Paul Gottfried offers some possible explanations of the bizarre attempt to lay the blame on an irrelevant scapegoat.
by Jeremy Weiland
Effective activism means understanding the nature of our many problems
A core problem with contemporary leftism as it is often pursued is that it has no sense of the boundaries of its project. Casting it in the most reasonable light, it tends to make the entire world and every person’s soul its political mission. After correctly identifying thought systems that lead to undesirable consequences, leftists often try to frame their activism in terms of “abolishing patriarchy” or “ending racism”. Because they believe these thought systems are at the root of the problem, it is natural to assume an attitude of attacking them.
Much like wars on victimless crimes, these attacks must be directed at people, since the ideas only exist in the mind. Individual human beings are often rejected in totality rather than merely rejecting their bad ideas. After all, individuals are sovereign within their own minds, and there is little power to force the adoption of values onto another (setting aside the countless problems with using force). The only real non-violent sanction one has against the beliefs of another is ridicule and withdrawal, which the left certainly employs often.
The question the alternative left poses to the mainstream and/or orthodox left is not whether these strategies are just – certainly, the defense of free association is a vital liberal tactic for non-violent social discipline. Sacrificing free association utterly endangers liberalism. Rather, its critique centers around the effectiveness of the tactic. Rather than a universal application of leftist ideology to every aspect of life, a lighter touch is suggested – not to let bad ideas and practices off the hook, but to better inculcate values conducive to sustainable social progress.
By its very nature, political activism orients itself towards formal institutions. Success in politics is measured by power – the power to realize visible and articulable policies, the power to direct the apparatus of an institution or organization, the power to compel individual behavior. Politics is practiced in spite of individual prerogative through capturing and dominating institutional vehicles for social influence. Certainly values can attempt to be promoted through these institutions, but ultimately they are the application of mechanistic policy or law to effect observable phenomena or measurable behavior.
Resisting or promoting particular institutions are valid forms of political activism because there’s something to resist or promote. For example, racist institutions – institutions that realize ends deemed racist – can be reformed or abolished. Unjust laws can be stricken and undermined. Organizations with objectionable values and goals can be disbanded or delegitimatized. Activists can target institutions with precision because they are easily identified entities with tangible assets, finite memberships, and/or express governing rules.
But the values that impel individuals to organize in the first place are not so easily eradicated. You can prevent the Ku Klux Klan from meeting and its members from acting, but you cannot force each member to renounce racial supremacist ideas. The Nazi party, its tenets, and its insignia are positively banned by law in Germany, and yet that poisonous belief system still lingers in the minds of many Germans. In fact, the attempt to stamp out such individuals for their beliefs can often create blowback: by marginalizing individuals for their beliefs, they become that much more dedicated to seeing them realized. They can come to identify with their ideology much more completely if their own well being is threatened.
How do people shed old belief configurations that are tied to their sense of who they are and adopt new ones? After all, lasting social and cultural change occurs through changing the behavior of the society’s or culture’s constituent members. And behavior follows from a person’s sense of their values and self-interest. So the key to long-term, lasting social progress of the kind we want is not political at all – it is changing minds and hearts.
People who are willing to be pariahs for their unpopular beliefs are unlikely to be cowed by ratcheting up hostilities. One can see this in military occupations where soldiers of one culture attempt to force those of another culture to change. One can also see this in movements here that embrace backwards approaches yet linger decade after decade, changing only in their application of beliefs and rarely in the bigotry motivating them.
Few people adopt their basic values on a rational basis. These values and beliefs are the basic “axioms” that inform their further reasoning, but the examination of these axioms usually reveals that some emotional or unconscious dynamic at play. Even the liberal belief in egalitarianism and justice is not one “supported” by any objective data; rather, we accept them as givens and use reason to find the best ways to achieve consonant goals.
In order to change one’s values, one must face the emotions, experiences and psychological background that convinced one to adopt them. I’m suggesting this is a deeply personal experience that requires a facing of the self, a “dark night of the soul”. It requires a vulnerability and honesty that is not well suited to the political project of influencing institutions and debating policy. We are asking people to dissolve basic parts of who they think they are and adopt new ones that are alien. This is a big step for anybody, and many go their whole lives without engaging in such a self-examination.
If our real desire is to convince people to substantively abandon bigoted and undesirable beliefs and values, and not simply eliminate the superficial vehicles informed by them, we must help people, not compel them. Decent societies are comprised of decent individuals, and if we rule out eliminating people for their beliefs then we have no choice but to work with them. This is a long, hard path that requires a dedicated ministering to deeply angry, hurt, or insecure people. It will also challenge our own beliefs and require honesty and transparency on our own part.
Building genuine trust among suspicious parties requires a light touch and a long view. But this is how a voluntary society and enlightened culture is created: individual by individual. The coarse means of political activism can stop large scale tragedies, but it cannot prevent them over the long run. To do that, we need to focus on being our better selves and bringing out the better selves of our neighbors. This scale of activity feels totally unequal to the task, and for precisely that reason it is too often ignored in favor of political activism. But while it feels unequal, it is the only viable route to sustainable, long-term social and cultural change.
Here are some potential projects I would like to see ARV/ATS develop in the years and decades ahead:
1) An independent radio network which would feature a variety of programs aimed at targeted demographics. Some might be in the right-wing populist Alex Jones mode, some might be oriented towards anti-New World Order Christians, others might be geared towards the dissident left, while still others might have a black nationalist flavor. The different programs would focus on issues relevant to the targeted demographics, but with the common themes of opposition to the empire, community autonomy, class struggle rooted in the vanguard classes, critiquing totalitarian humanism, and the pan-secessionist outlook.
