans rights. But that is secondary to their main concerns, which are exterminating Muslims. Islamophobia, it’s a gateway drug.

I see the usual suspects are denying Russian interference still. Well done people. And Orange watch making a direct plea to be allowed to be rude to trans people,and dismissing their identity as mere “ideology.” You do you, orange watch!

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bekabot 07.24.18 at 7:05 am

People like Harris or Peterson or Weinstein pose no threat to anyone’s life or liberty.

I disagree. If your life is less valuable than somebody else’s life for whatever reason, then your life, by the same measure, is more disposable than theirs. The same goes for your liberty. Once you’ve established whose life/liberty/property rights/entitlement to the pursuit of happiness counts the most, it’s an easy lateral move, especially when hard times threaten or have in fact arrived, to declare the lives/liberties/property/civil rights of the less-favored group(s) hors de combat and have become too expensive for an already-overextended society to keep paying for.

No ‘controversy’ dredged up by IDW types, no matter how provocative, calls the dignity or civil rights of any individual into question.

You’re kidding, right? Have you ever actually read any of their stuff? The manosphere, I think, could be described as part of the IDW. Well, I made it a practice to lurk at a few of the manosphere sites for a number of years (because back then it amused me to do it) and I can tell you from experience that the intrepid lads for whose benefit these sites were put together thought any day during which they didn’t get to trash somebody’s dignity was a waste of attention and time. They turned harassment into an art form, or tried to. They schemed constantly to shoot down the civil rights of their enemies. That’s no mere metaphor, BTW. These are the guys who made a hero out of the Santa Barbara shooter. They’re also the guys who drove Leslie Jones away from Twitter. They’re also the guys who drove Lindsey West off Twitter, or at least gave her reason to leave. They acted in such a massively threatening manner towards Anita Sarkeesian that the San Francisco police handed her case-file to the FBI. As for what they’re doing now, as of this minute, from what I’ve heard I understand that they’re glorifying the Toronto shooter the way they glorified the Santa Barbara killer. (They’re especially impressed by the fact that the Toronto shooter killed a very young girl. That’s not an attitude they’d cultivate if they thought the girl’s life was as valuable as their own.)

I still think these people have the basic right to say what they think and to post what they want, but that’s only because my dedication to what’s called “free speech” is close to absolute. In the world you’re trying to channel, Emblem14, I would grant these people my “toleration” for their views because I’d want them to reciprocate with “toleration” for my own; that’s the classic-liberal bargain. (“I do not agree with what you say” etc., etc.) The problem is that the formulation(s) we’ve all been taught to revere are not the objects of even the remotest approach to respect in certain sectors of the IDW. The idea that the people who spend time there could be taught to “tolerate” the notions of those whom they despise provokes them into fits of hooting laughter, which (in the event that you doubt what I’m saying and feel the need to verify it) you can listen in on whenever you like.

So: it’s not a matter of my learning to respect somebody else’s “sincere beliefs” in the hope that in time they (in return) will come to be able to respect my “sincere beliefs” or even of my accepting the unhappy fact that my “sincere beliefs” will forever go unrespected by a specific cadre of fellow-citizens on whose behalf I am obliged to make a needed social sacrifice. Not at all. The IDW, at least in spots, is a realm where none of this matters. Debating-society customs and rituals are dismissed by the habitués of the IDW as fodder for cattle and bait for suckers. Those are their sincere beliefs, and they don’t allow for backtalk. As I believe they’re meant to, they bring discussion to a halt.

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bob mcmanus 07.24.18 at 7:14 am

bekabot:You know, you’re proving her point.

Perhaps. I suggest you revue the last two centuries of discourse space shared by communists (plus unions and other radicals) and liberal capitalists and get back to me about justifiable fears of exclusion and oppression. And don’t assume that in the conflict between the hegemonic and abject I come down on the side of existing collectives, communities, traditions, and institutions.

Then maybe we can talk objectively about the partial or total elimination of legal protection of extended notions of private property and civil society without anyone feeling threatened.

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rjk 07.24.18 at 8:16 am

Orange Watch:

You’re doing something extremely problematic here…
The claim that questioning a theoretical framework is synonymous with invalidating the rights of groups of individuals is truly incredible, and yet you’ve advanced it without any further justification – of course we must accept that questioning a framework is menacing.

So, I tend to agree here. Debate is fine. But where that debate is about a live political issue, where outcomes are being shaped, we have to accept that certain discussions can legitimately be seen as menacing by the subjects of those debates. “Should we euthanise the unemployed?” is definitely pretty menacing toward the unemployed, even if it’s just a debate. This is why we normally surround such controversial debates with various forms of ritual designed to make it clear that we are only interested in the debate and not in enforcing the debate’s conclusions on the world. On the internet, and in society generally, these rituals are not performed and the norms of the debating society do not hold.

I get it, really, I do. I would like nothing more than to be able to debate any subject, all day long, no matter how controversial. But, sooner or later, I will end up doing that in front of someone who would feel threatened by the debate, and they would challenge me on it. And, frankly, I don’t think that “it’s just a debate” or “it’s vital for the freedom of our society that I be allowed to continue to say these things” really cuts it, even if those things are true. If my objective is to stop the other person feeling threatened then I have to work toward a society where the risk of actual persecution of this person is so minimal that they no longer feel threatened by debating the idea.

Of course, I could simply assert that my right to continue the debate outweighs their feelings, and leave it there. I would not be wrong to say this but, to paraphrase The Dude, I would be an asshole.

Let me put this another way: we live in a society of broadly free speech. My opinion that it’s incumbent on those of us who want to debate the merits of other people’s identities to ensure that those people are safe from harm while doing so is just an opinion. I can’t force you to behave in any particular way. You can therefore disagree with me, but you should not feel threatened by my opinion, because freedom of speech is reasonably secure and people who agree with my perspective have no credible means of harming you for your disagreement. We ought to expand the sphere of public life that works this way, thereby expanding the set of things that can be debated without the debate being interrupted by concerns over the political consequences of voicing certain ideas.

Emblem14:

If I’m debating a hard leftist, I’m speaking with a type of person who I know, in their fantasies, would like to confiscate the resources of people like me by force and kill me if I dissented. Its’ analogue has happened many times before, after all. Am I entitled to “total safety” in a debate with this person? Such a demand would completely negate their entire politics! When I, as a Jew, decide to engage with a white nationalist who sees me as virus destroying everything he values, I don’t have the ability, or the right, to demand “total safety” prior to combating his premises. I have to expose myself to the noxious emanations of his ideology in the very act of confronting it.

In my view, you are entitled to safety in general. You should not be killed by others. You can debate the possibility of being killed, or of killing your enemies, of course. So long as neither of you is realistically about to do so, it’s fine. Once we have a realistic threat of violence, it ceases to be an academic debate designed to arrive at some underlying truth, and becomes a political campaign. The standards are different.

