#MeToo Feminism Claims Its Latest Male Victim(s) in Academia

I don’t plan to spend as much time on this as on previous recent blog entries, if only because these kinds of situations are becoming a dime a dozen. What will be surprising is if they do not discourage more men from pursuing academic careers. I sent as many specifics as I was able to dig up to Brian Leiter, but he’s chosen to sit on them at least as of this writing, which is unfortunate since far more people are reading his philosophy everyday than read this one.

What happened is that another male philosopher has found himself relieved of his teaching job under somewhat questionable circumstances.

A reasonably clear account of Mark McIntire’s situation is here. McIntire, it is important to note, was not accused of actual sexual misconduct. Michael Shermer (History of Science, Chapman University) was the accused. What McIntire had done, probably not even knowing that Shermer had been accused of sexual misconduct, was invite him to speak on Santa Barbara City College campus. When another faculty member, a female chemistry professor named Raeanne Napoleon, blew the whistle publicly, McIntire responded with a sharply worded defense of Shermer.

Shermer, an author and editor noted for his supposed skepticism toward religion, the so-called paranormal, etc., had defended himself here, describing the allegations against him as “unseemly and suitable for tabloid trash…”  He doesn’t stop there, of course, but describes the details of some of the allegations against him and, if his account can be believed, shows them to be utterly ridiculous. Example:

…there was an Orange County conference in 2010 at which I spoke and did a public book signing. Oppenheimer quotes a woman who says that while I was sitting at a book table signing books and talking to her (in her view, “hitting on me”) I started “playing with my crotch” to get her to look at it, and apparently I did this for three or four minutes. Have you any idea how long that is? Would any man do such a preposterous thing at a public event with many people standing around, in a line to get signed books, where each exchange lasts perhaps 30 seconds at most?

The case against Shermer appears to be, shall we say, somewhat weak. He threatened legal action for defamation, but has since withdrawn the threat.

McIntire’s statement, which I’d had in front of me but for some reason was unable to locate again following a browser crash, criticized the faculty members, singling out Napoleon as she’d been the one leading the charge. He spoke of Shermer’s accusers as “calumniators” who “secreted the venom” of social justice warriors and launched “a Pearl-Harbor sneak attack” against an innocent man.

He found himself slapped with a Title IX harassment complaint, first by the Napoleon and then by three other female professors at SBCC. The complaint itself has not to my knowledge been made public, so I’ve no way to evaluate it — but are we truly to believe it is anything more than retaliation against his public criticism? In light of the prevailing ethos on campuses, and in the absence of any good reason for thinking otherwise….

The administration has (to the best of my knowledge) declined to discuss McIntire’s firing beyond statements like “the topics he chose for his course term papers and exams were too “politically charged,” his Facebook postings were inappropriate, and he failed to grasp “basic philosophical concepts.””

Failed to grasp “basic philosophical concepts”? What the dickens does that mean?

Cutting to the chase, what this looks like is the usual she-said, he said — which may well have begun with an instance of the sort of bad judgment to which we’ve all been prone from time to time (especially when alcohol is involved). McIntire looks to have done nothing except criticize his woman colleagues for accusing Shermer without any evidence beyond an inflammatory article on a website noted for its clickbait content and questionable credibility.

This is now grounds for a Title IX harassment complaint in academia?

All of this was followed by administrations doing what administrations usually do: taking the easy way out and unloading a person who has become inconvenient in the face of the dominant political tendencies of the present-day zeitgeist. The fact that Mark McIntire was an adjunct made this all the easier, and suggests that this case should be filed in with other evidence of the effects of the “adjunctification” of academia.

 

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Why Marx Now? Part 2

[Author’s Note: I received complaints that Part 1 was too long. “TLDR,” said one person: Too Long Didn’t Read. Part of me is saddened by this. I wonder if essayists such as Albert Jay Nock, or James T. Farrell, or even H.L. Mencken, succinct when the situation called for it but capable of writing far lengthier and nuanced and demanding prose than anything found on this blog, could earn livings as writers today. We now have studies showing that technology, however much it has gifted us with communications across oceans via Skype or Zoom, is also shortening our attention spans and sapping our efficiency. I noticed this back when I was teaching: students who couldn’t go five minutes without checking their phones. Many of us, the first thing we do in the morning is go to Facebook or Twitter and start scrolling aimlessly, while important work sits undone. Thus another part of me sees dramatic confirmation of what I am investigating here. The idea that we are free and autonomous agents is undercut by the fact, for fact it is, that technology affects — even controls — some of our behavior, confirming that systemic coercion in  “free” societies is as real as gravity! Shortened attention spans are just one of many factors encircling us, manifesting as a whole what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarianism, which operates by reinforcing ritualistic and submissive behaviors of various sorts. Systemic coercion is both harder to see and diagnose than overt coercion — especially by those who define coercion as overt. A Marxian worldview is conscious of this, whatever else it gets wrong; the individualistic-atomistic worldview characteristic of most Libertarians is not. The latter is therefore naïve in crucial respects. Short attention spans make us vulnerable to the machinations of powerful interests, especially economic ones. That makes discussions like this all the more important! Those who cannot make the time or maintain sufficient attention to read and mentally process four or five pages of modestly demanding material will be buffeted and ultimately controlled by forces they do not see — whether they think so or not. Having said all this, I realize it will not bring new readers to this site, and so this will likely be the last piece I write of this length and complexity — completed mainly because I like to finish what I start.]

For Part 1, go here.

At this point, let’s pass the reins of the conversation into the hands of Yanis Varoufakis, surely one of the more interesting voices to surface over the last few years. Varoufakis’s work is essential reading for anyone curious about the recent interest in Karl Marx. There are several authors and/or activists we could consult, but this being an overview and not a comprehensive treatise, I will stick with Varoufakis to keep the discussion manageable.

Who is he? Best known for his role as former Finance Minister of Greece’s Syriza Party which was elected back in 2014 to end that country’s debt crisis. The Syrizas soon found themselves on collision course with the European Central Bank. Varoufakis resigned in frustration in the face of divisions within the new government as well as ECB power-playing, as Greece became a nationwide debtors prison.

In a 2015 essay, Varoufakis described himself as an “erratic Marxist,” more recently penning a searching introduction to the new edition of Marx’s and Engel’s The Communist Manifesto issued on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth (short version here).

He’s a trained economist who avoided succumbing to the academic illness of microspecialization. He survived by looking like a microspecialist: burying the Marxian lens through which he viewed current events, teaching the charts, graphs, and equations that form the warp and woof of most academic economics. His use of the term erratic Marxist means that while he agrees with the Marxian worldview in its outlines, he challenges Marx on various grounds, and by extension most thinking about him, whether by his followers or his detractors.

Varoufakis’s criticisms of Marx are far more interesting than his areas of agreement.

Marx committed two key errors, he argues, one of “omission” and one of “commission.” The Communist Manifesto presented a worldview in outline form, forcefully and elegantly stated, and Marx spent the rest of his life fleshing it out, galvanizing a following in the process. Within that following, there would appear a few power-hungry sociopaths who knew instinctively how to use Marx’s ideas for their own twisted advantage. As Varoufakis puts it, Marx “failed to give sufficient thought to the impact of his own theorising on the world that he was theorising about. His theory is discursively exceptionally powerful, and Marx had a sense of its power. So how come he showed no concern that his disciples, people with a better grasp of these powerful ideas than the average worker, might use the power bestowed upon them, via Marx’s own ideas, in order to abuse other comrades, to build their own power base, to gain positions of influence?”

Marx’s error of omission, in other words, led to the 1917 Revolution and the Soviet Union, and eventually Maoist China and Fidel Castro’s Cuba; also the rise of sadists like Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, the Kim Dynasty in North Korea, and other hellholes that the abusers of Marx’s ideas spawned. It is important to note: the sociopaths neither understood Marx nor cared. They were politicians, not intellectuals like Marx.

The Soviet error is not hard to see, in this case. Marx stated that history proceeds in stages. At any given stage, a specific set of economic arrangements is dominant, to be destroyed by the internal conflicts these arrangements generate (this is the dialectic). The resolution of these conflicts will generate the next stage, and no stages are skipped. The Leninists — the Stalinists even more — tried to do just this: build industrialized socialism on top of agrarian feudalism without going through the industrial capitalist wealth-generating stage. Marx had never denied the wealth-generating capacities of capitalism! The sociopaths were motivated by blind hatred of it, so they did not allow it to develop. The result was totalitarianism and mass deprivation, including mass murder of those who wouldn’t comply. Mao Tse-Tung repeated the mistake, the result being a “Cultural Revolution” for which we still do not have an accurate body count!

What has been unclear until recently is that these atrocities do not refute the Marxian worldview. They happened not because Marx’s ideas were followed; they happened because those who ascended to power in Marx’s name were sociopathic monsters who couldn’t have cared less about getting him right. (What ought to truly give us pause is how the sociopaths had help from Western sources of financing, who needed an “enemy” in order to build up a military machine that would be profitable for corporate suppliers of military equipment, defense contractors, and other such types: Eisenhower’s infamous military-industrial complex!)

To sum up, Varoufakis notes how Marx erred horribly by not anticipating that his ideas would be abused. If anything, he understates the matter (as does nearly everyone on the left).

He then identifies the second of Marx’s errors, the one of “commission.” Like many (most?) philosophers before him, at least since Descartes but going ultimately back to Plato, Marx often treated abstractions as more “real” than the concrete particulars of the world we live in: this despite his “historical materialism.” Varoufakis explains: “It was his assumption that truth about capitalism could be discovered in the mathematics of his models. This was the worst disservice he could have delivered to his own theoretical system. The man who equipped us with human freedom as a first-order economic concept; the scholar who elevated radical indeterminacy to its rightful place within political economics; he was the same person who ended up toying around with simplistic algebraic models, in which labour units were, naturally, fully quantified, hoping against hope to evince from these equations some additional insights about capitalism.”

