Category Archive 'Community of Fashion'
05 Oct 2018

Facebook Erupts Over VP’s Friendship With Kavanaugh

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Joel Kaplan sat at the left, two rows back, during the Kavanaugh hearing.

The NY Times reports that a Facebook VP being a friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s has led to outrage at the California company.

“I want to apologize,” the Facebook executive wrote last Friday in a note to staff. “I recognize this moment is a deeply painful one — internally and externally.”

The apology came from Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy. A day earlier, Mr. Kaplan had sat behind his friend, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, when the judge testified in Congress about allegations he had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in high school. Mr. Kaplan’s surprise appearance prompted anger and shock among many Facebook employees, some of whom said they took his action as a tacit show of support for Judge Kavanaugh — as if it were an endorsement from Facebook itself.

The unrest quickly spilled over onto Facebook’s internal message boards, where hundreds of workers have since posted about their concerns, according to current and former employees. To quell the hubbub, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, last Friday explained in a widely attended staff meeting that Mr. Kaplan was a close friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s and had broken no company rules, these people said.

Yet the disquiet within the company has not subsided. This week, Facebook employees kept flooding internal forums with comments about Mr. Kaplan’s appearance at the hearing. In a post on Wednesday, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook executive, appeared to dismiss the concerns when he wrote to employees that “it is your responsibility to choose a path, not that of the company you work for.” Facebook plans to hold another staff meeting on Friday to contain the damage, said the current and former employees. …

The internal turmoil at Facebook — described by six current and former employees and a review of internal posts — illustrates how divisions over Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court have cascaded into unexpected places and split one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

Mr. Kaplan’s show of support for Judge Kavanaugh hits a particularly sensitive spot for Facebook. It has been weathering claims from conservatives and Mr. Trump that Facebook is biased against right-wing websites and opinions. The company has denied this, saying it is a neutral platform that welcomes all perspectives. By showing up at Judge Kavanaugh’s side, Mr. Kaplan essentially appeared to choose a political side that goes against the views of Facebook’s largely liberal work force.

Many employees also viewed it as a statement: Mr. Kaplan believed Mr. Kavanaugh’s side of the story rather than Dr. Blasey’s testimony. That felt especially hurtful to Facebook employees who were also sexual assault survivors, many of whom began sharing their own #MeToo stories internally.

The tensions add to a litany of other issues that have sapped employee morale. In the past few weeks alone, the company, based in Silicon Valley, has grappled with the departures of the co-founders of Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, plus the disclosure of its largest-ever data breach and continued scrutiny of disinformation across its network before the midterm elections.

“Our leadership team recognizes that they’ve made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we’re grateful for all the feedback from our employees,” Roberta Thomson, a Facebook spokeswoman, said in a statement on Thursday.

RTWT

Western Society has reached the interesting point at which fashionable class solidarity within capitalist organizations will punish ideological deviationism with as much alacrity as last century’s totalitarian regimes.

13 Sep 2018

Leaked Video: Top Google Execs Mourn 2016 Election Result

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It’s a long video, but definitely worth watching as it demonstrates clearly just how deeply embedded in the Progressive community of fashion world-view the people running this major communication company really are, and how much they look down on people with different views and hate and fear any position not their own.

I thought it was pretty striking to find that three out of four of the top panjandrums of Google are foreign-born immigrants to the United States. No wonder they neither identify with nor sympathize with the perspective of native-born Americans leading ordinary lives, who did not attend elite schools, who don’t fly around on private jets, and who don’t have $70 million hiring deals like Google’s CFO.

And just wait until you see some of the alternative lifestyle types from the mass Google employee audience bringing up their Identity politics issues. Can people this weird really code? My understanding was that you had to pass some very tricky intelligence test to get hired by Google, and I find it hard to believe that some of the fruitcake specimens that spoke up could successfully compose a sentence containing the words “hare,” hunter,” and “field.”

Google was embarrassed by this Breitbart leak, and issued a Twitter statement declaring: “Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products.” &c.

Sure. Right. That’s why, just for instance, we get an endless stream of special animated Google headers celebrating the natal anniversaries of every Diversity Group member they can think of, but Christian holidays like Easter are overlooked completely.