2) A network of dissident student organizations to be organized on campuses (like Youth for Western Civilization is doing). The most likely purpose of the student groups would be to challenge the domination of the academic world by totalitarian humanism, demonstrate critiques of this from both the left and right, and bridge the gap between the varying opponents of totalitarian liberalism, e.g. dissident leftists, alternative rightists, black nationalists, libertarians, etc.
3) The development of independent self-sufficient communities like the Twin Oaks community mentioned in a previous post, and the networking of our communities with similar communities.
4) The development of alternative social service projects by ATS affiliates and allied groups (like BANA, NATA-NY, and and AI/AN-ATS have been doing).
5) The creation of a speaker’s bureau so that our representatives and allied others will be available to speak to other groups, with an emphasis on student groups.
6) The creation of single-issue activist organizations affiliated with ATS for the purpose of bringing issues related to the pan-secessionist struggle under the umbrella of ourselves and our allies. These groups would then work within and seek leadership positions in other, larger groups that focus on the same issues. For instance, I want “our people” to someday work their way into leadership positions within both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association, and work to turn both of these away from their left-liberal and reactionary conservative orientations, respectively.
7) Conducting mayoral campaigns in dozens of American cities simultaneously that are oriented towards local issues and local culture, but share the common thread of the radical decentralist/pan-secessionist idea, and modeled on what Norman Mailer did in NYC in 1969. The purpose of such an effort would not so much be to take electoral politics seriously as much as a publicity stunt that was large-scale, well-coordinated, and geared to generate media attention.
1 Christianity: 2.1 billion
2 Islam: 1.5 billion
3 Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
4 Hinduism: 900 million
5 Chinese religion: 394 million
6 Buddhism: 376 million
7 Primal-indigenous: 300 million
8 African Traditional: 100 million
9 Sikhism: 23 million
10 Juche: 19 million
11 Spiritism: 15 million
12 Judaism: 14 million
13 Baha’i: 7 million
14 Jainism: 4.2 million
15 Shinto: 4 million
16 Cao Dai: 4 million
17 Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
18 Tenrikyo: 2 million
19 Neo-Paganism: 1 million
20 Unitarian: 800 thousand
21 Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
22 Scientology: 500 thousand
“Most the people who knew the AZ shooter called him a “nut” and a “Left wing pothead”. It’s interesting to watch all the Left TV shows and read the Leftist blogs, They are all trying to blame this kid’s actions on the “Right wing” and gun ownership. It’s amazing how every time there’s a tragedy like this hacks try and use it to take way everyone’s rights.
She had a lot very good stands. She was pro-gun ownership and wanted to secure the borders. She called herself a Blue Dog Democrat. She started out as a Republican. She is to the Right of most of the Democrats.”
Interesting article from The Atlantic on Saudi Arabia’s gay subculture.
A symposium on property and ownership theory at the Center for a Stateless Society. Looks interesting,
…is under attack by the usual suspects. Figures.
I quitting smoking pot, for the most part, years ago and stoner culture itself never really appealed to me. That said, of all the separatist groups I’ve ever encountered, this is one of my personal favorites.
Read it all here. So far as I can tell, there is nothing in these principles that are inherently incompatible with anarcho-pluralism or pan-secessionism. The kinds of communities the NOI might create internally would not exactly please our left-libertarian rivals, but so what? Just don’t go there.
Who would’ve thought? This place is about an hour from my residence, and I’ve had a number of friends who lived there for varying periods of time. See more here and here. Apparently, there are about 2000 such communities in the USA. The fact that such communities can exist even within the context of the capitalist system (and so can much larger communities like Mondragon, the Israeli Kibbutzim, or Emilia-Romagna) ought to help flesh out some of the differences between left and right libertarians, anarcho-communists and anarcho-capitalists.
Craig Bodeker interviews Jared Taylor. Predictability, Taylor says no.
Jared Taylor makes the most articulate and compelling case for the legitimate concerns of white nationalists of anyone I am familiar with, but that’s not really the source of my interest in him. Rather, I am much more interested in his emphasis on decentralization and free associationism. He discusses that in this interview with John Derbyshire.
Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late evangelical Christian theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, talks about how the “religious right” actually came into being in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. See Part One and Part Two. See also these detailed interviews with John Whitehead and with NPR.
I was a part of the subculture Schaeffer is discussing during the 70s when all of these events were unfolding, and the story he’s telling is accurate. His father was theologian in the same Reformed/Calvinist tradition that I grew up in and was affiliated with the same church denominations and seminary. The pastors of my church were all graduates of the same seminary as Francis Schaeffer, and in 1976 and 1977 my church used to hold special services in the evenings just to show Schaeffer’s films. His books were used a teaching materials in Sunday School classes for adults and older adolescents. Frank Schaeffer mentions Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin carrying around a copy of one of his father’s books, “Escape from Reason,” which was the book my former pastor sent me in 1987 in an obviously failed effort to convince me to return to the faith. Francis Schaeffer’s book, “A Christian Manifesto,” was also hugely popular in the subculture I originated from.
Like Frank Schaeffer, I no longer subscribe to the ideas of that subculture, and haven’t for 30 years. Though I was never a mainstream pro-Democratic Party “liberal” or “progressive” like Frank is today, what he says about the religious right subculture today is basically what I would have said during my conventional leftist days in the 80s. But what I now find interesting about Frank’s discussion of the religious right in these interviews is his claiming that they are essentially a secessionist movement that has already seceded culturally and institutionally if not politically and geographically. Frank observes how they already have their own schools, universities, media outlets, publishing firms, entertainment, and other parts of a huge subculture that is really something of a parallel society. Writers like Bill Bishop in “The Big Sort” have suggested that Americans are in the process of self-separation along cultural, religious, and political lines. It would seem that formal political secession would be the next step. Frank observes that about 20 million Americans belong to this subculture, which is about six or seven percent of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, research shows that while the evangelical subculture grew substantially in the 70s and 80s, its growth leveled off about 20 years ago and has remained static ever since. Meanwhile, membership in mainline church denominations has actually declined and unbelievers are the fastest growing religious perspective in the U.S.
