Category Archives: academia

A Response to an Academic Researching American Sentiment Toward Ayn Rand’s Novels

I was recently contacted by a woman who was researching American views of Ayn Rand’s work. My initial concern was that she had an ideological axe to grind and that this was going to be a cherry picked study designed to confirm the biases of progressives. She assured me this wasn’t the case so I responded in good faith. These are my responses.

Q: When and how did you first come in contact with Ayn Rand’s work?

A: I remember seeing copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged at the college bookstore. I was vaguely aware that Neil Peart of Rush was sympathetic to her ideas. I actually read my first Rand book in 2014.

Q: Which among Rand’s fictional works have you read?

A: Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.

Q: How would you describe the effect of Rand’s writing on your beliefs concerning society and politics?

A: Her work affirmed and solidified certain convictions, but her worldview as a whole doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

Q: Which work(s) of fiction have you found most compelling – for example, the one you would be most likely to read again or that you have read several times?

A: The Fountainhead. I have others on the shelf which I intend to read at some point.

Q: For each work listed above, identify the reading experience that impressed itself most strongly on your mind, i.e. that you remember most vividly. This could be a character, an event, a description of a scene or object, a speech or a piece of dialogue, etc.

A: I got a kick out of the first trial against Howard Roark. He refuses every opportunity to cross examine and then drops the photos of his building on the judge’s desk as his final defense.

Q: What do you think accounts for the relative power of this reading experience?

A: It demonstrates that if you are grounded your convictions and certain of the quality of your work, you don’t need to be cowed and intimidated by opportunistic and vindictive jackals who thrive on defamation and the debasement of others in order to accumulate power.

Q: What meaning does this experience have for you?

A: It demonstrates that there are higher ideals that exist beyond the transitory, fickle and often malevolent vagaries of those who hold institutional power. Ironically, Rand’s worldview tries to justify this through materialism, but it’s a metaphysical and ultimately theological proposition.

Q: Please feel free to add your own comments on your experience with Ayn Rand’s work here.

A: Ayn Rand’s work is an attempt to reconcile the dialectic of post-Enlightenment liberalism. She sees the will of the individual inexorably pitted against the will of the collective, and ultimately the nation state. She holds that objective moral truth (and beauty) exists while at the same time asserting that these virtues are accessible through a process of pure reason and the sublimation of emotion. It’s an absurd proposition on its face because she presupposes the existence of things that are inherently metaphysical while suggesting that the observation of the natural world alone will lead others to reach the same conclusions she did. I don’t think she was wrong about everything and I do believe that there are powerful insights in her novels. I understand why people find her work repellent and I certainly think there’s plenty to criticize from a literary and philosophical point of view. The thing I find ironic is that if you strip away her contempt for altruism and her veneration of the capitalist entrepreneur, she’s not that far away from your average progressive. She wasn’t a conservative by any measure and her social outlook was completely cosmopolitan and libertine. So the progressive Rand hate mill can go shove their hit pieces right up their asses. In short, I think her work has merit. It’s not without flaws, but I think that the majority of the criticism out there is uncharitable and often completely dishonest.

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Jonas Salk: Survival of the Wisest

Though it’s debatable that his name means anything to anyone under the age of 30, Jonas Salk is known as of the inventor of the polio vaccine. If his name registers at all, he is likely to be seen as a fearless champion of scientific progress and a paragon of enlightened modernism whose contributions to medical science have elevated Western society out of the backwardness of religious superstition. So when Jonas Salk writes a speculative tract called Survival of the Wisest which spells out the type of individual best suited to guide humanity into its new age of enlightened virtue, it is meant to be accorded the reverence one would normally reserve for religious doctrine. Survival of the Wisest is, in fact, a quintessentially scientistic work. It has the veneer of scientific rigor. It is filled with charts and fancy scientific words like “metabiology”. Make no mistake though, Salk has donned the miter of the scientific priesthood and has issued what amounts to a proclamation of Scientific Prophecy.

Survival of the Wisest is a short read, but it’s dense and by his own admission, it’s not a work of actual scientific theory. It is a speculative, philosophical work which presents itself as authoritative prescription for humanity as we march forward into the new age of global liberalism. Salk posits that scientists’ “attention must turn increasingly to questions of of general human concern.” While he claims that his concern is for the general welfare of humanity, it comes across like a justification for the existence of a scientific dictatorship. By synthesizing Darwinism, Malthusian warnings of cataclysmic overpopulation, Freudian psychoanalysis, and a quasi-Lockean post-Enlightenment outlook on Natural Law, Salk tries to manufacture a telos for the entire human race.

This book demonstrates the hubris of placing scientific materialism as the foundational propositions for modern society. Salk claims that true wisdom is the product of those who are able to negotiate inexorable forward march of competing dialectical tensions. Man is simultaneously the author of his evolutionary progress and the victim of his lethal excesses. By ensuring that the “wisest” among us are able to guide this forward march of evolution, we are fulfilling the purpose that’s in accord with “nature”.

Needless to say, Salk is engaging in a long form circular argument. In order to attain wisdom, you must first dismantle the “illusion” that man is a purposeful being in the first place. Because after all, there is an order and a direction to the evolutionary flow of the universe. And it’s only properly understood by the Wisest among us. And the Wisest are the ones best adapted to discern true wisdom. See how this works?