I broadly agree with your goals here, and I think we’re closer than it appears. I don’t want selective safe spaces for protected groups, because the notion of treating people differently based on their group identity seems undesirable to me. What I am looking for is a universal baseline that can apply to each person in the same way which, once satisfied, allows anyone to say anything without the terms of the debate to be called into question.

The irony is, anyone who could be construed as a part of the IDW has basically liberal moral commitments to individual rights and equality under the law. People like Harris or Peterson or Weinstein pose no threat to anyone’s life or liberty. No “controversy” dredged up by IDW types, no matter how provocative, calls the dignity or civil rights of any individual into question. The worst one can say is that the IDW weakens the bulwark of social taboo against debate that *might* actually threaten individual rights, through the traditional liberal paradox of having to “tolerate intolerance” in order to allow people to sincerely express their beliefs.

I’m not sure I see the irony. To the extent that the IDW are committed to the dignity and civil rights of minorities, this is precisely what makes it acceptable for them to say the things that they do. They’re just very good at exploiting the fuzziness of the line in order to get reactions from people who see them as genuinely threatening.

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Collin Street 07.24.18 at 9:25 am

This is why we normally surround such controversial debates with various forms of ritual designed to make it clear that we are only interested in the debate and not in enforcing the debate’s conclusions on the world.

If you’re not going to do anything with the outcomes of discussion, if you’re not actually going to lobby for people to be killed if that’s what you’ve worked out is best…

… what, exactly, was the point of the debate in the first place? I mean, the discussion itself, “should you be killed”, is pretty stressful, comes at huge cost; if you’re not going to do anything with the answers, if the suffering is all for naught… what’s the social utility, here? Where’s the benefit to go with the cost of the stress you’ve caused?

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Emblem14 07.24.18 at 10:30 am

@rjk

I think your formulation of the debate landscape in your response to me and Orange Watch is fair. It’s a lot less draconian than how I interpreted your original comment on a requirement of “total safety”.

Of course open discussions of certain subjects are menacing to those who stand to be negatively affected if a particular side achieves power to enact policy. A lot of women I know are feeling vividly menaced by the pending situation with the supreme court concerning their right to a legal abortion.

It is important to keep that in mind when “culture war” issues are being discussed among people who don’t have skin in the game, so to speak. Those of us who deign to observe and comment need to acknowledge that privileged perch and accept the responsibility to treat issues that impact with other people’s lives in real ways with the seriousness and care it deserves.

I’ve been a part of conversations where the humanity of the subjects in question seemed less important than the need of some participants to reinforce a set of social norms they saw as sacrosanct for the Common Good. It’s understandable for there to be an intractable tension between people who need to conceptualize society a certain way to maintain the fidelity of their own moral framework, and others who want to demolish that conceptualization because it doesn’t validate their self-professed identity, or their very existence as a full human being. This goes to very complex problems of epistemology, categorization, language and moral psychology that result in a clash of incompatible worldviews.

It would help immensely if before talking about these “live political issues” as you say, everyone planted their flags and acknowledged the meta-context of the discussion in the larger struggle between absolutist positions that pose real threats to the stakeholders. Perhaps some pre-registered assurances of basic mutual respect on a human level would lower the temperature, allow for more charitable dialogue and less paranoia and aspersions.

As it stands, the predictable effects of the overcompensation I referred to still holds discourse hostage. At least in left-leaning spaces, the most sensitive person in the room has the unquestionable license to set the terms of discourse for everyone based on their personal tolerances. No one can be exluded for being too unreasonable or too extreme, because there is no viable consensus on what that means. Identity epistemology takes precedence over reasoned argument in a crude attempt to rebalance historically inequitable representation of perspectives. Argument itself is delegitimized if it threatens certain sacred narratives. In a pinch, unfalsifiable, unaccountable claims of harm and trauma are (abusively) deployed to seize the moral high ground, shut down discussion, or engage in moral blackmail and forced contrition. It’s an absurd state of affairs and tragic in that it fuels exactly the forces such tactics are ostensibly designed to suppress.

I stand broadly as an anti-radical, anti-authoritarian and a “Liberal of Fear”.

Anti-radical because radicals, in my experience, don’t spend effort to think things through, are driven by passion, are filled with blinding certainty of their own righteousness, don’t understand the complexity of the things they want to change and are willing to gamble with millions of peoples lives based on abstract theories without even the prudence to run small-scale experiments first.

Anti-authoritarian because authoritarianism is a violation of consent all the way from the individual level to the polity (and I detest bullies)

A liberal of fear because despite liberalism’s flaws, the flaws of the leading alternatives are far more terrifying and destructive. We take so many momentous intergenerational accomplishments bourn of great sacrifice completely for granted and some are willing to burn it all down for a pipe-dream. I cannot respect that.

Oh and @bad Jim, my handle means nothing in particular, but you throw some good shade.

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Daragh 07.24.18 at 11:10 am

There’s another example of this ‘enrightening’ thesis in Ireland. For those unaware, David Quinn is the head of the Iona Institute and advocates for a kind of soft-theocratic, deeply paternalistic traditional Catholic society, and as a result spends much of his time bitterly complaining about feminists and atheists and various other species of heathen that have destroyed our green and pleasant land.

Last week Harris (a prominent new atheist) and Peterson (on the record as an atheist) did some form of talk in Dublin. Quinn, demonstrating the feel for public opinion that saw his group get shellacked in the abortion referendum, is now penning gleeful articles about how all the cool kids love Jordan.

If one reads Harris and Peterson’s and Quinn’s writings it is clear that they have very different approaches and basic philosophical world views. On theism they are positively hostile (Quinn doesn’t like the godless). The one belief they DO share seems to be ‘upper middle class white males are AWESOME and should be able to do as they please’, and it seems conveniently enough to be the one belief they’re actually willing to prioritise above all others.

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Z 07.24.18 at 11:33 am

As I wrote many times already here on CT, one of the striking and historically essentially unique feature of the current period is the coincidence of 1) the existence of group of significant size having achieved genuinely dominant educative achievements, 2) no sign of this level of educative achievement being in the process of being universalized and (mostly as a consequence of 1) and 2)) 3) extreme inequality of wealth and political power. Politics is in the process of reacting to this new situation – in particular with the disintegration of the traditional political coalitions that could be called the Left and the Right in the 1925-1975 period – but it should not be surprising that the intellectual discourse on the society is also being transmuted in the process.

Now let us pause for a second and try to imagine what could be the most self-serving, the most personally gratifying depiction one could imagine of group 1), its peculiar characteristics and its rule. One that would both underscore their actual domination, but also give them full moral credence to exert it unreservedly and with full absolution of the effects (think big, think “divine right of kings” for the aristocracy). Personally, I would come up with something like “society is shaped by the informed personal choices of individuals with exceptional, intrinsic and perhaps immutable intellectual qualities. Any outcomes coming of this process is both virtuous and optimal. Opponents to this world-view are either jealous of talent, or unfortunately plagued by low intellectual capabilities. In all likelihood both.”

