Archives for category: Politics

I don’t remember exactly when Post-Truth became a thing. I don’t care enough to look it up. I’m fairly certain it was when Kellyanne Conway described the alternative facts on crowd sizes that people began to discuss the death of Truth. Regardless of the exact beginnings of this disregard for the sanctity of facts, it has certainly become a staple of the entire Trump presidency, and its blossoming popularity among the wannabe dictators of the world shows a global crisis of fighting facts with alternative ones.

I’ve heard blame for this pandemic of misinformation being foisted upon postmodernism: if everything is relative, then nothing is true in which case everything can be true. Except the justification for these “alternative facts” is never a glib relativism, but always fierce, vitriolic partisanship. Trump isn’t accepting alternative views: his are the only ones and all others are Democratic coups or liberal media lies. In actuality, postmodernism’s view of truth is that the powerful craft the dominant narrative which then defines what ‘truth’ is.

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Pictured: Postmodernism being sexy as fuck

Remember the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” of Saddam Hussein that turned out to be a lie? How about when infamous Reagan administration official Lee Atwater let slip that social spending rhetoric was merely a cover for taking advantage of racist fears? You can no longer say n*****, n*****, n*****, you’ve got to lie. How is dog-whistle politics not post-truth? A hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson needed to sell an unpopular world war to his country, and thus was birthed propaganda. Hell, even Plato talked about creating a myth to convince the plebs that the hierarchy he had set up in his Utopian Republic was both righteous and eternal. Those at the top, of course, were all in on the ruse. This is all prior to Trump, so there’s nothing “post” about it.

All these instances are powerful people shaping what we consider to be the “right” way of viewing the world. You know, the “truth.” Kinda sounds like the postmodernists were on to something, actually. So how have things changed since Trump was elected?

A compelling argument could be post-accountability. My own version of honesty as a virtue is that virtue requires personal sacrifice. When I have literally nothing to gain or lose by lying, like if I lie about the weather outside, then I’m considered pathological. Honesty doesn’t really fit in as a virtue in those kinds of scenarios. However, if I get drunk at a party and make out with my girlfriend’s sister, then I have a lot to lose in being honest about it. Hence, virtue requires the potential for personal sacrifice. This clearly shows that Trump is pathological, given that he, and his enabling administration, will lie about something as absurd as crowd sizes, even given photographic evidence to the contrary. However, no one holds him or the administration accountable. He was impeached, sure, but given the obstruction of justice he committed that was exposed during the Mueller probe, and the personal profit he has garnered violating the emoluments clause of the constitution, his impeachment was very lackluster. And then it was dismissed in the senate, with no lessons learned.

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Pictured: bending backwards to accommodate a previous lie into a current one whilst being sexy as fuck

Except, again, no one is ever held accountable. Remember Obama “looking forward” to avoid looking at the literal torture of the past administration? Clinton’s impeachment followed a similar trajectory to Trump’s in the senate. Or how about those who managed to get charged for the Iran-Contra scandal being pardoned by Bush Sr.? Or Richard Nixon being pardoned by his successor? It’s hard to remember any proportional political accountability since the French Revolution.

So truth in politics has never really had its day in the sun, nor has accountability for any vice, whether wrath, licentiousness, or the bearing of false witness. But, something must be different, right? This must be an aberration; Trump is different from all the rest because he’s orange and says the quiet things out loud! And there is! It’s what I would like to call: post-competency.

pots and pans

I don’t know why I thought of this image while visualizing the competency of the Trump administration, but it just feels appropriate.

 

All those other liars and crooks were good at what they did. The rhetorical twists and redefinitions of the word “is” and all other manner of sleights of hand, smoke, mirrors, and all the rest have always been a roller coaster of devilish charm and the subtlest of winks. Trump was accused of pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens, and when asked on camera what he was hoping to get out of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, he said that he hoped that they would investigate the Bidens. And that China should investigate too, just for good measure. He literally admitted to what he had been lying about days earlier, and then went back to lying about it days later. There will be no linguistic philosophy under the Trump administration because they’re all just such terrible liars. Our brains have become so accustomed to hearing well-crafted falsities and half-truths that when someone comes along who is just the absolute worst at telling lies, we think that the very concept of truth has been abandoned.