31 Aug 2018

Breaking With Political Correctitude

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Meghan Daum (Vassar, Columbia) describes her breaking up with her husband and with the world-view of the urban community of fashion and her new romance with the “intellectual dark web.”

The night of the election, I sat on the sofa watching CNN and exchanging texts with my husband. The first text, from me to him, said something like, “Relax, it’s still early.” The last, hours later and from him to me, was one word: “Wow.”

I hardly need to describe what happened over the next year. Racists became more racist. Sexists hardened into full-blown misogynists. In turn, those fighting their bigotry too often instituted their own kind of tyranny. Almost immediately, the resistance became not just a front line against Trumpism but its own scorching battleground. To be frothing with rage over one thing meant being insufficiently aggrieved over something else. If you were worried about women, you weren’t worried enough about blacks. If you marched for immigrants, why didn’t you show up for the scientists? For many, there was no amount of outrage that couldn’t be outdone, no wokeness woke enough.

Amid this crisis, virtue signaling went from a kind of youthful fashion statement to the default mode of public and private expression. Twitter headlines wrapped themselves in the banner of social justice even if there was hardly a social justice angle at all. New crops of young journalists, many consigned to online opinion writing, knew all too well that career advancement depended on clicks, which in turn depended on fealty to the woke narrative. From NPR to CNN to dinner parties in gentrified Brooklyn, you’d think the only allowable conversations were the ones in which facts were massaged to accommodate visceral feelings of leftist outrage. Sipping my rosé in the parlors of Cobble Hill brownstones, I’d hold my tongue as the permissible opinions ricocheted like bullets off the 11-foot ceilings. Of course evolutionary psychology is bullshit. Of course the conservative columnists in the New York Times are nothing but privileged, retrograde troglodytes who bring nothing to the table whatsoever. David Brooks should fucking retire already! Amazing cheese, by the way. Zimbro?

Julius Evola will be so pleased to have her on board. A must-read.

11 Aug 2018

White-Bashing Can Be an Excellent Career Move

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Reihan Salam is of Bangladeshi extraction and went to Harvard, so he is in a position to explain precisely where Sarah Jeong’s animosity toward white men is coming from.

In some instances, white-bashing can actually serve as a means of ascent, especially for Asian Americans. Embracing the culture of upper-white self-flagellation can spur avowedly enlightened whites to eagerly cheer on their Asian American comrades who show (abstract, faceless, numberless) lower-white people what for. And, simultaneously, it allows Asian Americans who use the discourse to position themselves as ethnic outsiders, including those who are comfortably enmeshed in elite circles.

Think about what it takes to claw your way into America’s elite strata. Unless you were born into the upper-middle class, your surest route is to pursue an elite education. To do that, it pays to be exquisitely sensitive to the beliefs and prejudices of the people who hold the power to grant you access to the social and cultural capital you badly want. By setting the standards for what counts as praiseworthy, elite universities have a powerful effect on youthful go-getters. Their admissions decisions represent powerful “nudges” towards certain attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and I’ve known many first- and second-generation kids—I was one of them—who intuit this early on.

Consider the recent contretemps over Harvard’s undergraduate admissions policies. Critics argue that the university actively discriminates against high-achieving Asian American applicants by claiming that a disproportionately large number of them have lackluster personalities. One obvious reaction to this charge is to denounce Harvard for its supposed double standards. This reaction might be especially appealing to those who see themselves as the sort of people who’d be dismissed by Harvard’s suspect screening process, and who’d thus have every reason to resent it. Viewed through an elite-eye lens, though, this sort of reaction can seem a little gauche. You’re saying, in a sense, that you can’t hack it—you just can’t crack the code. To a successful code-cracker, that could seem more than a little pathetic.

So what if you’re an Asian American who has already made the cut? In that case, you might celebrate Harvard’s wisdom in judiciously balancing its student body, or warn that Harvard’s critics have a darker, more ominous agenda that can’t be trusted. This establishes you as an insider, who gets that Harvard is doing the right thing, while allowing you to distance yourself from less-enlightened, and less-elite, people of Asian origin: You’re all being duped by evil lower-whites who don’t grok racial justice.

