Archives for category: Politics

You remember back in the day when white people were so upset that they couldn’t say the n-word, but black people could? Now they’ve grown up a little bit, I didn’t say matured, and decided that this is a free speech issue, and it is the single greatest threat to modern society. Everyone knows, or at least has the confidence of blind zealotry, that free speech is an unalterable human right. Human rights are funny things. They’re conceptual ideas that are basically made up, their only justification being that they sound nice, and then it’s claimed that everyone is entitled to them. Free speech can be a human right, sure, but so can healthcare. So can collective bargaining. If the entire basis of your demand for free speech rests on the fact that it’s a human right, wellllllll maybe look into the distinction between negative rights, positive rights, and collective rights, because odds are you’ll abandon the entire foundation of your argument, go back to saying the n-word, and just give up on trying to justify your racism. The tricky thing about human rights is that they are usually conceived in such a way as to benefit everyone, not just those with the loudest voices.

However, free speech is often seen as a human right even by those who roll their eyes at the Milo Yiannopoulos’ of the world, and so let’s look at free speech as a human right. If you’ve had access to literally any news source within the last few years, you’ll probably know that it is under attack… from the left wing of the political spectrum.

FINAL©.VIVA-CHE1968x8

I’m here for your speech to redistribute it so that everyone has an equal share.

Everyone knows how the right cracks down on free speech. They use violence to enforce their rigid ideology, cracking down on any dissent. This turns into censorship, and fascist propaganda is used to replace alternative perspectives. Today, the tables have turned, and now you can’t even say women are chromosomally inferior at computer programming without some SJW calling you sexist. Antifa beats up journalists! Both sides!

So what’s the difference between universities not allowing certain speakers from lecturing, or Twitter users dog-piling on someone for a bad joke, or protests popping up against companies that discriminate against gay people, and the government torturing and killing journalists and academics? According to some, nothing. They are exactly the same. The smug self-righteousness of “centrists” claims that the left and right, after a certain distance from the reasonable centre, become identically insane. They both want to crack down on our free speech!

Let me stop you before you start talking about Stalin and his purges and pogroms, because a university declining a platform to someone whose claims are as dubious as a Flat Earther is not anywhere near the same thing. That’s what is known as a false equivalency. Don’t do that.

false-equivalence-graphic

Stalin claimed to represent communism. Communism is on the left. Those who act on leftist principles must be harbouring Stalinist urges. See? Like that. It’s dumb.

Let’s look at an example of free speech. Imagine a company that has one black employee, and the rest are white. Within this company, there is a group that loudly makes racist jokes and comments. Whenever the black employee contributes at a meeting, this group laughs and derides whatever they contribute, regardless of its merit. The group can’t be silenced since any attempt would be censoring their free speech, nor can they be fired for the same reason. Reasonable discourse regarding the illegitimacy of racism goes nowhere because these people are buffoons. How long do you think before this black employee either stops contributing, or simply leaves the company? My guess is not that long. You can replace the black employee with female, homosexual, or whatever you like. When a majority group is allowed unregulated freedom to trammel the minority under foot, the minority will be silenced or excluded.

Free speech, as demanded by centrists and the right, is simply the demand to silence the speech of minorities by creating environments where they are not welcome. If a university allowed racist and sexist commentators, would ethnic minorities and women really be able to claim a place there? How safe would they be if those whose violence is only tempered by its social stigma are suddenly given legitimacy by reckless, but free, speech? When leftists claim that speech can be violent, they mean the violence of social exclusion, and actual, literal violence that is its logical consequence. Inciting a riot is an uncontroversial crime, as is uttering threats. When the violence is social, its causal network is more complex and the results are more ambiguous, but the link is there.

not welcome

A white supremacist who openly recognizes the link between speech and social consequences? Must be a utopia.

Free speech cannot be universal because unregulated free speech censors the speech of the less powerful, which means, ultimately, that it fails as a human right. You know how allowing the super rich to contribute as much money as they want to political parties essentially means that the average person’s voice no longer means anything in a democracy? That happened in the States, and the argument of “free speech” was the driving force behind it. This means that when the left challenges the “free speech” of racists and misogynists, they are not attacking a human right, or censoring a dissenting opinion, they are fighting for the voices that this “free speech” silences. They are promoting democracy, not defying it.

Is the solution to violently attack those who take advantage of their role as social censors under the irony of free speech? Is it morally permissible to punch Nazis, basically. Unfortunately, it’s a narrative that drives these attitudes, not facts and figures, which makes discourse a difficult endeavour. Disallowing that narrative to spread is one way to combat it, but it also needs to be replaced with a better one or it will lash out as it is backed into a corner.

Post-Script: Twitter is just fucking stupid at its foundations. It has real life consequences that are depressingly inane across the spectrum, and social media in general should be abolished. That’s my view of Twitter censorship.

To understand postmodernism, one must first have a basic understanding of modernism. Luckily, modernism is far less complex than postmodernism, which hopefully makes understanding postmodernism easier as well. Modernism is a paradigm that says that we’ve figured everything out, science has won, our current institutions never need to change again, and any form of progress will only be the refinement of things that we currently have got going for us right now. It’s the paradigm of Fukuyama’s “End of History.” There’s no point in talking about things anymore; this is it.

