Saturday, October 19, 2019

trusting the intelligence community

Spies have been on my mind recently.

One of the most curious, and amusing, things about our modern world is the strange new respect being shown to the “intelligence community” with once widely despised organisations like the FBI, the CIA and MI6 suddenly being regarded (by mainstream opinion) as paragons of integrity and virtue.

Even people who claim to be on the Left have become admirers. In fact people claiming to be on the Left have become the most ardent admirers. From the 1950s until very recent times the one thing that united the New Left and the remnants of the Old Left was their belief that the intelligence community consisted of malevolent bunglers. And of course they were correct.

Obviously what has happened is that the self-described Left of today is in fact now the Establishment, and of course the intelligence community serves the Establishment.

The bigger question is, can anyone actually trust spies? I use the term spies in the broadest sense, to include both espionage and counter-espionage operatives. The fact is that spies are people whose lives are based on lies and deceit. If you’re no good at lies and deceit you’re no use as a spy. Spies are also people who are good at seeing patterns. Sometimes the patterns are really there and sometimes they’re imaginary but while spies are good at spotting patterns they’re not good at distinguishing the real from the imaginary.

But it’s worse than that. Espionage is a profession that attracts cranks and misfits. It attracts the mentally unstable. Some are brilliant misfits. Some are just misfits. It also attracts those with political axes to grind. Normal well-adjusted psychologically healthy people do not join the intelligence community.

All this is bad enough but there’s the additional problem that if you’re an agent for an intelligence organisation you have to demonstrate your continuing usefulness. If you don’t have any real intelligence of value to offer then there’s the temptation to concoct intelligence that is pure fantasy. And counter-spies are not above concocting imaginary conspiracies. If they happen to have political axes to grind then the temptation to make stuff up is even greater.

Both popular culture and official history have fostered the idea that espionage attracts the best and the brightest, and that the work of the intelligence community is absolutely vital. At least once per book a fictional spy will save Civilisation As We Know It. Sadly the reality is that more often than not spies are either dishonest or delusional, or both. Their achievements are usually minimal.

Defectors are even worse. A defector is, by definition, a traitor. Or at best, a defector is someone with loyalties that are flexible, often to the point of non-existence. They are loyal until they get a better offer.

To trust spies and counter-spies is mere foolishness. Even if some are trustworthy you can never know which ones are trustworthy and which ones are not. The wisest course is to trust none of them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

more quotes

"The truth has never been of any real value to any human being - it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths." - Graham Greene

"Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm." - Graham Greene

“Human nature is not black and white but black and grey.” - Graham Greene

"A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction." - Graham Greene

"It is a great danger for everyone when what is shocking changes." - Graham Greene

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana (book review)

Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana was published in 1958, providing another example of Greene’s ability to set his stories in places that were just about to hit the headlines (in 1959 Castro came to power).

Our Man in Havana is a spy story. It is the cynical, humorous and absurd tale of Jim Wormold, not exactly one of the shining lights of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Mr Wormold lives in Havana. He sells vacuum cleaners. He is moderately successful but unfortunately he has a daughter. That’s not unfortunate in itself but the daughter, Milly, is at the age at which daughters become very very expensive. Even worse, Milly has now conceived a passion for horses. She must have one. There is simply no way Mr Wormold can afford the upkeep on a horse as well as a daughter.

So it seems like a stroke of good luck when Mr Wormold is approached by Hawthorne. Hawthorne works for MI6 and he’s in the process of setting up an espionage network in Cuba. Hawthorne believe that a vacuum cleaner salesman is the perfect cover for a spy. Mr Wormold knows nothing of the world of espionage and has no interest in politics but the $150 a month plus expenses that Hawthorne offers him interests him quite a bit. So Mr Wormold becomes MI6’s man in Havana.

Initially Wormold is a bit worried by the fact that he nothing about the world of spies and knows nothing about recruiting agents but then he realises that it doesn’t matter. The network of agents he’s supposed to recruit don’t have to actually exist. The information he sends back to London doesn’t have to be real. It just needs to sound convincing. Pretty soon he has a whole network of imaginary agents and he’s sending off detailed reports to London with lots of disturbing information, none of it rel. He’s even sent them drawings of high-tech weaponry at a new top-secret military installation. The fact that these sophisticated weapons look a bit like parts of a vacuum cleaner somehow gets overlooked in all the excitement.

The head of MI6, C, is convinced that Wormold is  the most valuable agent they’ve ever had. The more fanciful his intelligence reports become the more certain C is that they must be true.

Things are going very nicely for Mr Wormold. Until somebody starts trying to kill his agents. Which is very disturbing since those agents don’t actually exist. Fiction is becoming reality.

Graham Greene of course had been a real-life spy for the British. He knew the incompetence and stupidity of MI6 at first hand. He knew that much of the intelligence provided by spies was simply fantasies concocted by the spies. The more intelligence you provide the more likely it is that the intelligence agency for which you work will continue to pay you. The intelligence doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be the sort of thing that the intelligence agency wants to hear.

Greene had converted to Catholicism in 1926. After the Second World War, and probably not coincidentally after his stint with MI6, Greene’s politics became steadily more leftist although it’s important to keep in mind that he was an old school leftist with nothing in common with the leftism of today. And while his Catholicisjm seems to recede into the background a little it’s also important to remember that he saw no conflict whatsoever between left-wing politics and Catholicism.

When he wrote this novel Greene seems to have been going through one of his upbeat phases (he was prone to frequent bouts of extreme depression). Wormold is more sympathetic than most Greene protagonists (you can’t really call any of Greene’s protagonists heroes). He’s a timid little man but he’s not a hopeless alcoholic and he hasn’t given in to despair or nihilism. He knows little about raising children but he’s managed to be a reasonably good father. He’s a nice guy. He isn’t very honest but he has no wish to do any harm to anybody. He thinks the espionage stuff is all very silly but if MI6 are foolish enough to pay him money he’ll take it. Even when he gets himself into deep trouble he doesn’t give in to despair. Whether he can extricate himself from the mess might be extremely doubtful but at least he’s going to try.

Despite the fact that Wormold never does any actual spying Our Man in Havana manages to be an enjoyable and exciting spy thriller. It’s also superb satire, and very funny. Greene’s contempt for spies is palpable and as in The Quiet American there’s an awareness of how much harm can be done by bungling intelligence agencies but it’s combined with genuine amusement.

A wonderful book. Very highly recommended.

quotes for the day

"It's always darkest before it becomes totally black." - Mao Zedong

"To be attacked by the enemy is not a bad thing but a good thing." - Mao Zedong

"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." - Mao Zedong

"As for the imperialist countries, we should unite with their peoples and strive to coexist peacefully with those countries, do business with them and prevent any possible war, but under no circumstances should we harbour any unrealistic notions about them."  - Mao Zedong

"We should support whatever the enemy opposes and oppose whatever the enemy supports." - Mao Zedong

"No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat." - Deng Xiaoping

"Democratic regimes may be defined as those in which, every now and then, the people are given the illusion of being sovereign, while the true sovereignty in actual fact resides in other forces which are sometimes irresponsible and secret." - Benito Mussolini

"It's good to trust others but not to do so is much better." - Benito Mussolini

"We deny your internationalism, because it is a luxury which only the upper classes can afford." - Benito Mussolini

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Newton’s Wake (book review)

Newton’s Wake is a standalone 2004 novel from Scottish science fiction author Ken MacLeod.

MacLeod (born in 1954) is an interesting figure. He started out as an old school leftist with Trotskyist leanings. When the Old Left crashed and burned he started to use science fiction as a way of exploring political options. Some of the options he has explored are fascinating, like the communists in The Star Fraction who believe passionately in capitalism. Some of the options are daft (like anarcho-capitalism). His attempts to reconcile Trotskyism with libertarianism are somewhat bizarre. His sympathetic view of populism leads to some surprising results. Not many people see parallels between Trump and Jeremy Corbyn. His hopes for a leftist populism might be optimistic but might well be fruitful. MacLeod’s political speculations are always at the very least interesting.

Newton’s Wake begins in 2367 with a team of Carlyle combat archaeologists led by Lucinda Carlyle emerging from a wormhole gate to find a rather surprising planet. The first surprise is that the planet Eurydice is home to an advanced human civilisation. The second surprise is a gigantic structure apparently carved from diamond, but was it carved by nature or by human agency? To the Carlyles it looks suspiciously post-human. Which means it is likely to be both dangerous and profitable.

There are four main human cultures, scattered over various planets and co-existing uneasily. There are the Americans, subsistence farmers who (as we will learn) have good reason to fear post-human technology. There are the North Koreans, communists but happy to do business with the other cultures. There are the technologically sophisticated Knights of Enlightenment, a mix of Chinese, Japanese and Indians. And then there are the Scots, which means the Carlyles. The Carlyles started out as gangsters. Now they’re very rich and very powerful anarcho-capitalists, they control the wormhole network, and morally they’ve degenerated slightly from their gangster days.

These four cultures don’t just represent competing economic and political systems. They also differ markedly in their attitude to the two most pressing technological and philosophical problems of the day, how to deal with the legacy of the Singularity and how to deal with the problem of death.