And if you’re an Asian American aspiring to make the cut, even with the deck stacked against you, you might eschew complaining in favor of doing everything in your power to cultivate the personal qualities Harvard wants most, or at least to appear to have done so. One straightforward way to demonstrate that you are Harvard material might be to denounce Harvard as racist, provided you’re careful to do so in a way that flatters rather than offends those who run the university and are invested in its continued success. For example, you might reject the notion that affirmative action is the problem while arguing that Harvard shouldn’t endeavor to increase representation of rural and working-class whites, on the spurious grounds that all whites are privileged. That you’ll make these claims even though you yourself are hardly among the most downtrodden is immaterial: The important thing is to be interesting. What better way to demonstrate that you’re not a humdrum worker bee, afflicted with a lackluster personality, than to carefully and selectively express the right kind of righteous indignation?

I certainly don’t mean to single out Harvard. As the senior assistant director of admissions at Yale recently observed, “for those students who come to Yale, we expect them to be versed in issues of social justice. We encourage them to be vocal when they see an opportunity for change in our institution and in the world.” Picture yourself as an eager high schooler reading these words, and then jotting down notes. You absorb, assuming you hadn’t already, what it takes to make your way in contemporary elite America. And as you grow older, you lean into the rhetorical gambits that served you so well in the past. You might even build a worldview out of them.

RTWT

15 Jul 2018

“Diversity”

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In Hedgehog Review, Matthew B. Crawford explains precisely why “Diversity” is essential to the contemporary meritocratic Haute Bourgeois community of fashion.

[B]ourgeois society is fundamentally competitive. One has to enact one’s social value anew each day. …

The competition inherent in bourgeois society is responsible for its unprecedented ability to create wealth. But there is a problem. Furet writes that “the idea of the universality and equality of man, which [bourgeois society] claims as its foundation and is its primary innovation, is constantly negated by the inequality of property and wealth produced by the competition of its members. Its development belies its principle, and its dynamic undercuts its legitimacy. The bourgeoisie did not invent the division of society into classes, but by cloaking that division in an ideology that renders it illegitimate, they tinged it with suffering.”

The suffering is not confined to those who find themselves on the bottom. Furet is especially perceptive on the psychological effect of this contradiction on those who rise to the top: a kind of bourgeois self-hatred. He suggests that this sentiment is the secret source of the revolutionary passion (and in milder form, we might add, of liberal guilt).

The ongoing ferment on campus reveals the university as the site where the paradox of bourgeois society is most acute. As gatekeeper to the upper middle class, the elite university has as its primary social function the sorting of the population. (And it seeks rents commensurate with occupying such a choice position.) It detects existing inequalities, exacerbates them, and certifies them. And whatever else it does, it serves as a finishing school where the select learn to recognize one another, forging a class consciousness that has lately hardened into a de facto caste system. But for that very reason, by the logic Furet identifies, it is also the place where the sentiment that every inequality is illegitimate must be performed most strenuously.

In times of broadly shared upward mobility, this contradiction was perhaps less keenly felt. But for reasons that are only now coming to be broadly understood, once the Cold War ended, the economy increasingly took on the shape of a winner-take-all competition. The self-applied, legitimizing balm of campus progressivism became more necessary than ever.

But simply becoming more noisy about equality wouldn’t do the trick. Some conceptual innovation was needed, one that would shift the terms in such a way as to ease the contradiction. Enter “diversity.”

This concept claims descent from a lineage of shining democratic moments in the struggle for equal rights that we rightly celebrate: John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration, Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the statesmanship by which Nelson Mandela averted civil war in South Africa. But the family resemblance turns out to be superficial when one grasps the function “diversity” serves as a principle of administration in today’s political economy.

As Michael Lind has written, “Neoliberalism—the hegemonic ideology of the transatlantic elite—pretends that class has disappeared in societies that are purely meritocratic, with the exception of barriers to individual upward mobility that still exist because of racism, misogyny, and homophobia.” Marking out the corresponding classes of persons for special solicitude is thus key to sustaining the democratic legitimacy of our major institutions. Or, rather, the point is to shift the basis of that legitimacy away from democratic considerations toward “moral” ones. These have the advantage that they can be managed through the control of language, which has become a central feature of institutional life.