What this means is that as the evangelical/fundamentalist subculture remains static (and as its younger members even move leftward), its adherents will increasingly come to understand that “taking back America” is something they will never achieve. Meanwhile, as totalitarian humanism becomes more deeply entrenched the evangelical subculture will come under increasing attacks from the state, thereby heightening their sense of alienation from the mainstream society and from the state in particular. This would seem to indicate that the evangelicals may well be ideal constituents for a pan-secessionist movement at some point in the decades ahead. A subculture of 20 million people that rejects the existing state and simply walks away would certainly be of significance to our own struggle. Their static growth rate and declining numbers indicate they will likely pose no significant threat of re-imposing a tyrannical state of their own. Rather, it is more likely they would isolate themselves in their own sectarian enclaves and counter-institutions.
This possibility presents us with a real opportunity. The difficulties and obstacles we face would be the obvious ones. Most of us are not Christians of any kind, much less their kind, and many of us clearly hold to ideas they would find appalling (with yours truly probably being at the top of the list). That said, if the secular, atheist, Jewish, neo-Jacobin, Trotsky-influenced neoconservatives could cultivate these people as constituents, it might not be so difficult for us. The biggest issue would probably be the question of Christian Zionism. Most of us are anti-Israel, either out of sympathy of the Palestinians, or opposition to Zionist influence over American foreign policy, or out of opposition to the American empire generally. An important part of the anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist struggle would probably include attacking the US-Israel alliance, which would not play well with the evangelicals. Therefore, a crucial question will be the way in which the evangelical subculture balances it support for Israel (which does not include all fundamentalists, btw) versus its sense of alienation from the political establishment from which it will be the recipient of increasingly strident political attacks.
by Steven Saragian
Our Glenn Beck?: http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/zeitgeist/our-glenn-beck/
Recently Keith Preston of AttackTheSystem.com authored an article on the Austin radio show host and documentary film maker Alex Jones. As a fellow, for lack of a better term, Conservative Anarchist that has actually been involved with what, for the lack of a better term, we will call the “Conspiracy Community” I would feel remiss if I did not give my comment.
The first aspect of Mr Preston’s analysis that I would like to address is that of Mr Jones as an intellectual, namely that he is not an intellectual. This I would not contest and, I would be bold enough to guess, Jones himself would not deny this. In fact he has said as much in the past. Preston rightly notes the telling statement by Jones that “If the globalists are for it, we have to be against it.” A statement which exemplifies the approach he takes to his work. He is an reactionary in the most literal sense of the word, Jones has the intellectual weakness of allowing his enemies (or perceived enemies) to set the permitters for battle. That being said, the only right-wing intellectual with a radio show (of a political nature) that I am aware of is Tom Sunic, so this fact should not bother us.
Yet, I would contest what Preston asserts about Jones’s fans based on this fact is not accurate, not logically or empirically. I am referring to the idea that intellectual discussions are of no interest to Jones fans, or even that they are incapable of understanding such arguments. Within any cross section of a society you will find great differences in intellectual ability, as well as other abilities. I can only comment on what I has seen in my own region (New England), but I would say that Preston and myself are in agreement that Jones is popular with a large cross section of society. To quote Preston:
We know that most people are not capable of being intellectuals, and that most people are indeed more motivated by habit, custom, myth, cues taken from peers and perceived authority figures, or the norms of their community or culture of origin than by a thoughtful contemplation of ideas. For instance, our discussions of Nietzsche, Evola, Schmitt, Hobbes, Heidegger, or Benoist would no doubt be either uninteresting or incomprehensible to many hard-core Alex Jones fans.
It may be that I misunderstand Preston, so I will try to make myself clear. Firstly that I have met a fare share of Jones fans that attend or are alumni of prestigious colleges in the Boston area. I can assure you that many Jones fans are well versed in the work of Nietzsche, Hobbes, and even Heidegger. I am the only person in these circles that had even the lest bit of interest in more marginal figures like Evola, Schmitt, or Benoist. Still, Benoist never came up in any conversation and I myself had not heard anyone champion the name of Schmitt until I came across Preston’s blog. It is true that many disagree with the methodology Jones often utilizes and sometimes disagree with his interpretation of the facts, but the general view is that he is close enough. After all Preston does not disparage Evola despite Evola’s…let us say, questionable interpretations of notable mystics and theological figures.
It is possible that Preston has a different idea of what qualifies as a “hard-core Alex Jones fan”. What he might be referring to is the breed of Jones Cult members that abound on the web and that can characterize a few found on the street as well. Cult members abound in the contemporary world and a meaningful examination of why lies outside of the purview of this comment. What I will say is that a media figure with the animal magnetism of Jones is going to attract such people regardless of what he talks about. He has a particular power over some do to the fact that he and his show are activist in nature. Jones’s show is geared toward activists and his films are geared toward creating new activists. In this he is among the best of his generation. To his credit Jones works to bring a wide range of anti-authoritarian guests on his show, but I am afraid that nothing Jones could every do would remove the cult like sway of the lower-IQ Alex Jones clones, if you need an example of such a person lookup “The Infowarrior with Jason Bermas”.