Postmodernism is the reply to that which says, “Wellllllll….. I mean…. really? Literally everyone in the past has said that their way of thinking is irrefutably true, but you’re super sure that you’ve got it this time?”

This of course is completely reasonable. Modernists give primacy to science; science is about the refutation of existing theories (except apparently when it comes to the primacy of science and other modernist principles which can never possibly be refuted), so why is there such blowback against attempts to refute existing theories? Postmodernism is applying rational skepticism to firmly entrenched ideas and values. This is usually done by looking at an idea that is taken for granted as true, analyzing its history, and then pointing out flaws that have been imbued in that idea since its inception. Postmodernists usually leave it up to us to decide what to do with their criticism, but it’s generally assumed that a revaluation of that idea is the implied minimum.

For a couple of examples, capitalism is an economic system founded in colonialism and slavery. Tracing its history to today, one can see threads of that continuing in the exploitation of third world countries for first world profits. Postmodernism stops there. It has never been big on solutions, just pointing out the problems. I’ve also outlined the general thesis of Foucault’s evolution of punishment here. This blog is essentially a postmodern analysis of contemporary justice. Basically if you’re criticizing something by looking at how its history has shaped its current incarnation, you’re doing postmodernism. Nietzsche was actually one of the first postmodernists. In The Genealogy of Morals, he takes the firmly established Christian way of life, and then deconstructs it as the “slave morality” response to the Roman “master morality”, thus leading to the insipidness of his time. The difference I guess is that Nietzsche offered a solution.

Here’s the thing: nobody likes postmodernists. Which is weird because skepticism has been around for a looonnnng time. Postmodernists are attacked for not liking science and reason; David Hume posited that causality is unknowable; Renee Descartes suggested that mathematical truths could be the deception of an evil demon, and thus could not be held self-evident; Sextus Empiricus, one of the most famous Greek skeptics, provided proofs both for and against the gods; Socrates denied traditional piety, values, language, epistemology, justice… so many things. Much like Socrates, postmodernists get a lot of grief because they attack the paradigm of those in power. They are the gadflies of modernity.

If you watch any video on postmodernism, you’ll probably see somewhere in the comments advice from helpful Youtubers to check out Jordan Peterson, because he knows about postmodernism, and he says it’s bad. Let’s look at some of his criticisms:

It’s an attack on rationality/empiricism/science: That’s one way of framing it, sure, but that isn’t unprecedented even in the most enlightened of circles, and it’s not actually the case. Postmodernism appreciates other ways of knowing, rather than baldly accepting the deification of reason. Maybe beauty has some truth worth knowing, or empathy might reveal something about the universe. Ask yourself, “How can I prove that reason is the ultimate way of knowing?” You can answer either with reason, which would lead to an infinite regress (proving reason with reason would require further reason to prove the second reason), or with some other way of knowing, which shows the value of an alternative. It’s not that science is wrong or bad, it’s that it’s not alone.

It suggests multiple viewpoints, which means there can be no true viewpoint. The only reason we have an agreed upon viewpoint is because it belongs to those in power: Well, yeah. Read a book. History belongs to the victors, right? Those with the most power are going to organize things so that they keep winning. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Everyone knows politicians are corrupt because they do everything to keep their power, but nobody can make the leap to other facets of our society functioning on the same premise? Please.

Next would be the relativism implied in the criticism: the difficulty we have with truth does not mean that there cannot be a best viewpoint, and deciding which is best is a lot more complicated than accepting the current system simply because that’s the way it has always been. Perhaps with a postmodern lens, we can better understand which viewpoint has the greatest benefit.

There is no individual in postmodernism, just identity. It splits people into an oppressor and oppressed class: Again, yes. Economists and statisticians split people into identifiable variables all the time. It makes measuring trends easier. It’s a way of analyzing social phenomena. If one group is lumped together into an oppressor class, that’s because historically that group has tended to behave in that pattern and now benefits from that history, even if you don’t accept that that practice continues today. It’s not complicated.

Postmodernists are all Marxists. They don’t engage in dialogue. They want to destroy everything: To sum up, postmodernism corrupts the youth. Peterson is famous for wanting to shut down university courses that he believes perpetuate postmodern ideas and “cultural Marxism.” This is the exact charge the Athenians levied against Socrates. There is a lot of propaganda against postmodernists by those who stand to lose under their dissecting eye. Peterson is a buffoon.

There are some valid criticisms of postmodernism, even in this blog. You may have noticed I repeatedly pointed out that it doesn’t offer solutions. Beyond this, it denies any Grand Narrative, which in theory could be used to unify people even if today they are mostly used for jingoist purposes. When people call postmodernism a philosophy I usually cringe because I see it more as sociology rather than philosophy. A postmodernist is more likely to criticize bourgeois philosophy than participate within it, and fair enough.