One result was to cede the idea of freedom to the right — eventually, and disastrously, to neoliberalism. Rationality was also ceded to the right and to neoliberals, via the left’s focus on the supposed unfairness of capitalism — the fact that it generates inequality — at the expense of a focus on its irrationality and wastefulness, its being riddled with contradictions or, as we’ve called them, tensions. This is the Varoufakis who understands these models well!

He angrily asks of Marx’s ghost, “How could [you] be so deluded? Why did [you] not recognise that no truth about capitalism can ever spring out of any mathematical model, however brilliant the modeler might be? Did [you] not have the intellectual tools to realise that capitalist dynamics spring from the unquantifiable part of human labour: i.e., from a variable that can never be well-defined mathematically? Of course [you] did, since [you] forged those tools!” He then accuses Marx of having “coveted the power that mathematical ‘proof’ afforded him….”  That being the power of finality.

Varoufakis then teases out a basic tension in Marx’s thought: “a comprehensive theory of value cannot be accommodated within a mathematical model of a dynamic capitalist economy.” For Marx to acknowledge this, he would also have to acknowledge that the profitability of capitalist enterprises is not reducible to their capacity to extract labor from workers: “some capitalists can extract more from a given pool of labour or from a given community of consumers for reasons that are external to Marx’s own theory.”

This means, further, that Marx’s pronouncements contained an indeterminacy that rendered them provisional instead of final. This Marx could not accept. “This determination,” Varoufakis concludes this part of his discussion, “to have the complete, closed story, or model, the final word, is something I cannot forgive Marx for. It proved, after all, responsible for a great deal of error and, more significantly, authoritarianism. Errors and authoritarianism that are largely responsible for the left’s current impotence as a force for good and as a check on the abuses of reason and liberty that the neoliberal crew are overseeing today.”

What are Varoufakis’s prescriptions? These are even more interesting than his criticisms of Marx. The EU is in a crisis of its own making. It could implode. Varoufakis does not advocate revolutionary action: “the left,” he says, “must admit that we are just not ready to plug the chasm that a collapse of European capitalism would open up with a functioning socialist system. Our task should be twofold. First, to put forward an analysis of the current state of play that non-Marxist, well-meaning Europeans who have been lured by the sirens of neoliberalism, find insightful. Second, to follow this sound analysis up with proposals for stabilising Europe — for ending the downward spiral that, in the end, only reinforces the bigots.” That is, stabilize Europe in ways that will stave off the inevitable rising tides of nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment. This means shoring up capitalism, however this is accomplished, in order to buy time: even though “I shall not pretend to be enthusiastic about it.”

Varoufakis more than understands the consequences of this; it means supporting the globalization of capital despite “its less desirable ramifications … unbearable inequality, brazen greed, climate change, and the hijacking of our parliamentary democracies by bankers and the ultra-rich.” The Marxian view requires this. Remember: its logic is that capitalism must “go global” before conditions for revolution will be realized. This means supporting it — even present-day neoliberal capitalism-on-steroids!  Varoufakis comments on the irony of history: the faux Marxist Soviet Union had to collapse, and China had to embrace state-sponsored capitalism, before capitalism as a system could become truly global in scope!

Marx would have understood, even if the majority of those on the left did not, and do not. What did he say, after all, about so-called free trade: for centuries now, an instrument increasing capital’s reach? In “On the Question of Free Trade” (1848), having argued at length that free trade is just the freedom of capital to do as it pleases — “the freedom of capital to crush the worker” — by driving down wages as it drives up profits, Marx concludes: “in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.”

In other words, anyone who truly understands Marx and wants what Marx claimed he wanted will do almost the opposite of what most of the left is currently doing!

An enlightened left, that is, will support every “free trade” deal that comes down the pike! It will support every globalizing agreement, every job-eliminating technological advance, everything bringing about a world where capital is everywhere and encirclement by Mammon is inescapable. It will promote, as Marx implied, whatever will disrupt cultures, destroy traditions, undermine stable systems!

This, of course, dislocates and disorients, while impoverishing and demoralizing, masses everywhere. So Varoufakis qualifies: “… the trick is to help speed up capital’s development (so that it burns up like a meteor rushing through the atmosphere) while, on the other hand, resisting (through rational, collective action) its tendency to steamroller our human spirit … we push capital to its limits while limiting its consequences and preparing for its socialisation.”

There is a crucial tension in this last. Capitalism having achieved global reach, a movement large enough to overthrow it would have to have equal reach, or the equivalent. Technology makes this conceivable, but could it take place, organized and with hope of transformative victory, with labor impoverished if not totally disoriented and immiserated? Could revolution get started with capital controlling every resource (including the Internet), so that “only two classes remain standing: the class that owns everything and the class that owns nothing …”? There will be — I presume — a small class of highly mobile entrepreneurial types who are not tied directly to the system’s authority structures and may have made out like bandits during the period of global capitalization. I know such people. Their focus, while international, is not global in scope. It is on their private projects, and on those who, e.g., have paid to be mentored so that the process is duplicated. These “cowboy entrepreneurs,” we might call them, will have neither the motivation nor the organization to further the cause Varoufakis is talking about? For one thing, they like capitalism as they understand it, and see it (as did the economists of the Austrian school) as humanity’s highest achievement. Why wouldn’t they? They have thrived in it! If all of humanity were of their mindset, capitalism might become the kind of system the Austrians and other Libertarians envisioned: a technological and cultural Utopia of everyone dealing and trading freely with everyone else of their choice. But all of humanity is not of such a mindset, which must be cultivated and is clearly not for everyone. Thus we have the capitalism we have.

Varoufakis is smart enough not to make promises, as Marx and Engels did. He writes: “Humanity may succeed in securing social arrangements that allow for ‘the free development of each’ as the ‘condition for the free development of all.’ But then again, we may end up in the ‘common ruin’ of nuclear war, environmental disaster or agonizing discontent. In our present moment there are no guarantees. We can turn to the manifesto for inspiration, wisdom and energy but, in the end, what prevails is up to us.”

Hear that? It’s up to us.

So much for economic determinacy. If what occurs is “up to us,” then indeed the Marxian view is provisional, and there is nothing inevitable about revolution. It may be likely that accelerating neoliberal globalism will make enough people sufficiently miserable that they write, organize, launch “populist” revolts here and there, possibly gum up globalism’s works sufficiently to force it to slow up … or simply separate themselves and live out their lives on the margins of society: perhaps joining the “cowboy entrepreneurs” in not caring what occurs outside their bailiwicks as they’ve concluded they cannot affect it anyway.

I have argued elsewhere that technofeudalism, not some kind of socialism, is a more plausible “end game” for the trajectory we’ve pursued for the past 30 years. I am not alone with this prognosis. It is not what Varoufakis would like, but indeterminacy makes it possible. My essay predated Brexit and the Trump election, which were predicated on the hope of turning back from the globalist brink. Both are now struggling, the former against bureaucratic entanglements imposed by the EU, the latter against Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s circling sharks in “deep state” waters as well as Trump’s inexperience with the role into which history thrust him as well as the likelihood that his presidency has been compromised.

So-called “populism,” meanwhile, has been demonized in (corporation-controlled) mass media and attacked technologically via the algorithm changes made by Google, Facebook, and other information-controlling tech giants. Thus information and ideas favorable to “populism” simply do not appear in searches or on newsfeeds. Google and the social media giants are constantly improving their algorithms. If this continues, it will gradually undercut all informed resistance to globalism, understood as I have defined it: gradual movement, via “free trade” deals, other international agreements and the organizations they create, furthered by disruptive mass migration and capital flows across increasingly porous borders, towards a centralized world state answering to increasingly interlocked global corporate leviathans — possibly in the name of recovery after economic debacle, war, or just security measures.

Also undercutting “populism” at least in the West, is its association not just with the right, but with the authoritarian right — demonized as fascist, fallacious but rhetorically highly effective!

The left has no effective “populism” of its own. Bernie Sanders and his followers (e.g.) could not overcome the globalists in control of the Democratic Party, whose 2016 anointed candidate was going to be Hillary Clinton — no matter what! Arguably, globalist technocrats control the emocrats more effectively than they control the Republicans! The Democrats have added distractions like identity-politics and gender bending, protecting the legal right of women to kill their unborn children, gun control advocacy, etc. Those with real power couldn’t care less about such things.

The reality and long-term concerted activities of globalist power elites — superelites, I call them in Four Cardinal Errors, owners of capital and controllers of more visible political elites (“the state”) — would probably seem more evident had it not been for rigorous and largely successful propaganda campaigns branding such notions as “conspiracy theories.” This makes it easy to refuse to engage them, to keep one’s head in the sand.

I have to remind readers who have stuck with me to this point that I am not a materialist, much less a Marxist. Here I part company with Varoufakis and crew. Left to their devices, they may avoid repeating the mistakes Marx made, but they will have made a different one — one made by all secular political strategists who envision a new Tower of Babel different from the old ones. As a Christian philosopher, I believe we inhabit a fallen world (Rom. 3:23). What makes us miserable is not just socioeconomic conditions, but what resides in our hearts. Changing socioeconomic conditions will not change our hearts. Any Tower of Babel must therefore fall. We are not going to save ourselves with a new political economy, “revolutionary” or otherwise.

Why Marx now, in that case? Because the secular materialist standpoint reigns supreme, at least for now. If one works from that premise in an honest effort to see where it leads, and then asks which description of advanced civilization has more verisimilitude, one that views us as autonomous individuals running around on our own, actually making our own choices, or one that looks at systems and structures, sees encirclements and the systemic coercion of persons who, e.g., have had their livelihoods and possibly their health destroyed by these forces? The former ignores all the direct experiential support of many persons that militates in favor of the latter. Marx got a few things right by drawing attention to these forces and trying to describe their role in how advancing capitalist civilization works. I hope it is clear by now that the abuses of Marx’s ideas in Soviet Russia and Red China have nothing whatsoever to do with this.