While presenting abstract concepts such as “being” and “ego” as though they’re objective phenomena and their relationship to somatic biology over time as an ironclad fact, Salk is trafficking lots of metaphysical assumptions that he cannot prove through pure scientific empiricism. He comes across like the illuminated Platonic mystic who apprehends the world of true forms and is simply here to decode the shadows of the cave wall for all you rubes. Everything in the natural world is in a state of evolutionary flux except for his speculative prescriptions for the future. His talks of the synthesis of the scientific and the artistic, but his language is freighted with an aura of moral imperative and absolute necessity.

The truth is that Salk and the adepts of the scientific priesthood have already prevailed. Science is used to rationalize anything and for the most part, no one can distinguish between the science and the moral prescriptions wrapped around the rhetoric. If depopulation and eugenics can be justified by the “wisest” among us and they have the sanction of the media, political and academic classes, who can stand in their way? Better yet, if you can manage to make people believe it’s virtuous through popular culture, you won’t face opposition when the laws are passed. How else do you explain the Thanos Did Nothing Wrong subreddit?

Survival of the Wisest seems indistinguishable from the likes of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and Annie Besant who have proclaimed that we’re in a new Age of Aquarius. Post-Enlightenment liberalism has demolished the traditional cornerstones of the classical worldview. Subsequently, the void of meaning and purpose needs to be filled with substitutes. However, the task of filling this void has laid bare the numerous contradictions of the neverending pursuit of liberation. The perpetual quest for infinite tolerance and freedom cannot be reconciled with a society that respects boundaries and limits. You got a problem with womyn of size, bigots? Do you object to cannibalism or something? Do you oppose progress?

Even the academic elites cannot avoid confronting the fact that liberalism has only compounded the problems against which it rebelled in the first place. Of course, the solution cannot be a rejection of liberalism. It must be a reaffirmation of liberalism. You know. Just cede the tedium of thinking to Wisest among us. They’re only concerned with their Survival.

Oops.

I mean OURS.

Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind

NYU professor Jonathan Haidt has risen to prominence in recent years by taking a stand against the rising tide of PC sensibilities on college campuses. Given his willingness to take on the cultish groupthink that has overtaken the political Left, I was initially enthusiastic about The Righteous Mind. Similar to what I’ve experienced with his fellow would be dissidents on the classically liberal Left, I was really taken in by this book at the outset, but its allure diminished as it progressed. The Righteous Mind is a fine piece of scholarship for anyone seeking a clear headed albeit academic perspective on moral and evolutionary psychology. However, this recommendation comes with caveats. Haidt is a liberal academic who seeks mostly to explain and classify the components of the moral apparatus while remaining within the confines of the liberal mindset. His role model of a society which respects authority and hierarchy is the one articulated by Marxist sociologist, Emile Durkheim. He unironically cites Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell and Barbara Ehrenreich as authortative scholars. He’s not a threat to the secular democratic consensus. He’s not a reactionary proposing a return to religious order. He’s merely a well intentioned intellectual who is making an above average effort at providing people across the conventional political spectrum a deeper empathy for the opposition.

The Righteous Mind is a good summary of the current state of evolutionary psychology, but ultimately all it does is give you a more scientific framework for understanding how liberals and conservatives process morality. The book mostly seeks to mitigate the contentious nature of political discourse. Since it comes from a Darwinian perspective, it portrays morality as an evolving, semi-malleable psychological realm which resides exclusively in the political arena. Though Haidt describes his disaffection with the dry and clinical nature of his early explorations into this field, this book suffers from the same pitfalls. There’s a part of me that thinks that this work is just an inducement to log on to YourMorals.org so that the results can be sent to progressive think tanks or the AI teams at DARPA and Google to optimize machine learning systems.

Haidt argues that there is an innate wiring for morality, but the specifics vary across cultures and they are evolutionary adaptations. Morality is not the product of pure intellectual reasoning nor can it be adequately explained or generated through rationalist attempts at universal rules. People possess moral intuitions, but there is a margin of elasticity which allows for reasoning to occur. This innate wiring can be described as a matrix of receptors that he calls Moral Foundations Theory. “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.” (1)

Haidt builds his case by tracing the evolution of morality in the secular philosophical sphere up to the discoveries of modern evolutionary psychology. He consolidates these discoveries with his own studies which corral all moral thought into the political arena. He posits that the morality of progressives, libertarians and social conservatives can be understood through a matrix of six different foundations. These foundations would be Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity and Liberty/oppression.

Haidt’s view of morality is roughly analogous to that of a liberal Christian Protestant theologian, but viewed through the lens of modern social science. In other words, man is prewired for moral instincts, but the moral matrix requires input from external sources in order to develop. This development may be constrained in various ways. We are guided by our moral intuitions, but there is a realm of slack that allows for moral reasoning and persuasion to occur. By laying out the moral matrix of liberal progressives, libertarians and social conservatives, Haidt hopes to elevate the public discourse to a place where disagreements can be had without being disagreeable. An honorable aim, but doomed nonetheless.