The Singularity is what happened when the Americans launched their retaliatory nuclear strike against the Europeans. The computers coördinating the American strike suddenly upgraded themselves into full-blown artificial intelligences, they upgraded their new human servants into post-humans and they created the war machines that went on to ravage Earth. Three-and-a-half centuries earlier the galaxy is still littered with post-human tech. Some of this tech is very useful indeed. All of it is potentially extremely dangerous. The Americans avoid such tech. The North Koreans approach it with extreme caution, if at all. The Knights of Enlightenment believe that post-human tech can be studied and understood, and utilised, as long as you’re careful (and they’re very careful). The Carlyles believe post-human tech is there to be looted and sold.

The problem of death has been solved. Sort of. You just upload your personality and your memories and if you die your personality and your memories are downloaded to a new body. The Carlyles are quite happy with this. The Knights and the North Koreans think it’s nonsense. If you’re dead you’re dead. Having a copy of yourself walking around after you’re dead is no consolation at all.

The Eurydiceans have now complicated matters because nobody knew they existed. And Lucinda Carlyle has complicated matters much more comprehensively by awakening whatever it is that’s in that strange structure on Eurydice.

The two primary themes, post-humanism and the question of death, intersect more and more as the story unfolds.

On one level this is a delightful tongue-in-cheek satire. And it’s very funny. Laugh-out-loud funny at times (the excerpt from Shakespeare’s famous play The Tragedy of Leonid Brezhnev, Prince of Muscovy, is hilarious). MacLeod exercises his considerable wit at the expense of left-wing politics, right-wing politics, folk music, religions both secular and spiritual, art, the entertainment business and science fiction. It’s a glorious romp. But there’s a serious science fiction tale here as well. In fact as the book progresses it veers more and more in the direction of old-fashioned big-ideas science fiction speculating on the nature of mind, the nature and purpose of the universe and the rewards and pitfalls of pushing technology to the limit.

Newton’s Wake is a dazzling exercise in style and wit and adventure. It really is great stuff. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 4, 2019

food and the new morality

We live in a world which has abandoned the idea that there is such a thing as sexual morality. If you dare to suggest that maybe adultery is destructive to both individuals and to society, that maybe easy divorce has been disastrous for child-rearing, that slut culture might not be a healthy lifestyle choice, that unlimited porn might have social consequences or that the male homosexual lifestyle might be unhealthy you are dismissed as a fascist and you’re in danger of social ostracism.

But people like having moral rules, and they love enforcing moral rules on others. If there is no sexual morality people will find other things to be moralistic about.

One of those things is food. What you eat is no longer a matter of personal preference. It is no longer your own business. It is everybody’s business. Making the wrong food choices is a moral failing and it is society’s business to correct those failings. If people won’t eat properly the government should step in and force them to do so.

People are amazingly moralistic about food these days. Having promiscuous anonymous sex with hundreds of partners a year is good and moral and virtuous but eating pizza is a mortal sin.

And even thinking about eating foods like french fries is morally wrong. You have committed a sin in your heart.  And it can lead you down the slippery slide into even greater sins, just as fantasising about eating pizza.

It’s important to understand that whether a food item is healthy or unhealthy is not the point. It’s now fairly clear that most of the advice we’ve been given on diet over the past half century is unscientific nonsense. It doesn’t matter. Some food choices are simply immoral.

There are a couple of easy rules to keep you on the straight and narrow. Firstly, ask yourself if a particular food is delicious. If the answer is yes, then it's morally wrong even to think about it.

Secondly, ask yourself if a particular food is quick and easy to prepare or buy. If the answer to that question is yes, then it's wrong!

Thirdly, ask yourself if a particular food is popular among among bad people (such as working class or poor people). If the answer is yes then that food is automatically on the index of forbidden foods.

Fast food being delicious, convenient and popular with non-middle class people is of course as morally wrong as you can get.

You are what you eat. If you eat the wrong foods you’re a bad person.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

the coming economic implosion?

There’s a widely held belief in alt-right circles that it doesn’t matter much how bad things are because within the next couple of decades there’s going to be a complete economic implosion and the whole social and political structure will collapse anyway.

The economic implosion will come about largely as a result of out-of-control national debt. Because governments can’t just keep printing money and expanding credit forever, can they?

I’m a bit sceptical about all this. I suspect that the government can pretty much do whatever it wants to, including printing money and expanding credit forever. They’re the government. They have the power. They can back up that power with force. Military force if necessary.

Of course I might be wrong. I’m no economist. I don’t understand how the economy works. But then economists don’t seem to understand how the economy works either. When an economic crisis hits the people who are most surprised are usually economists.

I’m also not entirely convinced that an economic crisis on its own would bring down the entire social and political system. The economic crisis of the 1970s was extremely severe but it failed to bring about social or political collapse. The 2008 crisis didn’t even shake the foundations of the system.

Of course an economic crisis combined with some kind of political crisis might be a different story. Had the Oil Crisis happened in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War the foundations in the U.S. might well have been shaken quite a bit. If an economic crisis were to hit Britain right now, right slap bang in the middle of the political/constitutional crisis over Brexit, things could get quite hairy.

Whether a complete economic implosion would actually change things for the better is another story. Total social and political collapse is fascinating to read about, not so much fun to live through.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Quiet American (book review)

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American was published in 1955. It was a major critical and popular success in Britain. In the United States it provoked outrage. This was Greene’s Vietnam novel.

Thomas Fowler is an English reporter. He insists that he is a reporter, not a journalist. A reporter merely reports. He is not involved. Thomas Fowler does not wish to be involved in anything. He likes Indo-China because he thinks there’s a better chance of dying there than in England.

Alden Pyle is an earnest young American. He’s not one of those noisy Americans. He is a quiet American. Pyle supposedly works for an American Economic Aid Mission although everyone knows that he is an intelligence agent for the CIA. Pyle is the ideal choice for such a mission. He knows nothing whatsoever about Indo-China, or about anything else. But he does know that freedom and democracy are important. He doesn’t know why they are important, but he has no doubts. The French are clearly fighting a losing war to retain their Indo-Chinese colony but if the French lose the communists will take over and freedom and democracy will be threatened. If only there was a Third Force which could be backed by the Americans then freedom and democracy might yet be saved. That is Pyle’s job.

Pyle is an innocent which is why Fowler fears him so much. Fowler knows that Pyle’s meddling is going to get a lot of people killed for nothing but he knows that there is no way to convince Pyle of this.

There is one thing that Fowler does care about - his Vietnamese girlfriend Phuong. And Pyle is likely to be a menace on that front as well.

The novel does not reflect well on the Americans. It also does not reflect well on the French. Or anybody else for that matter.

For this is Greeneland. It’s a world in which failure is not merely inevitable, it is to be welcomed. Thomas Fowler is a typical Greene hero - he longs for death, he longs for oblivion, he believes in nothing. He loves Phuong but he never really believes he can keep her. Love is just another form of betrayal anyway.

But this is not just Greeneland. This is postwar Greeneland. Even in the Thirties Greene saw hope as a foolish illusion. The Second World War rekindled his interest in the world but it did not restore his faith in human nature. And it did not restore his faith in Britain. He was certainly not the only Englishman to experience post-WW2 disillusionment. The difference is that for Greene disillusionment was his natural state of mind so the failures and miseries of postwar Britain came as no surprise. It was simply what he expected.

Thomas Fowler is not just a typical Greene hero, he is a symbol of the new post-war Britain - pessimistic, morally and spiritually adrift, cynical and apathetic. Alden Pyle is the very symbol of postwar America - naïve, ignorant, well-meaning and terrifying dangerous. Pyle is a man with a mission. He’s going to win Vietnam for freedom and democracy. The fact that he understands absolutely nothing about the country or the situation is not going to deter him from his mission. The fact that he might be horribly and disastrously wrong never even enters his mind.

This was the beginning of America’s Vietnam disaster. The disaster was inevitable right from the start. Greene had his faults but he was remarkably clear-sighted about postwar politics. Everything Greene feared, not just in Vietnam but throughout the Third World, eventually came to pass. Innocent illusions were going to lead to a great deal of misery.

Greene was not exactly a cheerful man but he had  sense of humour. There’s a lot of black humour in this book. Greene of course was a Catholic, but perhaps not a very orthodox one. He was also a leftist, but also not a very orthodox one. Greene probably could never have been an orthodox anything. There’s a central conflict in this novel between engagement with the world and non-engagement. Fowler wants to avoid engaging with this world which is probably not healthy. Pyle is very engaged with the world, which is even less healthy.

The Quiet American is a spy story of sorts. It’s a love story of sorts. It’s a mystery story of sorts. It’s a political novel of sorts. It’s a satire, of sorts. Mostly it’s a Graham Greene novel  with all the idiosyncrasies, ambiguities and complexities that that entails. It’s a great book. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 20, 2019

politics - the reality and the appearance

What matters in politics is not the reality but the appearance. For example we hear a lot about how undemocratic and unaccountable the EU is. And of course it’s quite true. It is undemocratic and unaccountable. But is it any different really from other contemporary political systems?