Why Marx now? Because there is no use in pretending something fundamentally structural didn’t occur in 2007-09. We can single out policy decisions such as the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 which allowed commercial and investment banks to merge operations and opened the door to creating dangerous financial instruments (e.g., credit default swaps) and abuses of the public. But these did not emerge out of a vacuum. The rise and triumph of neoliberalism in the 1990s brought with it great systemic pressure on Congress to “deregulate”: freeing the Wall Street leviathans to do as they pleased. We saw the results. We are still seeing them.

Why Marx now? Because I do not think one has to be some kind of egalitarian to think something has gone seriously awry when capitalism does not just “go global” but reaches a point in which a group of people small enough to fit comfortably into a university auditorium controls more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population. It is difficult to blame secularists for tilting left and turning to someone like Marx for ideas, given that mainstream economists seem clueless, something clearly being amiss with official statistics pointing at “recovery” (3.9% U-3 unemployment with wages barely budging). Most secularists mean well ethically even if their presuppositions are wrong. The decent instinctively reject arrangements that dehumanize human beings. They look for alternatives.

What we’ve seen since the Soviet collapse isn’t “real” capitalism, say Libertarians. It is crony capitalism. “Real” capitalism will happen only if we abolish the state and allow the free market to operate. What they cannot tell us is how they propose to do such a thing; or, assuming it possible, what would prevent corporations from recreating the state almost immediately. Could We The People prevent it? We don’t have those kinds of resources!! Could the “cowboy entrepreneurs” do it? Living on the edges where their actual contact with the state is minimal, they aren’t all that interested!

Let’s face it. The idea of “abolishing the state” is simply absurd; and would doubtless be opposed anyway, e.g., by those who have paid into Social Security and Medicare their entire working lives and quite reasonably expect returns on what they consider an investment (not an “entitlement”) late in life: something that will be impossible if there is no “state” to administer it.

We are left with actually existing capitalism. In this fallen world, is there truly any other?

Marx and his latter-day followers help us see that actually existing capitalism is indeed vulnerable to the human weaknesses and peccadillos that brought us to this point, in which we realize that however we label the presently dominant political economy, even if we call it crony capitalism and refuse to call it real capitalism, it is as capable of generating totalitarian forms of life as its presumed opposite (socialism?). Systemic coercion is far more subtle than systematic coercion. Instead of creating conditions for the manning of machine guns, as with the minions of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, etc., systemic coercion encircles, so that noncompliance results in one’s eventually finding oneself unable to live a normal life. Decades ago, there were no computers, much less the Internet. Imagine trying to do business today without email! Notice, too, how Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard systemically coerce consumers into upgrading through refusing to service older editions of the one’s software and the other’s hardware, with the lifespans of each getting progressively shorter due to built-in obsolescence. Is this purposeful? Perhaps not. It keeps technical labor employed, and forces consumers to spend. Without these, actually existing capitalism falls into crisis. Is this system wasteful? Of course it is! What happens to used computers components? They go into landfills!

Ultimately we are seeing failures not just of capitalism, but of secular materialism given human nature as it is, and not what we may wish it were. There is more to life, and society, than its political-economic arrangements. Whether secular materialism is a stage an advancing civilization must go through in order to continue advancing is a very interesting question. Technological advances require great focus on the here-and-now, and on Mammon acquisition as a measure of what is working. Both make us more comfortable, moreover, and it takes a special kind of broad vision to recognize when one is trading personal freedom for comfort and convenience — not to mention collectivization. Suffice it to say, our civilization must transcend this stage, or its pretenses to have generated and preserved freedom in the face of, e.g., massive job losses and general precarity, will seem increasingly laughable — not to mention how its systems perturb surrounding ones and potentially threaten the habitability of what futurist R. Buckminster Fuller pointedly called Spaceship Earth. In this case, we see capitalism and socialism not as opposites but parts of a continuous process with secular materialism at its core. Reject secular materialism, and a range of new possibilities opens up!

But if we Christians know anything, it is that the secular world will reject us — which in arrangements like those just described consist more of efforts to hobble our capacity to earn a living and influence the conversation than through overt repression. Christianity, having been driven from public schools long ago through spurious establishment-of-religion arguments, is now banned by many corporations as “offensive” (although Muslim, Buddhist, and symbols of other religions including atheism are allowed in our “multicultural” workplaces).

My surmise, in this case: at present, technofeudalism is a more likely future, given continued secular globalist development and the lack of a coordinated, sustainable response to it. It will not be utterly dystopian: there will continue to be room on its edges for those “cowboy entrepreneurs” provided they present no threat to the power arrangements. Technofeudalism will prove unsustainable in the long run, of course, as with all Towers of Babel. It may stand until its founders’ children or perhaps their grandchildren get complacent, entitled, soft, careless, and possibly incompetent at responding to unexpected crises, e.g., a massive hurricane that leaves a devastated region in its wake, or perhaps an earthquake that levels a city of ten million people. The emperors will again be seen to have no clothes.

Then someone must rise from outside the power system, ready and able to lead when the emperors drop the ball. Such a person must be supremely focused in rejecting all the premises on which the order he is rebelling against was erected, including its metaphysical ones (materialism) and its worship of Mammon. And he must command a technology able to solve problems and supply abundance!

At present, corporate leviathans profit from scarcity. They will oppose a technology of abundance.

Mammon is worshipped in the West, because that is what its systems have required: endless growth, whether needed by humans or not, despite the finiteness of space and resources.

Only when we see Mammon tossed from its pedestal will we see the possibility of a truly humane world system that begins to eradicate poverty.

Could a world leader arise capable of all this?

A Christian will surmise at this point that the only Leader able to accomplish such a genuinely transformative and revolutionary goal will be Jesus Christ Himself.

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Posted in Christian Worldview, Philosophy, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Marx Now? Part 1

Recent years have seen a surge of renewed interest in Karl Marx’s political-economic thought. For those not living in a cave somewhere, this has been hard to miss. This interest is not coming primarily from the “cultural Marxists” of academic humanities, obsessed with identity politics and likely to be viewed, once this new tendency is understood, as pseudo-Marxists. It is coming from careful and astute observers who have looked backward from the financial crisis of 2008 and charted the basic trajectory of global political economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communist Party’s embrace of state-capitalism, and the range of irrational policies that led to the aforementioned crisis. The attention paid to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) is telling, but barely scratches the surface. One guide to a few recent works, and a few older ones, can be perused here.

Before going on, a disclaimer. I want to be sure it is clear: I am not, have not been, some kind of Marxist-in-disguise all along, “coming out of the closet” with this little essay. I maintain a Christian worldview, and I hope it is also clear: those two schools of thought, the Christian one and the Marxian one, draw from incompatible first premises (although there are a few structural similarities I will not get into here). Christianity grounds the fundamentals of reality, including human social reality, in the existence and sovereignty of a transcendent God, regards the human race as inherently sinful, and explains the failures of morality and justice in all political economy as ultimately due to our fallenness. Classical Marxism is as atheistic as any form of materialism, marrying the latter to Hegel’s philosophy (Marx’s term should be familiar: dialectical materialism). It grounds the events of history in material forces; it contends that the primary driver of history is the clash of interests between those who own the means of production and those who not: class struggle.

This essay will reject the popular claim that because the Soviet Union collapsed and the Chinese embraced a form of state-capitalism, Marx’s thought is without serious interest and that the “new Marxists” or whatever we want to call them are therefore delusional. But I will present my own take on where this conversation is going. It may well be that the trajectory of the systems set in motion throughout the course of secular modernity, given human nature as Christianity understands it, yield results very much like what Marx decreed would be the fate of capitalist civilization, mired in tensions (Marx called them contradictions) and absurdities, even if for a variety of reasons, some specifically Christian and some not, we doubt the inevitability of revolution and establishing a brand of socialism capable of leading to Communism as Marx originally envisioned it, the state having “withered away.”

One thing triggering much of the recent thought is the sense that what occurred in 2008 was a structural event, and not just the result just of this or that series of bad policies on the part of the big banks freed as of 1999 from Glass-Steagall separations (of investment from commercial sectors): an inevitable product of something fundamentally unsustainable, namely, capital accumulation as an end in itself. The “recovery,” therefore, has been (outside the privileged enclaves of Wall Street and venture capital bankrolled Silicon Valley, anyway) an illusion born as much of wishful thinking as of statistics designed to mislead (e.g., “U-3” unemployment). Many if not most of the jobs created in the wake of the meltdown have been, after all, low wage affairs, many not even full time, with little or no promise of the upward mobility of the jobs of, say, 60 years ago. The kind of relationship between employer and employee that existed then is broken, and the break looks to be permanent. There is the suspicion, moreover, that even that era was a kind of bubble, the product of amelioration resulting from fear of the attractiveness of the haunting specters overseas. The slow rise of neoliberalism from the Mont Pèlerin enclave of the late 1940s to its takeover of the Republicans in the 1980s and and the Democrats in the 1990s reversed the amelioration, set in motion processes that led inevitably to, e.g., predatory lending, to the meltdown, and to the increasing visibility of the misery the current brand of secular global capitalism has wrought.

For the most obvious recent historical development, which predates Piketty’s book, has been the “populist” insurgency, looking different in different places but overall global in scope and characterized by rejection of elite governance. It targets “globalization” (i.e., capital accumulation gone global for structural reasons: capital either creates new markets and expands into them or it dies), increasingly seen as the growing dominance over the so-called developed world by a wealthy and powerful superelite, the term I used in my book Four Cardinal Errors, centered in (relative to controlled populations) the microscopically small community of international financiers, the corporations they own, and the political classes they control as “puppet-masters.”

In this view, that is, the world’s Ruling Class, if you will, enjoyers of real privilege, is “private” and not “public.” The locus of control is the global network of corporate leviathans — to use John Perkins’s term (cf. his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, orig. 2004), the corporatocracy. Genuine locus of control does not reside with “the state, a multitude of libertarian arguments notwithstanding. The state makes the laws, and then its minions turn to the corporations for donations when they run for re-election. If they tick off their real masters, they are out of the running. The Ruling Class’s instrument of control is money, i.e., capital flows, which is systemic, rather than state-directed police power which is systematic. The latter is used only when the former fails to get the desired results.

Libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, etc., simply have this wrong, by fixating on “the state” as the root of all evil (not that it often does good as most successful politicians got where they are by being unscrupulous opportunists). It may be true enough in the abstract that were there no state, the corporatocracy would not be able to act as it has because the state is integral to it. But there is abstraction and then there is reality. The reality is that (1) the world has the state, (2) there are no practical means of abolishing it, and (3) even if there were, corporations would immediately reinvent it (what would stop them?). My contention here is that we can live in a realm of abstractions and be forever frustrated when the world refuses to fall into line with them, or we can live in the reality we have, try to understand how it actually operates, and given its actual processes and systems, move forward as best we can, incrementally, from where we are now to where we might want to be. And we have to decide what that is, realizing that “where we want to be” is not the same for everyone.

Returning to the new “populism,” while it is sometimes branded as “right wing” and sometimes as “left wing” for obvious reasons, I submit that the actual movements we see, and the impulses behind them, are neither. We should try to think outside the left vs. right dichotomous box. Arab Spring was part of this insurgency: rebellions against North African and Middle Eastern governments that ceased long ago to serve the peoples of the region, serving instead corporations and the Western war machine. The Syriza Party in Greece self-identified as “left wing.” Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., were on the other hand characterized as “right wing,” doubtless because a strong impetus behind them was skepticism about the benefits of unlimited immigration and calls for border controls, products of globalism (i.e., post-Soviet Union neoliberal global capitalism). The same is true of the current governments of Hungary and Poland who share the rejection of open borders and the hyper-centralized policies emanating from Brussels. And those candidates that have failed, such as Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in The Netherlands. There is additional evidence of an insurgency of Hindu fundamentalism in India. Its targets: globalization and Western materialism (i.e., again, post-Soviet Union neoliberal global capitalism).

In other words, what we are talking about includes movements hated by the “left” as well as some that identify as “left.” All indications are, this movement is not going anywhere despite a few electoral setbacks and relentless media and “lawfare” attacks (e.g., the ongoing and increasingly strained attempt to explain Trump’s victory as the product of collusion with Russia rather than the slim rejection by voters in crucial states of globalist technocrat Hillary Clinton, the Ruling Class candidate, widely and probably correctly perceived within her own party as someone who would have served capital first and everything else second).

What does Marx have to do with all this? Is he relevant today?

First, what did Marx actually say? His disciples no less than his critics have usually gotten him wrong. What he provided, more in Das Kapital (which he did not live to complete) than in The Communist Manifesto with Engels, was a painstakingly detailed description of the workings of the capitalist system of his time, a ferreting out of its “contradictions,” predictions about where it would go, and explanations why. His account was not intended as mere criticism born out of “hatred” of capitalism as conservatives and libertarians have always insisted. He understood as well as anyone that capitalism was an unprecedented engine of production, and that it had raised standards of living everywhere it had penetrated.

He saw this through Hegelian spectacles, however, in which such a system cannot help but sow the seeds of its own eventual destruction. Capitalism, he believed, produces wealth but cannot distribute it across society or otherwise make rational use of its products or of the labor whose efforts are the actual wealth creators. It tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of the owners of capital, and so impoverish labor, made poorer as labor will not be hired unless the profit that can be extracted from it exceeds its cost (“surplus value”). This does not happen solely because of the capitalist’s “greed.” It happens for structural reasons. Capitalists are also locked within a system based on competition. They must compete with other capitalists for market share. At the same time, unchecked competition tends toward overproduction: more marketed goods than nonowners of capital can afford, informally known as a glut. And this leads to further contradictions — or tensions — within the system. For even the mid-1800s corporate elites had figured out that unlimited competition couldn’t be permitted. Hence they arranged to limit it, forming the first “old boy networks,” eventually licensing occupations to restrict entry, and myriad other actions to prevent unlimited competition in markets, for jobs, etc., in finite economic space.

Capital’s greatest expense, moreover, is labor. It seeks to keep labor costs down, to maximize its profits. Again, this is not about “greed.” If a capitalist does not do this, he loses the competitive game to those who do. Hence the structural incentive to drive wages down, manifested during the post-Soviet Union era (and even before) by outsourcing labor to third world countries, insourcing cheap immigrant labor (legal or otherwise; ultimately capital does not care), and ultimately replacing labor with technology (as Marx also predicted).

Labor, on the other hand, seeks to increase its income to maximize its capacity to pay living costs. It must buy what capitalists produce, or again their profits fall and the system itself falls into crisis (recession or worse). As the amelioration era of capitalism progressed, it resolved this tension at least in the short term with the credit system pioneered by the banks: encouraging labor to buy what capitalists produced with money it did not have but was promised to have in the near future: eventually financialization broke out and spread through the system like water permeating a sponge. Banks, of course, profited handsomely. When the promise of future money was not realized, however, indebtedness resulted. Today, of course, debt is everywhere: in government (the national debt being over $21 trillion), among students (student loan debt, over $1.5 trillion), etc. Arguably, a fiat currency consists of debt: promises of repayment to the banks (with interest). Were the debt paid in full, the currency would disappear. This is hypothetical, of course: existing debt is unrepayable. Yet the system subsists on spending and then spending more. The capitalist engine, after all, is churning forward, as it must, even if what is produced no longer serves any genuine human needs (think of the tech sector and ask yourself if we really need a new edition of Windows every two or three years, much less the countless games, apps, etc., that now litter the tech landscape). Advertising and myriad other devices appeared long ago in modern capitalist civilization to motivate the masses to spend money they do not have on things they do not need. The masses would personally be better off if they saved for rainy days instead of spent on advertising-manufactured pseudo-needs. Everyone knows this. Yet again, if they save in sufficient numbers, i.e., do not spend, again the system craters. If motivated to spend, the masses sense their real needs are not truly satisfied by more and more material goods; thus the capitalist system we have (is there another?) ultimately fails the test of true human satisfaction which the materialism at its root cannot supply.

According to Marx, to stave off this sense, capitalism generates a superstructure: all that is outside the productive base, including a culture which creates, cultivates, and proliferates distractions of various forms. The system does what it can, that is, to distract labor from its increasing misery. Its mass education, again structurally, slowly and surreptitiously destroys everything that could lead future workers to think critically about their situation and try, systematically, to diagnose its causes. Hence the longstanding separation of political economy into “political science” and “economics” in academia, and the encouragement of academic microspecialization to neuter subjects like history and philosophy. It eventually enstupifies the masses with mindless but extremely lucrative entertainment of various sorts (think of sports and celebrity culture), even as the technology the productive base generates, often entertaining in its own right, begins to undercut labor’s employability both by shortening attention spans and because robots and AI programs will deliver output, often much more efficiently than human laborers.

It is not that capitalism results in inequality (which Piketty stressed), that is. Rather, Marx insisted, as a system it is deeply and necessarily irrational. It is wasteful, as its products fail to serve genuine human needs. The interests of capital and labor are at odds, because the system compels them to seek different things. Capital serves itself by maximizing profit, whether as an end in itself or to stay ahead of competing capital. Labor serves capital instead of itself while “at work,” so that while “at work” the laborer is little better than a machine (he has been “commodified”), and can be himself only when not “at work.” Organizations serving real human needs may price them out of labor’s reach (think: health care); housing, too, may be priced out of reach, so that houses stand empty while homeless people crowd the streets or set up shelters less than a mile away. Capital puts labor into the corporate cubicles it supplies to do the work that generates profits, having kept wages as low as possible and stultified education so as to create worker bees instead of, e.g., historians or philosophers, while failing to make use of many real talents and skills out there (we have all heard that adage about the many writers, artists, etc., who dare not give up their day jobs!). Marx spoke of alienation: labor is alienated not just from products it never sees but from itself, often having “learned” to “make do” with what it has. Many laborers even begin to identify with the interests of capital, seeing opportunities to rise in its organizations, telling themselves they are “happy.” Engels called this false consciousness.

Though often agitating to organize workers, Marx and Engels’s view was not that labor could choose a day, time, and place to overthrow capitalism. Here is where his followers began to go off the rails. Capitalism, as an engine of production whatever its faults, would have to grow until its spanned the entire globe — until there was nowhere of significance anyone could go to escape it. As it did, it would gradually divide the world into a tiny minority of “haves” — that of the global superelite or Ruling Class whose members controlled the levers of capital — and large populations of “have nots,” who controlled less and less of their economic and ultimately their personal lives. Machines, of course, do not ask for wages. Hence, the ideal for capital is to eliminate labor: the ultimate irrationality! Prior to that, the division and rising tensions between Ruling Class and ruled over would polarize the world and ripen conditions for socioeconomic revolution and for the wholesale replacing of capitalism with a political economy that eliminated the private property at the core of capitalism and capital accumulation as the goal of global economic activity. We would at last see a political economy that addressed human needs on their own terms and put us on a course towards true freedom which is only available when such needs are met.

Leaving this last aside, and whether or not it remains a pipe dream even in our times, the necessity of the globalization of capital accumulation is the aspect of Marx’s thought missed by everyone who believes, e.g., that the failure of the Soviet Union, or the embrace of state-capitalism by the Chinese, means that Marx’s thought itself fails and is now irrelevant.

It means, furthermore, that, e.g., so-called cultural Marxism fails, as if its architects in the Frankfurt School did not read their hero very well if they read him at all.

Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, etc., after all, appear to have believed Marxism had failed as a mere economic philosophy. Hence their efforts to merge Marxian analysis with other philosophies (i.e., Freudian psychoanalysis). To succeed, Marxism had to “capture the culture.” Indeed — and it is one of history’s great ironies — economic Marxism hit a roadblock that would remain as long as the Soviet Union stayed in business. Marx did not anticipate the resilience of capitalism, which would adopt amelioration: efforts to minimize labor’s suffering by permitting unions to organize and bargain with capital for better wages, working conditions, etc.; instituting minimum wage; attaching benefits such as Medicare to wages and developing other safety nets;  etc. Cultural pseudo-Marxism has contributed to further destroying Western education and culture while not touching capital’s actual power arrangements. Identity politics, after all, amounts to ethnic minorities, feminists, homosexuals, and now transgenders, agitating for proportional representation on capital’s corporate boards instead of challenging capital’s legitimacy. Over a quarter century of identity politics has utterly obscured the real sources of women’s and minorities’ misery, and made a critical and careful discussion of Marx’s actual diagnosis of the present moment magnitudes harder!

As the leaders of the new interest in Marx doubtless self-identify as leftist, we find ourselves proposing that there are not one but two “lefts”: the old economic left consisting of Marx himself, Engels, and the few who understood him; and those struggling to recover his actual contributions, determine their relevance, and discuss their applicability today … and the academic / cultural left that followed the Frankfurt School through Marcuse and people ranging from Malcolm X to Gloria Steinem to present-day identity politics, in which tribalism is the solution and the “tribe” of straight white Christian men the collective villain (not capital or the process behind it!), both historically and in the present.

The latter dominates academic humanities today, and is another reason they cannot be taken seriously. The former barely exists, in or outside academia. The academic left (or more accurately the cultural left, as it now extends far beyond academia) has become, probably unintentionally through a combination of group-focused myopia and general carelessness, an enemy of the former that tries to read Marx with an eye to understanding him, staying close to what he actually said. Its purveyors would be promoting quite different things otherwise! We will see this in Part 2.

[To be continued next week! If you believe essays such as this are worth your time, please consider becoming a Patron and supporting them; you can also make a one-time donation via PayPal.] 

Posted in Philosophy, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brian Eno’s “Music For Installations”: New Collection Released This Week (A Music Post)

With Music for Installations, British composer and musical innovator Brian Eno has checked in for 2018. Eno is one of the most influential figures in modern popular music, having begun his career around the start of the 1970s with the “glam rock” outfit Roxy Music, deciding within a couple of years that the life of the “rock star” was not his cup of tea, and then beginning the solo career that led to such masterpieces as Another Green World (1975). Soon he became one of the most in-demand producers in the industry (producing records for Robert Calvert, Devo, Talking Heads, U2, Laurie Anderson, James, Coldplay, and many other groups and artists of varying visibility; he has also collaborated with the likes of Robert Fripp, David Byrne, Rachid Taha, Paul Simon, Karl Hyde, and most recently, Kevin Shields, putting in appearances on long-players by countless others).

This massive collection consists of either nine vinyl records or six CDs, depending on your preference. I’ll focus on the CDs because that’s what I ordered (since at the moment, alas, I don’t own a functional turntable). Eno composed, or arranged, all of the material on these records or CDs for use in his visual art installations for which he has become well known in art communities all over the world. Three of the CDs contain material that has been available in the past, but only on limited edition releases initially available only to attendees at the installations and very hard to obtain otherwise (a few copies showed up on eBay). These include Lightness: Music for the Marble Palace (premiered for the first time at The State Russian Museum at St. Petersburg, 1997), I Dormienti and Kite Stories (debuted at The Roundhouse in London, 1999, the former done alongside Italian painter, sculptor and set designer Mimmo Paladino), and the more recent Making Space, initially available only at Lumen London or at exhibitions of 77 Million Paintings. Speaking of which, also included here is a selection from that, his constantly shifting “generative art” production which premiered in Tokyo at the La Foret Museum in 2006.

The rest of the material, including tracks like “Kazakhstan” (listen to a 4-and-a-half.minute excerpt here), is previously unavailable in any form, making this collection worth having even if you have some or all of the others (in the opinion of this long time Eno-watcher); none, incidentally, have been available on vinyl  before.

There are two editions, moreover. There is the standard edition, and a collector’s “deluxe” limited edition. The latter comes with previously unseen exhibition photographs as well as a 64-page booklet featuring a new essay by Eno.

Eno said in a statement back in 2006, “If you think of music as a moving, changing form, and painting as a still form, what I’m trying to do is make very still music and paintings that move…. I’m trying to find in both of those forms, the space in between the traditional concept of music and the traditional concept of painting.”

Now in case casual readers are wondering, what is this doing here, on a philosophy blog? Why is a philosopher writing about, and promoting, a box set of CDs by Brian Eno. Let me address this. Eno has said on a number of occasions how he was influenced to think about art following a remark he attributed to the mother of a girl he was dating as a teenager, someone who had taken a liking to him and would influence him. What she asked him was, in effect, why someone as obviously bright as him was “wasting his time” at an art school (Ipswich). The question was clearly a turning point in his life, for as he put it later:

“ … it set a question going in my mind that has always stayed with me, and motivated a lot of what I’ve done: what does art do for people, why do people do it, why don’t we only do rational things, like design better engines? And because it came from someone I very much respected, that was the foundation of my intellectual life.”

Eno has since noted elsewhere that while those in the sciences, or engineering, have a pretty good consensus on the point to what they are doing, if you ask ten different artists about the purpose of art in human life, you might get ten different answers.

It struck me, upon reading those words, that the same kinds of questions could, and can, be asked about philosophy. Why have certain people been driven to do it? What does philosophy do for them? Is it rational to do it in a science-and-technology based civilization, when it doesn’t produce anything of truly commercial value? Does it contribute anything essential in society? My answers to the last two questions have always been a resounding Yes, that philosophy — perhaps like art — has a job to do in civilization, although if you ask different philosophers what that job is, again you’ll get a range of answers. This kind of question, though, became the foundation for my work in progress, What Should Philosophy Do? (a few preliminaries elsewhere on this blog).

What Eno does in his installations is to set up CD players at various locations around the installation, program them to play tracks of different lengths at random, some of the tracks silent, so that what results could play, in principle, for thousands of years without repeating exactly. What’s the point? He wants us thinking about time, including deep time, as a means to long-term thinking in the present. As one of the co-founders of The Long Now Foundation, he is an advocate of thinking about and planning a future our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren will find livable.

In other words, and in sum, Brian Eno’s artistic and musical activities, as well as his thought as reflected in his essays, are surely relevant to a wide range of thinking about philosophical activities in the world, as reflected in our essays. Eno does not get everything right, but the fact that he has Israel’s number is enough for me to think carefully about my judgment when I think he gets something wrong (as with world government and universal basic income).

All that aside, Eno’s musical output alone opens up a tremendous space for creating the kind of personal environment many of us like to have when we set fingers to word processor: music that is often more suited to filling a background without distracting us from our work. For this reason I’ve always recommended his best albums of quiet instrumental material that have been commercially available all along, such as Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) or On Land (1982) or Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983) (composed to accompany the National Geographic special on the moon landings entitled For All Mankind, finally issued on VHS in 1989).

 

Music for Installations Official Release, May 5, 2018.

Track Listing (CDs)

DISC ONE : Music From Installations
01: Kazakhstan ( 20:33 )
02: The Ritan Bells ( 17:05 )
03: Five Light Paintings ( 19:56 )
04: Flower Bells ( 18:49 )

DISC TWO: 77 Million Paintings
01: 77 Million Paintings ( 43:57 )

DISC THREE : Lightness – Music For The Marble Palace
01: Atmospheric Lightness ( 30:40 )
02: Chamber Lightness ( 25:00 )

DISC FOUR : ‘ I Dormienti’ / ‘Kite Stories’
01: I Dormienti ( 39:42 )
02: Kites I ( 8:07 )
03: Kites II ( 14:29 )
04: Kites III ( 7:34 )

DISC FIVE : ‘Making Space’
01: Needle Click ( 4:09 )
02: Light Legs ( 3:38 )
03: Flora and Fauna / Gleise 581d ( 3:56 )
04: New Moons ( 4:03 )
05: Vanadium ( 1:56 )
06: All The Stars Were Out ( 3:53 )
07: Hopeful Timean Intersect ( 5:13 )
08: World Without Wind ( 5:24 )
09: Delightful Universe ( seen from above ) ( 7:33 )

DISC SIX : Music For Future Installations
01: Unnoticed Planet ( 7:45 )
02: Liquidambar ( 6:55 )
03: Sour Evening ( Complex Heaven 3 ) ( 8:12 )
04: Surbahar Sleeping Music ( 18:16 )

Posted in Culture, Music, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Latest in Academic Malfeasance (at Least She’s Not in Academic Philosophy)

Most people would claim, commonsensically I think, that a wrong has been done by insulting someone recently deceased, unless that person did something truly heinous during her life.

In that case, what are we to make of the Twitter attacks on the late Barbara Bush by Randa Jarrar, English professor at California State University at Fresno, or Fresno State. What Jarrar tweeted: “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.” She added she was “happy the witch is dead” and hoped the rest of the family would soon follow.

jarrar_image2

She has received support from civil rights and arts groups, which speaks volumes about where such groups’ heads are at these days.

Who is she? We know that she has tenure at her university (and is paid a generous six figures!), for in response to the thousands who criticized her tweets as inappropriate and uncalled-for, she pointed this out, almost as if gloating. We know she grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, came to the U.S. after the Gulf War, and self-identifies as both an “Arab-American” and a “Muslim woman.”

We also know that when someone tried to post her contact information online, she retaliated by posting a student crisis hotline based at Arizona State University as her personal phone number. “If you really wanna reach me, here’s my number ok?” she taunted. It is unclear why she chose ASU, as she did not go to school there and appears to have no connection to the institution.

The hotline, which normally receives around five calls per week, was inundated with dozens of phone calls per hour.

This was not a mere juvenile prank. This is what I call academic malfeasance — conceivably criminal, although an attorney or court of law would have to make that kind of determination. Suppose a student had needed to call that number and not been able to get through because the line was tied up!

These actions speak for themselves!

