Is Covid-19 a Global Cult?

My first answer is, it is definitely a global narrative.

What is a narrative? It’s a story. It has central themes and is likely to have unstated premises.

What is a narrative’s purpose? That can very, depending on who is telling the narrative, whether they have political or cultural power or are trying to free themselves from political-economic or cultural power.

Truth doesn’t have to play a part in it, although it is good for the interests behind the narrative that those to whom it is addressed believe in it wholeheartedly … possibly to the point of being willing to die for it if asked to do so.

Edward Louis Bernays (from the first page of his slim book Propaganda, written in the early 1920a):

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Thoser who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. We are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

Walter Lippman, in his book Public Opinion (1922):

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power. . . . Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.”

This ought to raise the question: who are the “manufacturers of consent”? Who, which groups, have the money (economic power), influence (especially in corporate media and in academic), and cultural power (in the streets) to “manufacture consent”?

If you’ve no idea whatsoever, I recommend undertaking the job of finding out.

Contrast the spirit of the above quotes with that of science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein:

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

And this, also from Heinlein:

Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

Kind of makes you think of Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other Big Tech giants, doesn’t it. Not to mention “cancel culture” and its effort to eradicate every element of history it finds “offensive,” which seems to be most of it.

Only the latter is using force understood as physical coercion or overt intimidation, mostly because the cult of “woke” is, by and large, too stupid to know any better.

Turn to Covid-19. Medical truth or medical narrative? Science or cult (as if, with most science today being bankrolled by corporations or by government, there is a difference here that makes a difference)?

Before deciding, be sure to read this:

The reason for my being in here this morning. Goes without saying, this is a workaround post; it would not exist without Flakebook which blocks posts to Unz Review, and other sorts of censorship. Why the rising tide of censorship, on which I’ve commented before?

We aren’t suppose to ask these kinds of questions. We aren’t supposed to pursue these lines of inquiry, such as whether there is more to this “pandemic” than meets the eye, or, more exactly, is talked to death in the fearmongering mass media.

We are supposed to fall in line before our (moneyed) betters, the owners of our institutions and would be owners of our lives themselves. We are supposed to believe they are there to protect us, to safeguard public health. That the lockdowns / quarantines of healthy people aren’t doing more harm than any virus ever could on its own. (This, from yesterday.)

We are supposed to believe wholeheartedly in their narrative of monopoly over truth (called “expertise”), and eschew what they dismiss as “quackery” (e.g., hydroxychloroquine and zinc as cures for Covid-19), while we wait for their “expertly” produced (and likely to be oh-so-profitable) vaccine. Maybe a series of vaccines. Produced by corporations who have legal immunity from being sued for damages if you are harmed by their products.

Paranoid? Dangerous, even? I am genuinely sorry if you think so. It’s no fun, having awakened to the realization, some time ago, that your civilization is based on encirclements and controls, not freedoms (except to consume): that this is not “capitalism,” it is not “socialism,” nor is it even the “mixed economy.”

It is Third Stage industrial civilization itself, which was growing by leaps and bounds when folks like Bernays and Lippmann were penning their quiet truths, for anyone who cared to read and understand.

They, and their owners, gambled successfully that the Third Stage masses would work and count the days till the weekend when they could drink, party, and fornicate … anything except read and internalize rather densely written books about how industrial civilization really works.

They, and their owners, gambled, that is, that most Americans would inhabit the “real Matrix,” consisting of governmental, corporate, and media-reinforced narratives for their entire lives, and that the handful of us who learned to “unplug” could be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists” (or whatever) and marginalized.

These are all Fourth Stage realizations, that present-day civilization is made almost entirely of narratives, and will remain such unless enough people awaken to do something about it, figuring out what is true and what isn’t, or at least, what is worth believing and what isn’t.

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Life Advice Author Mark Manson on Why You Should Study Philosophy

Philosophers (academic and otherwise): you might find this of interest.

Mark Manson (noted author of the New York Times bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) provides an overview of what philosophy matters that is sufficiently competent for someone who probably took a few courses in the subject in college and absorbed them.

Manson argues reasonably that in our era of constant distractions, chronic information overload, and the increasing difficulty of discerning truth from falsehood amidst the narratives competing for our (your) attention and loyalty, philosophy has never been more important. Why? Because it gives you the tools for questioning your premises, or the prevailing ones, on your road to something that might be both personally helpful and useful in your community: a worldview that is adequate to the facts, free from contradictions, and existentially satisfactory in that it renders life meaningful.

Manson’s article is lengthy, and does not shy away from theh “colorful” language that is one of his trademarks. But I figure readers of this site have appropriate attention spans, and that we’re all adults here.

I don’t agree with Manson on every point or emphasis. For my taste, he spends too much time on the roots radical feminism and critical race theory, and I would never endorse the idea that Simone de Beauvoir is a more significant twentieth century philosopher than, say, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

But as philosophy today needs all the friends it can get, and Manson has hundreds of thousands of subscribers to his weekly newsletter, despite these quibbles I’m glad this is out there, available as an anchor from which anyone can begin to engage the subject.

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The “Virus” of Revolutionism

The real “virus” infecting any number of societies for much of the past 500 years is not organic but philosophical in origin. This is the “virus” of revolutionism.

Paul Craig Roberts just penned a brilliant piece focusing on how revolutionism puts ruthless tyrants in power, as during the French Revolution, and how expansionist emperor-types such as Napoleon sometimes follow.

How much reminding do we need? Revolutions are a very bad idea!?

Societies end up ruled by their absolute worst: criminals, bullies, thugs, and losers.

And whatever the problems of the government they just overthrew, revolutions always leave everyone except the newly empowered worse off than before.

It’s good that PCR takes note of how the so-called “American Revolution” wasn’t really a revolution at all in this sense.

British rule was ended, and the Founders established a republican government still based on British common law, and on balances of power against power at different levels — something never before achieved.

The major changes happened at the top. For the rest of society, the old order merged seamlessly into the new. The overall worldview (essentially Christian, if with denominational variations) and ways of life remained the same. Those not actively fighting the British did not experience the level of upheaval that struck France in 1789.

Revolutionism is fundamentally Jacobin. What does this mean? Who were the original Jacobins?

They were a group of far left activists and political operatives who came of age in Revolution-era France. They drew inspiration from Enlightenment thought, especially the strain that led from Rousseau to Robespierre, through whom they enacted the Terror.

The Jacobins believed it possible to place all of a society’s institutions under the microscope of an abstract “Reason,” raze them to the ground if they didn’t measure up to “rational” ideals of liberty, equality, and the fraternity or brotherhood of [all] men, and build up a new society on an Enlightenment-based, “rational” footing.

For those who didn’t measure up, the original Jacobins’ favorite device for dispatch was the guillotine.

Historically, what results from revolutions is always tyranny, since the old “irrational” order must be purged. Everything that would threaten the new order must be gotten rid of. This means all independent thought and writing must be crushed. Those unwilling to get with the program may be guillotined as in France, or with the strains of Jacobin revolutionism to come, shot, set to gulags, or otherwise destroyed. Entire populations that don’t fit the “rational” plan become nonpersons and may be “canceled.”

Thus the elimination not just of the French monarchy but the ousted king’s entire family.

Thus the Soviets’ elimination of all opponents of collective farming, with Stalin adding a new wrinkle: deliberate policies that resulted in mass starvation.

Thus the fate of Jews who didn’t flee Nazi Germany.

Is America falling prey to the “virus” of Jacobian revolutionism? You better believe it!

I’m not referring just to Antifa anarchists and Black Lives Matter cultural Marxists. They are just tools — agents of chaos, one might say, whose primary targets are conservative white people (liberal whites, as fellow Jacobin fellow travelers, get a pass, for now).

These movements are bankrolled by a powerful Jacobin globalist named George Soros, probably among others of the revolutionist power elite.

What will be the fate of Americans of any race and creed who resist or don’t fit into the planned New World Order being masterminded in globalist organizations ranging from the Trilateral Commission to the International Monetary Fund to the World Economic Forum? The question bears asking!

Revolutionism has a deeper philosophical root, and as a trained philosopher, I’m the obvious person to ferret it out.

The deeper philosophical root of revolutionism is Cartesianism, the name reserved for the intellectual product of early 17th century French philosopher René Descartes.

Descartes (1596 – 1650) is often called the Father of Modern Philosophy. He might also be thought of as the Godfather of the Enlightenment, and therefore of Jacobinism.

Descartes worked out a methodology. He thought it possible to raze all his beliefs to the ground based on an abstract logical possibility they could be false: the testimony of his senses, the findings of science as they then existed, God Himself. Descartes thought it possible to build up, from scratch, a whole new rationalist system of knowledge, based on the indubitable foundation of “Cogito; ergo, sum” (“I think; therefore, I am).

In the history of ideas, this was a gamechanger! It was the most influential philosophical product, in one way or another, for centuries — as important as Newton’s physics if not more so. The Newtonian revolution, well over a century later, might not have happened had Newton not been willing to raze Aristotle to the ground.

Note carefully: For Descartes, his abstract intellect using Reason alone, could dismantle all his former convictions. And then rebuild them from scratch on that foundation.

This abstract intellect was not religious until it “proved” God’s existence (Descartes offered a proof, but it failed miserably). It was disembodied. It had no culture, was not loyal to any nationality or place, had no psychological makeup. It was not subject to ethical imperatives that could not be proved — in later forms, not of its own choosing. The door to relativism and subjectivism opened.

Was this not the most stupendous wrecking ball any intellectual had ever unleashed on the world?

