This is a script for an upcoming video which will be published on youtube.uzalu.net.
Charlottesville became a battlefield on Saturday, as a political conflict erupted following a demonstration by a group of activists including Richard Spencer. Whilst there is a lot to dissect about the specific events of the day, including the role or lack thereof of law enforcement in preventing violence, I’m going to speak on the general pattern this event forms the most recent part of.
I would have assumed that most people are aware of the pattern, but if you happen to give much credence to the mainstream media, it’s very possible that you haven’t noticed it. The right-wing didn’t start this fire, nor did they first make it violent, nor are they usually the ones who initiate the violence. For these acts, one must take a somewhat less partisan view than does the mainstream media.
Political violence in a democracy indicates that something has gone badly wrong – that a problem, or a series of problems have arisen, and no peaceful solution is being widely adopted. Whoever you are, almost without exception, you would prefer the conflict be resolved rather than continue to escalate. You’ll all have different ideas for how that should happen, but many of these ideas will only perpetuate the problem.
The vast majority of people who I’m addressing here would undoubtedly have no desire to hear me out. What I’m asking from you is courage, and the ability to defy the validation of your peers. What I’m offering in return, however, is a path towards solving the problem.
I hope you weren’t expecting this to be easy.
Are Fascists and Communists People?
As simple and silly as the question sounds, it gets right to the heart of the problem.
The personhood of communists is denied frequently by certain people, especially right-wing libertarians and meme-friendly conservatives, but also humble centrists such as myself. Hate to let the cat out of the gulag, but this is actually a meme. Part of the meme is to deny the most fundamental layer of irony, so you’ll rarely see anyone admit that it’s a meme. By claiming it is, I’ve surely broken some sacred unspoken pact that the final layer of irony never be challenged, but, this video is a lesson in openness for both sides.
I’m sure there are those who actually think that communists aren’t people, in which case this video is just as much a criticism of you, as it is of anyone else. Communists are people, no matter how much I disagree with them, and think their beliefs would be likely to lead to genocide if anyone attempted to implement them… again.
The main problem is, of course, not some internet meme, no matter how seriously some people choose to take it. The problem is the genuine reflexive dehumanisation that a large proportion – probably the majority – of first-world societies have towards fascists, and similar types. In this case, it is not ironic, it is not contained to a small portion of internet memelords, and it is not considered wrong by almost anyone’s standards.
This is the truth that so many people want to avoid at all costs, the fact that would undermine so much of your moral framework, the dragon coiled up in the back of your mind you just can’t bring yourself to slay.
Because what IF fascists are just people, too?
Extending the Franchise
Democracy is not primarily a decision-making process, in fact that analysis is shallow to the point of being misleading. Democracy is a pressure valve for the people – the method by which society organises changes in its direction, the internal messaging system of the cell, allowing the nucleus to know what is pervading the cell, and what is just beyond the cell walls, no matter which part of the cell has detected it. Democracy is the grand exchange of issues.
Allowing intelligence, or education, or any other kind of acumen to play a part in the democratic process entirely undermines it. You might as well be advocating for feudalism.
The point is not to rely on the power of the average to make the best choices, the point is to permit everyone to have their voice heard. Democracy was the transition from a society where the interests of the elite were what mattered, to a society where the interests of the society mattered. The least powerful in society cannot address their grievances without the voice that democracy provides. It is the great leveller between wealthy and poor, because both groups can have problems that no-one else wants to address.
Democracy is only at an acceptable level of functionality when it is extended to every adult in society. Fortunately, actual access to voting is something that all first-world countries have maintained, but alas, there’s far more to it than who is allowed access to the ballot boxes.
Politics is downstream from culture – it has to be, as it’s culture that defines, and is defined by, the mass psychology of the nation. What is written on that voting slip is the result of what a person believes, and what that person believes is dependent on what they’ve seen, and what they’ve heard, and that’s mostly culture.
Culture, therefore, is an essential part of democracy – in fact it’s even more fundamental than democracy. A functional Democracy relies on a functional culture, one in which the free marketplace of ideas has not been totally corrupted.
The marketplace of ideas. If you can apprehend its nature, you’ll have a good measure of the health of a society, and its future. Whilst fair access to culture, and fair access to the marketplace of ideas is not technically part of democracy, it is reductive and unhelpful to restrict your thinking to that narrow definition, and if you’re doing so to avoid addressing the problem I’m describing here, you are part of the problem.
This is not a simple matter of letting even the most stupid, hateful people have their voices heard; not any more. Hitchens was right, but not right enough. Freedom of expression shouldn’t just be guaranteed as a higher principle we can all pat ourselves on the back for, it has become so important that certain western societies risk systemic destabilisation because of its lack.
