Which Hand Holds the Whip?

Here’s a surprising report: President Trump’s support is actually rising after his attack on “The Squad.”

The rise in support isn’t the surprising part.  The surprising part is that the Media still find this surprising.

Not to toot my own horn too much here, but I’ve been writing about this since 2015 (seriously – check the archives!).  “Make America Great Again” was the Trump campaign’s official slogan, but unofficially — and much, much more effectively — it was: “Fuck the Media.”  The 2016 election is known far and wide as “The Great Fuck You,” but somehow, some way, almost everyone still fails to grasp that it wasn’t the Democrats who got told to fuck off.  It wasn’t even the “Progressives.”  It was The Media.  The Great Fuck You was aimed entirely at the Media.

The reason is, back in 1968 the Media convinced themselves they held the whip.  Between the “Chicago Police Riot” (in reality a bunch of SDS goons finally goading the cops into cracking down) and the Tet Offensive (in reality, a communist catastrophe that all but destroyed the Viet Cong as a fighting force), the Media convinced themselves they truly were the shapers of the nation’s hearts and minds.  From then on out, the Media assumed their primary job was not to report the news, but to instruct us how to feel about the news.  They anointed themselves as a secular priesthood, and from that moment forward, people went into “journalism” specifically to change the world.

That suited the Democrats’ short-term interests just fine.  Then as now, the Democrats were a bunch of fellow-traveling wannabe-totalitarians.  The difference, though, is that in 1968 grownups were still in charge of the party.  Being intimately familiar with the concept of “useful idiots,” the grownup Dems were happy to encourage the journo-kids’ delusions of grandeur.  The kids might not have been able to stir up enough shit to get Hubert Humphrey elected — that would’ve been a tough sell for Josef Goebbels — but they could make life hot for Richard Nixon.  In other words, the Democrats thought they held the whip.

1972 should’ve been a wakeup call, but to be fair, all the campaign wonks were still reeling from The Great Magic Party Switch of 1964.  Both halves of the failed Democratic ticket from 1968 ran in the 1972 primaries, and so did George Wallace (who actually won more primaries than either Humphrey or Muskie — 6 to 5 and 4, respectively).  Which left George McGovern, a goofy hippie from a nothing state who was so bad at politics that he got outflanked as a peacenik by Richard Nixon, the man who was right at that moment actually running the goddamn war.  How did he ever end up at the head of a major party ticket?  Well, here’s Wiki:

During his primary victories, McGovern used an approach that stressed grassroots-level organization while bypassing conventional campaign techniques and traditional party power centers.  He capitalized on support from antiwar activists and reform liberals; thousands of students engaged in door-to-door campaigning for him.  He benefited by the eight primaries he won being those the press focused on the most

Uh huh.  Emphasis mine, but it doesn’t really need emphasizing.  Especially when you add in this:

McGovern ran on a platform that advocated withdrawal from the Vietnam War in exchange for the return of American prisoners of war and amnesty for draft evaders who had left the country.  McGovern’s platform also included an across-the-board 37-percent reduction in defense spending over three years.  He proposed a “demogrant” program that would give a $1,000 payment to every citizen in America.  Based around existing ideas such as the negative income tax and intended to replace the welfare bureaucracy and complicated maze of existing public-assistance programs, it nonetheless garnered considerable derision as a poorly thought-out “liberal giveaway” and was dropped from the platform in August.

Or, in short, “amnesty, abortion, and acid,” a Donald Trump-level linguistic killshot if ever there was one.

The point isn’t that McGovern was a goofy hippie.  The point is that McGovern was The Media’s fair-haired boy.  Hubert Humphrey was no one’s idea of a steely-eyed realist, but he was a grown-up.  When he attacked McGovern as too radical during their primary debates, he was expressing America’s frustration with bratty, coddled, know-nothing college kids and their bong-addled, patchouli-soaked nonsense.  But since it was the aforesaid spoiled, stoned college kids who wrote the election coverage….

Viewed from this perspective, Democratic Party politics up to now can be seen as the increasingly desperate attempts of the few remaining grownups to fend off The Media’s increasingly frantic grabs for the whip.  Take a gander at these goofballs from 1976.  Remember the “Scoop Jackson Democrats” all the National Review types kept gushing about when they needed some Democratic cover for W’s imperial misadventures?  “Scoop” Jackson was a real guy, and probably the only adult in the room in 1976.  Jimmy Carter, the eventual nominee, could at least fake being a serious, mature human being when he wasn’t being chased by enraged, swimming bunnies.  The Jerry Brown of 1976 is the very same Jerry Brown who is putting the finishing touches on the shitholization of California here in 2019, and guess who The Media just loooooooved back in the ’76 primaries?

See also: Every other election through 2016.  Sometimes The Media and the Party moved in tandem — e.g. Bill Clinton  — but more often it played out like 1988, when the Party had to drag a bland nonentity (Mike Dukakis) over the finish line in the face of a Media darling (Jesse Jackson).  This dynamic also explains the weird “enthusiasm gap” of Democratic voters starting in 2000 — nobody actually liked Al Gore or John Kerry, but since W. made The Media lose their tiny little minds, they went all-in on painting those two human toothaches as The Saviors of Mankind.   We’ve covered 2008 before, and that’s where the split between Party and Media really became obvious — the Party desperately wanted the only “adult” (by 21st century Democratic Party standards) in the room to be the nominee, but The Media wouldn’t hear of it.  It seemed as though the struggle for the whip hand was finally over…

But then Donald Trump happened, as my students would’ve written.  Though it’s only a few years in the past, we’ve already forgotten just how much The Media loved Bernie Sanders when the Republican nomination was still in doubt.  Trump, of course, made The Media lose their shit so egregiously that what they did to W. looked like the happy ending to an Oriental massage, but virtually nobody was cheerleading for Hillary qua Hillary.  It took the specter of The Donald as president to get them all on the same page.