The concept of diversity first germinated in the corporate world, and was quickly seized upon by academia in the 1990s. It arrived just in the nick of time. The previous two decades had seen the traditional mission of the university undermined, if not abandoned, under pressure from a highly politicized turn in the humanities that made its case in epistemic terms, essentially debunking the very idea of knowledge. The role that the upper-tier university soon discovered for itself, upon the collapse of ideals of liberal learning, was no longer that of training citizens for humane self-government, but rather that of supplying a cadre to staff the corporations, the NGOs, and the foundations. That is, the main function of elite schools is to supply the personnel required to run things in an economy that has become more managerial than entrepreneurial.

The institutional desideratum—the political antipode to hated “privilege”—is no longer equality, but diversity. This greatly eases the contradiction Furet identified, shielding the system from democratic pressure. It also protects the self-conception of our meritocrats as agents of historical progress. As was the case with the Soviet nomenklatura, and the leading Jacobins as well, it is precisely our elite that searches out instances of lingering privilege, now understood as obstacles to fulfillment of the moral imperative of diversity. Under this dispensation, the figure of the “straight white male” (abstracted from class distinctions) has been made to do a lot of symbolic work, the heavy lifting of legitimation (in his own hapless way, as sacrificial goat). We eventually reached a point where this was more weight than our electoral system could take, as the election of 2016 revealed. Whether one regards that event as a catastrophe or as a rupture that promises the possibility of glasnost, its immediate effect has been panic in every precinct where the new class accommodations have been functioning smoothly, and a doubling down on the moralizing that previously secured them against popular anger. We’ll see how that goes.

The term shibboleth is interesting. Its definitions include “a peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons” and “a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth.” It is a random Hebrew word that acquired its present meaning when it was used by the Gileadites as a test to identify members of an enemy tribe, the Ephraimites, as they attempted to flee across the Jordan River. Ephraimites could not pronounce the sound sh (Judges 12:4–6). I think it is fair to say that one’s ability to pronounce the word diversity with a straight face, indeed with sincerity made scrupulously evident, serves as a shibboleth in this original sense. It answers the question of whether one wants to continue as a member in good standing of those institutions that secure one’s position in the upper middle class.

RTWT

18 Jun 2018

The Arrogance of the Ill-Educated Elite

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Joseph Pearce responds with understandable frustration to the chief problem of our time: the combination of arrogance with lack of real education.

Recently, sitting in traffic, I saw this .. bumper sticker on the car in front of me… which declared the following: “What you call the Liberal Elite, we call being well-educated.” …

Clearly designed to offend other motorists, it is supremely supercilious and extremely arrogant. We, the average Joe, whoever we may be, are not as “well-educated” as the royal “we” driving the car in front of us. This pompous “we,” who is presumably a she, presumes that anyone who disagrees with her is poorly educated, whereas she, of course, is well-educated. If we were as well-educated as she, we would agree with her.

To be fair to her, she is basing her presumption on data that shows that those who are “well-educated” tend to vote for the Democrats whereas those who are less “educated” tend to vote Republican. She votes Democrat because she is well-educated. We, who are presumed to be Republicans (because we are presumed to be stupid), complain that those who are better educated than us (and are therefore better than us) are part of an elite.

The problem is that her education is not as good as she thinks it is. …

If she was educated in our secular system, she will know nothing of philosophy, or, if she does, she will believe that there was no philosophy worth taking seriously before René Descartes. She will know nothing of the philosophy of the Greeks, of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and still less of the great Christian philosophers, such as Augustine or Aquinas. Insofar as she’s even heard of these people, she will presume that they did not know what they were talking about: “What the ancient philosophers call error, we call being well-educated.”

If she was educated in our secular system, she will know nothing of history, or, if she does, she will know it only from her own twenty-first century perspective, or from the twenty-first century perspective of those who taught it to her. History is not about learning from the people of the past, their triumphs and their mistakes, but is about sitting in judgment on the stupidity of our ancestors, who are presumed to be unenlightened, or at least not as enlightened as she is or her teachers are. “What the people of the past believed to be immoral, we call being well-educated.”

If she was educated in our secular system, she will know nothing of great literature, or, if she does, she will have misread it from the perspective of her own twenty-first century pride and prejudice, or from the proud and prejudiced twenty-first century perspective of those who taught her. She would not think of trying to read the great authors of the past through their own eyes because, living in the past, such authors lack the sense and sensibility which she has.

RTWT

The usual argument over free enterprise versus the regulatory administrative state economy erupted over the weekend on my Yale class list. The usual three classmates who’d operated businesses defended freedom against the larger group of lefties who’d spent careers in academia.

