By Jonathan Kay, Quillette
“While art has long maintained a symbiotic relationship with bourgeois state power, there’s still something deeply unsettling about our supposedly ‘radical’ artists manufacturing consent on behalf of one of our two entrenched capitalist parties,” wrote artist and self-described “culturally agnostic Marxist” Adam Lehrer in Caesura last month. By way of example, he cites an image circulated by visual artist Marilyn Minter in advance of this month’s US election, labeled, “How are you voting in 2020?” with the two choices labeled “Democrat” and “Fascist.” Lehrer argues that “Trump isn’t a fascist. He’s a symbol of the transformation of American empire and global capitalism.” And so “what Minter is doing is fusing conceptualist aesthetics with neoliberal politics and talking points. In doing so, she’s not just propagandizing on behalf of one faction of the elite, but also neutralizing art of its critical role.”
More broadly, Lehrer argues,
The cultural hegemony has shifted in the last 30 years as artists, intellectually trapped in the banal culture wars of the ‘90s and attracted to the intersectional aesthetics of [a] liberal elite (the [Democratic Party] and its backers in the surveillance state, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street), [that] willfully overlook[s] or latently support[s] the neoliberal and imperial politics of the elite. This is rank conformism.
I belonged to the ACLU briefly in the 1990s. They’ve always had a big internal debate over “Should we be progressives or should we be actual civil libertarians?”
Journalist, Zaid Jilani, discusses how the ACLU’s platforms could change in a post-Trump era.
By Paul Gottfried, Chronicles
They may claim Marxist lineage, but Stalin, Castro, and Guevara would have precious little patience for today’s cultural revolutionaries.
Is the current left Marxist? In a provocative commentary, Bill Lind explores this genealogical question, and, unless I’m mistaken, the left and much of its media opposition would second his conclusions. Since Antifa describes itself as Marxist, when it’s not calling itself anarchist, and since leading figures of the Democratic Party, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have certainly not shunned the Marxist label, it would seem today’s left is authentically Marxist.
But, except at its edges, the present left is not what it claims to be. Today’s left has a different origin and orientation from what has been historically understood as Marxist or Marxist-Leninist; and using that term to designate the characteristics of our current left is at best problematic. Neither Marxists nor Marxist-Leninist governments evidenced the cultural radicalism that today’s left expresses every day. Although there have been Communist Party members in Western countries who have been sexual exhibitionists, and even a brief period in Russia after the November 1917 Revolution when free love was allowed, generally communists have been on the conservative side of issues like homosexuality and the questioning of fixed sexual identities. The traditional left would have attributed our LGBT activities to “bourgeois decadence.”
What do Trumpists, Alt-Rightists, Jacobin magazine, and Brett Weinstein all have in common? They’re all considered to be enemies of the techno-oligarch/new clerisy rising ruling class, and they’ve all been banned by certain powers that be. Jacobin is pro the “pink tide” movements in Latin America so that gets them on the enemies list.
I am skeptical as to whether “social justice” fundamentalism could have developed outside of the context of WASP culture. And “totalitarian humanism” generally seems to be the most heavily entrenched in historically Protestant countries (the Anglosphere, Germany, the “Lowlands,” and Scandinavia). It seems to be a substitute for or a descendent of Protestant pietism.
“If America had an intellectual class, it would spend a lot more time wondering why Catholic-origin countries like Spain, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Hungary, and Croatia are not witnessing a takeover of woke philosophy, but the same cannot be said about the Anglosphere cultures now running on the fumes of the Protestant ethic.”
By B. Duncan Moench, Tablet
The rise of identity politics authoritarianism has led to scenes that look like something out of a pulp horror flick like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Lobotomized hordes now control a staggering number of key American institutions: the legacy media, most of higher education, Hollywood, most wealthy coastal cities, and last—but not least—the human resources departments of nearly every major corporation in America. These HR managers demand all employees attend reprogramming sessions dubbed “sensitivity” and “implicit bias” training. Acting out the ethos of the HR managers, wealthy college students demand segregated housing—in the name of racial justice. Aging liberal politicians don kente cloth scarves, kneel, and genuflect to the new idol of “justice.” And in the background of the frame, cities burn while CNN declares the riots are “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”
The Legion of Decency has returned, although in “woke” rather than Catholic traditionalist form. Tech companies are simply the new Standard Oil of the 21st century.
I can’t say I really have a problem with canceling Kant. If religion is the opium of the masses, then philosophical idealism, moral realism, and deontological ethics are the opium of the intellectuals.
By Norbert Bolz, TELOS
The art of scandalizing is inexhaustible. In Kant’s Anthropology, there are a few remarks familiar to anyone who has studied Kant. According to the standards of the spirit our time, one could characterize those as racist. That media attention can be sparked from this today is known since the leveling of similar accusations at Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Hegel praised war, Nietzsche proclaimed the necessity of slavery, the hypersensitive Walter Benjamin made use of the word “gypsy.” One could endlessly extend the proscription list of scandalous thinkers. For the block warden of thought, there is really not a single great mind before 1968 with whom some racist, militaristic, or misogynistic remark could not be substantiated.