Which brings us to now.  The Democratic Party can read a poli-sci textbook.  They know how difficult it is to beat an incumbent president in a good economy.  Hell, it’s almost impossible to beat an incumbent president in a bad economy — see 2004 and 2012.  It takes a major systemic shock to turf out an incumbent in the modern era — a catastrophe on the magnitude of a serious third party challenge (Ross Perot in ’92), or the incumbent being Jimmy Carter.  The poli-sci textbooks say that the Dems’ only hope is to run the closest thing to the Antimatter Donald Trump they can find.  That is to say:  the blandest, SWPL-iest Goodwhite on their roster.

Alas for them, The Media will be having none of that.  Trump somehow triggers them even more than he did in 2016 — don’t ask me how; it violates several important laws of thermodynamics — so they’re going all-in on goofballs like AOC and her “Squad.”  The Media loves “the Squad,” and since The Media have convinced themselves that theirs is the whip hand, they’re ordering us to love “the Squad” too.  To which Trump replies with a version of “lol get fucked,” and since “you’re free to leave this country if you hate it so much” seems forehead-slappingly obvious to anyone without a journalism degree, Trump’s poll numbers rise.  Which prompts another stern lecture from The Media, which receives another “lol get fucked,” and around and around and around we go…..

But here’s the thing: The battle for the whip is a battle royale.  There are more than just two combatants.  The Party still thinks it’s in charge.  The Media, with 2008, 2012, and 2016 in its pocket, think they’re in charge.  Nobody bothered to ask “the Squad,” though, and that’s the truly terrifying thing: “The Squad” thinks they’re in charge, and they might actually be right.

We’ve already got Congress voting to condemn Trump’s tweets.  Set aside how brain-bogglingly infantile that is — and how petty and retarded it appears to the American public.  Consider just how badly Nancy Pelosi et al, aka The Party, had to screw up to find themselves in this situation.  Then consider that some idiot named Al Green (warning: autoplay video), riding “The Squad’s” coattails, has just filed a motion to impeach Trump, which will require a floor vote.  It doesn’t matter which way that vote goes.  If it happens at all — and given the “condemn the tweets” vote, Pelosi may not have the juice left to stop it — that’s pretty much game over.  There are few faster ways to get to an actual shooting civil war than by impeaching Trump, because no matter how it goes, someone goes to the gun….

…with the full, active connivance of “The Squad.”  Do you think those fools are going to somehow keep their mouths shut during impeachment?  Will theirs be the voices of moderation, urging us to respect the Constitutional processes, however they turn out?

Or will they be inciting people to flip cars and throw molotovs in the street?  People who suddenly find themselves holding the whip in their hands aren’t known for their restraint.

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The John Brown Moment

We talk a lot about the “John Brown Moment” around here.  Here it is, for the record:

In the run-up to the Civil War, lots of Americans thought the country was in thrall to what they called the “slave power conspiracy.”  There was some truth to this, in that thanks to equal representation in the Senate, slaveholders held a perpetual veto — since only vehement defenders of slavery would ever be sent to the Senate by Southern states (senators being appointed, not elected, in those days), no law affecting the “peculiar institution” would ever be passed.  As slavery was an all-encompassing socioeconomic system, though, virtually nothing the government did failed to affect it in some way.  The partisan politics of the 1850s were legendarily nasty, in large part because of this Southern-imposed gridlock.

But the “slave power conspiracy” was a misnomer.  Oh, the Southern senators all voted together, but that’s not a conspiracy.  “Conspiracy” implies an end, a goal, and the slave power simply didn’t have one.  Their actions were purely negative, and if that meant absolutely nothing got done, well, so be it.  They were deeply skeptical of federal power anyway; if vetoing anything and everything that might somehow affect slavery meant that the nation would simply drift along, directionless, that suited them just fine.

But there was another conspiracy afoot in the 1850s: The abolition conspiracy.  You don’t hear about this one in high school history because the victors write the textbooks, but it was quite real.  And this one really was a conspiracy, in that they had a clear goal: The end of chattel slavery.  And it was a conspiracy in a more fundamental sense, in that it was illegal.  The so-called “slave power conspiracy” was obstructionist to the bone, but it’s perfectly legal for legislators to vote against proposed legislation.  It’s not legal to advocate armed insurrection but that’s what the abolitionists did.

On October 16, 1859, a lunatic abolitionist named John Brown led a partisan band in an attack on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.  He wanted to distribute the stolen guns to local slaves, thus sparking a race war.  We know this because Brown was captured alive, and the great state of Virginia put him on trial, as they were legally required to do.  Being a fanatic, and knowing that he was a dead man already, Brown took the opportunity to advertise his cause to the world….

At which point it became obvious that not only did Brown have the financial backing of several prominent Northerners, but he had the moral backing of a large segment of the Northern population.  Brown became a martyr, literally — he was frequently compared to Jesus Christ in Northern periodicals.  The important thing to note is this: Brown was captured in armed insurrection against the United States, and lots of the country was ok with it.  This man simply decided that the legal processes could never result in the outcome he deemed morally necessary, so he took the law into his own hands — with the active connivance of prominent Northern financiers and intellectuals, and the avid approval of many Northern citizens.