The Jacobins studied Descartes as well as Rousseau, because everybody studied Descartes. All they did was apply his basic method to the political realm. This released the “virus” of modern revolutionism, in which political and economic institutions, monarchy or any other governance, a church, “inessential” businesses, the family unit — really, anything not justifiable by abstract “Reason” — can be “canceled.”

Modern liberalism is Jacobin in its origins. So is neoconservatism, and so, by default, is neoliberalism. While we do not have space to explore all its strains, Jacobinism in a broad sense is literally everywhere, operating at multiple levels, from the street thugs of Antifa to the “commanding heights” of globalist elites.

Jacobinism is the connecting link between the hard left and globalism, and explains the unholy alliance between the two. But the “virus” also infected liberal democracies.

In classical liberal economics, the Cartesian abstract intellect became the “sovereign consumer” who makes marketplace decisions solely on utility maximizing. Subsequent schools of economic thought increased in mathematical complexity and incorporated some psychology, but did not touch that basic premise.

Since Jacobinism leads naturally to questioning everything except itself, often manufacturing problems when it can’t find any, the revolutionist “virus” goes everywhere, spread by people who probably never heard the term Jacobin, never heard of Descartes, and can’t get the American founding in the right century.

Somehow I have a hard time imagining those drawn to Antifa and Black Lives Matter reading books at all, much less works of history and philosophy.

That’s not the case, of course, with World Economic Forum attendees.

The vulnerability of the U.S. to revolutionism is very bad news, as we approach an election likely to be disputed, and which could easily result in violence no matter who wins.

Not simply because the form of Jacobinism known as identity politics or “wokism” is out of control (although it is).

Not simply because Americans can no longer talk to one another (although they can’t).

But because most have forgotten much of their heritage, and what hasn’t been forgotten is being “canceled” (statues pulled to the ground in perfect Jacobin fashion).

How many other societies are ripe for revolutionism?

Chile certainly is! I’ve lived here for eight years now, and last year I saw leftist Jacobin violence first-hand. To be sure, the “reconstruction” of Chile’s economy along neoliberal lines during the Pinochet years was Jacobin, just as had been the upheaval of the short Allende period. As I said, Jacobinism in one form or another is literally everywhere.

Other South American nations are vulnerable to Jacobin revolutionism. Brazil is. Venezuela eventually, if Russia ever lets down its guard. (What would happen would be the ouster of an anti-corporatist Jacobinism and its replacement by a pro-corporatist Jacobinism.)

Several European nations might be ripe for revolutionism as the EU slowly unravels.

Anyplace rife with corruption to the point where a critical mass of public anger can be channeled and exploited by a strongman or political party or agenda adhering to a Theory (“Reason”), be it Marxism or neoliberal Hyper-Capitalism that sees persons solely as laboring / consuming ciphers, is vulnerable to Jacobin revolutionism.

Russia, at the moment, appears not to be. Its Jacobin epoch appears to be in its past. Maybe this is why Jacobin-influenced pseudo-pundits of Western media and academia hate the country so much.

The forces behind the planned Great Reset, scheduled to be the main topic of next January’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, are Jacobin to the core.

Bill Gates (who has no scientific, medical, or public health credentials), Dr. Anthony Fauci (far more a federal bureaucrat than a real doctor), and every other technocrat, are Jacobins in my sense. Technocracy is Jacobin because, as much as any ideology, it looks at human beings and organizations as abstractions, or as means to its ends: organic machines to be incentivized and manipulated. Jacobinism’s metaphysics (theory of reality), it goes without saying, is materialist. It has no room for a Creator or a transcendently grounded morality. It doesn’t so much reject them explicitly, it just dismisses such matters as irrelevant.

To the technocrat, every human problem has a scientific / technical solution. Depressed? Take a drug.

The “virus” of revolutionism currently spreading across the world is using supposed coronavirus / Covid-19 numbers to raze as much economic activity to the ground as it can through lockdowns and associated police-state measures.

These, interestingly, are far more draconian in places like Australia and New Zealand which disarmed their citizens years ago. When guns are outlawed, only criminals and governments will have guns. The two will be as indistinguishable as the animals at the end of Animal Farm.

All to raze to the ground our present order based on ideals such as freedom and virtue, and build up the New World Order: cashless society, all transactions digitized for monitoring purposes, education mostly if not entirely by remote, much work done by remote, church services the same way: total surveillance and control.

The crowning achievement: a Covid-19 vaccine likely to become a condition for schooling, employment, shopping, and travel, if not made legally mandatory.

The ruling tyranny to follow will be the ultimate in Jacobinism: a centralized world government answering to the corporations profiting from all this (e.g., Big Pharma). It may not have to do that much, given the ground-level tyranny of fear-based social sanction, as brainwashed sheeple who identify with authority (the folks screaming at you in stores or on planes to “Put on your mask!”) control others through the tried-and-true method of bullying.



Steven Yates’s next book, What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory, will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock Publishers.

If you liked this article, please consider supporting my work on; otherwise the lights on this kind of writing could go out at any time.  

Posted in Chile and Its Future, Coronavirus, Political Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Edmund Burke (But Were Afraid To Ask For Fear You’d Be Called a Fascist).

Here, another workaround, due to Facebook censorship of the parent site for this, originally posted on The Unz Review. Highly recommended introduction to intellectual conservatism’s most important modern founding father and why he remains relevant today.

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From Affirmative Action to Cancel Culture: Americans, You Were Warned

Civil Rights: The Early Ideals and Their Breakdown.

In 1961, JFK signed an executive order telling employers to “take affirmative action” to end racial discrimination. In 1965, LBJ signed another order repeating JFK’s almost verbatim.

The Civil Rights Act had been passed (1964). It used the phrase once, in almost the same way: suggestive of doing something, but not formulating a specific policy.

The phrase stuck, and by 1970 affirmative action was the definitive phrase for efforts to force an end to discrimination against blacks.

Many of us who came of age back then were sympathetic. Probably the majority of us baby-boomers who grew up in the 1960s thought discrimination was morally wrong. Dr. King’s call for people to be judged “not by the color of their skin but the content of their character” resonated with us.

So how did it all go off the rails so horribly?

First, when key policy terms aren’t defined, what happens? Usually, the courts hammer out their meaning and bureaucracies form to carry out whatever the courts order.

The catastrophic Griggs v. Duke Power Supreme Court decision (1971) redefined discrimination from an action taken by someone on the basis of race to lack of politically acceptable statistical outcomes. The Court (led by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger who had posed as a conservative) presumed that blacks and whites were equal in both intelligence and motivation, and that imbalances in a workforce or applicant pool, measured against the ratio in the community, indicated “unconscious” or “systemic” bias. The Griggs decision deserves more attention than it gets, because its redefinition of discrimination was a major turning point.

The problem that led to Griggs: by 1970 the available stats wouldn’t balance. Low-level government bureaucracies had started to fill with blacks, but not leadership positions, or indeed, any occupation that called for any real abilities much beyond shuffling papers. Universities, too, could not seem to recruit more than a small handful of black faculty. Black students were recruited, but needed slates of remedial courses. Their attrition rates were much higher than those of their white peers.

If you’re an employer or a university admissions recruiter, how do you prove to skeptical or hostile bureaucrats that you haven’t discriminated? Proving a negative is never simple. The best you can do is collect data, and that was done. Every employer, every university hiring committee and admissions board, and nearly everyone else, assembled data on every job applicant, every applicant for admission to a college or university respectively, every applicant for admission to every professional program, and every applicant for every faculty position. The latter, I learned, if permanent had to be nationally advertised. Affirmative action oriented job publications soon appeared.

This enhanced, not lessened, an emphasis on race. I don’t doubt there were idealists among the rank and file who believed in colorblindness and worked to try to achieve it. They were soon disappointed, for there was nothing colorblind in any of this, and nothing to encourage colorblindness.

Affirmative action quickly expanded to include women, since the majority of CEOS and others atop corporate and governmental ladders were men, in a population slightly over half of whom were women.

Increasing women’s numbers was possible, but not to that extent. This should have indicated something wrong with reducing discrimination to unwanted ratios, but did not.

Relatively few women, moreover, were drawn to corporate ladder climbing or assuming positions in bureaucracies. Most were content to stay home and raise families as long as this was economically feasible (eventually, for entirely different reasons, it wasn’t). Feminist ideologues soon concocted the idea of a “patriarchy” of male domination holding women back. By the 1980s they were going full Marxist and making “bad faith” pronouncements, that “bourgeois” (middle class family-focused) women had “false consciouness” and contributing to their own “repression.”

Hiring or admitting to achieve race/sex balances as an end in itself guarantees two results. First,  you’ll end up with marginally qualified or even unqualified people, many of them there for the wrong reasons. This is how academia began to fill up with tenured radicals (Roger Kimball’s term) who cared only about their political agendas.

Second, despite all the denial, such decisions will automatically disadvantage white males in their job searches and admission to university professional programs.

By the mid-1970s some had begun to notice, and the first post-Griggs case of note was Bakke (1978), in which the Court’s decision confused rather than clarified. It repudiated hard statistical ratios (quotas), but allowed race to be taken into consideration as a factor, one presumably of many, in a university admission.

In other words, you guys figure it out!

The stage was set for more lawsuits. If I listed them, we’d be here all night. Lawyers and bureaucrats thrived; no one else did.

The stage was also set for higher education’s downward spiral which has continued ever since.

During the early 1970s there were animated discussions of whether affirmative action led to race and gender preferences, and since this was obvious, whether they should do so as a condition of “social justice.” Discussions ranged from academic journals to newspaper op-eds. They were pretty much open, and while one couldn’t defend the view that there might be a connection between race and intelligence, much else stayed on the table including the idea that affirmative action as more than outreach resulted in unjust reverse discrimination against white men.