On the subject of Alex Jones and the Conspiracy Community I could say many more things, but to constrain myself in this short comment I would like to finish by turning my attention to the community of alternativeright.com. Preston is clearly pandering to his audience. If you would like to see the level of discourse that the typical alt-right reader is capable of you can read the comments denouncing the wife of Alex Jones as a reverse Jezebel. If on the other hand Preston is only speaking of the writers on alt-right he is on a better grounding to speak of intellectual standards. Still, alt-right is far from what I think could be categorized as a site for high-discourse one would expect from an intellectual vanguard. I can not find any articles discussing the differences in metaphysic ideas of Plato and Heidegger. The site focuses on items like Race-IQ difference, a difficult area for leftist to compete. One has to wonder if Preston is simply trying to play into his audience’s own projections that seek to displace on to others there own sense of being marginalized by pretending to be intellectually superior to the general population.
Totalitarian humanism at its finest. I suppose little more could be expected from a graduate of the System’s premiere institution of higher learning.
What we need, I think, is some form of American gendarmerie—a quasi-military federal organization specialized in police/security functions rather than finding and killing bad guys per se. Such a force would, unlike today’s military, have a valuable peacetime domestic role to play as a flexible auxiliary police force that could assist high-crime jurisdictions with the kind of temporary infusion of extra personnel that can help push crime rates down to a lower equilibrium.** A “surge” if you will. But it would also be prepared to deploy abroad in the case of contingencies. The regular military would be big enough to beat an adversary (i.e., a lot smaller than the regular one) but it would need to call on the gendarmes (who naturally would need a less French name) to conduct an occupation. This means we wouldn’t be caught lacking capacity in a real emergency, but since the gendarmes would be performing a useful peacetime domestic service politicians would (appropriately) feel that initiating situations that require their mobilization is high cost situation that ought to be avoided if possible.
January 25 will be the tenth anniversary of Attack the System’s first appearance online. Special thanks to all of those who have supported or contributed to ATS over the years. For newer readers or those with a taste for nostalgia, here’s what we looked like in the old days. Check it out.
As a veteran of the conventional left-wing anarchist movement in the 1980s, I started to realize around 1990 that there was a whole world of ideas and issues that anarchists were ignoring in favor of their usual focus on countercultural lifestyles and left-liberal popular causes. I became interested in developing a new kind of anarchist movement that would not necessarily turn its back on everything that came before, but would draw on a much wider array of influences and incorporate a much broader perspective into its analysis. Throughout the 1990s, I observed movements like the patriot/militia folks, the anti-globalization movement, and the Austro-libertarians, and realized that the internet would be the best tool for developing the kind of alternative anarchist movement I wished to see emerge. That’s how AttacktheSystem.Com was born. The name was originally suggested to me by an 18 year old college student I met at an anti-drug war protest in November, 2000, and the original version of ATS was designed by a friend of mine’s younger brother who was still in high school at the time. Right from the start, we were a thorn in the side to the anarcho-leftoids and have been ever since. Infoshop.Org placed us in their Index of Forbidden Websites. For the most part, I have always regarded our critics among the leftoid-anarchists as the public relations and marketing division of ARV/ATS as few others have made more effort than they to publicize what we do here. Essentially, they play the same role as Jesus freaks passing out fliers at a Marilyn Manson concert saying “Don’t Let Marilyn Manson Send Your Soul to Hell” thereby increasing the mystique and exotic appeal associated with performers like MM.
I’m actually amazed at how rapidly alternative anarchism has grown, particularly over the last few years. Now it seems like new sites, blogs, or local groups are popping up every week. What we see going on right now in Western anarchism is some good old fashioned Darwinian evolution. The archaic anarcho-leftoids who still think it’s 1969 will have to either adapt or face extinction.
I have a piece up at AlternativeRight.Com where I take a look at Alex Jones. Read it here. I argue that the kinds of elements Jones appeals to might be the ground level forces for the Alternative Right just as the fans of “conservative talk radio” and FOX News are the grassroots support base for the neoconservatives.
Expanding this analysis a bit, the ground level right-wing populism of the Alex Jones crowd might well be what the right-wing of pan-secessionism would look like at the lower levels. I’ve suggested before that a strategically effective pan-secessionism would need a left-wing, a center-wing, and right-wing, with the right-wing element being precisely the kind of consistent anti-establishment populism that Jones promotes. It does not matter that Jones’ particular analytical framework is rather shabby (to say the least), or even whether Jones himself is even sincere in his rhetoric. All that matters is that Jones has managed to put together an audience of people from the populist-right with consistently anti-establishment views.
This raises the question of what the left and center wings of pan-secessionism would look like at the ground levels. It’s somewhat easy to imagine what a left-wing version of Alex Jones might be. The grassroots left-wing of pan-secessionism would probably look like some of kind synthesis of left-anarchism, left-libertarianism, Alexander Cockburnism, Noam Chomskyism, neo-yippieism, and neo-Black Pantherism, and intermixed with all sorts of countercultural, New Age, occult, left-conspiracist, and “alternative lifestyle” influences and tendencies. My best guess at present that the center-wing of pan-secessionism would look somewhat like the Ron Paul and/or Tea Party movements, but sufficiently radicalized to the point that they take a consistently anti-establishment line and are open to more radical propositions as opposed to simply being Republican dupes or hoping to elect “one of us” to the presidency.