Remember that, and Southern belligerency makes a whole lot more sense.  The North was obviously ready to go to the gun in 1861, because they’d already gone to the gun in 1859.  The “John Brown Moment,” then, is the point at which violence becomes inevitable, because one significant, influential segment of the country not only passively tolerates it, but actively cheers it.

Are we there yet?  Hard to say, but recall that just this weekend, an “Antifa” got himself killed trying to firebomb an ICE installation.  How many of our fellow Americans even know about this?  Of those, how many approve?

I don’t know, but I guarantee you, something like this will happen again.  It has to, because there’s only one way to deal with a John Brown that doesn’t involve lots of future bloodshed — immediate, brutal reprisal, and repudiation by the entire political, cultural, and social elite.  That obviously didn’t happen this weekend.  Indeed, how many of our “elite” were silently cheering this guy on?  How many of them would have, had they known about it?  How many of them will cheer on the next guy, who does something bigger?

There’s no coming back from a John Brown Moment, because that’s when a significant fraction of the people who matter give up on the very idea of peaceful grievance resolution.  I don’t know who our John Brown is (or will be), but he’s coming — of that, there’s no doubt whatsoever.

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The Spirit of ’68, Again

For the record, I agree with Pickle Rick in the comments on the previous post: Trump is the last peacetime president.

The Left always goes to the gun.  Violence is a feature, not a bug, of their worldview.  The only question is when, and given that the Left is made up of exceptionally dumb, impulsive children, the smart money is on sooner, not later.

Speaking of exceptionally dumb, impulsive children, I didn’t see the “press conference” — really, a Trump-bashing pep rally — held by the so-called “Squad” yesterday, but since I’ve got basic historical literacy I didn’t need to.  It was just seven years from the Port Huron Statement to the Weather Underground — just seven years, in other words, before spoiled, coddled preppies decided that change was taking too long, and should be accelerated via firebomb.  Please note that those were 1960s preppies — White kids, from intact families, who went to good schools where they got real educations.  Their parents came of age in the Depression and World War II, so they had decent role models.

If those kids decided to get violent in just 7 years, how long do you think “the Squad” is going to wait?

That name, in fact, tells you everything you need to know.  Simultaneously frightening and childish, it calls to mind your high school’s Mean Girl clique in paramilitary gear.  And they’re Millennials, Basic College Girl edition, which means they make the 1969 version of Billy Ayers look like Fabius Maximus. Remember how I suggested that the Dems’ 2020 convention in Milwaukee might make the “Chicago Police Riot” look like a weekend at Disneyworld?  These days, I’m seriously wondering if they’ll even make it to 2020.  It’s not like Democrats have any problems about shooting each other when the party votes don’t break their way…

As aneurysm-inducingly lulzy as the thought of the so-called “Justice Democrats” running their own ticket is, there’s no way a Democratic party split happens peacefully.  Why would they bother?  They’re going to the gun no matter what in the next few years.  Even if they win the Presidency, the guns are coming out — they’ll be too busy rounding us up to start shooting each other right away,  but again, basic history shows what happens in a successful Leftist revolution.  The execution of useful idiots, too, is a feature not a bug of Leftism in power.

Fun times ahead.  Do you see what I mean about everyone always misjudging the pace of change?  Even five years ago, I would’ve called myself a lunatic for writing something like this.  Hell, maybe even three years ago.  And yet…. here we are.

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The People Reconsidered II

[continued from below]

What does all this have to do with political theory?

First, recall that all modern political theory is based on the “social contract,” which was a direct result of the English Civil War.  The “social contract” can’t exist without individuals.  I hope you’ll agree with me that in retrospect, that’s a serious flaw, but at the time it made sense, for the simple reason that all the individuals in England — that is, all the people whose opinions mattered, and thus whose buy-in was necessary for a legitimate government — were all assembled at Putney.

Cultural studies people love the word “encode.”  For normal people, it’s the Moonbat Signal — it’s the cue for all the wackos to come out of the woodwork, screaming about how The Lion King “encodes” fascism or some such.  But like everything academia craps out, there’s a nugget of truth in there, and it’s this: All functional groups share common assumptions, which show up in their language.  So when the boys at Putney, or at Philadelphia, started talking about the “rights” of “men,” they of course didn’t mean that their pronouncements applied to all humans.  “Encoded” in their language of rights were their assumptions about individuals: The “rights of Englishmen” meant “the rights of the people who are in this room right now, that said people can and will enforce at gunpoint.”

And there you have it: “Representative government” in a nutshell.  When the boys at Philadelphia pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defending each others’ lives, liberties, and properties, they meant it.  But they also knew that, as the effective individuals in their societies, everyone else would follow along.  Joe Schmoe’s life, liberty, and property are secure, because he’s in George Washington’s community — because George Washington will go to the mattresses for George Washington’s life, liberty, and property, so Joe Schmoe will go to the mattresses for his….

….provided George Washington is there to lead him.  That’s the “social contract.”  A contract between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton is valid, because both men can, and will (and did) shed blood to enforce it.  Each man will kill, and risk death, on the other’s behalf.

So what happens, then, when there’s no George Washington?  When there are nothing but “individuals” in the modern sense — rootless, soulless, purposeless, useless bugmen who “exist” only through “social” media?  Again, please note that I’m not saying “there are no individuals in America.”  There are lots of them.  The problem is,

  • we don’t know who they are, so
  • they can’t possibly represent us, so
  • there is no “social contract” possible with them

even if we wanted one, which we clearly don’t.

