Monday, April 25, 2016

The Future is Alt-Right.....

I know the title is provocative and many who read it will assume that I'm an alt-right blogger. I'm not. I'm a moderate Catholic in the United States who does not in any way identify with the alt-right. However, I am savvy enough to read the signs of our times and those signs point to a future in the West that is either Islamic or alt-right. Some might think that I'd be more concerned about a quasi-social democracy springing up in the US but I don't believe that to be likely in the least because the Regressive Left is all but done; they still hold a great deal of power but the resistance against the authoritarianism of social justice warriors guarantees that.

First, what is the alt-right? I'm not going to spend a great deal of time defining the alt-right because others have done a very good job of doing so and being reasonably fair in their assessment. For those interested, see GotNews definition or Sargon of Akkad's piece on the alt-right. For those who like a simplistic definition the one from Wikipedia does an okay job, though I think the concept of the alt-right is far more complicated and more international than they give credit for:

For starters, I became interested in the alt-right as a political phenomenon because I'm a political scientist and the birth of any new political movement is academically interesting. But I first heard about what could be called the alt-right not in American politics but in European politics. The European variation is evidence that the west my be moving in the direction of a new, populist, and possibly authoritarian direction as a result of internationalist policies that include the erasing of borders, the harboring of immigrants, and the labeling anyone who takes issue with the behavior of Muslim migrants as Islamophobic. This despite many Muslims in Britain, Belgium and Germany bragging openly that those countries will be under Sharia law by mid-century. In Germany this has taken the form of a new segregation in some quarters, with train cars being assigned to men and women exclusively in at least one case. The cases of Rotherham and the New Years attacks across Europe that lead to many cases of sexual assault conducted by Muslims across Europe create fertile conditions for the rise of 'far right' political parties, as in the results of the recent Austrian elections. In the UK, moderates and conservatives have been trickling out of the Tory party for UKIP, a party focused on Britain leaving the EU and halting migration.

There has been an obvious rise in far right political parties in Europe since the advent of the Great Recession. At the time much of the success of these parties was blamed on the various currency and employment crises. John Oliver did a bit about this and reiterated this line on his national broadcast. Yet a driving force for the rise of these parties was the influx of immigrants from non-European countries. To be nakedly and brutally honest, these immigrants were largely Muslims from authoritarian countries with hideously illiberal cultures. Combined with an economic downturn and incompetent political response, an environment was created that has traditionally allowed 'far right' parties to emerge.

Maybe I'm speaking in generalities so here are a few concrete examples. In Hungary Jobbik has risen to power amidst rising immigration and economic stagnation. Like virtually every other 'radical right' party, Jobbik calls for national sovereignty and self determination. The European models are often if not always strikingly anti-EU, and strongly in favor of halting immigration. Jobbik's official website cite the demographic decline of Europe and the official remedy through limitless immigration as the source of increased tensions in Europe. "'"We urge the government to take immediate action, zero tolerance is needed and the overly liberal immigration system must be limited." pointed out Z. Kárpát Dániel. Jobbik wants to know how much of Hungarian taxpayers' money is spent on the maintenance of the non-restricted or semi-restricted refugee camps, on their health care services as well as what security risks Hungarian citizens are subjected to."

Hungary is the poster child for right wing race-based politics but other places, including Greece, have become prominent in far-right politics with the rise of Golden Dawn. The party gets labeled as 'Neo Nazi,' which may be fair given the obsession with Nazi imagery and 1930s Greek rightist nationalism. To their credit, Golden Dawn leadership openly calls for a return to military dictatorship in Greece instead of masking their intentions in some kind of call to traditionalism.

What's this have to do with the US alt-right? Honestly, not much. Social Justice Warriors have mindlessly repeated the charge that Donald Trump is an alt-right candidate, partially because the alt-right supports him despite his generally moderate position on most issues. His most closely-aligned positions are calls for restricting access to the US for Muslims (even an outright ban) and the building of the Great Wall of Trump. This, however, is a far cry from traditional extreme rightist positions. Trump is called a nationalist despite his pro-America rhetoric being in-line with previous Republican presidents who spoke about the greatness of America. Perhaps his rhetoric seems out of place because the current administration rarely engages in American exceptionalism.

The American alt-right is a hodgepodge of anti-Semites, intellectual racists (those racists who claim scientific legitimacy in racism), as well as more extreme anti-feminists such as Men's Rights Activists and other groups opposed to the radical agenda of the extreme feminist left. One extreme, it seems, breeds another. This is why I repeatedly say that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are very, very similar candidates, as both are populists that appeal to voters outside the traditional mainstream of American politics.