So I’m not surprised to see flourish an ideological movement producing more or less exactly this discourse. In particular, though I believe Henry’s

[IDW is] a political [movement], which is largely organized around opposition to claims about structural power inequalities

is precisely correct, I think that

especially claims that map onto categories such as race and gender.

is not quite accurate. I don’t think that race and gender are especially problematic in themselves for the IDW. What is problematic about them is that the life experience of most women and every American Black is a direct refutation to the “society is shaped by the informed personal choices of individuals with exceptional, intrinsic and perhaps immutable intellectual qualities” thesis. So their testimony has to be put in the “jealous or plagued with low intellectual qualities (and probably both)” camp.

Likewise, “all ideas ought to be on the table for examination, including ones that are politically unpopular or offensive” is not I believe a credible flagship statement for the IDW (on the contrary, by and large they are an exceptionally uncurious and ignorant group, for academics – my favorite illustration being Haidt’s taking Marx’s Theses on Feueurbach as representative of what he calls the SJW approach, thereby showing that he did not bother reading it, and that text is freaking 600 words long!). What cements the IDW is that they believe that inequalities are desirable and that they are justified by intrinsic and probably immutable intellectual qualities of human beings, they themselves being especially endowed with such qualities.

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bianca steele 07.24.18 at 1:43 pm

Daragh @ 37

Peterson has had a lot of nice things to say about religion, and it’s not difficult to find glowing articles about him from a Christian point of view. You can also find people making detailed arguments about why he’s gotten Christian theology wrong, but no more, from what I can see, than for any other writer without a DDiv degree who uses explicitly religious language on occasion. The kind of evangelical who reserves “Christian” for members of their own brand wouldn’t like him, naturally, but the kind of religionists who looks for bits of their own religion among people who aren’t members of their group might reasonably elevate him. I think someone who believed Peterson would be pretty accommodating in practice to authoritarian religions even if he didn’t believe himself (and for that matter I’ve run into declared Christians over the years who believe pretty much what Peterson does).

Harris, a declared atheist and foe of scriptural fundamentalism, is a stickier wicket. I don’t see why a proponent of “reasonable religion,” if there are any such odd ducks remaining, wouldn’t agree with quite a lot of what he says, however, it doesn’t sound like your bishop is one of those.

They both strike me as staking out a kind of nec plus ultra between the two sides, as the Quillette editors (presumably hope to) do in a different way. Harris and Peterson have chosen to face, and thus oppose, the kind of progressivism represented by equal rights for women and tolerance of all religions. Bishops might reasonably conclude they gain more from not making them defensive on the other side, as well as ours.

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WLGR 07.24.18 at 2:51 pm

Faustusnotes, I think the case of Sam Harris is a pretty neat example of how the relationship between mainstream liberal ideology and far-right ideology functions, especially since [he’s a huckster and a charlatan through and through](https://rhizzone.net/articles/sam-harris-fraud/) and will follow the ideological path of least resistance no matter where it leads. What’s interesting is that he was born into practically the platonic ideal of a bona fide liberal cultural milieu (his father was a middling-successful actor in LA and his mother was a producer for Gossip Girl) and started off his public career as a “New Atheist” ostensibly in the name of all that’s true and right and modern and progressive, but the point when he glommed onto the anti-Islam stuff was at the crest of the Bush-era “war on terror” frenzy, the era when “serious” Democratic legislators were voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq and when Kerry was introducing himself at the 2004 DNC with the words “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty.”

In other words, Harris is a living breathing avatar of the abiding connection between mainstream liberal political figures adopting and helping legitimize surface-level right-wing racist/jingoist ideological tropes for the sake of “pragmatism” or whatever (see Kerry’s “radical Islamic Muslims” or Hillary Clinton’s “superpredators”) and fringe ideologues of liberal “enlightenment” values falling deeper and deeper down the far-right rabbit hole until they come out the other side holding hands with fascists. One way to apply this lesson might be to look at today’s mainstream Democrats harping on the threat of treasonous foreign Rooskie puppets loudly enough to make an ’80s Reaganite proud, and recognize that they’re playing this exact same tried-and-true game of trying to outflank right-wingers from the right and defeat them “by their own [racist/jingoist] logic,” a game that will inevitably help bring about the same sort of ideological collateral damage in the future as the Trumpian collateral damage past versions of this game have helped bring about in the present.

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Orange Watch 07.24.18 at 3:13 pm

rjk@34

If my objective is to stop the other person feeling threatened then I have to work toward a society where the risk of actual persecution of this person is so minimal that they no longer feel threatened by debating the idea.

Emblem14 covered a lot of what I would respond, but I’ll raise a few other points.

You’re still assuming your ideology’s viewpoint as a priori correct. Specifically, you’re assuming that matters of identity will necessarily be public. The sorts of conversations you assume to be happening among safe, privileged, unthreatened participants about uninvolved, threatened participants can only be verified to occur if everyone lays all their identities on the table beforehand. If participants do not adhere to standpoint epistemology, and do not wish to support standpoint epistemology, however, they are disincentived to do so, even if your framework would grant their arguments greater weight based on their claim to an identity under discussion, or give them claim to potentially derail discussions they find personally threatening. Privacy and anonymity grants its own safety.

As has been noted upthread as well, politics is frequently threatening, and not just to the particular essentialist categories defined as threatened by progressive identitarian essentialism. And if you fall outside “traditional” identities, but also do not fit into the neat boxes that progressive identitarians declare to be inherent, immutable and all-inclusive, even those ostensibly nonthreatening discussions marginalize you and deny your existence. Claiming debate of the correctness of your identity taxonomy to be dangerous and marginalizing is highly problematic for individuals whose personal experiences and sense of identity suggest that it is not accurate. And yes, I am keenly aware of the tension between my statements in this paragraph and the prior one.

Lastly, critical theory and ideologies drawing upon it have an unfortunate tenancy to favor restructuring hierarchies rather than eliminating them, and this is evident in their tendencies to attempt to control and narrow the acceptable scope of debate to those their framework encompasses. This is problematic in and of itself, but when it’s coupled with the demographics of socially, academically, and all too frequently economically (or more succinctly, class) privileged individuals elevating themselves into rhetorically or even socially privileged positions of authority while simultaneously dismissing the significance of non-essentialist economic and social privilege, and/or the functional existence of class… you’re going to have pushback when you present their framework as something that should be accepted as a baseline.

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Patrick 07.24.18 at 3:17 pm

I think the shortest explanation of the “intellectual dark web” is that any community that dedicates itself to the proposition that reasoned debate must be had, and bad ideas must be crushed in the crucible of discourse, will, by its nature and the nature of human society, soon have a lot of hangers on who believe in bad ideas but who are willing and eager to discuss them.