Take Britain. The political system observes the forms of democracy but in practice the first-past-the-post voting system is absurdly undemocratic. Or take the United States, with its rigid two-party system that effectively makes it impossible for the dominance of the two major parties ever to be challenged.

And how accountable are political leaders in general? Yes, they can be voted out of office.  They then collect a fat pension (a very fat pension) and in Britain even the most abject failures as prime minister have a good chance of getting a peerage. H.H. Asquith led Britain into the First World War which makes him a major contributor to the destruction of western civilisation. As a reward he was made an earl.

One of the reasons that democracy is in trouble is that bad or incompetent leaders do not pay a genuine price for their nation-wrecking. I’m not suggesting that we should hang failed prime ministers (although I admit that the idea of doing so occasionally, to encourage the others, does have a certain appeal). But there have been plenty of western political leaders for whom a few years breaking rocks in a prison yard would have been a fitting fate. And knowing that leaders who make an unholy mess of things might actually face punishment would have a most salutary effect not only on politicians but on the general public. The postwar disillusionment and nihilism of the 1920s might have been less severe had the bungling idiots who led the way to war paid the price for their folly.

Don’t get the idea that I’m defending the EU here. It really is a bureaucratic nightmare. But modern politics on the whole is in practice pretty much a sham.

Monday, September 16, 2019

beyond good and evil - politics today

Religion is, among other things, concerned with good versus evil. In a post-religious age the struggle between good and evil is transferred to the field of politics. No matter how rational we like to think we are we see politics as a struggle between the White Hats and the Black Hats, the good guys and the bad guys.

The problem is that in politics today there are no good guys. Perhaps there never were. But there certainly aren’t any today. Modern politics is more like a struggle for power between rival organised crime gangs. The apparent ideological differences between political rivals are more like different approaches to organised crime. It’s like the gang war between the North Side Mob and Capone’s South Side Mob.

The bigger problem is that ordinary people have not yet realised this. They still think that at least some politicians are on the side of the little guy. They’re still looking for heroes.

Democracy these days at best offers us a choice of which mobsters we’re going to be exploited by.

Take Brexit. Starry-eyed Leavers thought that leaving the EU would mean a return to traditional Britain. The Britain of cricket matches on the village green, a pint of bitter at the local pub, cod and chips, plucky little Britain standing up to Hitler, decency and common sense.

In fact Brexit is a dispute between two rival gangs of globalists. You can call them the Brussels Mob and the Washington Mob. You can have a choice between the globalism of bureaucracy and the globalism of deregulation and law-of-the-jungle free markets. The globalism of Tony Blair and David Cameron or the globalism of rootless cosmopolitans like Boris Johnson. Some billionaires will be better off under one brand of globalism while other billionaires will find the other brand of globalism to be more congenial. Ordinary people will still get screwed either way.

There’s no good vs evil in modern politics. Just internal disputes among the bad guys. Just because Tony Blair was a Black Hat doesn’t make Boris Johnson a White Hat. They’re both Black Hats. Hillary Clinton was a Black Hat, but so is Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that there is no such thing as good and evil. I’m just saying that it’s naïve to see politics in those terms.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

why it’s almost impossible to sell nationalism

Back in 2016 there was much excitement on the dissident right at the supposed revival of nationalism. The Brexit referendum and the election of Trump, the increase in support for nationalist parties in several European countries and the apparent determination of eastern European countries like Hungary to defy the globalists on immigration seemed to promise a nationalist tide that would sweep across the West.

It hasn’t happened. The nationalist tide has receded. Very little, if anything, was achieved. Brexit remains in limbo. Trump’s only solid achievement has been tax cuts for the rich. The globalists have gone beyond a mere support for high immigration levels - they are now openly advocating complete open borders. A belief in the total abolition of national borders has now gone mainstream. The nationalist parties in western Europe remain politically irrelevant. Eastern Europe seems certain to succumb to the siren songs of globalism, consumerism and feel good liberalism.

The reason is that supporters of nationalism seriously underestimated the emotional appeal of internationalism. The alternative to internationalism is nationalism, and nationalism means Hitler. That's how a very very large number of people see it. It's a pure emotional response. And it's a very powerful very visceral emotional response.

Supporters of nationalism are motivated by a strong and genuine belief that nationalism is a good thing. A morally good thing. But supporters of internationalism are also motivated by a strong and sincere belief that nationalism is morally wrong and reprehensible and dangerous and will lead to disaster.

Of course the people pulling the strings behind the scenes are in most cases motivated by a cynical desire for gain and for power. But the foot soldiers on both sides are running on pure emotion. That's why so few people change their views on this issue. Rational debate with either side is futile.

Supporters of nationalism are also often blind to the unpleasant fact that nationalism has not always been in practice such a good thing (just as supporters of internationalism are unable to see that there are valid arguments in favour of nationalism). Neither side has any interest in listening to the arguments of the other side because both sides are equally blinded by emotion.

There is also of course a class element. Nationalism is seen as one of those wicked beliefs that working-class people hold and the working class today has zero political or cultural power. There is not a single significant political party in the West that represents working-class people.

On balance globalism is at this point in time a much more dangerous and existential threat to civilisation than nationalism. But the emotional appeal of globalism/internationalism is much stronger than the emotional appeal of nationalism. And nationalism has very little appeal to the young because it’s old-fashioned and must therefore be obsolete. It is an iron law that the young always believe that they are the first generation in history to be truly enlightened and virtuous. Selling nationalism is not going to be easy.

Friday, September 6, 2019

more musings on conspiracy theories

I probably need to elaborate a bit on my recent conspiracy theories post.

First off, I certainly don’t advocate deplatforming or persecuting people who believe in conspiracy theories. There are some conspiracy theories which seem to me to be completely nuts (like the Faked Moon Landing theory) but I’m not going to tell people they can’t believe something simply because I think it’s crazy.

I also do not disbelieve all conspiracy theories on principle. I just think that if you’re going to be sceptical of “official” versions of events then you need to apply the same scepticism to alternative versions. You need to approach all explanations of events in the same way. Is it plausible? Could such a conspiracy have been possible? Is there a sufficiently strong motive to explain why official agencies would take the risk of exposure in order to promote a false version of events? How many people would have needed to be involved?

Does the conspiracy theory actually explain the known facts? Does it do a better job of explaining them than the official version? Is there at least some evidence to suggest that the official story is dubious?

Some conspiracy theories clearly fail the plausibility test. The Moon Landings Were Faked theory is a great example. It would have required the involvement of thousands of people in a number of different countries (since the Apollo missions were tracked by tracking stations across the globe). It would have been insanely risky - there’s just no way such a conspiracy could have been kept secret. It involved events that took place much too publicly. The payoff for such a conspiracy would not have been worth the risks. The official story is a better explanation of the known facts. So it’s reasonable to conclude that  it’s probably nonsense. Pretty much the same arguments can be used in respect of the 9/11 Truther conspiracy theories - they’re ludicrously complicated and the chances of pulling off such a conspiracy successfully would have been too slim.

You also need to ask whether a conspiracy theory seems appealing because it fits your pre-existing prejudices. If it does then you need to exercise an even higher degree of healthy scepticism. If you already think the Russians are evil and that Vladimir Putin is literally Hitler then you’re vulnerable to seeing Putin’s hand behind just about everything. If you already think that the Freemasons or the Jews or the Communists are enemies of civilisation then you’re vulnerable to seeing almost everything as a Masonic, Jewish or communist plot.

I do agree that the conspiracy theory label can be, and is, used to discredit political opponents. That’s one of the reasons it’s a good idea to steer clear of the crazier conspiracy theories - there’s no point in making it easy for your enemies to discredit you. I’m intrigued by Ron Unz’s idea that it’s possible that the crazier conspiracy theories may be being pushed by the C.I.A. in order to discredit the plausible conspiracy theories. He may be on to something so that’s another reason for caution.

There’s no doubt that some conspiracy theories are true, or are highly likely to be true. There are quite a few things that I firmly believe that most mainstream opinion would consider to be conspiracy theories (feminism being a corporate plot to weaken unions, identity politics being a plot to destroy the Old Left).

You just have to be cautious and sceptical about both official versions and conspiracy theories.

Friday, August 30, 2019

how conspiracy theory minded are you?

You can now do an online test of your propensity for believing conspiracy theories. It doesn’t test belief in specific conspiracy theories but is intended to measure your overall tendency to see the world in conspiracy theory terms.

I’m told the average American college student scores 2.2. My score was 1.8 which apparently makes me less inclined towards conspiracy theories than the average set subject.

Mostly I have little time for these online psychological tests but this one is quite intriguing. We seem to live in a society in which people increasingly see the world as an interlocking network of conspiracy. It’s something I personally try to avoid.

Of course if the conspiracy theorists are right then this test itself is probably part of a vast CIA mind control experiment!