But by mid-1980s, these discussions had almost disappeared. You could find defenses of affirmative action in academic journals, but criticisms were rare, limited to places where there might still be a lone conservative (or possibly a libertarian) on the editorial board.

A handful of dissident scholars began writing how affirmative action had gone off course, part of the left-liberal welfare state that was hurting blacks more than it was helping them, one of its casualties being the black nuclear family. A complaint surfaced that affirmative action mainly helped middle- to -upper-class white women, usually those with leftist beliefs (pro-abort, men-are-potential-rapists, etc.). The percentage, e.g., of black faculty had barely budged.

In 1985, philosopher Nicholas Capaldi published Out of Order: Affirmative Action and the Crisis of Doctrinaire Liberalism. In 1989, sociologist Frederick R. Lynch published Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action. Roger Kimball then documented the radical-left tilt of humanities disciplines in Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (1990). Finally Dinesh D’Souza — love him or not — published Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus in 1991, drawing attention to the increasing intolerance of the campus left against intellectual diversity.

Indeed, my discipline of philosophy had already seen an incursion of people I found it hard to think of as scholars because the differences between what I, my mentors, those around me, and those I respected were doing, versus what they were doing, was palpable. Radical feminists in particular struck me as bullies. Administrators and their own superiors seemed afraid of them. soon found out why. At a national meeting in the late 1980s I watched from a doorway as a group of radical women disrupted a presentation at which dissident “old wave” feminist Christina Hoff Sommers presented a paper entitled “Feminism Against the Family” which was spot on both in its exposure of the Marxist roots of “new wave” radical feminism and its actual efforts against women’s autonomy if they made the “wrong” choices (e.g., to stay home and raise children).

The radicals were drawing freely on French postmodernist writers and occasionally on thinkers I had studied in depth, such as Thomas S. Kuhn, author of the widely-read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 1970), a book they sometimes cited but clearly did not understand. Their primary root, though, connecting them to affirmative action as a policy of preferences and to thought control to protect such policies from criticism, was Frankfurt School Marxist Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse’s 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance” explicitly called for differential treatment to replace traditional, Constitutional free speech, as the latter would only “privilege” the white male standpoint.

An atmosphere of repression had thus set in, some of it in reaction to the perceived conservatism of the Reagan years. We’d seen efforts by more conservative-leaning courts to roll affirmative action back, as with Croson and Ward’s Cove (both 1989). But not in academia or mainstream media. Efforts to shut down dialogue that would air opinions critical of affirmative action and direct beneficiaries such as new wave or “gender” feminism had already begun. In time, they would get worse. Much worse.

As a young scholar struggling without academic tenure, I experienced the beginnings of this. In 1989, and antsy from recalling the disrupted meeting mentioned above, I read a paper critical of affirmative action at a regional humanities meeting and noted a distinct chill in the air despite a civility that almost certainly wouldn’t exist today. After the Q&A I tried to engage a (tenured) woman academic who had expressed doubt about “some of your assumptions.” Since she hadn’t been specific, during the reception afterwards I invited her to elaborate. I was polite, trying to avoid putting her on the defensive. Perhaps we could begin a dialogue.

“I’ve heard all that before!” she snapped, her eyes averted.

It was that eye-aversion that stuck in my mind.

It’s a given that when someone can’t look you in the eye, they are evading and avoiding. I’ve seen it time and time again.

The Early Political Correctness Era (the 1990s).

We started hearing about political correctness in the early 1990s, and the idea opened a cleavage between those who saw the “new inquisition” as an obvious fact and an increasing threat to free speech, and leftists who denied there was any such thing beyond paranoid white males who saw their “privileges” threatened. Around this time I began to research and write Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action: expanded initially from the paper I’d read at the above meeting. The manuscript was rejected by around 80 publishers, some with nasty rejection letters. A handful asked to see it, but then sat on it indefinitely. Finally, a small California-based conservative policy institute took a chance on it if I would rewrite it for their audience.

I outlined the premises of the liberal-left worldview, including the victim mindset. I connected preferential policies to the radical “new wave” fake-scholarship, noting how its illogic illustrated how preferences got academic jobs for marginal people. They drew on postmodernist attacks on the idea of standards as part of a more generalized attack on the very concepts of rationality, objectivity, and so on, because they could not meet such standards. Thus they portrayed their targets as “privileged white male bias” and hence as racist and sexist. My answer was that few if any of the “new scholars” could measure up to the academic standards that had held as recently as 30 years before. (I supplied numerous choice quotations from their writings to illustrate how lunatic many of these people really are.)

Political correctness was how they intended to keep preferences and fake scholarship in place, protecting it from criticism, weaponizing the language of race and gender to maintain a fake moral high ground. If this theme was not taken up by conservatives, I argued, or by libertarians, or by an alliance of traditional-minded scholars including both, or by someone able to get the job done, this mindset would spread from academic through law schools and journalism schools until it controlled every institution in the country, transforming the country itself into something we would no longer recognize!

That was my warning to America, and I began sounding it in the early 1990s!

There were a few organizations (the National Association  of Scholars comes to mind), but despite solidly reasoned exposés they seemed impotent to stop something already moving forward rapidly. This including forced admission of women to traditionally male military academies (e.g., the Citadel, in Charleston, S.C.), sending women into combat, removing the Confederate flag and other Southern symbols of “hate,” increasing the visibility of homosexuals as the newest victim group, ratcheting up an antiwhite/antimale bias in journalism, and finally blacking out reports of or data on black-on-white violent crime.

Civil Wrongs came out late in 1994. I was low key about it. Knowing I have a short fuse where bullies of any sort are concerned, I was unsure how I would respond if some group tried to disrupt one of my classes. I made some off-campus appearances, did some talk radio interviews, penned a handful of promotional articles, and after spring semester of 1995, found myself shown the door where I’d been teaching.

How Nazism and Communism work: dissidents and undesirables are sent to camps or gulags. How American academic capitalism works: dissidents and undesirables are thrown to the wolves and told, “It’s your own damn fault for opening your stupid mouth!”

At first I barely survived. During the interim I borrowed money and earned another advanced degree, in public health education — keeping my head down about my past, as that field, too, is rife with left-liberals (who believe it “healthy” that women can have their unborn babies killed; they decoupled sex from morality long ago — but that’s another article).

Finally, I did a perhaps inadvisable thing, and scraped and clawed my way back into academia.

Academic Philosophy:  My Return; My Second Departure.

First, I saw a growing danger: an entire generation would soon come of age that had never known a world without political correctness: millennials. I called them the Brave New Generation, and their behavior was already sometimes worse than the radical faculty Roger Kimball had profiled. Students have since become far more dedicated social justice warriors than their professors.

Second, those responsible for the work that had inspired me to want to be a philosopher were either dead, or aging and retiring. Some had magnificent intellects! They were not being replaced. Fields like mine faced a brain drain, as conservatives interested in philosophy were going the computer science / AI route, keeping philosophy as an eccentric hobby. I had also predicted that as the older generation disappeared, the door would be wide open to more and more hard-leftists ending their “long march through the institutions” controlling them. They already controlled fields like comparative literature via the Modern Language Association, and had for years.

Finally, I believed I still had something to contribute. Somewhere back in the 1990s, the word homophobia got coined for critics of the homosexual agenda and its incorporation into the radical-left ethos. I dug out my dogeared copies of major works by Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian-born genius philosopher of language who influenced the generation that came up in the 1950s (and 1960s). He’d written (I am paraphrasing) of how great insights can be had by noting what we use a word or phrase to do, and of how philosophy is a “battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language” (Philosophical Investigations).

Applying: a phobia is an irrational fear. There are, of course, real phobias such as claustrophobia and agoraphobia. One does not try to reason about them with their sufferers; one tries to cure or at least manage them. If critics of the homosexual agenda are branded phobics, there is no need to listen to them. Shame them, ostracize them, send them to “sensitivity training” re-education sessions to “cure” them of their “irrational fears” of gays/lesbians.

Clearly this was the purpose of weaponized terms like homophobia, its derivatives, and all similar words.

This isn’t rocket science. But my paper on the subject (not a whole lot longer than the above three paragraphs!) was rejected everywhere I sent it. After the eighth rejection I gave up.

I realized by this time I’d brought a knife to a gunfight, so to speak. You could not reason with these people. Something a few race realists had tried to tell me back in the 1990s, and I wouldn’t listen.

Even so, it was probably already too late!

The National Association of Scholars interviewed me for a job in one of their regional divisions around this time. During this interview I realized, they weren’t up to the job. After a lot of softball stuff I grew frustrated and just told them, “Look, this publishing a journal and holding meetings where you read papers to one another about how terrible things are isn’t working! The radical left isn’t playing games! Sooner or later, we’re going to have take the fight to their territory, and it might not be pretty! We might have to be openly confrontational and let the chips fall where they may.” Those might not have been my exact words, but they’re close enough.

Goes without saying, I didn’t get the job.

The Collapse of Truth and the Emergence of Cancel Culture

Fast forward to now. We now find ourselves in the Orwellian world of “woke.” Of cancel culture. A world openly hostile to everything white (“fragility”) and male (“toxic masculinity”). A world busy trying to cancel history in a manner reminiscent of 1984’s Ministry of Truth.

Christian? Forget it. Every other faith is welcome at the table in the name of “diversity.” Straight? Forget that, too. If you believe on biological grounds that there are two and only two normal sexes, that you can’t simply “choose your gender,” Twitter mobs will be after your scalp and you could lose your job. Challenge the antiwhite bias of the new forms of segregation that appear on some campuses, and fear for your safety may force you to leave. Ask Bret Weinstein, who self-identified as typically “old school” liberal.