One could call what is happening here tribalization of the past. Political correctness is spreading to thought itself and deep into history. In this connection, the hatred for old white men is now concentrated on old wise men. This is surely the most extreme form of cultural revolution since Mao. Steadfast, the guardians of virtue replace thinking with intolerance and self-righteousness. The victim status renders with its pathos of indignation any argumentation superfluous. The new Jacobins no longer content themselves here with language-hygienic measures. We are currently witnessing phase 2 of political correctness: fanatical iconoclasm. As though the past were still unfinished, history is being rewritten. Children’s books are being expurgated or censored; a gender-sensitive Bible frees God of the stain of being a father; streets are being renamed, holidays corrected, and statues toppled. The Taliban are among us.
In America, the word “woke” has come to serve as the trademark of this movement. This means that the moralistic standards of “snowflakes” are also being applied to the past. This woke and cancel culture is the most authoritarian that we have seen since the Second World War. One no longer wishes to understand, but to condemn. In this way, Zola’s “J’accuse” has become the global uniform of political agitation. “Racist” functions in this way worldwide as a passe-partout word that opens up for the new Jacobins access to media and politics. And unfortunately this also applies to scientists, who rely on brightly sparkling research funds.
The fact that it is now Kant, philosopher of the Enlightenment, who has fallen victim to the tribunalizers, should make it clear to everyone that the fate of occidental rationalism is at stake here. One can put Kant up “to debate,” without reading him. For reading Kant is very exacting—and this is something that even with the best of intentions can be avoided. After all, the tribunalization of the past has an important alleviating effect. A label is stuck to a great mind, and one no longer needs to deal with him. “Putting up for debate” replaces studying.
James Lindsay is probably the best critic of totalitarian humanism that I know of in terms of dissecting its intellectual roots and orientation. Lindsay is not a “conservative” but a Dawkinsesque atheist and a standard-issue progressive who considers the Scandinavian countries to be model societies. The main difference between his approach and mine is that I try to place this kind of analysis within a wider geopolitical, economic, technological, cultural, and statecraft framework. This isn’t even a left/right issue. Right-wingers are opposed to totalitarian humanism for obvious reasons, but it’s possible to formulate a far-reaching critique of this stuff from a “far-left” perspective.
It’s hard to believe the guy who wrote “Manufacturing Consent” and “Necessary Illusions” could be so blinkered.
This is a completely clueless conversation that was painful to listen to. It basically amounts to Chomsky, Sam Sedar, and Nomiki Konst claiming that PC culture is merely about being nice to everyone and not endorsing genocide. I suppose I can understand why someone from Chomsky’s generation would hold these views. Sam Sedar is the most clueless of the three. Nomiki Konst offered a tiny smidgeon of insight at one point but is obviously still on the training wheels level. Read some James Lindsay, folks.
By Andrew Sullivan, The Weekly Dish
A question I’ve wrestled with this past year or so is a pretty basic one: if critical race/gender/queer theory is unfalsifiable postmodern claptrap, as I have long contended, how has it conquered so many institutions so swiftly?
It’s been a staggering achievement, when you come to think of it. Critical theory was once an esoteric academic pursuit. Now it has become the core, underlying philosophy of the majority of American cultural institutions, universities, media, corporations, liberal churches, NGOs, philanthropies, and, of course, mainstream journalism. This summer felt like a psychic break from old-school liberalism, a moment when a big part of the American elite just decided to junk the principles that have long defined American democratic life, and embrace what Bari Weiss calls “a mixture of postmodernism, postcolonialism, identity politics, neo-Marxism, critical race theory, intersectionality, and the therapeutic mentality.”
What Pelosi is proposing amounts to creating a committee for the purpose of granting the therapeutic state the power to remove the president from office. The next step would be a committee that approves the “mental health” (ideological conformity) of candidates for public offices.
The move comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Trump was in an “altered state,” but said Friday the measure wouldn’t apply to him.
“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of the voters. But he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents,” Pelosi told reporters at Capitol Hill news conference as she introduced the bill.
“This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president,” she added. “It’s not about any of us making a judgment about the president’s well-being.”
When pressed by reporters if she thinks it’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment concerning Trump, Pelosi responded: “That’s not for us to decide.”
The measure would create an expert panel – with members appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate – to conduct a medical exam at the direction of Congress to “determine whether the President is mentally or physically unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” according to the text of a version of the proposal introduced in 2017 by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland.
I have long argued that the end-game of the “politically correct” crowd is a full-blown totalitarian state comparable to fascism and communism. This article is an example.
