Sunday, 4 September 2016

No, your OTHER left

Maybe you've heard of the Alt-Right.  Meet its counterpart.  And there's more here.  And here.  And there's a few closed Alt-Left Facebook groups too.  These groups describe themselves as a kind of anti-PC left, some even willing to consider the notion of "race realism" (I'm not among these), or at least not cry "racist" or "heretic" against any straying from the culturally accepted narrative of white privilege.

Is this the thin end of a much larger wedge?  Moving from margin to center, you have decidedly liberal YouTubbers (think Sargon of Akkad or The Amazing Atheist, among many others) who spend at least as much time quarreling with feminist deconstructions of video games and social justice warrior culture more generally, as they do with any kind of religious or social conservatives.  And finally, you have fairly public figures such as Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris discussing the dangers of the "regressive left."  And that's hardly the tip of the iceberg. It's remarkable that the kinds of people who saw the religious right as the clear and present danger to democratic culture ten years ago now devote so much time to attacking this segment of the left.

So what's this really all about and is it important?  What it comes down to is widespread frustration among liberals with a liberalism that isn't very liberal.  The fact that many social justice movements are becoming closed belief systems with cult like atmospheres isn't sitting well with a growing number of people whose nature is to value skepticism and inquiry.  But it's been a slower and much less unified movement than the backlash against the religious right was.  This is due in part to a reluctance among the more educated and liberal segments of the population to openly challenge movements that profess to speak for marginalized peoples.  But the pace of growth of this inter-left or alt-left backlash is picking up.

The real objection isn't with the stated goals of most feminism, Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes, but with the style employed by the regressive left, centered in academia and certain social media spaces (tumblr is especially notorious) and obsessed with identity politics. Its methods are to make identity and "privilege" into a kind of totalistic social determinism, and all interactions between people are evaluated solely on the basis of the ideology's immutable definitions of what kinds of people are "privileged" and what kinds are "marginalized", often to the exclusion of all other factors or individual context.

This is what leads us to social justice warriors making statements like, "white people don't get to decide what's racist" or "males don't get to have an opinion on feminism" - unless the white commentator happens to decide something that another white person has said or done is racist, or unless the male insists that whomever he's speaking with accept feminist authority without question, even if his audience is female(!)  Even  members of marginalized demographics can't speak for themselves unless they first accept and internalize the ideological paradigm. Spectres such as the old notion of "false consciousness" are raised to dismiss heretics and thought criminals who are otherwise deemed marginalized or oppressed, by the advocates of regressive left ideology.

This ought to be raising a lot of red flags - and I do mean RED flags here, because this kind of thinking was the foundation of the totalitarian states that Lenin and later Mao would end up creating, and that shed so much of their own citizen's blood.  This old idea of the revolutionary vanguard, dressed up and modernized for the internet age.  The idea that even violence carried out by so called "marginalized" groups against their "oppressors" is justified or even righteous (#KillAllMen, anyone?) has its predecessor in the much less tongue-in-cheek ideas of "revolutionary terror" that was not merely an ironic expression of frustration to the Soviet regime, but a very real rationalization for very real violence and terror.  And while even those few instances of #KillAllWhiteMen that are
meant to be taken at face value are ultimately toothless given that they don't have the power of a totalitarian state at their backs (not yet anyway), no small number of otherwise liberal minded people who sympathize with feminist goals in the long run find themselves wondering if this sort of thing really speaks for them and their values, especially since they certainly would not by countenancing such humor were it directed by men at women.  I'd be the first to agree that we should all be a little less uptight and learn to laugh a bit more than we do, but in all seriousness, is the degree of hostility fomented in regressive left circles against males a good thing?  Seems to me as though better and stronger relationships between the sexes are what we should be advocating if we want to see better treatment of women by men overall.  Instead, academia and most mainstream media are doing all in their power to push things the opposite direction.  Seems to me as though this will create more, not less misogyny in the long run.  No one was ever rejected into liking and respecting the people rejecting them.  But then, I'm just a white male, so what do I know?

Sure, it could be argued that the two can't be compared, since men have the social power and women do not, and so #KillAllWomen should be taken more seriously as a threat.  But that's precisely the problem with regressive left thinking: it's ultimately circular and relies on its own premises to prove its own points. And if all else fails, just call your opponent a racist or imply that they're a misogynist rube or the like.  And even if power differentials across racial or gender lines were so clear cut and immutable, just how many double standards should we be prepared to accept as a result?  And is advocacy of double standards in favor of marginalized groups really the best way to achieve equality at all?  Or are regressive left canards denying the existence of misandry or anti-white racism in reality what they most certainly look like to me: rationalizations for self serving double standards offered up by people who would benefit from them.

Seems to me as though if people were all treated as equals, with equal standards of conduct applying to all, this would, by definition, erode social privilege and result in greater degrees of cultural equality, without nearly the backlash we're otherwise seeing because most (though by no means all) white males would be a lot more likely to buy into social justice if it were exactly what it describes itself as being, and the rules applied to everybody.  Instead, we have legions of online shills for black and female supremacy attributing the blowback they're getting to racism and misogyny.  While some of it is indeed "old white dudes" unwilling to relinquish their prejudices, just as many are real liberals who are looking at tumblr, Everyday Feminism, Jezebel, BuzzFeed or any other pro-social justice space and seriously wondering if that's what they signed up for?

If I didn't know any better, I'd suspect that gags like #KillAllWhiteMen, however seriously (or not) they're meant to be taken, have a lot more to do with appealing to the EGOS of an educated urban liberal cohort that is not nearly as marginalized as they'd have us believe, than it does with any actual social inequality.  And that's the real problem with regressive leftism.  It doesn't actually do a damned thing to tackle inequality, alienation, poverty, prejudice or any other kind of social evil.  That's why it so often comes from academia and mainstream media and so often targets the lower classes of the wrong gender and color in so condescending a way.  Kind of like masturbation, regressive leftist virtue signalling feels good while you're doing it, but it's only yourself you're benefiting, if even that, in the end.

For many of those who've been fortunate enough to live in the western world and attend its elite learning institutions, ideologies that lay the blame for injustice and inequality at the feat of entire races or genders as opposed to economic class and politics may even be a cathartic way to resolve the cognitive dissonance that one would expect from being a moral egalitarian, yet personally benefiting from sitting near the top of the global shit heap.  The problem with it is, the real poor and the real marginalized, regardless of race or gender, need and deserve so much better.

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