And, of course, the primary task I envision for the alternative anarchist movement and its allies is to the coordinating forces that are capable of bringing all of these elements together into a strategic alliance for the sake of carrying out the pan-secessionist effort.
by Michael Parish
After posting my official reply to my critics last night, I paid a visit to Keith’s blog only to find that another voice had slipped under my radar. Normally, I would compose a brief rejoinder and post it in the comment’s section; the considerable length of this particular response, however, necessiates an official reply. So, I find myself compelled to return to the drawing board….
” Interesting essay and comments, I think that the discussion in the comments shows the weaknesses of ideological labelling in that if you call yourself a left-libertarian, anarchist, or conservative inevitably you associate yourself with a whole laundry list of positions in the minds of most people.”
Why thank you, and an astute observation regarding the ambiguity of ideology.
” In this specific instance, there are probably some self described left-libertarians who fit Michael’s description but, the majority probably do not. I myself have given up trying to put any ideological label on my beliefs; other people can do so if they wish.
And the disagreement sets in early. My description was informed by my readings of Left-Libertarian writings, all of whom betrayed those conceptions. I have observed that the adherence to such views is implicit rather than pronounced, leading me to believe that it is largely unconscious on their part.
“As for Michael’s essay, I agree with his points regarding economic determinism and the importance of cultural factors. Turning the economy into an idol is an error that I think both left and right leaning libertarians are susceptible to. The importance of culture is also one area where I would agree with Michael though the conclusions that I come to are radically different than his.”
Neato, although I was referring more to the tendency to totalize than idolize the economy, the latter fallacy being a common flaw in many, far too many ideologies. As for he and I disagreeing over cultural determinism, let’s have a looksie shall we?
” Now onto my areas of disagreement with the article. The first thing that caught my attention was his bringing up of the individualism vs. collectivism thing. He accuses left-libertarians of holding to a theory of atomistic abstract individualism in contrast to his communitarian ideal.”
I never in my critique mentioned the dispute between individualism and collectivism. What I did mention was the unsoundness of the liberal conception of the individual as an autonomous unit, and the logical absurdity of proceeding with that as your theoretical basis. For clarification, communitarianism is not a preferential “ideal” on my part; it’s something that I have come to view as a practical necessity for dealing with quantitative concerns in the absence of the state. The term “atomism” as I employ it refers to the philosophic view of society as a sum total of individuals and individual agency, reducible to the sum of its parts; not to the disintegration of previously organic social structures, though I attack that as well.
“The first thing that I want to point out in the whole debate over individualism and collectivism is the assumption that there is an inherent conflict at all times between the individual and society. I am not convinced that such a conflict must necessarily exist. ”
Human thought and human society cannot be reduced to the simplistic polarity between “individualism and collectivism,” which I will address later in this piece. I’m similarly unconvinced of the unavoidability of the conflict he mentions, albeit positing a different solution to it.
“One thing I want to point out about this criticism of individualism is that it is often made by people who hold to an abstract notion of collectivism. What I mean by that is that collective notions like society, race, nation, are given an existence of their own independent of people who make up these collectives.”
In my travels, I’ve come to the opinion that different peoples and their respective cultures are objects of value worthy of preservation. It may be objected that such notions are unquantifiable but these stem from the flaw of strict rationalism; they are easily experienced, particularly in their absence. Apart from this, my criticism of abstract individualism is not leveled from an ethnonationalist perspective; he is drifting from addressing my critique to an unrelated tangent.
“This is in contrast to the idea that our actions can affect others and so social rules should take that fact of existence into account, which is something that I agree with. The thing with abstract collectivism is that the institutions are the things that are important and people have a duty to serve them rather than the institutions serving the individuals.”
Actually, thinkers with a particularist cultural outlook typically do acknowledge and emphasize that fact. The relation between the individual and the institution is reciprocal, the latter earning service from the former through service to the former; it cannot be either the slave devotion he denounces or the one sided entitlement he favors.
“The abstract individualism that Michael imputes to left libertarians is probably only held by a psychopath, it may be the case that sometimes libertarians in general underestimate the degree to which an individual’s actions affect other people, but I think the consequences of that error pale in comparison to what abstract collectivism has wrought. I think that concrete “real” individualism which recognizes actual people as being preeminent over institutions is not only compatible with social harmony, but is in fact necessary for an advanced society that values progress.”
If Aster and her ilk could be defined as “psychopaths” then my impution would be correct. Libertarian fallacies extend far beyond the underestimation he mentions; their conception of the individual, as an autonomous unit emanating as if from thin air, is unsubstantiated. Recognizing individual preference is important but it can’t be the basis of a social theory; individuals are from the start shaped by the institutions to which they are related, and their functioning in life determined by them; faltering institutions produce defective individuals, whose actions in turn create a faltering society. Hence the importance of cultivating healthily functioning institutions prior to the individual, for the purpose of what Jared terms “social harmony.” I do not subscribe the trajectory of “progress”; it’s a belief unsubstantiated by anything empirically observable in human history.
” In contrast to this, collectivism in my view has been responsible for the retardation of human civilization. At bottom, the collectivism promoted by authoritarians including these paleocons and others is at bottom an authoritarian, fear-driven, and anti-liberty mentality. This is the mentality that is behind the fear-driven rhetoric of the so-called war on terror and the calls coming from that camp for people to sacrifice their liberties in the service of a greater good. You also see this mentality in cults that control their members as well as in primitive societies where ignorance and fear prevail and where such things prevail, collectivism finds fertile soil.”
This first statement is not backed by examples and I will therefore decline to respond. If your definition of “authoritarian” is statist, then Paleoconservatives do not nearly equal the authoritarianism of the managerial liberals they (and I) criticize. They also do not support the foreign and domestic proclivities of the neoconservatives; I fear our friend here is conflating the two out of ignorance. Collectivism is an umbrella term encompassing a wide number of otherwise unrelated ideologies, not a spirit or essence invisibly running through all of them. The forms of group-think one encounters in neoconservatism, “primitive” societies, and religious cults all have noticable qualitative distinctions.