Discussion will then happen, but, ideas tend not to be crushed entirely out of society. Even if, for example, Harris devastates Peterson in a discussion about truth, even if his audience recognizes this, Peterson isn’t going to admit it, and Peterson’s audience isn’t ALL going to admit it, and Peterson’s audience isn’t all even going to know about that particular conversation. So Peterson’s ideas will continue to exist on at least some level, and the discussion will happen again, and again. And the community will become a place where the bad idea is accepted as at least minimally reasonable- reasonable enough to discuss.

Similarly, the shortest explanation of the social justice left is that any community that dedicates itself to the proposition that some ideas threaten people and therefore ought not be articulated, will, by its nature and the nature of human society, soon have a lot of bad ideas that they’ve enshrined and transformed into shibboleths- because these ideas looked plausible at the time, and were made untouchable before they were really worked through.

And so bad ideas hang on forever like untouchable tumors.

When people from the social justice culture go to the discourse culture, they’ll be horrified because their shibboleths are being challenged. And they’ll look at the people they were told were on their side in this culture, and see them saying that a particular shibboleth deserves to be challenged, and by the standards of THEIR culture that marks the speaker as morally degraded.

When people from the discourse culture go to the social justice culture, they’ll see blatant and open contradictions, and want to challenge them. And they’ll articulate ideas that are actually lifted straight from the social justice culture’s shibboleths, only to get attacked for them by defenders of other shibboleths, while the rest of the social culture refuses to defend them because they’ve been pre-judged guilty for challenging a shibboleth in the first place.

That’s what I see.

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b9n10nt 07.24.18 at 3:20 pm

Emblem14 @28:

It rubs people the wrong way that certain classes get blanket exemptions from having their interests and values threatened by others in the normal course of politics, to somehow compensate for their historical marginalization, while the so called “privileged”, ironically enough, get no such accommodation. This is an inherently leftist, collectivist frame, based on notions of group guilt, group retaliation and reduces everyone’s political credibility to identity-denominated chits, as defined by the leftist oppression narrative.

Obviously, we’re talking about SJW’s of the (mostly campus) left. But what is instructive is to see the same culture of political discourse active amidst the centrist conservative white middle class. Middle class white institutions (their homes, schools, places of work, social spaces and governments) consistently no-platform others who would question their narrative of benign, meritocratic, objective, universal valuations. They consistently uses narratives of personal suffering and victimhood (e.g. let’s not “rub people the wrong way”) to claim intellectual merit.

There is scant room for middle class white institutions (MCWI) to challenge their narratives: not in their politics, not in their textbooks, not in their political dinner table discussions, not in their entertainment. (It’s gotten better, but the ever-ready MCWI reaction against what in the 8os was derided as “revisionist history” or what today is derided as “identity politics” is all about policing this “safe space”.)

Are we not familiar with middle class white discussions that climax at “I worked my ass off to achieve [x]” as a way to legitimate the general correctness of the status quo and the to infantilize the Other? How is that different from other groups’ claims to status based on victimhood?

And isn’t it remarkable that the only MCWI that consistently honors the ideal of open debate regardless of whose identity might be triggered is the University? A place historically distinguished by its protection for the social status of participants: safe jobs (again, historically), a promise of sustained or increased privelege once the degree is achieved, the physical safety of the campus in relation to the often meaner spaces of the surrounding markets and neighborhoods.

The classical liberal intellectual, the defender of Western values, the heroic product of WMCIs says: “the Other uses their victimhood to claim status”, “the Other seeks special treatment so that their identity isn’t threatened or degraded”, “the Other is intolerant and uncomprehending of dissenting voices”, “the Other no-platforms because they’re too delicate for free speech”. “I alone am willing to seek the truth regardless of where it leads”.

Physician, heal thyself. Or rather, realize that their is no healing: “rivers and mountains may change, but you cannot change human nature.” (Just watched Scorcese’s “Silence”, that’s a line). For one group to speak to another group, great care must always be taken say “we come in peace”, “we respect who you are”. If that care isn’t taken, it will be scanned as aggression (however micro). Feigning incredulity at these facts is itself a play for dominance.

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likbez 07.24.18 at 4:42 pm

@Patrick 07.24.18 at 3:17 pm

Discussion will then happen, but, ideas tend not to be crushed entirely out of society. Even if, for example, Harris devastates Peterson in a discussion about truth, even if his audience recognizes this, Peterson isn’t going to admit it, and Peterson’s audience isn’t ALL going to admit it, and Peterson’s audience isn’t all even going to know about that particular conversation. So Peterson’s ideas will continue to exist on at least some level, and the discussion will happen again, and again. And the community will become a place where the bad idea is accepted as at least minimally reasonable- reasonable enough to discuss.

Similarly, the shortest explanation of the social justice left is that any community that dedicates itself to the proposition that some ideas threaten people and therefore ought not be articulated, will, by its nature and the nature of human society, soon have a lot of bad ideas that they’ve enshrined and transformed into shibboleths- because these ideas looked plausible at the time, and were made untouchable before they were really worked through.

And so bad ideas hang on forever like untouchable tumors.

Naked Capitalism has an interesting discussion about the society polarization.

Reader Coping Strategies for Engaging With Committed [neo]Liberals
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/07/reader-coping-strategies-engaging-committed-liberals.html

One interesting recommendation of dealing with rabid neoliberals is along the lines “Thank you for running Hillary so Trump could win.”

Here is another interesting comment

readerOfTeaLeaves , July 24, 2018 at 12:06 pm

I’m really hopeful that Michael Hudson’s upcoming book on the roots of Christianity will open up a whole new conversation for people of all views, particularly the role of debt and ‘what we owe to one another’. Or when we should, and what we shouldn’t, owe one another.

IMVHO, Trump is the apotheosis of a debt-based form of greed, which conventional politics mostly exalts and exacerbates, but doesn’t seem to really understand — and papers over its social costs [see also: FoxNews, CNBC]. In this form of (leveraged) debt, the debtor owes absolutely nothing to society, irrespective of the social dislocations that his/her debt creates.

I find that people who get caught up in Dem/Repub conflicts are unreachable on political terms, but if the conversation shifts to economics, to outrage at financial shenanigans, to who ‘owes’ what to whom, the emotional tone shifts and the conversations are much more engaged.

The R’s that I know tend to affiliate with ‘lenders’, but have an abhorrence of debt. They seem weirdly incapable of grappling with the social and political implications of debt. To them, debt is a sign of weakness. I find myself struggling to grapple with their worldview on the general topic of ‘debt’.

The D’s that I know tend to at least be able to think about debt as a means to an end: an education, a home, a business idea. But they seem to experience debt as a form of guilt, or powerlessness, a lot of the time. The people in my life who fall into this category are very careful with money, but they are also capable of carrying on a conversation about social meaning of debt.