It is this rising tide of populism that concerns me. I do think the future will be, at least briefly, alt-right....especially if Donald Trump is kept out of the White House using weird electoral tricks like the recent alliance between Ted Cruz and John Kasich. The next demagogue, either right or left, will be a far different beast than either Trump or Sanders. To quote a great piece from the American Thinker, Aristotle warned about the dangers of democracy and how, inevitably, they fell into despotism at the hands of a demagogue. ""Democracies, says Aristotle, tend to be pulled in one direction: toward a vilification of everything involving merit, hierarchy, inequality, proportion, and worth. For Aristotle, this type of democratic "energy" actually begins at birth: "People are prone to think that the fact of their all being equally free-born means that they are all absolutely equal."" Quoting Aristotle directly is this warning about private property: "In democracies the rich should be spared. Not only should their estates be safe from the threat of redistribution: the produce of the estates should be equally secure; and the practice of sharing it out, which has insensibly developed under some constitutions, should not be allowed." Both Trump and Sanders have targeted property through higher taxation based on class. 

But the appeal of populism always tends in this direction. The populist must appeal to the rational self interest of each voter to get their support. Thus we see, in every election, every presidential candidate promising to cut taxes for the middle class. Obama did it, Clinton did it, Trump and Sanders promise the same thing, as does Hilary Clinton. Many armchair pundits, mostly on Youtube, have posited the idea that we are undergoing a political realignment in the west between authority and libertarianism, instead of between Left and Right. Their observation typically revolves around the resistance movement rising against feminism and the religion of social justice. Yet this is simplistic in that it doesn't account for the ability of the populist to lay claims on both sides. Thus we see the weird reports of Sanders supporters being willing to vote for Trump when Sanders inevitably concedes to Clinton. I'm not sure I believe that myself but then again many of the same people I know who previously backed Ron Paul now back Sanders.

I believe the West to move in the direction of the alt-right for two principle reasons: first, the utter and total failure of the governments of Europe and the United States to respond to increasing calls by their citizens to deal with immigration and refugee crises. Many of these governments brag about their official feminist positions and could all be painted as social justice warriors if one were not feeling charitable. The failure to respond combined with economic stagnation shows the failure of left wing economics opens the policy window for the rise of right wing organizations.

The second reason I think the future may belong to the alt-right is the continued decentralization of media, including social media, as well as the rise of right wing blogs, vlogs, and their associated social movements. The means of communication is now decentralized to the point that few can control it, though Twitter has tried by implementing their Orwellian-named 'Trust and Safety Council' comprised exclusively of left wing groups including radical feminist organizations, which has already been charged with censoring conservative voices.

If the future belongs to the alt-right then the western Left has itself to blame. My evidence for this will be the subject of my next piece. The subject will be why freedom of speech isn't simply a government prohibition but also a cultural value that democracy itself rests on. I attend Portland State University, which was the site of two recent Students for Trump rallies that members of the Regressive Left shut down in a defiant act of authoritarian censorship, all the while claiming that no one's free speech rights were being infringed. I'll explain why that view is not only wrong but dangerous for the health of a free society.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Emergency Culture and the Left

When your alma mater makes international news for violent
illiberal values you know you're in trouble.
Perhaps you've noticed that we live in a state of perpetual crisis. In the US it's a fixed part of our experience: after 9/11 we were in a constant state of vigilance against Islamic terrorism. In the Cold War it was a constant culture of emergency because of the threat of communism. Today our cultural emergencies are numerous, to which the left has added to crisis of 'rape culture' on college campuses as well as the shocking idea that some students at these same colleges in fact support Donald Trump (oh the horror). In comparison to the Cold War these 'emergencies' are trifling at best, or at worst non-existent.

My best example of this are the now two student radical protests against the Portland State University Students for Trump. I'm a grad student at PSU and I know from experience that the student radicals at my university don't care that they do not represent students. They believe themselves to be the revolutionary vanguard in the purest Marxist sense. The student newspaper ran the headline in all-caps "SUPPORT FOR TRUMP POLARIZES CAMPUS CLIMATE," which is nonsense because the vast majority of students just don't care about the political opinions of other students. The students who crashed the Students for Trump rally declared it an emergency to motivate their members and those students who sympathize with them (ie, the easily triggered) that there is a problem with white supremacists being on campus. The underlying assumptions are revealing too: that Trump supporters are white supremacists, the idea that it's okay to silence those students you disagree with because they say things that offend some identity-based group, and that freedom of speech only applies to the government.