I linked to Jarrar’s personal website above, which also speaks for itself. It tells you what you might want to know about her preoccupations.

Her university page lists no formal credentials, unlike the pages of her colleagues. I don’t want to harp too much on the matter here, but one wonders if Fresno State’s affirmative action program had anything to do with her being hired there in the first place. This is probably a stupid question. Many of us have criticized affirmative action for opening the door to hiring unqualified people apt to create this sort of row, and have their actions given feeble rationalizations by administrators they serve under.

In this case, Fresno State president Joseph Castro stated of her remarks that “Her comments, although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution…. Our duty as Americans and educators is to promote a free exchange of diverse views, even if we disagree with them.”

He added, “Professor Jarrar’s conduct was insensitive, inappropriate and an embarrassment to the university…. On campus and whenever we are representing the university, I expect all of us to engage in respectful dialogue.”

I will just ask: would a professor still have a university job after such remarks, had he been a white male and the target of his criticism was, say, a Muslim woman (or someone in any other government-designated victim group)? Or even if he had criticized the late wife of a former Democratic president? I’ll leave readers to ponder the matter, as well as why President Castro has chosen to hide behind the First Amendment.

Hide behind? Is it appropriate of me to say that? After all, does the First Amendment not protect speech many would deem “offensive”? I wonder, though, if he believes Jarrar’s First Amendment rights entitle her to post an actual crisis hotline number as if it were her personal number, or if he wasn’t informed of this, or simply doesn’t consider the matter important enough to pursue.

Besides, the First Amendment did not protect Steve Salaita, whose tweets criticized Israel. The object lesson for cautious observers of that case: never criticize Israel (especially not with Zionist Jews on your would-have-been employer’s board of trustees!).

Professors who lean conservative (Salaita does not, obviously) have been driven from their jobs for far less. One may consider the case of John McAdams, released by Marquette University following his criticizing a female graduate student whom he had accused of trying to shut down criticism of gay marriage in her philosophy class — that is, in one of the few subjects where open discussion of different perspectives on morality, homosexuality, and gay marriage should be considered legitimate. The university contends McAdams was fired for “doxing” the student: posting her personal information on his blog. McAdams responds that what he posted was already publicly available information. His lawsuit against his former employer goes to the Wisconsin Supreme Court this very week.

There is no affirmative action for conservative intellectuals in academe, it goes without saying, although some have (only half-seriously) suggested it. Nor, obviously, do conservatives receive the kinds of passes or kid-glove handling for “offensive” speech Jarrar has received.

It seems to me that had a bona fide merit system been put in place in academia over half a century ago, we would not be seeing these controversies nor be having to raise these issues today.

In closing, I will note that neither Bush was my favorite U.S. president. It was under the first George Bush’s watch that NAFTA was finalized, after all; “neoconservatism” completed its takeover of the Republican Party during that era; and political correctness got the foothold in the universities it has strengthened ever since while neocon-dominated think tanks and supposed watchdog organizations did little beyond wringing their hands.

It was under the command of the second George Bush that the U.S. committed one of its worst foreign policy blunders ever: the Iraq War.

But none of these follies can be attributed to the late Barbara Bush. What reasonable person could think they could be?

There is a time and a place to critically discuss policies, and a time and a place just to be quiet and show respect for the recently deceased, while leaving their families alone. I would think there would be no need to remind adults of that, but it has been a long time since adults were in charge in many humanities and liberal arts departments: one of the reasons these subjects have fallen into disrepute and are even being phased out in some places.

The one plus I see in this whole pathetic situation: at least Randa Jarrar is not in a philosophy program!

Posted in Academia, Higher Education Generally | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Truth Teller’s Dilemma, Part 1

[Author’s note: this was previously posted elsewhere, but it strikes me that all three parts of this extended essay should be available on the same site. This will render them out of order, but I think my readers are smart enough to figure out what is going on. I’ve had to make a few very minor changes, and one update at the end. This will be the first of several offerings of previously published material, spread across the next several weeks as time permits, that is in danger of being zapped into data heaven, so to speak, if not “rescued” and placed here.]

I have tried to tell the truth — on this site, on others where I post or have written articles (e.g., here and here), and long ago at places where I am no longer welcome (here; archive butchered into unrecognizability). I’ve not done this for myself. My gains have been negligible. I’ve done it for you — readers — out of a sense, often distressing, that truth should be told and writers have an obligation to tell it. I don’t always get everything right, or cover every topic out there. No one does. But given my limitations — no staff, no income from this worth speaking of (needing outside work, therefore), and being outside the U.S. — I don’t think I do badly. I’ve had occasional help from boots-on-the-ground sources, to whom I am profoundly grateful.

It was clear before the end of the 1990s: before we fully realized that a free press in the U.S. was a myth and had been for some time, the uncensored Internet had the potential to be a repository of truth: a boon to truth-seekers and truth-tellers the likes of which we had not seen before.

Turning points: Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton-Lewinsky story when mainstream outlets were burying it. New alternative media sources emphasizing later that Bill Clinton was not impeached for having sex with an intern in the Oval Office but lying under oath to a grand jury. Pivotal articles on an assortment of topics: this (orig. 1997), thisthis which used to be available for free but the original is long gone, this, and this. And the posting of older, crucial documents like thisthis, and especially this, among others.

Then came the film that capped off that decade: The Matrix (1999), which inspired my debut series on NewsWithViews.com. What makes this film one of the half-dozen or so most important of the past century is its planting firmly in popular culture the suggestion that much of what we are told — by media and other corporations, government, academia, even many churches — is designed to create an appearance of republican democracy, personal freedoms, and general political-economic well-being, in which, whatever seems wrong, the “experts” have things in hand!

The truth: much of our education and many crucial activities — work, play, taxes — all further in one way or another, while hiding them behind smokescreens of various sorts, the goals of the oligarchy of kleptocrats in central banks and other global corporations, secondarily their bought political and administrative classes, and the power systems emanating from what is now called the Deep State: the military-intelligence-security-information complex. The main smokescreen is mainstream (corporate) media, owned by a handful of megaconglomerates and elite billionaires. What is a kleptocrat? We mean someone who may once have earned money with a genuinely useful product people wanted, but who discovered that in a financialized system based on fractional banking and fiat money he can get much richer through investment (going public, taking stock buybacks, etc.). And has joined the 300 or so extended families who for well over a century have seen themselves as most fit to rule over the unwashed masses, their rulership being all but invisible unless you know just where to look.

The Matrix of the film was “a neural-active simulation … a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this,” says the central character Morpheus as he holds up a common flashlight battery, implying the machines’ parasitic use of our life energies while lay there, plugged in, oblivious. The Real Matrix is the fantasy world generated by major media, government, and public education with assistance from other dominant institutions, its purpose being to keep us peons under control, ignorant of our parasite masters but properly servile within the system that empowers and enriches them.

Many folks, as The Matrix’s central character Morpheus observes, are at least modestly satisfied in their ignorance, as the Real Matrix supplies paychecks, creature comforts, and sometimes advancement for the especially cooperative, along with abundant entertainment on the side (professional sports, American Idol, the Kardashians, other public spectacles of all kinds). They are entirely dependent on the system — not just economically but psychologically. They will fight to protect the fantasy world.

Aldous Huxley wrote back in 1955:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers.”

And CNN talking heads and many “economists” paid to cite statistics allegedly telling us that all is well in the ship of state — claims often in conflict with viewers’ personal experiences, causing cognitive dissonance. The restless can look to professional agitators across the political spectrum. The point is to keep those involved in “causes” believing they have options they realistically do not have, and to direct their attention and activities down dead ends. As long as violent baby-leftists (e.g., Antifa) and naïve alt-rightists are screaming obscenities at one another, sometimes exchanging blows, neither sees what is happening at the top.

Today, we are losing the Internet, little by little. I am not referring to “net neutrality,” another distraction. The kleptocrats allowed the Internet to get away from them well before that. It was bound to dawn on some of them that this was a mistake. Since late 2016 they have been taking action to rectify that mistake. It hasn’t been that difficult.

For starters, the Internet is now dominated by a handful of corporate goliaths: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, a few others. All are in bed with the Deep State. Google’s is the dominant search engine, which now owns YouTube, the largest online repository of videos, and WhatsApp, the most popular messaging system. Facebook and Twitter are the most visible social media platforms. Their reputations for censorship, and the former for carelessness (on the most charitable interpretation!) with user data, grow almost daily. Amazon is the largest online retailer — and a major contractor with the CIA. Windows has been the dominant operating system for PCs at least since 1995, with which Linux cannot truly compete even when you can download it for free, because of arrangements made long ago between Microsoft and manufacturers to pre-install Windows and accompanying software on their devices.

Convenient? Of course! No one wanted to buy a computer and have to install the operating system himself. The masses’ desire for convenience is a tool that can be used, however. If you believe “free market competition” exists in this environment, the Real Matrix still has you.

The Real Matrix still has you, moreover, if you believe the brand of capitalist that dominates this industry has any interest in freedom of speech or thought. The career trajectory of James Damore, fired from Google following his frank but reasonable explanation why the corporation could not recruit more women engineers, ought to dispel that notion at once. Damore’s claim was the obvious one: because of our natural, biological “hardwiring” there are things men tend to be better at than women, such as engineering, just as there are things women are better at than men, such as nursing and other kinds of caregiving. For this Damore was dismissed from his job at Google. He sued; his suit was dismissed, unsurprising given both the power imbalance and the legal system’s commitment to gender preferences (in the Orwellian tongue: equal opportunity). Some of the ensuing discussionindicated how science itself has been corrupted by identity politics, as well as the lengths to which some will go to discredit dissidents like Damore. The relevant questions thus cannot be asked. Dissenting lines of inquiry cannot be pursued. Doing so is career suicide.