I don’t think it is any accident that the two most articulate, informed voices in current politics are on the ‘left’, and their expertise and focus is on debt: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I suspect that is because debt is one of the most fundamental social-political-cultural issues of our time.

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Orange Watch 07.24.18 at 4:45 pm

Patrick@41:

This is actually a very clear summation of how the two modalities clash. I’d add that it seems like a lot of the problems both have with self-awareness come down to an unwillingness or inability to admit their camp includes actors and arguments relying on irrationality and/or bad faith. I’d argue that the discourse culture is more given to blindness to irrationality from within its ranks, and the social justice culture to bad faith – because each community has enshrined the inverse of each respective value as foundational, so they are less willing to consider the possibility that those who they identify with might be betraying it.

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b9n10nt 07.24.18 at 4:48 pm

White middle class liberals (for want of a better term) critisize SJWs for their fragility

SJWs criticize white middle class liberals for their fragility

I think it’s largely the same phenomenon being described.

47

Ray Vinmad 07.24.18 at 6:25 pm

“It’s a political one, which is largely organized around opposition to claims about structural power inequalities – especially claims that map onto categories such as race and gender.”

It seems similar to the campaign around climate change. What it does is increase doubt. They don’t have good arguments but they throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks, and to create plausible deniability for people who want to ignore race and gender and other positional factors in explaining social organization.

Aspects of their methodology (for lack of a better term) are ultimately self-defeating insofar as they want to claim the mantle of science by using data (which is only true of some). For example, to go their way, you have to ignore most findings in neuroscience and social science. You also have to go back and debate settled issues over and over. You have to think (as with climate change) that there are all these ‘so-called experts and what makes them so smart’? Sometimes cherry picking works out for them, though.

Like the shills for the cigarette and fossil fuel companies, they don’t have to be right or give good arguments–they only have give people something to say to themselves when they start to have doubts or someone raises an issue whose conclusion makes them uncomfortable.

And it’s a living. The good part for the hucksters in the IDW is that the market for their blather is sizable, and the pockets funding them are potentially very deep if they promise to hit the right buttons often enough.

48

so close yet so far 07.24.18 at 6:32 pm

rjk13

I completely agree with your description of the dynamic at play and I am simultaneously shocked that this is the conclusion you can arrive at.

The hard thing to remember is that the prerequisite for such a conversation is total safety for the participants, and most people don’t have the safety of allowing their life to be a subject of debate. I’d recommend pointing this out more often, as it’s a good way of inoculating centrist liberals against the IDW – nobody is saying we can’t debate that topic, just that we need to liberate the participants before the debate starts.

This is ludicrous. All of these debates are about how to best go about liberating oppressed classes and/or about the manner in which they are (or not) oppressed. People who push for social justice advocate for *radical* action to be taken and they don’t want to debate until after their program is pushed through?

49

Faustusnotes 07.24.18 at 6:45 pm

Orange watch, being trans, gay, indigenous, or any of the other identities at risk of violence from the majority is not an “ideology”. It’s a fact, a lived experience. The request made is that political debate about the rights of minorities not be conducted in such a way as to make them feel threatened, intimidated or endangered
Yet you insist on referring to these identities as an “ideology” when they challenge your right to use exterminationist, exclusionary or threatening language. Why do you think being gay, trans, Muslim or indigenous is an “ideology”? (I would add “female” to the category of people threatened for their identity in the USA, but of course that will make your head explode).

50

bekabot 07.24.18 at 7:13 pm

Then maybe we can talk objectively about the partial or total elimination of legal protection of extended notions of private property and civil society without anyone feeling threatened.

It’s not a conversation you’re going to be having with me, Mr. McManus, because I’m not stumping for the partial or total elimination of legal protection of extended notions of private property and civil society at all.

(Though I will point out that notions of private property, especially “extended” ones, and notions of civil society will always come into conflict, because they always do — and when they do, somebody or some group of somebodies has to decide what’s more important and which set of priorities should prevail. No Sky God or Free Market Fairy has ever been known to intervene: the decision, when it’s made and by whomever it is made, is always strictly human; which means it’s never guaranteed to be “objective”. But I digress.)

Believe it or not, I’m one of those people who still wants to save capitalism. OTOH, you have my permission to feel as threatened as you like. No one person has the prerogative to tell another person how to feel. (Sometimes I feel threatened myself, but — here’s the kicker — I don’t get to ask for special benefits on that basis and I know I’d get ragged unmercifully if I tried.)

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bekabot 07.24.18 at 7:38 pm

When people from the social justice culture go to the discourse culture, they’ll be horrified because their shibboleths are being challenged.

IMO, Patrick, you’re making a mistake I’ve seen made on this blog before, which is to think that right-wing radicals are part of the “discourse culture” or are interested in joining it. They’ll be happy to string you along if by doing so they can gain access to cultural institutions which they (along with most of the rest of us) still regard as prestigious: if, for example, they can finagle an on-campus soapbox or platform at a good school, then so far as they’re concerned, the comity-and-amity pretense has been worthwhile. But spend any time investigating the IDW and/or hanging out at IDW sites, and you’ll find that it’s not a pretense they feel the need to keep up when they’re amongst brothers and friends.

Yes, this is crude formulation, but I think it’s an accurate one.

52

ترول 07.24.18 at 9:14 pm

Emblem14@28:
People like Harris or Peterson or Weinstein pose no threat to anyone’s life or liberty. No “controversy” dredged up by IDW types, no matter how provocative, calls the dignity or civil rights of any individual into question.

Sam Harris in 2005: “I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror.”

Sam Harris in 2012: “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”

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b9n10nt 07.25.18 at 12:05 am

@ 52

Thank you for posting these quotes.

The privileged act, the weak are acted upon, and imagined to have no agency themselves. “We will police you in a manner that ensures our own safety” means the “you” are an obeject who is only acted upon. The “we” imagines it can act unilaterally without dynamic consequences.

But once we descend from the perspective of privilege, we must consider (apart from the inherent oppression of ethnic or religious profiling) how society as a dynamic system might respond: police corrupted with newly granted coercive measures, the profiled becoming resentful and thus less integrated/invested in the society that profiles them.

Unintended consequences: the imagination of the privileged is so pregnant with them when they see themselves as acted upon; but when the privileged act, the specter of blowback, of complications, of attending to history’s hard lessons and being sensitive to social violence as a dynamic that perpetuates itself…all this vanishes, and social policy becomes a grade school Newtonian physics problem.

Harris’s stance on policing Muslims in the West demonstrates the limits of liberal enlightenment. Reactionary liberalism, we could call it…those who want a society only open enough so that they are not threatened by change, by interdependence…

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Emblem14 07.25.18 at 1:01 am

b9n10nt@43

Liberal MCWI and SJ aren’t compatible worldviews. If you’ve seen Haidt’s presos on “Truth U” vs. “Social Justice U”, he makes that claim explicitly.