The left-wing arguments were, as usual, actually embarrassing expressions of relativism combined with glib attempts to deflect substantive points by simple word-play. Reading the leftists’ efforts at debate, it is impossible to avoid noticing that what they really believe in is the absolute reliability of the consensus opinion of the community of fashion. The common culture of the establishment elite cannot possibly be wrong.

They fail to recognize at all just how dramatically that consensus has changed, even within their own adult lifetimes, because the accepted narrative is everything, History and Reality are nothing.

Their Cliff-Notes-based education has merely trained these people in the skillful manipulation of numbers, symbols, and ideas. Each of them is, of course, competent, even excellent, in some professional specialty, but if the gods of fashionable opinion decreed that college professors should go around barking like dogs, our universities would sound exactly like hunt kennels. They could be persuaded to accept anything, and they view with bitter hatred and disdainful contempt anyone daring to dissent.

12 Jun 2018

“A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad President Builds an Empire”

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Niall Ferguson points out that the supposedly oh-so-smart people just don’t get it. Trump is winning.

To most highly educated people I know, President Trump is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad president.

For two years, the people with at least two university degrees (PALTUDs) have been gnashing their teeth about Trump’s every utterance and move. To the foreign policy experts, he is a bull in a china shop, trampling the “rules-based international order” underfoot. To the economics establishment, he is a human wrecking ball, smashing more than a half-century of consensus that free trade really works better than protectionism.

A striking feature of all this dire commentary is how wrong it has been so far. …

Despite all the trade war talk, the US economy is at full employment, the dollar is rallying, the stock market is up 30 percent since Trump’s election, and the only countries in any trouble are the usual suspects with their usual problems (e.g., Turkey).

It is not that Trump is an underrated genius, nor for that matter an idiot savant. It is just that his intuitive, instinctive, impulsive way of operating, familiar to those who have done business with him, is exposing some basic flaws in the conceptual framework of the PALTUDs. …

Think of the world as a three-empire system. It is dominated by the United States, China, and Europe, in that order. Each empire is evolving in a different direction. The American empire, having experienced overextension in Afghanistan and Iraq, has not retreated into isolation. Its latest step down the road to empire is domestic. …

All the accompanying symptoms of the transition from republic to empire are already visible. The plebs despise the elites. An old and noble senatorial order personified by John McCain is dying. A cultural civil war rages on social media, the modern-day forum, with all civility cast aside and character assassination a daily occurrence. The president-emperor dominates public discourse by issuing 280-character edicts, picking fights with football players, and arbitrarily pardoning convicted criminals.

Meanwhile, the Chinese empire becomes ever more centralized, ever more invasive of its citizens’ privacy, and ever more overt in its overseas expansion. The Western world regards Xi Jinping as an almighty potentate. Few observers appreciate the acute sense of weakness that has motivated his tightening grip on party and state and his surveillance of his own people. Few see the risks of imperial ventures such as the Belt and Road Initiative, which is drawing Chinese investment into economically unpromising and strategically dangerous locations.

The weakest of the three empires is the European Union. True, its central institutions in Brussels have the power to impose rules, fines, and taxes on the biggest American and Chinese corporations. But Europe lacks tech giants of its own. Its navies, armies, and air forces have melted away, so that it can scarcely defend its frontiers from penniless migrants, never mind hostile invaders. And the political consensus on which it has been based for the past 60 years —between social democrats and moderate conservatives in every member state — is crumbling under a nationalist-populist assault.

The logic of Trumpism is simply to bully the other empires, exploiting the fact that they are both weaker than the United States, in order to extract concessions and claim victories. The Chinese sincerely fear a trade war and will end up buying a very large amount of American produce in order to avoid one. The Europeans dare not stand up to Trump over his Iran sanctions and secretly agree with him about China, and so are reduced to impotent seething (Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany) or sycophancy (President Emmanuel Macron of France, until last week’s G-7 summit). If they unite against him, he brings up Russia and divides them again.

To the PALTUDs, who remain so certain of their intellectual superiority to the president, all this is incomprehensible. They will continue to find fault with Trump’s every success, nitpicking their way through the small print, failing to realize that in the imperial transition such details cease to matter.

