Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Rioters Were Going to Execute the Vice President

Increasingly, the Trump diehards resemble something more like Scientology than a political movement. I started noticing back in the 90s that there was a cultural undercurrent that was combining anti-establishment politics with conspiracies, religion, the occult, pseudo-science, science fiction, pseudo-history, mythology, crank economic and legal theories, crank medicine, (sometimes) racism, and all kinds of other general weirdness. This kind of stuff was normally considered to be “far-right” but it seemed to me at the time that it couldn’t really be categorized as any traditional ideology, and it also included some people with a leftist, libertarian, or minority background as well as the usual right-wing subcultures. It seems to have worked its way into the mainstream nowadays with QAnon and other comparable tendencies.

While I certainly don’t agree with the conventional Trumpism=fascism thesis, I agree that a serious demagogue who was actually competent could manipulate this for nefarious ends. On one hand, such radically anti-system attitudes are necessary, and attacks on the Capitol are just as legitimate from a revolutionary perspective as attacks on local police stations, but the direction they are taken in matters as well. What needs to happen is increasing fragmentation that prevents any one faction from gaining concentrated power, whether Trumpists, the far-left, or anyone else. We don’t want the insurrection of the urban lumpenproletariat to be usurped by the far-left and turned toward actual Jacobinism, Marxism, or Maoism, and we don’t want rebellions by the rural/suburban lumpenproletariat to be usurped by the far-right and turned toward actual fascism or right-wing authoritarianism.

3 replies »

  1. Well, as an actual living representative (to call it so) of exactly this “anti-establishment politics combined with general weirdness” undercurrent, I can say: what seems to be “weirdness” to some (like you), can be an evidence-and-argumentation based scientific (or technologicall, historical, medical, legal, philosophical, religious, whatever) heresy in the eyes of the others, like me.

    I definitely will not try to prove anything scientifically (or else) heterodox here on AtS – this is not the proper place to do it; it dedicated to attacking the current power system, not questioning academic orthodoxy.

    What I will do – I will defend the scientific (and other) heresies as the natural and necessary part of the modern anti-system / anti-establishment movements.

    As you yourself pointed many times, Keith, the modern mainstream academia (along with mainstream media) has effectively become the new clergy – the “white coat priesthood” (the WCP), as you wonderfully described it; a source and center of cultural power, a means to control people’s perception and conception of the world and events in a way that it useful to the system / establishment.

    And, as the WCP’s currently excessive power and control over the humans’ experimentation and theorising is very obviously starting to crumble (which we both can agree is the desirable tendency overall), it is inevitable that the social popularity and acceptability of the heretical questioning and scrutinising the public statements of academic and media (read: cultural) elites will only increase – and will become increasingly widespread in the general anti-system / anti-establishment circles.

    As any other of the multitude of rebellious movements, it will be overall useful in the anti-elite struggle. And, dare I claim, will also be able to bring a lot of genuine new knowledge to the people – even if mixed with an even larger amount of outright nonsense. The separation of the wheat from the chaff should be left to different individuals and communities themselves.

    What is crucially important is the preventing any group of these heretics from acquiring too much cultural (and other) power themselves, thus not letting them turn into the WCP 2.0 – especially knowing that some of them are sadly prone to fanaticism and may become an even worst version of science-priesthood if allowed. But such proneness is the general bane of all anti-system movements.

    So, Keith, whether you think of scientific heretics like me as “pseudo-scientific types”, or see us as (somewhat) legitimate and interesting, even if not yet accepted by the academic mainstream, researchers, there is one desire we share – to attack the system; which mean, along many other goals, to deprive the WCP of its excessive cultural (and overall) power, while not letting anyone else to gain too much of it to replace it in the even worse form.

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