Here’s the link to the test. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

politics is religion

There is a theory that all political beliefs are in fact religious beliefs. Our political beliefs reflect our underlying beliefs about The Way God Meant Things To Be. In this case I’m not necessarily referring to people who believe in a personal God like the Christian God but also to people who hold vague pantheistic or similar beliefs, beliefs that there’s some underlying moral order to the universe. I suspect that most people, even those who consider themselves to be atheists, do have some such beliefs even if they’re not consciously aware of it.

We either believe that there’s a Way God Meant Things To Be, or that there’s a way that things are meant to be that is in tune with the Natural Order of Things, or is in tune with some vague intelligence that controls the universe. These beliefs may simply reflect our own personalities as formed by genetics or culture or upbringing. These underlying religious or quasi-religious beliefs then form our political beliefs.

People who believe in free markets do so not because they have a profound understanding of economic systems but because they think that free markets are virtuous and are in accord with The Way God (or the Natural Order) Meant Things To Be. People who believe in socialism do so not because they have a deep understanding of economics but because they think that socialism is virtuous and is in accord with The Way God (or the Natural Order) Meant Things To Be. People who believe in democracy do so for the same reasons. The same applies to people who believe in Open Borders, or Social Justice.

We hold certain political views because they are satisfying to us in both an emotional and a religious manner.

Which is why it’s just about impossible to change people’s political views by arguing with them. There are no political debates. There are merely individuals and groups proselytising for their own essentially religious beliefs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The joys of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy has always been with us but it has really blossomed over the past few decades.

Some prime examples are the people who believe passionately that the government should be spending immense sums on mass transit but who have have never caught a bus or a train in their lives. There are people who are True Believers in the coming Climate Change apocalypse but they don’t seem to think that their beach houses in Malibu will be affected by rising sea levels. There are the passionate antiracists who live in towns that are 98% white.

There are libertarians who seem quite happy to enjoy the benefits of living in a society with a government rather than heading off into the wilderness to put their beliefs in rugged individualism into practice. There are American libertarians who are very happy to make use of America’s impressive national highway system, paid for by the taxpayer.

There are Zionist Jews who don’t want to give up their apartments in Manhattan to move to Tel Aviv. Liberals who think that intolerance is evil and believe that people who disagree with them should be sent to prison. People who think everybody should be free to love whomever they like but they’ll go berserk if their boyfriend decides to put that into practice by loving a younger hotter woman.

There are conservatives who claim to be horrified by the degeneracy of popular culture and particularly the degeneracy of Hollywood but they’ll still take the family to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, oblivious to the fact that they’re funding the degeneracy of which they claim to disapprove. And they’ll still keep their cable TV connection, even as they complain about the anti-conservative propaganda on cable TV.

You can’t avoid a certain degree of hypocrisy. One man’s hypocrisy is another man’s flexibility. But it is healthy to at least be aware of one’s own hypocrisies.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

national goals

People need to have some sort of purpose to their lives. Nations need a sense of purpose as well. That sense of purpose can come from religion or from a political ideology. But it can come from something more straightforward.

I‘ll use Australia as an example. The Second World War, in an indirect way, provided Australia with a sense of national purpose. Australia found itself at war with Japan and Australians felt themselves to be in mortal danger. For a country with a small population the problems were particularly acute. It was not an actual lack of military manpower that was the problem. The problem was in providing the troops with the means to resist an enemy. Specifically the problem was modern weaponry like tanks and fighter aircraft which could not be obtained from allies like Britain and the U.S. because those countries were intent on building up their own strength. Australia was forced to design and build its own tanks and fighters. This was done but there were problems. Australia simply did not have aero engines suitable for modern fighters.

Australia drew certain lessons from this. If we were to be able to defend ourselves we needed a large modern industrial base. That would require a larger population, hence the aggressive drive to attract immigrants from Britain and southern Europe. A larger population would not however be enough. The government would have to take steps to ensure that the necessary industrial base was developed. The objective as to achieve a measure of self-sufficiency. Australia should have a manufacturing sector capable of producing the complex products needed in the modern world. This would include military aircraft (built under licence) but also consumer goods such as washing machines, refrigerators, cars and light aircraft. A manufacturing sector capable of producing such products would be the basis, in time of crisis, for the production of the weapons needed to defend the country.

On strictly economic grounds it made little sense. We could import all that stuff much more cheaply than we could manufacture it. If the only goal was to become rich it was probably not the best way to go about it. But becoming rich was not the only goal.

Of course there were other considerations. Manufacturing provided good well-paid jobs. Full employment was considered to be important. Even the conservative parties thought that full employment and decent wages were good things. Money was a fine thing and profits were a good thing but government was about more than money and profits.

Turning Australia into a modern relatively self-sufficient nation with a strong manufacturing sector and high-tech capabilities, rather than a nation dependent on exports of primary produce, became a national goal of sorts. It was at least something.

Then in the 70s and 80s we turned out back on such goals. We began to dismantle our manufacturing sector. We could get rich by digging stuff out of the ground and selling it, Self-sufficiency was old-fashioned. Greed was much more modern and up-to-date. Who needs national goals?

Maybe we did become rich. I’m not convinced. We’re supposedly a rich nation but in the 60s most Australians could afford to buy a house and today they can't. And maybe when you give up on having national goals you give up something that matters. And you’re not a real nation any longer.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

They Live (1988) - movie review

John Carpenter’s They Live came out in 1988 and it’s an odd mixture of political satire, action movie, paranoia movie and 1950-style monster movie. It’s also surprisingly interesting from a political point of view.

We start with Nada, an ordinary working class guy desperate to get a job. He finds a place to live, in a shanty town in Los Angeles. There’s a very strong sense of unease. We get the feeling that this is not quite our world. There’s an incredible gulf between rich and poor. There’s massive unemployment and poverty and there’s homelessness on an enormous scale. The police behave more like an occupying army than a police force.

TV is everywhere. Even in the shanty town there are TV sets. TV programs focus on the lifestyles of the rich and on conspicuous and extravagant consumption. The shanty town dwellers have nothing but they watch TV shows about people who have everything.

Something is wrong. People know that something has gone wrong but they have no idea what it is. The unease gradually changes to outright menace. The church across the road from the shanty town is raided by the police who start shooting people and then demolish the shanty town. The police have lots of helicopters. They watch everything.

Nada is puzzled that the church across the road is hosting choir practice at 4 o’clock in the morning. He takes a look around. lt turns out that there’s no choir practice going on - that’s just a tape that’s playing. He finds a hidden compartment behind a wall, filled with boxes. He’s  no thief but his curiosity is not going to let him leave without taking one of the boxes with them. He’s disappointed to find that it contains nothing but sunglasses. Then he puts one of the pairs of sunglasses on and everything changes for him. They’re not ordinary sunglasses. They allow the wearer to see reality. What everyone is seeing is not reality but a kind of hypnotically induced dream state. Reality is very different.

The advertising posters don’t actually advertise anything. They carry messages and the messages are relentless - obey, consume, keep sleeping, conform. Even worse, the people of L.A. aren’t all humans. Many are monsters, clearly aliens. The rich people are mostly aliens. The poor people are all humans. Earth has been occupied by invaders from outer space. Their intention does not appear to be to massacre us but to exploit us for profit.

The influence of the classic 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, another movie with interesting political subtexts, is obvious.

Nada and Frank intend to fight back. They find a resistance group but the aliens know all about it.

The movie was intended as a response to the 80s in general and to Reagan’s economic policies in particular. Despite this it’s a movie that doesn’t seem dated. It’s possibly more relevant today than it was in 1988. As Carpenter puts it in the accompanying interview, in many ways the 80s never ended. Consumerism and social control are arguably much bigger problems today than in 1988. The aliens obviously represent the ruling class, interested in ordinary people solely as a source of profit. There’s nothing subtle about the satire here. It’s delivered with a sledge hammer.

This is very much a left-wing movie. This is not a movie that can be given a left-wing interpretation. It absolutely nails its colours to the mast. It is overtly and defiantly left-wing. What’s incredibly interesting is that it is also in every way a very socially conservative movie, and a very old-fashioned movie. Even more interestingly for a movie made in 1988 it doesn’t look back to the 60s as a golden age - it actually looks back to the 40s and 50s, and even earlier to the New Deal era.

As is made clear in the 2013 interview with Carpenter included in the DVD he made a deliberate and conscious choice to tell the story from the point of view of the working class, and to have a hero who is very much working class. This is extremely important since this makes They Live left-wing in the Old Left sense rather than the New Left sense. It was made at a time when the organised Left in the U.S. (and in the Anglosphere as a whole) was already losing interest in class and economic issues and beginning to embrace identity politics and social rather than economic radicalism. Whether Carpenter consciously identified with the Old Left or not (and his expressed admiration for New Deal socialism suggests that he was at least unconsciously taking this stance) this is pure Old Left stuff.

The hero is a white heterosexual working class man. His buddy Frank (who becomes his indispensable ally and partner in resisting the aliens) is a black heterosexual working class man with a wife and children. This is also significant. To the extent that this movie addresses the issue of race it is colour-blind (which was the completely orthodox view but is now apparently considered to be politically incorrect). What matters about Frank is that he is a normal heterosexual working class guy with a family.