By the middle of the last decade, campuses such as Berkeley were spending as much as $500K for security, and were still unable to guarantee the safety of visiting conservative speakers. Why visiting? Because there are virtually no conservatives in academia anymore. All have either retired or fled, as I finally did again eventually. (There are a few libertarians, who cheat by accepting the pro-abort and much of the social justice warrior stance while claiming to favor “free minds and free markets.” Neat trick, that!)

We’ve seen a total collapse of perspective, and of truth itself — another of those “straight white Christian male biased” concepts.

You may have seen videos of black students at Yale screaming — literally screaming! — at professors and administrators about the “racism” they face, how alienated they feel at Yale, all following a few officials’ hesitation to take offense over a “racist” Halloween costume.

Reality check: when you’re at Yale, you’re in the Ivy Leagues! You are not suffering from “discrimination”! You are at, or near, the top!

No perspective…. 

Few of us peons had any chance whatsoever to go to Yale, much less teach there. We had neither money nor family ties nor other connections. So much for our “white privilege,” another of those weaponized phrases we began hearing during the past decade.

There appear to have been two more turning points on our way to the present.

One was the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting, of which George Zimmerman was (rightly) exonerated on grounds of self-defense. President Obama injected himself into that one, with the inflammatory remark that Trayvon Martin could have been his son. This was the first time in U.S. history that a U.S president injected a personal opinion into a criminal trial.

But that wasn’t the worst, which was right up front from the beginning.

From the start, mass media regaled viewers with an image of Martin as a cherub-faced boy. They used a 5-year-old photo, taken when he was around 12. The 17-year-old who jumped Zimmerman, got on top of him and begun pounding his head against the ground, was much larger!

Zimmerman’s media portrayal was also doctored, his stock photo purposefully darkened, to make him look thuggish.

No interest in truth…. 

Black Lives Matter got started in the aftermath of Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Zimmerman has since dealt with continual death threats and the occasional violent confrontation in public. He can’t work. He’ll never have any sort of “normal” career or life. He and his family remain in hiding.

The second turning point was the Michael Brown shooting in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Again, all the physical evidence pointed to self-defense. This didn’t matter. The white police officer saw his life upended and his career ruined.

Black Lives Matter got stronger.

All lives matter suddenly became a racist taunt.

Trump got elected in 2016 — supported (as a few more astute leftists figured out) not just for economic reasons, on his promise to bring back jobs from overseas, but because the way he spoke to the (mostly white) GOP base: how he recognized that his base was sick of political correctness, of the tightening grip of identity politics on the country, and of being demonized as the villains of history. Trump’s election, whatever one thinks of the man personally or politically, represented the first potentially formidable pushback we had seen against both political correctness and the globalism that had added for more to Main Street American whites’ declining fortunes.

It clearly fell short. I’d go so far as to call it an abject failure, as Trump clearly had no idea of the level of power he was up against or how to confront it, and neither he nor anyone else has been able to seize that moral high ground.

Conclusion: Americans, You Were Warned!

So again, here we are.

Three decades after some of us began sounding warnings that political correctness was thought control, a dangerous rationalization for continuing race / sex preferences, and that if not competently opposed, it represented a fundamentally Marxist mindset that would transform every institution in the country. What it could not accomplish by subterfuge and misdirection, it would accomplish through systemic force: it would work against its critics by rendering them unemployable. It would institute a culture-driven mindset that would destroy the careers and lives of its critics, or just make examples of those who sometimes inadvertently ran afoul of its narratives.

America, you were warned!

Everything I predicted in Civil Wrongs has come true! I hasten to add that not that every assumption I made back then was true. There is no race realism in the book, and I was far more optimistic how things might play out in a “libertarian society” than I had any right to be. It is clear to me now that libertarianism is as much a fantasy as communism.

Black Lives Matter has risen like a tsunami, along with the openly destructive Antifa.

“Peaceful protesters,” mass media bleat as the George Floyd tribalists (many of them white!) loot businesses and burn police stations in cities controlled by Democrats.

No interest in truth….

Blacks continue to kill one another with efficiency and enthusiasm in places like southside Chicago. Some of the victims are small children.

It seems that black lives matter most when political points can be scored.

Confrontations between blacks and whites are portrayed by mass media as confrontations between social justice warriors and racists (called “Karens” if they are female).

No interest in truth….

I don’t think anyone expects truth from mainstream media anymore.

Which is why Big Tech, as a primary instrument of narrative control, has taken to censoring truth-tellers….  Deplatforming was the first phase of cancel culture. (And let’s not have any bullshit about how these are “private companies.”)

And now, Americans are so divided that some believe civil war between left and right is now unavoidable. We are seeing multiple scenarios being played out on paper or video, depending on who wins this election now less than three months away and what the losing side does.

Some on each side seem to relish the prospects of a fight, even though it would probably mean the end of the last vestiges of Constitutional government. Civil war on U.S. soil would open the door to those waiting behind the scenes.

And who might that be?

Globalists, of course, who are waiting to step forward, pick up the pieces, and restore an order the masses will willingly accept and might actually clamor for. And then do what they’ve always wanted, which is establish a world government that will answer to their corporations.

After all, globalist elites such as Soros have been bankrolling Black Lives Matter and other violent groups to the tune of hundreds of millions, just as other globalists (Rockefellers, others) have been bankrolling leftist groups and movements all along.


STEVEN YATES is an author and independent scholar with a PhD in philosophy. He works as a freelance editor and ghostwriter, and blogs at Lost Generation Philosopher. His last book was Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (Brush Fire Press International, 2011). His next book, What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory has been accepted for publication by Wipf and Stock. An expatriated U.S. citizen, he lives with his wife and two spoiled cats at a now-undisclosed location in Chile.


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Do Their Lives Matter?

This is another of my “workarounds” because of censorship on Facebook and elsewhere.

Do their lives matter? Victims, that is, of black-on-white lethal violence. That’s the question Paul Kersey would have you ask.

Five-year-old white boy, Cannon Hinnant is murdered execution-style for riding his bike on a lawn, by a black neighbor named Darius Sessoms.

Note the links in the article to numerous other cases mainstream media has either reported locally or not at all. I hope that, somewhere, he references the Wichita Horror, or as it is also called, the Wichita Massacre.

Such phenomena are not a new development. They reflect double-standards that have been in place for over two decades, and possibly longer. Back around the turn of the millennium, I researched and reported on one such case myself, that of a 60-something man with a heart condition beaten to a pulp on his own property because his car had a Sons-of-Confederate-Veterans bumpersticker (article taken down long ago; one of these days I will have to restore it and a follow-up story done a year later).

When the local newspaper informed me they had “spiked” their version of the story, I went ahead with mine. (Needless to say, doing so nearly cost me my job at the time.)

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Basic Conservative Principles, Part 2

[Continued from Part 1.]

Reviewing quickly: these were the nine basic conservative principles we settled on a week ago.

(1) Supervening over — standing above — the world we live in, with all its events and trials, is an enduring moral order that binds us all. This is a central conservative premise, conditioning and shaping all the rest.

(2) We live in a fallen world, because human nature is imperfect and fallen, however we understand this. Hence all fundamentally Utopian projects must fail, as they refuse to acknowledge our fallen state.

(3) Traditions, basic beliefs and practices in culture, e.g., belief in a Providential God — are not validated by abstract reasonings but by having passed the test of time as part of the societal “glue” that binds a people together. Communities are defined by their traditions, shared beliefs, practices, that define the expectations that guide acceptable conduct.  

(4) Some institutions — the family, private property, limitations on government, the rule of law, are nonnegotiable conditions for the long-term stability and well-being of societies especially in the West where they have become explicit principles.

(5) Private passions need to be restrained through proper parenting, education, and acculturation. Otherwise societies are faced with the unpleasant and dangerous choice between authoritarianism and anarchy.

(6) The economic side of controlling passions is to distinguish needs from wants. A conservative believes there is more to a society than its economy — or, indeed, any other single group of institutions or activities.

(7) Freedom of speech and opinion is superior to an orthodoxy or dogma imposed by an official or unofficial priesthood, academic “experts,” political class, or any other elite entity employing censorious or propagandistic mechanisms. If an idea is bad, it will fail in practice and not pass the test of time.

(8) Calls for change are therefore to be heard but treated with a certain amount of suspicion, and the more radical the change, the greater the suspicion. There always is, and should be, an “essential tension” between calls for permanence and calls for change. The burden of argument is on the change agent, not on the skeptic.

(9) Political economy is “downstream” from culture. Culture, being a product of the usually tacit beliefs of its practitioners, is “downstream” from its worldview.

More Basic Conservative Principles: Self-Restraint of Passions.

Since we have discussed (1) through (4), I am setting those aside and will simply assume them from here on out, although we’ll have cause to refer back to them occasionally. Proceeding, in that case, with (5) through (9):

(5) Conservatives believe private passions need to be restrained through proper parenting, education, and acculturation. And while conservatives always prefer smaller government to larger government, they are pragmatic about it. If a behavior needs to be regulated or even contained, and private options are either unavailable or have failed, then conservatives recognize that the job of regulation and/or containment falls to government.

Why can’t we just have laissez-faire about private passions? Because passions are not private, not really. Passions lead to actions, and (y)our actions affect others. Unrestrained passions, by their nature, affect the lives, freedoms, business, property, etc., of others, except maybe for the occasional hermit.