Since Haidt is himself a liberal and writing for an audience who are like minded in one way or another, the great triumph of the book is that he solidifies the proposition that all humans are wired for religious thinking. Everyone. Even you. Deal with it.

It’s not about whether you read the Bible or attend church services. Haidt’s great victory lies in the fact that he able to persuasively argue that the human mind has the capacity to sanctify anything. Even a self-proclaimed atheist sanctifies gods called “reason”, “social justice” or “democracy”. Haidt proclaims the following:

Whatever its origins, the psychology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities. When someone in a moral community desecrates one of the sacred pillars supporting the community, the reaction is sure to be swift, emotional, collective, and punitive. (174)

The one thing I particularly appreciate is that Haidt is very explicit about the fact that liberals sanctify politics and deify the presidency. The highest moral reality for the secular liberal is realized through the democratic process. This is a large reason that progressives are so contemptuous of conservatives. Because the progressive sees only oppression in traditional society or conserved ideals, there is no real morality outside the context of politics. Conservatives are just contemptible Neanderthals who must be mercilessly mocked and then dragged into the future by force. This observation also goes a long way toward explaining the absolute insanity that has overtaken the Left in the Trump era. In the progressive view, an apostate has usurped the pinnacle of moral authority. Trump’s very presence in the Oval Office is nothing short of blasphemy against the Holy Writ of Progressivism.

On the flipside, I think Haidt gives progressives too much credit. He asserts that everyone cares about the Care/harm axis, “but liberals care more”(212). This is patently absurd. Liberals are quintessentially Glauconian in the sense that they care about the appearance of caring above all else. Politicized compassion is not the same as the practice of individual acts of compassion. Advocating for the passage of a law which will only expand the sphere of criminality in pursuit of some abstract notion of equality without regard for cost or outcome is not an expression of caring. Walking into a voting booth to pray to the Democracy God on the basis of altruistic sounding political rhetoric is not the same as taking individual action to improve the welfare of some disenfranchised group. Hashtags, rallies and slogans are not substitutes for volunteering in soup kitchens or being a mentor for an inner city kid with no father. Progressives have merely politicized every sphere of social interaction and sanctified government bureaucracy. To oppose any progressive initiative, policy or agency is seen as moral degeneracy. You can’t just oppose transgender bathrooms because to do so just means you’re a hate filled bigot. You can’t criticize the Department of Education because to do so means you oppose education all by itself.

In fact, when it comes to expressing disdain towards conservatives, progressives can be downright hateful and violent. When attacking conservatives, all of the flowery slogans and treacly hashtags are immediately jettisoned. The progressive Left are the very definition of double standards and selective outrage when it comes to voicing their contempt for conservatives. To his credit, he acknowledges this by citing the hate filled bile of Village Voice writer, Michael Feingold. It’s a hate that has only been amplified by the media and progressive priesthood in the Trump era.

Haidt is also guilty of trafficking presumptions of moral truth which presumably underpin the liberal West. He claims that Westerners regard life as “supremely valuable, and that the human body is more than just a walking slab of meat” (174), but this is a dubious proposition. If that were the case, abortion would not be legal. Nor would progressives callously cheer the hypothetical gunning down of an audience full of Trump supporters. He tips his hand further by suggesting that the “only ethical question about abortion” (177) becomes the point at which a fetus feels pain. Not the point at which it becomes its own distinct life.

Haidt asks you to buy into the presuppositions that comprise the liberal, Darwinian worldview. In other words, nominalism and empiricism are to be taken as a given. He describes this using the acronym WEIRD which stands for Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.

The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world of separate objects, rather than relationships. (113)

The bad news is that Haidt, like his fellow compatriots in the so called “intellectual dark web”, is simply trying to tend the barricades of classical liberalism in the vain hope of preserving these ideas for the future. To his credit, this book offers a potential glimmer of empathy for the hardboiled progressive who views the conservative with disdain and contempt. Progressives like to preach empathy, but it’s an empathy that seems only to extend to those who agree with the progressive worldview.

Are you even allowed to disapprove of transgenderism or gay marriage without being ostracized from society? Are you allowed to crack a joke at the expense of the Left’s favored groups without fear of losing your job? Are you even allowed to be on the Left and hold heterodox beliefs without being ldemonized?

This is the core problem of The Righteous Mind and classical liberalism. Not only is morality circumscribed to politics, but it is considered a malleable matrix that can be reshaped through social policy if properly understood. Haidt essentially asks you to accept pragmatism and relativism as givens. There are no fixed principles nor is there objective truth except the presuppositions of Darwinism and liberalism.

If morality lives in a malleable psychological scientistic realm, then social scientists will be able to adjudicate morality and no one will question their authority or methods. Who’s going to question the tenured social scientist with a fancy degree who insists that pedophilia is a congenital sexual orientation? Who’s to say that the highly respected physician at Johns Hopkins who insists that children with gender dysphoria should receive hormone blockers is wrong? How can you mount that case when morality is consigned to the realm of scientism and evolutionary relativism? What’s preventing us from removing the moral “taboo” against cannibalism? How can you mount a case against any of these positions when morality is consigned to the realm of scientism and evolutionary relativism?

