Saturday, March 26, 2016

external enemies and totalitarianism

Every totalitarian regime need enemies. As Orwell realised in the 1940s they need both external and internal enemies. It’s as true of our present-day western soft totalitarianism a it has been of every previous totalitarian state.

In Orwell’s novel the external enemy is provided by the never-ending wars against either Eurasia or Eastasia. Orwell brilliantly realised that it would be useful if the external enemy changed from time to time. It adds to the atmosphere of paranoia, of uncertainty. Most importantly it makes foreign policy confusing for the average person. For a totalitarian regime that is a very desirable feature. If ordinary people do not understand foreign policy they can be frightened all the more effectively - and made to feel that the safest thing is to trust the government foreign policy “experts” who presumably know what is best. Switching enemies from time to time is of course also useful in training people to believe things that they know to be untrue. We have always been at war with Eurasia. Except when we have always been at war with Eastasia.

Our present-day leaders have absorbed Orwell’s lessons. In fact today we have the same  “enemies” - Eurasia (Russia) and Eastasia (China). We also have an extra enemy - Islam. This makes things more confusing, which is of course the whole idea. These are very useful enemies because the threat they represent is so vague and mysterious. It’s difficult for the person in the street to understand how incredibly important it is to stop China from controlling a few islands in the South China Sea. So Americans (and Australians) assume it must be part of some nefarious Inscrutable Oriental Masterplan. It’s basically the Yellow Peril of a hundred years ago dusted off and re-used.

The menace of Russia is also delightfully vague and incomprehensible. Russia must not be allowed to control the Crimea, even though the Crimea has been Russian for centuries. The Ukraine is a vital national security interest for the US and the entire world. Nobody knows why because nobody is capable of disentangling the intricacies of eastern European history and politics. Obviously the Crimea and the Ukraine are vital to the defence of the United States - you have only to look at a map to see that. If the Russians got the Ukraine they’d be in Nebraska within a week.

Islam is even better. Ordinary people don’t know the difference between Shi’a Moslems and Sunni Moslems. They certainly don’t know anything about the Wahhabi sect. Ordinary people don’t know the difference between a secular Moslem state like Syria and an Islamic state like Iran. The fact that the Moslems in the Middle East belong to at least three different distinct ethnic and cultural groups - Turks, Arabs and Persians - adds to the confusion. And who the hell are the Kurds? Where did these ISIS guys come from? How come lots of Syrians are actually Christians? We’d better leave all this to the foreign policy experts. All we need to know is that Russia, China and Islam are all enemies.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

useless things - NATO and solar energy

Donald Trump has questioned the need for NATO. The amazing thing about this is that it’s controversial. NATO has served no useful purpose since 1991. If anything it makes the world less safe.

Trump is also, rightly, sceptical about other useless international alliances - relics of the Cold War that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

If Europe wants to defend itself it would be better off doing the job itself. A European defence alliance without the US might be worthwhile, but only if it includes Russia.

In other news, a new $2.2 billion solar energy project that won’t actually produce usable affordable energy when it’s needed but will kill lots of endangered birds.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trump, neocons and the Left

The 2016 presidential election in the US continues to provide amusement and amazement (mixed with a certain amount of despair). The most interesting thing about it is that the most left-wing of all the candidates is Donald Trump.

The US is now controlled entirely by the neocons. They are the ones calling the shots. They have the influence and they have the money behind them. Both major parties have embraced the neocon philosophy lock, stock and barrel. The differences between a Ted Cruz or a Marco Rubio and a Hillary Clinton are merely cosmetic.

There’s a popular theory that neocons are closet leftists, that they are essentially rebranded Trotskyists. I don’t buy this. There’s nothing remotely left-wing about neocons. The “neocons are leftists in disguise” theory is based on neocon support for identity politics movements. In fact of course neocons couldn’t care less about blacks or homosexuals or any other victim groups. Neocons employ these victim groups as useful idiots. Neocons care about three things - global capitalism, war and Israel.

Neocons are perhaps best thought of as representing the extreme end of the far right. 
This does not imply that neocons are conservatives. They are not conservatives in any way, shape or form. They are right-wing, but not conservative. They represent the radical right.

Ironically the modern political parties that get labelled as far right are in truth centre-left or even further left. They represent leftist nationalism. Which makes sense. Leftist policies can only work in relatively homogenous stable societies. Mass immigration simply makes leftist policies impossible. A leftist who embraces globalism is living in a dream world.

In the 1930s the far right was identified with nationalism (not always correctly since many of the far right political parties of the 30s were a mix of left and right wing ideologies). Today the far right (the neocons) embrace globalism and hate nationalism with a passion. Leftists in Europe may be finally beginning to awaken to the reality that they must embrace nationalism. Leftists in the US don’t count since they are such a tiny and insignificant minority (a few ageing Marxist university professors and that’s about it). The US Democratic Party is most emphatically not a leftist party. It’s a neocon party.