“The people,” in short, don’t matter.  They never really did, but now we’re in a worst-of-all-worlds scenario, fetishizing “democracy” without the slightest understanding of what it is.  The individuals who rule us are not our “rulers,” on any political theory that makes sense…..

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The People, Reconsidered

[continued from below]

My argument is this:  Politics is the art of maintaining the level of individuals in a given society.  Find out who the individuals are in any given group.  See how they buy in, or don’t, to the leader’s vision.  And there you have it — the rise and fall of a people.

My definition of “individual” is: A person whose preferences actually matter in a given system.  That is, someone with sufficient power that his preferences influence events.  Crudely reductive theories (if that isn’t redundant) like Marxism assign all the individuals to broad social classes — the bourgeoisie, the capitalists — but we all know that in any given group, only a select few people set the tone.  These are the individuals, as I’m using the term.

Even in the so-called “Deep State,” for instance, it’s guys like Peter Strzok calling the tune — James Comey will end up taking a bigger fall if there’s ever a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the 2016 coup attempt, but we all know that Comey’s too dumb and weak to have actually done anything on his own.  Had Strzok been a huge MAGA man, “Comey’s” FBI would’ve been MAGA-fied too.

Or consider a less contentious example: Teenagers.  I’ve written before that I’ve never met an honest-to-God SJW among the studentry, even though I’ve taught gazillions of college kids.  I’ve had a whole bunch of literal blue-haired nose-ringers drift through my classes over the years, but as I said, the key word in the phrase “college kid” is “kid.”  The blue hair and the nose rings are just fashion.  Yeah yeah, I’m sure they’d check all the SJW boxes if you gave them a social survey, but they’d take the survey in the exact same spirit — and with the exact same level of effort — as they take midterm exams:  That is, not at all.  Everyone knows the lines you’re supposed to parrot when it comes to stuff like global warming, LGBTQwhatever, etc., just like everyone knows what the professor wants to hear on the midterm exam.  Put the required words in the required order, everyone gets an A, and now we can all go get blackout drunk on Wednesday night.

Those kids, then, weren’t individuals in my sense, despite the blue hair and the nose rings.  But here’s the rub: I wasn’t an individual either.

I’m blissfully retired now, praise Buddha, but I can assure you that if an honest-to-god SJW had ever shown up in one of my classes, the entire experience would’ve changed.  Instead of teaching “the students,” I’d now be “teaching” Trigglypuff exclusively.  The reason for this is simple:  You can’t beat Trigglypuff.  I have other responsibilities; Trigglypuff doesn’t.  Hell, I have to sleep sometime; Trigglypuff — who by definition has access to powerful prescription psychotropics — doesn’t.  Trigglypuff can and will chain herself to the radiator outside the Dean’s office until I either recant or get fired, so I’ll either recant or get fired — either way, problem solved.  My preferences, such as they were, made no difference at all.

Finding the individuals, then, can be tricky.  Indeed, that’s where you see your major historical ruptures — your civil wars and whatnot.  Charles I, for instance, thought the bluebloods were the individuals in his society.  He figured that he had the Duke of This and the Earl of That and the Bishop of the Other Thing in his pocket, so his throne was secure.  But the Duke of This and the Earl of That hadn’t mattered for a hundred years or more, because they were landed gentry in a money economy.  This was brought home in dramatic fashion when the Dukes and Earls, and King Charles himself, marched out to settle the Covenanters, only to find half the army unwilling to fight and the other half actively joining the rebels.

In Charles’s society, the individuals were the merchants and “hot gospelers.”  That’s how Parliament could get an army together in the blink of an eye.  And not just any army, but a ruthlessly effective one, despite almost all the military training and experience being on the other side.  Mano-a-mano and in a vacuum, Prince Rupert might’ve been the equal of any Parliamentary general, but modern wars aren’t fought mano-a-mano or in vacuums.  Modern armies need support staffs — quartermasters, paymasters, pen-pushers of all kinds — and all those guys were fighting for Parliament.  At bottom, the Cavaliers were trying to fight a medieval war with modern armies, which is why they lost.  The locus of individuality, if you want to put it pretentiously (but accurately!), had shifted.

To be continued….

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Political Theory IV: The People?

This one’s gonna be episodic — like Indiana Jones, I make it up as I go along — but please stick with me as we veer wildly across time and place….

Last time, we said that social contract theory doesn’t work.  Social contract theory rests on two assumptions, both false:

  1. that “society” is a collection of physically-proximate individuals; and
  2. individuals are rational actors.

There are actually several things wrong with these statements, but let’s focus on “individual.”  Humans aren’t built for individuality.  They just aren’t.  I know, I know, most people squirm a little in their seats when they read that — what, after all, are red-blooded ‘Murricans if not rugged individualists? — but this is why I say I’m the only guy I know who really believes in evolution.  Humans are monkeys; monkeys have the most elaborate, rigid social hierarchy in the animal kingdom.

Please note what I’m not saying: That there are no individuals in human society.  Society is, in fact, full of individuals.  What I am saying is: That’s a problem.  A serious problem.  “Politics,” on my view, is little more than the process of threading the needle between a group of too few individuals (a “mob”), and too many.*

Individuality is one of the great problems of prosperity.  You don’t have to worry about differences of opinion when you’re on the ragged edge of survival.  This is the origin of the myth of the “noble savage” — as every 19th century anthropologist remarked, primitives seem deliriously happy, because their lives are filled with purpose.  For them, every meal is a real achievement; a day without serious physical pain is a minor miracle.  Primitives are primitive, quite simply, because they lack the free time to be anything else.