The ‘facists’, or alt-right, or nazis, or whatever you want to call them, while they are wrong about a great many things in my opinion, are the only people voicing a certain set of concerns, and the most extreme voices of a set of concerns which extend so far beyond their narrow purview that even some left-wingers and centrists can agree.
“Muh Holocaust Deniers”
It’s inevitable. Whenever anyone advocates listening to all sides of a discussion, some extremely helpful moron will point out that holocaust denial exists.
Do you have any idea how worthless this point is? It serves no purpose other than as a morality-check for the moderate who just wants a wider discussion. “How could you possibly want people to be allowed to talk who believe something IMMORAL?” Yeah, good question, let’s ask every single academic what they think of the various genocides, intentional or not, that occurred in the soviet union. Any of them who say “Kulaks deserved it”, or “What famines that resulted directly from soviet communist ideology?” should be subject to the exact same discreditation and disenfranchisement that comes to those who question the holocaust, right?
The correct answer is: Don’t make any beliefs so powerful that they can end a person’s integration into society. Moralisation has its place, but it’s a far narrower place than people seem to think, and most of you are just using it as a weapon so you don’t have to discuss anything.
The problem is not the flavour of beliefs, it’s not the tribes, it’s not the individuals; it’s the method. A healthy society doesn’t exclude people from the free marketplace of ideas based solely on how distasteful it finds ONE of their beliefs.
What Valid Concerns Could They Possibly Have?
Many of the problems they raise are far from unique to them, and most of the valid concerns they have are shared by many who are far less extreme than they are, including some on the left.
It may be painful to hear, but some of us just want our societies to be healthy, to run according to their design, or according to proven enlightenment / liberal values. Not everyone who criticises certain ideas just wants to implement whatever set of ideas scares you the most. The alt-right are only a small part of the problem, they just happen to be the most scary part to most people, and why present your ideological opponents accurately, when you can pretend they’re all just scary extremists?
One can believe that our societies contain widespread mistreatment of whites without believing in a white ethnostate. Many if not most corporations, and some national institutions, have diversity-quotas for hiring. What does ‘diversity’ mean, I hear you ask? It means any kind of person who isn’t a white male. Oh look, a bunch of white males are complaining, however did this happen?
To the alt-right, this is an attack on the white race. To most others who have a problem with it, it’s a perversion of meritocracy and actual racism-in-practice. Fact is, neither of these perspectives are exactly wrong, they’re just different ways to make the same statement: “This practice is unjust, it should not continue”. It is unjust, it should be stopped immediately.
That’s just scratching the surface of the issues in society that many, including the alt-right, are dissatisfied with. As I said earlier, the problem is not the flavour of each tribe; it’s the method by which society filters its ideas.
Who’s to Blame?
Recently, I posted an opinion online which was extremely unpopular with a lot of people, though, for the sake of balance, it was also popular with a lot of others. Those who found it objectionable though were very loud in their objections, and, with only a few exceptions, irrationally so.
The opinion was that the current climate of political violence was made by the left.
Many points were made in response to this, most of them so stupid I’m surprised anyone with the ability to use a keyboard produced them… except I’m not surprised, because the various pathologies of human psychology have become very apparent to me over the years.
Let’s quickly go through some of them, because they are informative in their error, if nothing else.
Assessing the general cause of a pattern of events, does not imply relinquishing responsibility from individuals involved in those events.
Let’s nail this one in all the way with a handy metaphor. A murder occurs. Everyone’s outraged about the horrible act, the death of the victim, the lack of remorse of the killer. Everyone wants to know what happened, and wants to avoid it happening again. Enter the real villains of our story, several psychologists have an opinion on why the murder occurred. It turns out the murderer was part of a cult that indoctrinates its members with the belief that killing a certain kind of person is a mandatory moral good, and also works to psychologically break down its members’ moral convictions, effectively converting them into psychopaths.
“WHY ARE YOU BLAMING THE CULT, IT’S OBVIOUS THE MURDERER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN ACTIONS, YOU MURDER APOLOGIST!”
I assume no further explanation is needed.
Erasure of Motive
I also made the point that many people refer to the alt-right as ‘reactionary’. This was relevant due to a phenomenon closely tied to general dehumanisation: Erasure of motive.
Some believed I had misunderstood the meaning of the word, but they did this by ignoring part of the definition. Yes, the word is used to refer uncharitably to those who oppose policies which are described as ‘social progress’ by those advocating them, but there is certainly no exclusion of the concept of reaction in this meaning. The main point of ambiguity will be the enormous potential for partisan bias in use of the word. What is often described as ‘social progress’ isn’t always good. Do I need to mail you an encyclopaedia so you can look up Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’? It is possible, is it not, for some elements of the past to be better than some elements of the present, in some contexts? If so, ‘reactionary’ cannot be a criticism on its own.