Accountability for this brash incompetence fails because modern politics is more about tribalism than it is about policy or even ideology. The attachment most people have to their political parties is the same that they have to their preferred sports team: it doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, we support them no matter what. Trump can talk about injecting bleach or grabbing women by the pussy, and then brazenly lie about sarcasm or locker room talk despite abundant evidence to the contrary, and his fans will not bat an eyelid for the same reason the ref always seems to be penalizing your team more than the other.

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The caliber of stock photo actors on full display. Their ambivalent rage is palpable.

We shouldn’t be worried so much about the abundance of lies, even as deadly as they might be. The tobacco industry lied to congress about the addictive nature of cigarettes, and the oil industry knew about climate change in the 80s, long before Trump started peddling hydroxychloroquine. Hell, even the level of incompetency is a bit of a blessing. Can you imagine a Trump administration that had even a modicum of intellect or skill? Or, to be fair, had these things that were then not stifled by sycophancy to a president lacking in both? America would actually have a Muslim ban as well as a wall along its southern border. We’re better off that they’re idiots. We should be concerned as to why people don’t seem to care when these things are so out in the open, when pathological narcissism demands impossible to believe lies, and nothing changes. Fealty to surreality is a bizarre thing to witness, and it is no surprise that we question our collective commitment to reality because of it. However, what we need to focus on is breaking away from the devastating tribalistic partisanship that allows it to happen.

The first step towards good, wholesome anarchism is the abolition of all political parties. Let’s start our focus there.

 

The traditional motto of the police department is to “Serve and Protect.” The police are supposed to protect the innocent from the criminal, so it might come as shocking that the Hong Kong protesters are calling for the abolition of the Hong Kong police department. Of course, Westerners might read this and think, “Well, obviously they would want to get rid of the police! They live under the tyrannical regime of COMMUNISTS!” No one would bat an eye at someone wanting to abolish the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Not in a modern context, anyway. The police becomes the arm of government oppression when the system is rigged against the people (or a specific demographic of people). Whoever dictates what is legal and what is criminal uses the intrinsic violence of the police (to either restrain, detain, or attack) as the power to enforce its decision.

fascit police

Don’t look at me, I just enforce what’s right and wrong. Who decides what’s right or wrong? Stop asking questions.

For added nuance, the Black Lives Matter movement made a similar call to abolish the police in the United States. When white supremacy is the systemic norm, black people become viewed as criminally-inclined compared to their white counterparts, so the police become the manifestation of that racist imbalance. When race is criminalized, when poverty is criminalized, when mental health is criminalized, when drug abuse is criminalized, then intrinsic police violence becomes directed at those demographic. Getting rid of the cops, in theory, would force us to confront the problems within these demographics non-violently.

If drug use was no longer illegal, then we would need to help drug addicts instead of locking them up. Treatment would become the default. If we could no longer lock up the poor, we would have to find them stable housing and make sure they had enough to support themselves so they would no longer need to game the system in order to survive. Mental health would somewhat ironically become a health issue, and those whose underlying issues causes them to act out in anti-social behaviours could only be helped instead of punished. We would probably have to shift our cultural view of violence as being the solution to all our problems so that those who commit violence to solve their problems would do less of that, too. We would need to refocus on rehabilitation as a solution, on help as a solution, on compassion as a solution. Cuz if we didn’t, society would collapse into a miasma of inhuman chaos and brutality!!

And that’s the thing about abolishing the police. If the monopoly on “legitimate” violence dissolves, a power vacuum appears. It’s why libertarianism is a terrible idea: if the government is abolished, then those with the most power (corporations) would step up and dominate with their unchecked and unregulated sovereignty. If the police disappear, then those currently with power, and this could be as little power as an abusive husband to as much power as a drug kingpin, will be able to execute that power without regulation.