The white guy who says “I worked my ass off” actually thinks that counts for something real and true, and that he earned what he has in a legitimate way. The SJ lens wants to delegitimize (or at least severely complicate) his notion of “earnings” as instead the result of oppressive systemic wealth transfers from certain classes/identities to others under a general rubric of plunder. MCWI are illegitimate because their foundations are built on theft and murder. Meritocracy is a lie, “equal opportunity” is a lie, we will only achieve justice by tearing down the system and building a new one through radical redistribution. Never mind how, in the meantime, give us our safe spaces and bias response teams.

The SJ worldview is a gross ideological oversimplification that collapses into incoherence on close analysis. Granted, the MCWI ideology, necessitating a belief in an untainted, fair meritocratic system that produces morally “correct” outcomes, is similarly blinkered. Nevertheless, people will get defensive when you claim their whole way of life is bogus and furthermore, you reserve the right to take what they have and crush them politically in the name of “justice”.

I see this as a problem of absolutists and radicals being able to set the terms of engagement on either side because the moderates, who might actually be willing to draw some boundaries, cannot plausibly make guarantees they can keep their own sides’ extremists under control.

The IDW types make space (unwittingly or not) for transphobes, misogynists, race realists and eugenicists, and cannot guarantee that they can or will be able to block those elements from gaining ground and posing real threats to others. The SJ types make space for pseudo-Maoists, anti-white bigots, misandrists (and other hard left authoritarians) and cannot guarantee the Liberal MCWI that those elements won’t enact their revenge fantasies on the powers-that-be if given the chance. Neither side has any game-theoretic incentive to negotiate with the other so long as they think the other side will “defect” and attack them at the soonest opportunity.

The solution to this has to involve a plausible way for reasonable people, who want to coexist and cooperate with others in a pluralistic society, to box out the extremists of their own camps who scare the **** out of any potential negotiating partners. Sorry to break it to the radicals – unless you can beat your opponents with overwhelming force, your mere participation in the discourse is a paralytic to progress.

@52

I think there is some accompanying context and nuance to those two quotes, but on the face of it, I’ll concede that those attitudes are not particularly civil libertarian. I’d consider that a serious problem if it led to making excuses for authoritarian government.

55

bekabot 07.25.18 at 3:06 am

Meritocracy is a lie, ‘equal opportunity’ is a lie, we will only achieve justice by tearing down the system and building a new one through radical redistribution.

Meritocracy and equal opportunity are ideals, and as such, they’re more accessible to some people than to others. I don’t understand (and you don’t explain) why you think the people to whom such ideals are less accessible would want to tear down the system and thereby ensure they’ll no longer be accessible at all.

Besides (I ask you) who’s more of a system-tearer-downer…Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Hillary Clinton wanted to preside over the table. Trump’s promise, not always implicit, is that he’ll smash the table to flinders before allowing it to become the booty and spoil of a postmenopausal harpy.

Who’s the provocateur, Steve Bannon or Bernie Sanders? Which one of these two is the spoiler? Who wants a seat at the table, and who wants to blow the table up?

Never mind how, in the meantime, give us our safe spaces and bias response teams.

The 20-year-old wet-behind-the-ears straight-white-male fan of Jordan Peterson has a safe space in which to make an ass of himself, and no one would deny him that latitude. Meanwhile and at the same time, Leslie Jones doesn’t have a safe space in which to act and Lindsey West doesn’t have a safe space to tell a joke. So, why does the Jordan Peterson fan deserve his safe space, and why do these two women not deserve theirs? Please explain.

The SJ worldview is a gross ideological oversimplification that collapses into incoherence on close analysis.

Please demonstrate to me in some way that you know what the SJ worldview is. Once you’ve done that, maybe we can move on to the stage at which we can analyze it closely, together.

Nevertheless, people will get defensive when you claim their whole way of life is bogus and furthermore, you reserve the right to take what they have and crush them politically in the name of ‘justice’.

Before I respond to this, you have to find a person who’s recognizable as an “SJ” and prove to me that this person (first) thinks his/her opponents’ whole way of life is bogus (that’s a very tall order) and who (second) reserves the right to take what they have and to crush them politically in the name of justice and who is willing to say so (third). Maybe you can do it, but I’m not holding my breath.

I see this as a problem of absolutists and radicals being able to set the terms of engagement on either side because the moderates, who might actually be willing to draw some boundaries, cannot plausibly make guarantees they can keep their own sides’ extremists under control.

Who are these moderates? Because if they’re going to live up to your description they’re going to have to be moderates who, while being and staying moderate, nevertheless harbor in their ranks “extremists” who are extremist enough to be hard to keep under control. By moderates.

Maybe I should meet these people. They sound interesting.

The IDW types make space (unwittingly or not) for transphobes, misogynists, race realists and eugenicists, and cannot guarantee that they can or will be able to block those elements from gaining ground and posing real threats to others. The SJ types make space for pseudo-Maoists, anti-white bigots, misandrists (and other hard left authoritarians)

Don’t know how to respond to this either, except to say that during the last few decades I may have happened across a better example of “both sides do it” — but, if I ever did, I don’t remember when that was.

and cannot guarantee the Liberal MCWI that those elements won’t enact their revenge fantasies on the powers-that-be if given the chance

I give you credit for one thing here. I give you credit for not mentioning “thugs”.

Neither side has any game-theoretic incentive to negotiate with the other so long as they think the other side will ‘defec’ and attack them at the soonest opportunity.

Neither side trusts the other: that much is true. (One doesn’t need to start talking about game theory when citing an obvious fact.)

56

bad Jim 07.25.18 at 5:05 am

Umberto Eco, from Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt :

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.

When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

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Emblem14 07.25.18 at 5:21 am

@55

Jeez, why are you forcing me to do so much work when you know exactly what I’m getting at and you know perfectly well the forces and representative examples I’m referring to exist?

For example, you pedantically question my assertion that there are those on the Left who would make statements akin to “meritocracy is a lie, equal opportunity is a lie” and follow up with critiques of the entire liberal order. Read Current Affairs. Read Jacobin. There are SJ activists who conflate the scientific method with white supremacy as opposed to “indigenous ways of knowing”. You and I both know those critiques exist and I don’t feel like tracking them down to suit your disingenuous interrogative.

Your list of demands for detail and citations are bordering on https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/On_the_spot_fallacy. I might come back and give you what you’re asking for later, but at least take my word for it that I can cite real world examples of everything I talked about if I took the time to scan my bookmarks at your behest.

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b9n10nt 07.25.18 at 6:09 am

Why could they not be compatible?