In a state of emergency the government will curtail liberty. In the context of an earthquake, riot, invasion, plague or any horrible event you can think of it makes total sense for the government to temporarily use methods that in a democracy would otherwise never be accepted. But when talking about individual action and social justice warriors in particular this is a much more murky issue. I've been told many, many times in relation to the PSU Students for Trump fiasco that freedom of speech only applies to the government and that when you support hate speech you should expect consequences. Freedom of speech is a cultural value essential to a functional democracy that the population must respect, for without that the government will not respect freedom of speech. A democracy cannot function when the response to 'offensive' speech is censorship by the population, especially in the form of mob justice.

The emergency culture permits egregious violations of civil liberties. The best example is the warrantless wiretapping that began in the Bush administration and continued (and was expanded) under the Obama administration. Social justice warriors have either directly taken advantage of this climate or stumbled into this phenomenon through creating a climate of fear and perceived emergency by using classrooms and social media to suggest that there are institutionalized racist, sexist, and transphobic systems of oppression that cannot be proven yet are widely accepted in SJW circles as an article of faith. These founding religious myths of the social justice movement are believed with the fervor and certitude that Christians recite and believe the Apostles Creed, or perhaps a little closer to the truth, with the same obdurate fortitude that Islamists believe the most violent parts of the Qu'ran.

These myths, when combined with the air of emergency, combine to create a toxic environment that is hostile to liberty. Authoritarian movements ALWAYS have foundational myths. For the communists in Russia it was the proletarian struggle and the dialectic of history. The Nazis had bizarre racial theories about the 'Aryan' race. Social justice warriors have institutionalized systems of oppression that target women, people of color, and those who live the LGBTQ lifestyle. This toxic soup is a real threat to the culture of democracy in the US, for without a vibrant love of democracy and liberal values a liberal republican democracy cannot survive. It isn't enough for the state to respect our critical liberties, as we've seen the Congress, the Courts, and the President disrespect liberties. The people, regardless of political loyalties, must respect first the values that make a culture of democracy possible.

Monday, April 11, 2016

SJWs and the Culture of Comfort

The rise of the #RegressiveLeft in recent years in the West has left many regular people confused about how this happened in the first place. I'm about to make a couple of ugly comparisons to prove a point, so consider this your 'trigger warning' if you're easily offended. We've been trained to think that authoritarian movements gain purchase during times of economic upheaval and unrest. Case in point, see the rise of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union, which was caused by a confluence of economic problems including agrarian and labor issues, as well as issues related to the educated class, among others that were not solved in the 1905 revolution; Russian activity in WWI would be the catalyst that allowed the authoritarian movement to win final victory and found the USSR.

The second example is the uglier one, the rise of the Nazism in Germany. As is well document, the rise of Nazism can directly be linked to the economic conditions imposed on Germany after losing WWI. Unemployment was rampant, the currency was worthless, and the government inept to fix conditions imposed by unfair treaty conditions that left the country helpless to fix its condition. The political environment was fertile for the rise of a demagogue.

In comparison, the rise of the Regressive Left is mystifying. The concept of a Social Justice Warrior hadn't taken hold prior to the Great Recession, though conservatives were warning the rest of us about the worst tendencies in the left for decades running. Even so, the Great Recession was not even remotely on the same scale of economic instability as the other mentioned periods were. Instead, Regressives have risen amidst a condition of plenty and material comfort. The rise of the Regressive Left bears all the hallmarks of a bourgeoisie movement, coming from the sheltered ranks of the colleges and middle classes in the US and UK.

I use the 'b' word on purpose. George Orwell described the middle classes as the shock absorbers for the bourgeoisie, as the middle class would take the brunt of the negative consequences of economics and political disorder while the upper crust would fare fine. In Orwell's time it was the elites who lead the leftist movement. Today, as in the leadership of 'Black Lives Matter' and the rise of the Regressive Left on college campuses, again we see the children of the elite fighting against perceived privilege. One wonders if they've ever looked into a mirror.

When I was growing up in the 90s I distinctly recall spanking being a hot button social issue. Parents were admonished to put their kids in 'time out' (a sort of precursor to the safe space today) to punish them instead of giving a few well-measured swats on the butt. This was the first coddling that people my age and younger received from society and it's only gotten worse since. Poor kids weren't coddled, at least at home, but the children of the middle class certainly were.

The Social Justice Warrior culture is the direct result of this coddling. When you attend college you take your first steps into something like the real world. You encounter ideas that are different than the ones you were raised with, you gain a modicum of responsibility and you come face to face with the specter of crushing debt. Add in the propaganda administered in many classrooms by cultural Marxist professors and the result is a toxic environment that brainwashes people at a very impressionable age. The comfort has been altered – not even removed, just altered – and the result is a troubling environment that is always hostile to the mind that had previously been coddled. President Obama famously and rightly said that we shouldn't coddle college students. The problem is that we are talking about people who have been coddled their entire lives. The merest reduction in coddling has left these people unhinged, especially when radical political ideas that prey on the biases their parents raised them with have been hammered into their heads.

