Friday, 25 November 2016

The war is far from over

Apparently, minority groups across America believe they will be vulnerable to persecution under a Trump presidency. Millions of bigots, whose tendencies had been kept in check by President Obama, will become suddenly emboldened. Hate crimes will skyrocket. Immigrants will be dragged from their homes and thrown into internment camps or deported. Gays, lesbians and transsexuals will be openly mocked and abused. Boozed-up rednecks will cruise the streets in pickup trucks, lynching anyone whose face doesn’t fit. And so on.

It’s true that Trump has promised to enforce immigration law (something that only seems outrageous after eight years of imperial disdain for the statute book), but the rest of this doomsaying is pure hysteria. The tempest of hate supposedly directed at the Left's favourite victims really boils down to a willingness to call bullshit on the lies and conspiracy theories that shore up these groups’ victimhood and empower the left-wing establishment.

From white supremacy and the patriarchy to Islamophobia and the cop-executioners of Black Lives Matter imagination, these fantasies have been uncritically reported by the liberal media as incontestable facts. The same media then calmly describes any contrary opinion as extremist - not opinions remotely on the scale of those progressive fables, you understand, but anything that merely contradicts them.

Breitbart News had a taste of this during its recent run-in with AppNexus. The ad exchange firm blacklisted Breitbart for allegedly using inflammatory language. It declined to give examples, so the BBC helpfully provided some in its report on the story: one headline suggesting women being offended online should log off, another calling for Southerners to take pride in the Confederate flag, and a third describing young Western Muslims as a ticking timebomb.

These headlines are only scarily ‘out there’ if you subscribe lock, stock and barrel to the progressive worldview. Otherwise, they just represent a different perspective - one that doesn't take the Left's word as gospel and doesn't believe that opposing its agenda amounts to an attack on the people it claims to care about.

While conservatives are branded bigots for failing to stand aside and wave through the progressive bulldozer, those caring-sharing lefties can do all the rioting, looting, punching, kicking and screaming they like, and if the media bothers to report it, it's to claim they were riled up by right-wing hate. Concerned about those fake news stories we keep hearing about? Look no further.

But times are a-changing. It's gradually dawning on the Left that it can no longer recite its favourite tropes without fear of dissent. The media’s determined efforts to thwart Trump and crush Brexit have destroyed what public trust it enjoyed, and harmed its effectiveness as a propaganda machine. The silent majority has had its say and the establishment is appalled to discover that decades of browbeating have not shaken erroneous thoughts from its head.

This must be particularly hard to take when (in cultural terms, at least) the Left seemed to be at some kind of apogee until quite recently. The banshee wail of social justice warriors echoed across the land, winning support from politicians, on-message hacks and harebrained celebrities. A blizzard of po-faced hashtags circled the globe, leaving no one in any doubt that racism, sexism, white privilege and all those terrible ‘phobias’ were grave problems that only a censorious left-wing establishment could defeat. The EU would march on, Hillary would be President, the SJWs would prevail, and all would be right in the world. Then this.

Anyone expecting a rethink by leftists will be disappointed. They will cling to their theories more fiercely than ever in the coming months. They will treat every bump in the road as proof that the Right got it wrong. If it rains on their birthday, it'll be the fault of Trump, Brexit, etc. And if reality proves otherwise, they'll bury their heads and carry on regardless.

They have plenty of form at this kind of thing. Take for instance that notorious symptom of the patriarchy, the gender pay gap - a theory so thoroughly refuted even the Huffington Post has been known to doubt it. Lefties still trot it out with a straight face and cry “woman-hater” at anyone who objects. Do they know it's a bogus statistic? Probably, but they would justify its use by saying it helps push the issue of sexism up the public agenda. And how do they know such sexism exists? Well, just look at the gender pay gap.

If misogyny were truly rife in society, proof of its existence would come down to more than debunked studies, prickly paranoia and mental gymnastics. Since that's all we get, there must be some underlying need by the Left to believe that we live in a deeply sexist society. Likewise, when Black Lives Matter jumps to conclusions and sticks to them long after they've been contradicted by facts, we're seeing a pathological need to believe that America is a virulently racist place.

These comfort blankets don't come without a cost. They sow disunity and distrust. They encourage a belief that the feelings of designated victims are more important than the facts of the matter. They dissuade individuals from examining the real cause of their unhappiness (often themselves). Perhaps worst of all, they describe millions of blameless people as bigots and invite them to be despised.

This isn't an unhappy coincidence. Left-wing ‘compassion’ always amounts to scapegoating someone else and punishing them for their sins. Outcomes that don't apportion blame and demand atonement don't pass muster. All those noble causes that lead to this point are just a pretext. It's screwing over others and destroying their way of life that matters.

What ‘white people’, the patriarchy and all those other bogeymen have in common is that they represent a particular social arrangement liberal-leftists object to - one that requires them to work hard, take responsibility, put a lid on their appetites, respect other people's wishes and meet their standards. By championing their favoured causes, leftists hope to undermine this way of life and avoid its clutches.