Visceral threats to job, income, career, are how de facto coercion is exercised in present-day digital capitalism — a brand of dictatorship without a visible dictator because the coercion is systemic, a manifestation of what the late political philosopher Sheldon Wolin (1922 – 2015) called inverted totalitarianism in which economics trumps politics, everything and everyone is commodified, our lives are encircled by consumerism and theater, and elections become farces because so-called liberal democracy has become a façade.

Behind the façade, moneyed interests and their lobbyists matter; voters do not. The latter’s focus, moreover, is more on their own often precarious situations than electoral politics, situations that are also systemic. Wolin emphasized that classic totalitarians (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao) encouraged enthusiastic mass support. Inverted totalitarianism encourages and reinforces apathy, as the masses are perpetually entangled in myriad private dilemmas (job worries, the rising cost of health care, etc.).

In the past, yes, online dissent was tolerated. Films like The Matrix got made and widely discussed. Perhaps the kleptocrats did not see these as much of a threat. But on the night of November 8, 2016, that changed.

YouTube has removed thousands of conservative-leaning and “conspiratorial” videos. The site’s owners are also purging anything seeming to promote guns and gun-ownership. The former is part of the ongoing campaign against “fake news,” i.e., the cyberwar against online truth-telling which began right after Donald Trump’s “populist” victory blindsided the kleptocrats and became the biggest threat in over a generation to their path through globalizing economics to a world state that would answer to their corporate empires (some called this state of affairs the New World Order, a phrase sullied from overuse).

This war’s opening shots were fired here: with unnamed “experts” alleging the presence of espionage-level “Russian propaganda” on some 199 alternative news/commentary sites, recommending a federal investigation, but presenting no evidence to back up their charges. The article’s credibility should have been zero. The reportage was National Enquirer quality. But we weren’t reading The National Enquirer. We were reading the front page of The Washington Post.

There’s part of our problem. Credibility by longstanding position and name-recognition, not to mention the vastly superior resources of an owner, Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com), with a net worth now over $105 billion. If you believe position, name-recognition, and massive wealth now accrued through ownership of Amazon stock provide guarantees of truthfulness, the Real Matrix still has you.

Do we now have any insight into who or what was behind PropOrNot? This might enlighten you. Warning: it’s not pretty!

It was primarily in response to the PropOrNot stunt and the publicity it generated that Google changed its search algorithms, making “alternative news” harder to find. Many alternative sites saw their web traffic drop precipitously over subsequent months.

My “The Real Matrix” series (mentioned above) garnered hundreds of emails, including requests to reprint, talk radio invites, and an all-expenses-paid speaking gig at a national meeting (original website long gone, interestingly).

For well over a year now, my articles have been doing well to receive a dozen responses, most from long time readers. Invitations to speak have vanished.

The sites removed from YouTube include those of Mike Adams, better known as the Health Ranger. Still available, at least as of this writing, is Alex Jones’s InfoWars channel which at one point had two complaints against it (three and you’re gone). Jones has threatened to sue if his channel is removed. Such a suit would strike another blow for freedom of speech on the Internet, and its outcome would speak volumes about whether free speech will continue to exist in any meaningful form. Whether you like Jones or not, he’s less of a pushover than a James Damore, if only because as an Internet entrepreneur instead of an ex-employee he has greater visibility and commands more resources.

Jones is being sued, however, adding yet another layer of intrigue to our story. Brennan Gilmore, who filmed the car plowing into the crowd in Charlottesville, lodged a complaint alleging that he’s suffered harassment and threats, and that members of his family have been harassed as well. He blames “conspiracy theorists” generally and Jones in particular. Jones and others suggested last August that as a former employee in Hillary Clinton’s State Department and a known Hillary supporter, as well as an employee of a Virginia Democrat partly funded by George Soros, his presence at that exact spot seemed like something more than pure chance. This is not, as his suit alleges, to make the simplistic charge that he “planned the attack.” This is on a par with inferring from the holes in the official story of the 9/11 attacks the idea that “George W. Bush planned 9/11,” something no one with a brain believes.

A statement from Gilmore’s attorney, of the very well-connected Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic: “We don’t think the First Amendment protects blatantly defamatory speech that inspires violence and hatred of victims of terrorist attacks and mass shootings.” This statement’s dishonesty is literally off the map. Gilmore made himself a public figure. He wrote articles. Defamation accusations hold water only if its targets really said those things. This has not been shown. At what point did anyone visible expressed “hatred” for the victim of the car attack? Perhaps such statements can be found on a few extreme-right forums where anything goes. As I don’t visit such sites I have no idea what’s on them. Jones is surely not responsible for their content, and I doubt he threatened anyone in Gilmore’s family which is, of course, reprehensible.

But if YouTube were to get away with shutting down Alex Jones’s channel, or if Gilmore and his Deep State connected law firm can wage the increasingly common practice of “lawfare” to harm him monetarily nevertheless, think what these and other powerful players could do to us lesser-knowns who are struggling financially — mainly because of our truth-telling activities!

Are we nearing a day when anyone branded a “conspiracy theorist” on, say, CNN, or demonized as a “hater” by the equally well-connected (and immensely well-funded) Southern Poverty Law Center, will have no First Amendment protections?*

When the First Amendment is interpreted by the Supreme Court as protecting huge campaign contributions from billionaires (Citizens United), but a court will not protect criticisms of radical feminist assumptions by a James Damore, has free speech not become as big of a joke as the idea of a free press?

Do you really believe you have freedom of speech on social media?

To continue with Part 2, go here.

Part 3 is here.

*UPDATE April 24, 2018: a number of Sandy Hook parents have also filed suit against Alex Jones on similar grounds. Jones had claimed that the mass shooting of December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook High School in Newtown, Ct., was a staged event and that the parents were crisis actors. The issue is not whether Jones is right or whether he is wrong, but whether what he says on his own channel is protected speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which never promised anyone an offense-free environment.

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Truth-Teller’s Dilemma, Part 3

For Part 1, click here.

For Part 2, click here.

Most so-called journalists today, moneyed “professionals” whom Paul Craig Roberts bitterly calls presstitutes, would not know the truth if it walked up and hit them. Roberts, who served as Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan and afterwards as an assistant editor with the Wall Street Journal, was excommunicated from the mainstream in 2004 for questioning free trade orthodoxy, on the grounds that changed technology has exacted corresponding changes in how corporations operate since the days of David Ricardo. Comparative advantage, he argued, has been replaced with absolute advantage due to the present-day mobility of capital and its capacity to shift operations to third-world nations where labor is cheap and environmental regulations virtually nonexistent.

Roberts was attacked furiously by evangelists of free trade. It was his last appearance in a mainstream publication. He was, indeed, making assumptions: that laws regarding minimum wages and the environment serve a purpose, because, contrary to the evangelists, capital is not self-regulating. Roberts has since questioned several other mainstream official narratives, from 9/11 to the supposed killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan to the recent supposed chemical weapons attack in Syria. He also relies on boots-on-the-ground sources which almost inevitably conflict with official narratives.

His website was listed by PropOrNot as a source of “pro-Russia propaganda.” It, too, is struggling.

One reason Donald Trump won in 2016 was his command of media — all kinds. He bypassed the narrative-manufacturing “experts” and talked directly to his base — whose unhappiness with the cultural left and with the globalism dominating the GOP mainstream was manifest, made concrete with disdain for job outsourcing, illegal immigration, open borders, etc.

Hence a determined effort to take media back.

All of it.

A very-lopsided battle of wits and wills is going on before our eyes: lopsided because we have excommunicated and crowdfunded or self-funded truth-tellers out here in the boonies going up against billionaire-owned, well-connected enterprises from Google to The Washington Post and CNN in the centers of power and opulence.

A fuzzy center-left mindset controls the “brick & mortar” media leviathans, as it has for decades. This mindset gets warm and cozy with “diversity” and its social engineers, turning scathing at what bad men Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are. This serves the interests of power — in the central banks and other financial centers, organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the CIA and other Deep State entities, Israel, and global corporations who profit from war and free trade evangelism, while well-paid “economists” provide the public with scare tactics about “protectionism” even as the Communist Chinese government protects the industries it owns!

An equally safe cultural left mindset controls the social media and technology behemoths. They would claim that the bulk of their young users accept identity-political mores, and with technology being global and therefore diverse, adopting them is simply good business. Their “good business” practices (as with those of many others) also play into the hands of those whose long-term goal, we should never forget, is establishing a corporation-controlled world state.

Some people believe such an entity is inevitable, and would be good. I think not! Under its watch, financially independent middle classes would be impossible. Very likely there would be stringent licensing of would-be entrepreneurs involving up-front fees most could not afford, leaving working people able only to trade time and labor for money, working ever longer hours for money with diminishing purchasing power: the actual new serfdom. The dollar would probably be replaced by IMF special drawing rights as the world’s reserve currency, which would rapidly drive down the standard of living inside the U.S.

Large corporations have never wanted competition, which John D. Rockefeller Sr. is alleged to have called “a sin.” Whether he really said that or not, it is known that he maneuvered to establish maximum control over the oil industry, while other corporate titans of his time established controls in other industries (Carnegie in steel, Vanderbilt in railroads, etc.; the latter, incidentally, would only carry Rockefeller oil).

For a long time, of course, upward mobility in many areas of the economy was possible through determination and work, alongside safety nets and a few sensible regulations on big business, but then we got the 1960s: a mixed bag of tricks by any description. Identity politics may have got its start in that decade with the writings of cultural Marxist philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse, but so did a great deal of political-economic enlightenment. The Deep State of the time was forced to scrap an unpopular war (Vietnam) its denizens had wanted very badly.

Since then, as part and parcel with the rise of the neoconservative-neoliberal axis, we’ve seen the rise of free trade ideology and open borders policies which are wrecking European nations even as I write: manifestations of kleptocrat globalism that have been fundamentally destructive of middle class existence. The latter depends on stable jobs with upward mobility within a relatively stable cultural environment, as opposed to outsourcing labor to third world countries or importing unassimilable populations from such places.