This is a very heterosexual movie. A modern SJW would undoubtedly condemn it as being outrageously heteronormative. Everybody in the movie is heterosexual. It is simply taken for granted.

It’s also interesting that the two protagonists are old-fashioned gentlemen. They treat women with respect. When Nada meets Holly, despite the circumstances (he has to kidnap her at gunpoint) he still behaves like a gentleman. He doesn't try to take any sexual advantage of the situation and he doesn’t physically harm her in any way. He’s the kind of guy who is interested in marriage rather than casual sex.

This is a movie that attacks consumerism and free-market capitalism from a very left-wing perspective but while the movie is leftist in an economic sense it’s culturally very very conservative. The two heroes just want to get decent jobs that pay enough to let them get married and raise families. They want to live essentially 1950 lifestyles. That’s their idea of the American Dream, and the movie clearly approves of their aspirations. It’s rather depressing that such an overtly left-wing movie with such a clear-cut social conservative message could not be made today.

It’s very much worth a look.

Monday, July 22, 2019

China in Disintegration (book review)

James E. Sheridan’s China in Disintegration (originally published in 1975) covers the fascinating but fiendishly complex republican period of Chinese history, from the Revolution which overthrew the Manchu dynasty in 1911 to the final victory of the Communists in the Civil War in 1949.

The republican period cannot be understood without taking a brief glimpse of the catastrophic history of China in the 19th century. The treatment of China by the western powers, particularly the British, was truly appalling (the Opium Wars are among the most shameful chapters in all of British history and it’s surprising that the Chinese do not hate the British more than they do). It seemed likely that it would end with China being entirely dismembered and looted. This put the Chinese in a very difficult position - it seemed that they would have to westernise in order to survive but westernisation might well have meant the end of Chinese civilisation anyway.

It’s the dilemma that has faced every civilisation when confronted by the West - either surrender to westernisation or face destruction.

All of which explains why the successful Revolution of 1911 marked the beginning of revolution rather than the endpoint. Anti-imperialism continued to fuel revolutionary impulses while the country was hopelessly fragmented and in a state of near-anarchy. There was no way that the Manchus could simply be overthrown and replaced by a western parliamentary democracy. Firstly the country was going to have to be re-unified. By 1916 China had been carved up into semi-independent warlord states with no effective central government.

Secondly the country was going to have to be strengthened to the point where it could defend itself against the encroachments of imperialist powers. That would require industrialisation. How that industrialisation was going to be handled was open to debate.

Civil war was more or less continuous from 1911 to 1949, complicated greatly by Japanese invasion in the 30s. The conflict that really counted was the one between the Kuomintang (or Nationalist Party) and the Chinese Communist Party. The Kuomintang had many advantages but they were a sort of broad tent revolutionary party divided into leftist, centrist and rightist factions. The big problem for the Communists was that classical Marxist thought considered the peasants to be either an irrelevance or a hindrance to a revolution. China however was a peasant society. The genius of the Chinese Communist Party is that it was able to turn itself into a party of the peasants.

The Kuomintang on the other hand remained essentially a party of the urban middle class, its only interest in the peasants being in squeezing taxes out of them. The Kuomintang was fairly corrupt and generally incompetent and Chiang Kai-shek was increasingly dictatorial so despite holding a very strong hand the Kuomintang played that hand so badly that they managed to lose.

Sheridan is certainly sympathetic to the Communists but he still manages to give us a fascinating account of a bewildering but important period in the history of a great nation. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 15, 2019

ideologies and human nature

One’s political ideology seems to a large extent to reflect one’s views of human nature. Which I guess is logical.

Libertarians believe that people are naturally virtuous, hard-working, thrifty and responsible. It’s only the evil of government and rules and regulations that corrupt people. Get rid of governments and rules and everyone will become a rugged individualist. When reality tells them that this just isn’t so they simply ignore reality.

Liberals believe that people are naturally virtuous, hard-working, thrifty and responsible. It’s only oppressive structures like religion and patriarchy and institutional racism/sexism/homophobia that make people wicked. Get rid of those oppressive structures and everyone will be free and happy as autonomous individuals. When reality tells them that this just isn’t so they get angry and start blaming Nazis or racists or sexists. Then they introduce lots of laws to force people to be free and happy as autonomous individuals.

Conservatives believe that everyone has the ability to be a billionaire and that this will happen if only they can keep cutting taxes on billionaires.

Alt-rightists believe that all white people are naturally virtuous, hard-working, thrifty and responsible but it doesn’t work in practice because of the Jews and/or the blacks.

Traditionalists believe that people are naturally weak, vicious, selfish and self-destructive but that religion will make them reasonably happy and well-behaved.

Socialists (not modern fake leftists but actual socialists) believe that people are naturally weak, vicious, selfish and self-destructive but that the state can make them reasonably happy and well-behaved.

On the whole I think traditionalists and socialists are more grounded in reality.

Friday, July 12, 2019

grassroots vs elites in political parties

In a comment to my post a different kind of populist revolt? James mentioned Momentum, which raises some more interesting issues.

I’d been talking about the way left-wing political parties had been transformed from economically leftist/socially rightist parties into economically rightist/socially leftist parties. Momentum appears to be, to some extent, a grassroots revolt against this. The fact is that the rank-and-file members of left-wing parties like the British Labour Party were totally opposed to the transformation of their party. It was imposed on them by the party elites. Now there seems to be some pushback.

My own hope has been for the emergence of a leftist populism that would be a return to economically leftist/socially rightist policies. Momentum certainly seems to aim to push Labour in an economically leftist direction. Unfortunately they don’t seem inclined to abandon the incredibly destructive socially leftist policies, but it is at least a vaguely hopeful sign that rank-and-file party members are tired of having policies imposed on them by out-of-touch party elites. And if it leads to the purging of the Blairite elements in the party then it’s definitely a good thing.

Are there any signs of similar grassroots revolts elsewhere? I suppose the Bernie Sanders challenge in 2016 could be seen as an example, although unfortunately an unsuccessful one.

Depressingly there’s not much sign of such things in the Australian Labor Party.

What’s really interesting is that the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in British Labour was facilitated by a change in rules to give rank-and-file members the decisive say in choosing party leaders. Similar rules changes have been implemented in the Australian Labor Party. The idea behind the rules changes was to make leadership challenges much more difficult. Leaders can no longer be dumped by party-room coups organised by faceless men in smoke-filled rooms. The fact that rank-and-file members might actually choose a leader that the party elites violently disapproved of was one of those unintended consequences that make life interesting.

I don’t want to give the impression that I think Momentum is entirely a wonderful thing, they have some crazy ideas, but perhaps it’s at least a slightly hopeful sign that ordinary party members are prepared to fight back.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

a different kind of populist revolt?

There’s been a lot of excitement about the idea of a supposedly rising tide of populism, which has been greeted with either hope or trepidation depending on one’s perspective. The election of Trump, the Brexit referendum and the Italian election result have all been seen as manifestations of this tide of populism.

There may be another populist revolt brewing in Britain but it’s a different kind of populism. I refer to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the Labour Party. This presents some of the same problems as the rise of Trump - it’s not easy to be sure exactly what Corbyn actually represents. He does seem to have some actual old-fashioned economic leftist notions (which are the potentially populist elements) but they’re overlaid with a great deal of globalist/social justice boilerplate (these elements being vehemently anti-populist). It’s very hard to predict which way Corbyn might go as prime minister.

The only thing that does seem fairly certain is that he’s unlikely to be as enthusiastic about unhesitatingly supporting America imperial adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere. His aversion to war does seem to be pretty genuine, as does his aversion to imperialism.

While Trump, Brexit and the Italian election are usually interpreted as right-wing populism Corbyn represents the possibility of left-wing populism. I’ve thought for quite a while now that left-wing populism has a better chance of long-term success, and a better chance of achieving worthwhile results, than the right-wing variety. Now I must admit that Corbyn is not exactly the kind of left-wing populist I was hoping for. But the possibility of any kind of left-wing populism is at least encouraging.

So what exactly makes Jeremy Corbyn a potential populist? Firstly there’s the fact that his election as Labour leader represented a major grass-roots revolt against the Blairites who had thought that they had permanently transformed Labour into an economically right-wing party with a veneer of cultural leftism. Corbyn’s elevation to the leadership was a savage blow to the Blairites.

It was also a challenge to the political status quo in which Labour and the Tories are more or less identical parties which alternate in government.

As far as foreign policy is concerned it’s a challenge to the United States which has for seventy years assumed that Britain will remain an obedient vassal state. The U.S. Secretary of State has already hinted that the U.S. will interfere in the British elections to prevent the election of Corbyn, and will move to overthrow Corbyn if he is elected.

What is most significant about Corbyn is that whether or not he proves to be a complete failure in practice (as Trump has been) he has badly frightened the whole British political/media establishment and they are determined to destroy him.

You can tell a lot about a man by looking at his enemies. Jeremy Corbyn at least has all the right enemies.