Haidt also stumbles in his attempts to reconcile the dialectical tension that arose from the Enlightenment which pits the will of the individual against the collective unity embodied in the state. Invoking the work of Rockefeller University graduate, Barbara Ehrenreich, Haidt discusses the binding powers of psychedelics, cross dressing and ecstatic dancing as a way of strengthening hierarchical structures through ritualized subversion. Naturally, he lauds these practices as progressive and healthy while simultaneously cautioning against the bad kind of collective identity that fascism represented. He even invokes the magical power of oxytocin as though everyone is going to pay attention to the limited effects it has on strengthening in-group affection. True to progressive form, he mostly avoids the errors of communist states and places all of his emphasis on the one and only moral negative that exists in the progressive worldview: fascism.

He also seems to contradict himself when it comes to racial in-group preferences. He concedes that “we trust and cooperate more readily with people who look and sound like us.”(244) Because he’s making an evolutionary and Darwinian argument based around genetic adaptation to culture, he’s able to completely sidestep his own claim in favor of a politically convenient argument that runs completely contrary to his original claim.

Like Jordan Peterson, he takes a more charitable view towards religion than his atheist contemporaries . “Gods and religions, in sum, are group-level adaptations for producing cohesiveness and trust.” (306). In contrast to the New Atheists, he doesn’t see religion as a pure pathology, but merely an accessory to pathology. He recognizes that religious people are more charitable and have more children. He acknowledges that religious communities are more cohesive and maximize cooperation better than their secular counterparts. But he ultimately affirms the conclusions of Jeremy Bentham! He just wants a more nuanced felicific calculus.

Haidt is generally pretty good about presenting the conservative and libertarian position, but he misses the mark occasionally, too. He describes conservative opposition to the entire array of welfare as the absence of “proportionality”. What he ignores is the compulsory nature of the taxes collected to pay for them. Compelled charity is not charity at all. Any social welfare system will require the creation and maintenance of a bureaucracy within the government. Once this bureaucracy is established, the incentives immediately become corrupted. The bureaucrats will only seek self-preservation while the recipients will lose their incentive. He eventually gets around to the problem of bureaucratized compassion when he discusses the adverse effects that arise when attempting to make health insurance more affordable through government policy. Kudos to Haidt for calling out the Left’s pathological and religious obsession with using government policy as an instrument of compassion

This book was published in 2012, so it predates Trump Derangement Syndrome. Haidt’s sympathy towards the religious community extends to conservatism in general, but it’s a conservatism that’s confined to the province of classical liberalism. Haidt’s efforts to foster greater empathy for conservatives and conservatism is above and beyond the vast majority of his contemporaries, but his Twitter feed suggests a pretty typical indifference to the hostility towards conservatives that has erupted in the Trump era. When rank and file conservatives are being vilified for seeking border security that was uncontroversial under Bill Clinton, Haidt’s work feels increasingly tepid and weak.

I’m willing to give Haidt credit for trying to turn down the temperature of the political discourse, but I can’t help but think he’s missing the bigger picture issues. There’s no mention of the collapse of the family. There’s no mention of high divorce rates. There’s no mention of the effect of illegitimacy on children. There’s no mention of rising suicide rates in men. There’s no mention of the increase in antidepressants and opioids. There’s only a passing mention of “social engineering” and Haidt seems pretty blithely dismissive of the ways that society has already been socially engineered by the likes of Durkheim and Russell. How can you discuss morality and not make a connection to these outcomes? How can you be concerned about morality and not see these issues as supremely troubling? Haidt’s book is mainly geared towards educated liberals just like him while ignoring the vast swaths of the population who can’t be bothered with this shit. Most people formulate a worldview very early on and simply aren’t interested in having it challenged. I’d wager that even amongst the target demographic for this book, very few were persuaded to view the opposition with greater empathy.

If morality is consigned to genetic evolution, then eugenics and technocratic social engineering are not far behind. As much as I admire Haidt’s good intentions, I fear that these are the ends this book is serving.

Robert Nisbet: Conservatism: Dream and Reality

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Since the election of Donald Trump, conservatism is increasingly being conflated with fascism, Nazism, racial supremacy and xenophobia. For some, it’s a direct equivalence. Unfortunately, the incessant usage of these smears has not only undermined the true meaning of conservatism, but the entire suite of words used as epithets against conservatives. Given progressivism’s rampant vandalism of language, it’s especially useful to peel back the layers of autistic screeching that have besmirched the mantle of conservatism and take stock of its ideological roots. For anyone seeking a good primer on the classical conception of conservatism, Robert Nisbet’s Conservatism: Dream and Reality is a good place to begin. Both a worthwhile companion and more succinct synthesis of Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Nisbet’s Conservatism is a tour through the anatomy of conservative thought. Conservatism, in both cultural and political terms, is fundamentally about the conservation of values, institutions and traditions, and Nisbet’s overview also shares Kirk’s affinity for the thought of the movement’s inspirational forefather, Edmund Burke. Using Burke as his intellectual lodestar, Nisbet’s survey brings to bear the entire lineage of conservatism including Burkean contemporaries like Joseph de Maistre, Benjamin Disraeli, Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald, and Alexis de Tocqueville. The contributions of modern exponents such as Russell Kirk, Michael Oakeshott, Irving Babbitt and TS Eliot are also acknowledged. What all of these men had in common was a shared conviction in the sanctity of traditionalism and a determination to ward off the steady encroachment of conservatism’s two adversaries: liberalism and socialism.

