Monday, December 28, 2015

The Differences Between Liberals and Progressives, Pt 1: Collectivism

A few years ago at my university the College Republicans attempted to show an anti-Islam documentary and were, for some bizarre reason, given use of the multicultural center by administrators who oversee student groups. Word spread of the film and where it would be shown, due in part at least to the College Republicans advertising their event. On the night of the event a large contingent of students from a variety of Islam-related student groups and their Neo-Progressive allies came and shut the event down. The practice, called 'no platforming' is a tactic of contemporary social justice activists to prevent 'problematic' speech from being done, in the name of not hurting the feelings of those who might take offense. The speaker's rights seem to be of no consequence.

How this can happen in America is based on the differences between Liberals and Progressives. No, progressives are not liberals. Liberalism is a spectrum of ideas that run the gamut from traditional liberalism, which focuses on individual autonomy, private enterprise, and limited interaction between economics and government in order to enable individuals to find and create opportunities for themselves, and welfare-state/reform liberalism on the other end of the spectrum, with its focus on government regulation of the economy as a means of empowering individuals to lift themselves out of poverty. Both philosophies rely heavily on the idea that the individual is the most important part of society. Society is conceived to varying degrees as a mass of individuals who compete with one another while being interconnected. Disagreements between the two camps focus on the role of tradition and the power of the government to intervene in the affairs of business and the people.

Collectivism comes in both right wing and left wing flavors. Right wing collectivism dies when this guy and his friend with the funny mustache lost WWII.
Progressivism is a collectivist ideology. The ideology of the Social Justice Warriors can be understood simplistically as being to the left of welfare-state liberalism on the overly simplified left-right axis. Why is Progressive ideology illiberal? Simply put, this ideology puts the needs of individuals as second (if that) to a group identity. This is the stuff of identity politics. Reality is relative by necessity for identity politics, while claims about the experiences of those of a particular identity are taken as a given. From this we get concepts like patriarchy, widespread institutional racism, and cultural imperialism/appropriation. Rights are given to members of groups – and are taken from them as well, for the majority possesses whatever conceived of privilege that is convenient for outsiders to claim for themselves. Privileges are to be opposed.

An example of this comes in the form of (fill-in-the-blank-racial) Student Unions at universities across the United States. Most public universities now have a student union that is a designated 'safe space' for people of a particular racial identity. People who are not of that identity (typically meaning white people) either need not come at all or should tread carefully. If this sounds a bit like segregation that's because it is segregation. The use of public tax dollars to support these places may actually be illegal if any enterprising lawyer was brave enough to be made a pariah by challenging university support for these institutionalized segregated spaces in the courts.

Yes, Virginia, if these guys were seriously trying to make a White-only space it'd probably be illegal too.
For otherwise thinking people to accept these kinds of arrangements requires the internalization of victimhood applied both to the individual and the group. Liberalism not only does not rely on people being labeled victims but it rejects victim politics because individuals have autonomy; for liberals becoming a victim is not a point of pride but at best a temporary status to be overcome, as in the cases of fraud, assault of all kinds, and accidents/injuries. To embrace victimhood is a surrender of individual autonomy.

The Social Justice Warriors have been very effective at promoting a class of victims. Who they are a victim of precisely depends on what people are alleged to have been victims of, but in the end it all comes to white men. That is, the 'patriarchy,' a topic that I will write about next, and with glee. To be a victim requires an external oppressor. This is pretty easy to understand in the context of crime: to be a victim of crime requires a criminal. But in the case of phantom classes oppressing people the inevitable result is the creation and institutionalization of an oppressor class where none existed before, even if the class only exists in the minds of the over imaginative activists who scream loudly about oppression all the time. Identifying as the oppressed becomes central.

Pretty sure I'll get hate for using St. Daria against Leftists but whatever.

This is but one way that Progressivism is anti-individual and deeply collectivist ideology. The victim mindset is the same theory of class oppression applied to race, gender and 'intersectionalities.' Most of this originates in something called 'cultural Marxism,' which for some reason has been adopted by academia and non-critical thinking students because of the successful track record that economic and political Marxism has had anywhere its ever been tried.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Obsession With Power

Disclaimer: I'm still working on learning how to embed links in text on blogspot. The typical ways to do it don't seem to work. If you know a resource for that put it in the comments. Thanks!