“In contrast to this, the more enlightened and secure people are, the less collectivistic doctrines have any appeal.”
Give me a concrete definition of the term “enlightened”, as this is a quality I have never seen instantiated in any actual society.
“Those rare individuals who have advanced civilization and brought us beyond our animal origins were those who had the courage to go against both the sheep and their wolf masters.”
Agreed, although an individualist impulse can just as easily led to mediocrity and stupidity in those who have it.
“Collectivism in my mind is responsible for the way in which people discriminate against people because of race, sexual orientation, and other characteristics because they don’t see that person as an individual, but just as part of a group that a person has attached certain traits to in his/her mind.”
Agreed again, although there are qualitative differences between groups that impact the functioning of the societies in which they exist. One instance of this is the Hispanic population in California, the members of which generally hold culturally conservative views on the issues of religion, gender, and sexuality. As they increase in number, they will increase in influence, and social policies in the state will shift noticably rightward as a result. Group membership may be a non-issue within the microsphere of daily human interaction, but not within the broader macrosphere of politics. In the realm of political theory, this must be factored into account, and and the failure to do so is one of the insufficencies of strict individualism.
“Also, the sort of inter-group violence is a product of a collectivist mentality in my mind. Left-libertarians by their universalism (which the author is against) at least would apply a minimum standard of treatment to everyone on the planet in contrast to the tribal nature of the sort of politics that Michael endorses.
Agree with the first statement, although I don’t see inter-group tension taking a hike anytime soon. My stated opposition to universalism is it’s lack of grounding in reality; everything is a particular, and can only be seen as a universal through limited vision. I don’t advocate “tribal” politics; this is a gross misinterpretation of my views arrived at through knee jerk fear of illiberal social views.
” In other words, you don’t see these atomised individualistic libertarians going out and hacking people to death with machetes because they are part of an outside group. It’s the tribal mentality that generates that sort of behaviour.”
Nope, but similar behavior has been reported in another, earlier group whose rhetoric rather closely predated that of “these atomised individualistic libertarians.”
“On the issue of culture, I agree that liberal ideas have only existed so far for the most part among northern European populated nations from the 17th century onward and areas where these groups are most prevalent are where these values are the most ingrained. Whether that will always be the case is something that I don’t think can be answered one way or the other yet. That is one of the reasons that I am a little concerned about mass immigration from other cultures with different values into these nations although I don’t take the hysterical anti-immigration stance of some. The irony is that those who hold to the sort of politics of collectivism ought to have a favourable attitude towards these people with non-liberal values coming in. ”
Agreed entirely, and this is another instance of the insolvency of both strict individualism and universalism.
” As for left-libertarians sharing the same presuppositions as the modern state, well so what? Even the most rabid neocon believes in basic human rights, free speech, is opposed to genocide etc. I am thankful for anyone that shares the basic ideas of the enlightenment, which in my opinion was the best thing to happen to humanity other than civilization itself. ”
Sharing the same presuppositions of the modern state limits one’s opposition to it. By “presuppositions”, human rights, free speech, and opposition to genocide were not what I was refering to. That would be the conception of society as a sum total of atoms, each one a self-serving homo economicus, with the whole existing only as a machine programmed to satisfy each’s material desires.
“The sad thing is that National Anarchists, New Rightist’s, paleocons, and other assorted types do not seem to share these basic values.”
These Rightist tendencies are not tyrants in disguise; skepticism of the idea of progress and distrust of pleasent utopian rhetoric is a form of realism and not an indicator of latent despotism. As far as free speech is concerned, the greatest current threat to that comes not from the Right but from the statist Left, and derives from humanist premises. Liberal premises can lead quite easily to authoritarianism, hence the naivete in embracing a single philosophic framework for anti-statism.
” This leads me to a conclusion that I am very unhappy about coming to. ”
“That is if it comes to choosing between the societies that the afore mentioned groups would inflict upon humanity and the current system that exists, I will choose the latter. I am as much an opponent of the present system as can be.”
Jared is obviously unfamiliar with what the Right actually stands for, as his equation of marginalized dissenters with majoritarian forces actually in power attests to. Decentralized networks of organically constituted communities cannot be possibly be as intolerable as the current system, making this perhaps the oddest statement I’ve yet read. As far as the notion of “humanity” is concerned, I suggest you heed this:
“Man is ‘an invention of recent date’ that will soon ‘be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea’” -Michel Foucault
” I am as much an opponent of the present system as can be. I am against the state, the injustice system, corporatism, the war machine, probably more laws than most libertarians are against, and so on. When I read stories in the news about people being busted for victimless crimes, it probably raises my blood pressure so high that I’m surprised I haven’t had a stroke by now. The thing is that I am against the system because of its illiberal nature and not because of the liberalism that it has. I am opposed to totalitarian humanism and managerial liberalism because I believe that they are fundamentally opposed to true liberal ideals by their authoritarian natures. I believe that concern over totalitarian humanism by the groups that I have mentioned is a smokescreen to mask their opposition to the most basic liberal ideals. ”
I agree with all this, although I don’t see all “liberal ideals” as worthy of embracing, particularly the ones not grounded in reality. There is more to the world than the simplistic black and white “liberal versus evil” polarity he adheres to.
He then ended with a drift into a commentary on racialist ideologies that was entirely irrelevant and unrelated to my article.