They won't be deterred by their recent setbacks. They will fight more keenly than ever to restore themselves at the top of the tree. So what? Let them rant and rave. A change is coming whether they like it or not. Just be warned: the battle may be won, but the war is far from over.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The rise and fall of the new aristocracy

First there was Brexit, then Trump. Both represented the popular rejection of the establishment - of a self-satisfied, self-serving elite that thinks it knows best, and responds with petulant rage when anyone suggests otherwise.

So how did this elite come about, what's its motivation, and what is bringing about its downfall?

Here's what I think happened. We used to have a formula for a successful society and it largely involved leaving people to their own devices. They rubbed along together, suffered each other's judgement, satisfied one another's needs, and settled on guiding principles through trial and error. It wasn't perfect, but it was the most perfect state of imperfection.

Trouble was, all this toil and competition wasn't for everyone. Some people lacked the means or inclination to succeed on these terms, so chose another path. If they couldn't be the most socially-skilled or business-savvy, they could be the smartest and the kindest. Here were qualities that seemed lacking in the people they resented, which could be affected with little effort or sacrifice on their part. All they needed were the right opinions to parrot.

Unsurprisingly, they saw stupidity and cruelty wherever they looked: in every unmet need, frustrated desire and unequal outcome. Wherever reality fell short of perfection, they found proof of too much laissez-faire and too little control by people like them. If only they were in charge, instead of the fools, bigots and bullies, everything would be perfect.

In this utopia, thinkers and talkers would be held in higher esteem than lunk-headed ‘doers’. The most important of them would be freed from accountability, so they might get things done without interference from below. Educated, caring people everywhere would form a new aristocracy, whose ideas and feelings would trump the facts and deeds of the old guard.

And eventually, they got their way. What started as an effort to rationalise their grievances and assuage their insecurities became a route to power. Their central narrative - that freedom is a disease and learned caregivers are the cure - spread enough guilt and uncertainty to topple the traditional order.

The new ruling elite cherishes people and institutions that serve as standard-bearers for their kind. Be they the EU, the BBC or Barack Obama, they perpetuate the notion that society is a complex machine that only a select few can be trusted to operate. They reinforce the values that keep this anointed group in charge and hold the benighted masses at bay.

Unlike the aristocracy of old, today's nobles are often drawn from more modest stock. They're not all politicians, luvvies and tech millionaires. Anyone can feel a part of the ruling class simply by holding the proper opinions. These affiliate members might lack any real influence, but they live vicariously through those who do and share their smug sense of superiority.

When you deal in sentiments and ideas, there is no sales ledger to gauge your success. Your insistence that you are better than everyone else is everything. To concede for a moment that your naysayers share your perspicacity but simply take a different approach would be self-defeating. They must be measured as you measure yourself: not on results but on purity of intent. If you are better than them, it's because their motives are not as pure as yours. They are not just wrong, they are evil.

According to this philosophy, what is well-meaning is ‘good’, being ‘good’ is the acme of human endeavour, and expressions of ‘goodness’ by the ruling elite are the key to a better world. So anything that provides that elite with an opportunity to showcase its virtue is praiseworthy, regardless of its real-world benefits and irrespective of its veracity.

Calling someone a victim is the right thing to do, even if they are not being victimised. Promising people unearned benefits is honourable, even if it harms them in the long-run. Panicking about climate change is noble, because it expresses concern and empowers a benevolent elite. Pretending all cultures are equally compatible with our own is kind-hearted, even if it puts lives at risk.

Consequence doesn't enter into the equation here - partly because it is irrelevant to what is ‘good’ and partly because the cloistered lives of the elite distance it from any corrective feedback. Even its less privileged members, who are more vulnerable to cause-and-effect, are willing to ignore the contagion they help spread, so they can focus on feeling good about themselves.

When fine-sounding words are your trading currency, you have to keep spending to stay on top. You need injustices to fight and victims to save to prove your righteousness. You need top-down solutions to recommend to demonstrate your cleverness. If the causes don't exist, you have to invent them. If victims aren't forthcoming, you have to magic them into existence. If your solutions don't work, you need to suppress evidence to the contrary. Sooner or later, the very language people speak must be twisted to promote what is politically correct, rather than what is factually true.

This process intensifies as individuals dispense with the patronage of the ruling elite and reject its worldview. In doing so, they become persona non grata: part of the problem, not the solution. As the number of such people grows, the objects of elite sympathy become more exotic, encompassing obscure minority groups and foreign nations. Eventually, the elite comes to see the majority of its subjects as malicious cretins. The majority gazes back and sees an elite that is aloof, out of touch, and totally uninterested in its welfare.

Which brings us to where we are today: a society, a Western world in fact, that pours scorn and stigma on those who dare to speak the truth. In this way, it is not dissimilar to the old Communist states, where people had to degrade themselves by buying into self-evident lies.

Like those old Soviets, our masters pursue policies that trash our freedoms, vandalise our culture, destroy our wealth and threaten our safety. And we're supposed to indulge their dishonesty in silence. Well, not anymore. The people have spoken. The revolution has begun.