The Special Snowflakes of Tumblr (aka, the neo-progressives/SJWs) are obsessed with power. How power is described and understood is involved in every claim they make. As in other religions, SJWs rely on power as a core belief, much in the same way that Christians require the death and resurrection of Christ to act as the lynchpin of the faith; without the Resurrection, Christianity falls apart just like without the understanding of power the religion of the Social Justice Warriors falls apart. What precisely are the power claims of the religion of Tumblr?

How is power seen by the neo-progressives? First, they believe that power is relational. In this they reject traditional understandings of power being found predominately in institutions of the state. Through the process of socialization we see power traits unjustly institutionalized. This is the origin of privilege – white privilege, male privilege, bicycle privilege, straight privilege, fill-in-the-blank privilege to explain whatever social norm is under attack at the moment. At the moment, race and gender are considered the 'social constructs' that are prized. Those who have these traits are somehow given privileged positions in the social order, meaning that they are given power.

The typical white straight male in the West

What does this power look like? It can range from otherwise innocuous things like white men and women not being followed around a store while black men will be, or men being assumed to be harder workers than women, straight people being more trustworthy with children than gay men. Some assertions at least have the appearance of having empirical evidence to support them but others simply do not, which is where SJWs enter the realm of religious belief statements. An example of this are the examples of White Student Unions being allegedly opened on university campuses despite the mountain of evidence that the Facebook groups started for universities across the US at the same time were part of a massive trolling campaign by at-best a handful of men. See the Snopes link below (again still trying to figure out embedding). I could spend a book compiling evidence of the power-claims of the SJWs that are pure fantasy but I won't attempt to present a lot of it here. Perhaps I'll do that in the future.

This is where we enter the realm of Political Correctness. To be sure, some level of political correctness is, well, correct. Use of racial slurs by anybody is disgusting, as is other language designed to push people to the margins of society by turning them into an other. My best example of this is an anecdote: once upon a time, I worked in student government at a large university in a medium sized US city. I did so for three years and watched how each year the focus on identity politics came to dominate both the internal operations of the student government as well as much of its lobbying efforts both on campus and in the state capital. One day, in my second year in that environment, some coworkers of mine described certain things as 'crazy,' or 'cray cray' and other ways of saying something is stupid. The resident staff person who served as our Chief of Thought Police sent an email every week to let us know what words and phrases were now banned from discourse, including 'crazy,' 'lame,' 'dumb' and others because they might hurt the feelings of someone.

Myself and several of my coworkers being told that using the word 'lame' was oppressive to the disabled.

Jonathan Chait wrote about this and the danger it poses recently in the New Yorker. Again, the full link is below (seriously, if you know how to embed these links let me know, and yes I'm aware that my quote has a hotlink in it).

Political correctness is a system of thought that denies the legitimacy of political pluralism on issues of race and gender. It manifests itself most prominently in campus settings not because it’s a passing phase, like acne, but because the academy is one of the few bastions of American life where the p.c. Left can muster the strength to impose its political hegemony upon others. The phenomenon also exists in other nonacademic left-wing communities, many of them virtual ones centered on social media, and its defenders include professional left-wing intellectuals.”

The claim the neo-progressives make regarding power is simple: the power systems of universities and employers are not democratic in themselves so the need to use democratic means to address power disparities is not only irrelevant but also inappropriate. This view is expressed in a convincing and terrifying way by Angus Johnson in probably the most mainstream print media of the Social Justice Left: Rolling Stone Magazine. Read the article below if you like. Johnson's thesis is that there is no PC crisis on college campuses and that use of non-democratic means of ousting professors, university presidents, and silencing of dissenters is appropriate because of power structures that favor white straight men.

These conceptions of power demand that we reject the classic marketplace of ideas that underscores democracy and pluralism. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes offered the gold-standard definition of the marketplace of ideas in a Supreme Court Case that he actually lost, even though later his definition would become the judicial gold standard for free speech. Holmes' definition: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

Pro-Tip: If you read 1984 as a how-to manual you should probably stay out of public service.