31 May 2018

“The Permanent Adolescence of the American Left”

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Steve McCann has really got the American left nailed.

Donald Trump’s remarkable and unpredicted victory in 2016 unleashed perhaps the pinnacle of all unintended consequences. By their ongoing nonsensical reaction to the Trump victory, the American left has exposed and validated their irrationality, obliviousness, and immaturity. As an immigrant to the United States, and thus a sideline spectator of the panorama that is American society, and someone who has spent most of his adult life in the field of international finance, I have been fascinated by the characteristics of the American left as compared to its counterparts in the rest of the world – and why the vast majority of Americans, who are essentially conservative or moderate, not only tolerate, but acquiesce to the left’s temper tantrums and manipulation of the culture.

On the surface, there may appear to be similarities to the left in other nations; however, when it comes to the motivation and personality quirks, it is only the left in Britain that bears any resemblance to the American left. In fact, the American version consistently denigrates “old white guys” as the scourge of humanity while ostensibly promoting the philosophy of “old white guys” such as Hobbes, Hegel, and Marx. In reality, American leftism is a unique amalgamation of socialism, Darwinism, and oligarchism requiring an army of foot soldiers who dwell in a state of permanent adolescence.

Among the traits of those in their adolescent years is the conviction that they are always right and the rest of the world is wrong – that they are, in fact, much smarter than those silly and inane adults around them. However, being part of the in crowd is really, really important, thus they must look for guidance to the cool guys to establish what they are supposed to believe in. And, as in the fairy tales relayed to them while in childhood as well as their current enthrallment with movies based on comic book heroes, there will always be some monolithic entity to rescue them and ensure joy and happiness. Therein are the basic personality parameters of the rank and file of the modern American left.

Read the whole thing.

19 May 2018

Tom Wolfe on the Contemporary Intellectual

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“The intellectual had become not so much an occupational type as a status type. He was like the medieval cleric, most of whose energies were devoted to separating himself from the mob—which in modern times, in Revel’s phrase, goes under the name of the middle class. … Moral indignation was the main thing; that, and a certain pattern of consumption. In fact, by the 1960s it was no longer necessary to produce literature, scholarship, or art—or even to be involved in such matters, except as a consumer—in order to qualify as an intellectual. It was only necessary to live la vie intellectuelle. A little brown bread in a bread box, a lapsed pledge card to CORE, a stereo and a record rack full of Coltrane and all the Beatles albums from Revolver on, white walls, a huge Dracaena marginata plant, which is there because all the furniture is so clean-lined and spare that without this piece of frondose tropical Victoriana the room looks empty, a stack of unread New York Review of Books rising up in a surly mound of subscription guilt, the conviction that America is materialistic, repressive, bloated, and deadened by its Silent Majority, which resides in the heartland, three grocery boxes full of pop bottles wedged in behind the refrigerator and destined (one of these days) for the Recycling Center, a small, uncomfortable European car—that pretty well got the job done…”

HT: The Barrister.

04 Mar 2018

Why Do Conservatives Keep Losing the Culture War?

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David Brooks notes the paradox in which conservative Republican America is able to win at the ballot box, but commonly loses anyway because the Left controls the culture.

Republicans control most legislatures. To get anything passed, I thought, it would be necessary to separate some Republicans from the absolutist N.R.A. position. To do that you have to depolarize the issue: show gun owners some respect, put red state figures at the head and make the gun discussion look more like the opioid discussion. The tribalists in this country have little interest in the opioid issue. As a result, a lot of pragmatic things are being done across partisan lines.

The people pushing for gun restrictions have basically done the exact opposite of what I thought was wise. Instead of depolarizing the issue they have massively polarized it. The students from Parkland are being assisted by all the usual hyper-polarizing left-wing groups: Planned Parenthood, Move On and the Women’s March. The rhetoric has been extreme. Marco Rubio has been likened to a mass murderer while the N.R.A. has been called a terrorist organization.

The early results would seem to completely vindicate my position. The Florida Legislature turned aside gun restrictions. New gun measures in Congress have been quickly shelved. Democrats are more likely to lose House and Senate seats in the key 2018 pro-gun states. The losing streak continues.