This is the result of comfort and a society that hasn't challenged people in a meaningful way in the lifetimes of the youngest people identifying as SJWs. There hasn't been a real conflict in the US since the Vietnam era. The Cold War and its accompanying threat of annihilation is as real to them as the Civil War – that is, things they read about in school and nothing more than that. Even 9/11 is historical, as it and the war in Iraq happened when they were children. Many SJWs barely remember George W Bush and the culture of terror fear that gripped the US from 2002-2006.

The lack of existential conflict has lead to really watered down social movements that are themselves vehicles for authoritarianism. To be sure, the Regressive Left promotes authoritarianism through raging activism that shows that the SJW-on-the-street thinks they are the member of the Revolutionary Vanguard, when really they are merely the shock absorbers for people like the privileged leaders of BLM. The irony would be funny if the results weren't terrifying. My only consolation is that the Regressive Left is failing. The growing movement against the authoritarian movement they represent illustrates that.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Threatening to End Friendships Over Political Opinions

Back in the 2004 election cycle I remember the proto-SJW media machine Air America Radio reporting that somewhere in the South a guy had the misfortune of driving with a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker on his car. The locals took umbrage with his poor choice in candidates and shot at him. The left-wing online media went nuts but little came from it.

The 2004 election was the grossest one I remember. Bush was called Hitler by the Left, Kerry effeminate by the Right, and the election was The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime. The 2008 election was also The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime, as was 2012, though the fascist terminology wasn't thrown around much. Now, in the Current Year, Trump is called Hitler by the Left, the Right calls Sanders a Communist, and Clinton is a criminal. Little changes, it seems. For the record I don't have a candidate in the election and haven't any idea how I'll vote in the fall. I'm an independent and a moderate, which makes this election really depressing for voters like me.

Regardless, a good friend of mine whose friendship I value today told me that she, for the sake of keeping our friendship, wouldn't talk about the Democratic Primaries with me. My crime? Repeating statistics and reporting that Sanders has no chance of winning the election. I'd link a piece to Nate Silver's work but go find it for yourself if you want to know the truth. Again, I have no dog in this race though I do reject the 'Trump is Hitler' or 'Trump is a racist' or 'Trump is the most evil thing EVAR' propaganda because I've looked into his positions and find them fairly moderate, save for his boneheaded rhetoric.

I distinctly recall a conversation I had in my undergraduate program with a conservative classmate of mine. The topic was religion in politics and how the Left were largely atheistic. His retort? Politics is the religion of the Left. At the time I disagreed but now understand him to be correct. To be sure, no SJW has an alter in their home with political symbols on it where they make sacrifices to Sanders or whatever. But the political is held in the same esteem as religion is by most people. Political opinions are taken as a matter of faith, a practice which is irrational to say the least. Obama isn't God, nor was Reagan and neither should be treated as such. Political opinions should always be subject to scrutiny. When held as an article of faith, political opinions become sacrosanct and cannot be challenged.

Analyzing political contests is a favorite past time of mine. I'm a political scientist and a PHD-ABD in an interdisciplinary field that includes political science. I've studied American political and governmental systems, including the electoral process. I'm confident that Sanders has no path to victory. I understand basic statistics and numbers. But this isn't about facts. This is about emotion. The friend of mine in question is an SJW and self-declared feminist. As has been reported endlessly in the anti-feminist, pro-egalitarian, pro-traditional liberal resistance movement, the mindset of the Social Justice Warrior is hostile to facts and relies heavily on emotion to make sense of the world. Facts contrary to the narrative elicit a hostile reaction. See the reaction to Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoluos talks at colleges across the US for evidence.

Now, to be fair, my friend isn't likely to go to a protest to silence people she disagrees with. What worries me is that I have to censor myself in my belief that Bernie Sanders is just as dangerous as people say Trump is. I'd go into details about my opinions of Sanders but I'll save them for later in case he pulls off some kind of Hail Mary kind of miracle come back against Clinton. I detest self censorship, especially when an otherwise reasonable opinion (dislike of a political candidate) can't be expressed for fear of eliciting an irrational emotional response. This is what you have to do with Social Justice Warriors on every issue it seems.

Thankfully, the Democratic primaries will be finished soon enough. Sanders may take his campaign to the convention but it'll be symbolic. Hopefully at that point I'll be able to express opinions based in both observation and data without fear of reprisal. I've come to hate the presidential election season, and this is one good reason.