Friday, July 5, 2019

people care about the future, but they don’t care very much

All of the social engineering experiments that have changed western societies so profoundly since the Second World War have been implemented against the wishes of the  populations of those societies. Those who disapprove of these changes are constantly asking the same questions - when are people going to get fed up with these changes? When are people finally going to take a stand against mass immigration, against cultural degeneracy, against the normalisation of perversion, against the excesses of feminism, against the insanity of endlessly multiplying genders?

The problem is that when these social experiments were first put in train the majority of the population opposed them, but they were not sufficiently opposed to take any active steps. As the social experiments accelerated out of control the majority of the population was still opposed to them, but still not sufficiently opposed to consider any active steps.

The sad truth is that people in western countries care about the future of their countries, but they don’t care very much.

At various times opportunities have existed for voters to take active steps. In countries such as Britain and Australia for example there have been hardline anti-immigration parties. Very few people have actually voted for them. It is interesting to speculate as to the reasons for this. One reason of course is that such parties are not quite respectable. Given that Britain and Australia have secret ballots it’s not a terribly convincing reason.

My theory is that even though most people did not want immigration it was not a major issue. They were more interested in bread-and-butter issues. They were more interested in voting for the party that would put more money into their pockets right now. They cared about the future of their nations, but they didn’t care enough to vote for parties that promised to end immigration.

I suspect it’s the same with all the issues I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Most people would have been on the side of social conservatism, most people would have preferred to be spared the inanities and the depravities of social radicalism, but they weren’t motivated to do anything about it.

As we have now reached the point where there’s not a great deal left to save it hardly matters whether the majority of the population approves or disapproves. When there was still a chance to do something people chose to put short-term interests and personal greed ahead of concern for the future of society. And that’s still the choice that most people will make.

It may be an effect of the faith in democracy. It may be the result of affluence, or consumerism, or perhaps just in general getting things too easy. And so we slowly drift towards perdition and we don’t really care.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

left is left and right is right, or maybe not

I can still, dimly, remember when Australian politics was pretty simple. On one side was the Liberal-Country Party Coalition, generally referred to simply as the Coalition. They were right-wing on economic issues and conservative on social and cultural issues. On the other side was the Australian Labor Party. They were left-wing on economic issues and conservative on social and cultural issues.

In fact in those days it would never have occurred to most people that there was any need to classify political beliefs in any other way than a simple left-right continuum. The Coalition was therefore right-wing (but not too extreme) and Labor was left-wing (but not too extreme). Everybody had the same views on social and cultural issues.

John Gorton, Australia's first socially left PM
That all changed in the late 60s. In Australia at least it happened in the late 60s. The situation seems to have changed at roughly the same time throughout the Anglosphere. The Labor Party started to espouse radical social and cultural ideas. The started moving leftwards on those issues. At the time no-one would have thought of it in exactly these terms because the idea of being socially/culturally left hardly even existed. But by the time Labor under Whitlam finally regained power at the federal level in 1972, after 23 years in opposition,   it was starting to become pretty obvious that there was a left-right continuum on social and cultural matters and that Labor was moving leftwards.

During the brief life of the Whitlam Government most grassroots Labor supporters were still economic left/social right. The leadership of the party was divided, with old school Labor figures being focused on left-wing economic agendas while the new breed increasingly focused on radical social causes whilst still being left-wing on economic issues.

What’s really interesting is that at about the same time the Coalition started moving leftward on social/cultural issues as well. The Gorton Coalition Government of 1968-71 was, by the standards of the times, quite left-wing on social and cultural issues.

By the late 70s Labor had become economic left/social left and the Coalition was economic right/social left.

Then came the 80s and strange things happened to the Labor Party. During the ascendancy of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Labor shifted dramatically rightwards on economic issues (in fact they were further right than the coalition for a while).That shift has never been reversed.

Labor today is solidly in the economic right/social left camp. The Coalition is also solidly in the economic right/social left camp. The parties are effectively interchangeable, which explains the volatility of Australian politics in this era. Voters know that whichever side they vote for nothing changes and they’re understandably disillusioned. That’s also pretty much the situation in other Anglosphere countries. In Britain the Conservative Party is hard-right on economics and hard-left on social issues. It’s indistinguishable from the Blairite wing of the Labour Party. The Corbynite wing of Labour makes some noises about actual economic left issues but whether they would pursue such policies in office is another matter. In any case it seems unlikely that the Americans would allow Jeremy Corbyn to become PM.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, destroyer of the traditional Labor Party 
In the U.S. the Democrats are hard-right on economics and hard-left on social issues. The Republicans are hard-right on economics and simply don’t care about social issues.

What’s important about all this is that there are two significant constituencies that are entirely ignored by mainstream politics. One of these is the Old School conservative constituency, the people who are right-wing on both economic and social issues. These people simply have no representation. Some, a tiny handful, drift into areas like the alt-right (in Australia they might be One Nation supporters). As far as mainstream politics and the media are concerned these people are Nazis.

The other ignored constituency is the Old School Left - the ones who are left on economic issues but right-wing on social/cultural issues. As far as mainstream politics and the media are concerned these people don’t even exist. They cannot exist. They are the political establishment’s worst nightmare. They are Woke Capital’s worst nightmare. They are powerless because they have no leaders. If they ever find leaders then everything is up for grabs. The whole political landscape will be reshaped.

What’s also interesting is that some of the more intelligent people in the alt-right and dissident right subcultures are starting to have doubts about that whole being right-wing on economic issues thing. They’re starting to think that maybe the free market isn’t powerful magic after all, that maybe GDP growth doesn’t mean very much, that maybe GDP growth is pretty worthless if ordinary people can’t afford to buy a house and raise a family even though back in the 1960s ordinary people could afford to do both those things. It’s only a very small number of alt-right and dissident right people who are having such doubts, but the ones having the doubts tend to be the ones with the brains.

So the future is interesting, with large groups of people effectively completely disenfranchised and either ignored or reviled. It’s a potentially unstable situation. All it needs is someone with the imagination and the ability to light the fuse.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

the power of wishful thinking

There is nothing quite so powerful and so seductive as the power of wishful thinking. It explains a great deal of what has gone wrong with society.

Conservative-leaning voters are a monument to the power of wishful thinking. No matter how many times parties like the Republican Party, the British Conservative Party and the LNP in Australia betray their supporters those supporters continue to believe that next time it will be different. The next Republican candidate won't betray them. The next Tory PM won’t betray them. This time it will be different. This time Lucy won’t pull the football away at the last moment. She promised she wouldn’t.

Left-leaning voters suffer from wishful thinking as well. Despite the abundant evidence that the official leftist parties sold out to big business decades ago these voters still convince themselves that next time it will be different, next time these parties will do something for the working class.

Associated with wishful thinking is magical thinking. You know the sort of thing. If only we can get a few more conservatives on the Supreme Court everything will be fine. Even though conservatives who get appointed to the Supreme Court usually turn out to be liberals. There’s also the belief in Britain that somehow Brexit will make everything OK again. Which ignores the fact that Britain’s most dangerous enemies have been in Whitehall rather than Brussels.

One interesting piece of wishful thinking that I’ve noticed on dissident right sites is the idea that America is going to break up, quite peacefully, and that’s going to permit the formation of a white ethnostate. It kinda ignores the fact that the last attempt to break up the country lead to a bloodbath. But most of all it ignores the fact that white solidarity is a pipe-dream. Rich whites hate and despise and fear poor whites. Poor whites hate and despise and fear rich whites. Liberal whites hate conservative whites. Conservative whites hare liberal whites. There ain’t never gonna be a white ethnostate. White people hate other white people more than they hate anyone else.

At times it seems like wishful thinking is the only alternative to despair, but they’re both equally dangerous.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

hurrah for freedom, whatever that means

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by this freedom thing. I’ve been even more puzzled since I started spending time on right-wing internet sites. Right-wingers get very excited by freedom (in much the same way that people who identify as left-wing get terribly excited by the idea of rights).

I get even more confused when I hear about freedom and democracy, because I cannot see what democracy has to do with freedom. OK, so we get to choose which government will oppress and misgovern us. And whichever government we get will almost certainly oppress and misgovern us in pretty much the same way. In fact whichever party wins the election it seems that the people actually pulling the strings don’t change. So I can’t see exactly how voting makes us free.

I was intrigued on a recent thread over at Unz Review to hear several people make the claim, based on personal experience, that growing up under communist regimes they felt more free than they feel today. They also felt that the communist government had been more responsive to people’s needs.

So is the freedom we supposedly enjoy in our liberal democracies actual freedom or is it an illusion? And is it better to have the right to vote in meaningless elections, for governments that actively hate the people they govern, or to have a government that at least puts the future of its own people first?

Is it possible that regimes that seem to be, on superficial examination, authoritarian in nature actually offer their people more freedom than regimes that loudly trumpet their commitment to democracy?

We might also ask whether, when wars are launched to bring the benefits of freedom and democracy to nations that have shown no interest in such things, we are actually making these people more free or less free? Are we giving people freedom in theory but does it turn out in practice to be a mirage?