Ibram X. Kendi is an influential figure in the “social justice” movement. The essence of what he is proposing here amounts to giving a single government agency the power to overrule any other policies made by any kind of organization or institution anywhere. Would this only apply to the public sector or to the private sector as well? What about the Supreme Court? Could the Department of Anti-Racism overrule the court? If it is determined there is not enough of some particular group in, say, the medical profession, will hospitals be ordered to hire more doctors of some specific ethnic background? What counts as a “race” for these purposes anyway? This idea is eerily reminiscent of the Khomeinist Council of Guardians or William Pierce’s idea of the highest body of government as some kind of racist religious order.
By Ibram X. Kendi, Politico
To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals. The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials (with “racist ideas” and “public official” clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.
YouTube issued a statement about how they are upgrading their efforts to merely be a source of legitimation for ruling class ideologies.
Those of us involved in dissident politics need to prepare for the day when it becomes impossible to communicate in an open way online, and when the Internet in the West is just as censored as it is in China and the Middle East, not necessarily through direct state action as much as “private” action by Big Tech in collusion with or under pressure by the state. No alternative political books on Amazon, no controversial websites, no dissident social media of any meaningful kind. Even email communication may be difficult.
This is my assessment of the recent piece by Peter Gelderloos at Crimethinc, “Preparing for Electoral Unrest and a Right-Wing Power Grab.” The Crimethinc article is a great companion piece to the recent commentary by It’s Going Down (which I critique here) and Three-Way Fight (which I had a brief comment on here with further elaboration here). It’s also interesting to compare these far-left/anarchist/anti-fascist analyses with that of fourth-generation warfare theorist Bill Lind from the far-right.
By Keith Preston
The main things I would add to or dissent from the Gelderloos analysis would be these: I don’t think there is any ruling class faction that desires the restoration of pre-civil rights era race relations, and views like that are very marginal even on the periphery. The ruling class is opposed to minorities that resist “system values” and as class divisions are widening that has racial implications as well, but it seems the overwhelming majority of the ruling class favors a kind of technocratic multicultural statism for many practical/pragmatic reasons. I have an article about that coming out soon. And leading “right-wing” street fighter groups frequently include minorities, even in leadership positions. Their “racial reductionism” is a longstanding criticism I have of the left-anarchist/anti-racist types. White supremacists are the most marginal sector within the far-right and are often in conflict with other far-right sectors, including some that are very similar in other ways. Most of the far-right views white supremacists in the same way that the far-left views anti-Semitic black racialists.
I’m beginning to understand why Pol Pot exterminated the professional class.
The Soviet analogy really isn’t appropriate. Neoliberals are proponents of globalized technocratic state-capitalism, which uses feminism and multiculturalism to meet its human resources needs and construct a self-legitimating ideology. That has nothing to do with Communism.
By Gary Saul Morson
Between 1900 and 1917, waves of unprecedented terror struck Russia. Several parties professing incompatible ideologies competed (and cooperated) in causing havoc. Between 1905 and 1907, nearly 4,500 government officials and about as many private individuals were killed or injured. Between 1908 and 1910, authorities recorded 19,957 terrorist acts and revolutionary robberies, doubtless omitting many from remote areas. As the foremost historian of Russian terrorism, Anna Geifman, observes, “Robbery, extortion, and murder became more common than traffic accidents.”
The conventional media and much of the dissident milieu are focused on Trump’s Nixonian authoritarianism because is Trump is both the President and the bane of dominant ruling class sectors, but other dangers lurk in the form of millenarian progressivism and neocon opportunism. What seems to be going on is an effort by the neocons to manipulate the Left as a tool to be weaponized against Trumpism.
By Angelo Codevilla
The Independent Institute
The Americans who confess other people’s racism absolve themselves inexpensively by a moral mechanism common to humanity: the more I profess to hate evil, the more I showcase my own goodness. Such confessions, however, have a particular history of tragedy in Christian civilization. Again and again over the centuries, persons who have imagined themselves cleansed by ritual confessions have believed themselves elevated above the rest of humanity and, hence, entitled to oppress or even annihilate those around them. Today’s self-purifiers, arms outstretched in supine submission, who then countenance violence against persons, property, and cultural symbols, are mostly unwitting protagonists in yet another chapter of a hoary history.
This is a pretty good summary of where postmodern critical theorists stand in relation to the rest of the Left.
By Helen Pluckrose
I find it very odd when people keep telling me that “the left” is doing something bad with regard to wokeness and applied postmodernism when so many of the people opposing identity politics, cancel culture, collective blame, language policing, deplatforming, and censorship by the Critical Social Justice faction are, in fact, on the left. Not only is there a significant pushback against the excesses of Critical Social Justice on the left, this has been the case throughout the entire history leading up to the emergence of Critical Social Justice today. Let’s have a look at some of this.