In closing, Jared’s response was another instance of someone misinterpreting my views and responding to them with strawmen, even if he did so with admirable civility. This has prompted me to compose a detailed exposition of my actual views, for the purpose of clarification and continuing this dialogue.
by Michael Parish
Roughly one week ago, a critique of mine entitled “Left Libertarians: A Dispassionate Assessment” appeared on the Attack The System blog manned by Keith Preston, a link to which I will provide here: https://attackthesystem.com/2010/12/left-libertarians-a-dispassionate-assessment Since then, the self-explanatory piece has evoked a number of replies from both its intended audience and others, so much so that a thorough response on my part would exceed the length appropriate for a comment on Keith’s site. Hence, I have prepared a follow-up post to answer my critics.
“Michael, when you say things like this…“our first priority should not be the “individual liberation” but community organizing”…and dismiss individual preferences as “petulant”, are you really that surprised when the LL types cock an eyebrow of suspicion at what they perceive as “village fascism”?”
The first quote he used against me was plucked entirely from its proper context. When I mentioned community organizing, I was referring to the development of voluntarist institutions intended to perform services at present assumed by the state. When I declared it our first priority, I did so pragmatically. Because the population is highly dependent upon state programs in their daily lives, it is necessary they be weaned off the government teat prior to the institution’s abolition. Doing otherwise would have disastrous results, particularly on welfare and social security dependents.
Moreover, I was not attacking as petulant individual preferences per se. I’m but an armchair psychologist, but I realize that every individual has interests and desires they pursue, the satisfaction of which is necessary for them to function healthily. I do not exclude consideration of this in my political thought. What I was attacking was the tendency of many within this milieu to make preference satisfaction the basis of their philosophy, so that society is conceived of as nothing more than a machine programmed to deliver everyone their favorite goodies. The flipside to this is a de facto positive rights doctrine according to which every informal barrier to preference satisfaction is seen as a form of injustice. Individual preference is but one of many concerns to be taken into account here; elevating it to the highest good is petulant. As far as “village fascism” is concerned, I’ve grown quite weary of the latter epiphet. It is, to quote H.L. Mencken, but “a general term of abuse”, one rendered void of all meaning through careless overuse.
“What is it with the paleocon/RadTrad/social conservative tendency to conflate individualism with atomism and solipsism? The latter concepts seem to better befit a two year old or crackpot authoritarian dictator than any liberty-loving individualist (even the “deracine” and hermit types), yet you (and Yeoman) seem to take great relish in chokeslamming *all* these concepts as if they were one and the same.”
I am not a paleocon or a social conservative, at least not in the sense that North Americans are familiar with. I can’t speak for Yeoman, but the reason I do make such a conflation is because that is how self-described individualists invariably come across. When I use the term “atomism” I am referring to the social theory that society either is or is reducible to a sum of individuals, and in never more than the sum of its parts. Left-Libertarians usually do adhere to such a conception.
“Community organizing” could mean alternative institutions that fulfill the ostensible goals of current state programs; it could also mean rooting out and running roughshod over “undesirables” and their “petulant” preferences (as opposed to, say violent criminals). I’m not saying that the latter is necessarily what you’re aiming for, but such prioritizing *could* lead to (conservo-)managerialism-writ-small, rather than anything resembling spontaneous order.”
I agree with this statement, although I do take issue with his choice of words. I never used the term “undesirable” in my essay, and I never dismissed personal preferences as petulant. To restate the clarification made earlier, if a guy wants to receive a rimjob from one donkey while blowing another in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, that is not petulant. However, sacralizing this as a human right is petulant. Voluntarist efforts for purposes of communal assistance, if well intentioned and guided by the right individuals, will not lead to micro-tyranny.
“I think emphasis on voluntarism, as Dennis V has pointed out, works as the great reconciler between individual and civil interests; after all, as is often pointed out here, very few folk could be described as “hermits” or “rootless”, even amongst the left-libs in your crosshairs.”
Precisely, but why are the left-libertarians not more vocal about this? This is the impression they give off, so observers such as myself will understandably attack it as such.
“A number of LL thinkers (who shall remain nameless) insist on a society of atom-like individuals held together solely by commercial exchange. This stands out to me as particularly unsustainable; that it would produce the sort of paper thin social relations incapable of handling qualitative issues (poverty, for instance), and, in turn, the ensuing decay would facilitate the rebirth of the state.”
“My problem with this critique is, that while left-libertarians correctly defend the market as an institution, there is also support for non-market alternative institutions as long as they are voluntary. I have not seen in LLs the kind of Block-ian “Market Fundamentalism”.
They do and of this I am aware; however, Dennis’s reply here ignores the core of my critique, which is of the movement’s economic reductionism. He mentions non-market forms of social organization, but says nothing to defend the assumption I was attacking, that the economy and relations within are the causal foundation of human society.
“The real problem is that libertarians define all kind of voluntary human actions as part of the free market. However it a little confusing to label voluntary charity as a market action, since there is no material exchange, even if the state does not intervene. I do think that the equation market equals stateless, is a libertarian fallacy (but certainly not just a left-libertarian one). ”
Precisely. Not only is “market equals statelessness” a fallacy, so is the view that all human action and interaction can be defined in economic terms. As I mentioned in my essay, social relations predate economic ones; i.e. man works to live rather than living to work, and is a friend, lover, and family member before he is a worker and consumer. These relations developed on their own long before the emergence of the market, and cannot possibly be viewed commercially. That Left-Libertarians (and Libertarians in general) adhere to an economic determinism that inverses this is the view I was attacking, which Dennis apparently fails to notice.
“This is the second issue I raise-the LL apparently conflates the concrete condition of stateless with the abstract principle of individualism. They contrast this binary-like with collectivism and statism.”