Higher forms of social organization involve a dangerous tradeoff.  Greater food-security (via agriculture) means lesser physical security.  Now you’re not only a target for those with less food, but, more insidiously, greater food-security means that more individuals have time to develop.  “What should we do with the excess food?” is a serious question, with life-threatening consequences.  If we’re not on the same page with our answer, we may not be able to pull together in time when the barbarians come over the hill… which means our city gets sacked, we get killed, and our women and children sold into slavery.

Hence Greek political theory.  Aristotle maintained that the purpose of “the State” is to attain “the good.”  That sounds utilitarian to modern ears — we hear “the greatest good for the greatest number,” which in turn means something like “maximizing the happiness of each individual.”  But that’s not what Aristotle meant.  He meant something like “increasing the total amount of virtue in the city,” which doesn’t make sense to us — “virtue” and “happiness” being, in the parlance of our times, almost complete opposites.  But it makes perfect sense in the “sacked-city, women-and-children-enslaved” kind of world Aristotle inhabited — Aristotle, you’ll recall, was the personal tutor to Alexander the Great, whose father, Philip II, brutalized most of Greece (and was gearing up to invade the Persian Empire when he was assassinated).

Philip II of Macedon was an individual if ever there was one, and so was Demosthenes.  The latter kept the Athenians from getting on the same page when the former came over the hill.  In case your Greek history is a little rusty, that didn’t work out so well for Athens.  Had the Athenians been virtuous in Aristotle’s sense — had they pulled together, assessed the situation calmly and rationally, and presented a united front, instead of letting themselves be swayed by a demagogue — they would’ve found themselves in a much better position, with lots of their young men still alive….

Let’s backtrack a bit (I told y’all I make this up as I go along).  You’ll recall that Aristotle was Plato’s student.  You’ll also recall that Plato’s Republic is a seminal work of political theory.  But what most people don’t remember is that the Republic wasn’t written to answer the question “What’s the best way to organize a state?”  Rather, it was to answer the question “What is Justice?”  All that famous stuff they glossed over in Western Civ I — the allegory of the cave, etc. — was in service to that question: What is Justice?  Whatever the answer actually was — consult a Western Civ text written before about 1960 — the end result, the ideal form of government that brings “Justice” to all, was, for all intents and purposes, Stalinism.

No, seriously.  The “republic” of the Republic is a classless society where all property is held in common, ruled by philosopher-kings who alone have access to the truth.  The “guardians” (of the famous “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?“) are to “guard” the people for the people’s own good; the guardians themselves don’t need to be guarded because of the pristine condition of their souls.  Felix Dzerzhinsky (whose dream in life was to be a schoolteacher!) couldn’t have said it better.

The point is that Plato’s “republic,” like Aristotle’s “virtue,” drastically reduces the number of individuals in a polity.  We all know that Aristotle dismissed women, children, and slaves as irrational, and therefore unworthy of consideration in political life.  But he dismissed pretty much everyone else, too.  Again, this man was Plato’s student and Alexander the Great’s teacher.  Aristotle lived through Alexander’s entire reign.  He saw Philip II up close and personal while Philip was terrorizing Greece.  If he, Aristotle, had a problem with any of that, he certainly never said so.  What “good,” one wonders, was Alexander’s state (such as it was) organized to achieve?  Plundering Persia?  That would be a perfectly acceptable answer in the ancient world, but it doesn’t have anything to do with “virtue,” let alone “the good,” for any individual other than Alexander….

to be continued.

 

 

 

*Don’t take it from me.  Social- and evo-psych people have probably written on this in depth, but since this is the Internet, I’ll quote Dune: “A leader, you see, is one of the things that distinguishes a mob from a people. He maintains the level of individuals. Too few individuals, and a people reverts to a mob.”
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Friday Quick Take: Welcome to 1517

It’s fairly common these days to assert that we’ve hit “peak SJW” or something to that effect.  I’m starting to wonder if it might really be true this time.

The reason the “peak SJW” hype never affected me in the past is simple: I spent a lot of time in higher ed.  You’ll have to take my word for this, but on campus, the stuff y’all consider bottom-of-the-barrel, can’t-possibly-get-any-crazier is known as “the midterm exam.”  The “ideology-trumps-biology” school of gender studies, for instance, has been a staple on campus since before the millennium.  Here’s Jonah Goldberg, for instance, writing about it in National Review:

For example, consider Colette Dowling’s The Frailty Myth which came out in 2000. Ms. Dowling, also the author of acclaimed feminist tome The Cinderella Complex, argues in the Frailty Myth that there are, in fact, no physical differences between men and women in the athletic sense. Differences in athletic performance are purely a result of the patriarchy’s “hidden agenda of keeping women in their place by keeping them believing in their weakness.” She insists that “studies show gender to be barely relevant as a predictor, or limiter, of athletic performance,” she writes. “What really counts are acquired skills, trained muscles, and movement efficiency that comes from refined technique.”

Seriously, she explicitly believes that if women were unleashed from the shackles of the patriarchy, the NFL, the NBA, the world of boxing, etc. would be completely coed.

Note the dates.  Goldberg’s column is from 2002, critiquing a book that came out in 2000.  The book was published by Random House — i.e., by one of the biggest of mainstream publishers — so you know the ideas behind it had been percolating for years, if not decades, before the yoni warriors in Manhattan penthouses decided to market it to Barnes and Noble.  By the time Normal America got the chance to freak out about it, in other words, the idea that “studies show gender to be barely relevant as a predictor, or limiter, of athletic performance” was taken for granted on campus.  We eggheads had already moved on to things like the fundamental human right of trans-women to have taxpayer funded aboritons.  