-Yes you worked your ass off AND it’s far more difficult to experience under- or unemployment or have boring, repetitive jobs that are marked low status. (Tangent: Also, your “hard work” might have been a self-medicating distraction to feeling some painful shit, and you will simply transmit your uptightness to your kids as a result. There’s a healthier way…)

-Yes MCWI ideals (individual rights, impartiality before the law, etc…) are valuable AND they need to be conserved and extended to historically marginalized groups.

-Yes people need the freedom to pursue individual goals and accomplishments while being incentivized to sacrifice for the common good AND individual freedom is generated and sustained by collective, communal institutions.

-and again…yes we need to allow for free speech even if it threatens people’s identities and livelihoods AND the free and open debate of ideas appears to require that individuals are (first) protected in pursuing positive identities that engender a sense of confidence and belonging.

-Yes large scale social cooperation requires a baseline of cultural coherence AND there is room for cultural diversity and experimentation.

-Yes we can pragmatically discern social truths to act upon AND this field of discernment is strongly warped by privilege.

Now you can say that SJW rhetoric impolitely (okay, destructively) fails to pay proper respect to some very healthy cultural hacks that precede the ANDs. But for people who are (1) just forming a grown up identity that aspires to be (2) distinct from the hegemonic “white middle class” identity and whose strident rhetoric (3) has more to do with in-group posturing than threatening their dentist with re-education camps, I will not begin to make equivalences between SJWs who rage (and de-platform Charles Murray!!!) and the segment of polite middle class careerist peers who will unremarkably kiss up and kick down while climbing the corporate ladder. Bless everyone and their mother but precisely one of these groups is likely to perpetuate oppression in the foreseeable future, and it ain’t the kids who are getting all the headlines.

At any rate, I think you describe political society as two enormous beasts, one wearing a shirt saying THE RIGHT and the other wearing a shift saying THE LEFT. The beasts are facing off, ready to pounce, with a mass of small people who shirts say REASONABLE PEOPLE caught between the beasts, terror in their eyes.

My meme, however, would be of a single enormous beast pulling on vast mass of innocent victims, caught standing upon the beast’s cape, who look anxious but not terrified. Most of them are looking at each other, not the beast. The beast is wearing a shirt that says RULING ELITES. A contingent of innocent victims is looking up at the Beast in anger. Their shirts say THE LEFT. On the shoulders of the Beast are a small mass of people whose shirts say REACTIONARIES. They are jumping off the Beast into the vast mass of victims, starting fights with THE LEFT. About 40% of the mass of people are grouped to one side of the crowd, sitting placidly on the cape as it moves them. They watch their electronic screens, otherwise oblivious to the drama unfolding in their midst. Their shirts say REASONABLE PEOPLE.

59

b9n10nt 07.25.18 at 6:22 am

I don’t think I ever mentioned that I am responding to Emblem14 @55 .

Probably obvious, but…

60

Orange Watch 07.25.18 at 7:07 am

Emblem14@54:

in the meantime, give us our safe spaces and bias response teams.

If you don’t think the acolytes of IDW “visionaries” are carving out safe spaces for themselves and bristling and screeching whenever the perimeter is breached, you don’t really know one of the sets of extremists you’re lecturing us all about, and you’re buying into their lovely little narrative that cultural tone policing and censorship were novel evils sprung full-grown from the furrowed brow of Political Correctness.

As to bias response teams… you’re trying to tell me that college-as-a-business/students-as-customers uni admins are really SJ-minded activists? Because they’re the ones setting up bias response teams to pander to their “customers”.

61

Collin Street 07.25.18 at 10:04 am

Jeez, why are you forcing me to do so much work when you know exactly what I’m getting at and you know perfectly well the forces and representative examples I’m referring to exist?

That’s kind of what you need to work out, innit? It’s what we call “implication”: an awful lot of normal human communication is conveyed by this “why did they say that” mechanism.

In this particular case, though, it’s not just a choice. The thing about words is that they’re actually pretty limited in what they can communicate; we think in words, and so equivalently how we use words — and how we interpret the words of others — reflects how we think.

But this means that any words we use will be interpreted in accordance with how you currently think, which means we can’t use words to convey to you different ways of thinking. Or, not directly; we can’t usefully say, “don’t think like this, think like that” because until you’ve learned to think “like that” all you can do is think “like this”.

What we do instead of telling you “this is how it is” is tell you “if you think about this you will see”. We don’t — we can’t — send you the data, we send you a program that you run that — if you run it correctly — unpacks to produce the data.

Or, a bit more concretely, we can say, in plain words, “you’re privileging your own perspective too damn much”. But it’s not useful, because you won’t understand it; nothing will be communicated. The best we can do is talk you through some exercises that will let you work it out for yourself. We all did the same. It wasn’t fun for us either.

Like, seriously: thinking is counter-intuitive. It needs to be taught, and it’s not easy to teach or to learn.

62

Emblem14 07.25.18 at 10:10 am

@b9n10nt

I couldn’t have said it better. We don’t have fundamental disagreements, maybe variations in emphasis. Whether SJ dogmatism gets your goat depends in large part on one’s proximity to certain overbearing cultural clusters (media, academia etc) plus a psychological profile high in Reactance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reactance_(psychology). I have that in spades, and I notice which groups use authoritarian tactics to target people for personal destruction to deter dissent which ones don’t.

I did leave out the ruling elites in the little model I constructed. I was thinking more about the battle over mindspace in public forums – the meta debate. I suppose it’s to the elites’ great relief that they have SJWs, the IDW, reactionaries, liberals and MAGA douchebags all at each other’s throats while they continue to turn society into a hollow husk before they inevitably retreat to their fortresses in New Zealand.

I liked your meme – the thing is, I don’t think the “reasonable people” are oblivious, they’re just averse to conflict, have a lot to lose and don’t have the the tools to coordinate at a scale that would allow them to put up a challenge to either overzealous ideologies or ensconced elites. Yes, some of them are trying to join the elites, or don’t have much of a problem with the status quo so long as their ox isn’t gored. But there are a lot of would-be problem solvers that are simply being drowned out and don’t know how to coordinate collective action.

Orange Watch@60:

I’m genuinely curious about what you perceive to be the IDW hypocrisy on this. I think a lot of them are full of shit about being “open to debate” and don’t want to confront the steelmen of their critics on the left, but I don’t see liberals using emotional blackmail and other tricks outside the norms of civility to suppress the right of people to hear certain ideas. If you’re referring to the Establishment’s long history of silencing radical voices on the left (red-baiting etc), I don’t dispute it, and disagree with it. I’m a sunlight guy.

I take your point about the HRification of campuses being a product of corporatization of universities, but they have to take their cues from somewhere…the squeaky wheel gets the student life resources.

63

ph 07.25.18 at 10:43 am

@60 “If you don’t think the acolytes of IDW “visionaries” are carving out safe spaces for themselves and bristling and screeching whenever the perimeter is breached, you don’t really know one of the sets of extremists you’re lecturing us all about,” Agreed!!!