Sometimes restraining one’s passions means tolerating others’ carelessly negligent behavior that ultimately isn’t harmful or threatening. It’s late evening, you want to go to bed, but your neighbor’s dog is barking up a storm in his back yard. What are your options as a conservative in your personal life, not just in politics? You can call up your neighbor, ask him to please bring his dog inside, and trust or at least hope he will honor your request. Trying somehow to force him into compliance would be ill-advised. Not to mention shooting the dog! Either of these options means you haven’t restrained your passions, and the result will be long-term harm — more to you than to your neighbor, since again, a barking dog is an inconvenience, not a life threat.

Sexuality provides a weightier range of examples. Improperly self-regulated, uninhibited sex can lead to unplanned pregnancies and STDs. Everybody knows this, or should. A hedonistic consumer culture such as ours, permeated with sexual innuendo (since “sex sells”) can lead teenagers to want to experiment before they are ready, and this can cause harm. Being taught to restrain one’s sexual passions from the very start might be a good idea!

Conservatives should agree: decoupling sexuality from morality, beginning with Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), taking a quantum leap with the “scientific” studies of human sexuality by Alfred C. Kinsey (1894 – 1956) and his team, and then being spread into popular culture by Kinseyites such as Hugh Hefner (1926 – 2017), has been a cultural catastrophe overall.

I will leave to others, or to readers’ imaginations, to ponder the effects of this decoupling on marriage and the divorce rate, on the pro-abortion culture, on sexual abuse / spousal abuse, on feminism broadly conceived and relations between the sexes generally, on the rise of ideologies of “gender,” on nominally illegal practices such as sex trafficking, and so on.

There are plenty of other examples of behaviors a person needs to self-regulate: excessive drinking; use of mind-altering drugs where legal; games such as video poker; more immediate technologies relying on, and encouraging, short attention-spans and the dopamine drip received from screens.

Speaking of which: if you’ve nearly been sideswiped on a major highway by someone driving at high speed paying more attention to their phone than their driving, you may see the problem technology can create in a society built on assertions of, “It’s my [absolute] right, dammit!

All of which is why thoughtful conservatives realize the need to keep our passions on a short leash. And to exercise mindful responsibility.

This is best if built into the sort of education that begins in a stable home.

Within boundaries, passions can be sources of great happiness and joy, as with newlyweds making love during their honeymoon, planning or at least hoping for a baby.

Outside boundaries, passions and negligence of various sorts can upend or destroy lives — as with the phone-obsessed driver who drifts and causes a fatal accident.

Conservatives do not believe in “rights” that are closed, out-of-context absolutes. The fact that rights language needs qualification is a sign of how far we are from anything remotely resembling conservative beliefs and practices. You don’t have a “right” to endanger others on public roadways, and “privatization” of roadways would not create such a “right” any more than property rights would allow you to sacrifice someone on your property. Lives and safety trump property rights, and we can cite this as a general rule even if there might be cases that are not immediately decidable.

Again, trust is key. As a general rule, the more the members of a population can trust that others will behave with restraint and responsibility, the fewer laws and regulations on behavior will be needed. This would be a good thing, because again, those who protest that laws are easily abused, blunt instruments at best, are doubtless correct. The more they become necessary evils, the more the battle for a healthy and prosperous society based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is lost.

Needs Versus Wants

(6) A special part of control over one’s passions is to distinguish needs from wants. While there is “wiggle room,” in most cases the distinction is clear.

A need is something you have to have to survive. The obvious examples are breathable air, drinkable water, nutritious food, something in the way of shelter, and perhaps as a condition for psychological health, the company of others.

Life in civilization creates additional “structural needs,” one might call them: education, electricity, telephone service, in some cases health care supplied by others; and gradually since shortly before the turn of the millennium, a reliable connection to the Internet for one’s professional if not always one’s personal life. There are lots of variations on these, of course.

Wants are everything outside this orbit. If you can live without it, or do without it and not suffer debilitating inconvenience, it’s a want, not a need. You can live without television and cable, so those are wants, not needs. You can live without alcoholic beverages, so those are wants. You’ll live if you never have another mouthful of sushi, so that’s a want. Likewise with pizza and all fast foods and processed foods. You can even live without coffee (though that’s pushing it!!).

Most people do not distinguish their wants from their needs consistently. Sound personal financial education would start with this distinction and use examples. Sound money management requires it, so you can track where your money is going and end certain ways of spending it. Sadly, there are good reasons public schools do not teach personal finance. This would imperil the structural “needs” of a mass consumption economy.

Advertising and marketing tend to blur the distinction between needs and wants and create “needs” that weren’t there before. Salespersons they try to persuade, sometimes very skillfully, that you absolutely cannot live without whatever they are selling a moment longer.

You must want something to buy it. If you can be made to believe it’s a need, then you have to buy it! The person who consistently spends wildly on credit lacks self-discipline and ends up with massive consumer debt. Some say this “helps the economy” — 70 percent of our wonderful culture of consumer capitalism, after all, is based on consumer spending.

But does this help the people themselves?

Does it help you?

Do you want to go massively into debt to “help the economy”?

There’s a contradiction here, and one doesn’t have to have an “anticapitalistic mentality” to see it.

Given that huge numbers of consumers do not have even a few hundred dollars set aside for emergency needs, we should have all the evidence we need to question the idea that massive consumer spending is a sign of genuine, overall societal health — regardless of what “economists” say.

A genuine conservative believes there is more to a society than its economy (a point we will elaborate on below), and that mass consumption is overrated. Obtaining more just leads to wanting more, in a cycle that never ends. (Those who don’t care for Christianity might find it worth consulting what Buddhists say about the painfulness of life being caused by uncontrolled cravings.)

Freedom of Speech and Opinion.

(7) Freedom of speech and opinion is superior to an orthodoxy or dogma maintained by an official political class, academic group of “experts,” a priesthood, or any other group employing censorious propagandistic techniques.

Again, as always, there are common horse sense limits: e.g., the chestnut about not shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Restrictions on incitements to violence are reasonable. Again, the common denominator: what physically endangers others should not be done — or said. What destroys property its owners may have huge investments in, should not be done or said, and can legitimately be criminalized.

Here the classical liberalism derived from someone such as John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) had the basic idea. Avoid speech — and actions — that knowingly cause harm to others. This has become known as the harm principle, encoded in the health sciences as the Hippocratic Oath: “at first, do no harm.”

Outside that parameter, speech and inquiry should be free, because even if false or wrong or leading nowhere, we can learn from it because we can learn from our mistakes. When inquiry is restricted in favor of a dominant opinion or point of view, that opinion hardens into a rigid dogma that is more, not less, vulnerable to challenge. We learn from critical evaluations from others. If the dominant view is right, we learn why — we’ve hopefully unearthed what supports it. If it is wrong, we learn that as well, and why, and know to look for something else. The workability of such a system, of course, requires restraint of another passion: that of ego and its potential for feeling bruised.

Conservatives should see a constant essential tension between support for a status quo belief and support for something new. That which has been tested and proved its mettle over time is bound to generate “bias” in its favor. That which is new must be proven worthy. The burden of proof is on its advocates, not on skeptics.

We should all be willing to have our ideas tested to ensure they are on the right track. If ours are the right ones, they’ll stand up to a test. We should not try to control the opinions of others. This, as the Stoics said, are among the things outside our control. The wise are those who are restrained enough to agree to disagree, or just walk away if their disagreement falls on deaf ears.

Those who disagree over the basic worldview premises, or conventions, or traditions, a large community has embraced over time should always be free to leave, or organize their own internal private enclaves subject to the above qualifiers, provided they do not interfere with those outside their orbit. Forming internal private enclaves may mean relinquishing some benefits being members of the larger community provides.

The Essential Tension.

(8) Calls for change are therefore to be listened to, and heard, but treated with a certain amount of suspicion; and the more radical the called-for change, the greater the suspicion.

This doesn’t mean a knee-jerk reaction that shuts discussion down. To reiterate: calls for change are to be listened to, and heard. And critically discussed to discern as many likely ramifications as possible — keeping in mind that some consequences of change can’t be seen until it’s too late.

Then change what must be changed. But with caution, and with openness to the need for midcourse corrections. Here the essential tension is between the desire for stasis and calls for change.

Early advocates for ending discrimination against blacks and other racial minorities argued that civil rights legislation would extend Constitutional, economic provisions, and in general the right to live the so-called American Dream, to all Americans. Treat equals equally, all having been created by God. Allow maximal equal opportunity to all.

This made sense on paper, but proved phenomenally hard to implement! It was not clear what equal opportunity meant in practice, or that equal opportunity was what all blacks wanted (think of Malcolm X’s criticisms of blacks wanting equal access to the white man’s world). Nor was it clear that such practices as forced busing to majority white schools would accomplish anything in helping black children learn. Blacks continued to self-segregate, often grew hostile about their situation, and overall the social experiment was a disaster for education.

The struggles, compromises, and overall failures would call for a separate essay — or book (numerous have been written).

Where we really go off the rails is if we embrace change for the sake of change, because it is novel and exciting, because someone with clout and celebrity suggested it, or for some loosely similar reason.

Worse still is the Jacobin idea that all of society’s traditions, institutions, and practices (even “bad” ones!) can be criticized all at once and razed to the ground if not meeting standards set by rationalist abstractions or some professional intellectual’s vision of Utopia has always been a recipe for disaster.

In Revolution-era France, it precipitated chaos and death followed by several years of tyranny. History remains a source of valuable listens for those who can be bothered to study it. One of the most important documents in the history of ideas leading to the modern conservative spirit was Reflections on the Revolution in France by political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) who spelled this out.

Political Economy Is “Downstream” From Culture, and Culture Is “Downstream” From Worldview.

(9) Political economy is ‘downstream’ from culture. Culture, being an aggregate product of the usually tacit beliefs of its practitioners, is “downstream” from its worldview.