Anyone using the word to describe their opposition will almost undoubtedly be wrenching the word as hard towards their biases as it will possibly go without breaking. All you have to do is tell your enemy that what they’re reacting to is unequivocally good, and they become exactly the worst kind of reactionaries: The ones who’d like to see all civilised society regress to something resembling stone-age culture. Is that what you’re using the word to mean?
But, how would the other side describe it? A reactionary is someone who sees proposed and part-implemented changes in society that they don’t approve of; they value the founding principles of their society, and their proven effectiveness, to the point that they oppose policies that seek to pervert or remove them.
In both cases, need I remind you, my use of the term was perfectly reasonable. Both partisans admit that the reactionary is reacting to something. If you can agree with me on that, and for the sake of your integrity I’d hope you can, then all we have left to do is discuss the actual merits of what they’re reacting to. Is that what you were hoping to avoid?
The alt-right, and even the alt-lite, despite whatever you choose to believe, are a reaction to changes proposed and part-implemented by others in society. To imply they are just acting out of baseless regressivism, malice or hatred is exactly how you perpetuate the violence.
Assignation of motive to your opponents is bad enough, but erasing it to this degree is tantamount to calling them unthinking animals. Give them no avenue to voice their concerns, and you might as well be treating them like animals, and inviting them to break their bonds as a direct result.
The Angelic Left
Several critics reacted by mocking the very notion that the left could have done anything wrong. One implied that the right were reacting to interracial kissing and girls in gaming, one implied that I was claiming that the left advocating for universal healthcare creates nazis. These are people whose narratives have become more primary to them than themselves.
The problems with these statements go far beyond just the fundamental assumptions, but we can start there.
The association of GamerGate with the alt-right is particularly hilarious, considering that GG was predominantly socially-libertarian, predominantly centrist or left-leaning, contained plenty of women, as gaming itself had for decades without complaint, and was almost entirely a pro-consumer, pro-cultural-freedom movement. The perception of GG as evil is an excellent litmus-test for someone who uncritically believes whatever biased media sources they consume. Why on earth would a corrupt media lie about a movement which aimed to fight back against a corrupt media? Just tell me why?
More importantly, how easy is it to just pick something innocuous or positive that your tribe is doing and pretend that’s the worst thing it’s doing, to illegitimise the complaints of the opposing tribe? Pretty easy, right? Surely a lot easier than actually accepting the not-so-good things it might be doing.
Some people seem to have a memory problem when it comes to antifa, the violent, politically extremist, anti-liberal mob assembled on the left, who have been committing and perpetuating violence since long before the events in Charlottesville.
Despite how it’s not exactly incorrect, if I said “just talk to the fascists”, it would be pretty unhelpful. It may be too late now, this has been going on for too long.
The first world has done a fantastic job of suppressing a range of beliefs which are, rightly or wrongly, associated with Nazi Germany over the last 70 years. Top work, guys, but it’s really coming back to bite us now. Some of those ideas are really stupid, but so are some of the equivalent ideas on the left which did not receive the same treatment from large sections of society.
The only way to solve this problem would be an overhaul of our cultural consciousness. Since that isn’t going to happen, something like a civil war may be inevitable, at least in the US. At the very least, the violence will continue until a solution is forced, rather than simply implemented fairly.
Here’s the important part, though. As I’ve mentioned several times, the alt-right are hardly the only ones with some of the concerns about society that they have, even though others describe them in very different terms. Centrists and moderate leftists, even a lot of progressives, have serious complaints about the left in the first world, where it is still dominant. Their voices have been ignored, and their characters slandered by those with power for years. The alt-right are just the most extreme result of that state of affairs.
The left-wing ideologues embedded in the system are driven by power. Their ideology is based on it, and so what would be the point, to them, of any discourse? If they have a favourable status in society, enough to shape public opinion, it makes more sense for them to ignore and smear their genuine critics, rather than engage honestly with them. This pattern is present even in those very few who pretend to engage honestly.
Absent the possibility of the ideologues in the media, in academia, and in many other institutions including government engaging honestly with their opponents, what can their opponents do other than continue to point out the problem?
If the franchise of public discourse has a barrier, a wall erected by some powerful demagogues against their entire opposition, that’s destabilising society, what exactly do you expect to happen?
The only way we’re going to move back towards a healthy society? The only possible non-violent solution? The only recourse for our ailing civilisation?
Tear down this wall.