Yet I have to admit that something bigger is going on. It could be that progressives understood something I didn’t. It could be that you can win more important victories through an aggressive cultural crusade than you can through legislation. Progressives could be on the verge of delegitimizing their foes, on guns but also much else, rendering them untouchable for anybody who wants to stay in polite society. That would produce social changes far vaster than limiting assault rifles. …

[P]rogressives are getting better and more aggressive at silencing dissenting behavior. All sorts of formerly legitimate opinions have now been deemed beyond the pale on elite campuses. Speakers have been disinvited and careers destroyed. The boundaries are being redrawn across society.

As Andrew Sullivan noted recently, “workplace codes today read like campus speech codes of a few years ago.” There are a number of formerly popular ideas that can now end your career: the belief that men and women have inherent psychological differences, the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, opposition to affirmative action.

What’s happening today is that certain ideas about gun rights, and maybe gun ownership itself, are being cast in the realm of the morally illegitimate and socially unacceptable.

That’s the importance of the corporate efforts to end N.R.A. affiliations. It’s not about N.R.A. members saving some money when they fly. It’s that they are not morally worthy of being among the affiliated groups. The idea is to stigmatize.

If progressives can cut what’s left of the conservative movement off from mainstream society, they will fundamentally alter the culture war. We think of the culture war as this stagnant thing in which both sides scream at each other. But eventually there could be a winner. Progressives have won on most social issues. They could win on nearly everything else.

RTWT

There are obviously plenty of conservative intellectuals. Conservatives at universities are, frankly, smarter than liberals. Conservative ideas, conservative critiques of Progressivism are more substantive, more rigorous, and more serious.

The Left always wins, it seems, by a combination of appeals to sentimentality and emotionalism communicated by simplistic, manipulative slogans which obfuscate and commonly totally misrepresent the issue and the facts. Their final victory comes by making their preferred position a class identifier and a fashion statement. Once that happens, the entire elite establishment is committed and on board.

Standing in opposition to the edicts of the God of Fashionable Opinion is undignified, uncomfortable, and has recently become a very possibly career-limiting decision.

Conservatives are perfectly able to win the debate. We can even win elections. But we seem, as David Brooks recognizes, totally impotent at affecting the Culture or having the slightest influence on Fashion.

Why is this the case? How can it be possible that the better ideas consistently lose in the marketplaces of ideas that matter the most? Any thoughts?

25 Feb 2018

The Snobbish Revolutionary Left

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Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, 1883, Tretyakov Gallery.

Jeffrey Folks has got the Social Justice Warriors, the Reformers and Improvers, the Holier-than-thous pegged.

For liberals, the distinction between the “dumb masses” and their enlightened selves renders life meaningful. Disdain for ordinary folks is not just an ancillary trait of liberalism. It is fundamental to the its nature.

At its heart, liberalism is a gnostic religion, and the essence of that religion is the believer’s faith that he possesses the means of changing the world for the better. The belief that the world must be changed requires there to be a mass of individuals whose lives are in need of change. Following this logic, it is the liberal, not those deplorables in need of change, who knows what must be changed. For liberals, there must be a mass of people in need of this knowledge for life to make sense.

Above all, liberalism is a hubristic faith. Its followers share the fatal flaw of pride in their own intellectual capacity. This is why liberalism appeals so strongly to those in the knowledge trades: teachers, journalists, writers, psychologists, and social workers. The sense of “knowing more than others” is its strongest attraction – particularly to the young, who otherwise know so little. Liberalism confers, or seems to confer, almost immediate power and authority to those who embrace it.

The left’s obsession with superior knowledge runs through its entire history. As Woodrow Wilson remarked, the “instrument” of political science “is insight. A nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions.” Lyndon B. Johnson thought “a president’s hardest task” is “to know what is right.” And the most hubristic of all is Obama’s “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Yes, we are wonderfully bright, and we’ve been waiting eons for ourselves to appear.

The problem for the liberal is that most people do not want to be transformed.

RTWT

06 Feb 2018

“I Detest Trump, But a ‘Redneck’ Fixed My Prius with Zip Ties”

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Ruth Mayer knows that she is a superior person for holding progressive political opinions and despising Trump, then one of those deplorable Trump supporters comes along and helps her out!

After the march, Katherine and I hit the road in the late afternoon, feeling good; we had done our part to express our outrage. We were about 90 minutes south of D.C. when I heard a terrible popping sound. I assumed I had blown a tire and headed toward the nearest exit. The popping was followed by screeching — were we now driving on metal? Luckily, there was a gas station right off the exit.