Consider the marketplace. Is it merely individual atoms running around satisfying their needs and wants by acting autonomously (“sovereign consumers”)? In a world where everyone is constantly bombarded by influences of all sorts, not all of which we are even consciously aware, what can that even mean?

Who is this “sovereign consumer”? Is he (she?) anything more than the abstract homo economicus of a group of classical liberal economists, created to keep their calculus manageable?

The economists are right in this much: people respond to incentives.

Many things can incentivize us, especially when our most basic needs are either satisfied or mostly satisfied. Not all of these are necessarily good, and it is useful to remember that the more people spend money they may not have on things that aren’t real needs, the more the economy “hums” in the sense the economists like — but which does not necessarily improve personal or cultural health.

When the masses are spending money on fast food, video poker, pornography, and so on, is this improving either personal or cultural health? Not that these are equivalent, but you should get the idea, and realize how such examples further enhance needs for internal restraints and responsibilities, including sometimes on pure market activity.

Moreover, among all natural human desires (as Bastiat observed in The Law back in 1849)  is to gain the most with the least possible effort.

If “short cuts” of whatever sort are made available, most people will take them.

If welfare is made available beyond absolute necessity, many people will take it.

Those who control the incentive systems unleashed by policies of various sorts can control consumer behavior and through that, much of the economy. Which is why it was a bad (if understandable) idea to separate political economy into “political science” and “economics” as separate academic disciplines. Political and economic activity cannot really be separated, anymore than a civilization either can or should be made into a single large marketplace.

Conservatives should not be lulled by the hypercapitalists; conservatism is not neoliberalism, that bastard deformation of classical liberalism which reduces all value to exchange value as it reduces all persons to commodities to engage in exchanges (or be exchanged).

Conservatism should stress the idea that culture stands outside of political economy; there will always be cultural artifacts that cannot be assigned a price or market value — usually these will be the artifacts that define a people’s connection to the Transcendent.

Conservatism is therefore as much a philosophy of culture as it is a political philosophy. Some have written of cultural conservatism, which must be in place before the political philosophy is sustainable, and it must circumscribe the marketplace. If embodied in people’s habits, this will minimize the need for restrictions on people’s “free choices.” Why is this a good thing? Because once conservatives need to start resorting to authoritarian gestures through government, they’ve lost the battle in the cultural “marketplace.”

So how does one have a conservative culture? Whether anyone likes it or not, through a solidly established religiosity that permeates both public and private landscapes.

John Adams, the U.S.’s second president, famously wrote to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by  … morality and religion. Avarice, ambition,… revenge or galantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other….

This is not the place to wade into whether or not the Founding Fathers were supportive of a Christian worldview or should have been (many, we know, were not). The question we should ask from where we stand today, with over two centuries of hindsight: how important to culture is a worldview which anchors morality to the Transcendent.

Not for intellectuals, mind you, which the Founders were. For the general public, for the nonintellectual masses, if you will. Most of the latter are, almost by definition, followers. They have always needed some creed to follow, be it religious or patriotic or some combination of these. A Christian worldview can supply such a creed. There is no evidence that materialism can supply it, whether in the metaphysical or the economic sense. Hence the realization that if political economy is “downstream” from culture, culture in turn is “downstream” from a civilization’s prevailing worldview — a topic to which I’ve given great attention previously on this blog.

There we have them: basic conservative principles, the outlines for a conservative political philosophy and philosophy of society more broadly. It may have a flavor of the quixotic about it, especially these days when freedom is everywhere in retreat and when efforts to organize supporters of freedom is akin to herding cats! The pessimist in me wonders if all this is too late, if there is anything left to conserve.

In the back of my mind while writing was an essay written roughly 90 years ago by one Albert Jay Nock, more associated with Libertarians than conservatives: “Isaiah’s Job,” it was called. The Prophet Isaiah relates (Isaiah 1:1-9) how he was called by the Lord to preach to the Judeans near the end of King Uzziah’s reign — right before a period of prosperity ended and everything went to pieces (does this sound familiar?). The Lord is speaking to Isaiah (this is Nock’s paraphrase):

“Tell them what a worthless lot they are…. Tell them what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don’t mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you …. that it won’t do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.

In that case, Isaiah wondered, Why bother?

“Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”

Isaiah’s job was to take care of the Remnant, and that’s the philosophical conservative’s job today.

That is the spirit I have offered this two-part essay — writing under the assumption that it will never “go viral” but that despite the fear, the distractions, the horrid ideas, the attempts to erase modern history, the false rabbit trails, this will nevertheless be found by a small audience of appreciative readers who, whatever happens in the near future, will remain committed to building the next civilization, based on principles that have been all but forgotten, on lessons that have been learned.

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Basic Conservative Principles, Part 1

[Author’s note: Part 2 will appear next week.]


I never set out to be a conservative.

My father called himself a conservative. For him, it seemed little more than what he thought was good (profitable) for Big Business. Since even as a teenager I didn’t think that what was profitable for Big Business was necessarily good for everybody, or for the country, eventually I rejected conservatism. It stayed rejected in my mind for quite a number of years, from my undergraduate days through graduate school and on into my aborted teaching career, where I spent time and expended great effort trying to be a Libertarian. That is a story for another day.

I came back to conservatism — and I think of the old saw about how if you’re not a liberal at age 20 you don’t have a heart and that if you’re still a liberal at age 40 you don’t have a brain.

What about at age 60? You’re supposed to have seen a lot by then, and I have, working in both academic and nonacademic jobs, being self-employed at different times including recently, living in a foreign country for the past eight years, being single and then married to a foreign national….

This on top of studying and writing philosophy formally, reading voraciously, having been a current events junkie my whole life. Growing up under my parents’ roof, I listened and sometimes participated in conversations about the issues of the time. Watergate filled the news when I was in high school. I self-identified as a Watergate teenager for a long time. I think many people in my generation did. Watergate affected our ability to trust politicians. Which you probably shouldn’t do, as they all have agendas.

Among the things I’ve noticed is that conservatives may have had agendas, too, but not sets of carefully laid out principles (I’m not thinking of exclusively political programs like Gingrich’s “Contract With America” of 1994).

Russell Kirk (1918 – 1994), the conservative philosopher and author, probably came the close to setting out a few conservative principles in his book The Conservative Mind (1954), which I did not encounter for years.

Kirk’s nonfiction writings (interestingly, he also wrote ghost stories) were tough slogging, and even then I couldn’t imagine most people who considered themselves conservatives reading them.

But if you can’t set out your principles, how do you know what you’re doing is right? Surely it has to be more than instinct, or feelings. The left goes off feelings.

I already had a problem with those who self-identified as conservatives not having any idea what they thought they were conserving.

This in a country which seemed to be less and less to conserve every decade. The country was moving leftward in fits and starts, and conservatives seemed helpless to stop it. This latest leap leftward, starting with the “George Floyd riots,” is the worst yet!

So if we are conservatives, what are we trying to conserve? Is there anything left in Western civilization to conserve? What should we have tried to conserve?

Come to think of it, are there any conservatives? Trump is not a conservative. Nor are the Republicans in Congress, some of whom opposed Trump before they backed him.

Are there any conservatives in media? Guys like Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations are not conservatives but neoconservatives (neocons) . Tucker Carlson probably qualifies. The authors and editors of The American Conservative, founded by Patrick J. Buchanan when National Review went neoconservative surely qualify. A number of websites with limited reach compared to those of the mainstream media. Very few of their authors (myself included) have any significant national visibility.

The few conservatives I know of who have doctorates and spent time in academia are all over 75, and are probably best thought of as conservatives only in a very broad sense as their major interests lie elsewhere (Thomas Sowell, Angelo Codevilla are two names that come to mind, and it isn’t clear either would call himself a conservative without a lot of qualification).

If we can identify a few basic conservative principles, maybe we will have not so much something to conserve as something to guide us in the rebuilding to come even if we have to do it (as seems likely at this point) on the margins and possibly even keeping our heads down. Are these mine alone? I sincerely hope not. I hope they are the product of voluminous reading over the years, trying to distill into a few easily understood proposals the thoughts of all the authors listed above and many more besides. Those who disagree with these proposals are free to qualify them or present their own. The point is to have a badly needed conversation.

Basic Conservative Principles (or Proposals For Such).

I propose, in that case: those who self-identify as conservative should assent to all or most of the following:

(1) Beyond or standing above the world we live in, with all its events and trials, is an enduring moral order that binds us all. This is a central conservative premise, conditioning and shaping all the rest.

(2) We live in a fallen world, because human nature is imperfect and fallen, however we understand this. Hence all fundamentally Utopian projects must fail, as they refuse to acknowledge our fallen state.

(3) Traditions, basic beliefs and practices in culture, e.g., belief in a Providential God — are not validated by abstract reasonings but by having passed the test of time as part of the societal “glue” that binds a people together. Communities are defined by their traditions, shared beliefs, practices, that define the expectations that guide acceptable conduct.  

(4) Some institutions — the family, private property, limitations on government, the rule of law, are nonnegotiable conditions for the long-term stability and well-being of societies especially in the West where they have become explicit principles.

(5) Private passions need to be restrained through proper parenting, education, and acculturation. Otherwise societies are faced with the unpleasant and dangerous choice between authoritarianism and anarchy.

(6) The economic side of controlling passions is to distinguish needs from wants. A conservative believes there is more to a society than its economy — or, indeed, any other single group of institutions or activities.

(7) Freedom of speech and opinion is superior to an orthodoxy or dogma imposed by an official or unofficial priesthood, academic “experts,” political class, or any other elite entity employing censorious or propagandistic mechanisms. If an idea is bad, it will fail in practice and not pass the test of time.