We've seen the use of the 'heckler's veto' (the shouting down of unpopular speech typically on campuses) used to silence those with 'privileged' opinions and positions. I saw this first hand a few years ago when, at my university, the College Republicans attempted to show an anti-Islam documentary in the Multicultural Resource Center (funny enough they were scheduled to present there by the administrative people who oversee student leadership) but were shouted down by the student Muslim groups and their Social Justice Warrior supporters. Instead of permitting the video to be viewed and then debated the mob descended and silenced the opposition on grounds of 'hate speech.' This is an obvious example of the campus activists attempting to rig the marketplace or even shut it down entirely by silencing those deemed to be privileged instead of exposing their ideas to scrutiny.

The ground for this behavior is complex and will have to wait for a future post. Suffice it to say at this moment that the grounds are themselves a rejection of democratic ideals, often excused by claiming that universities and social media are not democratic institutions and thus not subject to democratic methods, despite the student governments of public and private institutions being appointed in a democratic process and having the potential for real input in university governance, if the activists use those opportunities competently. Power is understood in traditionally Marxist definitions and applied to systems that are said to oppress people, despite the oppression either not existing or being far overblown. It is especially funny that universities are the subject of these claims when SJWs run the overwhelming majority of student governments and academic SJWs are heavily involved in the setting of university policies that lead to dissenting opinions on these topics being silenced by the institution.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Welcome to the Confessional

Welcome to the Confessional

For about 9 years of college, from my time at a community college through about half of my doctorate, I was a Social Justice Warrior. By standards of the SJWs I was pretty conservative but I still believed most of the things SJWs advocated for. When I disagreed I kept my mouth shut....for a while. Eventually my attitudes changed because of the authoritarian tendencies of SJWs that I couldn't ignore, including censorship and even advocacy for thought control. The final act that lead to regaining use of my reason was experiencing a real religious conversion, the topic and fruits of which are the subject of my other blog.

This blog is your guide to how the modern social justice movement has risen to prominence and lead to the corruption of pop culture, politics, economics and even everyday life for people in the West. My intention is post an article at least once each week, covering happenings in the world of social justice and universities (as well as the broader culture) in order to shed a light on what is really happening. I do not claim to have profound expertise but I do have a lot of experience working with these people and I understand how they think. Moreover, I understand the authoritarian tendencies of Social Justice Warriors even when they themselves do not.

Part of my background includes philosophy. Like any philosopher I like to define terms early. To that end, here are some common terms used by SJWs and the anti-SJW community. I'll add to the list as it becomes necessary:

Social Justice can be defined as the promotion of a more fair society by challenging existing unfairness and embracing diversity. Social Justice is said to exist when all people share a common human identity and, on the basis of that identity, all have a right to equitable treatment, support for human rights, and fair access to resources. For Social Justice Warriors, this term is understood very, very broadly, and is rooted in moral relativism. When moral relativism is linked with concepts of a common humanity, fairness and diversity the conditions are created that make challenging all but the most heinous of practices and claims to rights impossible.

Patriarchy is defined as norms, institutional arrangements, customs, beliefs and behaviors that are the product of and reinforce the subjugation of women by men. Commonly cited examples of patriarchy include the low representation of women in the Congress, the Catholic Church's refusal to ordain women, as well as demonstrable myths like the supposed 'wage gap,' 'rape culture,' and (in some cases) institutionalized forms of racism.

Institutional (fill-in-the-blank) is the application of a social ill or evil to a large scale that dominates society. Some forms of institutional injustice can be argued for with evidence, such as claims of institutional racism in the US prison system, while other claims use sketchy data at best. The purpose of claiming a social evil is an institutionalized problem is to first legitimize the problem as being worthy of political action, and second to paint as an other those who oppose doing anything about the problem – that is, to ascribe bigotry to those who disagree.

A glaring definition that I will spend a full blog post on is progressivism. I was recently asked why liberalism and progressivism were different, which I ignored. I'll address that soon, though maybe not in the next post. Suffice it to say for the time being that liberalism rests on individualism, leaving politicians like John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan having much more in common with one another than their political loyalties might suggest. Progressivism is built on a group identity, with everything resting on collectivism. Again, I'll dive more into that in a future post.