Before I could do anything but park my gray Prius, a man rushed over. “I heard you coming down that road,” he said. Before I could say much he started surveying the situation. He didn’t so much offer to help us as get right to work.

It turned out that I hadn’t blown a tire; a huge piece of plastic under the front bumper had come loose, causing the screeching as it scraped along the road. After determining that he couldn’t cut the plastic off, he ran over to his car to grab some zip ties so that he could secure the piece back in place.

He did all of this so quickly that I didn’t have time to grab the prominent RESIST sticker on the side of my car, which suddenly felt needlessly alienating. As this man lay on the ground under my car with his miracle zip ties, I asked if he thought they would hold for four more hours of driving.

“Just ask any redneck like me what you can do with zip ties — well, zip ties and duct tape. You can solve almost any car problem. You’ll get home safe,” he said, turning to his teenage son standing nearby. “You can say that again,” his son agreed.

The whole interaction lasted 10 minutes, tops. Katherine and I made it home safely.

Our encounter changed the day for me. While I tried to dive back into my liberal podcast, my mind kept being pulled back to the gas station. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who called himself a “redneck” who came to our rescue. I sized him up as a Trump voter, just as he likely drew inferences from my Prius and RESIST sticker. But for a moment, we were just two people and the exchange was kindness (his) and gratitude (mine).

As I drove home, I felt the full extent to which Trump has actually diminished my own desire to be kind. He is keeping me so outraged that I hold ill will toward others on a daily basis. Trump is not just ruining our nation, he is ruining me. By the end of the drive, I felt heartbroken.

When my husband and I first moved to Charlotte eight years ago, I liked to tell people that our neighborhood represented the best impulses of America. In our little two-block craftsman-home development, we had people of every political persuasion from liberal to moderate Republican to tea party, and we all got along. We held porch parties in the summer and a progressive dinner at Christmas. We put being a cohesive neighborhood above politics.

But this year, I realize, I retreated from my porch. Trump’s cruelty and mendacity demand outrage and the most vigorous resistance a nation can muster. Yet the experience with the man at the side of the road felt humbling. It reminded me that we are all just people trying to get home safe. It felt like a sign, that maybe if we treat one another with the kindness and gratitude that is so absent from our president and his policies, putting our most loving selves forward, this moment can transform into something more bearable? I want to come away from the march with that simple lesson, but it begs this question: How do we hold onto the fire fueling our resistance to the cruelty Trump unleashes, but also embrace the world with love? I wish I knew.

RTWT

Years ago, one day I had driven over to Bethel,CT from my Newtown home to do some shopping. I stopped for lunch at the Burger King, and when I’d finished eating and returned to my sexy and sophisticated TVR 2500 British sports car, it wouldn’t start.

I opened the hood and stood there confounded, and along came an older plumber out of a pickup truck. “You just need to see if you’re getting a spark and getting gas,” he explained. He first took a wire off a spark plug and held it near the engine. A spark jump the gap.

“Ok, there is spark,” he said. Then he opened the distributor, and examined the rotor and the points. “Aha!, dirty.” was his observation. He then produced a book of matches and used the striker to clear the contacts. He reassembled the distributor. I turned the key, and it fired right up.

I went to Yale and studied Renaissance Art, the Philosophy of Hegel, and Solar Mechanics. I was generally in the habit of looking upon myself as a few orders of superiority removed from the local working class rednecks, but there was factual, undeniable truth that the old fellow in the jeans could do a better job of logically thinking through the operations of the internal combustion engine than I could.

I puzzled about how all this could be so, and realized that I was better than him at all the highfalutin’ intellectual stuff probably largely because I was seriously interested in that kind of thing and worked at studying it to the point of acquiring the kind of familiarity and self confidence that produces competence. Just as he would be intimidated by a book of academic philosophy and experience a kind of intellectual paralysis preventing him from engaging it, so, too, in my own case, my lack of personal experience and long-term intense interest in automobile mechanics left me standing stupefied, despite my actually really possessing enough information to do all the things he had done.

It became apparent to me that the grand yawning class differences in brains were a lot more superficial than I had been in the habit of thinking. I drove away shaking my head ruefully at my past hubris.

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