Sparked by Burke’s seminal rebuke to the French Revolution, modern conservatism arose as a response to both the Jacobin fervor for equality and the broader Enlightenment consensus which now forms the bedrock of Western modernity itself. Conservatives viewed the liberal fixation on radical individualism and rational empiricism as an assault on traditional life, and by extension, the hard won fruits of stability, order and civil society. Underneath the conservative conception of the entire social order was a natural epistemological framework for discerning cultural knowledge which forms the basis of the conservative relationship to all institutions of authority. Or to use Burkean terminology, the primacy of prejudice and prescription. Burke and his contemporaries argued that prescription and prejudice was a prerational wisdom borne from popular consciousness and intergenerational knowledge which arose organically from a stable social order. Family, church, and community all formed independent spheres of authority which simultaneously served to constrain behavior, build stable institutions, and mitigate the influence of the State. Burkeans maintained that the very notion of liberty itself hinged on the conservation of this social order. Subsequently, the liberal pursuit of abstract principles and the clinical application of the scientific method in an attempt to distill universal laws by which to govern human affairs was capricious, dehumanizing and detrimental to the very cornerstones of society they sought to conserve.

Liberalism’s tendency to consolidate its thought in an aristocracy of academic elites is one of the perennial gripes that binds every generation of conservatives. In contrast to the feudal conception of dispersed spheres of authority espoused by conservatives, liberalism relies very heavily on a system of education lead by a vanguard of intellectual gnostics in order to reproduce the effect normally cultivated within the institutions of traditional society. Stated in contemporary terms, the progressives need propagandists. Beginning with Burke’s savage attacks on Rousseau to the seething contempt poured on the clinical abstractions of Jeremy Bentham, academic elites have long been reviled by conservatives as the engineers of social dissolution.

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Yeah, well Edmund Burke didn’t know queer theory, did he? Checkmate, conservatards.

Where the conservative mind accepts humanity as it is, the liberal zeal for reform seeks to eradicate all vestiges of the traditional order so that the era of emancipated brotherhood can be fully realized. This religious pursuit of a reformed consciousness is the singular hallmark of all leftist revolutionaries from Rousseau to Lenin to its current manifestation in the postmodern, social justice Left. Both Tocqueville and Burke saw the French Revolution as a pursuit of radical egalitarianism engineered by academics. Within these criticisms was a recognition that the “French revolution inaugurated a kind of revolution of the Word, something previously found in only evangelical, proselytizing religions.” It’s a pattern that repeated itself during the Bolshevik Revolution in the 20th century and appears to be resurfacing now within the postmodern Left.

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Conservatives from Bonald to Hegel argued that the transference of the locus of moral authority away from the spheres of family and church and into the hands of the State is the mental carcinogen at the core of the revolutionary mindset. Rousseau himself was very explicit in the Social Contract that the goal was to institute a “civil religion.” In contrast to the conservative conception of independent spheres of authority of which both family and church play an essential role, the progressive appropriates the divine sanction the church confers upon the State and bends it towards a revolutionary end. For the progressive, the moral is political. Subsequently, all areas of life must be subordinated to the “civil religion” of #SocialJustice.

Lead by the feminist vanguard, the assault on family life is now out in full display. Conservatives opposed feminism on the grounds that it undermined the traditional role of women as wives and mothers. While relatively few openly embrace the mantle of feminism, the fruits of the feminist crusade for taxpayer subsidized abortion, no fault divorce and gynocentric child custody law are more than evident in declining birth rates, rising divorce rates, unfavorable outcomes for boys and a perverse obsession with gender neutrality. Add in the progressive obsession with importing immigrants and the conservative argument only gathers strength.

Where family pride ceases to act, individual selfishness comes into play. When the idea of family becomes vague, indeterminate, and uncertain, a man thinks of his present convenience; he provides for the establishment of his next succeeding generation and no more. Either a man gives up the idea of perpetuating his family, or at any rate he seeks to accomplish it by other means than by a landed estate. – Alexis de Tocqueville

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One of the more surprising revelations of Nisbet’s research is the conservative opposition to industrialization and laissez faire and its attendant effect on the relationship to property. Contrary to the modern perception of conservatives as heartless and calculating champions of dog eat dog capitalism, a theme that echoed throughout the writings of early conservatives is an outright hostility to free markets that even surpasses those of the Marxists. Disraeli, Coleridge and Bonald along with many others rejected the atomizing effect capitalism had on society. In laissez faire, they saw the erosion of social bonds and destruction wrought on rural life.

Closely related to the conservative critique of free markets is an equally fervent critique of property rights under capitalism. As the laws of entail and primogeniture were whisked away under the modern capitalist order, so too would it undermine the belief in private property itself and eventually pave the path for full scale socialism.