Well individualism is a term which has many different meanings. It can include the atomization that you condemn, but it is not simply that. As I am against “atomization” I am against the concepts of “roots”/”identity”. I have nothing against cultural traditions, but these concepts look really fishy to me. Statists of all stripes allways try to pidgeonhole people into categories that make no sense except in the political arena. You condemn libertarians as believers in an universal humanity, but nationalists seem to do the same thing to smaller subdivisions of humanity. They don’t believe in a human identity, but in a German identity, an American identity, a Greek identity, and the “right” of a ethno-cultural group in their own government . It’s ridiculous to believe in a one-size-fits-all government for all Greeks, just because they have the same language, culture and heritage. There are great differences between Muslim Greeks in Thrace and Orthodoc Christian Greeks, left-wing Greeks and right-wing Greeks, culturally liberal Greeks and culturally conservative Greeks. The only difference between ” universalist humanism” (or “humanist nationalism”) and “nationalism”, is that totalitarian humanism is ridiculous in a much larger scale, rather than a local one, and the cracks are way more visible and dangerous due to the huge cultural differences. Also like egalitiarianism, identity means sameness. It is impossible to be against egalitarianism and for identity, for they are PRACTICALLY the same concept. The main problem for an anti-state radical is not to defend the concept of identity, but to defend the right for everyone to CHOOSE his own culture. This is going to be the real end of the cultural wars, and will bring the results close to what you, radical traditionalists want to see…”
The point of mine he was replying to here had nothing to do with ethno-cultural identity, but with the stability of society through the functioning of civic institutions. He read my writing, transposed onto it his own (mis) interpretation of it, and used that as a springboard for a tangent completely unrelated to what he was responding to.
Jeremy (a thinker I happen to admire, by the way)
“The view has been presented in Left-Libertarian circles that the individual’s involvement in such institutions limits his individuality and constrains his desire. This mistakes preference satisfaction for social justice, and carries with it a by de facto positive rights doctrine according to which the individual is entitled to freedom from all social barriers to the satisfaction of his subjective desires. I find this to be a petulant view consistent more with managerial liberalism than with any kind of anti-statism.
I don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal, honestly. The concern is that these institutions (such as patriarchal families) are authoritarian, not that they are illegitimate. I think your argument that a certain kind of individualism requires the liberal state is not only valid, it’s transformational. It certainly gave me a lot to think about. Such an approach would require libertarians to be not just blind extremists for individual liberty but rather to also think dialectically about the kind of balance between individual and society, and the kinds of institutions likely to maintain an appropriate balance. Funnily enough, it’s a place where brainpolice lands in his above quoted passage, too.”
Yes! I enjoyed reading this response, as it indicates the emergence of a crucial dialectic. Incidentally, I don’t view the “patriarchal” (i.e. nuclear) enclave as “authoritarian.” While it does require the individual to commit to concerns of a supra-individual nature, which limits the satisfaction of his own desires, this is the kind of natural structure that is required if a society is to preserve balance in the absence of formal coercion. To equate the kind of structure found in a civic institution with the functioning of the state is fallacious.
Overall, I have a rather mixed reaction to the discursive flurry my piece evoked. On the one hand, it appeared that two of my responders ignored all the points I was making, focusing only very selectively on minor excerpts and attacking them with strawmen. (In the case of MRDA, this meant taking me entirely out of context.) On the other hand, the response from Mr. Weiland seems to indicate that my words have not fallen entirely on deaf ears. My main gripe with the anti-state milieu is that their thought is still largely in the theoretical and speculative stage, and my main goal is to translate this to the realm of the practical; if this dialogue continues, that may indeed happen.
#1 A Michigan man has been charged with a felony and could face up to 5 years in prison for reading his wife’s email.
#2 A 49-year-old Queens woman had bruises all over her body after she was handcuffed, arrested and brutally beaten by NYPD officers. So what was her offense? The officers thought that her little dog had left some poop that she didn’t clean up.
#3 A 56-year-old woman who was once a rape victim refused to let airport security officials feel her breasts so she was thrown to the floor, put in handcuffs and arrested.
#4 In Milwaukee, one man was recently fined $500 for swearing on a public bus.
#5 Several years ago a 12-year-old boy in South Carolina was actually arrested by police for opening up a Christmas present early against his family’s wishes.
#6 In some areas of the country, it is now a crime to not recycle properly. For example, the city of Cleveland has announced plans to sort through trash cans to ensure that people are actually recycling according to city guidelines.
#7 A 12-year-old girl from Queens was arrested earlier this year and taken out of her school in handcuffs for writing “Lex was here. 2/1/10″ and “I love my friends Abby and Faith” on her desk.
#8 Back in 2008, a 13-year-old boy in Florida was actually arrested by police for farting in class.
#9 The feds recently raided an Amish farmer at 5 AM in the morning because they claimed that he was was engaged in the interstate sale of raw milk in violation of federal law.
#10 A few years ago a 10-year-old girl was arrested and charged with a felony for bringing a small steak knife to school. It turns out that all she wanted to do was to cut up her lunch so that she could eat it.
#11 On June 18th, two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within three minutes 8 policemen surrounded them and placed them under arrest.
#12 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 5oo dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free. So what was his crime? Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.
#13 Once upon a time, a food fight in the cafeteria may have gotten you a detention. Now it may get you locked up. About a year ago, 25 students between the ages of 11 and 15 at a school in Chicago were taken into custody by police for being involved in a huge food fight in the school cafeteria.
#14 A few years ago a 70 year old grandmother was actually put in handcuffs and hauled off to jail for having a brown lawn.