The true skeptic holds that every belief must be questioned, including the belief that every belief must be questioned. Postmodernism is not beyond criticism, and nobody says it should be. It’s just that too much of its criticism has been coming from people who lump it in with “Cultural Marxism“, and those people are just so, so dumb and are ruining things for everyone. I just want to go back to writing about how empathy isn’t real and the Marxist implications of Facebook, but NOOOOooooo! I have to write out entire blogs explaining why alt-right talking points are wrong.

Post-script: In that Jordan Peterson video, he says that he read Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, and then says that its theme is that the presentation of mental illness is shaped by the conditions of its surrounding environment. That’s… not what the book is about at all. The book is about showing how mental illness is framed in moral terms, as a manifestation of an unreason contrasting the social norms of its environment. Kind of like how being transgender is seen as morally deviant because it flies in the face of the traditional understandings of gender. It’s actually exactly like that. Peterson either never actually read the book and is posturing (so smugly) to seem smart to his followers, or he’s just really, really dumb and didn’t pick up what Foucault wrote out explicitly like, a bunch of times throughout the book. It really seems to me that Jordan Peterson learned about postmodernism from a Jordan Peterson video, and didn’t investigate further because whatever, he gets to be famous for being the stupid man’s smart person.

There is this belief that the centre possesses the highest moral value. The Golden Mean of Aristotle suggests that the ethical character exists between two extremes. Between cowardice and rashness is bravery; between stinginess and prodigality is liberality. When applied to politics, the spectrum appears as a horseshoe with the Right and Left extremes meeting near the bottom, allegedly indistinguishable from one another, and the glorious yet humble centrists take their position at the pinnacle of enlightened political thought.

13493486_f1024

It kind of looks like seating arrangements with the head of the table being really conspicuously obvious. Whoever came up with Horseshoe Theory must have been a centrist.

Of course this is incredibly patronizing to those without liberal viewpoints, but it’s also patently absurd. It’s the “both sides” rhetoric which equivocates fighting Nazis with being Nazis. The truth does not lie between two extremes of an argument. It’s like going to a court case, and assuming that justice exists somewhere in the middle between the positions of the defense and the prosecution, without listening to either side.

Not listening is key to political centrism. It’s telling victims that, while I recognize that there is bad shit going on, I understand your situation better than you, and I will judge you harshly for your response to violence that I do not have to endure. It’s telling those who victimize others that, while I recognize that what you’re doing is socially destructive, I respect your right to do so within the written law. Centrism is the perpetuation of the status quo even if the status quo is harmful to certain groups and privileges others, which means, by its very nature, centrism benefits the socially destructive simply by its passive allowance of their flourishing.

Centrists assume that any dialogue is productive. It suggests that groups who want to secure basic freedoms can solve their differences amiably over tea with others who believe those groups to be subhuman. I’m not saying that dialogue can’t solve the issue, but the type of conversation matters more than simply having a conversation. To be politically centrist is to avoid productive debate, despite conventional wisdom, because they insist that the louder and illegitimate voices have an equal seat at the table, despite the silencing effect that this has on others. Marginalized voices must be given a microphone in order to be heard above the din, and certain arguments are unjustifiable in productive dialogue, like the supremacy of one group over another, and those arguments must be quashed or ignored if we’re going to actually make any progress. White supremacy, for example, cannot be debated because it is not grounded on a debatable foundation.

Despite the language we use to understand politics as a spectrum, it’s far more complex and nuanced than a horseshoe or even a linear framework. It seems asinine to perceive climate science as a position on the political spectrum, but it is. Believing that black people should be murdered less too finds its place on the political spectrum. If someone believes that gay people shouldn’t be able to marry, we consider them right wing, but if they murder someone because they’re gay, are they are more right wing? Is murder on the political spectrum? That’s like saying a Muslim who commits a terrorist act is more Muslim than one who doesn’t. If someone believes that workers should own the means of production, we call that left wing. What about the difference between those who want to achieve it through revolution compared to those who wish to achieve it through incremental reform? Is one more left than the other? The belief is the same, the methodology is different. We consider revolution more extreme, and therefore somehow “more left”, but the basic political beliefs are identical. Political methodology should not impact political position. If we were in Eastern Germany during its Communist phase, and someone set off a car bomb because they wanted liberal democracy, would they be considered more centrist than someone who only handed out pamphlets? Jean-Jacques Rousseau would never be considered a centrist during his time, even if what he was fighting for are the values of centrists today. We have the term Overton Window to describe acceptable social discourse (ie. centrist values) which can shift depending on the surrounding culture, which means that centrism is essentially arbitrary. Politics is issue specific, and that’s why we have racist Gay Rights activists and fiscal conservatives who think pot should be legal. There isn’t really a defined spectrum, just a mainstream with the “extreme” political views falling on the outside of that. Centrism is only pop-politics.

To self-describe as centrist is nothing more than virtue signalling. It’s buying into the myth of the spectrum simply because it puts you in a flattering light. Centrists get to claim the moral high ground because of the perceived golden hue of the mean, even if what they advocate is otherwise morally bankrupt. Claiming a label that identifies you as socially responsible unlike those types is choosing to remain ignorant because the destruction going on around you does not affect you personally. Listen to the arguments, research the data, and see if “both sides” truly have equal merit.