One of Nisbet’s most provocative claims is that the longstanding conservative opposition to liberalism is that it’s a Trojan Horse for totalitarianism. He contends that the veneer of liberation only severs the cultural bonds of family and community that simultaneously form the basis of a stable social order and serve as a bulwark against an oppressive State. In light of the current state of the Left throughout the West, it’s hard to say they were wrong. In fact, the entire multicultural, social justice project seems like a perverse and artificial inversion of the organic forms of social organization championed by conservatives. In place of the network of religious, cultural and familial constraints on behavior, progressives are attempting to fill every crevice of society with overzealous reinventions and policing of language coupled with weaponized identity politics.

One notable figure to whom Nisbet makes repeated reference throughout the book is Joseph de Maistre. Isaiah Berlin sees him as the architect of modern fascism whereas Nisbet places him alongside classical European conservatives like Burke, Bonald, Disraeli and Tocqueville. Though Maistre may not have been an easygoing guy, I am inclined to think that Berlin’s reading of Maistre’s work is uncharitable and his overall appraisal incorrect. Admittedly, Maistre doesn’t engender the warmest feelings when discussing the importance of the role of the executioner in society, but among other things, his opposition to the rationalist consensus of the Enlightenment and the secular tyranny of the French Revolution was entirely well founded.

I further propose that Berlin’s attempt to pin fascism to Maistre or classical conservatism not only contravenes conservatives’ steadfast opposition to state engineered collectivism and feudal conception of dispersed authority, it represents an early attempt by a liberal to attribute the phenomenon of fascism as the exclusive province of the political Right. Christopher Dawson correctly asserted that fascism should be viewed as a product of liberalism since it ultimately seeks to collectivize the individual with the State. The fact that fascist regimes appropriated elements of conservative dogma only changes the particular flavor of its collectivist and leftist ethos. Though Berlin was a thoughtful scholar, this tendency among liberals to assign blame to conservatives for the fundamentally socialist character of fascism has continued unabated. As Paul Gottfried has repeatedly argued, it is not only a feature of contemporary social justice orthodoxy, but it has congealed into a dementia that has consumed the progressive Left.

Nisbet rightly points out that throughout the past few centuries of Western democracy, there has always been a delta between conservatism as pure ideology and as a set of prescriptive cultural norms versus political conservatism. Quoting Benjamin Disraeli, Nisbet emphasizes the fact that political conservatives are creatures of their age, and subsequently, are subject to all of the vagaries that accompany the acquisition of political power.

The truth is, gentlemen, a statesman is the creature of his age, the child of circumstance, the creation of his times. A statesman is essentially a practical character ; and when he is called upon to take office, he is not to inquire what his opinions might or might not have been upon this or that subject he is only to ascertain the needful and the beneficial, and the most feasible manner in which affairs are to be carried on. – Benjamin Disraeli

While this accounts for conservatives’ numerous concessions to progressives, political scandals, ideological purity tests and plagues of corruption, it also creates a bit of a conundrum for conservatism itself. If conservatism is about upholding fixed principles, cultural tradition, intergenerational knowledge and a restraint on state power, what has American, or European, political conservatism actually conserved? Nisbet concedes its failures, but is sanguine about its future.

Quite apart from symbolic value and even genuine, concrete reference, family, kindred, neighborhood and locality, even region and race, have a universal historical meaning that is not likely to be entirely eroded away by the acids of modernity. – Robert Nisbet

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Nisbet may have been a little too optimistic. The Trump era has ushered in what is probably the most fervent and concerted attack on conservatism. Through Trump can hardly be considered a doctrinaire conservative on any given issue, the issues on which he has taken firm public positions that are genuinely conservative are deeply consequential for the future of the republic. The progressive Left is fully possessed by a revolutionary nihilism which only seeks to eradicate all vestiges of the past and has shown nothing but contempt for any form of historical American tradition. We are living in an time in American history in which the Left’s thirst for power is so unrestrained, they are willing to foment both racial antipathy and open hostility to family life. The Left has abandoned the idea of a country with borders and a set of dominant cultural norms in favor of a radical cultural egalitarianism and a globalist utopianism. While the Left revels in its smug certainty that conservative insistence on immigration restriction is inherently bigoted and a design flaw in the conservative mindset, it is more rightly viewed as the time honored recognition of a pluralism of values and the necessity for the preservation of national values. The Left has made it clear that there is nothing to defend, nothing to uphold and nothing to conserve in the American tradition. When we’ve reached a point when even “The Star Spangled Banner” is a bone of contention between progressives and conservatives, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the conservative is the real radical of the 21st century.

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Milo at UC Berkeley: The Death Knell of the Free Speech Left

​I can barely express the deep sadness and disappointment I feel watching this footage. I have family members who attended UC Berkeley and wax nostalgically about the heady days of the Vietnam War protests and the free speech movement.

What a monstrous and grotesque inversion of that movement the modern Left has become. Mindless hordes chanting their slogans of hatred all cloaked in a phony veneer of “resistance” and “protecting the marginalized”. Marxism has always been the ideological core of the Left throughout the 20th century, and now it has apparently reached its inevitable apotheosis. Full on ideological conformity paired with a naked thirst for power. All they’ve done is update the formula with a few pride flags and a pepper it with a dash of Islamophilia.