(8) Calls for change are therefore to be heard but treated with a certain amount of suspicion, and the more radical the change, the greater the suspicion. There always is, and should be, an “essential tension” between calls for permanence and calls for change. The burden of argument is on the change agent, not on the skeptic.

(9) Political economy is “downstream” from culture, however we characterize either one. Culture, being a product of the usually tacit beliefs of its practitioners, is further “downstream” from its worldview.

This last brings us full circle, because (1) requires a certain kind of worldview, one which respects the idea of the Transcendent. We need not all agree on all details of what is Transcendent to respect the idea. Not all worldviews do. Materialism does not, and this its central drawbacks.

Let us explain each of these in a bit more detail.

(1) Beyond, or above, the world we inhabit with all its events and trials, is an enduring moral order that binds us all. An enduring moral order, well, endures. It transcends history, culture, population, place, although it can make room for the particularities of these. There are moral principles (e.g., “Thou shalt not murder,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Respect others,” and “Do not harm others intentionally”) we did not invent that ought to guide our conduct as we move through life, and which in one form or another, are honored everywhere. What is good should be pursued, and bad or evil shunned, is true for conservatives, as it was for St. Thomas Aquinas. Christians find the source of enduring moral order in the Eternal God of the Old and New Testaments.

This contrasts with the humanist idea, however expressed (and there are many ways of expressing it) that morality is of human origin, whether in our capacity for reason, our experience of pleasure and avoidance of pain, a supposed innate sense of justice or capacity to conceive of it from behind “a veil of ignorance,” a “principle of nonaggression,” or something else. In the last analysis, none of these work as basic principles. Nietzsche criticized all such notions, sometimes in advance of their formulation, as — I am paraphrasing, obviously — efforts to have a fundamentally Christian moral system without Christianity’s God or the supernatural. All must fail, because all are, at base, intellectually dishonest in this sense. They are part of a fundamentally Christian heritage.

A materialist “ethic,” as Nietzsche also understood, would honor not Christian altruism or concern for others but survival by whatever means necessary, strength, prowess, health, and perhaps the binding authority of the state or other ultimate secular authority. Hence Nietzsche’s call for a “revaluation of all values.”

(2) We live in a fallen world.Human nature is not only imperfect but not capable of “perfection”; it isn’t even clear what this would mean. According to Christianity, our sinful nature (Rom. 3:23) explains the world’s fallenness and our inability to have produced social orders that do not shaft somebody, whatever our discoveries, inventions and innovations, policies, conveniences, etc. There is a permanent egocentricity intrinsic to human nature that resists everything we try to throw at it. This explains the need for a “constrained vision” in Sowell’s sense.

This contrasts again with the humanist idea that we can improve ourselves indefinitely, maybe even “perfect ourselves” and our societies by social-engineering techniques. Such ideas derive from the “unconstrained vision,” in which human nature is a product of its environment only, and changes as its environment changes. We can, of course, learn and teach each other to bathe, and make a variety of other technical improvements and provide for ourselves. But moral improvements by our own efforts past a certain point seems beyond us. Public policy rarely if ever results in moral improvements. People respond to incentives, including perverse ones. Consider the welfare state. When government pays people not to work, they have no incentive to work. Dependence then gets passed to the next generation.

(3) Traditions, basic beliefs and practices in culture, e.g., belief in a Providential God — are not validated by abstract intellectual reasonings but by their having passed the test of time. Although there is not space to explore the topic fully here, one of the worst mistakes of modern philosophy, beginning with Descartes, was the idea that it was possible and desirable to raze everything, every belief, every tradition, every practice, every institution, to the ground and start over, based on deductions of abstract Reason. Traditions, basic beliefs, practices as they function in society, are “organic” rather than abstract. They do not behave according to the rules of abstract Reason but are complex overlapping systems of expectations and habits leading to actions; systems of trust and rules both written and unwritten for resolving disputes; institutions starting with the family and extending outward for acculturing the young, and thus for maintaining continuity from generation to generation.

We cannot expect these customs, conventions, etc., to operate perfectly (2 again). Contrary to the multi-culties and the apostles of “woke,” some social orders are indeed superior to others, because they can be directly observed to result in the long-term stability of peoples whose infrastructure enables peace and an ability to feed and otherwise provide for themselves. This as opposed to breeding violence, dysfunction, and mass starvation. This does not somehow “privilege” Western civilization; others, non-Western, have done the same. Endurance, again, and an ability to solve a wide range of problems on their own terms (or not allow them to arise in the first place) is what legitimates largely unwritten systems of customs, conventions, habits, traditions, etc. That which is imposed by out-of-the-blue policy decisions, implying that what came before was illegitimate, and rationalized by some academic or within some think tank, may be deeply damaging even when well-intentioned.

(4) Some institutions — the family, private property circumscribed by morality, limitations on government, the rule of law grounded in the moral order suggested in (1), a connection from people’s lives to the transcendent, are nonnegotiable conditions for long-term stability and well-being.

Nonnegotiable means they cannot be left to chance — to the valuations of consumers in the marketplace, for example, any more than they ought to be subject to repeal by an arbitrary political edict.

(4a) The family is a newborn’s first contact with other humans: parents and perhaps other siblings. The extended family, which prevails in agrarian-based societies, might actually be superior to nuclear families such as the one I grew up on, because various labors ranging from educating the young to workaday chores of cooking, cleaning, tending animals, and so on, can be divided among more people, and everybody’s skills used more efficiently and effectively. This can more easily result in overall health, productivity, and continuity from generation to generation.

Absent functional families, extended or nuclear, this is much harder. Adults from dysfunctional families generally have a much tougher row to hoe, and though it is possible to turn one’s life around after a bad start, or even develop a sense of complete responsibility for oneself when one is young and finds oneself on one’s own, it doesn’t often happen. We were not designed to be isolated individuals, entirely on our own—which may be why people forced into isolation, as with solitary confinement in prisons, often develop psychological disorders of various sorts. Doubtless there are a lot of people in prison because this was their situation, and they never had much of a chance. Conservatives ought not encourage policies or tendencies, whatever their source or origin, that tend to break up families unnecessarily.

(4b) Private property is property purchased, earned through work, inherited, or occasionally gifted. What is so great about private property? It has been said that what one owns, one cares for and tends. In societies based on the trust that one’s private property will be honored by all others, including governing authorities, this is enhanced. On the other hand, in societies where people believe, perhaps based on experience, that their property can be seized arbitrarily because governing authorities have abruptly changed the rules, the capacity of private property to serve as an arena where family, education, business, etc., can flourish is undermined.

It does not follow that one should be able to do absolutely anything one pleases on one’s private property. The right of ownership of property may be important, but other principles can override it. To cite an extreme example, one cannot engage in human sacrifices on one’s property, because property is overridden by the sanctity of human life. Acceptance of rules for respect on the property of others (e.g., guests in someone’s home, employees in a business, customers of that business, etc.) is a sign that all is healthy and well. That such rules are challenged, argued over, must be spelled out, elaborated further, chatted up indefinitely, might be a sign that something is wrong.

Taxation? No one likes taxes. That’s just a given. But if members of a body politic have decided that they want an institution able, e.g., to resolve disputes with final authority, because disputes will not necessarily resolve themselves or be resolved peacefully otherwise, then they might decide to invest in such an institution. If they’ve realized, moreover, that the world outside their community is filled with potentially hostile groups who do not play by their rules, or by any rules at all, they might decide that this institution ought to provide an effective defense at their borders because their borders will not protect themselves. Creating and maintaining this force-of-arms defense is a full time job just like any other full time job, and is not therefore a free service. Hence the need for members of the community to support it financially. Such an institution of governance will not be perfect, but this is only a reminder of Madison’s wise adage that “men are not angels” and “are not governed by angels”: see (2) above. The ultimate check on the power of this institution is explicit recognition within the entire community that its members will withdraw their support, retreat or secede into private enclaves, or move outside the borders, if and to the extent it becomes abusive. This requires awareness, of course. It is a given that if members of communities do not stay aware of what those they’ve entrusted to these various responsibilities are doing, then they deserve the calamities likely to befall them. Institutional systems do not regulate and maintain themselves. Very likely the best we will do is a careful and perhaps always shifting balance between different institutional systems as they place checks on one another driven by the enlightened self-interest of their participants.

(4c) Limitations on government and the rule of law: it has often been said that government which governs best, governs least. In healthy societies, much of what happens, happens automatically as their people interact to meet each other’s needs, solve problems, or serve in other ways. There are probably no formal rules governing how this all happens able to cover all cases. The systems and processes are too complex; there is too much variability; there are too many particulars and contingencies that can’t be brought under a single formal set of rules. Hence a certain amount of laissez-faire is probably a good thing — provided trust can be maintained. When a political class interferes with these systems for whatever reason (they may see what some among them believe is a problem and sincerely believe they have a “fix” for it), they cannot account for all the particularities and hidden incentives that may be operating, and hence are always in danger not only of failing to solve the perceived problem but creating new problems in their wake. Government, even at its best, has been a blunt tool for solving problems. Thus conservatives want to keep it small, constrained, and used to service just a few essential functions: formulating the rules that need to be formulated including for its own structure and purposes including where police power ought to be visible, serving as an agency or arena of punishment for those who violate its rules, and securing the borders of the territory over which it has agreed-upon authority as described above.

All this according to the rule of law. What does this phrase mean, precisely? It is best understood in contrast to the rule of dictators or tyrants who are empowered to make the rules that govern a body politic — or a political class that can do so, or change existing rules to suit its interests presumed different from the interests of the society as a whole. Rule of law consists of those formal rules that are possible, that serve as parameters of acceptable political and legal conduct (avowing explicitly, for example, that murder and stealing are wrong, to whatever extent this is necessary; and where these apply).

