Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Is Western Civilization a Racist Construct?

New York Magazine says yes. In April it  ran a long, long article on the “Alt-Right,” “Beyond Alt: The extremely reactionary, burn-it-down-radical, newfangled far right,” authored by seventeen contributors (!). The magazine, being one of the leftist persuasion, attempted to cover the whole gamut of what is called the “Alt-Right,” (or the Alternative Right), that is, what are considered by the Left to be “extreme” individuals, publications, and memes that oppose the welfare state and statism and the Progressive path to full-scale socialism. Racists and anti-Semites were stuffed into the same bag, which I think the writers would have been happy to tie and toss into the East River. The Alt-Right carries a lot of unasked-for baggage, to judge by Wikipedia’s discussion of the  subject:

The alt-right, or alternative right, is a loose group of people with right to far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States. White supremacist Richard Spencer appropriated the term in 2010 to define a movement centered on white nationalism, and has been accused by some media publications of doing so to whitewash overt racism, white supremacism, and neo-Nazism. Alt-right beliefs have been described as white supremacist, frequently overlapping with anti-Semitism and Neo-Nazism, nativism and Islamophobia, antifeminism and homophobia, white nationalism, right-wing populism, and the neoreactionary movement. The concept has further been associated with multiple groups from American nationalists, neo-monarchists, men's rights advocates, and the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Quite a grab-bag of groups in an artificial homogeny concocted by the leftwing political world view. The New York Magazine’s article and Wikipedia perform a scatter-shot drive-by shooting intended to discredit and smear legitimate, responsible spokesmen for reason and Western civilization together with the screaming meemies, such as Richard Spenser, Dilbert, and Jack Donovan.

NY Magazine also deigned to quote the National Review, which, as a conservative publication, somehow does not earn its enmity and sarcasm:

In National Review in April 2016, Ian Tuttle wrote,
The Alt-Right has evangelized over the last several months primarily via a racist and anti-Semitic online presence. But for Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right consists of fun-loving provocateurs, valiant defenders of Western civilization, daring intellectuals—and a handful of neo-Nazis keen on a Final Solution 2.0, but there are only a few of them, and nobody likes them anyways.

National Review does a more economical job of painting the Alt-Right in almost psychedelic colors than does New York Magazine.

Curiously, I have not received any solicitations or invitations via email from any of the groups mentioned in either the New York magazine article or in Wikipedia, even though in the ineffable ignorance of Left and Right, my blog columns could easily be labeled one or the other. I am certainly familiar with Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson, but not at all with Allum Bokhari or many of the people mentioned, such as Rebekah Mercer or Peter Thiel. I have never heard of half the individuals, organizations, and blog sites mentioned by New York Magazine’s authors.

However, as Victor David Hanson points out in one NR column, “You Gotta Lie”:

Red/blue, conservative/liberal, and Republican/Democrat mark traditional American divides. But one fault line is not so 50/50 — that of the contemporary hard progressive movement versus traditional politics, values, and customs.

The entire menu of race, class, and gender identity politics, lead-from-behind foreign policy, political correctness, and radical environmentalism so far have not won over most Americans. Proof of that fact are the serial reliance of their supporters on deception, and the erosion of language on campus and in politics and the media. The progressive movement requires both deceit and euphemism to mask its apparently unpopular agenda.

Such as “global warming” (before that it was “global cooling”) being relabeled as “climate change,” as Hanson points out. The globalists and Progressives could not keep denying that the Earth has warmed and cooled many times over millions of years and that man has had little or nothing to do with it. Progressive verisimilitude went to work. If you can’t risk telling the truth about some bogus, politically correct “science,” you can lie, jiggle the numbers, draw graphs, and take arresting photographs of polar bears riding melting icebergs, and say that the science is “settled” and that climate change deniers should be imprisoned. Except that, truth be told, climate change “deniers” never denied that climate changed, except over eons.