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Quick! Call the BLM movement to remove him from the house!

This isn’t to disregard the absolutely solid arguments that both the Hong Kong protesters and Black Lives Matter movement make. The police, without a doubt, are the arm of systemic oppression within the state apparatus. The goal should always be anarchism. The issue is always the method of achieving that. The problem with libertarianism (or anarcho-capitalism) is that it wishes for anarchy within the cultural context of today. If we cede police power to anarchism within our current societal context, the violence that exists within our world now will continue to manifest itself; simply in new, unchecked ways.

I believe in a more incrementalist approach: similar to social workers whose goals are ultimately to end the apprehension of children from families, the goal of the police should be to work themselves out of a job. We obviously need to work on cultural transition, poverty reduction, race relations, mental health issues, and so on, but so long as power imbalances exist, then having a police force that is even minimally under popular control (in that we in the West have a small say in who writes their paychecks and holds them accountable) is better than allowing the unchecked power of some other violent agency to shape our legal and social framework. What we need is a new world. In order to reach that new world, we should no longer look at the police as a static necessity, but as a dynamic institution geared towards its own demise.

We all know what left-wing identity politics looks like. It’s someone saying, “I’m black, and that’s the only thing that’s important about me!” Or someone else saying, “I’m a woman, and therefore I’m oppressed!” Historically marginalized groups whining about how they’ve been historically marginalized, and how that marginalization bleeds into the present. Boo-freaking-hoo. Also, they’re all postmodern neo-Marxists on top of it. This doesn’t actually mean anything, but that doesn’t stop it from being the highest condemnation of left-wing identity politics that most people can think of.

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Stalin’s best-kept secret was all the hidden pogroms for those who used the wrong gender pronoun

What’s interesting is the less-considered right-ring identity politics. And I don’t mean the, “I’m a straight, white male, and I’m being replaced by a black, dyslexic trans-woman!” kind of identity politics, though that certainly plays into it. I mean more the, “AH! That Muslim is going to blow up my twin towers!” or, “AH! That immigrant is going to rape my entire extended family!” or, “AH! That Mexican is going to bring the drugs into my delicate community!” Whereas left-wing identity politics is about the identity of the self, right-wing identity politics focuses on the identity of the Other.

Now, this isn’t some romantic idealization of the Other as some exotic utopian fantasy (which is very much a thing, and has its own problems as an ideology), but one driven by fear. Machiavelli is credited with prioritizing fear over love as a method of governance, and while he is commonly interpreted to mean fear of the ruler, that fear can be directed outward to great political effect. If the populace is afraid, it is far more likely to accept authoritarian control. There’s no need to worry about the bogeyman, daddy’s got you. Just do as daddy says, and things will be okay.

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Whatever kind of Daddy you’re into

A big problem with identity politics, left and right, is that no group is homogeneous, and so categorizing any group will always be disingenuous. The problem with right-wing identity politics in particular is that the reality and statistics are often skewed because fear is the ultimate goal, and if reality doesn’t back up that someone who looks different is inherently a threat, by Jove we’ll make them a threat.

The politics of fear never lets up, which is why right-wing identity politics is so dangerous. Imagine if the white nationalists get their wish, and all the blacks, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, gays, whatever, leave America. We’ll even say peacefully to avoid any overt Nazi parallels. Since the politics of fear was never based on reality in the first place, the underlying goal being emotional manipulation in order to maintain dominance, new out-groups would need to be created. All of a sudden people might start remembering that the Irish and Italians weren’t considered white, once upon a time, and then it’s time for them to go. And so on.

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Do you really think ‘hate’ has a retirement plan?

Diversity is a thing forever now. The world is global. This is not something that can be undone. Sorry? But also, at the same time, I’m not sorry. What this means is that pluralism must be included as a given in any on-going political conversation. Fear of the Other reeks of obsolescence and hangs on only in the propaganda of despotism. There’s no such thing as the bogeyman. It’s time to grow up.