News flash, progressives. You’ve become what you profess to abhor. You are the totalitarians. You officially forfeit any claim to the term “liberal”. You are a bunch of pathetic zombies. You are hastening the destruction of everything that’s decent and civilized.

You don’t get to call speech with which you disagree “violence” only to use that idiotic reasoning as a moral rationale for ACTUAL violence in order to prevent someone from exercising his right to free speech.

And lest you believe that local politicians would hastily denounce this mayhem, banish the thought.  The first words uttered by the mayor of the #TOLERANT paradise of the People’s Republic of Berkeley considered Milo’s alleged “hate speech” the greater threat than the Antifa rioters.  That should tell you everything you need to know about the Left’s priorities when it comes to the exercise of violence in service of advancing its political goals.

To say that the celebrity Twittersphere was throwing gasoline on the fire is an understatement.


If you can’t compete honestly in the arena of debate and you justify VIOLENCE in order to silence your opponents, your ideas are terrible. 

Jill Lepore: The Secret History of Wonder Woman

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Jill Lepore’s impeccably researched history of William Moulton Marston and Wonder Woman never fails to entertain and engage.  However, Lepore’s book isn’t just an exercise in fangirl trivia mining. Like Marston, she has an agenda. The story of Wonder Woman isn’t just a story of a pop culture superhero; it’s the story of American feminism. As entertaining as it is, her book reveals the dubious implications of Wonder Woman’s symbolic power. Specifically, this includes the questionable notions, political illusions, flagrant hypocrisies and straight up idiotic nonsense at the center of contemporary feminist thought which directly fueled the character. The details of Marston’s colorful professional exploits are fascinating, but one is left with the impression that he was little more than a high functioning charlatan. What’s even more fascinating is the various ways his unconventional libertine polyamorous lifestyle ended up revealing itself on the panels of the strip. These observations of Marston also offer a window of insight into the equally dubious phenomenon of the contemporary male feminist.  

Ultimately, this is a story of pop culture myth making. It encompasses Wonder Woman’s origins in the two central pillars of contemporary Left feminism: suffrage and birth control. Lepore also discusses the character’s cultural legacy on the broader movement. While Ms. Lepore is quite obviously using the book to do some myth making of her own for feminism itself, the story produces the inverse effect. It exposes contemporary feminism for the empty farce that it is. 

Worse, the story reveals something even more toxic. Wonder Woman represents pop culture’s terrifyingly effective ability to synthesize nationalism and state propaganda and present it in a manner that lends it an almost divine authority. Marston openly acknowledged that Wonder Woman was a form of “psychological propaganda”. By appropriating mythic storytelling and pop iconography and conjoining these elements with contemporary political activism, Marston built an aura of female power around Wonder Woman that is arguably immeasurable. Power which is the result of an unfailing belief in an emancipation obtained, preserved and defended through the democratic process. Worst of all, it reveals a loyalty to that ideal which rivals any religion or cult.  

Ms. Lepore is peddling a boilerplate Left feminist editorial throughout the book. Her insipid attempts at drawing attention to scandalous sexism and indignities suffered at the hands of a retrograde male patriarchy end up as unintentional parody. The disconnect reveals itself over and over when measured against the infantile whining of the contemporary movement.

When Elizabeth Holloway attends law school and attention turns to “something like rape”, female students were asked to leave. Jill Lepore obviously wants to convey a sense of outrage over this paternalistic sexism. When this incident is stacked up against the rising tide of outrage over controversial subject matter in contemporary rape law courses, this sad attempt at manipulative propaganda is both laughable and contemptible. Perhaps Jill Lepore should have gotten some feedback from Jeannie Suk on how well today’s feminists are dealing with contemporary rape law courses at Harvard.  

Ms. Lepore sanctimoniously aligns the peace movement with the suffrage movement while ignoring their flagrantly racist views and the Left’s impotence in curtailing the excesses of the war machine. In a typical display of misplaced liberal faith in politicians, Lepore simultaneously attributes Woodrow Wilson’s victory to support from suffragists while downplaying early support for suffrage from Republicans.  This faith is soon crushed by a declaration of war signed by an indifferent head of State and a federal bureaucracy intent on silencing their voices. Fast forward to present day, feminists placed the exact same faith in Barack Obama to be a peacemaker only to have it trashed in the exact same fashion. 

Ms. Lepore’s greatest sin is perhaps the manner in which she glosses over the connection between Margaret Sanger’s socialist ideals and her ideas on eugenics and population control. The difference between her agenda and the eugenics program carried out by the Nazis is razor thin. Not a single word is written about Margaret Sanger’s flagrant racism. Nor is there a single mention of the grandest Sanger irony of them all: denouncing state power while simultaneously advocating for its acquisition to carry out a population control agenda with terrifying ramifications

Jill Lepore is promulgating a trite, idiotic and destructive narrative of socialism as the embodiment of libertine sexual mores, defiance of authority and the font of social justice.  

In reference to Sanger and her socialist cohorts, Lepore’s swooning description of them as creators of a world of “free love, heterodoxy, Amazons and breaking chains” is especially moronic because she fails to mention that socialism was itself an agenda of enslavement.  