Any kind of leftist political agenda is impossible without a fairly stable homogenous population and strong border controls. A conservative agenda is equally impossible without those elements. On the other hand a radical right-wing agenda (as promoted by the neocons) is not only possible, such an agenda actually requires population instability, mass immigration and open borders.

The radical right-wing agenda of the neocons may be the most destructive ideology yet seen in the West. It remains to be seen whether an alliance can be forge between genuine leftists and genuine conservatives.

The almost hysterical hatred displayed by neocons towards Donald Trump has one major cause - whatever Trump might be he is not a neocon. The great fear of the neocons is not right-wing populism - it is the possibility of a populism that combines both left-wing and conservative values.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

exposing the crybullies

One of the more sinister developments of the past couple of years is the rise of the crybully. The crybullies are people who pretend to have been victimised and pretend to have been traumatised by this victimisation when in fact they themselves are the actual bullies.

We’re all familiar with this phenomenon from recent events on American university campuses, with students claiming to have been reduced to tears and claiming to have suffered damage to their mental health by having to listen to the opinions of evil white right-wingers. A recent post on OzConservative details one of the more extreme recent examples.

In fact of course these students (most of whom spend more time indulging in “activism” than actually studying) have not been the least bit traumatised. They have discovered a new and powerful weapon with which to crush dissent and silence any remaining vestiges of freedom of speech. All they have to do is burst into tears or claim to have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder or some such nonsense and they know that cowardly university authorities will cave in to their demands and prevent anyone from expressing opposing views on campuses. They are not victims. They are liars and they are bullies and they are determined to impose absolute uniformity of thought and speech.

If this was something that only happened on university campuses it would be bad enough but similar tactics are being employed in workplaces in the real world, in the mainstream media and in social media. It is a tactic being used to impose even more draconian limitations on freedom of speech on social media in particular. 

Of course the argument is often made, especially in the US, that social media is run by private companies so any protections in regard to freedom of speech do not apply. This is nonsense. If you run a social network you are establishing a public space and if you impose controls on freedom of speech then you are practising censorship. The internet is a public space. Those who control social media effectively control the internet. For such companies to impose censorship is in practice no different from the government imposing censorship.

The Social Justice Warriors are determined to control all public discourse. The crybully tactic is a terrifyingly effective tool that they are using with a great deal of ruthlessness.

To some extent this applies to the modern anti-bullying hysteria in general which can be employed for the same ends. It is a convenient cover for ever more sweeping hate speech legislation which means ever further limits on freedom of speech.

The crybully tactic needs to be exposed for what it is - another weapon with which to suppress any expression of dissent.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

shifting the Overton Window and overcoming despair

When one surveys the political scene today it’s very easy to give in to despair. This might be because we’re not looking at things in the right way. Perhaps we’re focusing too much on short-term possibilities and ignoring the long term. Perhaps instead of expecting real change in the short term we should be focusing on the possibility of shifting the Overton Window a little.

The concept of the Overton Window is of course that on any political topic there is a continuum of opinions and political options but not all of these opinions and political options are available. There is a narrow window that limits policy options and debate. Any option outside the window might as well be invisible, in fact might as well not exist. Any attempt to discuss options that fall outside the window will be ruthlessly suppressed. As a result no-one even tries to discuss such options.

Over the past few decades the Overton Window on many key issues has shifted dramatically. Superficially the shift has been towards the left (and this is the shift that most people have noticed) but in some cases it has moved the other way, which is another example of the dangers of trying to see everything in terms of a left-right conflict. The most spectacular shifts have been on issues such as immigration, homosexuality, abortion and global warming. Equally dramatic shifts have occurred on issues like foreign policy, free trade and free markets. You can discuss immigration, but you cannot suggest that immigration has any negative consequences. You can discuss homosexuality but only if you are proposing to encourage the practice. You cannot discuss abortion at all. You can discuss global warming as long as you start from the premise that it is real and it’s all our fault. You can discuss free trade as long as you are in favour of it and want to extend it further.

The Overton Window is absolutely crucial because it defines the limits of the possible. If the Overton Window can be shifted then the limits of the possible change. And it may be that some slight shifts could be possible and may even have begun.

This has momentous implications when we consider the current political scene.

There is zero chance that Marine le Pen will win the next French presidential election. There is zero chance that the Sweden Democrats will win the next Swedish election. No matter who wins the US presidential election this year it is unlikely that anything will change dramatically.

On the other hand Marine le Pen and the FN have put immigration onto the political agenda in France. The Sweden Democrats have put immigration onto the political agenda in Sweden. UKIP have put the question of Britain’s EU membership onto the political agenda in Britain. In the US Donald Trump has made immigration a live election issue. To a lesser extent Bernie Sanders has opened up at least a tiny amount of debate on another forbidden topic - economic justice as opposed to social justice. If Trump wins he may be able to push the Overton Window slightly on the issue of political correctness, and even on free trade. 

These are small but worthwhile achievements. It is worth casting one’s vote for parties or candidates that challenge the status quo, not because any significant change in the status quo is likely to happen in the short term but because it may help to shift the Overton Window just a little. And shifting the Overton Window may make real change possible in the medium term.