But here’s the thing: Back in 2002, nobody suggested that gender constraints should be removed from college athletics.  Back then, Title IX was still a big deal, and the same ditzy gyno-activists who bought books like The Frailty Myth would go bananas if you suggested chick sports should be eliminated — since “trained muscles and refined technique” are what really counts, just open the football team tryouts to the girls, and in no time some 5’2″, 110-lb sorority girl will be tearing it up on the defensive line.  

These days, of course, our SJWs are suggesting exactly that.  More importantly, they’re actually writing it into law.  So yes, we now have the brain-busting spectacle of girls suing colleges under Title IX to get spots on girls’ teams because they can’t compete with biological males who are somehow also girls.  Biological men are also crushing — the feminists’ own word — biological females in women’s sports all across the spectrum.  From bodybuilding to bike racing to soccer to track, chicks-with-dicks are actually competing with, and blowing away, actual women in women’s sports.

And won’t the 2020 Olympics be a hoot?  Right there in an election year and everything.

That, my friends, is why I’m starting to think “peak SJW” is real.  Before it was just talk; now it’s actually happening, with real consequences.  We all know that SJW will only end when it affects something that White suburban women care about.  Well, what do Soccer Moms care about more than soccer?  Little Stacy just lost her college scholarship to a 6’2″ entity with a 10″ wang that calls xhyrzelf “Desiree.”  This is actually happening.

Throw in the rise of Ocasio-Cortez — such that all of America can now see, in all her glory, the Basic College Girl — and this stuff at last has real consequences to the voters that matter.

It may well be 1517 for the Church of Leftism.  Stay tuned… and grab the popcorn.

 

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On the Necessity of Religious Belief

Since we “dissidents” are The Reality People (patent pending), our worldview must reflect humans as they actually are.  The Ancient Greeks famously claimed that man is “the rational animal,” but that’s wrong — we are, at best, capable of intermittent rationality (turn on the tv for proof).  What really defines us is our belief in the supernatural.

We all have something outside ourselves that gives our lives meaning.  I’ll prove it:

It’s just a ____.

Everyone has a value for ___ that makes that phrase fightin’ words.  Some people find deep meaning in model railroading.  The model railroader would acknowledge to himself that it’s irrational, probably deeply stupid, to spend dozens of hours a week and thousands of dollars a year building little choo-choos in his basement… but if you tell him that to his face, he’ll punch you.

Extend that out as far as you like.  Tell the dog lover that his beloved Rover is objectively just a parasite, wagging his tail for kitchen scraps.  Tell the besotted lover that objectively speaking, she’s just a bag of pheromones that temporarily bonded with his.  Watch the devoted family man trudging off to his soul-killing job, day after day, and ask him why he still does it, suspecting that his wife is cheating on him and knowing his kids consider him a loser.  We all have something that gets us up in the morning, something that bears an emotional weight far greater than it can objectively support.

As with any human trait, though, “religiosity,” for lack of a better term, is distributed very unevenly.  “Athleticism” is a good analogy.  There are guys who are just ungodly athletic.  Those guys are almost always offered coaching jobs, and it’s almost invariably a disaster — they’re so athletic, these guys, that they can’t explain even to other ludicrously athletic people how to do the things they do.  By analogy, those are the truly religious people, the ones who go into ministries.  They’re just connected with their god, the way hall of fame-type athletes are just connected with their bodies.  Just as it’s no use asking Michael Jordan to teach you how to dunk a basketball — you can either do it, or you can’t — there’s no sense asking a priest how to hear the voice of God.  You either will or you won’t.

On the other end of the spectrum are guys who constantly trip over their own feet.  Watching that kind of guy trying to operate his own body is like watching a little kid trying to grab a toy with one of those claw machines you see at county fairs.  Somewhat counterintuitively, in our analogy that type of guy isn’t an atheist.  Rather, he’s what I call “a sincere nonbeliever.”  He’s not an un-believer, note, because the very thought of “belief” never crosses his mind.  Saints and atheists alike are equally flummoxing to him; he just can’t see what the big deal is either way.  He has his objectively-ridiculous belief, of course, like we all do — these guys are often quite susceptible to guns ‘n’ NASCAR-type “patriotism” — but any organized religion, from High-Church Catholicism to Evangelical Atheism, leaves him cold.

Any effective political organization knows this about people.  Even the Communists, the great Reality-deniers themselves, suffused their governments with religious rituals.  Their pantheon had more gods and devils than anyone’s — left-deviationists, right-deviationists, capitalist-roaders, Trotskyites, wreckers, saboteurs, enemy agents, double agents, Jews, kulaks… plus Stakhanov, Pavlik, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman…. Nobody forced all those days-long lines to get into Lenin’s mausoleum, and hundreds of thousands of people died in labor camps believing with all their hearts that Comrade Stalin would fix all this once he learned of it.

The question, then, is what the “religious” content of a “dissident right” government would be?

It’s not an idle question.  For the Church of Leftism, it’s 1517 right now.  All the indulgences have been sold; the theses are getting nailed to the cathedral door.  It’s fun to laugh at that goofball who declared that when he’s president, there’ll be taxpayer funding for trans-women to get abortions, but remember two things:

  1. He wasn’t kidding; and
  2. he said this in a debate.  For President.  Of the United States.

That’s the logical endpoint of this stuff.  If you truly believe the CultMarx Cult’s dogmas, then yes, absolutely, there are trans-women out there desperately in need of taxpayer funded abortions.