Is our freedom merely a new type of tyranny?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

SJWs and the spooks

While I firmly believe that Woke Capital has been the source of a huge amount of the SJW madness that has afflicted the West over the past half century (see my previous post Woke Capital and the Fake Left) it is also perhaps just possible that more sinister forces have been at work.

Now I’m very very wary of conspiracy theories. Most of them don’t really seem to make sense to me and it worries me that once you go down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole there’s no way back. On the other hand, while most conspiracy theories are undoubtedly wrong that doesn’t mean that actual conspiracies don’t take place. A cursory glance at history shows that conspiracies have been quite common. Kings have been overthrown, regimes have been toppled, revolutions have been made - and in most cases such things could hardly have happened had there not been people conspiring to bring them about.

I’m quite fond of Ron Unz’s idea that agencies like the C.I.A. might well be promoting lots of wacky conspiracy theories in order to discredit the idea that real conspiracies exist. It would be a good way to distract people’s attentions away from the handful of genuine conspiracies.

Be that as it may there’s an interesting recent Steve Sailer post at Unz Review, The Great Awokening Conspiracy Theory, and one commenter makes the suggestion that some of the murkier American intelligence agencies might have started deliberately pushing the SJW hysteria as a way of neutering the Occupy Wall Street movement a few years back. It does seem vaguely possible. It also seems to me to be vaguely plausible that such American intelligence agencies may have been stoking the fires of SJW outrage for years. The whole Social Justice thing is such an incredibly useful distraction from the point of view of so many powerful groups.

I’m not going to put this forward as a serious theory, I’m not yet ready to join the tinfoil hat brigade, but still it is something to think about.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Woke Capital and the Fake Left

One of the great mysteries of the past half-century has been the enthusiastic support that the business sector has given to the destruction of the family, the destruction of Christianity and the undermining of all traditional values. The rise of Woke Capital, corporations that support every lunatic manifestation of identity politics and every sort of social and cultural decadence, has bewildered social conservatives.

In fact of course there is absolutely no mystery at all. In the immediate postwar period the Left seemed to be a very real threat. The Soviet Union appeared to be well on the way to becoming an economic and technological as well as a military superpower. Labour was in power in Britain. They were not only introducing the National Health Service but were showing a definite interest in nationalising key industries. The Labor Government in Australia and left-leaning governments in various countries were thinking along similar lines. Europe was starting to move towards a kind of Socialism Lite. Trade union movements in most western countries were powerful and active.

The Left seemed to be in the ascendant. Revolution seemed unlikely but on the other hand a gradual drift towards socialism seemed very possible. Truly ghastly possibilities seemed to be on the horizon, things like an actual redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, nationalisation of the banks and other horrors.

How could all this be prevented? The solution was simple but daring. Rather than try to destroy the Left why not just hijack it? And thus, beginning in the late 60s, we got the New Left. The New Left was well-funded and was new and exciting. But the best thing about it was that it wasn’t left-wing at all. The New Left just loved capitalism. The New Left wasn’t interested in tedious economic stuff. They didn’t care about boring stuff like the working class. They were fighting against racism! And sexism. And for sexual liberation. And homosexual liberation. And legalised drugs. And legalised porn. Their struggle was for liberation. Liberation is a good thing isn’t it? And they would save the planet as well.

It was all so exciting that nobody noticed that the New Left had in fact abandoned leftism in favour of radical right-wing liberalism.

Also nobody worried that maybe destroying the trade unions might not be a great idea. Unions were boring Old Left ideas. The struggle against racism and sexism was much more exciting.

This has all been very very good for Big Business. They no longer have to worry about the Left. They no longer have to worry about being held to account for their massive profits, or for driving down wages, or for wanting to import cheap labour. They no longer have to worry that people might notice that free markets are pretty much a fraud and that monopolies seem to be ever more common. The Left (or rather the Fake Left) is too busy searching for Nazis under the bed and campaigning for the right of men wearing frocks to use the ladies’ room.

Being Woke is very very good for big business. Today all of Big Business is Woke, and a large part of small business is Woke as well (being Woke allows small business to get away with paying starvation wages to illegal immigrants).

There are of course other bonuses. Destroying the traditional family is a good thing because without families people become better consumers.

Woke Capital is not going to go away. And they’re going to push the Woke agenda harder and harder because as long as Woke causes are occupying our attention nobody is raising any awkward economic questions. Capital is going to become ever more Woke, and ever more militantly Woke.

the irrational goes mainstream

One of the more amusing features of the current era has been the emergence of witches as leaders of the “resistance” against Trump. Don’t laugh, these witches are not just resisting Trump they’re also putting hexes on the patriarchy and (of course) on Nazis. The New York Times is quite excited by all this.

In fact this kind of nuttiness has been with us for a long time. Superficially it seemed like the most crazy manifestations of the 60s/70s counterculture (astrology, witchcraft, silly eastern cults, psychoanalytic claptrap) were more or less swamped by the materialism, the hedonism and the naked greed of the 80s. But that’s not actually what happened. The really crazy stuff didn't disappear. It infiltrated the mainstream. The craziness, the degeneracy, the toxic feminism, the homosexual agenda, the belief in occultism and psychic nonsense – all the seriously bad ideas of the counterculture became part of the mainstream.

The 1960s/70s counterculture did not disappear. It became the mainstream. What passes for respectable conservative mainstream culture today would have shocked and sickened ordinary people in the 1950s.

And the infiltration of diseased and depraved ideas into the mainstream has never stopped and it is continuing today.

The craziness became less obvious and less flamboyant compared to the 70s but when you scratch beneath the surface you’ll find that apparently perfectly normal people believe things that would have been considered insane prior to the 1960s. What was once  fringe is now firmly mainstream.

And as for the conservative backlash, it never happened and it doesn’t look like happening. The 80s did not represent a conservative backlash – it was simply crass materialism, hedonism and consumerism turned into a cult. There was no actual reversal of the follies of the 60s and 70s.

And included in this package of bad ideas and silly beliefs that have been mainstreamed are some seriously irrational beliefs. There is of course the very firm belief that feelings are more important than facts. But it goes way beyond that. Magical thinking is well entrenched in our society, particularly in the lunatic fringe of the feminist movement. Of course feminists in the 70s believed in all sorts of quasi-spiritual absolute nonsense like homeopathy, energy fields, magical female energies, etc. And the craziness imbedded itself in society. Not everybody believes such silliness but a disturbing number of people do. The widespread belief in conspiracy theories (unfortunately perhaps even more prevalent among right-wingers) is another symptom of the fundamentally irrational nature of our society.

The feminist witch thing is so loopy that it is tempting to think that such absurdities can simply be laughed off, but it’s simply a particularly extravagant manifestation of a widespread cult of unreason which afflicts the whole of our society (and is found in slightly different forms among both conservatives and liberals).

The 70s wasn’t just a phase our society was going through. It marked a permanent change, an irreversible turn towards irrationality and emotion, from which we may not recover (barring some ind of cataclysm).

Saturday, June 1, 2019

all political ideologies are substitute religions

People on the right are fond of describing liberalism, and also Marxism, as secular religions.

In fact all political ideologies, whether of the left or the right, are substitute religions. That includes nationalism and HBD, and blank slatism, and libertarianism.

The growth of political ideology in the West precisely coincided with the collapse of Christianity. When Christianity collapsed people started looking for alternative religions – Marxism, nationalism, fascism, environmentalism, liberalism, IQ fetishism, feminism, libertarianism, etc.

For many people both science and atheism became alternative religions, which explains the religious zeal and bigotry of atheists, evolutionists, global warming cultists, etc.

It’s important to note that whether scientific theories are true or not becomes irrelevant once they are turned into substitute religions, as has happened with evolution, HBD and climate science. Some of these scientific notions may be true. That’s not the point. Once they become substitute religions their truth or falsehood no longer matters. Most adherents of these substitute religions have no idea if the original scientific notions were complete nonsense or whether they were plausible scientific theories.

The same applies to the political ideologies. Some may have a certain degree of validity. But they become secular religions and from that point on they are not questioned.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

European Parliament elections

I wish I could share the enthusiasm of so many on the Right over the European Parliament elections, especially the British vote.  On TV tonight a well-known conservative pundit was talking about Nigel Farage’s overwhelming victory.

My problem is the I can’t see that overwhelming victory. Farage’s Brexit Party apparently got around 30% of the vote. The hardline pro-Brexit parties between them mustered around 35%. The hardline Remain parties apparently mustered around 40% of the vote. How one should interpret the votes of those who voted Labour, or the handful who voted Tory, is a matter for debate. If someone actually wanted Brexit to go ahead it’s difficult to understand how they could possibly vote for the Tories.

And I believe the turnout was around 37% (these figures are from various new report so I have no idea if they’re absolutely accurate). If true, that’s pretty low. It also means that about one in seven of those eligible to vote bothered to turn up to vote for the hardline pro-Brexit parties. What’s especially disappointing is that this is an entirely pointless election for an entirely pointless institution. Which means people can feel free to vote any way they choose. They can feel free to lodge a protest vote. And this was, in Britain, a single-issue election. This was the first opportunity since the referendum for an absolutely clear-cut message to be sent, but whatever the message to be taken from this election might be it sure isn’t clear-cut.