Precarious employment thus rules the day. Look at academia, which is self-destructing. Fully 70% of new faculty jobs are part-time, “adjunct” positions — while some university presidents are paid seven figures and the head football coach is usually a millionaire. The irony of academia is that while humanities / liberal arts fields have sunk ever more deeply into identity politics, the institutions themselves have become more and more corporatized. The fact that many students have gone into debt “voluntarily” and are graduating with five and sometimes six figures of student loan debt is proving to be an immense boon to their being controlled systemically. You cannot exactly protest the corporate state’s wars of choice when you cannot afford to move from under your parents’ roof due to massive debt and a lack of decent employment.

For “temp jobs” have become the norm in many arenas, not just academia. It’s called the gig economy. This represents control over labor itself, as precarity means uncertainty about one’s future and an inability to plan rationally. Forced into daily worry over their own situations, precarious laborers (Uber, anyone?) are less likely to protest the status quo and will probably not have time or motivation to watch what the kleptocrats are doing.

We are in an era not of mere “inequality,” but one of an unprecedented consolidation of wealth and power at the top, alongside the systemic destruction of conditions for upward mobility and financial independence on any large scale.

The cultural left misses most of it by gender-bending and swinging at windmills of generalized “white privilege.”

The right, including most Trump-supporters, is also missing something important: the impetus to replace human workers with robotics — the ultimate attack on employment from the top, done in the name of “market forces.” For far more jobs are threatened by changing technology than by immigration, legal or otherwise.

These sorts of things are what we should be focusing on, and there should be more focus on it within the Trump camp than there is.

I fear, though, that the cultural left dividers and other sources of theater are winning the day.

The truth again: the kleptocrats want us divided: blacks against whites, women against men, secularists and Muslims against Christians, anti-gunners against gun owners, etc. Divide and conquer has always been the oldest rule in the book. Actual and would-be totalitarians have been using it for centuries. Racism was created and fomented by corporate-state oligarchs of post-War Between the States America who feared that newly freed blacks and underprivileged whites would find common cause and form a populist alliance against them. The KKK came out of the conditions this mindset created.

Cultural leftists will never grasp this. The Real Matrix has them.

Divider ploys are in evidence everywhere today: me-too feminism, the high school kids who suddenly became experts on gun policy, (probably true) allegations against Trump from a porn star and other women of the same ilk, mainstream media providing hours of hysterical coverage of it all and enjoying the ratings as the dollars come rolling in.

All theater.

The Trump administration faces real, existential threats. The most obvious is Robert Mueller’s hunt for collusion between Trump campaigners and Russia, which is morphing into a far more plausible consolidation of evidence that Trump obstructed justice when, e.g., he fired James Comey early last year. Other existential threats are subtler until they strike, like rattlesnakes. There have been snakes under Trump’s nose all along. One leaked an internal memo to The Washington Post following Trump’s call to Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulating him on his reelection.

The memo said: Do Not Congratulate!

Were I Trump, I would have been livid!

Were I Trump, I would not have signed that $1.3 trillion omnibus bill he signed on March 23, which brought upon him justified criticism from real conservatives as it gives plenty to Democrats and other countries in the form of foreign aid but apparently does not specifically appropriate funds for a border wall. We do not know all that it contains, because as Trump pointed out, again and obviously, no one can claim to have actually read its 2,000-plus pages.

It’s easy to believe we’re right back where we started, with out-of-control federal spending.

Trump’s promise never to sign such a bill again rings hollow. Maybe he won’t — until the next time.

More recently, Trump appears to have fallen hook, line and sinker for allegations of the chemical weapons attack at Douma, Syria, that in all probability did not happen as such.

Is the Trump administration itself part of the theater?!?!

There are long-term trends Trump should be paying attention to but apparently isn’t: for example, the national debt that just crossed the $21 trillion threshold, with no end in sight (total indebtedness is much, much higher, of course). Trump’s pick for Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, is another mainstreamer whose political-economic philosophy does not differ significantly from that of Yellen or Bernanke or even Alan Greenspan who gave us the original “bubble-nomics” of the 1990s. This was a disappointment, as Powell’s and other central bankers’ machinations could precipitate economic ruin on a level that would make 2008 look like a cakewalk by comparison.

Trump’s enemies would see to it that he was blamed. As a businessman and straight talker trying to operate in that rattlesnakes’ den known as Washington, D.C., I am very much unsure he understands even now what he’s up against.

Globalists do not believe in de jure national borders, and they are not above setting up someone who does for personal, political, and financial ruin. They do not care if the U.S. bankrupts itself, so long as (1) whatever disruptions ensue are manageable (using corporate media to whet fear and encourage compliance with the authorities in the name of security and safety has always worked in the past); and (2) the U.S. war machine emerges unscathed!

It need to be made clear as crystal: this administration, as understood by the base, is all that is standing in the way of a full-throttle return to the steady march into a corporation-controlled world state.

The Bush-Clinton-Obama axis was/is on board with that program, which is how they got away with murder — sometimes literally!

Some believe Trump is now on it, as he wants his presidency to survive. Perhaps he has been on board all along. What he signed right before Christmas last year contained an uncomfortable quantity of Christmas presents for corporate elites!

[Author’s note, April 17-18: in light of the carefully orchestrated attack on Syria which took place on April 13-14, the likelihood that Trump has been fully compromised now seems many times higher than it did when I wrote the above in late March, as his own remarks delivered Friday night, April 13, were the remarks of one who has gone full neocon. Second, even this assumes Trump was sincere from the beginning, which this throws into doubt. Third, I have not changed my position on the italicized paragraph above, which means that apparent superficial improvements in the U.S. economy will not last; we can safely predict another downturn for which Trump will be blamed as 2020 approaches whether or not he is able to remain in office. Then, during the 2020s, it will become evident to everyone with eyes to see that the U.S. empire has sunk into a terminal, irreversible decline — again except for its military machine.]

It is time to wrap up this discussion. Where do we go from here? What can we do? is a question I am sometimes asked, as if I could press a magic button and this thing I am typing on would spit out a response that applied to everyone.

I speak only for myself. What you do, is entirely your choice. I do not know your circumstances and cannot control your choices, including your choice of worldview. There is abundant information on what will offer you wise guidance. I’ve made my case for one worldview (cf. also here) and against another. Mine tells me this is a fallen world, and that there are therefore no perfect solutions. There are a few imperfect ones, such as actually supporting the persons and causes you believe are worth supporting, or developing a Plan B and freeing yourself from dominance of your daily activities by totalizing employment trading time for money, and by technology. The latter might involve getting off Facebook and Twitter, or putting down your gadget of “choice” long enough to perceive the real human beings around you.

If you believe something is wrong when the world’s supposed bastion of freedom also has the world’s highest incarceration rate — indeed, a higher incarceration rate than Communist China! — then investigate it and take a stand. A point made by Sheldon Wolin is that inverted totalitarianism involves an extremely harsh and punitive “justice” system calculated to inspire fear, especially in those without the money to defend themselves. In the present system, whether anyone likes it or not, money is what counts, not abstractions like justice. What happens when prisons are run by corporations for private profit should not be lost on us. Nor should the continuing epidemic of brutality and what amounts to cold blooded murder by police be lost on us. To the best of my knowledge, Trump’s appeal to a law-and-order America does not involve a stand against murder-by-cop (2017 and 2018)!

In the past I thought of myself as a libertarian, but now realize how naïve I was about how a money-centered economy really works in this fallen world. One might put it this way: media and technology empires are not in the truth business, they are in the money business. The kleptocrats above them are in the power business, as they have more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes and then some. They have no ideology as such. Understanding them and determining what to do requires freeing one’s thoughts from the mental self-policing of “isms” — capitalism, socialism, Marxism, liberalism, libertarianism, progressivism, neoliberalism, neoconservatism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. — and from dichotomous thinking and the need to find someone across the aisle to demonize: a conservitard, libtard, commie, fascist, Nazi, sexist, misogynist, racist, white supremacist….

The great twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) described his discipline as “a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”

Who is doing your thinking, you or your favorite “ism”?

Free your mind! Morpheus from The Matrix again: “I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.”

The truth-teller’s dilemma is that this is never palatable, much less marketable.

The film The Matrix made money, because it was exciting and entertaining. Truth-tellers generally do not, because their results are neither. In media-saturated and market-driven cultures where truth and evidence aren’t valued, those who try to sell them may survive on the margins but won’t prosper.

Two additional items of linguistic evidence illustrate the disdain for truth-tellers in Establishment media: the words truthiness (coined by Stephen Colbert) and truther, once attached to those skeptical of the official 9/11 narrative but more recently applied more broadly (e.g., “Sandy Hook truthers”). The purpose here is to present truth-tellers as deluded or malicious or hostile to “fact-based” or “evidence-based” reporting, this being part of the mainstream’s attempt to halt and reverse its vanishing credibility. (See also this and this, in which defenses of expertise rest ultimately on defenses of presently dominant paradigms of knowledge and scientific method, as if positive science was an enterprise frozen in time.)

I have begun two simultaneous projects. (1) Together, they will leave me unable to research and write the kind of philosophically as well as culturally-informed commentary I prefer to write, which is time-consuming and not easy to produce; (2) they will provide alternatives to the unsuccessful Patreon.com effort.

I conclude this swansong piece (at least for now) with the admonition that Huxley’s description of a “kinder, gentler” totalitarianism — Wolin’s inverted totalitarianism which is neither kind nor gentle if you inspect it closely — is your future if you remain where you are, complacent, standing by and doing nothing while everyone and everything that challenges real power or which tries to provoke you to think is driven into a digital ghetto.

If you care about truth-telling, support it! If not me, then choose some cause or site that stands for human life and personal or community autonomy against encroaching globalism and donate to it!

I’ve tried to tell the truth. But for now, I must fall silent.

[The intent of this final short paragraph: silent as regards this sort of commentary, as this piece was not originally destined for Lost Generation Philosopher. I will continue posting about philosophical matters and application to the problems of society and of life in general that seem to me important and useful.]

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