Ever since the beginning of my education in political history, I grew increasingly and incorrigibly skeptical of the designations of “left” and “right.” Early on I learned of the origin of the terminology, dating from the French Revolution. The Spectator writes:

What is the origin of left and right in politics? The traditional answer is that these ideas derive from the French National Assembly after 1789, in which supporters of the King sat on one side and those of the revolution on the other. Yuval Levin in The Great Debate, however, argues not for seating but for ideas: that left and right enter the Anglo-American political bloodstream via the climactic public clash in the 1790s between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, the prime movers in a pamphlet war that convulsed opinion and engaged readers on two continents.

If this is right, then the touchstone of modern political debate in Britain and America is not capitalism v. socialism, or religious fundamentalism v. cosmopolitan secularism, but an earlier and deeper disagreement over the nature of the modern liberal political order itself.

Another explanation is:

During election seasons the words left and right denote political affiliation more than spatial direction. But where do these associations come from?

The left hand has long been associated with deviance. The word “sinister” originally meant “to the left” in Latin. The word “left” comes from the Old English word lyft, which literally meant “weak, foolish.” To avoid the negative and superstitious associations of the left side, many languages used euphemisms for it. In Old English the left side was called winestra, which meant “friendlier.” In Greek it was called aristeros or “the better one.”

When did the political affiliation of these two common words arise? In fact, the association isn’t American at all—it originated during the French Revolution. In the 1790s, King Louis XVI was fighting with the Legislative Assembly. Like our modern-day House of Representatives, seating in the French Legislative Assembly was arranged based on political affiliation. The King sat in front of the assembly. To his right sat the conservative Feuillants who backed the king and believed in a constitutional monarchy. To his left sat the liberal Girondists and radical Jacobins who wanted to install a completely democratic government. Oddly enough, in the U.S. House of Representatives the tables have turned: members of the Republican Party sit to the left of the House Speaker and members of the Democratic Party sit to his or her right.

It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that Left and Right denoted political affiliation in Britain and the U.S., and according to Google’s NGram viewer, the more politically loaded terms “leftwing” and “rightwing” were not widely used until after 1960.

The terms today are now of a topsy-turvy nomenclature. The “right,” as the left employs the term, means authoritarian, dictatorial, or one-man government with civil liberties annulled or suspended (a la Hitler, Mussolini, and a baker’s dozen of tyrannical regimes on a variety of continents), while the “left” means democratic government, benevolent regulators, the prancing unicorns of wealth distribution, and guarantees of civil liberties.

“Right” is commonly synonymous with German Nazism and/or Italian Fascism. It conjures up the image of strutting goose-steppers kicking the average man in the pants and otherwise exploiting and oppressing the helpless and disenfranchised, all victims, they claim, of a ruthless capitalist system.

In reality – a realm with which the Left has refused to become intimate – it is the Progressives and the Left who are the wannabe tyrants and wish to exploit and oppress. They wish to become the elitist overlords of all that they survey, including speech, or at least become “caring” and conscientious holders of bureaucratic sinecures managing everything under the sun for the “public good.”

Discussing a New York Times opinion piece, “When Communism Inspired Americans” by Vivian Gornick (April 29th), Daniel Greenfield remarked, in his column, “The Dirty Red Secrets of May,” (May 3rd),

Most leftists are dilettantes. They admired and admire Communism's commitment to murdering millions of people and arguing the esoteric dogmas of the party line. It's this latter that Gornick's New York Times piece bleeds with nostalgia for. She tells us, again and again, that the Communists were wonderfully inspirational because they sat around kitchen tables arguing about ideas.

So did the Nazis. But the New York Times doesn't print fond recollections of debates over whether the Japanese really counted as Aryans and how National Socialism should approach the rights of workers. Nostalgia for the Third Reich is rightly regarded as abominable. And the hobby of those who have a soft spot for its murderous totalitarian ideology.

Curiously, the left never applies this same indictment to its own fondness for Communism. Instead it traffics in nostalgia for Communism's idealism, as if its ideals were any nobler than those of Nazism. But the left believes they were. And how could it not? Communism is just the left taken to its inevitable conclusion. And so the left excuses Communism's excess of enthusiasm for the cause….