The full extent of her intellectual dishonesty is laid bare in one chapter. She openly acknowledges that Margaret Sanger wanted to make birth control available “by force, if necessary”.  A mere couple pages later, she attempts to whitewash Sanger’s open authoritarianism by claiming that “love is stronger than force”. Right. We’ll just ignore the fact that Sanger was totally cool with government force.  

The details of Marston’s professional life are indeed sordid and are hardly the legacy of one who possessed any meaningful skills. Given his obsession with dominance, submission, and identifying truth telling, one certainly questions the underpinnings of his polyamorous lifestyle with Olive Byrne, Elizabeth Holloway and Marjorie Wilkes Huntley. Once again, the delta between Lepore’s romanticized exaltation of the spirit of free love that all of these self-proclaimed feminists espoused and the repressive, neo-Puritanism of contemporary movement is enormous. 

Aside from maintaining three relationships with women and fathering children from two, they engaged in all kinds of kinky sex games that expose many contemporary feminists for the repressive prudes they are. In contrast to the joyless Puritans like Andrea Dworkin or insufferable cultural authoritarians like Anita Sarkeesian, Byrne and Holloway lived their convictions rather than imposing their self-righteous notion of feminist virtue on others.  

Marston’s life opens a window of insight into the outrageous hypocrisy of male feminists. To use contemporary parlance, Marston would undoubtedly be referred to as a “feminist ally”; a pretentious douchebag who grandstands about feminist issues in order to ingratiate and aggrandize himself amongst feminists. This was an individual who made a dubious prediction that women would rule the world while flitting from one failed endeavor to another while Holloway earned the money on which his polyamorous family depended. 

Not only did Marston coast off the sole income of Holloway for years, he exposed his hypocrisy in other ways. He penned an article for Life magazine called “What are your prejudices?” in which he condemned prejudice, but proceeded to reveal his own prejudice in his portrayal of different ethnic groups in the Wonder Woman comics. All of his sanctimonious bullshit is indistinguishable from the idiotic notion of “privilege” that’s promulgated in feminist circles today. This propagandistic twaddle is littered throughout the feminist mediasphere. In the current political environment, few factions are as sanctimonious as feminists and it’s fairly clear that this contemptible charlatan contributed to their smug self-righteousness in more ways than I ever knew. 

It’s unsurprising that the polygraph he invented, a device whose efficacy has been discredited, ended up in widespread use by the government. Hey! Let’s use the device that doesn’t detect lies and put it in the hands of professional liars! What could go wrong? 

The Marston incarnation of Wonder Woman is all by itself a toxic, frightening and infantile fantasy of his notion of matriarchy, and by extension, the fantasy feminists including Lepore have assigned to feminism. By placing Wonder Woman in the military, running for president for a 1000 year term, and wrapping her in nationalist regalia, Wonder Woman represents little more than fascism with a uterus. Lepore laughably asserts that Wonder Woman was “fighting fascism with feminism”, but no matter how much moronic drivel Marston attached to her, fascism is exactly what she represents. Furthermore, the choice to not use a gun feeds right into this hollow fantasy of the benevolent application of feminine power because it ignores the true nature of state power. This disconnect is fully embodied by the cover of Wonder Woman Number 1. Wonder Woman is charging into a battlefield full of Nazis and everyone has a gun except her. Right.  

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Because somehow when a woman wields the state gun it’s not REALLY a gun. Because…uterus!

Marston’s toxic delusions are on full display in a response to early criticism of Wonder Woman.  

He writes: 

The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound-enjoy submission to kind authority, wise authority, not merely tolerate submission. Wars will only cease when humans enjoy being bound.

Oh, really?  Wow.  How progressive! 

Fuck you, Marston.  

Of course, these charges of fascism go way back and were first leveled in 1945 by Jesuit priest, Walter J. Ong. I suspect Lepore wants the reader to be appalled by these repressive, retrograde sentiments because after all, what could some religious asshole have to say that’s of any value on the issue of women’s liberation? But the iconography and written words of Marston as well as those of Sanger from which Marston drew inspiration, speak for themselves. 

The book also reveals the cult of legitimacy accorded to academics. Lepore certainly leaves the reader with the impression that despite Marston’s credentials, he had little to nothing of value to offer and his professional career was more or less a confidence game. She seems intent on aggrandizing academics and by default, people like herself as heroes of social justice and champions of virtue.  “Wise authorities” to whom us lower life forms should joyfully submit.

Her book concludes with a recap of the idiotic sniping that occurred amongst feminists upon Wonder Woman’s pop culture resurgence of the 70’s. When one considers the current state of feminism, it’s pretty clear that little has changed. For a movement allegedly predicated on equality, its adherents seem more successful in fomenting discord and division than anything resembling equality, let alone peace. As long as feminism relates to equality as a product of federal power, feminism cannot be viewed as a movement agitating for equality. It must be viewed as a movement dedicated to enshrining privilege for women with the explicit and open embrace of government force at the expense of men.  As fascinating as this story is, I’m unenthusiastic about Jill Lepore’s open embrace of this agenda. 

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