A conservative ought to hold, it seems to me, that the idea of the rule of law is best justified, and legitimated in practice, if it is tied directly in some way to that idea of a transcendent reality and a moral code anchored outside of specifics of time, place, history, and culture. Because of the flaws in human nature itself, conservatives are dubious of the idea that we ever really can be entirely our own authorities, or that we should try.

It may be wise to spell all this out in a founding document such as a Constitution or other Declaration of Principles — as was done in the 1700s and before.

For the entire system depends on trust. It depends on members of society believing they can trust one another, being part of something larger than themselves, and caring about — even loving — this something their society and the common good. Such words seem strange just to write. Maybe that is an index of how badly trust in our own Western societies has eroded over the past few generations, and how people have felt more secure turning inward and just ‘tending their own gardens.’ There is no longer any agreement over any ‘common good.’ Such a society is doomed, and there may be little or nothing a conservative can do to turn it back from the brink. All he can do is work out a diagnosis others later can study and learn from, assuming there are any others able and willing to do so, and that any of us really learn anything from the past.

[For Part 2 click here.]

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Harper’s Cancel Culture Letter Is an Indicator Where Present Cultural and Intellectual Dialogue Stands — It’s Been Canceled!

On July 7, as probably anyone who found his/her way to this site already knows, Harper’s Magazine published a letter entitled “A Letter On Justice and Open Debate.” The letter, after a number of standard center-left dogwhistles about “social justice” and “inclusion” and the obligatory attack on President Trump, stated the obvious.

My way of putting it, not theirs: we now inhabit a social and cultural environment of raging intolerance. In this environment you can be “canceled” (not argued with) if you get out of line in even the slightest way. You can have your career ruined and your life turned upside down over anything the Mob, I will call it, deems “offensive.”

Much as I don’t like linking to Twitter, the best definition of cancel culture I’ve run across comes from someone there I don’t know and had never heard of before, a Eugene Gu, MD (scroll down):

Read it again: Cancel culture is the suspension of due process and presumption of innocence so that the mob can serve as judge, jury, and executioner based on accusation alone without any examination of the underlying evidence.

This is nothing new, of course. This is how totalitarian societies work, it is how those seeking to build them work, and this is the direction Western culture is presently heading apace as our specific brand of what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarianism changes and evolves in our post-logic, post-truth world to fit the mood swings of a Mob which is utterly clueless about the globalist power structure its antics are really serving.

Let’s look at the Harper’s letter. Its main substance is contained in the final two of its three long paragraphs:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

The letter was signed by 153 authors, academics, artists, and other public intellectuals, many of them highly visible in the public conversation, others far less so (there are any number of names there I don’t know).

The point can be made (and would have been obvious back in the days when logic was respected) that the names and number of signatories is not what validates and legitimates a public statement. It is validated and legitimated by the truth of its premises and the strength of its arguments, leading to the conclusion I put in my own words at the outset.

How old school, of course, given our present moment’s non-standards!

Thus the invective from the Mob in the Twitterverse, coming on swiftly and furiously. How dare they? is the substance of what you’ll find there, and no, I’ve no intention of wasting bandwidth space linking to select examples.

The Twitterverse Mob doesn’t realize that however indirectly, and with no sense of the irony involved, it is confirming the substance of the Harper’s letter.

A few writers could actually articulate specific criticisms of the letter. One Hamilton Nolan, for example, wrote:

The letter is certainly not about any reasonable definition of “Justice,” and is about Open Debate only to the extent that people who make very healthy salaries arguing in public for a living seem to have a bizarre aversion to being argued against. This aversion, I’m afraid, now borders on the pathological. We have entered a brave new world in which those waving the banner of “Free Speech” accuse their opponents of being unable to take criticism while waging a histrionic campaign against anyone who dares to criticize them. Accusing your opponents of doing exactly what you are yourself guilty of is a classic propaganda technique. It works well, unfortunately.

Nolan’s complaint seems to be about the “elite” status of the signatories, the fact that they are visible and paid very well for their work. He accuses them of being unable to take criticism, of saying, in effect, “we’re the experts so sit down and shut up!”

As far as the “elitism” charge goes: of course!

What was Harper’s supposed to do? Seek out instructors at the various Podunksville State Community Colleges around the nation, or any of the thousands of struggling invisible writers who lack the professional networks that are necessary conditions for visibility today?

Naturally Harper’s went to people who are visible, because people like Francis Fukuyama, Noam Chomsky, Fareed Zakaria, Margaret Atwood, J,K. Rowling, and Salmon Rushdie (who has direct experience with deadly threats of personal “cancellation” after all!) are more likely to be listened to than John Doe or Joe Blow or even Steven Yates. I wasn’t invited to sign the letter, most likely because no one in the Harper’s orbit or its audience knows me from Adam. Do I resent this? Not really, and I’m not sure I would have signed it anyway, mainly because of those dogwhistles I mentioned.

The extremists on the left don’t respect you because you’ve adopted some of their language. They definitely don’t respect you if you apologize and grovel before them. They feel only contempt. The last thing you should do is apologize to a Mob. All you will accomplish is embolden it, while degrading yourself.

If anything, this letter illustrates the contrast between the center-left and the extreme left. Behind the former are the liberal values that due to their own moral fuzziness set us up for this disaster decades ago. Among the signatories I don’t see any names I associate with philosophical or other intellectual conservatism. Maybe I just don’t know them, from not moving in those circles. I’ll allow that possibility. What I did catch was this:  we have come to expect [censoriousness] on the radical right not identifying or referencing who is being talked about, or providing any examples.

There is no mention of conservatism at all … probably because there are almost no intellectuals alive today who both profess philosophical conservatism and have any visibility, much less tenure and good salaries at major universities.

Were I to have written such a piece, there would have been no dogwhistles, and I would have noted at some point that I (and others) began warning roughly 30 years ago that something like this could happen, that the academic culture to which the label politically correct would be applied was surrounding its own moral certitude about, e.g., preferential policies and eliminating speech it found “offensive” with a climate of arrogance and a willingness to bully those who disagreed.

I would have noted how this culture already exhibited moblike aspects. In just a few years this culture spread from left-leaning faculty to students in academia, to mass media (including television) through journalism schools and their networks, into the legal system through leftist law professors, and into public schools generally through education schools which would ensure that the entire next generation tilted far left.

Soon that culture was visible in the military and in business of all sizes, and that the careers and livelihoods of anyone dissenting were already on the ropes. It had the endorsement of celebrities; it had role models on television sitcoms; its mainstreaming didn’t take much more.

It goes without saying, almost no one listened to isolated white guys like me, trying to make arguments. Eventually I realized I’d brought a knife to a gunfight.

You can’t reason with people who sincerely believe reason is a “straight white male construct” and a product of “privilege.”

What struck me, at one meeting where I’d presented some standard criticisms of affirmative action it had been possible to formulate back then, how believers I’d been willing to engage and listen to would not look me in the eye.

All one such person, her eyes averted, had to say was, “I’ve heard all this before!”

People who won’t make eye contact with you are telling you all you need to know.

That was then, this is now. And in the now, eye contact is the least of our worries. We have no meaningful debate or dialogue over the issues dividing Western civilization, or even agreement on what the truth is. In an environment where people fear for their careers and sometimes even their personal safety, meaningful debate and dialogue simply isn’t going to happen. The majority, whatever their opinions, are going to tend their own gardens as it were, and keep their heads down.

It is as easy as it ever was to say, in here, that cancel culture must be stopped.

We tried that 30 years ago.

Any success possible back then would have depended on someone with resources willing to take the lead and support networks of independent scholars and bankroll “parallel institutions.”

It didn’t happen, of course. A few such entities were created in the early online world, but they never achieved visibility. It was clear that as soon as they did, they would be demonized by an extreme left that had already become quite skilled at weaponizing language.

Today, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Mob has been unleashed. The demise of truth is evident in the fact that everyone with visibility is reporting this as a murder of a black man by a white cop when it was not a murder; Floyd died from a lethal cocktail of Fentanyl and other drugs in his system (go here where you’ll find a link to the medical examiner’s report; or, if my linking to my own content bothers anyone, go here instead).

What to do, what specific action steps to take? Other than keep out of the line of fire.

Today’s extreme left is far larger and more widespread. It is far better financed, with George Soros’s Open Society Foundation money but hardly him alone. For a short list of those lending financial support to Black Lives Matter go here; if you want a deeper dive, go here.

The extreme left is now a Mob, using sites like Twitter to its full advantage. We did not have social media back in the 1990s.

The Mob is thus far more pervasive, powerful, and destructive than it was in the 1990s. Its power is seen in the fact that two of the signatories of the Harper’s letter have rescinded their signatures and apologized/groveled, although fortunately not all.

I fully expect the Mob to explode into an orgy of violence and destruction if President Trump is reelected. The lame-to-nonexistent responses to the George Floyd riots proved to them that they can get away with it.

So what to do? I am open to suggestions.

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Happy Fourth of July

Myths about “systemic racism,” “white supremacy,” and “white privilege” get blown completely to pieces in this latest article by Paul Craig Roberts, easily one of the boldest authors in the online world, who always tries to write the truth as he sees it.

Philosophically, we now clearly inhabit a world that is not just post-truth, but one in which truth and lies are systematically inverted. Every day I give thanks that I no longer work for any academic institution, and never again will.


Happy Fourth of July!

Oh. IPE stands for Institute for Political Economy, Roberts’s own self-funded organization.

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