The Left returns, like a dog to its vomit, to the dream of the true radicalism of a totalitarian leftist state. It occasionally deals with uncomfortable truths. Circles around them. And then it lapses back into an opium dream of Marxists sitting around a kitchen table and debating which windows to smash first and whom to shoot first.

The contributors to the New York magazine – obviously a committee of them dominated by the most vocal anti-right obsessed – could not decide who deserved the most dart throws, so they decided on a potpourri of disliked “rightists.” It was similar to “Whack a Mole”:

Here in America, in trying to describe our brand of the reactionary wave currently tsunami-ing the entire developed world, we’ve leaned on the term alt-right, which had been coined by white supremacists. Richard Spencer, the most press-hungry of that group, takes credit for it. For much of last year, the term was often used as shorthand for “racists, but … young?” Which is helpful, as far as it goes, but the full reality is much more complicated.

The alt-right — or the new right, if you prefer to sound more like Tom Wolfe than Kurt Cobain, or the radical right, to properly acknowledge its break from mainstream conservatism — is a coalition comprised of movements like neo-reaction, certain strands of libertarianism, tech triumphalism, and even the extreme-populist wing of the Republican Party. All share with Spencer’s white-ethno-nativism the ideals of isolationism, protectionism, and nationalism: a closed nation-state. Along the way, the coalition swept up “men’s rights” advocates and anti-Semites and cruel angry teenagers and conspiracy theorists and a few fiendishly clever far-right websites and harassing hashtags and even a U.S. congressman or two. Not to mention the White House.

But to approach the big messy tent of the new retrograde right — the international brigade of nativist-nationalists, tech-savvy anti-globalists, the porn-loving gender traditionalists — as primarily a political movement is to wildly underestimate its scope.

The contributors’ committee decided to ask a question:
But what if the real cause is modernity itself, which is just a racist construct?
“Any deep response to modernity is rooted in racism. The Enlightenment project itself — reason, rationality, scientific inquiry, the quest for objectivity, are rooted in and indistinguishable from a racist conception of who wields reason and why. Remember, Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia was skeptical about the rational capacity of the Negro to engage in serious and critical reflection. The denial of black reason and humanity and intelligence go hand in hand with the rise of modernity. So the alt-right amplifies and echoes some of the worst elements of modernity itself, which is indissolubly linked to the denial of legitimate rationality among people who are seen as marginal minority in a subculture. We can’t escape it by saying ‘Those people over there are horrible.’ The alt-right is merely echoing some of the premises, presuppositions, and perspectives that have been deeply entrenched in modern western civilization and profoundly articulated at certain levels across the spectrum of political and ideological communities. It is the heinous, disfigured manifestation of a smoother, far more sustained bigotry and polite racism that have taken root in our culture.” —Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology, Georgetown University

“At least we know what we’re dealing with in the alt-right. There’s no pretense at attempting to engage in the politics of tolerance. That’s out the door. [Attorney General] Sessions stopping all agreements between the Department of Justice and police departments, that is a severe blow and an expression, although less polite, of an alt-right ideology.”

Is the Attorney General really “stopping all agreements between” the DOJ and police departments? No. The Hill reported on April 3rd:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday instructed Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to review the agency’s reform agreements with all police forces nationwide.

“The Department will use its resources to effectively promote a peaceful and lawful society, where the civil rights of all persons are valued and protected,” he said in a two-page memo that was first reported on by The Washington Post.

Arguing that Western ideas of freedom, of the proper form of government, and even science and technology, are just race-based “constructs,” evades or overlooks the fact that Islam, the Pharaohs, the Zulus, and the Incas did not originate those ideas, but men in northern Europe. There are many books that explain why civilization advanced in that region and nowhere else. A few of them properly ascribe the phenomena to a fealty to reason. Others ascribe them to climate. Or to just dumb luck.

“Beyond Alt” attempts to “package-deal” all ideas – good, bad, and indifferent, reason-based or emotion-based – as an intersectional conspiracy of racism. Observe the lead illustration. And not a word is devoted to the Alt-Left, represented by Antifa. Too embarrassing to discuss, because it’s so fascist?

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