Religious beliefs can’t be eliminated; they can only be repurposed.  We absolutely must have the guy whose “religiosity” centers around model trains to get going, but to sustain a viable society, we need the “abortions for trans-women” loons, too.  (They make great shock troops, if nothing else).  If we’re at all serious about Our Thing, we need to acknowledge the necessity of religious belief…. and get working on creating some.

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Political Theory Primer III

Today’s topic: “Natural Rights.”

The comments on parts I and II highlight what’s wrong with “natural rights” theory.  I’ve had students moot a lot of possible answers to the question “Why is murder wrong?”, but because they’re products of the American educational system, they’ve received between 12 and 20 years of very expensive training in ignoring the obvious one:

Murder is wrong because it’s wrong.  Murder means “wrongful killing.”  If it’s not wrong, then by definition it’s not murder.

So what’s the point, right?  Well, as I tried to show yesterday, at least one of the terms in the phrase “wrongful killing” is deeply culture-bound.  I’d argue that they both are, actually, but let’s stick with “wrongful.”  The very word “wrongful” implies a common standard, accessible to all.  Where does it come from?

Europeans were pretty busy with the Reformation (and its attendant continent-wide civil wars) for the first century or so after Columbus, but soon enough they got around to contemplating the very different cultures across the water.  They started thinking through the implications of cross-cultural contact.  For instance: Can a man legitimately be guilty of breaking a law he doesn’t know exists?  A man shipwrecked on an alien shore simply can’t be expected to know all the laws and customs of a people he’s never encountered, whose language he doesn’t speak.

“Natural rights” theorists came up with an answer.  There are certain things common to all peoples, and accessible to all rational minds.  “Murder is wrong” appeared, to them, to be one of these.  As we’ve noted, there’s no known culture where it’s ok to just stab a guy because you feel like it today.  But here’s the problem: In that case — the “no known culture” case — we’re talking about society.  “Natural rights” belong to individuals.

Consider Hobbes’s famous thought experiment, the “State of Nature.”  Hobbes proposed this precisely because he wanted to figure out what our “natural rights” are, and what kind of government can legitimately be derived from them.  Hobbes says that in the State of Nature every man has a right to every thing, because nothing is illegitimate when it comes to preserving your life when everyone else is in the same situation.  In order to get out of that situation — the war of all against all — we lay down some of our rights to some things.  Back when they taught civics in high school, we learned that this is the “social contract,” and that it’s the basis of all modern political theory.*

Nobody much liked Hobbes’s conclusion — namely, that we lay down all our rights, permanently, to an absolute monarch — but his reasoning seemed sound.  It’s not too much of an oversimplification to say that subsequent political theory is just an ever more elaborate attempt to adopt Hobbes’s means without arriving at his end.  Thus John Locke, and his famous declaration that every man has a right to “life, liberty, and property.”  No king can legitimately deprive you of these, because any king that does is no longer a legitimate king – he has broken the social contract.

This “social contract” stuff suited Early Modern England very well.  A mercantile culture par excellence, “social contracts” made sense to them, because that’s how international trade had to be done in the age of sail.  The East India Company, for instance, couldn’t have a shareholder meeting to make each and every business decision, because they were in London and the business was in Calcutta and messages took six months or more to go one way… if they even arrived at all, what with shipwrecks and pirates and all.

So they banded together and delegated the authority to make decisions for the group to one man, who would go to Calcutta and conduct business on their behalf.  As far as the natives were concerned, that man was the East India Company.  He “personated” them, in the language of the times, because back then, “corporate” was a verb (“to make into a body”).**  And as with business, so with government — just as the individuals in the East India Company contracted to make a corporation, so did the individuals in a nation contract to make a “corporate person” like the Leviathan.

Everyone see the problem?  “Contract” is a word like “murder.”  We’ve stipulated that “Why is murder wrong?” is a meaningless question, because “wrong” is part of the definition of “murder.”  Along the same line, “contract” implies that all parties know what they’re contracting to, that they both have the legitimate authority to contract in the first place, etc.  Just as a rightful killing isn’t murder, a contract with an infant isn’t a valid contract, because one of the parties couldn’t possibly understand the terms.  And therefore, pulling women, children, the mentally disabled, etc. into a “social contract” can’t possibly be valid.

But it’s worse than that, actually, because I suppose we could hypothetically construct some mechanism by which everyone signs his “social contract” at the age of majority (provided he’s in his right mind, sufficiently smart, etc.); and everyone periodically recontracts every so often.  That would legitimate the social contract, I suppose, but it would do nothing to address the deeper problem, which is this:

Humans don’t exist as individuals.

Hobbes’s “State of Nature” thought experiment was just that — a thought experiment.  He knew full well that the “State of Nature” as he described it never existed, nor ever could exist.  Humanity’s basic unit isn’t the person, it’s the family.  Hell, it might even be the clan, or even the tribe, but however many cells end up belonging to the basic social organism, the individual — tapping into timeless “natural rights” by dint of right reason — isn’t it.  The proof is as simple as asking John Locke just why “we” — that is, each individual — have a natural, inalienable right to life, liberty, and property.