Once again the massive groundswell of public opinion that right-wingers like to imagine is going to make its appearance at any moment and sweep away globalism and the social justice agenda seems to have failed to materialise.

To me the European Parliament election results look worryingly inconclusive. I suspect they are going to fuel the ever-growing push for a second referendum. Could Leave win a second referendum? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

renaming cultural marxism

On a recent thread elsewhere a commenter made an interesting point. Given that cultural marxism is funded by, and promoted by, corporate interests shouldn't we call it cultural capitalism rather than cultural marxism?

I’m inclined to agree and I must admit that I rather like the term cultural capitalism.

Monday, May 20, 2019

active and passive politics


Democracy is like television. It encourages passivity. It encourages people to believe that they can change things by voting. The big problem is that it encourages them to believe that that is all they have to do. People think they’re actively participating in politics if they tun up to the polling station once every few years and cast their vote for Party X rather than Party Y.

Brexit is a fine example. Lots of people in Britain actually thought that if they voted for Brexit in a referendum then it would happen. Amazingly it never occurred to them that if the overwhelming majority of the Establishment was rabidly anti-Brexit that Establishment would regard the “will of the people” with utter contempt. In fact the British elites have been treating the will of the people with contempt for a couple of centuries but Britons still cling tenaciously to the illusion that they have a democracy and that their opinions will be listened to and respected. It doesn’t occur to them that maybe just voting every few years isn’t enough.

Trump is another excellent example. Lots of Americans believe that they did everything they could to change the disastrous course their society had taken because they voted for Trump. And what do they intend to do now that Trump has betrayed them? They’ll vote for him again. It will be different this time. This time Lucy won’t snatch the football away at the last moment.

This is passive politics. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t achieve anything.

The Cultural Revolution that has torn the heart out of our civilisation was not achieved by practising passive politics. And, something that cannot be emphasised too strongly, it was not achieved through the ballot box.

It was achieved by wealthy corporations spending immense amounts of money to make it happen. It was achieved by assembling an army of loyal foot soldiers (the Social Justice Warriors) who would devote their entire lives to the cause. They were able to work full time in the cause of the Cultural Revolution because those who were pulling the strings ensured that they could do so. It was an amy of full-time political activists. SJWs are not amateur activists. They are paid professionals. Some are simply paid agitators. Others have been given jobs in academia, the media or the bureaucracy. These jobs allowed them to work full time as cultural revolutionaries. Creating a Cultural Revolution requires immense resources. Those resources were duly provided.

And SJWs are for the most part fiercely loyal to the Cultural Revolution. They have to be. They have nothing else. They are people with no other marketable skills. They are completely dependent on the Cultural Revolution. Therefore they devote their whole lives to furthering the cause (in this respect they differ from old-fashioned communists who sometimes had some actual real-word skills).

SJWs practise active politics. They have little interest in elections. They have won battle after battle in the culture war and they have won all of the battles on the immigration front. They have not won any of these battles by voting. They set out instead to change the culture by taking over all of society’s cultural institutions. It is political total war.

What about those ordinary people who want to oppose the Cultural Revolution? People who are by nature social conservatives and do not want things like open borders? They express their opposition by voting. They think that by voting they can influence the way the country is governed. For the whole of the postwar period they have voted conscientiously in the belief that voting matters and their influence over events has been nil. Governments have simply ignored the will of the people. That’s what happens when you practise passive politics.

It’s not enough to vote. Unless you can force governments, once elected, to do what you want them to do they will ignore you. But these ordinary people do not have unlimited resources of time and money. They have real-world responsibilities. They have jobs and they have family responsibilities. But most of all they have been trained by democracy to practise passive politics.

Monday, May 13, 2019

population and employment in our glorious future

It’s pretty obvious that most of the pressure for open borders has come from the corporate sector, and that it’s been largely about cheap labour. Driving down wages and ensuring that the trade-union movement remains as weak as possible. The money behind the push for open borders has come from the corporate sector.

Now the world is changing rapidly. We’ve been hearing for decades that automation was going to eliminate jobs. Of course it has already done so in many industries but it’s likely that in the near future the impact of automation will be much much greater.

You might think that this would mean that the enthusiasm for mass immigration will begin to dissipate. If jobs disappear in huge numbers there’s surely no need for that cheap labour any longer. This is a misunderstanding. Automation is not really about eliminating jobs. It is about eliminating decent well-paid jobs. The objective is not to reduce the number of jobs but to have a docile non-unionised workforce willing to work for low wages and willing to accept miserable working conditions. Feminism of course was also promoted for similar reasons.

There will still be lots of jobs. We keep hearing about the need for more workers in service industries. We can also expect a return to the days when rich people had plenty of servants. Rich people like having servants. It makes them feel - rich. There is also going to be a need for an enormous pool of workers to care for the elderly. It’s not just the ageing of the population - it’s also the fact that the days when the elderly could or would be looked after by their families are long gone. In any case, in our Brave New World, families are pretty much as thing of the past.

There will be plenty of jobs, but they will be largely menial and soul-destroying, poorly paid and mostly done by women. There is still going to be a demand for cheap labour.

But there’s another factor to consider. The corporate sector wants cheap labour but they also want more consumers. Capitalism, or at least the type of capitalism that now dominates our world, requires an ever-increasing army of consumers to buy increasingly worthless products and to consume increasingly worthless services. The enthusiasm of big business for mass immigration is not going to diminish. In fact, in an economy in which so many jobs are going to be poorly paid, big business is going to want more and more consumers. It cannot be stressed too strongly that big business does not care if per capita wealth falls and keeps on falling as long as there is enough population growth to keep the economy as a whole growing. As far as they are concerned two hundred million people with relatively low material standards of living is a lot better than fifty million people with high standards of living.

And it goes without saying that big business could not care less about quality of life issues. as long as profits grow they are happy.

Bruce Charlton recently made another interesting point in relation to automation - that the point of automation is not to increase productivity but to increase the level of social control - Why is automation everywhere? Think Ahriman! This is a idea that had not occurred to me but it makes a lot of sense.

So if you’re imagining that while automation may be an evil it will at least have the positive effect of reducing the pressure for mass immigration you’d better think again.

Friday, May 10, 2019

technology and morality

I’ve just been reading Larry Niven’s very early science fiction novel A Gift from Earth. I’m not really familiar with his work and I’ve tended to avoid it since he has a reputation for having libertarian tendencies, and libertarian science fiction is something I avoid. This one does however have a few interesting ideas in it about both politics and morality.

One of Niven’s more disturbing ideas is that technology changes morality. It’s not an idea that I’m comfortable with but it has to be admitted that he argues his case pretty well. It should be said that he’s not necessarily arguing that technology changes morality for the better (A Gift from Earth is in fact a dystopian novel of sorts). He’s not necessarily arguing that it’s a good thing that technology changes morality. He simply argues that it happens. In the novel medical science has advanced to the point of being able to extend life for centuries but on the colonised world that provides the book’s setting that technology is dependent on the supply of human organs. Lots of human organs. Fresh ones. That demand is supplied in a disturbing way. Almost every crime carries the death sentence. The executed criminals supply the necessary organs for the organ banks.

The ethical dilemma in this case is that if you commit a crime it’s only right that you should die so that non-criminals can live. It’s not an idea that has been put into practice yet, although the harvesting of foetuses in abortion clinics does come perilously close (and could be considered to be in some ways worse since the victims are entirely innocent. Given the way the moral arc has been trending in the past half century it’s not entirely impossible that even the practice Niven describes might start to seem reasonable to some.

It’s a fairly crude example of technology changing ethics but the fact that it’s crude gives it an impact.

And in the real world we have seen examples of technology changing morality. The obvious example is the contraceptive pill. Whether we like it or not, whether we approve or not, the pill did change sexual ethics. It enabled sex to become a purely recreational activity, entirely divorced from emotion and from any kind of individual or social  responsibility or duty. It was a catastrophic change but there’s no question that as far as a very large percentage of the population is concerned that change did happen. It could also be argued that it laid the groundwork for the acceptance of abortion, easy divorce and homosexuality since the principle that sex is purely recreational had already been established.

Other changes in what might be called reproductive technology, things like surrogacy and other more horrifying changes, are going to have similarly dramatic effects on what constitutes accepted sexual morality. And of course the extraordinary and horrific boom in so-called gender re-assignment surgery are going to drive further changes.

Of course all of this applies only to societies that take an entirely materialistic and atheistic view of life. A religious society would be more likely to outlaw or very severely regulate such technologies. Unfortunately in the modern West we live in an entirely materialistic and atheistic society.

Niven, rather cleverly, does not try to preach. He lets the reader make up his own mind how to respond to the idea of capital punishment being linked with medical technology.

Niven is also surprisingly clear-sighted about politics. He understands that politics in practice is about power, and about lobby groups advancing their own group interests. Principles are no longer of any interest to modern politicians (if they ever were).

So it’s a novel that does raise some interesting issues in a fairly brutal manner.