The ones I can think of are: Trump rallies, where protesters get tossed. After that….what?
Yelling during church services?

Pick your favorite half-dozen from the US in 2018, there are like…hundreds – especially select the examples with great video of crybaby IDW acolytes calling for mommy.

Pass the popcorn!

64

Lee A. Arnold 07.25.18 at 10:51 am

The Enrightenment, including its centrist and lefty adherents, has always been convinced of the necessity of structural inequality to make capitalism work. Inequality matches the scarcity of material resources and the differences in individual abilities; and, because you yourself might strive to ascend in the worldly material hierarchy based upon your own merits, it causes people to work and to be proud, and to invent new and useful things. Centrists and most of the left accept these same underlying conditions. The left just doesn’t accept the inequality that results from it, and wants from each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs.

But those underlying conditions that have matched inequality are in an epoch of change, and changing evermore rapidly. Scarcity in many products has effectively been transcended; there never really was much difference in the abilities of humans (Adam Smith pointed this out) and education and machines now erode much of the rest; and now the world is mostly rewarding bounders and grifters who’ve attached themselves to the financial system, or else entrepreneurs who protect intellectual properties in the software field. (And sometimes rather dullish intellectual properties, at that.)

Part of my problem with the left is that it doesn’t understand that these conditions have changed for technological reasons. In other words, capitalism is so successful that it is putting itself out of business. We are in an industrial economy, not really a capitalist one; capitalism is a phase of it. So the argument should change.

But the left is still fighting the last century’s battle, e.g. worried about identities and about the labor unions so you can have a job you can be proud of, etc. The left is almost helping the Enrightenment stay in control of the conversation by its own ignorance that the underlying conditions are changing, and that this change has radical (i.e. root-based) implications for the future, for example in the reasonings behind the need at this moment for some redistribution to some targeted ends (health, education, environment).

If you observe carefully, you will note that Eric Weinstein is very aware of, and very concerned about, the increasing inequality since the 1970’s, and his observations about it (coming from being an industry insider) verge upon these structural conditions and their epochal changes. He differs from the rest of the darkwebbers in that he has a self-questioning intellect, is intellectually more than capable, is ready to go into the economics, and he appears ready to bolt from their scene at any moment.

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bekabot 07.25.18 at 4:07 pm

Read Current Affairs. Read Jacobin.

I read both, and I don’t find in them what you find. I’m aware of the critique of the scientific method and I don’t agree with it (though I think there are a few admissions which should be made with regard to the scientific method; namely, that it’s not all-encompassing, that it’s limited, that it’s not foolproof, and that it’s never going to give anybody a reason to keep on living). The critique you’re talking about is not too different from the one Nietzsche made and which various and sundry Dark Web figures like to echo to this day. Only the emphasis differs. On its own terms it’s not an invalid critique — besides (I repeat) it’s a critique which cultural conservatives like to reiterate practically every other goddamn day.

It’s a far cry from anybody telling you that your whole life is bogus.

I might come back and give you what you’re asking for later, but at least take my word for it that I can cite real world examples of everything I talked about if I took the time to scan my bookmarks at your behest.

Several years ago Roy Edroso made some comment which angered some faction of the larger racist crowd. (I wish I could remember what the comment was, but it’s been so long since then, and he’s made so many.) Well, at any rate these people took it upon themselves to inundate him with proofs of black criminality: which meant that whenever a black guy was caught jaywalking or spitting on the sidewalk and from coast to coast, they’d send a notification to alicublog.
They kept it up for weeks.

I don’t approve of those folks and I’m not among their fans; one thing I must say for them, though: they were hard workers.

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.26.18 at 2:13 am

The SJ lens wants to delegitimize (or at least severely complicate) his notion of “earnings” as instead the result of oppressive systemic wealth transfers from certain classes/identities to others under a general rubric of plunder.

It is.

MCWI are illegitimate because their foundations are built on theft and murder.

They are.

Meritocracy is a lie,

It is.

“equal opportunity” is a lie,

Also.

we will only achieve justice by tearing down the system and building a new one through radical redistribution.

We will.

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bad Jim 07.26.18 at 6:07 am

I am old, and such an obligate consumer of the written word that I grew up reading the cereal box while eating breakfast, and graduated to reading the advertisements at the back of the New York Review of Books. In the personals section “SJW” means “Single Jewish Woman”, though for some reason I tended to read it as “Short Jewish Woman”. Now it’s used to mean “Social Justice Warrior”, and I’m tickled to realize that I know several people who match all three descriptions.

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Emblem14 07.27.18 at 5:48 am

@bekabot,

you said:

“Before I respond to this, you have to find a person who’s recognizable as an “SJ” and prove to me that this person (first) thinks his/her opponents’ whole way of life is bogus (that’s a very tall order) and who (second) reserves the right to take what they have and to crush them politically in the name of justice and who is willing to say so (third). Maybe you can do it, but I’m not holding my breath.”

A few posts later, Jerry Vinokurov@66 repudiates the entire MCWI and by extension, everyone who identifies with it and whose interests are tied up in it.

I wonder what he would do if he and others like him had political power?

Maybe that doesn’t meet your standard but…close enough.

Forget Jacobin, CA, your local DSA meetup – for leftist extremism that wants to destroy the liberal order, one need go no further than the comments section of crooked timber.

Jerry Vinokurov, thanks for being you.

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ph 07.27.18 at 11:28 am

Young Socialists of America vs. Jordan Peterson. This is a nightmare in bad-branding.

It’s so stupid I actually suspected some clever operator (perhaps his publisher?) of starting an online poll banning the ‘evil Doctor’ from speaking at UC Davis. Sadly, no, the attempt to ban the ‘mad Canadian’ is real. The only sure result will be another bump in Peterson’s envy-inducing book sales and readership. I’m not seeing banning Peterson from speaking at a public university as the most effective way to sell socialism. But what do I know?

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Ogden Wernstrom 07.27.18 at 2:43 pm

“Socialism” has become such a nebulous term in the USofA.

In the USofA, the right-wing pundits have been screaming, “socialism!” when referring to progressive income taxes, government involvement in healthcare coverage, taxing corporations, Social Security, property taxes, government grants for education, estate taxes, housing assistance, capital gains taxes, Food Stamps, financial-transaction taxes, welfare, taxes on offshore earnings, Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, school lunch programs, most other taxes, the US Departments of Commerce, Education, and the uh, um, what’s the one that Rick Perry now heads?

Or they simply assert that “Socialism Is Bad, m’kay”. Because Food Stamps lead to government nationalizing all the businesses, or summat.

Americans largely gather the meaning of “socialism” from context. But, when an American says they have socialist leanings, using that colloquial meaning of “socialism” from the media, those same right-wing pundits will accuse them of wanting to turn America into another Venezuela.

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