Not even the valedictorians of the American public educational system can dodge the fact that all of those things are alienated all the time.  In the state of nature — the real one, not Hobbes’s fascinating fantasy — guys with clubs beat up other guys with clubs, and the group of guys-with-clubs that prevails takes the lives, liberties, and properties of the losers.  “Wrongful” killings — that is, murders — become right when the killer is too powerful to be brought to heel.  Might is the only natural right, and individuals are powerless against a group, which is why there are no individuals in nature — simple attrition.  To say otherwise is to indulge in fiction…..

….but a necessary fiction, perhaps.  That’s part IV.

 

 

*In case you’re a younger reader: Communism isn’t a political theory.  It’s an all-encompassing metaphysical system, and so outside the discussion here.
**And now you know why anyone who knows what he’s talking about laughs at the Left’s hysterics over “corporate personhood.”
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Political Theory Primer, Part II

Last time, we started — and ended — with the question, “Why is murder wrong?”  We rejected some of the standard student responses, and implied that the answer has something to do with society.  Let’s break it down a bit:

Whatever else “murder” is, we’ll all agree that it ends with one human dead at the hands of another human.  Leave aside intent, etc., and focus on the basics — two humans; one the killer, one the killed.  There seems to be a universal human taboo against murder.  It’s most often honored in the breach, but it’s there — no known human society is ok with people killing each other at whim.

In fact, “at whim” or “for no good reason” appears to be part of the definition of “murder.”  If there’s a good reason for it, it’s not murder.  Killing enemy soldiers in war isn’t murder (though, as we saw yesterday, executing captured enemies without due process is).  That seems to be a human universal, too, but there’s a wide range of possible exceptions, from abortion to dueling to “he just done needed killin’.”  The vast range of the exceptions give us a clue to a big problem with political theory.

Consider abortion.  Specifically, consider the Left’s famous “clump of cells” argument.  This argues that a fetus, being dependent upon its “host,” is really no different than a tumor — in other words, not a human being at all, so calling abortion “murder” would be akin to calling chemotherapy “murder.”  Whether or not this argument holds up (I don’t think it does, obviously), it gets to the heart of the problem:  There’s a lot of latitude even among the fundamental definitions.  We said last time that political theory, being a description of human behavior in groups, requires a definition of both “human” and “group.”  Neither of which, as we can see, is clear-cut.

This stuff matters, because the ancient political theorists — guys like Plato and Aristotle, to whom even university courses still grudgingly nod — talk a lot about “man.”  After 300 or so years of The Enlightenment, we think they’re talking about “humans” in our modern sense — totally free agents; postmodern persyns of gendertude that exist without culture or context.  But they weren’t.  When Aristotle says “man is a political animal,” he doesn’t mean that all humans, everywhere, are political animals.  He means Greeks are political animals, and if you come right down to it, he probably means Athenians are political animals.  And not just any “Athenians,” either, but freeborn males over the age of majority.  States, Aristotle says, are organized around the pursuit of some good.  Only freeborn Athenian males over the age of majority are really able to understand the good at which the state aims, because everyone else — women, slaves, barbarians — lack the basic rationality to see that far ahead.

In other words, there’s a whole bunch of cultural baggage subsumed into the word “man” (“human,” “person,” whatever).  The greater the amount of baggage, the further political theory gets from universal.

This seems obvious, but it’s not, because those universal proclamations about “man” sure sound right.  Aristotle also defined man as “the rational animal,” and that definition is so ingrained in Western culture that it pretty much is Western culture. Every single political theory that doesn’t boil down to “obey God’s laws,” for instance, rests on so-called “natural rights” — that is, the truths of human society which are accessible to all rational men, irrespective of culture.  But as we saw with Aristotle, pretty much the very first thing the natural rights reasoner does is: Exclude huge swathes of people from the category “rational men.”  Even folks who only got five minutes of Aristotle in that one required Humanities course know that he famously proclaimed women, slaves, and children to be so deficient in reason that they’re rightfully ordered around by men.  (That is, in my experience, pretty much the only thing modern college kids know about Aristotle).

The fact is, reason itself carries a huge amount of cultural freight, because once you get above the level of pure mathematics, all reasoning is done in language and language is deeply culture-bound.  Again, consider abortion.  The very same Leftist who advances the “clump of cells” argument no doubt also believes that all kinds of pie-in-the-sky stuff is a “fundamental human right.”  As I hope I’ve shown, this isn’t hypocrisy – she simply doesn’t consider anything still inside the womb to be fully human, in the same way Aristotle considered women and slaves to be not fully human (because not fully rational).  Meanwhile, her notion of “right,” while ludicrous, is at least consistent — she uses it the same way every time, and so does her community.

It remains to be seen if a convincing political theory can be made out of “natural reason,” but here’s a preview: The answer to “Why is murder wrong?” is “hostis humani generis.”

Originally applied to pirates and slavers back in the 16th century, it means individuals whose very existence is so odious that they can be arrested, tried, and executed by the police forces of any nation, at any time, without being caught in the act of breaking any particular law.  In the case of pirates, the crewmen are just as guilty as their captain, so it doesn’t matter if Pirate X actually committed acts Y and Z while aboard ship — the very fact that he sailed on a ship with a known pirate captain made him a pirate, and therefore hostis humani generis.  Murder, like piracy, threatens the very fabric of civilization; that’s why it’s wrong.*

The question for part III is: Just what is “civilization,” anyway?

*Question #1 on the midterm exam: Was the prosecution’s argument against Julius Streicher (see part 1) essentially “hostis humani generis?”  What about the Nuremberg Tribunal’s declaration that the SS in its entirely was a criminal organization?  Why or why not?

 

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